Fund created to recognize the work of former H.L. Ferguson Museum Board member and island conservationist Ken Edwards

By Faith Coolidge

Nearly every day, all year round, islander Ken Edwards can be found driving around the island in his pickup truck checking out different vantage points to observe bird life. For Ken, a day is a success if he spots something unique—whether it is a wood duck in one of the boxes he’s placed in various ponds, a particular bird of prey, a nesting piping plover, a gannet diving off Isabella beach or a Baltimore oriole pair at one of the many bird feeders he has constructed.

Master birder Ken Edwards, Sr. Photo by Todd McCormack

Throughout the island, from nature trails to the main road, evidence of Ken’s devotion to the island’s wildlife, in particular birds, are visible to all. Indeed, Ken is responsible for building, siting and maintaining more than 30 wood duck boxes. He has also constructed several dozen songbird houses including those specifically for bluebirds and purple martins, which he also maintains. Ken is credited with initiating many of the osprey nests on the island and he has built and installed boxes for other birds of prey as well.

“Our shorelines are a great place for migrating shorebirds and Ken has kept a keen eye out for piping plovers, killdeers, sanderlings, oystercatchers and others to make sure they have a safe haven on their migrations north and south,” says islander Jim Baker. “Ken has been an amazing advocate for our feathered friends and we need to continue to maintain and add to the great work he has done over the years.”

Jim wanted to recognize Ken’s longtime commitment to the island’s diverse wildlife by sustaining and amplifying his many contributions. To do so, Jim conceived the idea to launch the Ken Edwards Wildlife Conservation Fund at the H.L. Ferguson Museum, for which Ken was a longtime board member.

“Ken has been an invaluable partner in conservation on Fishers Island and the Museum wholeheartedly endorses the establishment of this fund in his name,” says Museum director Pierce Rafferty. The new designated fund, unanimously approved by the Board at the May 2023 meeting, will catalyze additional investments to cultivate habitats that allow wildlife to thrive. Funds will assure the continuance of the range of work that Ken has been providing, including the construction and maintenance of osprey platforms, as well as nesting boxes for a range of birds.

When islander and nature photographer Todd McCormack heard that Jim’s idea had been blessed by the Museum’s board, he knew he not only wanted to donate to this fund but also do what he could to spread the word and raise money from others.

Todd fondly recalls meeting Ken for the first time. “Ken was sitting with his son, J.R., on a log on South Beach and they both had binoculars glued to their eyes,” says Todd. “My wife Annie and I introduced ourselves and sat down next to them, and, to our welcomed surprise, we received a master class on shorebird identification.”

Since that first meeting, Todd has joined Ken for countless early morning wildlife safaris around the island. “These outings have introduced me to corners of Fishers I would have never discovered on my own,” says Todd.

Ken has quietly given his time to ensure the birds of Fishers Island are protected and nourished. “If you love to watch the ospreys return each March to breed, or catch a glimpse of a wood duck in one of our ponds, you owe a big debt of gratitude to Ken Edwards,” says Todd. “Without the knowledge of many of the human visitors who arrive in the summer, he has worked tirelessly to improve the habitats for our feathered residents to ensure the diversity of our avian wildlife remains robust,” he adds.

“Birding is a major part of Ken’s life and Fishers Island is his love,” says Jim. “With this fund, we can carry on his passion and help maintain and grow what Ken has already put in place for all of us to enjoy.”

NOTE: Those wishing to donate to the Museum’s designated Ken Edwards Wildlife Conservation Fund should send contributions to the H.L. Ferguson Museum and please note Ken Edwards Fund in the memo line. Mail to P.O. Box 554, Fishers Island, NY 06390. Or give online here, click the donate button and choose the Ken Edwards Wildlife Conservation Fund. The Museum greatly appreciates all gifts made in Ken’s name.