Notes from the Island
March 1994


This morning the sun is shining and a cold wind is blowing down the river. The Potomac crested at almost ten feet last night, covering the stairs on the Maryland shore and approaching the canoe shed on the Island. The National Weather Service had originally predicted that the water level would rise two to three feet higher than that, but the anticipated hard rain did not materialize. However, I had plenty of time to raise the ferry rope and the safety cable, bring in the ferry, and remove canoes from the first row of racks.

A large sycamore on Box Elder Island fell over in the flood. Three years ago beavers had burrowed a lodge under its roots. Currents had eroded the soil further and two days ago the tree toppled over, its root structure thrust high in the air. It looks as if many of the small islands in this area are the result of fallen trees which continue to grow and whose eddies capture silt and mud.

I still haven't seen any deer on Sycamore Island, but I did spot three white-tails bounding along the Maryland shore between the canal and the path coming down the hill. One night a buck was crossing MacArthur Boulevard as I was returning home.

One morning as the river was rising I looked out my window and saw two strange ducks swimming on my front lawn. At first I thought they might be buffleheads, but a quick look at my field guide convinced me they were hooded mergansers. Common mergansers are indeed common this time of year, but this was my first glimpse of the hooded variety.

Holly and I both puzzled over a brown and white duck we saw out on Broadwater in the dim light of dusk one day. We couldn't find anything in our book which remotely resembled it and finally we concluded it must have been some escaped domestic fowl.

I have to admit this has been a rough winter and I imagine there is still snow and ice in the mountains ready to melt. I feel a little like Damocles waiting for the sword to fall.

Spring is on the way, however. Red buds are appearing on the maples, green shoots from the star of bethlehem are poking through the mud, and yesterday a yellow crocus started to bloom near the screen porch.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker