November 2010

Thursday -- November 4, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.80     Water Temperature: 54

Well it looks like we are finally getting some Autumn rainfall. It's kind of miserable actually, especially after all those sun-filled days. I'll miss looking out my window and seeing the sunlight, captured by a million yellow leaves and amplified by a mirrored-glass river. It's amazing, like a caretakers dream, when the river is that still, the reflection on the water is so precise that the river just seems to disappear, all you see is the reflection of leaves and trees. Right now the river is omnipresent as the rain and wind ruffle its surface and the runoff turns it muddy brown. It's also quite noisy as the rain hits the river.

The winter birds are arriving, not a good sign. I've mentioned the american coot, I've seen a few more of them. I've also seen my first pied-billed grebes of the season, and the gulls have started their winter congregation out in the open water. I also saw a little group of juncos. These small song birds are also known as snow birds, definitely not a good sign. I see the eagles almost daily now.

Word of caution, if you are on your bicycle, watch out for wet leaves! I can tell you first hand, that they are as slippery as ice.

Someone cut down our erosion-control honeysuckle bush! I was sweeping the leaves from the steps at the ferry landing when I noticed it was gone. I'm afraid it fell prey to a pack of well-intentioned Weed Warriors. I saw a group of them on the towpath on Saturday and I think our little invasive honeysuckle, standing all by itself, was an easy target. We planted the young bush last workfest, to help keep the bank from washing away. Next time we'll have to plant a non-threatening native bush, maybe a spicebush would be safe.

I put a new flapper on a toilet in the ladies room. The old flapper was worn and water was slowly trickling out of the tank. I doubt I would have noticed it except that the well pump would kick on even when I wasn't using any water. I can hear the pump while I'm lying in bed and if I hear it running even before I get out of bed then I know something is up. Either there is a raccoon washing up in the ladies room or there is a slow leak somewhere.

Thursday -- November 4, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.04     Water Temperature: 49

Now that Day-light-savings time is over, I think its going to get pretty quiet down here.

Sunday will be a big day though, and I expect a crowd of eager beavers here for the WORKFEST! Besides the regular chores, like bring in the docks and rake the leaves, I have a nice list of chores for all ages.

I see a lot of vultures, both the turkey vultures and the shorter-tailed black vultures. I saw twenty of them feeding on a deer carcass on the side of Clara Barton Parkway. It looked like a scene from the Serengeti, a pack of vultures surrounding a stripped rib cage. I guess all the roadkill is helping them to flourish while other birds are struggling.

I forgot to mention that the club has been the lucky recipient of a portion of John Thomson's old library. The Thompsons decided that this would be the best place for some of John's collection, so Hillary brought down two big bags of books. The books all have something to do with the river or the canal. Most are out-of-print whitewater guides, but some are cool history books signed by the authors. Thanks!

Tuesday -- November 16, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.87     Water Temperature: 51

We had the workfest on Sunday and it was another huge success if I don't say so myself. We had a lot of fun but we also accomplished a lot as well. I was impressed at how efficiently the docks were brought in and at how everyone worked together to rake up the leaves. We also repaired the canoe shed, fixed the gutter and replaced the damaged screens. We installed some new brick work, cleaned the gutters and scrubbed the club kitchen. We did a lot of work but the big news, of course, is that we installed the new lockers! All of the lockers are not up yet but you can see how awesome it is going to be once we have the new ones in place. A special thanks to those who worked on the lockers. Those guys were here at 8:30 and did not quit until it was dark!

It's hard to believe, but that was the 17th workfest that I've led.

Ironically there is always a lot of work for me on the day after the workfest. I spent yesterday putting all the tools and other stuff back where they belong. I also sorted through the gazillion life vests and got rid of a few of the old, dirty, and damaged ones.

I've got well trouble again. I wasn't too surprised that my water pressure was low on Monday morning after the workfest. Whenever we have a large number of people using the toilets we get a lot of sediment pulled into our water filter and it gets clogged. I did the routine changing of the filter and assumed I had fixed the problem. Sadly things rarely go smoothly with this new pump. I spent a frustrating hour changing out the UV bulb and rechecking the filter and the pump gage until finally the pressure tank recharged and I had water pressure again. I went to bed thinking I could close everything up in the morning but that was not the case. The tank was working but I still had no water pressure. After a cup of coffee (thankfully had enough water for that) I decided to remove the filter and try again, maybe the filter wasn't in the right position. When I removed the filter, that had been brand new and bright white yesterday, it looked like it had been it there for months. It was a deep brown color and clogged with very fine clay. This did not make sense and it got me to worrying about the water level in my well. If the level in the well is very low the pump will bring up large amounts of sediment that will clog our filter. Usually our well is pretty good and will recharge right away, but with this new information I'm wondering if the recent drought conditions are effecting our ground water levels. I checked the ICPRB website and found that they have a few wells that they use to monitor groundwater. The closest monitoring well that I found, in Fairfax, was at its lowest mark since 2007 and had only been that low twice in the last ten years. That could be part of the problem but this recent episode has me thinking that we still have some well issues that need to be addressed.

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Here I am surrounded by a river in the pouring rain and I can't get a glass of water. Easterday Well and Pump just called back, said they can't get here until Friday, ouch. I'm going to ask for an estimate on installing a second filter, a prefilter to help with the silt issue. I also ordered some more filters to have on hand.

Thursday -- November 18, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.15     Water Temperature: 51

You've heard the expression, "busy as a beaver", well these beaver down here are getting busy. First they dammed the canal and now they are harvesting our young mulberry trees. One beaver was even able to tight-rope itself onto a log crossing a ravine, somehow it was able to balance on a limb only four inches in diameter, chewing on a branch five feet off the ground. Never thought of beaver as nimble climbers.

We got the well restored to working order. It turns out that there was a leak in the underground pipe to the outdoor shower. It was apparent, after we dug it up, that the pipe was not installed properly and it was no surprise that it had broken since it did not have the proper coupling.

Wednesday -- November 24, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.08     Water Temperature: 49

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I heard a beaver last night. I was walking along the canal and I could hear the sound of a beaver chewing the bark off of a tree on the opposite side of the canal. I was amazed at how fast the beaver could chew, like a sewing machine! I shined my light toward it and the obstinate beast swam toward me and flapped its massive tail at me.

Tryon finished putting up the last of the lockers this week and they look awesome! I have assigned lockers to those that requested them and I have posted the list in the locker room. Of the 18 full size (6') lockers, there are only three left. We have plenty of the 3 footers and the 2 footers. If you want a locker please let me know and I will assign you one. Please don't take a locker without checking with me first. Thanks.

I saw two red-tailed hawks on the Island yesterday, they are really big when you see them up close! I'm hoping they decide to nest here. More likely, they are just migrants.

There was an eagle hanging around the eagle nest all day yesterday as well.

Sunday -- November 28, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 44

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. One club member's family brought their Thanksgiving feast down here to the Island. I wasn't here but I guess they had a pleasant time.

It looks like the persimmons have eluded us this year. There was some fruit on our regular tree but they are all gone now. The flood waters back in March really did a number to that little island and our fruit tree.

The beaver have really gone too far this time. It's one thing to cut down a young box elder and drag it away but this latest destruction is unforgivable. I came home the other night to discover that my satellite TV wasn't working. I did all the trouble shooting and then got on the phone with the service department. We couldn't find the problem and it was decided that I needed a technician to come out. We had checked everything, everything except the cable leading from the dish to the house. I decided I would dig it up in the morning and when I did I couldn't believe it. The #&*#* beaver had chewed through my TV cable! I cancelled the service call and went to Radioshack to get what I needed to splice the two ends back together. With the help of relief caretaker Karen Foreit we got the ends spliced and we got the cable reburied and my TV is working again, just in time to watch football.

I saw my first wintering buffleheads, there were ten of them grouped down by the dam when I paddled there the other day. I've also spotted my first mergansers of the year. I'm not crazy about the arrival of the cold weather but I do enjoy seeing these wintering birds for a change.

Tuesday -- November 30, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 44

The rain is on the way so the river will get cloudy again, and it is supposed to go up to about 6.5 feet by the way, but yeterday the water was the clearest I have ever seen it. I paddled down to the dam and everything was perfect. The sun was shining bright, there was no wind, and I could see the bottom of the river for the entire trip! I was surprised to realize that our river here is not that deep, well not when the water is low anyway. I guessed that it was an average of twelve feet deep until I got up near the dam where it was too deep to see the bottom. The water was so clear though, I could even see where the chains for the warning bouys were attached to the river bed!

There has been a lot of drama around the Island lately. It's like an ECO reality show down here. The beaver have taken center stage and I have another episode to convey. I left for the hardware store right after dark. I had walked up there, so I was gone for thirty minutes, but not much longer than that. When I returned I heard the sound of a branch falling as I walked up the path. I didn't think anything of it until I had reached the top of the boardwalk where I discovered a big beaver, red-handed, cutting down a young mulberry tree. It did not seem particularly alarmed that I had come home and I could still hear him munching away. I ran inside and got the camera and by then the stupid animal had gotten the hint that it should make a dash for the water. I took pictures of it as it flopped its way to the river and I got one good picture on the boardwalk as it stopped, turned and looked at me. After it had disappeared into the depths, I went to inspect the damage. I walked around the newly felled mulberry and I heard another beaver across the field. That beaver took off as soon as it saw me coming and I chased after it. I stood on the bank like a crazy person, throwing branches and logs at the beaver as it swam safely out of range. I went in and had my dinner and when I came out later I discovered that those buggers had come back onto the Island and retrieved thier fallen prize. I was curious as to where they were taking our trees, 12 trees so far, that I know of, and it did not take long to find thier neww burrow, right here on the Island.

The other drama that I watched unfold was that of a little pied-billed grebe and a great big bald eagle. Again I was down by the dam and again there was a wintering duck resting there. Then I noticed the eagle, swooping and diving above the river. I didn't understand what was happening until I saw the little splash of the grebe as it dove below the surface to escape the eagles talons. The eagle would cirle around (the water was so clear that it could probably watch the duck as it swam) and wait for the duck to pop up again. Once the duck was on the surface the eagle would try to swoop in from it's blind side, but everytime the duck would dive out of danger. I watched the eagle hunt for twnty minutes, making several attempts at grabbing it's prey. It must have been torture for the eagle to have such a tasty meal just out of reach. I was beginning to fear for the duck, thinking that maybe it would become too exhausted to dive, but it was the eagle that finally gave up and perched itself back on its nesting tree. How ingenious, from an evolutionary point of view, for the duck to adapt to an environment where its predators can not follow.