Notes from the Island
June 1990


Two years ago our cat Fred discovered that, by lying in wait in the daylily beds, he could jump out and pounce on goslings waddling by. That first time Holly and I sent Fred on vacation to a friend's house in Silver Spring. Last Spring we tried to keep him indoors.

This year, however, the situation has changed. One evening I walked outside and saw Canada geese and their goslings sashaying around the yard nibbling on the grass. I clapped my hands and yelled at them. As the fowl headed for the river, Fred leaped out from underneath the wild rose bush and charged the flock. To the cat's surprise one of the Canada geese turned on him, hissing and nipping. Fred executed an abrupt about face and scampered to the safety of the screen porch. Nowadays the goslings munch away with impunity and Fred lies on the stairs pretending they're not there.

In January, two of the domestic geese had ostracized the third one, which had started keeping company with a Canada goose. I would occasionally see the third goose down by the dam or up near Rupperts, but it would never came back to Sycamore. A few weeks ago a reconciliation was negotiated and the third goose has returned. Sometimes it loiters with the other two and sometimes it remains alone. I don't know if this coincides with the end of the mating season or whether the domestic geese just can't resist the mulberries which are ripening and falling on the ground and into the river.

A few weeks ago Margaret Herring and Jack Colwell both pointed out a dozen whistling swans out on Broadwater. And last week I sighted a lone swan. Jack says that they summer in the Arctic and Alaska, so this is late to be seeing them.

Holly and a naturalist friend of ours sighted a loon near Rupperts. They also saw a prothonotary warbler, which probably has a nest at the northern end of Sycamore. And of course the great blue herons, green herons, night herons, woodpeckers, cardinals, cormorants, mallards, and wood ducks are plentiful. The wood ducks have the cutest ducklings. There are also finches nesting in the canoe shed.

Holly spotted a raccoon by the house the other night. Many people have seen muskrat at both ends of the Island. And it's time for the groundhog to emerge from the Folly to eat the white mulberries which fall onto the back lawn.

Many of you will be glad to hear that I have seen fewer snakes this year. None of them are poisonous, but some can be disconcerting. I was dropping off George Malusky, Jr. on the Maryland side when a five foot black racer slithered out of the hole in the sycamore tree by the steps.

Some flowers are still blooming. The purple irises are gone, but the lemon lilies remain. The bleeding hearts have reflowered. I discovered a Broadleaf Waterleaf, which has leaves like a sycamore and white flowers like a laurel. The daylilies and jewelweed should be out soon.

There has also been some human activity. Joe O'Boyle and John Matthews hooked up the new septic system, filter and chlorinator. Charlie Trammell the Younger, George Malusky, Jr. and Lincoln Smith started painting the screen porch. And it looks as if work on the addition will start any day now. I imagine there will be plenty to do at the Third Saturday work session.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker