Notes from the Island
March 2007

I've got big news! I was wrong. Not that me being wrong is big news. I was wrong about the eagles! It turns out that they are nesting and now seem to be taking turns sitting on the eggs. I'm happy that they're back. I'm proud of our eagles; I love watching them and showing them off to Island visitors.

The river is at eight feet as I write this and it seems we're getting a bona-fide spring flood. Last year, as you remember, there was no snow to melt and the river never flooded. We were in a drought, as I recall, until that torrent in June. Anyway, it's nice to have a high water event to go along with all the other signs of spring. I just saw a crocus in bloom and the bluebells should be blooming by the time you read your next Islander. There are wood ducks returning to our shores and the air is filled with the songs of cardinals. We're still seeing some migrating ducks and this morning I saw a canvasback as well as a group of lesser scaupsa. On the down side, I just picked a tick off my neck (not a deer tick).

I'm looking forward to the warmer weather, but it sure was nice to have some good winter weather in this area for a change. I went ice climbing at Windy Run! (There's a waterfall there on the Virginia shore down river from Fletcher's boathouse) The river froze solid as did the canal and the ice-skating was perfect. It was so cool playing Frisbee on ice skates in the middle of the river. The freezing and thawing river made for some interesting morning commutes, but you can read about that on my daily log.

One very wintry afternoon after the ice storm I went over to Turkey Run Park, to take a hike and look for more ice climbing possibilities. (I had to drive there instead of my usual canoe route). The trail was sheer ice when I got there, smooth and untrampled. Luckily I came prepared, I put on my crampons and grabbed my ski poles and trudged the two miles through the snow up-river to the Beltway. My search for a climbable waterfall was fruitless, so I sat on a rock to take a break and eat a snack before I started back. It was a wintry scene of snow and ice and I was quite removed from the Beltway traffic above. I admired the sunlight tinting the trees on Plummer's Island and even though the cold was rapidly seeping back into my bones I felt happy to see that my tracks were the only tracks on the trail -- crampon tracks at that. Then, something in the sky, at the head of Plummer's Island, caught my eye. I knew immediately that it was some kind of bird-of-prey when I saw the flap-flap-flap-soar flight pattern, but when it banked at mid-river and showed me its long pointed wings and slate grey color I knew it was one of the peregrine falcons that I had heard might be nesting here. I watched until the bird came to rest on a tree limb, very close to and level with the bridge. Then I saw the mate perched on a limb nearby. Eagles and falcons nesting inside the Beltway!! Things just get better every year.

The plumbing is back on in the clubhouse and the toilets are working in the ladies room once again. I found when I turned the water back on that I had to replace a fill-tank valve in one toilet and I had to replace the feed line to the ladies room sink. A large branch fell and hit the phone line to the house. It didn't break the cable but pulled the wood siding from the house where the cable was attached. I think I can nail it back in. The Workfest is coming up soon. I want to try and paint the exterior of the clubhouse along with some other fun projects. Call me if you want to help get things ready for that big day. By the way the April 1 Workfest is on my birthday. No fooling, again.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker