The goldfinch can be identified by its vibrant yellow plumage accented by bold black streaks. These birds are common and can be seen in a variety of places on Fishers Island.

Locations of sightings include, but are not limited to, the Parade Grounds, South Beach, Dock Beach and the Ferry Dock. Their diet consists mainly of seeds and insects. The goldfinch has an irregular migration, remaining North lingering for the food supply. Keep watching for these brightly colored birds. 

Alexa Rosenberg watercolor

Olivia Backhaus was the first Island Sentinel, when FIConservancy established the program in 2013, and she spent the next five summers as a Sentinel. This fall, she will attend Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., studying environmental law.

Island Sentinel Marc Rosenberg took a great shot of a dusky smoothhound in shallow water off the Hay Harbor Club sailing dock in July.

The dusky smoothhound or smooth dogfish is a hound shark species. FIConservancy Naturalist Justine Kibbe reported seeing one last year and several in Hay Harbor, when she was a child.

Although these fish may appear menacing, they do not bite their food.

They differ from other sharks because their flat, blunt teeth are used to crush and grind food, like clams, marine worms and squid, rather than bite. They are relatively small and slender, about 48 inches long, but can reach up to five feet.

These fish are sometimes incorrectly labeled “sand sharks”, which are larger sharks also known as sand tiger sharks, grey nurse sharks or ragged tooth sharks. They are found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters, whereas the the dusky smoothhound is native to the entire Eastern Seaboard.

A pair of American oystercatchers has been spotted recently in the area near the airport known to the Island Sentinels as the Sanctuary of Sands. They return to the Sanctuary almost every day. Above is a watercolor illustration of one of these birds by Sentinel Alexa Rosenberg.

As their name suggests, the diet of an oystercatcher consists mainly of oysters, mussels and other bivalves. Recognizable by its black head, white and brown plumage, and bright red beak, the oystercatcher is about the size of a crow. These birds are uncommon on Fishers Island and are found only along the coast so keep your eyes peeled!

Audubon has identified the American oystercatcher, which is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as a climate-threatened bird. Its population totals a mere 11,000 birds on the East Coast.

Alexa Rosenberg, Fishers Island Sentinel

The Thors front yard is now home to about seven fast-growing third generation monarch caterpillars!

Devouring no less than three stocks of milkweed, they will soon move into their chrysalides and transform into butterflies.

Such a sight and process in my own front yard is not an everyday occurrence, and I’m curious to see where these creatures end up.

Wilson Thors, Fishers Island Sentinal


It was a cloudy quiet day on Fishers Island, as grass and dirt rested between soft rain showers. As I rode down the hill west of the oyster farm, I spotted an idle shape above me, a bird perched on one of the Four Corners’ telephone poles.

At first glance, I thought it was the bird all of us on Fishers know and love—the Osprey. As I passed the pole, however, looking back to admire the animal’s summer coat, I spotted the telltale…tail of a hawk.

Rust red feathers emerged from under the bird’s closed wings. Only then did I know for sure that this was not the Osprey but in fact a Red-Tailed Hawk waiting and surveying for its dinner.

Gardner Thors, Fishers Island Sentinel

Island Sentinels

Betsy Conger, 17, is a senior at Fishers Island School, which she has attended since sixth grade. She lives in Stonington, Conn. and takes the ferry to school each day. Her older sister, Olivia Backhaus, who was also a Fishers Island School student and an Island Sentinel for 5 years, introduced Betsy to environmental work on the Island. Olivia is currently attending Georgetown University Law Center and summer interning at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC.

Betsy’s environmental studies began in her school science classes. After several class field trips, she was intrigued by the Island’s beauty and wanted to become an Island Sentinel to learn more about environmental work taking place here. She has participated in the Sewanee Environmental Institute for the past 2 years where she has learned more about ecosystems, plant and animal species, archeological techniques, GPS and GIS technology, and conservation strategies that she has shared with the Island.

As an Island Sentinel, Betsy helps to monitor sites with other Island Sentinels. Serving as an Island Sentinel has given her a greater appreciation of the Island’s ever-changing ecosystem and other factors that are critical to the long-term health of the Island. 

Gardner Thors, 17, lives in New York City and is a senior at Groton School in Massachusetts. He has been a Sentinel for five years, including volunteering for one summer. As a city kid, he doesn’t get to experience nature and wildlife except for the landscaped Central Park and the infamous pigeons and squirrels of the city. Fishers Island is his wildlife sanctuary. Gardner has been summering here for as long as he can remember, and Fishers holds a special place in his heart. That is why he chose to play a part in the preservation of this environment. Gardner looks forward to learning more about the Island’s ecosystems and sharing what he learns with the Island community. His brother, Wilson, is also a passionate Sentinel.

Wilson Thors lives in New York City and is a rising Junior at Groton School in Massachusetts. 2017 was his first summer as a Sentinel, although he volunteered to monitor for FIConservancy the year before. Initially, he joined the Sentinel program because he was curious about his brother’s experiences as a Sentinel and wanted to see how he could take an active role in supporting the environmental community of Fishers Island.

Through his two years as a Sentinel, Wilson has not only learned more about the ecological trajectory of Fishers Island, especially concerning the eelgrass meadows, but also how to direct it forward. Wilson has always appreciated the natural beauty of Fishers Island, but now he has a deeper love of the Island since learning more about the wildlife and learning that we share such a great Island with it.


Marc Rosenberg, 15, lives in New York City and is a sophomore at Bronx High School of Science. 2018 was his “volunteer” year and first summer as a Sentinel. He joined the Sentinel program because he was interested in sea life and wildlife on Fishers Island.

Marc’s interest in sea life was sparked when he vacationed in Greece and observed a multitude of fish through his goggles. After that experience, Marc became increasingly curious about wildlife on and around Fishers Island. His trip to Costa Rica helped him experience more underwater life and renewed his passion for marine biology. This summer, Marc hopes to continue monitoring as well as work on monitoring water quality for the Fishers Island Seagrass Coalition.

Marc enjoys spending time under water and made a video of seagrass off the coast of Fishers Island. See Marc’s video.

Nicolas Hall has been a year-round Islander his whole life and is a recent graduate of the Fishers Island School. He will attend Dalhousie University in the fall, majoring in Oceanography.

Nick enjoys sailing on Wednesday nights, hanging out with his friends and fishing most of all. This is his first summer as an Island Sentinel, although he assisted this winter and sat in on a few Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition meetings. He is very excited to learn more about the ecosystems around him and give back to his community.

Alexa Rosenberg, 14, lives in New York City and is a freshman at Hunter College High School. She has summered on Fishers Island for as long as she can remember and is very grateful for the wonderful experiences she has had there. This is her first year volunteering as a Sentinel for FIConservancy and she is excited to learn and collect data about the wildlife of the Island. Alexa also loves art and will be painting and sketching the birds and wildlife of the Island in addition to collecting data and journaling.

Nicholas (“Nic”) Danforth, 15, has summered on Fishers Island his entire life. He lives in Ithaca, N.Y. and is a 10th grader at Ithaca High School. Nic is a first-year volunteer in the Island Sentinel program and hopes to continue in the program for at least four years.

Growing up in Ithaca, “nature-centered” town, Nic loves nature, wildlife and overall the great outdoors. In addition to volunteering as a Sentinel this summer, Nic is also a Junior Instructor in Hay Harbor Club’s water sports program. He hopes to learn more about Fishers Island and its wildlife through his future work as a Sentinel.