By Island Naturalist Justine Kibbe
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.