Tuesday -- January 1, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
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The following Log entry comes courtesy of substitute caretaker Sherrie Pettie:

I heard what sounded like a gunshot as I descended the canal bridge stairs. I looked up the canal and saw someone with a pistol standing on the towpath about 100 yards away, firing another shot across the canal. My immediate reaction was to wonder if I was in danger from the rope-swing gang. But then I realized that he was a grownup, had policeman's stripes on his trousers, and was firing from a very professional stance. I later learned that he was a Park Police officer who was putting down an injured deer, which he assumed had been hit by a car.

Monday -- January 7, 2002 -- The Club is CLOSED
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It was one of those times when you know something suspicious was going on... but you cannot at first figure out just what. It was something about how the cats were positioned... something about the alert aspect of their postures. And then it became clear that both had chosen high ground (or table and stair) from which they were observing the cat door that exits the kitchen into the men's locker room. Well... there was only one thing to do... and walking out into the men's locker room there was Rocky the raccoon... or one of his kin... sitting on the garbage can. He was unafraid as though he belonged there... very, very cute... and though clearly adolescent, larger than a kit. It was a beautiful moment and tableau... where was Bambi? And then... the Caretaker did something singularly stupid... mindless of the power of small words... when turning to the Caretaker's Wife he cheerfully commented that the raccoon was "probably" too large to get in through the cat door.

The moral to the story: There are thoughts in life one had best be "certain" of before giving them voice.

Tuesday -- January 8, 2002 -- The Club is CLOSED
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During a chance glance towards the Maryland shore this morning a squirrel could be seen scrambling across the ice to the Island. The first thought was to wonder at bravery... or stupidity... or luck... as many large hawks had been seen about. The second was at the surprise discovery that other "commuters" lived on the Island. This last musing was proved false when a later observation revealed that this was no commuter... this was a new resident. All day the squirrel could be seen carrying leaves up the large sycamore tree outside our front window... almost to the top. Interestingly enough, he was not going all the way straight up the main trunk, but leaving it half-way, he would take a round-about way using small branches as though to avoid leaving a scent or trail. Who would he want to hide his trail from... who would want to know in the winter? Certainly not Blackie, our famous climbing blacksnake... and not a fox or flying raptor... do weasels climb? And yet the caution could not be faulted... we have already commented on the mysterious diminishment of the Island's squirrel population. So much going on... and yet we see only the surface of deep waters.

Wednesday -- January 9, 2002 -- The Club is CLOSED
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This morning there was another broken ice incident while taking the Caretaker's Wife across the ice in a canoe. When iced in we take a canoe and put it on top of the ice and use the lowered ferry rope to pull across. This distributes our weight and is literally our "safety net" should the ice break. The ice is always thinner in the middle... and this morning it did break!! Unfortunately... the ice was still of a thickness that in our first attempts we were not able to pull the canoe out of the broken space in the middle and onto the surrounding ice. There were some cold, anxious, out of breath moments as we contemplated our options. Fortunately, for such exercises we also trail behind an additional long rope that is tied to the ferry, and gives us a lower and more direct pull vector than the ferry rope hanging above... and this did the trick... as we were able to plant feet to gunwales and finally pull onto the ice surface and thence back to the Island. Where are those summer visitors who think that living here is a continuous rhapsody?

Thursday -- January 10, 2002 -- The Club is CLOSED
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The winds are at 29 knots w/ gusts to 34... the ferry is still locked in to the ice, else the Island would be closed anyway because of the high winds. Perhaps the Club should obtain one of those small hand-held devices to measure the winds so that there would be a way to establish a clear definition of what wind speed renders the ferry inoperable.

Friday -- January 11, 2002 -- The Club is CLOSED
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There was a strange sound in the high winds last night and going to investigate we found that it was the ice singing. There are certain sounds made by river ice that one becomes accustomed to when living on northern rivers... A tinkling when wind blown against the shore... a moan from the jostling of the flows in the wind and current... and a certain twang reminiscent of the parting of cables that occurs when the river is completely frozen over that must indicate some tectonic readjustment of the sheet ice.

Monday -- January 14, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
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Yesterday we were able to break the ferry clear of the ice for the first time since 1 Jan in order to go get substitute caretaker Joe Cecil... who commented that it was like the spectacle of Shackleford coming through the ice. The Island was nonetheless closed on this day by the Captain because of the unusually high winds, which made the ferry impossible to handle. Members should be mindful that it is not only high water that renders the ferry inoperable.

Tuesday -- January 15, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
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Today we noticed a huge bird... with maybe a four foot wingspan it could have only been an eagle... plucking a fish out of the water like an osprey. It is amazing to see how such a big bird could fly so slow and low at the same time. The crows made gestures of mobbing... but unlike their play with the ospreys... they kept a great distance.

Wednesday -- January 16, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
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The new moon had set it must... and while in the countryside it was certainly dark... in the river gorge the night sky was lit by twin planes of light. In the low overcast the clouds were aglow by the lights of the city. And even at 0200 hrs it could be seen while on beaver patrol that the sky above the river was crowded with avian flight that certainly could not occur without the aid of manmade light. The river is now filling with waterfowl probing the northern frost boundary so as to position themselves as the earliest arrivals and thus territorially advantaged. Three goose couples have located in the area, and probably they grew up here as they start walking towards any humans seen out of doors... despite the fact that no geese have been thus far this season been fed on the Island. Flying above the river this night must seem to a duck or goose like flying between two panes of glass alighted as the reflected city lights on the surface of the low cloud cover are then thrown back by the reflecting surface of the river.

Thursday -- January 17, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
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Jim Drew returned from strolling the Island to report that the beaver had girdled a very large tree at the top of the Island. And indeed it was depressing to see, for this is an important tree in an important place, and as all nibbling was seemed to have occurred overnight, it conjured up the picture not of one hungry beaver but of a large family meal. The tree is now wrapped... but survival is questionable. In these modern days one might rationalize a concept such as a "beaver tithe" and write it off as acceptable casualties. In days of yore it would more likely be defined as the "tribute" a lesser civilization pays to buy off the barbarians.

Monday -- January 21, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
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One of the sounds one becomes accustomed to is that of the squirrel climbing up the sidewalls of the building to get at the bird feeder. This sound would now go unmarked during the day... but when it happened last night all heads turned as one even before the sound was mentally processed and identified... it being out of context as being only a "daysound." Sure enough... it was Rocky the raccoon... who had obviously observed the squirrels' successful method and was determine to follow suit. Alas... Poor Rocky had the right clutching fingers but too much body mass to make it... although it was a great show. Still... he had the last laugh... as this morning it was evident that he had located the birdseed stored in the men's locker room and had pried open the cabinet to get to it. Winter is supposed to be quit down here, but it is getting downright crowded... what with coons and possums and ducks and geese and squirrels moving in.

And already (!!) the ducks are making those noises of cavortment.

Tuesday -- January 22, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
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Today another moth flew by. It seems that thus far we have hardly been visited by winter as even the creeping Charlie has not died back completely... and is still hanging in with green leaves. If the season trend continues and the ground does not freeze to concrete this may yet be a winter for tender perennials to extend their limit northwards. For this investigation we would like to announce that we are conducting the "avocado test". Previously this log reported that a formerly over-wintered avocado plant had been transferred from pot to island planting near the Captain's float. Mostly forgotten during the summer, it seemed not only to prosper but also to appear robust late into the autumn. It would be interesting if such a mild winter would allow it to survive. Two years ago the same type of experiment was tried with a night blooming jasmine... really a cestrum nocturnum... but the Island ground froze hard and there was no success. Of course, we all now know that as tender species survive and extend to the north their hardiness line, they offer data of climate migration... and thus evidence of planetary warming.

Wedneday -- January 23, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 39

The river is extremely clear, and standing on the Captain's float one can see the river bottom covered with leaves that have become waterlogged and have sunk. We do not remember seeing it like this before and it seems rather to be evidence of the continuing drought and thus of the fact that there has been no appreciable river current to scour the bottom clean since leaf-fall. Who can remember when the river was even above three feet? Snowmelt has had no appreciable effect on river levels... we will see if the three days of forecast rain can make a difference.

Thursday -- January 24, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 40

The long sight-views on the winter Island mean that the activities of our non-human neighbors are less private and thus frequently interesting. Without the green leaf canopy, anything that moves on these bare tree trunks stands out... and the comings and goings of birds especially are a delight. The pileated woodpeckers seem more ever-present during this seasonal cycle but this is probably only because they are easier to see. This is the time in which the location where many birds live is more easily revealed, as they dart in and out of holes in unsuspected places. This morning a red tailed hawk swooped down upon some little thing in a beautiful motion as though perfectly scripted in a nature program. Although half an Island away, binoculars brought everything close... for a while... as he had the first course right there before flying away with half-eaten prey. Just another everyday scene in the continuing show... but usually hidden and unknown behind green foliage and witnessed only because of the bare aspect of the season.

Thursday -- January 25, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 41

The spring bulbs have thought it is spring for two weeks now and the green shoots are already two inches high. This has gone unreported by the Log because the temptation was then to smile knowingly and rue the certainty that such January optimism could only result in winter kill and crinkly die-back when winter frost reasserted itself. So the Island has not yet really slept in the winter sense... with "what-ever" implications.

Therefore, with the mild weather the geese are here in force already and feasting on the Island grass. Again this raises the question of whether or not they are cropping it, which thickens it, or pulling it up... and wet soils make it easy for the young grass roots to be pulled up. Did the Island ever have luxurious grassy lawns or is it a myth? Before the '96 floods the big white domestic goose lived here. He was fed during the winter and held dominion over all Canadian geese that were relegated to transient status. It could be that since his demise there have been more transients and thus more over grazing. Some Club old timer should weigh in with an opinion here.

Saturday -- January 26, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 41

Last night around 0200 hrs the ferry bell rang briefly, but as this is no longer unusual... even in below freezing temps in January... and as there was no worry anyone would swim to the Island in 41 degree water, we rolled over and went back to sleep. This morning the ferry rope was in the river. Taking a canoe to investigate it was discovered that not only had a connector on the chain at the towpath landing been disconnected in a way suggesting tools were used... but a sizable fire had been made near the top step of the landing, although we had heard no sounds of partying in the wee hours. Park Police was called and responded immediately to take the report on the vandalism. Captain John Mathews and Penny and Dick Doolittle also responded to calls for help, and with the Park Police helping, the ferry rope was pulled from the river and re-attached.

Monday -- January 28, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 44

With temperatures expected to rise into the high 60's today, this is a perfect excuse to flee urban foolishness for Island refreshment. Come on down and re-charge before Mother Nature remembers which season this is supposed to be.

Another tree has disappeared!! A mulberry tree in the wild area to the right as one walks down to the ferry is gone. Notice this is not a report that it has been felled or gnawed by beaver. The entire tree has gone missing... right down to the smallest branch. This was another instance of looking at an area and trying to figure out what looked different about it for some time before wandering over to see the tell-tale tree stump that looked as though it had been in a giant pencil sharpener... definite beaver evidence. Now... this tree must have been 15 feet tall... and for this tree to have been taken so completely and cunningly with no sign or indication beyond the easily overlooked stump implies not a single rogue beaver but a vast beaver conspiracy... a terrorist beaver cell somewhere near the Island. Homeland security should be notified!

Tuesday -- January 29, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature:

Checking the Log... there appear to have been only two days since last August when the river level was at or above 3 feet at the Little falls gauge... lest anyone forget we are in a serious drought.

John Tucker with Burgess Electrical was down for 5 hours today at the Captain's order to install conduit for some of the older outside lines.

Last night there was again ringing of the ferry bell around 2250 hrs by someone who then ran off. This is reported only to underscore Saturday's Log entry about how frequently this sort of thing happens... and how it has now become commonplace.

It has happened again!!! Sitting under the leaning mulberry tree at the top of the wooden walkway, something seemed different, and it was some time before it was realized that the beaver had trimmed many of the branches drooping near the ground. Once again there was no mess left... no chips or signs of dining... only a few characteristic teeth marks. All was consumed on the spot or neatly carried away. Just another indication how busy it is down here at night. One can only wonder how many trees and branches have gone missing without being noticed. The cats probably watched everything from the screen porch twenty feet away.

Wednesday -- January 30, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 46

Last night hundreds of ducks could be seen streaming south down the river gorge... mostly in flocks of less than 20. Later in the evening it was quiet on the river... for the first time in several days there was no loud cacophony of waterfowl cries and carrying on. It was easy to believe that they knew of the approaching cold front and were retreating to warmer climes. Thus, there was astonishment this morning when opening the door it was found to be 60 degrees out and somewhat hushed because of the missing geese and ducks. There are our three resident goose couples and lots of gulls on the river, but unlike at seashore, we almost never hear gull sounds from them. What can be heard today is lots of birdsong celebrating the warm weather. Of course it is still too early to see and new or migrating birds... so it is likely our own neighborhood avians feeling happy.

It is forecast to be 69 degrees today. The creeping Charlie is resurgent on the lawn... people are in shorts on the towpath... the mosquitoes are active... and it is still January!

Thursday -- January 31, 2002 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 49

Yesterday afternoon a goose couple formally declared themselves for the nest in the root ball of the fallen sycamore to the left of the Captain's float. Presumably this is the same couple that has raised goslings in this same nest for the last three years. The Island has been relatively still since most waterfowl left mysteriously night before last. But such a hullabaloo arose outside that when we went to investigate it was a loud argument between goose couples... with a bunch of crows sitting in the branches above volunteering a running commentary. The one fellow drove off the other... and since he has been getting bigger these last years... drove the challenger off the Captain's float as well, and has now claimed lordship over float, nest, and lawn. One hopes this will lead to another wonderful year of being able to watch nest and family evolve.

Yet another mulberry has been claimed... a 12 footer near the ferry landing. All gone... without evidence... not even the chips of cutting... just a nub.

Alex McCoy has volunteered to make a project of visiting, observing, and reporting on Rupert's Island this season. Enroute he saw the "huge" beaver munching midday while the beaver was standing on one of the small islets off the top of Sycamore Island. Visiting the top of the island after this report it was clear that the beaver have a feeding station on Sycamore adjacent to the islet, as many half-gnawed twigs and branches could be seen in the water there. Furthermore, a beaver path can be seen coming out of the water there and then dividing into smaller paths leading towards the Island interior. Looking across to the islet, one can see where in low water the river undercuts the bank, and it was easy to wonder... again... if the islet is really a camouflaged beaver condo. Many times they have been seen to dive near this islet and not re-appear.