Notes from the Island
March 1989

Winter is not quite over and Spring is not quite here. There is a light dusting of snow on the crocuses blooming by the screen porch and sleet has frozen on the red buds of the maple trees. Daylily shoots are emerging from frosted ground.

The mergansers arrived two weeks ago, and according to Bob Sinclair that is the first sign of Spring. These ducks dive for small fish. The male has a white body, a dark head and a red beak, while the female has a gray body and a crested reddish-brown head.

Yesterday I saw a pair of wood ducks in the northeast passage of the Island. The male, with its bright colors separated by white and black lines, looked more like a painted decoy than a living bird. They didn't fly very far when I approached and I wonder if they are nesting in a tree nearby.

The number of mallards and herons has increased recently, but surprisingly the number of Canada geese has gone down. Nowadays only two of the black, gray and white birds join our domestic geese at feeding time. I imagine that will change soon.

Many thanks to Mimi Cantwell who brought down a load of corn kernels for the geese. That should be enough for this winter.

I still haven't seen any beaver this winter. But recently I noticed a spot near the fallen sycamore by the northeast swamp where animals have been sliding into the water and leaving a little trail. There is a similar slide halfway up Rupperts on the Virginia side. The beaver have been gnawing on a tree on a small island in the northeast passage. They've only been able to chew on one side of the tree, so it looks like an expert logger has been there swinging an axe.

It has been a very mild winter, but still I'm looking forward to Spring, warmer weather, and the coming of the bluebells.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker