Notes from the Island
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
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