Notes from the Island
November 1992

The leaves are turning and the fall colors are brilliant against the clear blue sky. We haven't had much rain so the river is low and clear. Tannin from the fallen leaves has stained the water black.

John Krasny and friends were canoeing last Saturday and saw a juvenile bald eagle perched in the dying sycamore tree at the upper end of Ruppert's Island. One of the party estimated that the bird was three or four years old, almost full-grown.

The rough-winged swallows have flown from the slough and the seagulls are returning to Broadwater, a sign of approaching winter. This morning a great blue heron was standing at the lower end of Box Elder Island, but I haven't seen any green herons recently.

The reptiles and amphibians are seeking warmer quarters. I almost stepped on a very sluggish watersnake stretched out on the Potomac Heritage Trail on the Virginia shore. A few days later I spotted a painted turtle in the river near the landing. Because of its larger volume the Potomac stays relatively warm in the fall while the canal cools down quickly and I believe the turtles migrate to the river this time of year.

The beavers are active again. I had wrapped chicken wire loosely around an elm tree upstream of the swim float, but the beavers stepped on the mesh enclosure and chomped away at the bark. I've tightened up the fence. We'll see if it works.

The two black walnut trees near the canoe shed have produced very few nuts this year. Last year the green fruit was so plentiful that it littered the lawn and interfered with the mowing, but this year it's not a problem. I hope the trees aren't dying. A couple of members have mentioned that the wood might be valuable if we could ever get the logs to a sawmill.

There are still a few flowers blooming: ageratum, jewelweed, smartweed, white snakeroot and asters. The pokeweed has purple berries and the spice bush has red ones. I haven't seen any pawpaws, but I have seen its seeds in animal scat, so there must be some fruit around. The persimmon tree is heavy with persimmons, but we're waiting for the first frost before we eat any.

The Island had a few dedicated souls at the last Saturday work session. Leah Hertz led the effort to paint numbers on the lockers in the men's locker room, Dick Dianich brought his chainsaw and cut a good-sized woodpile in preparation for winter, and Steve and Kathy Carroll paddled the swim float around to the slough. Mark and Suzanna Strasburg helped haul the float out of the river and offered to bring feed corn down for the geese.

The Workfest is on Sunday, November 8 from 9AM until dark. The potluck dinner usually takes place around 4:30 or 5:00 up in the main room. The traditional tasks include raking and hauling out the canoe float and the swim dock, but there are always other things to do. We hope to see you there.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker