Fishers Island Conservancy Fishers Island
Conservancy

Field Notes

Natural Beginnings

Natural Beginnings

Our lives present us with many wonderful opportunities – unique circumstances and moments in time that make it possible for us to do something equally wonderful. For me, it would be to share my desire and ability to simply love an Island. I will always be grateful to my Mom who in her own way from the beginning encouraged me to do just that.

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Latest Field Notes

Nov 20
2017

Under the Locust Tree*

If You Lichen Me & I Lichen You
(Lichens are fungi that live in intimate association with algae)
And We Lichen both the same
(The partnership may also include cyanobacteria)
I Lichen say this very day, I Lichen change your name
(With photosynthesis)
"Cause I love-a you and love-a you true and if you -a love- a me
One live as two, two live as one"
(So symbiotic!)
Under the Locust tree

*With admiration for Hooverness, as well as Judy Garland...

Oct 16
2017

Ethereal Egret

Etched across an autumn sky as if origami art had real wings to fly

The real in you on stalwart stilts, menhaden splash, while a yellow bill tilts

Your deep neck bow amidst swaying grass; often poses a "question mark" - might I ask?

Within sultry fog and scarlet leaves perched upon lichened bark; organdy plumage, ethereal and stark - is that still you?

Sep 18
2017

Something to Crow About!

* Come join the Conservancy Fall Bird Migration Survey. Sunday Sept 24th @ 8am

Summer fades now. Tawny dune grasses bend and bow towards brilliance- Monarchs that float and morph between orange and red maple leaves.

Most families have packed up here on Island, boarding ferries, migrating across the Sound, perhaps heading south or who knows where, but bound to return as trees promise to bud next year.

While shore birds and waders like 6 American Oyster Catchers of South beach, 2 Willets along Big Stony spit, Hay Harbor and several Egrets near 14th hole and bridge up at Big Club will soon all follow suit and leave Island too.

But then many bird families fly in, fly thru or stay on here. And the Fishers Island Conservancy counts on it (literally!) and so can Islanders.

The Blue Jays-there's a talkative bunch heading east behind navy fencing; the birds sounding alarm from pine stands there, and more chiming within the conifer woods nearing Gray Gulls.

Listen, pretty much everywhere now-open grass lands like Parade Grounds, brushy habitat around Isabella cliffside, and the Northern Cardinal rules - "tik...tik...twik..."

Look up and down between sun shadows within lichen covered tree trunks that hug Oyster Pond and see Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers poking and scratching for ants.

It is wonderful to become familiar with birds here and quite an opportunity.

Back in my neck of the woods over the years a band of now 8 crows has kindly adopted me. I think they must know I have an affinity towards their clan. Each morning awakens with quite a raucous-especially with coveted autumn fruit dropping to the ground. Sunny afternoons I happen upon the squawking squadron waiting for takeoff; their jet black feathers with the look of warm upon a windswept runway. Usually by the time the 4:15 ferry arrives for Island workforce and students, the crows have circled round to preen atop a chimney and bid farewell till the morning.

Come join a lead team of expert birders from University of Delaware take tally of bird species from several point to point spots west end to east end. Learn even to recognize unique calls of each species, bring binoculars and we'll all see what the migration survey says!

PS. We're meeting 8 am at the *Community Center.

Aug 30
2017
My Neck Of The Woods

Five past Noontide

Late August, Fishers Island Recreational Bike Path, 06390.

Summer has flown. Shadows are getting longer; the towhee bird is not singing "drink your tea" but a sounding cicada reminds me of warmth that is nearly tinged with melancholy. I do not know where summer goes, or why this particular one has felt so fleeting, but as I pedal and coast now around Oyster Pond heading from the Big Club beach towards Race Point, I have just enough time to recollect, and find summer again.

I remember now - I laughed with early summer when a neighbor called to tell me my Significant Otter was swimming in June's deep rain puddles right outside my cottage.

I saw summer in the smiles of IPP's youngest nature lovers back in July while sharing local stories of Silver Eel Cove's snoozing Black- crowned Night herons.

I also heard summer early that same month when the Conservancy hosted Doug Tallamy and Adam Mitchell who toured and talked about the unique conservation work taking place in the Parade Grounds along Fort Stretch. I'm still learning with Islanders just how invasive plants like black swallow wort and kudzu vine alter the quality of habitat for insects; and how that might affect the birds that depend on insects and native plants for food. Summer showed me the simplicity of planting milkweed as just one example towards success in bringing monarch butterflies back home to the Island. Just now, on this very bike ride I have seen more fluttering monarchs than I have in 5 years of monitoring!

I found summer's joy and shared it in between August's morning hours where young Island Sentinels learned how to monitor sea grass meadows from atop their paddle boards within Hay Harbor.

I laughed again, with midsummer, when I was asked to name the very local 4 ft. sand shark observed deep inside West Harbor - that somehow we Islanders have all become intimate with the same exact wildlife on a tiny island. Summer came with mink sightings (over 30 remarks!) and for the first time in over a decade, fishermen off shore spoke of waters swarming with mackerel. From a sturgeon sighting off Chocomount to a pod of dolphin north side off Clay Point Rd., summer pointed out that Fishers Island is blessed with healthy seagrass meadows.

I found summer taught me simple lessons in patience, but tougher ones in diplomacy and active stewardship. I found too though, that this particularly ephemeral summer gifted the Island and its community tribes with more respect and better practices towards conservation.

I hear the noon whistle now as I round the bend at Duck Pond and head west. If I pedal faster uphill I'll make Race Point in five. The wind picks up, the leaves on the trees do indeed appear to clap their hands and it feels like a wondrous summer - still.

Jul 17
2017

The Real Summer on Parade

Upon Firewheel petals within a Garden's Demonstrate*;
bees soldier on and pollinate.

Side by side this stretch of Fort, within Summer's marching on -
"Stop here" for just a moment, and standing at attention,
Hear Fog horn's call to arms.
That very sound in sequence that passing ships know well to thank -
Listen too, as young Bob White's call does find its very own rank.

*Fishers Island Conservancy Demonstration Garden

Jun 17
2017
My Neck Of The Woods

Caution: Wet Paint

I can always tell when perhaps I am paying too close attention to my own life on an Island - the way I "feel" it rather than "the way I see it" as a Naturalist. Kind of an inside joke between me and Nature but it often comes across in my photo moments out in the field.

Up east at Oyster Pond, ranging a bit from my neck of the woods on Silver Eel Cove, I met this Green Heron(plumage of the species is actually more slate blue) while on my bicycle. It was early eve, both of us blanketed under June's shroud of fog-the utter stillness, well, it felt surreal. I got home to discover the image indeed almost looks like an artist's painting.

The canvas that is Fishers Island though is constantly changing. My job taking note, documenting, and journaling natural history over time; it's no secret diary (except of course how I feel about my Significant Otter!).

And it appears so quickly - this ever evolving natural environment impacted with our human alterations and transitions; it's not at all like watching paint dry.

It's a tough learning curve- being cautious -not letting my own feelings get in the mix. It's difficult not getting swept away with the surge of cars and folks that swells from 200 or so of us to 2,000 of us in less than 48 hours-just a Memorial Day weekend.

I try not to feel blue as bright red helicopters scream "touch down", and brighter yellow hovercrafts hover over Black-crowned night herons snoozing under the ferry dock.

Newly installed sliding glass doors at The Village Market slowly got my green light-more speedily than the nearly official traffic light up at Gate House.

And it sure feels like no joke this climate change, wearing my gloves this late, soaking wet spring-June just could be the new April-no fooling!

But some things never change; I still feel grateful to live on an Island.

May 09
2017

Once Upon A Rock: This Spring Once Again **

There once was a seal from Tiree, and with second sight voyaged the sea.

Swirling and sweeping in fathoms still keeping; all along its dreams did see.

Like tumult of wave pooled within tidal crag upon ancient cliffs off shore, this once wee flipperling finds rest to calmly reflect its lore.

Beneath night’s constellations glides this sojourner, within the constant of the mighty Milky Way...

Eavesdropping alongside wooden hulls, revealing to soaring gulls- those tales Clan warriors had to say.

And so it is our own life’s stories too - woven within the waves, but forever linked as the stars above; afar off as isles of our days.


** Fishers Island Harbor Seals readying for Annual haul-off, Fishers Island students learning the art of Storytelling & Local Traditional Knowledge

Apr 30
2017
My Neck Of The Woods

When My Stewardship Comes In

It was always a sweet spot of mine-this Sanctuary of Sands as I call it. The same tidal pools are here, where as a kid, I tipped barnacled rocks years ago with my neighbors. We spent hours searching for crabs to fill our buckets-bait for catching blackfish. It was also the best viewing for the Friday landings of Jock Whitney’s Jet. Oh, it even could be I recollect sneaking a kiss or three here during my early teenage years; we “west- enders” of summer and all those bonfire nights.

But I also remember Fishers Island’s premier Naturalist Ed Horning - seeing him here with his binoculars spying various species of sandpipers from the dune grasses. It was probably a sweet spot for him too; actually Southold has documented notes of his, that it really was his favorite for observing shorebirds feeding within salted kelp and eelgrass berms.

Now decades later, the same three tiny coves parallel to the Elizabeth Field Runway, with sands that have shifted and sifted these past years after Hurricane Sandy have become the spot where at long last my ship has come in- Stewardship.

If I were to name this ship it would be christened Atukan- Akun or “We Are One” honoring my Unungan tribe of the Bering Sea. It’s an Island environment, the Aleuts taught me, that can uniquely exemplify this universal “gift” of knowing AND seeing we truly are ONE. An opportunity to live and breathe the Natural world of sea and sand, the rhythm of sun and moon, wind and wave; where its wildlife and habitat naturally brings out the unity in community-or tribe.

Atukan- Akun, embracing the integral qualities of tribe is an even sweeter spot not unlike a very unique classroom; placed upon the hearts of students here on Fishers Island. We are together Leaders and followers, Teachers and learners, all striving to glean the local traditional knowledge of our native land and preserve it.

And so with sails set and trimmed this Spring, signs have been placed throughout this Sanctuary to help steer Island stewards as we stand watch over our precious cargo-treading lightly, respectfully, and navigating this voyage with a certain hopefulness; taking the helm towards “future history” of our Island.

Mar 03
2017
My Neck Of The Woods

My Significant Otter & the Other Side of the Tracks

It’s often during the dead of winter here on Fishers Island when it appears everyone wants to know everyone’s every move; just exactly all the “he saids” and “she saids” and of course the who saw “so and so” with whom. Sometimes I think just the opposite -that surviving the harsh and desolate comes with minding our own business like nobody’s business; to lighten up and see it’s truly in our own NATURE-the real things to talk about and perhaps put out there:

My S.O. and I have been in a discreet relationship for nearly five years. In August 2012 River Otter biologist Mike Bottini visiting from Long Island introduced the two of us. Admittedly in the beginning, I did enjoy the thrill of the chase; a bit exciting as we both have a reputation for being elusive. Islanders whispered that we were on- again, off- again, that I ran hot and cold. That’s all a bunch of “scat”! Especially up by Oyster Pond and Middle Farms.

I took a leap of faith with tips from local residents, thinking living west on the other side of the tracks really didn’t matter and apparently it doesn’t. The two of us have been sighted enjoying each other’s company at Duck Pond before the morning ferry.

Who knows maybe there is something to the whole idea- Ignore the Otter, Get the Otter: The Art of No Contact...at least another book.


Signage: Williams Timber Corp.

Feb 28
2017

Meeting Intuition Out In the Field

You are the fog horn of my heart. You wait in silence, then respond, thru thick and thin I know you. You are there.

As thought gives birth to grand ideas - you give a wider berth.

When I think I know exactly where I am headed with all this precious cargo, you remind me to take it slow - especially amidst the rip tides.

Yes, I am always listening. You have reminded me “again and again” just how to take direction.

Yet, you have trusted me at the helm.


Photo: February fog lifts up east

Jan 14
2017
My Neck Of The Woods

A Little Bird Told Me

I agree it’s not an image that would have made the cover of Audubon and there is not even enough flashing of chimney for Sweeping Magazine. But there it perched; this bright blue harbinger waiting to crown this Happy New Year.

Fishers Island has not seen the Eastern Bluebird in quite some time and for me these past six years- it is a first. Oh, there are though many vacant bluebird boxes standing within dense grass fields alongside empty estates waiting and waiting for a sign of its return at long last.

I was winding and rounding my way towards West Harbor across from the Softball field when four vibrant visitors flitted across the hood of the old beach car and darted upward.

Startled by brilliance of blue and of course smiling, I was “invited” to capture this one moment; these Bluebirds of happiness accomplishing their mission with such finesse. And while we humans are at it –giving wildlife our own attributes-this happy “subject” even appears stalwart.

The Island’s got a very different even unusual feel these days- and not just of winter. The Big Club up east has been razed; torn down, newly designed to be rebuilt and raised up again. Out with the old, in with the new this 2017.

With all the construction activities, the gate house which for decades has delineated Town of Southold from Private-remains manned which is also a first for winter. To me, still monitoring by bicycle in January, there is no feel of east meets west- ask any Bluebird!

I continue to record remarks on this change of climate, these moments of renewal and we Islanders resolve that happiness doesn’t come and go-but remains a constant for all.

Dec 21
2016

I'll Have a Blue Heron Christmas*

Without you
I'll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a tall Pepperidge tree
Won't be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

And when those bluefish start migrating
That's when those blue-jays start calling
You'll be doin all right with your Christmas of white
But I'll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas

* From an Island Naturalist who hasn't sighted and documented Elvis - yet.

Nov 06
2016
My Neck Of The Woods

Seeing beyond exclusive, catching the elusive

It was the “Autumn of our content” with foliage reminding me of the best of a preschooler’s sponge paintings; the coral, reds, and orange that blend together so magically. Nor did it appear an illusion, the season’s Hunter’s moon; the push and pull of superior tides finally exposing the hidden mystery behind those Hungry Point Harbor seals — lush eel grass meadows so near to shore and laden with fish. There was, indeed, such fullness this peculiar October.

And for me, the certainty of warmth captured within certain shifting shadows felt like an Indian summer for all times. For weeks I could not help but imagine the Pequot people here on Fishers Island those hundreds of autumns ago. I felt a sense of viewing island vistas as others might have centuries before. There were odd moments when I didn’t see a mansion in sight, when crickets out-chorused leaf blowers, calm lapping waves south-side drowned out even the thought of a cigarette boat and, of course, Mother Nature could not help but to chime in.

I shared that sense of time and space on a recent afternoon during a class with local third and fourth graders. As I encouraged their mastery of indigenous storytelling and stewardship of the earth, I drove home the message with added lore and lure of the seals.

“Island clans of Scotland tell of Selkie folk-seals in the sea, shifting shape to humans on land. The Aleuts in the Bering believe they too are people of the seal,” I told them. “Here on Fishers Island, a seal appeared before my very eyes in a place where I imagine it may have appeared to the summering Pequot tribe hundreds of years ago — the very same seal!”

There was a hush and then a circle of raised and waving hands.

“I counted 500 jellyfish on the ferry ride this morning,” said one student.

Another said, “It was getting dark and my Dad saw an old sweatshirt lying on the bike path — it turned out to be a growling fisher!”

And another: “I heard a whole bunch of baby coyotes. Oh, and we got a new kitten named Autumn.”

And there was time for one more: “I saw a unicorn in Silver Eel Cove,” a student reported.

The next morning while monitoring up east, it appeared the island was busy telling its own story. Houses being winterized with plumbing drained, drapes drawn, and gardens still in bloom, all so hesitant to be tucked in so soon.

And the Big Club beach was shifting scenery too. Umbrellas furled and stowed, patio planks disassembled and stacked, windows boarded up, with herds of golf carts rounded up and corralled for storage.

Wait a second, I thought. The ending to this Indian summer can’t be so predictable; it was too special, too different. Besides it’s been around for hundreds of years, and I’m not done enjoying it!

Just then Islander Trudi Edwards stopped me; not coincidentally we spoke of islands — this one and another in Bahamian waters.

Suddenly, another voice — a loud “cr-r-ruck” as two ravens swooped over our heads, so close I could hear feathers rustle. Their echoing gurgle and croak startled Trudi sitting in her car.

“What was that?! Were those just ravens?” she asked.

I nodded, equally amazed as I knelt down to pick up a tiny gifted cedar twig that one of the talking birds had dropped in front of me.

I stared in awe and watched the ravens veer south, leaving enough anthropological (even biblical!) symbolism for winter.

I realized this was the perfect ending to the “Autumn of our content” but not before I ran down the beach and snapped a photo for my third- and fourth-grade tribe.

Oh, and the unicorn?

How could I not believe it?

Oct 10
2016

Along Came a Spider

Safe within your eye of storm no tangled web here to weave.
Where shade and lichen have drawn the line
Here, morning’s ray can’t deceive;
October’s feel is more August real.
So deep within the pitch of dark and pines
Autumn’s Jay just can’t believe.

Sep 04
2016
My Neck Of The Woods

Hummingbird's Great Spirit Too

In a blink of an eye, that's how summer has gone by so far. For me especially on a 9 by 1 mile stretch that is Fishers Island, where the human element swells and surges and by Labor Day, you just want to sit in the froth of that mountainous wave and ask "Wow, did I just ride that?"

The Island's so small that you can truly believe in asking it for a Do-over and have one too. Like the other evening I spied a Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovering in and out of Hosta beds searching for something sweet.

"Wait just a second while I get my camera" I whispered.

But that was actually on my back porch - 2 minutes down the lane and 2 minutes back. Of course upon returning, the sweet bird had already buzzed by for the night. I have also asked myself for Do-overs. To be more patient with seasonal bicyclists that aren't paying attention - after all I have pedaled in those shoes. And rather than imagining there is an "only catered to" atmosphere sweeping me under again; this August morning I smiled at a simple but rarely seen box of Familia Swiss Muesli on a store shelf and was grateful for all the other "delicacies" the market carries these days. Another feature of this small stage set of an Island is that certain qualities - nice ones - will resonate bigger and brighter if you're observing closely.

As naturalist here I often find expressions of "family"; both with wildlife and the human in unique places out in the field and they find me!

Yesterday, a longtime friend Carl (he and my brothers grew up fishing for King Mackerel from the Ferry dock back in the day) took the time to stop by my neck of the woods on Silver Eel Cove.

"I found the most unbelievable Hummingbird nest!" He then started to give me directions up Island by the Driving Range before I blurted enthusiastically.

"Wait! I'll get my camera".

"Grab a ladder if you have one".

I dashed inside for the camera and threw an old rusty hinged wooden ladder in back of the beach car.

Carl sat in his truck waiting for me patiently; I then followed close behind 20 minutes up east.

I remember thinking this is my wonderful get to Do-over in real time on a real tiny Island.

The afternoon's west wind had picked up but the sun's foggy swelter stayed its course while branches swayed and bobbed up and down.

It was nearly impossible to figure how this minuscule lichen covered nest designed with such precision was discovered. Then I remembered how tall Carl is. I started laughing when he offered to catch and bend the tree's limb for a perfect shot.

"No, this is like National Geographic" I jested. "We can't just interfere with nature's rhythm and timing".

Propping the old ladder, he agreed.

I climbed to the wobbly top step. "This is right up there with the Snowy owl's great spirit - that moment! I whispered excitedly.

And it is.

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Video Gallery

Interview with autumn’s Black-crowned Night-Herons
Familiar “locals” standing watch in Pump House pine tree stand, Silver eel Cove. This harbor is a wonderful place to observe Fishers Island wildlife - especially while waiting for the evening ferry.
*Footage is a bit blurred, but audio of Heron’s “quark - quark” is unique!

Autumn of the Dragonfly
While Islanders were grateful to see more Monarch butterflies (than in previous years) flitting across their paths during July & August here on Fishers Island; I have noted Dragonflies reigning during September & October. In this moment as they feed within the Parade Grounds- I receive a “swarm welcome”!

My Neck of the Woods Radio
I chat with lifelong Islander John Peishoff about the necessity and importance of Fishers Island Stewardship. To date, he’s picked-up, hauled, and taken to the dump 889 wire Lobster pots-line them together; that’s over a half mile!

Atukan - Akun “We are One”!
Stewards of my Tribe drop by My Neck of the Woods, Fishers Island to report on our "Nation's work" - we are a unique people of an Island; and we are committed to care for it.

The L.O.G. Tournament
Rounding the bend up east at Big Club golf course, I happen upon young painted turtles – vying for champion- in a log rolling competition.

Fogged In Friends
A Shroud of fog hovers over Silver Eel Cove and these "fishermen" hunker down after a morning's catch.

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