Notes from the Island
March 1993


It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and a layer of snow blankets the ground. Ice has formed in the shallow water of the swamp and along the riverbank. A few seagulls are flying in the strong wind coming downstream, but most of them are huddled on the sunny protected lower tip of Rupperts Island. Mallards congregate in the marshes and occasionally fly down the slough, quacking and flapping their wings.

Our geese stay close to the Island waiting to fight over their daily ration of cracked corn. In the evening you can hear them honking in the distance as they find a small island to sleep on, protected from predators.

The other morning we watched two mergansers swim down the slough. The male had a white body and an iridescent dark green head, while the female had a gray body and a crested rusty head. Occasionally they would dive underwater and we would try to guess where they would resurface. Suddenly the male caught a fish in its beak and thrashed around in the river for a moment before swallowing its prey.

Along the shore above the swim float there is an animal track in the snow where the beavers have emerged from the river and walked through the brush, under a cable, and across the path to a group of maples they have been gnawing on. The track itself is curious because the beavers drag their wide tails and the branches they are carrying. It reminds me of the marks left by aluminum saucers in the snow.

John Stapko and I were looking at the big old elm that went down last year and we discovered a great natural seesaw or hobby horse. The tree still has much if its root structure and is still alive, but a section the size of a plank has peeled away from the trunk and an adult can sit on this natural board and bounce up and down. We got bored pretty quickly, but I'm sure the kids will love it.

Tryon Wells has been busy having some new signs built. They have brown letters on a cream background and are unobtrusive, but they make the point that guests should sign here, club canoes should go there, and paddlers should wear lifejackets and be aware that high water can be hazardous.

The crocuses are poking up through the snow. The periwinkle and spring beauties cannot be far behind. And be sure not to miss the bluebells.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker