Thirteen miles off the coast of Rhode Island in Narragansett Bay lies a teardrop-shaped natural wonder: Block Island. In the fall, the island becomes a place of refuge for countless numbers of migrating songbirds and raptors that stop here to rest and refuel before continuing their journeys to distant southern latitudes.
For one week in October, the island became a creative refuge for those who would give voice to their inspirations...
The Science Inspires the Art; the Artist Gives Voice to the Science
Photographers, artists, and writers gathered on Block Island to bring experience to their art through observations and lessons in raptor, songbird, and wetland ecology. The participants of this creative retreat all understood the idea expressed by Ansel Adams (considered to be the world's first conservation photographer) in his book Letters and Images: “I believe the approach of the artist and the approach of the environmentalist are fairly close in that both are, to a rather impressive degree, concerned with the affirmation of life. Response to natural beauty is one of the foundations of the environmental movement.”
by John O'Hagan (at left), Retreat Participant
I heard a scientist so teach
We crawled from slime onto the beach,
Our home the grey-green sea:
But not content to stay that way,
We let Darwin have his say,
Reborn anew as chimpanzees.
On this the scientist holds fast:
It's back to dust in the great at last;
No trumpet will be heard.
But we look up forever higher
In our absurd ingrained desire
To fly as if a bird.
Grasping at Block Island
by Sally Lucy Wright
We startle each other. Her cottony tail twitches staccato. She is fat and full of summer and gone in an instant springing on long legs into the bayberry stand. My heart races worrying I don’t have my camera ready but then I settle in to the thrill of “a moment.” Lessons from yesterday wash over me; to learn to see, to observe, and to remember.
Around the bend, the towering clay bluffs I have been in search of finally appear. They are a slice of carrot cake laid bare on the plate, ingredients playing out for me in the early obtuse light. Knubbly walnuts of scree and striations of cinnamon and allspice welcoming the birth of a new day. The cold Atlantic crashes up its creamy froth, allowing me to wash the experience down in a great gulp of gratitude.
Read Sally's full blog here.
We would like to thank Scott Comings, Diandra Verbeyst, and Kim Gaffet for their participation in this retreat and to their dedication to conservation efforts on Block Island. We would also like to thank Keith and Kay Lewis, long-time Block Island conservationists and friends of BRI, for sharing their love and knowledge of the island with us.
A very special thank you to Chris DeSorbo, Rick Gray, and BRI's entire raptor crew (Chris Persico, Lauren Gilpatrick, Kevin Regan, and Al Hinde). They are the unsung heroes of this project!
To learn more about BRI’s Raptor Research on Block Island, click here.
© 2021 Biodiversity Research Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit