Working on the Harbor School’s Billion Oyster Project to restore oysters in New York Harbor. Harbor School Photo

Don’t miss, “Take Back the Harbor” at 5 p.m. July 14 at the Movie Theater. The 39-minute documentary follows students from the Harbor School in New York City as they work in the harbor and travel to Fishers Island to learn about growing oysters as part of the Billion Oyster Project, an unprecedented program to restore once-bountiful oysters to New York Harbor.

Murray Fisher, who grew up summering on Fishers Island, founded the Harbor School in 2002 to teach waterway stewardship, along with a full high school curriculum. He and Pete Malinowski, whose family owns and runs Fishers Island Oyster Farm, started the Billion Oyster Project with the hope of restoring oyster reefs to New York Harbor through public education initiatives.

“Oysters are good for New York Harbor, because they filter gallons and gallons of pollutants,” Fisher said. “Planting a billion oysters in the harbor by 2035 seems so big and so impossible, but we wanted to build a movement.”

Two award-winning filmmakers, Kristi Jacobson and Roger Ross Williams, captured the students, teachers and Billion Oyster team as they built reefs, monitored growth and performed marine bio research over the course of a year. Cameras were there to capture the dedication of these students as they marked victories and also faced setbacks in their journey to install the largest reef in New York City with 50,000 oysters in Jamaica Bay.

A Harbor School student, Nicholas, expressed thoughts that underline the goals and ultimate success of the Fisher/Malinowski program: “To me, the only way to have hope in restoring the harbor, and really the planet as a whole, is to make hope, Nothing is going to happen unless someone does it. And that someone might as well be me.”

Stay for reception and Q & A session following film.

Sunset on the Beach

The Fishers Island Conservancy’s 2019 Sunset on the Beach will be held Saturday July 20th, from 6-8 pm on the Big Club Beach. Join us for a celebration of Fishers Island’s natural resources!

Pictures do not do justice to the amazing transformation along South Beach Road approaching the Parcourse FitCircuit. Individual stops along the circuit are now visible, as is access to South Beach in the distance.

Phragmites: A relentless enemy.  The towering reeds grow an inch apart and are choking the Island’s tidal marshes, overtaking native vegetation and leaving no room for ducks, herons and egrets to land. FIConservancy plans to fight back, starting in November.

I am so happy to have seen a spotted sandpiper pair south of the airport runway on Sanctuary of Sands. A lone sandpiper has arrived every spring since 2015, and now there are a pair of these exquisite shorebirds!

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

The spotted sandpiper occurs across North America. It has richly spotted breeding plumage, a teetering gait, stuttering wingbeats and showy courtship dances.

Female spotted sandpipers arrive at breeding grounds early to establish and defend territory. Females also may mate with four different males at a time, but it is the male that incubates the eggs and cares for the young.

From the Field, Field Note Justine Kibbe June 3, 2019

FIConservancy Naturalist Justine Kibbe reported: “As Fishers Island prepares for a very busy July and August, it’s wonderful to witness the rallying of community to protect our precious wildlife.”

Congratulations Fishers Island! The community is pleased to announce the arrival of four Piping Plover chicks in Sanctuary of Sands on the south side of the airport runway. Please continue to leash all dogs walking in the area.

Tree Swallow. Justine Kibbe Photo

FIConservancy’s 2019 Spring Migration Bird Count took place Sun. May 19 under sunny skies. Eleven bird-watching enthusiasts traveled the Island from end to end, noting 56 species, which surpasses 2018’s record 55 observations.

Entomologist Adam Mitchell, Ph.D.*, along with the University of Delaware team of Emily Baisden and Will Aleida led the bird count. Dr. Mitchell provided a quick summary of this year’s findings:

“We had a very successful count, in spite of this spring’s weather, which was colder and wetter than usual. We observed 56 species of birds, beating last year’s spring migration count of 55 for the highest number of species reported.

“The count started strong with 11 participants heading down to Race Point, where we observed a flock of about 20 blue jays and yellow warblers among common yellowthroats foraging in the scrub for food. A red-tailed hawk sat patiently atop the Parade Grounds’ black gum tree while we proceeded with our count.

“Our second-to-last stop near the Fishers Island Club golf course provided us with a bird count first: a yellow-billed cuckoo. We also found a breeding pair of American redstarts and their nest, suggesting that some of the birds we encountered will be sticking around for the summer.

“Despite the good news, the unusual weather patterns this year led to a decrease in available habitat for many of our migrants. Colder temperatures delayed plants from ‘greening up’ (sprouting leaves), which in turn delayed the presence plant-feeding insects, an essential food source for songbirds.

“Birders have reported large congregations of birds at bird feeders, or feeding on fallow crops, to supplement the lack of food. Even though this year’s spring migration count was later than usual, many of the trees we observed were just beginning to leaf out, and the cherry trees were still in bloom.

“As we move into summer, things should return to normal, but it will be interesting to see how the birds on Fishers Island respond to this delay later in the season.”

Species Recorded for Spring 2019:
American crow
American goldfinch
American redstart
American robin
Baltimore Oriole
Barn swallow
Belted kingfisher
Black-capped chickadee
Black-throated green warbler
Blue jay
Blue-winged warbler
Brown-headed cowbird
Canada goose
Carolina wren
Cedar waxwing
Chimney swift
Chipping sparrow
Common eider
Common grackle
Common loon
Common yellowthroat
Double-crested cormorant
Eastern phoebe
Eastern towhee
European starling
Gray catbird
Great-crested flycatcher
Great egret
Greater black-backed gull
Green heron
Herring gull
House finch
House wren
Least tern
Mourning dove
Mute swan
Northern cardinal
Northern mockingbird
Northern parula
Orchard Oriole
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-eyed vireo
Red-tailed hawk
Redwing blackbird
Ring-necked pheasant
Song sparrow
Tree swallow
Tufted titmouse
White-breasted nuthatch
White-eyed vireo
Yellow warbler
Yellow-billed cuckoo
*Adam Mitchell, Ph.D., is Associate Wildlife Biologist, Assistant Professor of Entomology; Department of Wildlife, Sustainability, and Ecosystem Sciences; Tarleton State University, a Member of The Texas A&M University System

I’ve never seen anything like it! An actual blue jay migration!*

It all started Saturday May 11 at 10:45 a.m. Just a trickle at first, bright and bold Blue jays coursing over Silver Eel Cove. Then a steady stream of at least 40 noisy migrants flooded into the woods. Feathered crests bobbing on branches, their vocal cacophony swelled.

Community observations arrived shortly thereafter: Jackie Williamson up east had a dozen at her feeder by noon, and I saw another 2 dozen at 3 p.m., while bicycling to the Village Market.

Always grateful for remarks From the Field: Pierce Rafferty reported 16 Blue jays at his feeder May 14 at 6 a.m., and Marlin Bloethe captured and generously shared pictures of the initial landing.

* “A small proportion (Cornell estimates 20%) of the US blue jay population migrates south for the winter, whereas the majority of blue jays are year-round residents,” said entomologist Adam Mitchell, Ph.D.

“My guess is that storms moving northeast in early May, followed by a cold front, may have caused the jays migrating along the coastline to stopover on Fishers Island. This may be a boon for the Island in the future, as many species of bird will recall high-quality stopover sites when they migrate again. So we may want to be on the lookout for the jays next time for the fall migration.”

From the Field, Field Note, Justine Kibbe, May 15, 2019

It took half an hour of scurrying around her South Beach “scrape” for this piping plover to finally settle down, because five killdeer were being pesty. There was a bit of territorial “drama”, before she returned to her—hopefully—clutch of eggs.

A piping plover pair returned to Fishers Island in early April. By early May the female was nesting on her “scrape” in the Sanctuary of Sands area of South Beach. Sandy-colored feathers help her to disappear into the background, particularly important since piping plovers are a “threatened” species.

There are fewer than 2000 pairs of piping plovers on the Atlantic Coast. Support our precious wildlife. Kindly continue to leash all dogs.

Sanctuary of Sands, West End, Fishers Island.

From the Field, Field Note, Justine Kibbe, May 7, 2019