Notes from the Island
The winter has been mild - no snow, only thin layers of ice on the
canal, and tiny yellow blossoms on the forsythia. While out canoeing
Holly and I startled four mergansers, diving ducks which usually appear
only in early spring.
I am feeding the fowl again. David Lyles carried down enough cracked
corn to fill a fifty-five gallon barrel and every morning I sprinkle a
canful along the shoreline for our three domestic geese and for a Canada
goose with a broken wing. Occasionally a pair of wild geese or mallards
will join the festivities, but the Island birds are protective of their
food and larger than their migrating brethren, so the unwelcome visitors
rarely stay long.
I witnessed another nature drama recently. A small gray and white
hawk plummeted out of the sky and nabbed a chickadee on the wing in a
spray of gray feathers. The raptor transported its prey to a nearby stump
to finish off the meal.
The beavers continue to be very active chopping down maple saplings in
preparation for winter. Doc Taliaferro and I have wrapped five rolls of
chicken wire around trees we want to save. Unfortunately, instead of
clearing out our view of the river and the Virginia shore, the rodents are
concentrating on the Maryland side of the Island exposing us to view from
Winter is a good time to explore Rupperts Island. The nettles and
poison ivy have died down and the snakes and insects have crawled back
into their holes. Beavers from a huge colony on the Virginia side of
Rupperts have beaten well-worn paths from the banks of the Potomac to the
interior of the island where they have chopped down many trees, some of
them a foot or two in diameter.
I enjoy birdwatching this time of the year. There are fewer birds
around, but they are easier to see. The great blue heron, Canada geese
and mallards are here as well as kingfishers, chickadees, cardinals,
nuthatches, and woodpeckers. Some of you may have seen the article in the
Washington Post about member Steve Paley who coordinated the Christmas
bird count on this section of the towpath. Apparently he didn't include
our domestic geese in the total.
Even though the weather has been mild until now, I am sharpening my
skates and waxing my skis in preparation for colder temperatures and
snow. If you come to enjoy the beauty of winter on the Island, be sure to
bring warm clothes and a thermos of hot chocolate.
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker