Notes from the Island
April 1989


The flowers are blooming. Yellow and purple crocuses have come and gone. Daffodils are flowering in clumps around the lawn and the forsythia is coming out by the chlorinator and back behind the new workshop. A lone narcissus is growing by the screen porch.

Spring beauties, violets and chickweed carpet the lawn. According to my field guide, spring beauties grow from an underground tuber which tastes like chestnuts, while the chickweed can be eaten in salads. I admit that I haven't tried either one.

There is a nice flower patch behind the swim float. Toothwort, red trillium (or toadshade), trout lilies and a renegade pink hyacinth are blooming there now. The jack-in-the-pulpit should be coming up soon.

And, of course, the Virginia bluebells should be at their peak by the time you read this. It looks like we'll have another good crop this year.

The river levels have been high this month ranging from four to six and a half feet. The rising water has turned much of the Island into marshland which is attracting the wood ducks and mallards. The Canada goose population is still low, but I expect that to change soon.

There are a lot of birds on the Island now and we think they may be nesting. A pair of house finches flutters around the gutter at the corner of the Clubhouse. We saw a wood duck perched high in a sycamore this morning. A few weeks ago we noticed a pouchlike nest hanging from a tree over the river. We thought it might belong to an oriole, but we haven't seen any activity around it, so it might be abandoned.

I spotted a beaver one afternoon on an island above Rupperts. The floodwaters had forced it from its den and it was sitting on the riverbank next to its lodge. The beaver waddled into the river when I approached. At the same time I saw another small rodent swimming by the shore. At first I thought it might be a young beaver but then I saw it was a muskrat by its tail action in the water. A friend tells me that beavers take on muskrat lodgers.

The other night I was walking upstairs when I heard scratching nearby. I turned around in time to see a raccoon scrambling up the tree at the top of the walkway.

An animal we don't see much of anymore, however, is the squirrel. There used to be a number of squirrels which would jump from limb to limb and chatter away. Holly and I don't recall seeing any for the last couple of months. Maybe Fred disposed of them quietly or perhaps they decided to emigrate when the river froze over in December.

Fred discovered a small garter snake coiled up on the brick walk by our front door. He patted it and played with it for awhile. When the reptile moved quickly to get away, Fred got a little rough. Bleeding badly, the snake curled up and lay perfectly still. I thought it might be dead and apparently Fred thought so too, because he wandered off looking for other entertainment. Five minutes later the snake was gone.

Later that afternoon I found a small brown snake lying motionless in the dirt. I was crouched down examining the reptile when Fred came bounding over to me. He stepped right over the snake and never even realized it was there. So much for the mighty hunter.

The Island is looking very nice. Most of the raking was completed at the last Saturday work session. Now it's time to put out the floats and do a little Spring cleaning.

This is a beautiful time of year. Be sure to come down and see the bluebells. However, you might want to call first to make sure the river isn't flooding.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker