Notes from the Island
The hot humid summer weather has arrived and the temperature has been
in the nineties for a week. Swimming in the cool, relatively clear river
is a wonderful relief and many members have trudged down the hill with
their bathing suits and towels to inflate the inner tubes and float in the
Some intrepid anglers have gone out fishing and I receive scattered
reports of people catching bass, catfish and bluegill. Although most
members paddle upriver to the first set of rapids, others swear they land
the best fish right off the canoe float.
The water birds are plentiful. Great blue heron are everywhere, green
heron fly up and down the slough, and night heron appear in the evening.
Dozens of cormorants sit on rocks or perch in the sycamore at the upper
end of Ruppert's while osprey soar overhead hunting for fish.
On small islands nearby, Canada geese have built nests of downy
feathers on the ground. Their eggs have now hatched and the yellow
goslings can be seen with their parents on the towpath, on the island or
in the river.
Jack Colwell commented that the wood ducks which were above Ruppert's
earlier in the year have now disappeared. I haven't seen any young
mallards or wood ducks at all, but Holly spotted a wood duckling riding on
its mother's back in the canal in Georgetown.
Birds do not always build their nests in the safest places. This
morning Holly and I saw a wet and bedraggled fledgling downy woodpecker
which had clearly fallen from a nest into the river before fighting its
way to shore.
This year I am more aware of the fantastic array of birdsong on the
Island. I see an occasional prothonotary warbler or Baltimore Oriole, but
more often I hear them and other birds singing in the tops of trees hidden
I have also noticed more ruby-throated hummingbirds this year. They
seemed to be particularly fond of the flowers of the Solomon's Seal.
With the warm weather the reptiles and amphibians are emerging.
Painted turtles sun themselves on logs in the canal, tough-looking
snapping turtles swagger down the towpath, and five-lined skinks dart
across bridges and walkways.
None of the snakes on the Island are poisonous, although copperheads
are found in the area. The black snakes are the longest and most
sociable. Sometimes you'll see them near the ferry or climbing up a tree
looking for bird's nests. The water snake stays near shore basking in the
sun and feeding on minnows. Although more skittish than the black snake,
it can bite viciously if grabbed. There are also garter snakes on the
Some early summer flowers are blooming. The jimsonweed is already out
on Ruppert's; and thistle, water hemlock and common vetch can be found
alongside the canal. On the Island broadleaf waterleaf is blooming in
shady areas and water parsnip grows at the upper end of Sycamore. The
purple lilies have come and gone, but the lemon lilies are blooming and
the daylilies should flower by the time you receive this. The air is
fragrant with the smell of wild rose, honeysuckle and ripe mulberries.
Be sure to come down and enjoy the Island before you go away on
vacation, but remember that a number of large parties are scheduled in
June. If you are looking for peace and quiet, you might take your picnic
lunch and go for a long canoe ride.
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker