March 2017

Friday -- March 3, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 50

The Virginia bluebells are starting to bloom. When the temperatures went into the eighties last week, we knew we were going to get an early Spring. We saw the first open bluebell blossoms on Sunday. Last year it was on this date that the bluebells were just beginning to break through the ground, so it looks like the bluebells are blooming a full two weeks ahead of last year. Isn't it great to have this log to annually record how the plants and animals are responding to a changing climate.

There are some other signs of this early Spring. I've seen wood ducks, and cormorants and red-winged blackbirds and the sprouts on the long willow branches, hanging like green beads on a dangling string. These are all welcome signs of the coming season but this year I don't seem to have the same glee about Spring as I have had in the past. This past winter was so mild that I never got a chance to really miss the warm weather or the sound of the birds singing or the leaves on the trees. The short winter meant that I never got to see a frozen canal or a towpath covered in deep snow. Spring is such an exciting time but somehow this year it seems tainted.

Wednesday -- March 15, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 38

Yikes, it looks like winter wasn't quite over yet. The bluebells and daffodils thought that it was safe to come out and I thought it was safe to turn the water on in the clubhouse but this crazy weather had other plans. Now the ground is covered with four inches of ice, its 20 degrees and the wind is blowing at 20 miles an hour! Now, I have to leave the faucets in the Clubhouse dripping so that the pipes don't freeze! I hope the bluebells will recover ok. They have had snow on them before but I'm not sure I've ever seen them completely buried.

The temperature of the water is dropping as well and the river went from 52 degrees down to 38 degrees in four days! I guess I unlocked the club boats to early as well.

The weather is cold but the birdlife on the Island has become very active. The geese have paired up and are now looking for nesting spots. The eaglets across the river have hatched and are now keeping the adult eagles very busy. The wintering water fowl are passing through on their way back north and we've seen scaups, grebes and mergansers. Our island nesters are arriving as well, and now the call of the red-winged blackbird is common, and I just saw my first Phoebe. The most unusual sighting I've had for this late winter time of year was a great egret. What a treat to have this majestic bird of white framed with a background of snow.

One of the new members was here the other day. She had brought her kids and some friends down to enjoy the Island on a warm weekday. The funny and sad thing was that they had no idea about how to ring the bell for the caretaker. I saw them standing there on the stairs, but having groups of people on our landing is an hourly occurrence so I did not pay any attention to them. They did not leave right away and eventually got my attention. Normally, I don't respond well to someone on the opposite shore yelling "you-who" but luckily for them I went over and picked them up and taught them the most fundamental rule of The Sycamore Island Club, how to ring the bell.

I fixed the ping-pong table. I had ordered the new caster bars to replace the ones that had broken and finally got around to installing them. It was a very tricky job to do alone but I figured it out and now the ping-pong is back in action. So PLEASE, don't sit on the ping-pong table.

I installed some new blinds to go with the new windows that I installed in my quarters. They are two-inch faux wood blinds and they match very nicely with my furnishings and the faux wood paint job that I did on the window trim and baseboard. They provide privacy yet allow the light to come through. They really add a lot to my quarters and I think the next caretaker will appreciate them.

BTW, the CCA, Down River Race is on May 13, not the 18th or 19th as stated in the Islander.

Monday -- March 20, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 48

Happy first day of Spring!

It seems appropriate that one of our resident geese pairs would lay their eggs precisely on the first day of Spring. That means that we'll have some baby goslings running around here by Easter Sunday!The not-so-good thing is that they built their nest very near the house, directly under the outside corner of the deck. This is a high traffic area on the Island so I hope we don't disturb their nest too much. I discovered the nest by chance the other day. I happened to be walking near the corner of the deck when all of the sudden two adult geese began honking and hissing and charging at me. I retreated quickly wondering what I had done. It wasn't until later, when I peaked from the safety of the screen porch, that I realized I had walked too close to the new nest. The geese always seem to bring a lot of drama to the nesting season.

There are goldfinches nesting nearby as well and it's cool to see the males now with their splotchy color pattern as they molt from dull olive to bright yellow.

Tuesday -- March 21, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 48

The river shot up yesterday, somewhat surprisingly. I guess that there was some melting of what little snowpack there was in the mountains. The river got very close to five feet but it's leveled off now. Pretty mellow for a Spring freshet (flood).

Thursday -- March 23, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 48

Things are really picking up in terms of the bird activity. Partly because of the season and partly due to having bird feeders kept full of sunflower seeds, I've seen twenty-one different species of birds today and about 75 individuals! That's not even counting the shore birds or ducks.

I also counted three squirrels at the feeder.

Thursday -- March 30, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 58

I had to replace the pulleys on the safety chains for the ferry yesterday. Every two years or so they wear out. Once they wear out, they get stuck. Once they get stuck the ferry gets stuck in the middle of the river, usually on a Saturday when I'm not here. So I replaced the pulleys. It was a little dicey standing on the stepladder on the ferry using both hands to install the pulley. The trick was to make sure that the ferry didn't move while I was standing on it.

There has been a second goose nest spotted down near the bottom of the Island near the new stick hut. That makes two, and I'm guessing that we'll have a third nest up near the top of the Island before too long.