Restored grassland at Parade Grounds.

President’s Message: 2021

While the pandemic continues to present challenges for the Conservancy, overall things have returned to a somewhat normal state. We have been able to get back to our mission of preserving and protecting the natural environment of Fishers Island. We could not be more pleased.

Tom Sargent

After our schedules had been hobbled in 2020 due to the pandemic, 2021 was much less restricted as vaccines became available early this year. As a result, were able to return to our annual burn in the Parade Grounds in March. Fishers Island Fire Department volunteers activated our prescribed burn plan, and it went off without a hitch. What a sight to see several acres crackling and hissing, flames reaching high into the sky. As fast as it started, it was over. The prescribed burn is a critical part of our Parade Grounds maintenance. It releases natural nitrogen into the soil and clears woody underbrush, leaving a healthy grassland habitat for several species of ground nesting birds. I can’t thank the entire FI Fire Department enough for their experience and guidance in this annual ritual.

Still pressed with the pandemic, we were unable to operate our “weed team” of graduate students from the University of Delaware (UD). We are in current conversations, however, with Professors Tallamy and Mitchell and expect to have a full complement in place for next season. While we missed our UD team, the slack was picked up via our Island Sentinels program run by Stephanie Hall. We had a record number of participants in our student scientist program, and they took hundreds of readings at multiple sites across the Island. We are currently collecting and collating this data, which will be available to the public as trend lines become apparent as to the health and vibrancy of the Island’s unique habitats.

The Conservancy held both Spring and Fall Migratory Bird Counts according to Audubon standards. We were able to bring back our scientist birders, Emily Baisden and Will Almeida. Both counts were well attended. On a happy note, we observed the highest number of birds at locations with the least number of invasive plant species, but now we have to quantify it with the science. Along these lines, I would like to suggest a title for a little winter reading, A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul. The author explores the only-recently understood odyssey of migratory birds, many of whom use this little tuft of refuge as a brief stop to rest and refuel before continuing their several-thousand-mile migratory journeys. This book illuminates the importance of native habitat—a subject not lost on our community.

Our two big summer events were back in force: Sunset on the Beach and Nature Days. We had record numbers of participants at both events. I think the pent-up demand to get out, see people and celebrate our beautiful Island was overwhelming. I want to thank our Executive Director Kristen Peterson, our Sunset Sponsors and all the volunteers for making these two events so special for the Conservancy and for the Island Community. We at the Conservancy are deeply grateful to our friends and supporters for all you do to keep this organization humming. Thank you!

As we enter the quiet time of late fall, and the last of the warblers have left for warmer climes, please remember that a gift to the Fishers Island Conservancy is a gift to Fishers Island.

Cheers, Tom