Block Island Nature Preserves Offer Solitude and Wildlife | ET REALITY


Had I entered a scene from “Planet of the Seagulls”? The sky echoed with the sound of flapping wings, and groups of birds screeched and stalked through the bushes on a rocky beach in Block Island National Wildlife Refuge.

A hairy, freckled seagull chick emerged from a blueberry bushHe looked at me curiously as if he had seen a Martian and then returned to his hiding place.

It turned out that I had stumbled upon the largest colony of seagulls in Rhode Island, and the reason so many other sunset watchers had stayed in their cars may have been that, as I later learned, seagulls are known to bomb in stung the intruders.

The reserves make up about 2,500 acres (nearly half) of Block Island, a nine-square-mile pear-shaped patch in Rhode Island, just northeast of Montauk, New York. With approximately 28 miles of trails, these areas provide a refuge for numerous endangered animals. , and anyone else looking for a little solitude.

On a small island whose seasonal population soars, reserves are rarely crowded, even in summer. “Most people go to the beach,” said Scott Comings, associate director of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Nature ConservancyHe explained matter-of-factly.

The island is small enough that you can easily visit a reserve every day. During my week of exploring, I never encountered more than two people on any of them, which enhanced the feeling of being far from civilization, although I was never more than a few miles from the center of the island’s only town, New Shoreham.

Besides the possibility that you won’t see another soul there, you also won’t find any bears or poisonous snakes because there aren’t any on Block Island. There are also no coyotes, foxes or raccoons. (Ticks are plentiful, so take proper precautions.) But you will see birds: around 300 species pass through here in any given year. Because the island has few predators and is located on the Atlantic Flyway (the north-south flyway along the east coast), it is essentially a playground for giant birds.

You can start with programs like nature walks or talks through the Nature Conservancy and Block Island Conservancy. You’ll be guided around the island’s dunes, canals, marshes and hundreds of freshwater ponds before setting off alone or with your furry friends – many of the reserves allow dogs on leads.

You can purchase a Nature Conservancy trail map for $3 at the Chamber of Commerce office near the ferry. He Block Island Chamber of Commerce Offers an application with maps.

Block Island doesn’t have many signs and the address numbers are not sequential, frustrating GPS navigation. Fortunately, cell phone reception is excellent and the entire island recently has broadband Internet service. So make sure your phone is fully charged and has plenty of water before you head out on your adventure, in case you take a wrong turn and end up logging unplanned mileage, like I did.

He Hodge Family Wildlife Reserve, a 25-acre gem managed by the Nature Conservancy, offers a relaxing introduction to the Block Island wilderness with its mile-long, nearly level loop cut through rolling fields of goldenrod. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set over Middle Pond as a family of swans glide by. The Nature Conservancy recommends Hodge for people with mobility issues and has an all-terrain wheelchair available to borrow.

The hardest thing about Hodge is finding him. Nature Conservancy staff offered the following instructions: As you head north, count 10 telephone poles from the transfer station on your left and look for a gap in the stone wall along the way. Drive through the gap and you will see not only the reserve but also an engraving on a large rock announcing that you have arrived. When I found it, I felt like I walked through the closet into Narnia.

Inside, you can spy characters like a shiny black. Rhinoceros beetle (one of the five rare species of beetles on the island) lumbering across the road; a small and adorable meadow vole; or a very high and majestic northern harriera type of bird of prey.

Like Hodge, the 190 acres Clay Head Reserve It’s hard to find, but it’s worth the effort. A three-and-a-half-mile round trip trail, smelling of honeysuckle, like much of the island, and dotted with pink wild roses and white viburnum, offers views of the ocean as well as the rugged coastline. as access to the beach, where you can splash around and have a picnic.

The trailhead is just south of Hodge, on Corn Neck Road, at the end of a 0.3 mile dirt road, where you will see a sign that says Clay Head Nature Trail. In fall, you may see some of the approximately 100 species of songbirds that stop here to rest and refuel. If you’re feeling brave, you can wander the section of intertwined trails that locals call the Labyrinth.

Pure wild beauty is displayed in Rodman’s hole, a 230-acre basin created by the melting of a glacier about 22,000 years ago. It is considered the birthplace of the island’s conservation movement: the Block Island Conservancy was formed in 1972 to purchase this land from developers. Here, a two-and-a-half-mile loop leads to Black Rock Beach, where the trail suddenly fades away to reveal waves crashing against sheer cliffs and the vast blue horizon where ocean and sky meet. “It’s like being on the coast of Ireland,” said Sarah Greenaway, 48, a special education secretary from Wayland, Massachusetts, who has spent summers on Block Island for 24 years. “It’s just awesome.”

After hugging the coast for a bit, the trail returns to the parking lot. A search and rescue drone flew over me on my way to the ocean and back to my car. Members of the volunteer fire and rescue department, who were testing the drone, told me that visitors commonly get lost on the reserve’s labyrinthine paths.

It’s virtually impossible to get lost on the narrow 134-acre road. Block Island National Wildlife Refugewhich provides a landing strip for migratory songbirds and monarch butterflies.

A 0.7-mile walk from the parking lot to Cow Cove, where the gray seals’ heads bob in the waves, will take you to the dunes near Sandy Point. piping plovers, a federally threatened species, recently began breeding there after an 11-year absence on Block Island, said Maureen Durkin, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge. He small chicks “It looks like a cotton ball on a stick,” Durkin said, and many don’t make it to adulthood.

The approximately 800 acres large salt pond It is not technically a reserve, but is home to a wide variety of waterfowl and around 100 species of fish. It is also a popular place to get out on the water. Pond and beyond kayak on Ocean Avenue offers kayak and paddleboard ecotours. I opted for the kayak tour, which allowed me to see up close the colonies of fiddler crabs scampering along the beach, the egrets wading along the shore, and double-crested cormorants standing on rocks to dry their wings in the sun. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, line up at the Payne’s Killer Donuts Truck, also on Ocean Avenue, and grab a few hot cinnamon sugar varieties.

If you prefer to explore the Great Salt Pond on foot, head to Andy’s waya quarter-mile strip of beach where you can see all types of crabs: the imposing horseshoethe spotted leopard ladythe domed shell hermit and the fighter violinist. They scurry (sideways, of course) onto the beach, where they hide in the sand, and around the mudflats and tide pools by the 60-foot-deep pond. If you have never seen a translucent baby horseshoe crab About the size of a quarter, you’re in for a treat: They look both prehistoric and precious.

This is also a great place to observe shorebirds and wading birds such as snowy and great egrets, American oystercatchers, willsand black crown and yellow-crowned night herons.

No trip to Block Island is complete without a foray to the nearly 200-foot elevation. Mohegan Cliffs on the south coast, followed by a descent down the 141-step wooden staircase to the secluded beach below. On a clear day, the view from the top of the stairs stretches all the way to Montauk. You can climb the 52-foot tower in the nearby Southeast Lighthouse to enjoy even more stunning ocean views, including five wind turbines anchored to the bottom of the sea about three miles from the coast. In 2016, Block Island became the first American community powered entirely by offshore wind turbines. Afterwards, indulge in grilled cheese with lobster Southeastern Light Delights truck near the lighthouse.

As I headed from the lighthouse back to my car, I saw a young man riding his bike down the hill with his arms outstretched as if he could have taken flight at any moment. After spending a week immersed in the natural beauty of Block Island, I could see why: I wanted to fly, too.

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