Notes from the Island
March 1999


The beginning of March is when the first signs appear on the island of the stirrings of Spring and renewal. It is also, sadly, the time when the Caretaker must curtail most night time amblings, as everywhere tender young things are sticking their heads up and one dare not walk where one can not see. The bluebells, the daylilies, the narcissus, and the iris are starting to appear. The geese are feeling their hormones and day break is announced with their loud squabbling and all sorts of argumentative ruckus. Only the tinniest of buds have appeared on some trees, but as the month progresses the long vistas will shrink, not because of leaves, but because of the profusion of buds, knobs, and other extrusions appearing on bare branches to await the right moment to burst open.

Another reason the curtailment of night time skulking rankles is because the Caretaker has a new high tech toy... a 750,000 candle power cordless rechargeable spotlight with a range of 1500 meters. Just let Mr. Huge Beaver look out!!! It will now be possible to monitor his progress on the arch from the house... and see if this is enough candle power in his eyes to be obnoxious enough to deter him. Or perhaps we should say "arch that was." Remember in times past one would get off the ferry... leave the walkway half way up and walk straight up a small incline and under an arch of foliage to enter the lawn? The arch is gone to feed the Tree Gardener, as one might imagine Mr. Huge Beaver thinks of himself. Stay tuned! The Caretaker did take the spotlight down to the Captain's Float to try it out... all full of himself and ready to reach out in the night like some god with his thunderbolt... and in fact it worked beautifully... lighting up the end of Ruppert's Island and beyond and setting off a storm of howls, shrieks, and other loud protests from a huge and previously unseen community of critters up and down the river. The disapproval could be felt as a an unseen force... making the Caretaker feel guilty, intrusive, impolite, and downright un-neighborly. One can imagine the geese at the foot of Ruppert's, in their own private world, suddenly lit up from afar, indignant at the violation. It must have gone over like shining a light in your neighbor's bedroom window. To stay on friendly terms with the neighbors, one must be circumspect in using thunderbolts.

Anyone walking by the grounded canoe float who looks upon one end of the stacked walkway will notice an enormous pile of the shells of fresh water clams. All winter the pile has been growing as some critter likes to take his meals there, but despite some effort we have not been able to identify who. If anyone has an opinion about this mystery we would like to know. The crows top the suspect list, but then it is easy to blame anything and everything on crows. There is a small flock of a half dozen or so that are regular hang outs, and the very sound of their voices invokes the suspicion of mischief. I will never forget watching them work in unison last year to try to swoop down and steal a gosling. And yet so much of what we see results from our cultural traditions and perceptions. In Tibet, crows appeared when the Dali Lama was born and perched on the outside eaves of the house. In that cultural tradition this event was considered auspicious because crows are perceived as protectors. Remembrance of this thought was provoked recently by watching two crows perched outside our window. They nuzzled and groomed each other for the longest time, carrying on like love birds... in what I would have considered un-crow-like behaviour. But perhaps it was only because it is "that" time of year.

-- Doc Taliaferro, Sycamore Island Caretaker