Notes from the Island
March 2003

My daily log this past month was predictably filled with not-so-unique stories of the "Storm of '03" and meticulous accounts of the post-storm river levels. This month I've watched this dynamic river change from solid ice (strong enough to skate on), to clear, soothing, emerald green, to the threatening muddy brown torrent it is right now.

I like winter and I'm so glad that we finally got some good winter weather around here. I feel so lucky to happen to be living on the Island during this record-setting season. The Island has been so beautiful these days, especially when the sun shines on the snow and the water and on the dazzling shapes and forms created by the ice. Sure there are some inconveniences to living here but they are easily outweighed by the advantages of being able to ice-skate right outside my door or to canoe around the Island after a snowfall. I did some sledding and I got a chance to try snow shoeing for the first time. The kids and I loved it, thanks Dave. This winter has also been special because I haven't had to commute back and forth to work on those days when the weather has turned our roads into congested nightmares. That is definitely a plus.

Winter is also a great time to observe the wildlife around here. To my surprise I've been noticing more fauna, or evidence thereof, than I ever would have expected for this time of year. The snow on the ground allows me to track the animals and there are no leaves on the trees for them to hide behind. Another thing that might bring these animals out of hiding is that for many it is the beginning of the breeding season. This month I've seen Bald Eagles, beaver, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, an American Coot, two Black Vultures hovering over a deer carcass snagged on a branch and two fuzzy little black things that might have been a breeding pair of mink. The frozen conditions have allowed the fox to venture out to the middle of the river. It was awesome to see the silhouette of a fox out on the ice one night as the last rays of the sunset faded. Like the river, this whole ecosystem down here is very dynamic. The plants and animals are always changing, one phase leading to the next with no clear separation between the seasons.

I put a door on the men's locker room, for all you modest guys, and I did some other rearranging and cleaning in there. What I did was a big improvement and it makes it a little nicer to go in there but I still haven't done the painting and that should help quit a bit too.

About the flood or the no-flood. The most interesting part is that the weather service called me to warn me of the possibility of a flood. I didn't even know they had my number. It did seem like we had all the ingredients for a repeat of the flood of '96 and I had all kinds of calls from concerned members. Luckily, however, we were able to avoid any kind of submergency.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker