Notes from the Island
January 1993


Once again December has been mild. A thin layer of ice formed on the canal one morning but it melted by the following day. The Potomac has been running high. A three day storm dropped rain in Washington and snow in the mountains. At first, the water level rose to seven feet because of the rain. Then after the river dropped, the sun came out, the temperature rose, the snow melted and the Potomac flooded again.

The Strasbergs brought cracked corn for the geese. At the moment we have two domestic fowl, one white and one light gray, which have been here since we moved in five years ago. Last year's newcomer, which looked like a hybrid of a wild and domestic bird, has disappeared. Six Canada geese are also hanging out. One old-timer with a broken wing has been here for years. I don't know if the other wild geese will stay the season.

It's a strange winter. The great blue heron have not left yet and the mergansers have already arrived. The seagulls sit out on Broadwater and drift down with the current, while mallards congregate in marshy areas. The cardinals and woodpeckers provide pretty splashes of red in the gray and brown winter scenery.

The only animals I actually see are squirrels performing wonderful acrobatics without a net many feet above the ground while searching for food. However, I do spot animal signs. The receding flood deposited a layer of mud which then froze for two days capturing the tracks and prints of the many animals and birds which wander our shoreline. And although the beavers have abandoned their lodge on Box Elder Island, they are still toppling maples and dragging them off to an unknown den, leaving stumps behind.

Members continue to work on the Island. Art Gutnick has been repairing light fixtures upstairs. On New Year's Eve day John Matthews collected a crew to pull out the old ferry so he could examine it for wear and tear. John Lentz, John Thomson, John Heidemann, David Lyles, Chris Lyles, Meg Lyles, Phil Jones and I hauled the ferry up on the shore and tipped it over. All in all the underside looked good, but we'll probably replace a few of the barrels in the Spring. John Matthews had built a smaller replacement ferry which does not hold as many passengers, but we decided not to use it until we actually start work on the old ferry.

I hope to see you with your ice skates if the canal freezes.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker