The Fishers Island Conservancy is pleased to have been a part of the Fishers Island Ferry District’s new berm project at Silver Eel Cove.

Todd McCormack’s image of an osprey with its catch took top prize in FIConservancy’s Photo Contest 2021. But there is much more to this photo than meets the eye. The photographer generously offered to share moments that led to the perfect shot.  

“I am happy that so many people liked my osprey photo, and since I’ve been asked about the story behind the photo, I would like to share other photos that I took documenting the experience. Without question, “photography-wise”, this was the best five or six minutes of last summer!” said Todd McCormack.

I was sitting on South Beach one evening, photographing this lovely ruddy turnstone that was perched on a large boulder in the evening light.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, just 25 yards to my left, an osprey came diving down into the water. I missed the dive but immediately swung my camera around, because it was clear the osprey had something large in its talons. The waves lifted the bird, and its wings provided buoyancy as it prepared to lift its catch.

It made repeated efforts to pull the fish from the water but never got the fish more than halfway out.
During this time, the waves were washing the bird closer to me. It seemed the osprey was looking directly at me thinking, “What am I going to do here?” and, “What are you doing here?”
As it tried to muster its energy, the osprey literally floated in the water, wings outstretched, and began to ride the surf nearer and nearer to shore.
I think the osprey and I were equally surprised, when a wave cast it upon a rock, and with one hearty flap of its wings, it “landed” the fish on the rock.
The osprey made efforts to conceal the fish under its wings, but was so tired, it didn’t move, content with its newfound resting place.
I was confident the osprey was regaining strength and would finally be able to take flight with its hard-fought catch. Much sooner than I expected, it once again tried to take flight, and this is when I shot the photo I submitted for the contest.
The next photo in this sequence captures the range of the osprey’s forward wing motion. In spite of its efforts, the osprey was never able to take flight with the fish.
I was unaware of it at the time, but the osprey’s hasty departure was due to a black-backed gull (the largest gull in the world) that had spotted the osprey and was flying in to steal the fish. The osprey didn’t put up a fight. It let go of the fish on the rock, as it banked quickly away from the attacking gull. The gull flew off without the fish, which I assume slipped off the rock into the water. I didn’t see it, because I was tracking the chase!
I have to say I was a bit surprised that the mighty osprey was so easily intimidated. Perhaps it was just too exhausted to defend itself and hold onto the fish any longer.
After a quick “rinse cycle” (twisting its head over 180 degrees to rid its feathers of water…
…the osprey gave me one final departing shot. An unforgettable evening from last summer had come to an end.

Admire a print of Todd’s spectacular photograph at the
Fishers Island Community Center!

Birders gather May 8 in the John Thatcher Native Garden next to Movie Theater. Tom Sargent Photo

Sunday, May 8 was a great day for birding! Dr. Adam Mitchell of Tarleton State University led a group of enthusiastic volunteers who counted birds from the West End to the East End of Fishers Island, following Audubon Bird Count rules.

“We observed a total of 52 species during the migration count, and 58 species overall for the weekend.” Dr. Mitchell said. “To put that in perspective, the average migration count over the past eight years is 47 in the spring and 39 in the fall.

“According to birdcast.info (a great migration tool!), however, the predicted overall migration rate for birds this spring was low. The late spring, compounded by cold and windy weather, kept many of our overwintering and migrant birds on the Island.

“More recent migrants, like warblers, vireos and other passerines (perching birds), were  forced to wait out our recent storm front by hiding in the dense undergrowth, rather than gleaning from the exposed tree branches, so our detection on these birds was likely to be fairly low.

“Of note was the unusual amount of brown-headed cowbirds in the mix,” Dr. Mitchell said. “It’s possible that these migrants were blown in from the storm. The bird count list is below:

American black duck

American crow

American goldfinch

American robin

Baltimore oriole

Barn swallow

Black-and-white warbler

Black-capped chickadee

Blackburnian warbler

Blue-winged warbler

Brown-headed cowbird

Blue-gray gnatcatcher

Blue jay

Canada goose

Carolina wren

Chimney swift

Chipping sparrow

Common eider

Common grackle

Common loon

Common raven

Common tern

Dark-eyed junco

Double-crested cormorant

Downey woodpecker

Eastern towhee

European starling

Fish crow

Gray catbird

Great black-backed gull

Great egret

Herring gull

House finch

House sparrow

House wren

Killdeer

Mallard

Mourning dove

Mute swan

Northern cardinal

Northern flicker

Northern harrier

Northern parula

Osprey

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird

Ring-necked pheasant

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Song sparrow

Tufted titmouse

Tree swallow

Turkey vulture

White-breasted nuthatch

White-throated sparrow

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow warbler

Mark your calendars for the 2022 Spring Bird Count Sunday, May 8, 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

E.O. Wilson (pictured in 2003). The Royal Swedish Academy, which awards Nobel Prizes, awarded Wilson the Crafoord Prize, an award in biosciences and geosciences not included in Nobel Prize categories. 

E.O. Wilson, considered the father of biodiversity and “Darwin’s heir”, died Dec. 26, 2021 at the age of 92.

Dr. Wilson was one of the most distinguished American scientists in modern history and devoted his life to studying the natural world, becoming the world authority on ants and later focusing on the critical link between conserving functional ecosystems and the survival of all species on our planet.

As a young student, University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy, FIConservancy’s mentor for transforming our tangled Parade Grounds into rolling meadows, met and was inspired by “E.O.”

“My work studying native plants and insects, and how crucial they are to food webs, was inspired by Wilson’s eloquent descriptions of biodiversity and how the myriad interactions among species create the conditions that enable the very existence of such species,” Tallamy wrote in a thoughtful and heartfelt tribute to E.O.Wilson.

Read Doug Tallamy’s Tribute to E.O. Wilson:

FIConservancy launched its first community marine debris program this summer, and it was a great success. Thank you to all you participated!

The destructive spotted lanternfly: Wings open and wings closed.

Be on the lookout for the colorful but treacherous spotted lanternfly (SLF). Relatively new to the U.S., it is an invasive insect from China that is known to feed on 70 different types of plants and trees. SLF adults emerge in July and are active until the first hard frost.

This insect was first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014, and by July 2021 had spread to about half of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, eastern Ohio and Indiana.

Closer to home, the the SLF has been found in western Connecticut, parts of New York state, and on Sept. 29, Rhode Island reported a second credible sighting in West Greenwich, RI. This insect usually spreads by hopping rides on vehicles as they move from state to state.

The U.S. Dept of Agriculture has issued a thorough SLF Pest Alert pdf with information about the SLF and what you can do about it. If you see an SLF, take pictures and report it to New York State via its SLF reporting form. Scraping its grey egg masses from trees and man-made outdoor items is vital to slowing its spread. Egg masses can be double bagged and discarded, or placed in alcohol or bleach to kill them.

Indicating the significance of this dangerous pest, FIConservancy posted advance warnings about the SLF in 2018 and 2020.

Thanks for your help.

Bird watchers scan the skies looking for birds to include in the biannual migratory bird count on Fishers Island. Kristen Peterson Photo

Another glorious day on Fishers Island greeted bird watchers who participated in the Fall 2021 Migratory Bird Count, Sun. Sept. 19.

Thirty-nine species were recorded, which is slightly lower than the 45 species sighted in Fall 2019. (See list of bird species below.)

Following Audubon bird count rules, birders made 15 five-minute stops from West End to East End. At each timed stop, birders counted birds and called out what they saw.

Results from bird counts help scientists and conservation organizations chart bird populations and help us get a sense of the numbers of different bird species in our area.

We are fortunate that Fishers Island is on the Atlantic Flyway, a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in North America. Migrating songbirds descend on woods and thickets, along ponds and next to streams, to feed on the insects that fuel their migrations.

University of Delaware team of Emily Baisden and Will Aleida led the bird count and answered questions about migratory birds.

Species sighted in Fall 2021 Migratory Bird Count on Fishers Island:

American Kestrel, Black Crow, Blue Jay, Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Chickadee, Chipping Sparrow, Cormorant, Connecticut Warbler, Downey Woodpecker, European Starling, Goldfinch, Herrier Hawk, Herring Gulls, House Wren or Marsh Wren, Marsh/Goshawk, Merlin, Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Nighthawk, Northern Parula, Osprey, Phoebe, Raven, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring Necked Pheasant, Robin, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Song Sparrow, Starling, Swainson’s Warbler, Towhee, Tree Sparrow, Tree Swallow, White Breasted Nuthatch, White Egret, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow Throated Chickadee.

 

Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program is offering virtual training to become a First Responder on Fishers Island.

Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program is offering virtual training to become a First Responder on Fishers Island. First Responders are called to assist when animals are found in distress on the Island. The deadline for completing certification is October 10.

FIConservancy, working with the Animal Rescue Program, will store supplies on Fishers Island, should they be needed in case an animal is beached or requires transportation to the aquarium for care. (See picture of animal rescue supplies below.)

Sarah Callan, Assistant Manager of Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program welcomes potential volunteers:

There is no obligation. Start the process and watch the training video. It’s fine if you decide being a First Responder is not for you. You only become a responder in our system once you complete the quiz and sign up for our Google Classroom (details below).

There is no time commitment. When we receive an animal distress call on our hotline, we search our system for First Responders on Fishers Island. We will start calling our list of responders to see who is available. If you are, great! If you aren’t, no worries. We move on to the next person on our list. If you are available to respond, you will log the hours you volunteer for that day on our online “Better Impact” system.

It’s easy to get started:

First, click here to sign up on Mystic Aquarium’s new volunteer “Better Impact” database page.

Next, click here to view the training video.

 

The following links will take you to documents that explain the process in further detail:

Guide to becoming a First Responder

Important Dates

 

First responders are an integral part of our program. We look forward to having you on our team!

Sarah Callan
Assistant Manager, Animal Rescue Program
55 Coogan Boulevard
Mystic, Connecticut 06355
Office: 860-572-5955 x 134
Cell: 860-625-1169
Hotline: 860-572-5955 x 107
www.mysticaquarium.org

FIConservancy, working with the Animal Rescue Program, will store supplies on Fishers Island, should they be needed in case an animal is beached or requires transportation to the aquarium for care. Email FIConservancy’s Stephanie Hall (fiskhall@gmail.com) with questions, sightings or for assistance.

 

 

 

A live and virtual presentation September 18th by Save the Sound’s New York Natural Areas Coordinator Louise Harrison, co-hosted at the FI Movie Theater by the HLF Museum, the FIConservancy, and the FI Oyster Farm. Followed by a reception for in-person attendees.