Notes from the Island
November 1988


It is a beautiful autumn on Sycamore Island. The Potomac must have a moderating effect on the weather here, forming little microclimates on the islands. It's striking to look upstream and see green trees on Rupperts and a mosaic of yellow, gold and red on the Virginia side. Our tulip poplars and black walnuts have turned bright yellow, and the one little oak has turned brown, but the sycamores and maples are slow in changing.

Nevertheless, the leaves are falling - filling the canal, backing up at the canoe float, sinking to the bottom. Sometimes when I walk around crunching leaves underfoot I make so much noise I can barely hear the bell.

A few of the asters, goldenrod and white snakeroot are still blooming. We discovered what Mimi Cantwell thinks is a Veronica blooming at the southern tip, where there is a lot of sunlight. The mallows have dried up and the jimsonweed pods are cracking open.

I haven't sighted as many migrating birds as I expected. I've seen a handful of Canada geese, wood ducks and mallards, but nowhere near as many visitors as we had last spring. The seagulls are starting to return to winter out on Broadwater. Now that the trees are barer it is easier to spot the cardinals, woodpeckers and flickers that live here.

Our domestic white geese are spending more time near the Island. Mimi Cantwell bought 100 pounds of corn kernels and we're starting to feed them again.

The osprey seem to have moved on. I guess that's a bad omen for the anglers. Fewer members are going out fishing, and those that do, return with sunfish and an occasional bass.

The Potomac has been extraordinarily clear. One evening I could see the bottom all the way from the Island to the Maryland shore. Several times we have seen the river bottom all around the swimming float. And, except for the sunken leaves and occasional tire, the river is exceptionally uncluttered. John Matthews thinks the visibility must be 12-20 feet at times.

I paddled around the Island the other evening in the light of the full moon. The air was cold and crisp and there was a light mist above the river. It was beautiful and peaceful. Maybe next month I'll try to run some of the little rapids upstream at night.

The beaver are returning. They are munching away at maples at the southern end of Sycamore and we hear their tails smacking the water down by the ferry landing.

One of the pulleys on the ferry broke. Charlie Trammell the elder bought some great used sailing pulleys that can be attached to the cable without taking the cable down.

Yesterday David and Christopher Lyles checked out the new leaf blower and it seems to work just fine. It looks like there will be plenty to do at the Work Fest. We need to install windows in the new tool shed, bury the electric wire to the outside lights, and run a pipe from the washing machine out to the drywell. And that's in addition to our regular Club winterizing. Be sure to come down. It may be your last chance to enjoy fall on Sycamore Island.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker