Adult harp seal, apparently injured, rests at the Race. In photo below, Race Rock Lighthouse in background gives perspective to first sighting of beached seal. Stephanie Hall Photo

This adult harp seal beached itself in high winds at the Race April 21. Stephanie Hall, monitoring the shoreline for FIConservancy, saw the seal and what appeared to be blood near its fin.

The first call is usually to Mystic Aquarium, but its rescue service has been suspended due to Covid-19. Not giving up, Stephanie’s next call was to the U.S. Coast Guard station in New London, which led her to Mystic Aquarium’s veterinarian, and then to The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation in Riverhead, N.Y.

The seal had returned to the water but then beached itself again near the end of the Elizabeth Field runway.

After viewing photos and a video that Stephanie sent to the Riverhead Foundation, Jill at the Foundation offered positive news: “Its injury doesn’t seem too concerning, and the video showed that he is resting comfortably. Hopefully, he will rest and be able to move on once the weather improves.”

Stephanie checked the next morning and the seal was gone.

In the age of COVID-19, social distancing works. But painted turtles, the most widespread native turtles in North America, have no such concern. This group gathered April 15 to bask in the sun on the pond near H.L. Ferguson Museum. (sent as email blast 4/17/20)                        Marlen Bloethe Photo

Snowy egret returns in early April to pond near H.L.Ferguson Museum. Marlin Bloethe Photo. Early April daffodils hug the side of a hill next to Fishers Island School. Stephanie Hall Photo

“When thou art weary I’ll find thee a bed, Of mosses and flowers to pillow thy head.” John Keats (1795-1821). Oyster Pond trail, April 4, 2020. (sent as email blast 4/7/20) Dianne Crary Photo

“I go to the sea, and the sea…imposes a rhythm upon everything in me…” Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). South Beach, Mar. 24, 2020. Stephanie Hall Photo

With COVID-19 forcing us into an uncertain future, we are fortunate to know the beauty and serenity of Fishers Island’s natural world. Songbirds have returned to the Parade Grounds meadows, and piping plovers will soon be nesting on South Beach.

The constancy of a well-cared-for natural environment on Fishers Island is a gift. Taking a moment to enjoy this image of calm waters off South Beach may bring a brief respite from today’s challenges. There will be better days ahead. (Sent as eblast 3/27/20)

List of seeds for FIConservancy/FIDCO habitat restoration project near Middle Farms:

In 2019, Island resident Michele Klimczak collected an astounding 8441 pounds of marine debris from the shores of Fishers Island. Michele is employed by FIConservancy to patrol multiple Island locations and clear away marine debris.

The Fishers Island Conservancy is working to extend the success of its West End grassland restoration initiative, and in partnership with FIDCO, has begun a habitat restoration project on the East End near Middle Farms.

Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens), the eastern bumblebee, on thistle (a native plant) in Demonstration Garden.

A disturbing study published in Feb. 2019, found that more than 40 percent of the world’s insect species could go extinct over the next several decades due in large part to habitat loss, with chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change as additional causes.

Now, a new study, published in the Feb. 7, 2020 journal, Science, makes a case for climate change as the principle driver of the potential extinction of bumblebees. Scientists said that observers in North America are nearly 50 percent less likely to see a bumblebee in any given area than prior to 1974.

Using a massive dataset, scientists found that bumblebees are less abundant in areas that have become hotter or have experienced extreme temperature swings in the last generation. The researchers concluded that “climate chaos” is the primary driver in the decline of bumblebees. Species are being pushed beyond temperatures they can tolerate, said the scientists.

According to National Geographic, bumblebees are suited to cooler weather, with fuzzy bodies and the ability to generate heat while flying. The last five years were the hottest ever recorded in the 139 years that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tracked global heat.

Honeybees are critical to the propagation of nuts, fruits and vegetables and account for more than $15 billion in the U.S. economy.

The Gray Catbird is typical of migratory birds that prefer the fruits of native plants, despite invasive plants dominating fruit availability in late-autumn. The Gray Catbird was among 45 species sighted in the 2019 Migratory Bird Count on Fishers Island. Ann Stinely photo for the Manomet Team Newsletter.

As migratory birds pass through stopover sites later in the season due to warming temperatures, will they begin to eat the abundant late-autumn fruit of invasive plant species rather than fruit from the diminishing number of native plants? The apparent answer is no.

This finding was the result of an in-depth study of bird-fruit interactions published in the Nov. 2019 issue of Biological Conservation, a leading international journal in the discipline of conservation science. A trio of scientists conducted their research at Manomet, a migratory stopover site for landbirds on the Atlantic coast, and a long-term bird banding site, located in Plymouth County, Mass.

Scientists observed both native and invasive wild plant species at Manomet during the 2014-15 autumn migration season and identified seeds from 469 fecal samples collected from songbirds captured during that time.

“Our results demonstrate that native fruits are an important food resource for birds during the autumn migration season and are unlikely to be replaced by abundant fruits of late-season invasive species under climate change,” scientists wrote in their study.

Twenty years ago, University of Delaware entomology professor and FIConservancy advisor, Doug Tallamy observed that insects prefer to eat native plants rather than invasives. Birds, in turn, feed on those insects, particularly when foraging for their young. This study adds striking evidence to the “native” connection, even in the face of a diminishing late-autumn native food supply due to the aggressive growth of invasive plant species.