Notes from the Island
October 1988


I went swimming last night at sunset. The water was cool and refreshing, but it may have been my last dive off the float this season.

The geese are returning. I haven't seen many on the Island yet, but I can hear them honking in the evening as they fly downriver. Wood ducks are congregating near the islands above Rupperts.

Of course, the great blue herons are everywhere. Lately a great egret has been roosting in a tree on the island between Sycamore and Rupperts. Occasionally cormorants will sun themselves on a log down towards the dam. One evening while canoeing on the Virginia side, I startled an osprey which flew away with a fish in its talons.

The mallows and ageratum are still blooming in Betty Burchell's weedpatch by the ferry landing. White Snakeroot is flowering all over the island. The blue Asiatic daylily appears here and there. Smartweed, with its tiny pink clustered flowers, has taken over large portions of the lawn.

There seem to be two main types of jewelweed or touch-me-not in this area. Sycamore Island is covered with the pale touch-me-not, which has light yellow flowers. Surprisingly, the canal is lined with spotted touch-me-not, which has orange flowers. Although you will see an occasional pale touch-me-not by the canal, I have not seen any spotted touch-me-not on the Island.

Holly found a pretty patch of lobelia just above Lock 7. Unfortunately, the road crew that is resurfacing the towpath paved it over. However, there is more lobelia on the bank of the canal by Cabin John Creek.

The new towpath is nice and smooth. However, the river turned bright orange after the first rain. And one of the vehicles caught the railing on the pedestrian bridge and twisted it a bit.

At the southern tip of Sycamore Island there is a partially collapsed animal burrow, probably a muskrat's. The tunnel leads from the river straight into shore and is only a couple of inches from the surface. It may belong to the same rodent that is eating the tiny maple saplings nearby. The only beavers I've seen recently have been in the canal.

We had a couple of storms this summer that caused minor damage. We were on the screen porch one evening when lightning hit nearby, blowing out the bulbs on the porch and frying the electric wire to the front outside lights. Another time a high wind broke off the top of a poplar tree which fell behind the house breaking the electric line to the tool shed and knocking the back lights off the building. Betty Burchell, John Matthews, Holly Syrrakos, Coy Lay and others helped to cut up the fallen branches. Art Gutnick, John Matthews, Jerry Barton and I did the electrical work.

A large sycamore fell across the trail on the northeast section of the Island. It seemed to be a healthy tree, but it was missing most of its base. It's amazing that it stood at all. Now there is a large hole in the foliage overhead. Greg Super, who clears the trail, points out that there is already a new shoot growing out of the sycamore stump.

Bill Banta brought a boy scout troop down to camp on Rupperts. Unfortunately, it rained all weekend. To my surprise the kids seemed to be in good spirits when they left on Sunday. Most of them were covered with mud up to their waist.

Autumn has arrived. The leaves are starting to turn color and fall into the river and onto the lawn. Jack Sanders bought a leaf blower hoping we wouldn't have to rake anymore. However, I'm sure there will be plenty for us to do at the next Saturday work session.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker