Notes from the Island
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
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