My Neck of the Woods: Spotted Sandpiper and Sweet Spots

We all do it at least once, especially during these early days of July: we make an appearance here on Fishers Island.

On a recent early Saturday evening, in my neck of the woods on the western end of the island, the Munnatawket offloads another parade of cars, then a screaming helicopter touches down (for a minute I am tempted to “fume” too). A stream of invitees-to-cocktail-parties traffic moves down the Fort Wright stretch. Laughter wafts from mingling on porches and floats with the scent of honeysuckle seaward.

The birds chirp excitedly and prep for evensong and with the dimming sunlight, I smile, knowing we already have made other plans. South towards Elizabeth Field airport, parallel to the runway, a sandy sanctuary invites me. Oddly, but ever so humbly — because I never RSVP — there is a sense of my past moments living in the Pribilofs that I embrace here. Maybe it is revisiting with the innate and intuitive, but I find myself appearing in this special place often, mostly to observe and now, over the years, more likely with a sense of protective preservation.

I have been happy asking the town of Southold to send me more signage to mark delicate nesting areas of the island’s slowly but surely rising population of oyster catchers. I’ve been enthusiastically sharing unique sightings of the elusive shore birds; creating posters to suggest a ban on Mylar balloons; taking time to untangle tidal pools strangled with yards of ribbon; and diplomatically reminding beach combers to leash their dogs, while explaining just what healthy habitat a wrack line is. For me it is like being a steward in “stewardship,” and just NOT waiting for the “ship” part to come in.

And now sitting here peacefully this late Saturday eve in this sanctuary of sands on a sun-washed wooden plank, buried knee high in warm, smelly, salted seaweeds, I find my own sweet spot along waving sand dune grasses. A rarely seen Spotted Sandpiper appears and welcomes me as we share this moment.

Justine Kibbe is the island naturalist for the Fishers Island Conservancy. A lifelong environmentalist, Kibbe spent six years on Alaska’s Island of Saint Paul among the native Unungan people to study fur seals. Now a Fishers Island resident, Kibbe offers wildlife snapshots from her observations on the island. You can reach her at

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