MAY 2008

Tuesday-- May 6, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 65

There is only one eaglet left in the nest now.. That happens sometimes, either the other chick just fell out of the nest or it couldn't compete with its older sibling and just became too week to fend for itself. This will allow the parents to focus on only one offspring, almost guaranteeing its survival. The surviving chick is now as big as it's dad.

A fish crow came looking for warbler eggs this morning and was met by a mob of protective parents. The crow came down river to the Island side just as I stepped onto the ferry. The prothonotary warblers were the first to attack and the crow flew over me and perched above the ferry in the mainland side. That was when the orioles came onto the scene and suddenly there were six brightly colored birds swirling around the solitary black crow.

I cut up most of the fallen tree and me and a friend stacked the wood under the stairs. Thanks for the help. (that was sarcasm) There is still plenty of tree to work on if you happen to be down here.

The meeting is on the 14th.

Wednesday-- May 7, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 66

The river isn't going down very fast but it is getting warmer. There should be some excellent canoeing days right around the corner. Hey that rhymes!

The wind today was a little hazardous, blowing up stream and causing some waves. The waves were bad enough in fact to flip a member and his guest right into the river. They managed to get rescued by their fellow paddlers, but they were helpless to save the heavy fiberglass Coleman canoe as it sank to the bottom of the river. I thought it strange that the boat just sank. Maybe we'll find it after the river goes down and the water clears up.

I startled a mother wood duck and her young brood today as I paddled around the bottom of the island. The tiny ducklings must have just emerged from their nest and they squeaked in terror as they motor-boated for shelter. The worried parent, meanwhile, was putting on an award-winning performance, faining an injury to lure me from her chicks. I took the bait and paddled after the mother for several minutes as she continued her awkward dance across the water's surface.

Sunday-- May 11, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 62

The latest birds to arrive on the scene are the cuckoo's, humming birds and in the evening I can watch the night hawks feeding over the river. The young eagle is now big enough to be seen with the naked eye from the Island

There was no caretaker here again yesterday afternoon, for what ever reason. Luckily the Island wasn't too busy after three when the morning caretaker left. Thanks to the members that so willingly filled in and ran the ferry.

Club member Cindy Bertaut was here with her son and some of his friends when I returned to the Island yesterday. Her son and his friends were in the middle of an intense water battle when I arrived and I was thrilled when they said I could join in. We had a blast soaking each other with water balloons and high-powered squirt guns, but then, alas, someone's dad was on the way to pick them up and the fun had too end.

By the way if you ever need a professional photographer, Cindy showed me her pictures and they are just fantastic!

Wednesday-- May 14, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 8.5     Water Temperature: 57

The river started to rise on Sunday evening just before dark. I decided I'd better get things ready for the high water before I went to bed and I'm so glad I did. When I got up Monday the river was two feet higher, the dock was submerged and trees and other debris were moving down river at a fast clip. I had already released the ferry and I had raised the bell rope and the ferry line, I then had to flip all the club canoe and move the tables and grills to higher ground. I went off to the Children's Inn an when I returned that afternoon all the lower steps on the mainland were submerged and the river was a massive, high-speed conveyer of fallen trees. I paddled over to the Island and realized I had to take down the bell rope and raise the ferry rope up as high as I could, the river was expected to reach over ten feet.

I secured everything on the Island and decide to go up to great falls to watch the river's fury from there.

Thursday-- May 15, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.5     Water Temperature: 57

It was a short walk from the canoe to my front door yesterday as the river peaked at 10.74 and most of the island was covered in water. It was fun walking around in my waders through the submerged field and paddling a canoe down the trail to the tree house which now looked more like a dock. The zip line, if you were brave enough to do it was now a ride over open water with fish swimming below!

I went to pump out the water at lockhouse eight this afternoon. The cellar there fills with water every time the river floods. It's a matter of dragging out the huge generator, getting it to start and then waiting while the sump pump does it's thing. This time it took a whole tank of gas to get all the water out.

The river has receded enough for me to go and reflip the boats. I have to flip them back before the next rain comes and fills them up with water. The job was made more difficult by the fact that a few tree trunks and other debris had collected there at the canoe rack. I moved what I could by myself but one tree trunk was just too big to budge. I also began shoving the docks out so they don't get stranded on dry land, I hate when that happens.

Hopefully the swim float will reappear once the river goes down again.

Thank you to everyone that offered me a place to stay during this recent flood, I really appreciate all the generosity. The truth is I love the isolation and quiet that a flooded river provides, and I like the excitement as well.

Friday-- May 16, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.2     Water Temperature: 57

The ferry is closed today and judging by the predictions it looks like the ferry will be closed for several days.

Strangely the Down River Canoe Race has not been cancelled. Star mitchell says that she will go ahead with the race despite the fact that the river will be over six feet and the ferry will be closed. Good Luck.

Friday-- May 21, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8     Water Temperature: 57

Due to high river levels the ferry will be closed from now until Monday morning the 26th of May, thank you.

Friday-- May 28, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 67

Things are slowly getting back to normal here after the mini flood we had, the river went up to 10.74 feet! Most of the Island was covered in knee-deep water, which means lots of mud and washed-up debris to clean up. We also had to reattach the bell rope and shovel the mud from the walkway.

I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that I was wrong about the eaglets and, after my latest observations, I realized that there are in fact two baby eagle still sitting in the nest. The bad news is that the river has receded and the is no sign of the swim float. I'm afraid that it have been a victim of the flood.

We've had a pretty wet May, 21 of the last 29 days before Memorial Day had river levels above five feet (the level at which we close the ferry).

I guess the groundhog(s)survived the flood. They have just finished digging a brand new escape hole that allows them to emerge from their burrow under the cover of the first canoe rack.

More Otter sightings on the river. A kayaker called me while I was in Florida to tell me that he saw an otter swim past him as he was surfing a wave near Anglers and another friend of mine, Duncan Thomson, sent me this yesterday.

"While enjoying a canoe trip on the Potomac the other day, I had the good fortune to see what I'm pretty sure was a river otter. Here's the details... On Monday, May 26, feeling the urge to get away from city and suburbia, I decided to load up my canoe and head for the Potomac river. Not wanting to do a lot of driving, I decided to make it a local trip. After consulting with my friend Joe Hage, caretaker of Sycamore Island, I opted to put in at Carderock. I would have liked to make the more exciting run all the way from Old Angler's Inn through the rapids at Yellow Falls and Stubblefield, but being on my own, and with the river high and cold, that seemed to entail a little more risk than I was willing to take. So, leaving my bicycle with Joe on the island, I drove up to Carderock and put in there. As I was just about a hundred yards above the American Legion bridge, close to the Virginia side, suddenly, with a big splash - as if intended to attract attention - a critter jumped out of the water, rolled, and plunged back below the surface. It was about 150 to 200 feet away from the canoe, and I didn't get a look at the head, just the belly, back legs, and tail. The fur on the belly was yellow-brown. My first thought was "beaver," since I've seen beaver several times on the Potomac. But there's no way it was a beaver - they don't roll like that, and the tail was quite different. It must have been an otter! I was very pleased to have seen it, and paddled in the general direction of where it had surfaced. It didn't come back up, and as I drifted down under the bridge, I thought I had seen the last of it. But then, about the same distance away from me as before, it jumped out of the water again - too quick for me to get a good look at it. It must have been drifting down with the current at the same rate as me. It broke the surface a couple more times, further away from me, but still drifting downstream at about the same rate. Despite occasional gusts of wind that wanted to push me back upriver and over to the Virginia side, I had a very enjoyable float the rest of the way down to the Island. Then, riding my bike back up the towpath to get my car, I happened upon a Great Blue heron sitting in the sun on a block in the middle of the canal, just sunning itself and preening. I stopped a bit away from it and watched it for a while, thinking how lucky I am to be able to share the place where I live with such a variety of other creatures! It's a very good sign that they can survive."

Pretty cool huh?

Saturday-- May 29, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 67

It's going to be a busy month ahead, so be prepared for crowds. I already have five large parties scheduled for this month, including our annual Summer Solstice Sleepover on the 21st. The sleepover should be a lot of fun and its open to all members and waitlisters too. In the morning I serve coffee and pancakes

There are many snakes about. Someone yesterday reported a 7-foot black snake near the canoe dock and there are water snakes swimming by the swim dock. Poor young Anthony Pill had a northern water snake fall right on his head while he and a friend were canoeing under a low-hanging branch. How they managed to keep their cool and not jump into the river I'll never know, but they managed to wait for rescue and left the snake by itself in the canoe. The captive snake was then escorted back to the canoe dock where we identified it and let it go. There is one poisonous snake that we have to worry about and thats the copperhead. They have a distinctive, diamond-shaped head that is all one color. Copperheads don't seem to like the water so if you see a snake swimming towards you, chances are, it is not a poisonous snake, if that makes you feel any better.

Don't forget to come to the meeting on Wednesday the 11th of June. We're going to have the grills going early, around 5:30 and at 7:00 we have a very special presentation about potomac river navigation back in the 18th century.