Causality or Casualty? Climate and the Changing Avian Community on Fishers Island

Illustrated talk, presented at the Museum June 9, 2024 by Skyler Kardell and William Schenck, who have been researching and documenting bird life on Fishers Island with logistical assistance by the HLFM

Hosted by HLFM David Burnham

Fishers Island has a long and distinguished history of contributions to the field of ornithology. With scattered records dating back to the 1910s and 1920s, naturalist Edwin Horning, curator of the Henry L. Ferguson Museum and teacher at the Fishers Island School, exponentially increased the number of recorded observations of bird life on Fishers Island by keeping detailed daily journals of bird sightings from the mid-1960s to the early 2000s. More than 20,000 lists of Horning’s bird sightings were uploaded in the mid-2010s to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online database eBird.

Working within the historical framework of this huge dataset, Kardell and Schenck examined changing climate and the relative trends in the community structures and overall biodiversity of Fishers Island. Join us as our two young ornithologists explore the birds of Fishers Island through the dual lenses of photography and science!

Skyler Kardell is a senior at Connecticut College, where he studies Environmental Science and Architecture. As a native of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, he has a deep interest in island ecology. His previous research has examined both avian and mammalian populations on other coastal islands in New England, including Tuckernuck and Muskeget Islands. During the austral winter, he is a participant in ongoing collaborative research between National Science Foundation (NSF) and the City University of New York (CUNY) in the Southern Ocean around South Georgia. He is also involved with the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program and is a collaborator at the American Oystercatcher Working Group (AMOYWG).

William Schenck is a senior at Wesleyan University, and shares an extensive history with the island ecosystems of the Northeast. He was the birding guide for the Sheffield Island Conservancy of Norwalk, Connecticut for two years, leading weekly birding tours to the Norwalk Islands, the western neighbors of Fishers Island. His experience with gathering biological data in these ecosystems has been augmented by many years of Christmas Bird Counts, Breeding Bird Surveys, and a variety of banding projects since the age of thirteen. His interests in the ecology of New England extends to butterfly life and herpetofauna as well.