Notes from the Island
February 1991


Because January's weather was wet and mild, my sharpened skates and waxed-up skis hang unused in the toolshed. The rain, slush and snow melt caused two minor floods: up to eight and nine feet, respectively. The Potomac covered the lower steps of the Maryland landing and, on the Island side, rose halfway up the walkway and just short of the canoe shed. The Club has been closed for much of the month.

High water forced the beaver from their lodges. For several days a family of two adults and four young napped on a fallen log at the upper end of Rupperts. Others cut down trees and played in the swamp formed by the rising river.

For several evenings in a row I watched an opossum root through the debris deposited by the current and then scamper away at my approach. At the height of the flood I saw it dash through the water and climb the mulberry tree by the canoe float.

Holly and I attached a bird feeder to our window. To encourage nibbling I dropped some almonds and sunflower seeds on the dirt below. The chickadees and titmice have not discovered the food yet, but the opossum eats the almonds off the ground and leaves the sunflower seeds alone.

Water birds abound. Because the river has not yet frozen, the great blue herons remain, sunning themselves at the lower tips of the islands. Mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese fly through, stay a few days and move on. Holly and I even sighted mergansers, which is unusual this early in the year.

The Island has two new residents. The morning of the first flood two geese, which appear to be Canada-domestic hybrids with black and white markings and orange feet, floated down to the Island, presumably from a farm upriver. Our new fowl are very aggressive and clearly accustomed to being fed.

Daniel Englestad discovered a baby snake sunning itself on the wooden walkway in January. The Chinese claim that such unusual animal behaviour precedes an earthquake. The Club has not experienced any tremors so far, but war did break out a few days later in the Middle East.

Sycamore Island is not such an isolated paradise after all. Helicopter traffic on the river has increased dramatically, Betty Burchell's son has been called up to the Coast Guard Reserves, and Mrs. Rogers from the Sycamore Store reports that her son-in-law is stationed on the USS America in the Gulf.

Members should be aware that the overpass to the Cabin John exit of the Clara Barton Parkway will be closed for repairs for the next nine months. Consequently, to drive from the Sycamore Store down to the Parkway parking lot, one must go up to Carderock or down to Arizona Ave. before turning around. It's hard to tell in the winter, but I think the construction has discouraged people from using this section of the towpath.

Don't let it discourage you, though. If the weather turns cold and snowy, come enjoy the winter sports, and if the temperature stays warm, come enjoy the balmy weather.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker