Monday -- February 4, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature: 39

This is the second day that the river has been above 4.5 feet. It's strange to see so much water in the basin after so many months of below-average water flow.

I was watching the eagles yesterday. I think it was the female that I saw in the nest and it appeared that she was sitting on eggs or maybe even in the process of laying them. The other bird, which I'm guessing was the male, was 100 yards down river sitting motionless on a sycamore limb. This second bird was definitely smaller than the other bird and very much lighter in color, it was light brown rather than the almost black of the bird in the nest. The light color made me think it was immature but the head and the tail were white like an adult.

I came home today and found that my kitchen drain was clogged. It's times like these that I'm reminded about the fact that I'm in a self contained septic system and I need to be more restrictive about what I put into my garbage disposal. I disconnected the trap in the drain under the sink and went to get the snake. I managed to get about four feet of snake into the drain but I hit a right angle where the pipe heads to the main drain at the up-river side of the house, and I couldn't go any further. I can't use drano in the septic system and the hot water hasn't worked either. Now I'm debating whether to call a plumber with a mechanical snake or to just cut a hole in the floor,find the pipe, and snake it from there myself.

Wednesday -- February 6, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 43

The river has remained high since it shot up last Saturday. They predict the river to go up above five feet on Friday and reach over six feet by Friday night. That means the ferry will probably be closed all weekend.

I had the plumber here today and I'm glad I called him. There is nothing like a professionally operated power snake for unclogging drains. We fed 28 feet of snake into the drain but finally we found the clog. Chris Williams is a great plumber if you ever need one. It's great to have a good plumber for those jobs that I can't handle.

Lots of good eagle watching!

Thursday -- February 7, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 43

I don't know what happened but the predictions have changed. Now it looks like the river will only go up to 4.8, so the ferry will be operating this weekend.

Sunday -- February 17, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 38

Its been fun being able to use the river gauge we have on the dock. We haven't been able to use it much this year since it only registers levels above 4 feet.

There was an ice storm last week and it made its mark, now the lights on the trail no longer work. I'll have to work on that tomorrow.

Speaking of the ice storm, Island members John and Suzanne Membrino had a huge, triple-trunk oak tree fall on their house last Tuesday night. It also crushed two cars that were in the driveway. As far as I know, no one was hurt, but keep them in your thoughts during their hardship.

Yesterday a friend and I paddled across the river and hiked the three and a half miles up to the beltway bridge. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcons but no luck. We did see a ton of ring-billed gulls, perfectly spaced on the rivers surface like chess pieces on a chess board.

Thanks to John and Judy Lentz for hosting the meeting and for inviting Brad Coolidge and myself for dinner before hand. Only three other people arrived for the meeting but I had a great time listening to stories told by John Lentz and Brad.

I saw a fish today. A large catfish lethargically swam from under the captains float as I was cleaning up.

Wednesday -- February 13, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 38

Icy conditions this morning, I should have worn my crampons for the hike up the hill. It was a little scary and I had to be very careful getting on and off the ferry, slipping into the river did not look like fun. Once I was on the ice-encrusted ferry I found it hard to pull it across without sliding right into the river. I had to brace my feet against the railing to get the leverage I needed to get to the mainland. The steps to the top of the bridge were tricky too, and I was surprised to find that even the towpath was covered in ice. By the way, when you're walking down the trail, never step on the rail road ties when they are wet or icy, trust me on that one.

Tuesday -- February 12, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 38

I forgot to mention that Gerry Barton has ambitiously installed a bluebird house on the island. I saw a few bluebirds up river recently but I'm not optimistic that they'll nest on the island. I hope I'm wrong. By the way Gerry, shouldn't that bird box have a door?

I haven't seen the eagles together for a while, just the one sitting on the egg/eggs.

Monday -- February 11, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 43

The river got close to five feet on Saturday but now it is going back down, very slowly.

Paul Hagen was the relief caretaker on Saturday. He's another of those who are looking forward to becoming one of the new waitlist-members. Apparently he's a good birder because he sent me this list of birds that he saw. I also want to thank him for doing a great job of cleaning the club kitchen.

American Crow, Bald Eagle, (nesting) Black Duck, Brown Creeper, Canada Goose, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Common Merganser, Downey Wood Pecker, Hairy Wood Pecker, Horned Grebe, House Finch, Kingfisher, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Wood Pecker, Red Bellied Wood Pecker, Pied-billed Grebe, Red Tailed Hawk, Ring-Billed Gull, Song Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, Turkey Vulture, White-Throated Sparrow, White-Breasted Nuthatch and Blue Jay

Paul thinks we should have a spring bird walk as well as our annual flower walk. We'll have to work on that.

In other birding news, there is a report of Peregrine Falcons up at the beltway bridge.

I was prepared for this recent cold snap and all my pipes are working fine. I don't heat my daughter's bedroom now since they don't sleep there. That means I have to run from the warmth of the kitchen, through the cold zone, to get to the bathroom where it's warm again.

Thursday -- February 21, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 37

As you can see the river level hasn't changed very much during February. I'm getting used to 4 + feet, its nice to be able to ride my bike right onto the ferry that is now level with the dock.

I hate waking up before the sun is up and so it makes me happy now that the sun is rising earlier. I love to walk out my door in the morning and feel the sun shining directly on me. This doesn't happen most mornings, its only during this special time of year that the sun's rays are at the right angle to hit me in the face right at eight o'clock when I step out my front door. Cool.

When I walked out my door this morning I heard, besides the incessant carolina wrens, the loud cawing of crows. The sound of crows has become a rare sound since the crows were hit so hard by the west nile virus and it caught my attention, even at that early hour. It took a couple of seconds for it to click but it dawned on me that maybe the crows were being so vocal for a reason, maybe there was a hawk or an owl on the Island. Crows are known to make a big fuss when they find a raptor perched in or near their territory. I quickly decided that I wasn't in a hurry to get to my job at NIH so instead of heading to the ferry I ran around the corner of the club house to see what all the commotion was about. It didn't take me long to spot the big, white-chested red tailed hawk perched on a low limb above the fire pit. I thought of running inside to grab my binoculars but I was afraid I would lose track of the bird. As an alternative I tried to creep closer for a better look. I ducked behind the outdoor shower and stealthfully made my way toward the fire pit. The hawk was a mature male, judging by the size(a little small), most likely one I've seen before. I stood motionless for a few seconds watching the hawk, the air was cold and the island was awash in a wonderful golden light. It would have been a peaceful moment except for the fact that there were eight crows in the trees cawing their lungs out. Suddenly the hawk took flight, I thought it might fly away from me but instead it dropped from its perch and with two effortless beats of its wings this magnificent bird glided within fifteen feet of me. It flew low allowing me to see its dark brown back and wings and brilliant orange tail! The coolest thing was that as soon as this hawk flew past me, the crows became completely silent. I picked up my lunch bag and my coffee mug and headed off to work with a smile on my face.

I want to take this opportunity to shame (name deleted). Let this be a warning, if you're not sure of the protocol, don't pull yourself over to the Island, and never ever leave the caretaker stranded on the mainland. I hate getting home and not getting home.

Monday -- February 25, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 42

It's hard to believe that its almost the end of February, but then again the signs of spring are everywhere. The silver maples were the first to bloom and now the daffodils are close to blooming as well. The "island lawn" is decorated with isolated patches of green and I just noticed the first of the bluebells pushing through the soft ground. The wood ducks are here, and the eagles are already halfway done incubating their eggs. I certainly didn't need to look at the calender when this evening I saw a flock of cormorants flying up river to roost, spring is right around the corner.

I finally got around to installing our new lamp-post light at the ferry landing. The old light was corroded and would go out if you shook the post too hard. The new light is totally plastic, weird but it looks OK and it "never needs painting". On the down side I couldn't get the lights on the trail to work. I was hoping it would be an easy fix, maybe a loose wire in the junction box. After climbing the ladder and checking the first two boxes in the chain I realized that the problem was in the wiring that connected the two boxes. The sun was setting behind the trees but I was able to identify what I think is the problem. The protective coating around the wire had worn off where it had been rubbing against a tree. I guess we can expect these kinds of minor inconveniences as long as we continue to use living trees to hold our power lines. Tomorrow I'll replace the wire, wish me luck.