Notes from the Island
August 1989


The hot weather has arrived. The Island tends to be cooler but muggier than places up on the hill. The regular afternoon thundershowers provide some relief from the heat, but they contribute to the humidity. You might want to check your lockers for mildew.

The showers have not caused any flooding, but they have caused the river to run a foot or two above its usual level. In general the water is muddier and the current is swifter than last year. On a hot day, the cool water is refreshing, but swimmers need to paddle vigorously to avoid being carried down to the Kennedy Center.

The summer wildflowers are starting to bloom. Down by the ferry landing the ageratum is flowering and the mallow buds are starting to form. I noticed a monkeyflower that I didn't see last year. The Joe-Pye weed and the swamp milkweed are out at the northern end of the Island. The red cardinal flower is blooming on the trail just up from the swim float. On Rupperts the mallows and swamp candles are in full bloom and are quite spectacular.

There is a woodchuck that lives in the folly. When the white mulberry tree was bearing fruit, we would surprise it out on the back lawn eating mulberries off the ground. One day I saw it from the window as it nibbled on a red mulberry tree down near the river.

One of these days I will have to start studying the insect life on Sycamore. I suspect we probably have undiscovered species here, some of them undoubtedly living in our quarters. The dampness has contributed to an increase in the insect population, which is fortunate in the case of the fireflies and unfortunate in the case of the mosquitoes.

I saw some white caterpillars on the walk a few days ago. A few hours later I walked by and noticed that hundreds of these caterpillars were crawling over a totally defoliated bush nearby. I have no idea what the bush was or what the caterpillars are.

The Nobles had a bad insect experience. They were canoeing around the northern end of the Island and hit a lowlying branch over the water. Unfortunately, there was a wasp nest on the branch and all three of them were stung. They returned quickly and found some baking soda which helped relieve the sting.

August can be hot and humid, but it's also a good time to go for an evening canoe ride and see the summer wildflowers blooming on the shores of the islands. Just be sure to bring insect repellent and avoid those lowlying branches.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker