Notes from the Island
The leaves have fallen and the trees are bare. The maples and the paw
paws were the last to turn. The needles of the bald cypress started
dropping from the bottom first, so that near the end the tree looked like
it was wearing a green cap. Two storms blew enough leaves into the river
that the water turned a black inky color like strongly brewed tea.
Even though it is the beginning of December there are still flowers
blooming. At the southwestern end of the Island a beautiful large lobelia
is blooming just upstream of the sycamore that has fallen out over the
water. Next to it there is a smaller plant that has the square stem of the
mint family, but its lavender flower grows out of a pouch like the
I mentioned last month that we heard beaver tails slapping the water
down by the ferry landing. I soon discovered that the little creatures
were tearing up all the mallows in Betty Burchell's wildflower garden,
biting off the bark and even digging out the roots.
We have seen an opossum a couple of times. Once it was walking along
the log down by the ferry landing. The second time our cat Fred was
chasing it. The opossum fell over and played dead. Fred stopped, tiptoed
over, sniffed it and then walked away. We were amazed.
Now that the branches are bare it is easier to see the birds. The red
cardinals add a nice splash of color to the predominantly brown and gray
scenery. Wrens, chickadees, sparrows, starlings and woodpeckers are all
quite common. There have been a few mallards, grebes and Canada geese
around, but not as many as in the spring. The great blue heron stand on
the sunny and wind-protected southern tips of Rupperts and Sycamore.
One morning Holly and I were canoeing along the Virginia shore and saw
a juvenile eagle perched on a branch above the water. It was a large
mottled brown bird with a silver band on its right talon and a red one on
its left. Mimi Cantwell saw the same bird a few days later on Rupperts.
The Island is getting winterized. The Trammells came down and we
turned off all the water to the Clubhouse so the pipes won't freeze. Now
there is a chemical toilet in the women's locker room for general use.
The main room upstairs can be quite cozy on mild sunny afternoons,
particularly if you build a fire in the circle of warmth. Brad Coolidge,
myself and others have cut some firewood, but it is surprising how quickly
it burns. Please replace whatever you use. Peter Fuchs is repairing our
two chainsaws, but there are axes, saws and wedges in the toolshed out
The Glen Echo Fire Department came down for an inspection and reported
that we have "no violations at this time". They urged us to be careful,
however, because it would be very difficult to reach us in case of fire.
It has been a beautiful autumn on the Island. However, I knew that
winter was coming when Huckleberry took the outboard motor out of his boat
and John Matthews came to take his canoe home. Now we're just waiting for
the snow to fall and the river to freeze.
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker