Notes from the Island
December 2007

The winter solstice is still a few weeks away but the seasonal transformation of the Island is complete. The leaves are off the trees and like every year I'm shocked at the amazing difference this makes. My summer canopy is gone and now I have a shallow-arching sun casting long shadows of naked trees. The crystal clear water in the river looks black in contrast to the wintering gulls and the bare white trunks of the sycamores. It's only during these cold months that we see the gulls bobbing on the river, pecking at the surface for who-knows-what. This is also the only time of year to see grebes and other wintering birds. I've already seen a pied-billed grebe and several red-necked grebes as well as a group of buffleheads. The winter is cold and dark and sometimes I complain about the long hike to my car; but I'm always thankful for the way that living down here forces me to experience and appreciate all the seasons.

We had another good Workfest, my eleventh. Thanks to everyone who helped! I think in the future we should have a Workfest in early November to get the docks out of the river before the river gets too cold; and then have another workday in early December just for cleaning the gutters and raking the leaves. I do think raking is important, by the way; otherwise, the leaves pile up and kill the "grass".

I'm very happy to report that I still haven't seen or heard any ground hogs. Usually around this time of year they are busy getting ready for their long winter nap, but so far I haven't heard them digging or seen them feeding. I don't want to jinx it but maybe they've gone, just as mysteriously as they arrived. The beaver are here for sure though and, like last year, were using their chewing skills to our advantage. At the Workfest John Stepko cut one of the huge silver maple branches that were hanging over the Captains Float. Since the branch was growing way out over the water, most of it was unreachable once it fell in the river. John did what he could to the lower trunk of the branch, but he told me that he left the smaller branches for the beaver to work on. Well sure enough, two weeks later almost all of those branches are gone.

There was a vote this past month to go ahead with the renovations to the clubhouse, and even though I'm not sure if the new floor plan will fit my needs I still want the renovation to go as smoothly as possible. I've tried to remain neutral throughout this process and like many of you I'm apprehensive about the negatives that change can bring; but I also want to look to the positives and I hope that this project, by the time itís done, will bring us closer together and not divide us.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker