MARCH 2008

Monday -- March 3, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 46

It was a beautiful, warm day and the Island was mobbed, there were three people here!

The lights on the trail are working again. Gerry Barton and I took advantage of the nice weather today and managed to find and fix the problem. The most labor-intensive part of the whole project was getting all the necessary tools and ladders to the other side of the river, especially in that wind. Once that was accomplished it didn't take long to retape the faulty wire and restring it through the trees. I tried not to look down as I reattached the wires high on the pole, I was glad to have Gerry holding the ladder. We turned on the circuit to test it and, to my surprise, all the lights were working. I was happy that it was an easy fix and we didn't have to replace the wire after all. I said goodbye to Gerry and hauled the ladders and tools back to the Island.

Tuesday -- March 4, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 46

I know this prediction will change but right now they are calling for 7 feet at little falls on Thursday afternoon. That's more rain in the basin than we've had for a long time.

Remember always be extra careful when paddling in a strong wind.

Wednesday -- March 5, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 46

No ferry tomorrow, the river is going to be rising all day. The gauge up at Paw Paw is already over 23 feet, that means we're going to see over eight feet here at Little Falls. There was an inch of rain on the Island last night but some places further west reported over three inches! Thats a lot of water headed our way. Today I'll make sure everything is ready for the flood including adding a line to the ferry rope so that it is easier to raise above the high water.

If I was a true paddler, which I might be, I'd skip work tomorrow and go up to Green Ridge State Park and run Sidling Hill Creek while its still high.

Thursday -- March 6, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 8.4     Water Temperature: 46

Friday -- March 7, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.2     Water Temperature: 46

The ferry is closed for tomorrow and it looks like it won't be operating again for a while. The river is expected to rise to 9 feet on Monday.

Sunday -- March 9, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.2     Water Temperature: 46

The river level isn't going up after all. It reached 8.4 on Thursday and now it is slowly receding.

I should have the ferry running again by Tuesday. I need to reattach the rope for the bell and lower the pull rope back down. I did a slight improvement to John Matthews' and Doc's system of raising and lowering the pull rope. I added an additional vertical line so that the rope doesn't sag so much at the banks.

There were three ring-necked ducks(they should be called ring-billed ducks) feeding by the Captain's float yesterday. I don't think I've ever seen ring necks here before.

Friday -- March 14, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature: 40

I think it was Tuesday morning that I walked out to the ferry to find some empty clam shells piled up on the edge of the dock. I instantly thought of the otters I thought I saw earlier this year but then something caught my eye that made me throw the whole otter theory out the window.

The river had just receded and the dock was covered in soupy, silty mud. In the mud, next to the freshly eaten clams were some very small paw prints. These prints were much too small to be the prints of an adult otter. After consulting all my books on local mammals I've concluded that it must have been american minks that left the prints on my dock that monday night. These animals are difficult to keep track of, they don't come onto land to leave tracks and they venture out only when its late at night. Apparently it's not that unusual to find mink in a suitable habitat like we have here. Mink are pretty common in this type of suitable habitat and I've seen them down here before but I'm still thrilled and surprised that they're here.

Sunday -- March 16, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 40

There's a deadly predator in our midst. On Friday morning it was a mourning dove that paid the ultimate price and today it was a male woo duck.

On Friday I saw neither the perpetrator nor the victim but as I looked out my bathroom window I watched as a shower of down came floating from a perch high out of my view. I went out later and made the ID from the tail feathers I found on the ground.

This mornings sighting was a little more dramatic and exciting. I hadn't noticed the bird standing near the ferry until I startled it when I jumped onto the ferry. It was on the ground, near the bank, right under the bell rope! I was shocked to see this big coopers hawk just five yards from me, sitting in the middle of a huge pile of freshly plucked, snow-white feathers. It flapped its angular wings but seemed reluctant to leave its kill. It hopped backwards and I got a good look at its long shins and powerful talons. I pulled the ferry toward the other side hoping I wouldn't scare it away from its breakfast, but it floated up to a nearby branch and then I never saw it again. I went to inspect the kill, thinking I would find another dead dove. (The doves are perfect food for the bird-hunting coopers hawks, easy kill with lots of good breast meat.) I was very surprised to find the half eaten carcass of the drake. How could a coopers take down a duck that is twice its weight? It gives you an idea of just how powerful these birds are. I took a picture of the duck, its breast completely eaten while its brilliant head remained untouched. The feathers on the ground looked like a pillow had exploded in front of me, I picked out a couple of the more colorful feathers and added them to my collection.

Speaking of dead ducks. The eagles put of a good show yesterday and I think the eggs must have hatched. We watched as the two adults stood on the edge of the nest and tore into the hapless bird. The significantly smaller male was busy plucking feathers while the female fed tiny pieces to the chicks.

Sunday -- March 16, 2008, supplemental

The hawk came back. I had been inside for a couple of hours when I looked out to see it feeding on the carcass of the duck. I opened the window and pointed my scope to get a good look at the yellow-eyed accipiter. I managed to get a few photos through the scope but they're very blurry. I had better luck with the video setting on my camera and I took some decent footage of the hawk as it pulled the last of the beast meat from the duck. The theory is that they don't eat the inner organs because they want to minimize their exposure to parasites. Too bad I can't put video clips in the newsletter, this one even has a sound track.(I happened to have had the radio on in the background.)

Monday -- March 17, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 40

I looked for the wood duck carcass this morning, but, not surprisingly, it was gone. All I found were some feathers and what looked like the large intestine piled neatly on a leaf. It's amazing how these animals instinctively know not to eat certain parts of a kill. I'm guessing that the midnight diner was a raccoon.

We lost a wood duck yesterday but I don't think we have to worry about a shortage of wood ducks. I just observed seven of them perched in the sycamore tree near the captains float. It was strange to see them up in the trees instead of in the water, I think they were doing some kind of courtship ritual. I watched one male as he tried to get the attention of a female perched nearby. He bobbed his head and made a funny whistling noise, but to no avail, the hen flew off with another drake.

I watched the eagles feed again. The male flew in with something big just before 7:30. I couldn't tell what it was they were eating but I didn't see the feathers fly like I did on Saturday. I've been watching this pair for over a month and I can tell that the older, more experienced, female is taking the lead when it comes to the parenting. The male seems to be keeping up his end of the bargain with daily kills but I think it was the female that did most, if not all, of the incubating and she is now doing all of the chick-feeding. It really helps that the new male suitor is so much smaller and lighter in color than the female. It makes it easier to know what's going on.

Wednesday -- March 19, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 40

Yesterday as I was rushing off to my early morning CPR training I noticed that there were three tundra swans posing on the river. I was so glad to see their perfect white shapes reflecting off the water, this winter has been so mild that I thought I might not see any migrating swans. Last year I was lucky enough to see two large and noisy flocks on the river.

Wednesday -- March 19, 2008 - supplemental

It was so cool to go outside after the rain had stopped and listen to all the birds singing. Robins, chickadees, cardinals, starlings, titmice, pileated woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers and carolina wrens. No warblers yet.

No Eagle watching today. The rain kept me indoors most of the afternoon and then a blanket of warm air moved in and suddenly there was a thick fog on the river, visibility, five meters. The air was 65 and the river temperature was 40, perfect for canoeing in the mist. There is something about a mist-covered lake or river that is irresistible to paddlers and I took a quick spin around the Island in the fog. In the fog the familiar becomes alien and the rocks and the geese seem to appear out of nowhere.

Thursday -- March 20, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 40

Very windy today. If you rang the bell right now I might not brave the wind to pick you up.

So far, only three pairs of canada geese are nesting on the Island. It might be too early to say for sure, but I think some geese couples have decided to nest on Ruppert's Is. rather than live with the caretaker on Sycamore Is.

I just saw the first of the bluebell blossoms of 2008. Some plants are eight inches out of the ground already. Happy first day of spring.

I think we should have some kind of special bluebell/springtime celebration on the Island.

Friday -- March 21, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 40

Sorry folks, the ferry is closed today. At least we didn't get six inches of rain like they did in Indiana.

Monday-- March 24, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 40

Ground hog alert! I was walking up to my front door right at sunset when a frightened young ground hog came barreling from around the corner and dove into the holes below the house. I'm not sure who was more startled, me or the ground hog, but I almost dropped my spotting scope when it scampered frantically past me.

I was watching the eagles tonight. It looked like the male failed to bring in an evening kill like he normally does. He brought in something but it didn't seem to satisfy the female and she flew out of the nest. That was the first time that I'd ever seen the male in the nest without the female. I guessed that she went off to try her luck at hunting.