February 2013

Wednesday -- February 6, 2013
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 38

The ferry is up and running again after it's little five-day vacation. I also strung a new bell rope across the river. I had to buy a new one since the old bell rope was washed away by the flood waters. I bought a 200-footer but it was still too short to reach all the way across the river and up to the clubhouse. I patched in another smaller piece and, for better or for worse, the bell is working again.

Monday -- February 11, 2013
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 38

The winter bird walk was here on Saturday. I wasn't there but my brother Peter made it and gave me a report. Apparently they had good birding even though the wind was howling at 15 miles an hour. They saw America Crow, American Robin, Black Crowned Night Heron, Canada Geese, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Common Merganser, Downey Woodpecker, Eastern Blue Bird, European Starling, Great Blue Heron, Hooded Merganser, Horned Grebe, House Finch, Mallard Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Pied-billed Grebe, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Ring-billed Gull, Ring-necked Duck, Song Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, Turkey Vulture, White Breasted Nuthatch, White Throated Sparrow. If you add in the birds that I've seen lately; bald eagle, red-necked grebe, eastern phoebe, black vulture, buffle-head ducks, barred owl, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, lesser scuaps, and ruddy ducks, that's 36 species of birds right here on Sycamore Island! In the middle of winter!

The new work benches were delivered last week. Dave Winer made a deluxe model and Tryon made four excellent rolling tool-carts to go with it. Drew brought everything down in his pickup and with Gerry's help, the five of us got them into the tool shed. I finished putting the Danish oil on the raw wood and this week I'll start loading and organizing all of the tools up there.

Thursday -- February 14, 2013
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 38

It may be only February but the breeding season seems to have begun. Of course the eagles are the early starters and they may already have laid their eggs. The other feisty couple lately has been the owls, which can be heard clacking and hooting late into the night.

And now it seems that our resident geese are ready to start their annual breeding. I'm surprised that I haven't witnessed this before but this morning I witnessed the courting and mating ritual of the Canada goose. What caught my attention initially was the way one goose, presumably the male, kept dunking his head into the river. They sat there in the water near the shore with the male putting his head in the water over and over again. The female sat there attentively, and then eventually copied the male behavior of head dunking. I guess that was the sign that the male was looking for and he jumped up on the back of the other goose. In a couple of seconds it was over and the two geese sat in the water for a moment or two, stretching their wings. Then they followed each other onto shore. Now, the female is sitting and the male is standing close by. I have a feeling that this will be the spot where they will build their nest, just like they did last year. How's that for a Valentine's Day story!

Thursday -- February 21, 2013
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.85     Water Temperature: 38

The story on the Island lately is wind. Cold, incessant wind that bites like a snake. One gust was so strong that it blew the life ring right off of the ferry! Lucky for me it happened while Davey and Jennifer Hearn were here and before I could say "life-ring" they were in a canoe and racing after it. Thanks guys!

The weather is windy but it isn't pipe-freezing cold so I went ahead and turned the water back on. It's supposed to be above freezing all week.

Mary and I stayed in lock house 10 last Thursday night. It was a lot of fun, like stepping back in time. The place is furnished as if it were the 1930's, with lots of historic things to read. We even got some insight into the way things were around Sycamore Island before the canal became a park. We found a 1938 letter addressed to the NPS director that asked, "if some way could be found to permit those that have cottages along the river, particularly in the Sycamore Island area, to continue to use them." I guess the director was not sympathetic. Anyway, I highly recommend staying there, at least once.

My older daughter was in town over the holiday weekend. It was so good to have her here and it was the first time in over five years that I had both girls back together on the Island at the same time. Needless to say I was a happy dad.

Tuesday -- February 26, 2013
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 41

Check this out, river depth soundings for right here near Sycamore Island!

It doesn't look like the river gets too deep near here but up at the beltway bridge the river is almost 100 feet deep!

It looks like the eagles laid their eggs. It must have been sometime between the 14th and the 18th. Just about the same as last year. I also heard through the grapevine that with the help of the Park Service helicopters, the Fish and Wildlife Service has counted 35 eagles nests along the Potomac! (that include the lower stretches as well.)

The first of the Bluebells are coming up. (I should have just cut and pasted my last-years log for this week, it reads almost the same.)

Thursday -- February 28, 2013
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 41

The river shot up again and with the continued wind, pulling the ferry is more challenging than usual.

I moved all of the tools and hardware out of the screen porch and into the tool shed. It was a very time consuming job and the last few days you could find me sorting the 3 inch screws from the 4 inch screws, and the metric wrenches from the non-metric wrenches and so on and so on. The astonishing thing was the number of tools we have, I have a whole tool box filled with nothing but screwdrivers! There is also a large assortment of nuts, bolts, screws, and nails.

I decided to go for a long walk yesterday. I've been reading about the old quarry at Seneca Creek so I decide to walk there. I left here with my back pack at 8:00 a.m. and I got to Seneca Creek by 5:30. There is no camping there so I walked another 3 miles to the hike-biker campsite at mile marker 26. The next day I checked out the quarry and stone mill and then continued up Seneca Creek on the Greenway Trail. It was a beautiful hike that got me to Clopper Lake, 12 miles later. Lucky for me, Mary picked me up at the disk golf parking lot at Seneca Creek State Park. I really didn't have it in me to walk back. Not bad though, 35 miles in two days and only mildly sore.