Happenings on the Parade Ground: Tent Caterpillars – part of the natural process.

Look around the Parade Ground and the Fishers Island Conservancy’s Demonstration Garden next to the Movie Theater and you will see many nests of tent caterpillars in the cherry trees. The caterpillars and their tents get bigger and bigger and there are fewer and fewer leaves on the cherry trees. Should we be concerned and rush out to eliminate these pests? No! Sit back and let the birds do the work.

This came in from the Conservancy’s naturalist, Adam Mitchell:

forest tent caterpillar“I wouldn’t be concerned about the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. These are native species that are feeding on native plants (mostly cherry when I was on the island last week). These caterpillars, in turn, will provide food for breeding birds like orioles in the parade grounds and help support whip-poor-wills when they turn into moths. Tent caterpillars can defoliate young trees, especially ornamentals, but native trees will recover within a month (just part of the natural process!).”

As Tom Sargent pointed out, Baltimore Orioles eat them, as do Blue Jays, Chickadees and Nuthatches. The orioles have a unique way to consume the tent caterpillars – they skin them! This helps get through the all the hair the caterpillars have. The adult caterpillars, however, are actively consumed by many birds and bats, so they are a welcome addition to the island.

Article and Photos Provided by JT Ahrens.

In the early 2000s, feral cats were a huge problem on Fishers Island, with numbers estimated to be in the hundreds. Contributing to the problem were residents and visitors who allowed their un-neutered cats to roam and breed, or left them behind when departing the Island.

Feral cats can destroy songbird populations, plus there were rumors of Island feral cat attacks on pet cats and dogs, and aggressive behavior toward children.

Responding to the problem, the Fishers Island Conservancy developed a humane response by instituting a volunteer-managed program of trap, neuter and release on the Island’s West End. Additionally, birth control pills were available to caretakers of the three main colonies of cats.

Feral cat “hot spots” were said to be the Transfer Station, the “ordinance” building near Silver Eel Pond, North Hill around to Walsh Park, near the American Legion, Pickett landfill, west of the first hole of Hay Harbor Club golf course, behind the Z&S Station, and several locations an the East End.

Fishers Island no longer has a feral cat issue. After a few years of successful catch, neuter and release, it is thought that coyotes brought an end to the problem.