Wednesday -- December 6, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 42

Happy St Nicholas Day to all you Scandinavians out there.

When the mornings are cold like this we sometimes wish, despite our Norwegian ancestry, that we lived closer to the bus stop. This wish is sometime vocalized loudly while on the ferry bracing against the wind. But, if we didn't live on the river we wouldn't see the beauty of the full moon through the trees at dawn, glowing orange as it set over the river.

I forgot to mention that I saw an eastern towhee the other day. It's too bad that this bird's name was changed, "rufous-sided towhee" is much more fun to say. Anyway, I heard its loud and distinctive "chewink" call as I walked along the Virginia shore just below the CIA. I heard the call but I wanted to get a visual of the bird to be sure of what I heard. I tried making little bird noises by forcing air through my teeth hoping to get the bird to come out of the thickets. This is an old bird watchers trick, relying on the curiosity and territorial traits of the bird. Much to my surprise my little whistle worked and the Towhee flew up and landed on a tree limb right near me, rufous sides and all. This bird is not rare but rarely seen around here.

I'm turning off the water to the club house today, from now until spring you'll have to use the warm bathroom in the mens room.

Tuesday -- December 12, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 39

The canal had a nice layer of ice on it on Sunday but my ice skating dreams melted in the spring-like temperatures we've had the last two days. I have such mixed feelings about ice and snow. There is nothing better than skating on the canal's ribbon of ice but then again there is nothing worse than chopping ice to get across the river. Skiing on the towpath is awesome but deep snow on the trail is just a pain.

I went to the 50th anniversary of the Canoe Cruisers Association. There were a few Sycamore Islanders there as well as some of the original members of the CCA. I had a great time looking at the scrape books of the first years of whitewater canoeing and competition. There was also a wonderful film called "Give Us A River" that had amazing footage of our favorite whitewater spots back in the sixties, the boats have really come a long way since then. Speaking of old boats, I ended up leaving the party with an old (60's) kayak made in Germany. It seems I'm becoming a collector of these long boats, I now have three.

I found a dead mouse in the mens room. It had its head jammed into one of the holes of the rubber mats, I guess it got stuck there and froze to death. Very puzzling.

We decided not to carry a Christmas tree down the hill this year and instead we decorated our ficas tree, "O ficas tree, O ficas tree".

Wednesday -- December 13, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 41

I fixed the baseboard heaters in my bathroom. They haven't been working since the first of the cold weather hit and we've been getting by with just a space heater in there. I wasn't confident that I could fix the problem and I was on the verge of calling in an electrician. I knew that the space heater would not be sufficient to keep the pipes from freezing in this underinsulated room should we get a real cold snap, I had to do something. I shut off the power, took apart the switch and found the problem. There was a wire disconnected and with a little trouble I was able to reconnect the wire and restore the heat to the bathroom. I'm guessing I saved the club around two hundred dollars in service-call fees.

Speaking of insulation, I used up six tubes of caulk filling in all the cracks and seams between the locker room and my quarters. I think my effort will make a big difference in that drafty bathroom.

I swept and cleaned the mens room, or warm toilet, trying to make it a little nicer. I also put up my new CCA poster in there. Unfortunately I had to put all the paint in there to keep it from freezing, so it's a bit crowded.

I saw the bald eagle yesterday and the pair of them were spotted on the nest yesterday as well. The common merganzers are around and there was a pair of buffle heads too, very nice.

Walking up to the club house last night in the dark I heard something in the tree by the deck. I shined my light in time to see a racoon disappear into a hole in the tree and then watched in amazement as a noctunal, flying squirrel came crawling out.

Friday -- December 15, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 41

Conditions for canoeing are favorable again this morning. The river is green and crystal clear and the air is warm and calm.

There was a merlin perched at the top of a dead sycamore as I paddled around the top of the island. I also saw a pair of red-necked grebes.

Wednesday -- December 27, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 43

I have one little Christmas story. Island members John and Suzanne Membrino brought me a loaf of Penetonni(a sweet bread with pieces of fruit in it)as a gift. I wasn't home when they came down so the bread was left at my front door. I don't know if it was a racoon or if it was the squirrels that got it but the only evidence of any gift at my door was a pile of tiny pieces of torn-up cardboard. My gift ended up being a gift to the animals of the island. Merry Christmas.
I was disappointed that I didn't get to enjoy the Membrino's present but I did manage to have some holiday Penetonni. I happened to stop over at Jane and Dave Winer's while they were in the middle of making home madePenetonni in Dave's custom engineered petonni pans. They proudly offered me some and it was delicious. Thanks again.

Thursday -- December 28, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 43

The bluebells haven't come up yet but there are many green sprouts emerging from the soil and many of the silver maples show signs of budding as well.

Sunday -- December 31, 2006
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 43

Returning to the Island this morning I found not one but two red-shouldered hawks. The first one flew from behind the club house as I stood at the top of the board walk. It landed low on a tree to the left of the captains float and then the other one came from the same direction and landed oppisite it's partner. The first one was more heavily streaked with a darker red around its shoulders. The bars on its tailfeathers were highly contrasted as well, I'm guessing it was the male. The second bird had a muted color scheme and was slightly larger than the other. I also noticed that there were no other birds around, no chicadees by the feeder and no woodpecker calls from the tree.