Notes from the Island
April 1991


Spring is here and the Virginia bluebells are blooming. The lawn is covered with spring beauties, violets, ground ivy, early onion, and chickweed. Flowers are everywhere: narcissus and vinca next to the clubhouse; golden ragwort, hyacinth, buttercup and toadshade near the swimfloat; corydalis by the canoe shed; and daffodils, toothwort, forsythia, red dead nettle and Dutchman's breeches scattered around the island.

Tove and Susan Elfstrom picked some of the young, tender nettle leaves to cook what they swear is a delicious soup with hard-boiled eggs. If someone else has a recipe for nettle root, maybe we can eat the stinging weed off the island.

The number of birds has increased and in warm weather the air has exploded with song. Chickadees, titmice, finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers all flock to our feeders. We also see robins, cardinals, wrens, starlings, sparrows, and slate-colored juncos. The wood ducks are perching high in the sycamores looking for nests and the mallards congregate in swampy areas. Yesterday I spotted an osprey soaring above Ruppert's.

I have also seen my first turtle sunning itself on a log in the canal, as well as a garter snake swimming across the slough to the island.

The river has been high. After a heavy rain last week the water level rose to nine feet, which covered the lower steps on the Maryland landing but did not get into the canoe shed. The flooding always flushes the beaver out of their lodges and I love to sit in my canoe and watch these furry aquatic mammals splash in the water, nibble on trees, groom themselves and sleep in bunches in the crook of a log.

One time I saw something move near a beaver lodge on Ruppert's, but when I looked through my binoculars I saw it was a raccoon. Our opossum continues to be active. It was last seen scurrying along the shoreline near the canoe float.

I discovered a new mammal on Sycamore. I walked out my front door the other day and a chipmunk ran across my path. A few days later I noticed another chipmunk on the Maryland shore near the wooden bridge. I don't know if they have always been here and I haven't seen them, or if they are recent immigrants.

The Third Saturday Work Session was successful. Several of us raked the few patches that the wind had not blown clear. I carefully raked the debris deposited by the last flood only to have the river rise a week later and drop a new load of twigs, bark and leaves on the lawn at the high water mark.

I know Spring is here because John Matthews called and he wants to bring his canoe down. Anglers are starting to appear on the opposite bank, although I haven't seen anyone catch any fish yet. In the next few weeks we will even turn on the water in the clubhouse. Be sure to come see the bluebells and don't miss the Workfest or the White Water Race.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker