Notes from the Island
I went swimming last night at sunset. The water was cool and
refreshing, but it may have been my last dive off the float this season.
The geese are returning. I haven't seen many on the Island yet, but
I can hear them honking in the evening as they fly downriver. Wood ducks
are congregating near the islands above Rupperts.
Of course, the great blue herons are everywhere. Lately a great
egret has been roosting in a tree on the island between Sycamore and
Rupperts. Occasionally cormorants will sun themselves on a log down
towards the dam. One evening while canoeing on the Virginia side, I
startled an osprey which flew away with a fish in its talons.
The mallows and ageratum are still blooming in Betty Burchell's
weedpatch by the ferry landing. White Snakeroot is flowering all over
the island. The blue Asiatic daylily appears here and there. Smartweed,
with its tiny pink clustered flowers, has taken over large portions of
There seem to be two main types of jewelweed or touch-me-not in this
area. Sycamore Island is covered with the pale touch-me-not, which has
light yellow flowers. Surprisingly, the canal is lined with spotted
touch-me-not, which has orange flowers. Although you will see an
occasional pale touch-me-not by the canal, I have not seen any spotted
touch-me-not on the Island.
Holly found a pretty patch of lobelia just above Lock 7.
Unfortunately, the road crew that is resurfacing the towpath paved it
over. However, there is more lobelia on the bank of the canal by Cabin
The new towpath is nice and smooth. However, the river turned bright
orange after the first rain. And one of the vehicles caught the railing on
the pedestrian bridge and twisted it a bit.
At the southern tip of Sycamore Island there is a partially
collapsed animal burrow, probably a muskrat's. The tunnel leads from the
river straight into shore and is only a couple of inches from the
surface. It may belong to the same rodent that is eating the tiny maple
saplings nearby. The only beavers I've seen recently have been in the
We had a couple of storms this summer that caused minor damage. We
were on the screen porch one evening when lightning hit nearby, blowing
out the bulbs on the porch and frying the electric wire to the front
outside lights. Another time a high wind broke off the top of a poplar
tree which fell behind the house breaking the electric line to the tool
shed and knocking the back lights off the building. Betty Burchell, John
Matthews, Holly Syrrakos, Coy Lay and others helped to cut up the fallen
branches. Art Gutnick, John Matthews, Jerry Barton and I did the
A large sycamore fell across the trail on the northeast section of
the Island. It seemed to be a healthy tree, but it was missing most of
its base. It's amazing that it stood at all. Now there is a large hole
in the foliage overhead. Greg Super, who clears the trail, points out
that there is already a new shoot growing out of the sycamore stump.
Bill Banta brought a boy scout troop down to camp on Rupperts.
Unfortunately, it rained all weekend. To my surprise the kids seemed to
be in good spirits when they left on Sunday. Most of them were covered
with mud up to their waist.
Autumn has arrived. The leaves are starting to turn color and fall
into the river and onto the lawn. Jack Sanders bought a leaf blower
hoping we wouldn't have to rake anymore. However, I'm sure there will be
plenty for us to do at the next Saturday work session.
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker