Three people reported seeing a beaver April 18 sauntering down the Recreational Path in the direction of the capped Pickett Landfill. This is a good thing!

The American beaver is the largest rodent in the United States and is commonly thought of as a nuisance in populated areas, because it fells trees (for food) and floods areas with dams (as protection from predators).

Less known, however, are the critical benefits beavers bring to the healthy ecology of streams and wetlands, providing a diversity of wetland habitats and replacing forested areas with grassy “beaver meadows” and aquatic vegetation. Beavers are a “keystone” species, which means that they have a disproportionate positive impact on an ecosystem when compared to their numbers.

A growing coalition of “Beaver Believers”, including scientists and ranchers, are trying to restore beavers to diverse areas, from the Nevada deserts to the Scottish Highlands.

A 2018 book, Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb, shows how our landscapes have changed over the centuries, and how beavers can help fight drought, flooding, wildfire, extinction, and the ravages of climate change. The book is the winner of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.

For further information, read Beavers in Connecticut: Their Natural History and Management.

The Fishers Island Fire Department (FIFD) reported a successful planned burn Mar. 27 of 36.04 acres of restored grasslands along the airport runway and on the Parade Grounds. But what do our volunteers actually do to conduct a safe burn in specifically prescribed areas? Don Beck, FIConservancy Board Member and Fishers Island Club golf course superintendent explains…

Piping Plover pair returns to Fishers Island. House hunting on Sanctuary of Sands, South Beach.

FIConservancy Naturalist Justine Kibbe has been monitoring Piping Plovers in the South Beach area of Fishers Island for several years. Officially designated a “threatened” species, Piping Plovers are named for their melodic mating call.

Piping plovers eat freshwater and marine invertebrates that wash up on shore. They require a specific habitat to survive and are therefore an indicator of the “health” of a marine area. Their speckled eggs blend seamlessly into the coastal environment. Please tread lightly.

Fishing vessel “All for Joy”, with yellow spill boom in place, is secured to a barge at Mohawk Northeast, Inc., Thames River, New London/Groton CT. Joe & Tracy Brock Photo

It took 20 days, but the capsized fishing vessel “All for Joy” was finally removed from the mouth of Hay Harbor at 6:05 p.m. Mar. 30.

The commercial fishing vessel capsized south of the Race March 10 and eventually came to rest at the mouth of Hay Harbor, leaking fuel that reached to the shore of Fishers Island. Two fishermen were rescued unharmed.

By 6:30 a.m. March 12, the smell of diesel fuel was “overpowering” on the north side of the Island, particularly at North Hill west past Hay Harbor. Heavy winds and seas prevented divers from safely capping the leaking fuel at that time, because there were too many hazardous pieces hanging and floating around the capsized vessel.

According to the US Coast Guard, all of the tanks on the vessel had been capped by Mar. 13. The current, tide and winds took the fuel into Hay Harbor and along Stony Beach. A crew from Clean Harbors walked the shoreline Mar. 14 to mop up any remaining oil with absorbent pads. They also deployed absorbent booms in those areas where oil was most prevalent. (Reporting by Jane T. Ahrens.)

 

A pair of American oystercatchers has returned to Fishers Island. FIConservancy Naturalist Justine Kibbe observed their arrival at approximately 2 p.m. March 29 on Stony Beach in Hay Harbor.

“Time will tell if the two also include Sanctuary of Sands territory. As far as I know, there are five individual American oystercatchers on the West End,” Ms. Kibbe said.

“I tell young students that there is a great need on-Island to provide safe sanctuary and healthy habitat for dwindling wildlife.”

The American oystercatcher, occasionally called the American pied oystercatcher, was originally called the “sea pie”. It was renamed in 1731, when naturalist Mark Catesby observed the bird eating oysters. Oystercatchers feed on crustaceans and molluscs and are able to open crab shells and oysters with their strong red beaks. Justine Kibbe Photo

Healthy Seagrass Meadows by Justine Kibbe

Nature Conservancy’s aerial survey photo to determine Fishers Island boating activity.

In response to the decimation of once abundant and protective eelgrass meadows in Long Island Sound, the Nature Conservancy recently completed an evaluation of eelgrass areas and boating patterns around Fishers Island.

Boating activity, particularly in summer months, presents a grave threat to eelgrass meadows around Fishers Island, which has 94 percent of the remaining eelgrass in New York waters of Long Island Sound and 25 percent of all eelgrass in the Sound. 

The Nature Conservancy’s report, An Evaluation of Eelgrass Extent and Vessel Use Patterns Around Fishers Island, NY, analyzes the results of underwater and aerial surveys conducted in the summer and fall of 2017.

The surveys reveal that powerboats and sailboats around the Island overlap areas of eelgrass meadows, especially on the north side of the Island. Hotspots include Flat Hammock, East Harbor, the beach off the Eighth Hole of the Fishers Island Club golf course, West Harbor and Hay Harbor. See video of scarred eelgrass beds, caused by boats in Hay Harbor.

The Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition can use this report to develop and implement actions, including boater education and outreach, zoning and special management areas, and conservation moorings to reduce the impact on eelgrass meadows from shoreline construction and boating.

Out in the Field awaiting what the USCG has deemed a “pollution mitigation event”, north side off Hay Harbor, Fishers Island.

Fishing vessel to be raised (for now) and all fluids emptied and removed.

From the Field, Field Note, Justine Kibbe, Mar. 19, 2019

Clean Harbors installed booms Mar. 14 to soak up any remaining oil from capsized vessel. Most affected shoreline areas were quite clean, however, compared to less than 24 hours earlier. The sun helped to burn off diesel oil sheen. (Jane T. Ahrens Photo)

 

The commercial fishing vessel, All for Joy, capsized south of the Race March 10 and eventually came to rest at the mouth of Hay Harbor, leaking fuel that reached to the shore of Fishers Island. Two fishermen were rescued unharmed.

By 6:30 a.m. March 12, the smell of diesel fuel was “overpowering” on the north side of the Island, particularly at North Hill west past Hay Harbor. Heavy winds and seas prevented divers from safely capping the leaking fuel at that time, because there were too many hazardous pieces hanging and floating around the capsized vessel.

According to the US Coast Guard, all of the tanks on the vessel had been capped by Mar. 13. The current, tide and winds took the fuel into Hay Harbor and along Stony Beach. A crew from Clean Harbors walked the shoreline Mar. 14 to mop up any remaining oil with absorbent pads. They also deployed absorbent booms in those areas where oil was most prevalent.

By Mar. 13, the oil was “disappearing nicely from the sun and tidal action.” On Mar. 15, FIConservancy Naturalist Justine Kibbe monitored the full circumference of Stony Beach and said she was happy to see the usual coyote tracks, herring gulls and great black-backed gulls diving for spawning sandworms. She was particularly happy to see a killdeer “chattering away, hopefully scouting for nest…” (Reporting and photos by Jane T. Ahrens.)

moth

According to Brett Molina in a USA Today article published February 12, 2019:
“More than 40 percent of the world’s insect species could go extinct over the next several decades leading to “catastrophic” results for the planet’s various ecosystems, a new study says.”

The study referred to was published in the peer-reviewed journal Biological Conservation. Highlights from the study abstract are:

  • Over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction.
  • Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and dung beetles (Coleoptera) are the taxa most affected.
  • Four aquatic taxa are imperiled and have already lost a large proportion of species.
  • Habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines.
  • Agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are additional causes.

 

The loss of the native insects will have dire consequences for the rest of the life chain. For those who may have missed this article. We are not alone. And we are fighting the right conservation battle. According to Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent at BBC news “Global insect decline may see ‘plague of pests'”. . .

FIConservancy has installed a new maintenance shed behind the Movie Theater.