Notes from the Island
May 1993


Because of high water the Club was closed for the month of April. The log that was caught on the ferry cable eventually fell off, and John Matthews, Holly and I winched it towards shore to get it out of the ferry path. When the river rose again, the log drifted downstream and is now stuck in a sycamore tree leaning out over the water.

Because of the rain and the flooding the Spring Workfest was cancelled and the Whitewater Race was postponed. The Club re-opened on Sunday, May 2nd and an emergency work party came down in the morning to put out the floats, put canoes back in the racks and clean up the grounds. Many thanks to the Elfstrom, Stapko and Kip families as well as Tryon Wells, John Hamilton, George Malusky, Mark Flor, David Winer, David Holdridge and Greg and Jamie Super. And a special thanks to John Thomson who made many of the phone calls inviting members to participate.

The Island has suffered some damage from the flooding. We lost the small temporary ferry, but all the boats seem to be in place. Those of you who lock your canoes to the racks should be aware that in some cases we had to break locks with a boltcutter and in others the chains disappeared in the confusion of pulling the canoes out of the racks. You might want to come down and check to make sure your boats are secure.

The swift current eroded the upper end of the Island and deposited mud, silt and sand over parts of the lawn. I reseeded once, but then the river rose again. I will probably reseed again, but I suspect that some parts of the Island, particularly near the shores, will take time to recover.

Bob Sinclair had mentioned that he thought Canada geese were nesting on the island between Rupperts and Sycamore. A few days later the Potomac rose and must have washed the nest away, chasing the geese to our island. Soon after, I started finding abandoned goose eggs in the lawn. Fortunately, the Canada goose is not an endangered species, and I'm sure we will see plenty of goslings in a month or so.

The early spring flowers like the trout lilies, dutchman's breeches and squirrel corn have come and gone. Some, like the bluebells, star of bethlehem and toadshade, are about to go. But the violets, celandine and garlic mustard will be around for awhile and the blue phlox, mayapples, golden ragwort and solomon's seal have just started to bloom.

I am continually amazed by the new things I discover about the Island. A while ago I had noticed an unusual vine at the upper end of Sycamore. At its base it looked exactly like a small tree rising straight out of the ground. However, when I looked up about eight feet, I realized it was actually a vine wrapped around another tree and heading up towards the tall branches. I made a mental note to cut it down sometime before it killed the tree. Yesterday Holly was out working in her garden when she happened to glance up and see a profusion of purple flowers. At first she thought it was kudzu, but quickly realized that kudzu blooms in the fall. When she took a closer look she realized that the vine I was going to cut down is actually wisteria flowering high in the trees at the upper end of Sycamore Island.

The summer birds are returning. Hummingbirds and goldfinches are visiting our feeders and Margaret Herring reports that she hears orioles up in Brookmont. I hear lots of new and different birds but I can't identify any of them.

One sure sign of warmer weather is the return of the reptiles and amphibians. Turtles have been sunning themselves in the canal for a month or so. Recently I have also noticed large frogs on the canal banks. Yesterday Holly saw her first watersnake of the season swimming over to the Island from the Maryland shore.

I hate to think about it, but we still could get some more flooding in May, so you might want to call before coming down to make sure the Club is open. Also remember that we're coming into the popular large party season and if you are looking forward to peace and quiet you might want to canoe off to some deserted Island.



-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker