Monday -- January 10, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 38

Finally getting back on line after my computer went haywire.

I't been quiet down here but I did have a party on New Years Eve. The weatgher cooperated and we had a bonfire under the moonlight with swing dancing in the clubhouse.

I've seen many birds lately with grebes and merganzers in the slough and the returning geese setting up residency on the island. One note about the geese, with the docks out of the water I don't have to clean up their daily mess and the geese stay down at the foot of the island. I finally put some birdseed in the feeder and the chicadees and associates wasted no time in finding it. The feeder is now busy with all kinds of birds including woodpeckers and sixteen doves that feed on the ground below it. And of course we have squirrels which seem to come out of nowhere. The new activity at the feeder has attracted a predator as well and I recently watched a red-shouldered hawk swoop down below ny window, very cool.

I bought a fuseball table! It's used and a little beat up but lot of fun to play. I have it in the clubhouse, just another reason to come down to the island in the winter.

A nice gentleman came by yesdterday to tell me that he spotted one of our canoes down by lock five. I knew immediatly which canoe he was talking about and I was very excited to hear the news. Back in July we had an old canoe by the swim float. It was there to serve as a rescue boat and was not in perfect shape. One weekend the canoe turned up missing and I suspected that it was borrowed by some young people. I think they were using it to scout for a place to hang a rope swing because soon after that a swing appeared over the water down by the dam. I was concerned about losing a canoe but I had a feeling that it would turn up and turn up it has. Today I plan to head over to lock five and retrieve our battered but worthy swim-float canoe.

Tuesday -- January 11, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 42

It's fun, this time of year, to stroll down to the river bank after sunset and count all the birds flying down river. I've never see the first, early morning part of this daily migration but in the evening, long after the headlights from the cars on the parkway have been turned on, there are literally hundreds of birds headed downstream. The first birds you notice in the dim light are the seagulls. They fly relatively high, maybe 200 to 400 feet, and are easily seen siloited against the remaining light in the sky flying in V's of 40 to 80 birds. The gulls are less than spectacular until you start to count just how many are going by, I counted almost one thousand in my casual observations. The next birds in order of abundance are the wood ducks. They fly lower but still high enough to be spotted above the dark trees along the shore. They travel in groups of six to eight birds and number close to one hundred each night. The diving ducks are much less abundant. They fly in pairs staying close to the water,s surface and can be seen flying up river as well as down. The geese are on the move too but they are almost invisible in this light. If it weren,t for their honking you would never know that they were passing by.

Wednesday -- January 12, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 42

I went and picked up our canoe that was found by lock five so now all the sheep are home and my flock is complete. Since I had some furniture that I wanted to move off the island I decided to use the van and drive along the towpath to pick up the canoe. I found the canoe with no trouble and was pleased to find a side road off the path that brought me very close to our long lost boat. I quickly loaded the canoe and continued up river to Sycamore. I had to stop on the way for there was a very small sharp-shined hawk plucking the feathers from a small bird right in the middle of the towpath. I watched for a few seconds before it carried it's prey to the safety of the far side of the canal.

When I got close to the ferry landing I saw Gerry Barton halfway across the channel and I surprised him with the sound of my car horn, a sound not usually heard while pulling the ferry. Gerry helped me with the canoe and he also helped me to load the children's desks that I was getting rid of.

I received a call from a mister Robert Harrigan. He introduced himself as one of the founding fathers of the Canoe Cruisers Assoc. It was interesting to talk to him and learn that he has written two books since retiring, both about the history of this area. It's always inspiring to talk to a published author and his books are full of lots of information and some fantastic pictures. In his book "Pastimes of Washington 1800-1995" there is a picture of a large stone building with the caption "Trolley car Garage overlooking Sycamore Island". It's hard to imagine what it must have been like back when there were trolleys and steamboats and barges and big-wheeled bicycles all traveled along the river here. I read that the bicycles would startle the mules that were pulling the barges and that it caused such a problem that the bike riders were made to travel on the other main thoroughfare, Conduit road.

Thursday -- January 14, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.6     Water Temperature: 50

We must have had a lot of rain last night, when I woke up this morning the dock had disappeared under water. That's two feet over night! It looks like its going to be another high-water weekend with the river predicted to go up to eight feet by Sunday.

I walked out my front door yesterday and was struck by the non-activity at the bird feeded. Usually I can expect a rush of activity as the birds and squirrels run for safty, but today, silence. As I headed toward the ferry it became evident why all the creatures were quiet. A hawk must have visited the feeder for there were tufts of downy feathers freshly strewn across the boardwalk. It's just like on the Serengetti where the lions hunt at the watering hole where the zebra have to come to drink. I feel bad for concentrating the songbirds with my seed offerings and thereby making it easier for the hawk. But on the otherhand, the hawk benefits by getting a plump, nutritious, sunflowerseed-fed nuthatch.

Wednesday -- January 19, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 35

The river has receded from the ferry landings and now thw docks are covered in frozen mud. The pipes to the warm bathroom have frozen again. That buried pipe just can't take these extreme temperatures. I guess I'll go stick a blowdryer down the hole to see if I can fixthaw it out.

Charlotte Tucker is coming down to the island today. She's a reporter with the Bethesda Gazzette and she wants to do a small story about the club. She recently learned of the club while doing a story about the Sycamore Store and its new owners.

Thursday -- January 20, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 34

This was just the right amount of snow for pcking up tracks of our otherwise invisible inhabitants of the island. It was interesting to see the wanderings of the nocturnal wood rat spelled out in the snow.

Friday -- January 21, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature: 34

It was much more quiet than normal down here yesterday. I guess with all the overly high security for the inauguration, the planes that usually fly over the island were rerouted. And the military and park police helicopters must have been busy downtown as well, sparing me from their daily fly-bys.

Monday -- January 24, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 31

The water temperature read -.1 this morning, in other words ICE. The river isn't completely frozen but the channel between us and the mainland is about an inch thick. We tried to chop our way across yesterday while the ice was still thin. we worked for over an hour in the bitter wind but we were still 30 feet from the steps. We managed the last bit by pulling the canoe over the ice. It was a good thing that we decided to bring the canoe along at the last minute. Strangely the canal is Not frozen. It's mostly covered with ice but it is of the unsafe variety and Wolhounding creek keeps the water moving and ice-free here under the bridge.

Tuesday -- January 25, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 31

It's a little embarrassing but the ferry is stuck out in the middle of the river looking like Shackleton's Endurance, tragically locked in the ice. And though this isn't Antartica the ice makes things a little harder down here. We now have to come and go by slideing the canoe over the ice. On the other hand maybe the ice will keep the beaver away.

Wednesday -- January 26, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 32

It looks like a fox or maybe a coyote visited the island yesterday. They really waste no time in checking out the foraging possibilities here on the island once the ice bridge has formed.

The snow here is speckled with the tiny seeds of the sycamore. It's amazing that such a huge tree starts from such a little seed.

Thursday -- January 27, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 32

Crossing has become complicated by the ice. The ferry is still stuck and pulling the canoe doesn't work as well when it keeps breaking through the thin sections.

There aren't many birds around when the river gets frozen like this.

Monday -- January 31, 2005
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 31

It was a beautiful snow but it has made crossing the channel even more difficult. The canoe would slide easily over smooth ice but now the ice is covered with slush and pulling the canoe through it is almost impossible. I'll have to keep an eye out this week as the weather warms up. I need to free the ferry and get it to shore as soon as possible. Life without the ferry is taking its toll.