This female yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) was sauntering across the Recreational Path east of the driving range in mid-September. FIConservancy Photo

Also known as orb weavers and Argiopes, these spiders are common on Fishers Island and in much of the United States. They produce a zig-zag band in the center of their webs, called stabilimentum, which arguably reflects light to attract flying insects into the web, and, at the same time, prevents birds from accidentally colliding into the web and destroying it.

Argiopes are beneficial for gardens, fields and anywhere you are trying to reduce the mosquito population.

Spider information courtesy of Adam B. Mitchell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Entomology, Department of Wildlife, Sustainability, and Ecosystem Sciences, Tarleton State University.

Crickets here are still high-pitched and butterflies are still high flying. Swirling within clusters of busy dragonflies, and darting past reigning Monarchs, is the Orange Sulphur. While this insect varies in color, it appears nearly neon against tawny grasses or nearly invisible within honeysuckle and clover.

These quiet days of September are perfect for learning more about butterflies.*

Find a bench warmed by the sun within native meadows across from Silver Eel Cove, and you’re bound to see just how “social” these brilliantly colored insects are, flitting from one flower to the next.

Some populations gather enough nutritious energy feeding on plants (aster family) within Parade Grounds to migrate south. Others stay behind and overwinter here on Fishers Island.

*The painted lady butterfly is one of the most ubiquitous butterflies in the world and is identified by the shape of its wings and its eyespots, particularly evident on the underside of its hind wings. The butterflies flare with orange when flying and are sometimes mistaken for monarch butterflies.

*According to the National Geographic Society, the two-inch painted lady butterfly can migrate nearly 2,500 miles, starting from Europe, traversing obstacles such as the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa’s mountains and the Sahara Desert. Unlike monarch butterflies, chemical signatures in the painted lady wings reveal that they can make the trip in a single generation.

From the Field, Field Note by Justine Kibbe, Sept. 9, 2019

For many diverse species of shorebirds, Fishers Island has become the best “next stop” for fall migration, with tepid tidal pools, thick salted wrack lines and sand dunes buffered with tall beach grass. Birds returning to this ideal habitat feed, rest and recover morning, noon and night.

Autumn Bird Survey 2017

Autumn Bird Survey 2017

Demonstration Garden is a busy third stop on Fall Migration Bird Count.

Mark your calendars for the 2019 Fall Migration Bird Count Sept. 22, 8 a.m.-11 a.m. Meet at the Island Community Center. Bring binoculars.

Following Audubon bird count rules, Dr. Adam Mitchell and two additional experts will lead birders, making 15 five-minute stops from West End to East End. At each timed stop, the birders will count birds and call out what they see.

Not sure how to count birds? Come for a tutorial and quick tour of the Parade grounds Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. Meet at the Parade Grounds.

The Common Buckeye Butterfly is another beautiful pollinator, in addition to the Monarch Butterfly, drawn to goldenrod in late summer.

Fishers Island’s native grass meadows, grown from “Fishers Island Seed Mix”, were on full display for “Conservation on Parade” Aug. 3 in the Parade Grounds. FIConservancy Photo

There have been numerous requests for “Fishers Island Seed Mix” used in FIConservancy’s grassland restoration project on the Parade Grounds and adjacent to South Beach and Elizabeth Airport.

Ernst Conservation Seeds, the largest native seed producer and supplier in the eastern United States, created a custom blend for Fishers Island. The seeds are listed below. Butterfly milkweed, however, is out of stock but will be available in the spring.

Seeds can be planted from mid-to-late October or in the spring. Call 800-873-3321 for further information. Learn more about planting meadows at the Ernst website:>Planting Guides>Uplands, Meadows & Pollinator Planting Guide and>Life Cycle of a Meadow.


FIConservancy Vice President Jane Harvey fills water bottle from newly installed filtered water filling station on second floor of the Island Community Center.

FIConservancy has purchased two filtered water filling stations in an effort to help Island residents and guests reduce the use of bottled water. The two stations were installed in late August, one on the second floor of the Island Community Center near the fitness room, and the other inside the ferry terminal waiting room.

The community center no longer sells plastic water bottles. Instead, refillable glass water bottles are available for purchase. The community center has reported a positive response to the water filling station.



Monarch butterflies in pollinating stage particularly love goldenrod, which is mistakenly thought of as a prime allergen for hay fever sufferers. (Justine Kibbe Photo) Purple ironweed is another monarch butterfly favorite. (FIConservancy Photo)

There is a golden haze over parts of the meadows in FIConservancy’s restored grasslands. The Parade Grounds are filled with yellow goldenrod and purple ironweed, both preferred plants of the monarch butterfly in its pollinating stage.

It’s no wonder that monarch butterflies are attracted to the meadows: Milkweed in early summer for the caterpillar stage, and goldenrod and ironweed in late summer for the butterflies.

Contrary to popular opinion, goldenrod is not the enemy of hay fever sufferers. Rather, it is the ubiquitous ragweed (image below) that is the serious offender.

Ragweed is the prime source of fall allergies in North America. Photo


Eastern Bluebird by Justine Kibbe

Eastern Bluebird by Justine Kibbe

The Eastern bluebird was spotted on Fishers Island in 2017 after a 10-year absence, perhaps because of the return of its preferred meadowland habitat through FIConservancy’s grassland restoration project. John H. Thatcher, Jr. was instrumental in founding FIConservancy. Justine Kibbe Photo

FIConservancy in August received an unexpected gift of $50,000 in memory of John H. Thatcher, Jr., a key founder and longtime president of the Fishers Island Conservancy.

“So much of the good fortune in life that I have enjoyed, with both my family and my career, traces back to the interest that John Thatcher took in me 50 years ago and to the direction he provided,” said the donor, Peter Wendell. 

Mr. Wendell grew up in northern New Jersey, a few towns away from Mr. Thatcher’s initial home in Englewood, N.J. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Thatcher was an energetic alumnus for Princeton University and volunteered for the university’s  Alumni Schools Committee. He recruited many high school seniors from the area, who subsequently enrolled at Princeton. Mr. Wendell was among that group.

“I never would have considered attending Princeton had it not been for John’s energetic recruitment and, I’m sure, his successful lobbying of the Princeton Admissions Office to admit me!” Mr. Wendell said.

“Since my family did not have the means to pay, Princeton provided a full-tuition scholarship, in addition to a great education, which brought a transformative change to my life. My wife also attended Princeton, as did several of our children and their spouses. With the support of several of my professors at Princeton, I was fortunate to attend Harvard Business School.

“I had not seen John in many years and had never met his wife or family, but when I read of his passing and his deep interest and important role in the Fishers Island Conservancy, it seemed an appropriate place to honor his memory.”

Mr. Wendell’s gift comes at a time when FIConservancy is attempting to demonstrate to the community the critical need to sustain the Island’s natural environment. 

“We are so grateful for Peter Wendell’s heartfelt gift to FIConservancy,” said FIConservancy President Tom Sargent. “We are not surprised that John’s influence reached beyond the shores of Fishers Island. His passion still extends to everything that we do here, including the grassland restoration of nearly 170 acres in the Parade Grounds and adjacent to South Beach and Elizabeth Airport into what are now acres of meadows.”