January 2007

Tuesday -- January 2, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 44

It's a nice sunny day but a little too windy to call it a good day for canoeing.

I heard that there were peregrine falcons spotted up by the Beltway bridge. I'll have to hike up there and check it out.

Tuesday -- January 9, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 44

The geese are congregating again around the island, there were thirty of them at the foot of the island last night.

I finally got around to cleaning the much neglected Ladies locker room. The room has been especially filthy ever since the roof was replaced and large amounts of dirt fell onto everything in there. I got rid of a few things that were stored there, including two old metal lockers, swept out the spider webs and cleaned the tops of all the lockers. When I mopped the floor it changed color from brown to white! I also fixed up the "warm room" and moved the furniture around in there.

I've been doing some painting in my place as well and it's great to have freshly painted doors in my kitchen and painted plywood looks so much better then bare plywood.

There have been occasional eagle sightings, grebes and red-shouldered hawk but not many seagulls.

On Monday night I took a hike in the moonlight. It's not often when conditions are right and it's possible to hike at night so when everything was lined up just right I had to drop what I was doing and go for it. One convenient thing I've noticed is that when the moon is its fullest it rises right at sunset giving optimum hours of moonlight. As the moon wanes it rises later and later, but on Monday night the moon was high in the sky by 7:30. I paddled over to the Virginia shore so I could hike up to the Beltway on the Potomac Heritage Trail. I swear the moon was so bright I could have read the paper out there in the middle of the river. The air was warm, there was no wind and the moon light made it feel like a new adventure even though I've done this hike many times in the daylight. The moon was on an arch that seemed to follow the river directly and I had no trouble hiking the rocky trail and never had to use my headlamp. The only problem I had was when a large tree blocked the moonlight and cast a deep black shadow on the trail. I was hoping that my nocturnal outing would produce a coyote sighting but unfortunately that didn't happen. I did hear an owl and I wasn't positive that it was our common barred owl, the call might have been from a great horned owl. I decided not to hike all the way to the Beltway and I turned south up the steep hill to the ridge above the river. I walked back along the ridge through Turkey Run Park and had an excellent view of the lights of Glen Echo Heights, including the bright new neon red lights at the arcade in Glen Echo Park, very cool. I found my way back to the canoe in the silence of the night when the loud splash of a beaver tail on the water made me jump nearly out of my skin. I don't think the beaver are used to having company at this time of night and two of them circled and smacked their tails on the surface nearby until I finished my drink of water and headed down river.

Wednesday -- January 10, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 44

I don't want to say it's a bad day for canoeing but it certainly isn't a good day for it, the wind is blowing down river at a steady 15 mph. This is probably a better day to build a fire in the club house and play some pool.

We had so many warm days in a row last month that I decided to turn all the water to the club house back on. I had shut off all the water as I do every year when we winterize the kitchen and bathrooms. Now I have to decide if it's worth it to winterize again since it is supposed to be in the teens tonight, but warm again on Friday.

Friday -- January 12, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 42

Today is rainy but it's not windy, which is a nice break from the incessant wind we've had for the last two days. I needed my sea legs on the ferry yesterday as it rocked in the high water and the 20 MPH wind.

I painted my kitchen and it looks great! I also took one of the cabinets from under the shed and installed it above the frig. The side benefit of painting is that it forces you to clean everything including the walls and floors behind the refrigerator and the stove. Now I have a clean and freshly painted space.

Monday -- January 15, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 45

There was a really cool layer of fog on the river yesterday morning that lasted into the afternoon. It's amazing how much cooler it is down here near the 45 degree river, it must be a ten degree difference between the river bank and the parking lot at the shopping center.

I thought that the warm weather might cause a rush to the island but such has not been the case and I feel a little foolish sitting here all day. Saturday we had the relief caretakers here but besides them there were only three other visitors all day. Yesterday one of the new-member couples came down with their kids and some friends but that was it. Today, no one yet and its one o'clock!

Since I knew no one would miss me I decided to go for a paddle yesterday. When the river is up like this I like to go to one of the little channels above Rupperts and surf the baby waves that form there. I took my newly acquired c-1 canoe ($75 from George and Marsha Loeb's son) complete with spray skirt. I'm still getting used to this agile boat and even though it takes effort to make it go straight, in the rapids, it turns on a dime. Along the way I passed a falcon perched on a branch on Ruppert's. I didn't have my binoculars and the lighting wasn't very good but it looked too small to be a peregrine so I'm guessing that it was a Merlin.

I'm listening to the calls of our local red-shouldered hawk as I write this.

Tuesday -- January 16, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 45

I restocked the kindling and firewood in the club house in anticipation of the cold weather. I also decided to give the wood stove a thorough cleaning and I'm so glad I did. Inside, deep under the grates that hold the wood I found a mouse nest. Big tufts of cotton bedding and insulation gathered into the far corner of the stove. I don't think it was an active nest and I was happy I didn't find any "crispy critters".

I drained the water system in the club house for the second time this winter so once again there is no running water in the club kitchen and ladies bathroom. Please use the heated bathroom in the mens room.

I rebuilt the platforms for the zip line to make them a little more user friendly, especially for the smaller children.

I wish I had a motion activated camera that I could use to take pictures of the beaver as they make their nightly forages on the Island.

Wednesday -- January 17, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 45

The river refuses to go down and looks like it will remain above four feet for the rest of the week at least.

Common mergansers, red-necked grebe, the cold weather brings out the winter birds.

Friday -- January 19, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 41

Today feels warm even though it's only in the thirties. It's amazing how you get used to the cold, and having no wind helps.

Under the catagory of reasons-people-come-to-the-river, we watched as a woman released a live mouse from a mouse trap she brought from home. We didn't know what she was doing at first as we watched her while waiting for the bus but then Kaylen recognized the box she was holding as a mouse trap. I wonder if that mouse will survive.

I found another mouse nest down here on the island. This one was in one of the kayaks in the canoe shed. I wonder how many of those boats in the shed have nests in them, stacks of unused boats are perfect bird and rodent condominiums.

I rebuilt the platforms for the zip-line. They are now much sturdier and a little bit higher which means I had to raise the cable a little as well. I think I made the whole thing a lot safer even if the extra foot from the ground will add to the fear/fun factor.

I received a package from my cousin today. She visited the Island for the first time this past Christmas and now she and her husband call themselves "Sycamore Island Groupies"(maybe they'll start a fan club). Anyway, while they were here they collected some things from the island like sycamore bark and oak leaves and crafted ornaments with them. The ornament I received today is so beautiful that I don't think I'll wait until Christmas to hang it, instead I think I'll hang it in my newly painted kitchen. It will look so good against my red walls. Thanks Liz and Jeff!

Saturday -- January 20, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 41


Monday -- January 22, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 36

There was a small group of scaups on the river yesterday, four adult males and two adult females. They were down river from here about halfway to the dam. From that distance, even with the spotting scope, I couldn't be sure if they were greater scaups or lesser scaups. The only reason I think they might have been greater scaups was the very white streakless backs of the males. Today there was a group of common mergansers nearby and I watched as they preened themselves while perched on a log just before sunset. Seven females and two males. Then, right at five o'clock, the geese rolled in. The usual, loose-knit group of thirty.

Tuesday -- January 23, 2007
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 36

Its a beautiful night tonight. I just watched the crescent moon with Jupiter(?) next to it, setting behind the trees. Many stars are visible tonight as well.

I discovered a small patch of bluebells pushing their leaves up through the hard ground. They came up during the warm weather earlier this month but now they're covered in snow and ice.