Notes from the Island
December 2002

The Island has been winterized and the trail has been improved. And I had my first encounter with a beaver...beavers.

The wind and rain of this past month has stripped the trees bare, with yellow leaves falling over everything like an overnight snowstorm. The river got up to over five feet for the first time since I started in August, making for a slightly smaller island. That, combined with my new uninterrupted view of the water made me somehow more keenly aware of the fact that I live on an island and I am completely surrounded by water.

It has been great to have some water in the river and earlier this month I was able to take my canoe up river without the nuisance of so many rocks in the way. I was able to make it all the way to Minnie Island. On the way I explored the mouth of Cabin John Creek and thatís where I saw the beavers. There were three of them near a den-sized hole in the bank. They didn't seem too startled to see me and instead of swimming away one of them circled towards me in a menacing, defensive way. It got pretty close, gave me a good tail slap and was gone. The beaver have been visiting the island recently as well.

I was excited to see a Bald Eagle yesterday. It was the first I'd seen from the Island since starting here four months ago. I watched two Hermit Thrushes, and I identified some Ruby-crowned Kinglets. A group of Canada Geese seems to have moved into the neighborhood, messy neighbors. I found a dead catfish with teeth marks on it on top of some leaves in the middle of the island. Now I'm wondering if we have river otters.

The fruit of the persimmon tree is ready for harvesting. There's a tree on a small island in the channel thatís full of crab apple sized persimmon fruit. Not tasty until after the first frost. Unfortunately, I was never able to find a paw paw in this forest of paw paw trees.

We are really enjoying our life on the Island. Finding it exciting to watch the river rise, counting the steps that are under water and making the river an integral part of our daily lives. We've come to the end of the first school marking period and I can proudly report that both students are doing extremely well. Thatís always a relief. Now we're headed into December with our fingers crossed for snow days.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker