Sunday -- January 5, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.0     Water Temperature: 40

Happy New Year!!!

Because of the high water there is no relief caretaker today. This will be the third day that the kids and I will be stuck on the island. The river crested at 9.5 feet on Friday evening and has been slowly going down since then. Thank you to all the concerned members for calling to make sure we were O.K. It really hasn't been bad. I stocked up on groceries on Thursday and the kids were happy to miss school on Friday. I was spared the trouble of emptying the canoe shed since the river stayed below 10.5 feet so my resposibilties were limited to securing the island canoes and the john boats stored by the canoe float.

I did have an epic adventure on Friday when I made the mistake of taking the ferry across the river. Luckily Tryon came to my rescue and the only serious damage was to my ego. I think I'll save the full account of what happened for the next Islander, complete with pictures by the editor. It was a learning experience.

The reason for the long break in my daily log is that I took a short vacation to the White Mountains to do some ice climbing. I also hiked to the top of Mt. Washington while I was there, great fun!

There was a large Red-Shouldered Hawk on the island yesterday. A Piliated Woodpecker { a regular visitor to the island these days} was making a rucous which caused me to look up in time to see the hawk sweep down between two trees. I also saw a House Wren for the first time on the island, a nice change to all the Carolina Wrens that I see. I also saw two Bluebirds, a Nuthatch, Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers Mallards, Geese and a Heron.

Monday -- January 6, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.2     Water Temperature: 41

The island was so beautiful last night. It truely was a winter wonderland with the snow clinging to everything and reflecting the strange lights from the city. It all seemed surreal as I walked around the glow-in-the-dark island.

Today I start repairs to the ferry.

The ferry is still not running due to high water. River levels are expected to go down and the ferry should be operating again sometime tomorrow.

Tuesday -- January 7, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8     Water Temperature: 39

Wednesday -- January 8, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 39

The island is accessible once more! The river has receded and after some minor repairs, the ferry is fully operational again. The trail is clear of ice for the most part but the bridge over the canal is still slippery.

The snow and ice are quickly melting away though, and today is sunny and mild. The warm weather and receding river have combined to leave us with one muddy island. The steps, the boardwalk the bench and of course our boots are covered in mud. Yes it's a real mud bath down here. Speaking of mud baths, the kids made a mud bathtub out of the fire pit by the captain's float, looks like we'll have extra laundry to do this week.

Thursday -- January 9, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 39

Another beautiful sunset last night. The pink sky and the warm air gave me a real sense of peacefulness, a feeling not always easy to come by in our busy lives. As I was watching the sunset, five Buffle-head ducks came skiing in to rest by the swim float, not rare ducks but it's nice to see something other than Mallards.

Today the weather is warm and sunny so come on down and be one of the first people to visit the island in 2003.

Friday -- January 10, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 41

The warm weather brought out some visitors and I had my busiest day of the new year. Compared with the last month or so six visitors seemed like alot.

I found an old sail in the locker room and yesterday Drew rigged it up to a canoe. The wind was perfect and he quickly sailed down river, wished I had a camera.

Yesterday I shoveled and swept the river mud from the landings and Drew swept off the ferry. It's still impossible to reach the floats without getting muddy, but mud is just part of the fun of living on the island.

Something green is sprouting here and there on the island. I'm not sure what it is but it's a hint at the explotion of plant I antisipate when winter is over.

Monday -- January 13, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 37

Cooler temperatures have returned so we may be ice skating on the canal before too long.

Despite my efforts, a beaver continues to debark the Mulberry tree near the bottom of the island. Walking there at dusk one day last week we could here the gnawing sound of a beaver who wasn't easily frightened away. The high river levels of last week gave the beaver new access to fresh bark higher up the tree and I may have to wrap the entire trunk in order to save the tree.

I found more evidence of an otter visiting the island. On the ramp to the swim float I found the head of a Bluegill that had obviously been somebody's dinner. Also, sometimes I find little piles of the small, empty clam shells near the shore. I thought at first that a Great Blue Heron had collected and eaten the clams but a friend suggested that an otter was a more likely culprit.

Last night I saw an owl fly low over the parkway down by lock eight and on Saturday night I saw a fox.

The relief caretakers brought with them some friends and food and had a little party in the club house yesterday. It was fun to visit with them and I love the smell of the wood smoke drifting across the island.

Tuesday -- January 14, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 37

Well there were no visitors again yesterday, it would be easy to forget, during these winter months, that my job is to ferry members to the island. Yes, the island has plenty to offer even when it's cold. Come witness the river ecosystem as it passes through its winter cycle.

I was working on the footbridge over the canal yesterday. In an attempt to slow down the rotting effects of oxidation I dug out all the leaves and dirt that had collected at the joints of all the steel girders. John Matthews suggested that the debris was holding water against the metal and accelerating the corrosion. I was amazed at how much stuff I cleared out. The bridge is definitely due for a paint job.

If anyone is looking for a chance to work with their hands and would like to help out on the island there are always things that need to be done so just give me a call. The kids are trying to earn extra money by collecting firewood and doing other little jobs.

Wednesday -- January 15, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 36

The water in the river is clear again and is a pleasant shade of green.

I saw some minnows by the landing yesterday, first minnows I've seen since September.

The Bluebirds are still hanging around and I learned that they begin searching for a nesting site in February. I'm planning on putting up a Bluebird house in the hopes that they'll nest on the island. We have a Martin house in the field here but as far as I can tell it was not used last year. I think I'll move it and try to get those mosquito-eaters to nest on the island too. Erecting a bat box is also in my plan for insect control.

Thursday -- January 16, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 35

Surprisingly little ice has formed on the river, the canal of course is iced in, but I thought with this recent cold snap that the river would get some ice as well.

I saw some type of mammal swimming along the south side of the island early this morning, I wish I had a way of telling from a distance if it was a beaver or an otter. When I got too close it disappeared under water only to pop up again further down river.

Dispite the cold weather, we remain warm and cozy in our quarters. The only problem area is the strong draft by the shower, there's a large opening in the wall there that I plan to board up today.

Friday -- January 17, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 34

Yesterday, just before sunset I took a jog up to Camp Lewis. Camp Lewis, or Lewis Rocks is a small rock climbing area just outside the beltway on the Maryland side. There is a thirty-foot cliff there and it was a nice place to watch the day end and do a little bouldering. The beltway bridge is right there of course but what I found more intrusive was the grotesquely large mansion on the opposite shore with it's lily white staircase leading down to the river. In the starkness of winter this little-used stairway seemed even more out of place.

Good birding yesterday, I saw a female Common Merganser in the channel and I saw two pairs of them during my run. The male is easy to identify with its dark head and back and very white sides. I also saw, along with many mallards, a small group of Lesser Scaups. I saw a Wood Thrush and finally learned its call, which I hear frequently.

Monday -- January 20, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 32

Happy Martin Luther King Day! The kids are home for the holiday and there is a birthday party scheduled on the island today.

The big news of the weekend is ICE. Saturday morning we awoke to find the river frozen. It took us 45 minutes to chop our way through the half-inch layer of ice to get to the mainland. The canal is now safely frozen and the ice is marked by the blades of many ice-skaters.

The thin layer of snow on Friday gave me the perfect opportunity to track animals. We identified the tracks of a fox as it trotted down the middle of the frozen canal. We saw the tiny tracks of a deer mouse up by my van, and on the island we had squirrel tracks, geese, a great blue heron and beaver. Yes, with the snow on the ground it was easy to follow the beaver through its nightly raid of the island and realize the damage one beaver can cause to our limited supply of saplings. At four different locations around the island I could see the large track of a beaver tail as it emerged from the river, walked about twenty feet onto the island, chewed down a small tree and waddled back to the river.

Tuesday -- January 21, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 32

This Tuesday morning has brought us a light dusting of snow. The snow on top of the river ice has turned the whole river white and it looks like a glacier rolling past the island. The ferry's path to the mainland is a big stripe of green water in a field of white ice.

I haven't seen the resident Canada geese for two days, I guess the ice drove them off to more open waters. I see buffleheads regularly and yesterday I saw a hooded merganser.

More frigid temperatures are on the way this week so there is a good chance the ferry will close because of impassable ice.

Wednesday -- January 22, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 32

Today the ferry will not be operating, it is completely iced-in. The unusually low temperatures last night left a thick layer of ice covering the path we cleared to the mainland. With some effort I could clear the ice again but the forecast of continued frigid temperatures makes that seem futile since it would quickly freeze again. We now cross the river in a canoe. I strung a rope across the river and with very little trouble we are able to pull ourselves skimming over the ice.

There are fox tracks on the canal again this morning but no tracks on the frozen river. Somehow the animals know better than to cross the river ice.

Thursday -- January 23, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 32

The ice on the river is doing strange things to the gage at little falls. For the last four days the water level at noon is almost a foot lower than the water level at midnight.

This morning I saw a fox scamper across the river ice up by the head of the island. It's cool to think that a fox has been on the island. All this cold weather has made us suddenly less isolated from the mainland.

The cold weather is also helping me to find the air leaks in my quarters, so today I'll be doing some more caulking.

The ferry will be closed until further notice.

Friday -- January 24, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 31

Today will be the first day in almost six months that I won't need a boat to leave home. That's right, it is now safe to walk across the ice in the channel. No need to ring the bell, just come on over.

The beaver continues to be a nuisance and managed to keep an opening in the ice for easy acces to the island. I thought that with the island iced in that the beaver would not be able to cause any trouble for a while but yesterday I found the hole in the ice where the beaver has been coming and going.

Monday -- January 27, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 31

The word for this past weekend was ice skating. Starting early on Saturday people have been skating on the perfectly smooth ice on the channel between the island and the mainland. Yes we even had a hockey game going on and the sound of hockey sticks hitting pucks could be heard all day. Many people came down to enjoy and to photogragh this unusual event.

Even though to us it seems like the dead of winter, some local song birds are preparing for spring. I'm beginning to hear the calls of the male Cardinal as it stakes out it's nesting territory and I had to evict a Carolina Wren from the dryer vent where it was beginning to build a nest.

I just saw a Bald Eagle fly over the island.

Tuesday -- January 28, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 32

The repair to the towpath is completed, so the thick clay mud that was there by lock seven is gone.

The Park Service gave us the green light to skate on the canal. Until Monday they were trying to keep people off the ice. Last Friday the police kicked me off the canal, but now they have posted the "skate at your own risk" signs and the skating is great.

There was a large Red Shouldered Hawk on the island yesterday. I saw another Bald Eagle by lock seven and I heard a Barred Owl on the towpath out by Brickyard road.

Sadly, someone jumped from the single-lane bridge on Macarthur Blvd. this morning, he didn't survive. Let's all remember to appreciate what we have and to help others if we can.

Wednesday -- January 29, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 31

The weather is warmer today and rainy. The river ice has many large puddles and the ice is a little mushy.

Thursday -- January 30, 2003
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 32

The air is warming up which means the mud will be back.