Blackstone Parks Conservancy

black crowned night heronSights like this are what keep amateur photographer Edie Thomas returning to Hockey Pond in the Blackstone Park Conservation District. Edie says she’s “addicted”.

Like many frequent visitors to Blackstone Park, Edie marvels at the expanse of nature at the edge of the city and overlooking the Seekonk River.

Local Catch

junior tufted titmouseLocal amateur photographer Edie Thomas sent this picture of a junior tufted titmouse she snapped in Blackstone Park Conservation District this June. Edie thinks it unlikely she would have managed to get so close if the bird hadn’t been young.

Winter Moths Again

As reported in this column in March, “To Spray or Not To Spray,” winter moths were expected to expand along the Seekonk River and in Blackstone Park this year, but no one knew how serious the infestation would be. Now we know—it’s serious.

In early May tiny bright green caterpillars softly plopping onto the heads and shoulders of volunteers working in the Blackstone Park Conservation District signaled a major attack on Providence trees by the winter moth. Barely a centimeter long though they can reach an inch, and no thicker than thin string, the caterpillars appeared harmless, but they were not. Perforated spring leaves in the trees above testified to their appetites.

First eating buds from the inside out, then swinging from tree to tree on long silken threads to take more bites, the caterpillars made short work of many leaves before they vanished into the next phase of their cycle as pupae in the ground. In Providence the woodlands of Blackstone Park and Neutaconkanut Hill and nearby street trees were hit hardest, probably tempting the moths with “all that food” in one place, said City Forester Doug Still. A neighbor on Paterson Street found his oak trees stripped bare. The pest was an equal opportunity destroyer, going after the normally untouchable Norway maples, the invasive trees that cause so much harm to other flora.

With few exceptions, the Boulevard was spared this year but for a weeping cherry that was defoliated. Trees in this predicament will normally send out a second set of leaves.

Nothing can be done about the moths this season, says Still, but next winter it will be possible for homeowners to spray individual trees though even the most harmless known sprays can kill bees. Spraying the woodlands however, will not be possible.

The eventual hope for woodland trees, aside from birds or the arrival of another natural predator, may be the parasitic fly cyzenis albicans, which wasfirst introduced to Rhode Island at Goddard Park in 2011 by the University of Rhode Island (URI). More flies were released in Bristol and Jamestown in 2013, and in Cumberland, Kingstown and Jamestown in 2014.

Botanist Heather Faubert, research assistant in the Department of Plant Sciences at URI, who is managing winter moth bio-control in Rhode Island, speculates that the fly, which is present in Seekonk, may eventually spread to Providence. The success of this method of control in Nova Scotia and Massachusetts without unwanted collateral damage is encouraging, but takes time.

Jane Peterson

We invite you to attend the family event “Come Play with Us! A Hands-on Musical Exploration of Music Making with the RI Philharmonic Music School.”

This event is part of a series of free events offered by the Blackstone Parks Conservancy with support from the Partnership for Providence Parks and Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.

The event will be co-hosted by members of the Blackstone Park Conservancy and the RI Philharmonic Music School. The program will include:

  • Musical Instrument “Petting Zoo”

In this interactive experience, kids are introduced to a variety of instrument families including strings, woodwinds, brass, and guitar.  Touch, play, and try out each of the instruments!

  • Fun with Drums!

Join us for a rhythmic group adventure!  Kids will learn basic drumming technique and play on a variety of percussion instruments.

  • Early Childhood Music Class

Families can participate together in this fun and interactive class for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  This class helps to teach young children to sing, feel and move to rhythms, and participate with confidence.

  • Make your own Musical Instrument!

How about mixing art and music? Kids of all ages and parents can participate in this craft event led by BPC volunteers and create their very own musical instrument using natural materials from our very own Blackstone woods.

Join us on Saturday June 21 at 10:00a.m.-noon in the Field on River Road, across from the Narragansett Boat Club (2 River Road).

GPS:  41°49’58.8″N 71°22’40.9″W

Everyone is welcome!

Rain date is Sunday June 22, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.



DSC_1206Many people spotted snapping turtles in early June lumbering across Irving Avenue, River Road, and Angell Street enroute to the Blackstone Park Conservation District to lay their eggs. It seemed inconceivable that these awkward-looking creatures could manage to get to their destinations without human assistance. But they did.

And now the reptiles have gone back to the ponds and river whence they came. Just as the Blackstone Parks Conservancy had asked a project manager to raise the newly installed temporary snow fencing in spots for the turtles to pass easily, the surge was over. They had not only crossed roads and climbed the steep bluffs as well as the split rail fencing atop the eastern bluff, but they had also managed to get around or under the snow fencing.

photoThe turtles’ nesting aligned with the lunar cycle and coincided with the installation of temporary fencing designed to protect planting along badly worn trails. Current work in the woods is part of the Trail Upgrade Project sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to slow the rapid erosion of the Conservation District and enhance the experience of walkers. Work done so far has dramatically upgraded the trails. And the plants, if they are allowed to flourish, will help keep the trails in decent shape. Visitors are urged to stay on the trails.

By next spring the Conservancy will have learned much more about the snapping turtles living in York and Hockey ponds and the Seekonk River. Even in a short time we found some tantalizing facts and obtained guidance from a reptile expert at DEM on how to protect them. Snapping turtles have a ferocious bite and should not be touched unless they are in imminent danger of being run over. They have a marvelous ability to look after themselves and multiply.

Learning about the natural treasures and mysteries of the Conservation District and passing it on to the public is part of the job for which people volunteer at the Conservancy. By next nesting season, we will have assembled definitive guidance from more reptile experts on how best to facilitate (or at least not interfere with) the turtles’ plans. Perhaps by then we’ll even understand how they manage to time their egg laying with the full moon.