Phyllis Nolan joined 19 other eager people last weekend aboard a water taxi bound for Faulkner’s Island. She clutched a list of questions and a pen as she set foot on the island; ready to soak up as much information she could during her hour-long stay.
“I‘ve been in Madison for 24 years. It was on my bucket list to come to Faulkner’s and it’s a beautiful day and a perfect day to do it!” said Nolan.
While the island, three miles off the coast of Guilford, is usually closed to the public, once a year the Faulkner’s Light Brigade arranges for an open house. Originally scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, small craft warnings on Saturday cancelled all trips out. Yet, even with only one day it was estimated that about 300 people took advantage of this year’s opportunity.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns Faulkner’s Island, but the light brigade maintains the lighthouse and other buildings on the site. Established in 1991 this all-volunteer group works tirelessly on the restoration and preservation of Faulkner’s Island and the lighthouse.
As a bird sanctuary, and part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, the island is home to nesting terns April through June.
Meeting the group, as they disembarked from the water taxi was Rick Potvin, Refuge Manager. With humor and personal antidotes he explained, in detail, how the tern makes its way to the island, its breeding habits and the importance of protecting the environment for this important species.
“I was very impressed,” said Claire Voos, visiting with her son and daughter. “The way he explained it all, going into detail, I was really impressed with that.”
Nolan agreed and was amazed at how much she was learning. “It’s a storehouse full of knowledge,” said Nolan. “I really didn’t realize that there were so many terns out here and how they were protected.”
So did visiting Faulkner’s Island make Nolan feel special? “Very much so, that I’m actually on this island for the day,” said Nolan. “It’s a beautiful day, too!”
“There’s a lot of explaining to do,” said volunteer Andrew Weaver, leaving the island after a day meeting visitors. “The one thing that is so precious is knowledge. It’s the only thing they can’t take away from you. The more knowledge you can get, obviously, the better person you can be.”
Weaver spent the day, his 56th wedding anniversary, on the island manning the lighthouse entrance.
A maximum of four people, at a time, were allowed to go to the top of the lighthouse. Towering ninety feet above the water, the top of the structure houses the automated light and offers an absolutely spectacular view. “You could see pretty far,” said 10-year-old Nolan Kearns as he exited the lighthouse with his father, Ted.
The Kearns decision to travel to the island was very spur of the moment. During his morning jog Ted passed the Light Brigade's welcome tent, at the marina, and decided to gather up his son and head out.
“It’s awesome,” said Ted. “I didn’t know anything about the birds and the bird sanctuary.”
Weaver believes this open house is a good way to introduce people to the importance of the island.
“The subject of this island,if you really want to study it, is a full time job,” said Weaver.