FIConservancy President Tom Sargent addresses a crowd at “Sunset on the Beach” 2019. This popular event has been postponed until 2021 in the interest of the health and safety of the Fishers Island community during this pandemic.

 

Dear Fellow Fishers Islander,

As I watch Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks and Kestrels hover over beaches and meadows, I am reassured that once again, the fanfare of spring has arrived, transforming our island into a glorious oasis. The Fishers Island Conservancy (FIConservancy) has been an important partner in sustaining and enhancing this delicate ecosystem with ongoing stewardship and oversight. As we celebrate 35 years of supporting the island, we find ourselves facing unforeseen challenges that require a new approach to outreach and planning.

Our primary concern is the safety and welfare of the entire Fishers Island community. With that in mind, we have canceled “Sunset on the Beach” for 2020. This will significantly impact our fundraising goals. But we are already looking forward to July 17, 2021, when we will continue this great and much-anticipated tradition. We remain committed to providing family-centered (and socially distanced) events as we move through the summer, including Nature Days in August and a showing of the movie Big Little Farm.

Our ongoing projects continue at full throttle, such as this year’s Audubon-structured migratory bird count May 2, when we happily counted 44 different species, despite our masks and gloves. Also, our partnership with FIDCO is on track as we renew badly-damaged micro-environments at targeted spots around the island.

Other active FIConservancy initiatives include guiding students in our Island Sentinels program, partnering with off-island organizations to lobby for environmental best practices, sponsoring the pump out boat in West Harbor, and allocating grants, one of which recently led a Fishers Island School student to first place in a prestigious science fair.

One aspect of life that COVID-19 can’t change is the magnificent beauty this island affords its residents. It’s more important than ever to take time to appreciate the enduring gifts that nature bestows on this small corner of the world. Take a moment to stroll through the Parade Grounds during a summer sunset or sit in the John Thatcher Native Garden (formerly the Demonstration Garden) and watch the local birds take wing. We will be providing socially distanced picnic tables beneath the black gum trees to enhance your enjoyment.

Please know that FIConservancy is still working hard to sustain and enhance our island’s natural resources, even though we are battling a significant reduction in our fundraising dollars. We deeply appreciate any donations you can give to help cover the shortfall due to the loss of “Sunset On the Beach.” A donation to the FIConservancy is a donation to Fishers Island.

Many thanks and please stay safe and healthy.

Cheers

Tom

 

Thomas A. Sargent

President

Fishers Island Conservancy

Restored grassland at Parade Grounds.

President’s Message: 2019

In the golden light of autumn, the stunning beauty of our Island is on full display. A dazzling fall migration season produced waves of monarch butterflies in numbers not seen in decades, a record-setting raptor count, and a Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow, never before recorded on-Island.

Tom Sargent

This excellent news encourages the Fishers Island Conservancy to continue with initiatives put in place to ensure the environmental health of Fishers Island today and into the future. I am happy to report that our organization is busy and vibrant. Our collaboration with Professors Doug Tallamy and Adam Mitchell continues as they help us tackle the ongoing challenges of coastal habitat restoration and maintenance.

The University of Delaware Invasives Team completed their third summer here and moved up-Island as the Conservancy begins a pilot collaboration with FIDCO on two parcels on the East End. We look forward to doubling the size of the University of Delaware team next spring and summer, since the challenges facing us in the removal of non-native plant species requires an aggressive approach. That being said, the Conservancy also continues to educate individual property owners with over 25 site visits in the last year.

The Demonstration Garden continues to be a resource to those interested in planting appropriate species native to our locale. The garden acts as a “buffet” to our local insect and bird populations and to those species that use the Island as an important stop on the Atlantic Flyway. As most of you know, both bird and insect populations have plunged from 60 to 80 percent, so we must take action to reverse this troubling trend. I am happy to say that the Fishers Island Conservancy is bucking the decline in the Sanctuary and Demonstration Garden, but much more needs to be done. Please use us as a resource for your own gardens and lawns. We are happy to guide you as to best practices.

As the Conservancy enters its 35th year, I am honored to announce that the Demonstration Garden will be dedicated and renamed the John Thatcher Native Garden in memory of John Thatcher, one of the Conservancy’s founders. John was a long-time summer resident of Fishers Island and, when he died in 2017, its longest serving president. John’s love of Fishers Island and all things natural was palpable. Even after he was unable to travel to the Island due to poor health, he kept in touch with us at the Conservancy, imparting valuable institutional advice and concern for the Island he loved so deeply. Please come spend some time in this wonderful garden that John would have adored.

Finally, I would like to make mention that Justine Kibbe, our Conservancy Naturalist, has left Fishers Island. Her beautiful pictures—more than 3000—and her invaluable data illuminated our precious Island home, whether tracking down snowy owls in February, minks darting in and out of ponds, or returning shorebirds in the spring. She also founded the Island Sentinel program, which teaches students the importance of stewardship. We will miss Justine and wish her the best on her new adventure in the Pacific Northwest.

While the Fishers Island Conservancy has had a successful and productive year, the challenges of environmental protection, habitat restoration and educational outreach continue. Now is the time for us to be aggressive in pursuing our mission: to protect and preserve our Island environment. Fishers Island needs us more than ever. Thank you to all who have so generously supported us in the past. I hope you can find it in your heart to do so again. A gift to the Fishers Island Conservancy is a gift to Fishers Island.

For the Conservancy,
Tom Sargent, President

For over 25 years the Fishers Island Conservancy has witnessed extraordinary changes in environmental awareness and appreciation for nature’s diversity on our special island.

The Fishers Island Conservancy has had another wonderfully busy year. The Conservancy increased funding for our existing programs and took on new responsibilities with dedicated vigor, all the while maintaining our mission and promise to protect and enhance the natural environment of Fishers Island.

We have continued to grow and expand in our core competencies such as mosquito control, water testing, invasive plant education, and outreach within the Long Island Sound Community. Newer initiatives, such as the Parade Ground Habitat restoration project, are a model of Conservancy success.

Habitat Restoration: Started just three years ago, the grassland restoration project now includes over 50 acres of native cool and warm season grasses. Paths have been mowed and benches have been set out for viewing the abundant bird and insect life. To watch a Northern Harrier float three feet off the ground in pursuit of prey is truly a site to behold. At the same time, we have fought and appear to be winning the battle against invasive Japanese knotweed and kudzu. Just a few short years ago, it looked like the entire Parade Grounds could be lost to these unwelcome guests. Now look for bird boxes this coming spring as we attempt to lure back the likes of the Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink and Meadowlark. Parade Ground birding has never been better.

Island Naturalist and Island Sentinels: Grants by the Conservancy continue to fund the work of Island Naturalist Justine Kibbe, and a new grant this year initiated the Island Sentinels program with students from the Fishers Island School. Justine, with help this summer from the Sentinels, gathers valuable data and observations at over a dozen sites on the island. Data on weather readings, as well as observations of flora and fauna, help us to understand our precious environment and what we should be doing to help preserve and protect it. Your support enabled the Conservancy to fund this exciting partnership with the Community Center and the FI School. Click here to learn more from one of the first Sentinels: FI School senior, Olivia Backhaus.

Otter Research: Another Conservancy grant brought a team of researchers to the Island to confirm the existence of a healthy River Otter population. Who knew? There are plans in the works to bring more scientists on island to help us find and catalog the island’s natural assets.

Advocacy and Outreach: While we are an island, we are not alone. The Fishers Island Conservancy continues to reach out to other similar and like-minded organizations who share our concerns and views on the natural world around us. We have the responsibility to learn what is going on in the waters surrounding us and how it could impact our environment. Dredging, dumping and run off from the lands that make up the Long Island Sound watershed could have great consequences for Fishers Island, so it is imperative that we, as the Conservancy, stay on top of these issues.

The Fishers Island Conservancy is a small group of volunteers dedicated to the well-being of the natural environment of Fishers Island. As the Conservancy closes another ambitious and busy year, we look forward to meeting the challenges that may confront our little island oasis. Please consider a generous gift to the Fishers Island Conservancy. A gift to the Conservancy is a gift to Fishers Island, a truly special place that deserves our care and support.

 

Cheers and thanks.

Tom Sargent
President, Fishers Island Conservancy

2012 has been a fantastic year for the Fishers Island Conservancy. The Conservancy has continued to fund and expand our existing programs while taking on several bold new initiatives thus further expanding our mission.

While we continue our core responsibilities of mosquito control, beach monitoring and clean up, water testing on and around the island, invasive plant education and control, and continued outreach within the Long Island sound community, the Conservancy has launched and funded our grants program to stimulate and encourage environmental research education and related studies.

Starting this fall, we awarded one of our first grants to an island resident, Justine Kibbe . She will serve as our resident naturalist and will be responsible for observing, monitoring, collecting and recording data related to all things environmental on Fishers Island from weather observations to wildlife sightings and tracking. Through her field observations, we will get a concise picture of what is happening environmentally on Fishers Island and what we can do as a community to enhance and protect our precious ecosystem. We look forward to sharing this information with all of you.

We are very excited to announce that the Habitat Committee, whose restoration work is in evidence around the grasslands at the airport and parade grounds, has been brought under our charter. With the help of volunteers and other island support, more than 35 acres have been reclaimed, plowed and over seeded with native grasses. Not only has this resulted in an overwhelming victory against invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed and Kudzu but we have seen an increase in birdlife not enjoyed on Fishers Island for years. Late last summer, the grasslands provided a cornucopia for migrating warblers and other birds as they stopped to feed on seeds and insects before heading to warmer climates. Listening to their varied and lovely calls is a true delight. I hope that it is only a matter of time before we hear the once familiar call of the Bob White quail. As I write, there are plans to expand and enhance the Parade Grounds / Airport grasslands project thus continuing the Conservancy’s commitment to the natural environment.

Lastly, once again we have teamed up with other island organizations and individuals to spearhead a coastal study of the south side of Fishers Island. This study will give us an idea about the trends in erosion patterns of our vulnerable south coast and how we can prepare for potential changes to our fragile shores. Stay tuned as this project evolves.

As you can see the Conservancy has been very busy this year and we show no signs of slowing down. We have dramatically increased our commitment to Fishers Island so as we close out our year, I ask you to please consider making a generous gift to the Fishers Island Conservancy. A gift to the Conservancy is a gift to Fishers Island, a truly special place that deserves our love and support.

Cheers and thanks.

Tom Sargent
Preisdent, Fishers Island Conservancy