Notes from the Island
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
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
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker