Wednesday -- October 11, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8 Water Temperature: 74
I received a call from former caretaker, Ken Fassler, yesterday. He lives in West Virginia now and was calling to inquire as to why he wasn't getting the Islander in the mail any longer. I explained to him that the Club no longer mails printed copies of the Islander and that we could send it to him via email. I was a little surprised when he told me that he could not receive it electronically because he refuses to use the internet in any way. I'm not sure how he is able to do that in this day and age but I found it admirable. Maybe we can find a way to print and send the Islanders to him, like a Christmas present.
It was great to catch up with him and we talked caretaker stuff for half an hour on the phone. I'm sure there are still some Club members that remember him from when he was the caretaker, back in the 1980's. He had so many great stories, like during the flood of '85 when the river was so high that he had his houseboat moored to the steps of the Clubhouse.
Ken did a lot of improvements on the Island while he was here, including the walkway from the ferry to the Clubhouse. Before he built that boardwalk, it was just a muddy path with some oyster shells thrown in for good measure. Everyone has always admired that boardwalk and the artistic way that Ken cut and laid the planks. What most of us did not realize, me included, was that the genius of this walkway lies under the planks, out of sight.
It may seem hard to believe, but buried under those planks are several heavy metal car-tire rims and metal piping (the metal pipes were salvaged from the the bridge over the canal when it was rebuilt in the 80's). Ken then fastened the wooden supports to these weights to keep it in place. It never occurred to me before, but no wonder that board walk never floated away during all these years of flooding. And apparently even the club captain at the time, John Matthews, who at first did not approve of the idea, was able to pat Ken on the back for a job well done.
Our bird feeders are less busy now. It seems that all of the gold finches have departed and the woodpeckers are lass abundant as well. I did see a late warbler passing through yesterday. Could not ID.
Tuesday -- October 10, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.76 Water Temperature: 74
Wow, it's been like July in October lately with this hot and humid weather. Thankfully the river is still nice and clear and cool and, just like last year, it looks like we will be swimming into late October.
We had a little rain yesterday, just enough to cancel the Old-timer's Picnic. The Picnic has been rescheduled for Monday November 6.
We had 1000 visitors here on Sunday. Not people of course, but grackles. They flew across the channel fifty at a time until the tops of all of the trees were alive with the fluttering and cackling of birds. They did a full sweep of the Island moving through the treetops and then, in less than an hour, they were gone. Seeing them brought back some fond memories of my first Autumn on Sycamore Island.
The swimming isn't quite over but I may decide to reel in the swim float from out in the middle of the river. It is so much easier to manage that chore while the river is low and clear.
Sunday -- October 1, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6 Water Temperature: 70
Well you know that we're having fun down here when you grab the ferry rope and you get sticky marshmallows and chocolate on your hands. It may be getting too cold for swimming but it's perfect weather for eating s'mores. I guess there's no avoiding it, Fall is here. The leaves are falling and the recent cold fronts have brought us the Fall migration of warblers. I saw a black and white warbler on Thursday and a hooded warbler on Friday. We also have a screeching red-shouldered hawk on the Island. Those squirrels better watch out.
The river is the lowest its been for over a year. It seems miraculous the we went a whole year without the river rising above 10 feet. The highest level was around 8 feet back in May. We've been lucky but you can bet that our time will come. Let's just hope that it's not too bad when it happens.
Sunday -- September 24, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7 Water Temperature: 78
It's been super busy down here this week. The river and weather conditions are perfect, plus the kids in Montgomery County didn't have school on Thursday and the DC schools were closed on Friday. I keep a list of school closings in Montgomery County so I was prepared for the onslaught on Thursday but I was really surprised to arrive back on the Island on Friday and see the place swarming with kids before noon. Mary and I are really enjoying having all of these really cute kids here and they are all so helpful and well behaved, mostly. The best part is when we're all on the ferry going back to the mainland and one of the kids says that it was the best day of their life or that Sycamore Island is their favorite place in the whole world.
I don't have any wild animal stories to share. It seems that our humming birds have left for warmer climes or maybe they aren't using our feeder since there are literally thousands of jewel weed flowers for them to feed on. On the Island we have the yellow jewel weed almost exclusively, with maybe one or two of the orange, spotted jewel weed. Along the towpath it is the exact opposite with a profusion of the spotted jewel weed growing in the canal prism for as far as the eye can see and hardly any yellow ones. The spotted ones are very pretty but they do not grow as tall and they seem to prefer that wet soggy ground. The other name for the jewl weed is touch-me-not, and yesterday I had my first seed pod explode in my hand when I touched it. Flowers going to seed, it must be Autumn.
I'm hoping that this new warm spell will reinvigorate the fishing. I haven't had very much luck this summer but someone caught a 15-incher last week, so there is still hope for me to improve my season's catch.
Thursday -- September 21, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8 Water Temperature: 75
It looks like we're headed for a beautiful weekend. Skies are clear, the air is warm and it looks like the swimming season isn't quite over yet. I thought that our swimming season had come to an abrupt end last month so it is such a pleasure to have some summer weather as we head into Fall.
Tuesday -- September 5, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9 Water Temperature: 79
Regatta, regatta, regatta! Things are quiet now but what a raucous time we had on the Island yesterday. Just like last year we had an amazing turn-out, I counted between 80 and 100 people on the Island that day. Everyone had a fabulous time and we have Mia and Steve Holland to thank for doing another excellent job of hosting the biggest day of the year on the Island. They brought the food, the drinks, the ice, the eggs for the egg toss, the ping pong balls for the canoe pick-up, the water balloons, the bullhorn, and anything else you might need for an A-plus type of regatta, incredible. And then they cleaned everything up before they left! Thank you Mia and Steve!
We started with the three-legged race, then we did the egg toss and then it was time for infamous race around the Island. There were so many racers that we ran out of boats and we had to have two separate heats of 15 boats each. What a sight it was, canoes everywhere and spectators on the mainland, on the ferry and on the Island, all cheering and waving. After the ping pong ball pick-up we started the grill and the kids started the water gun battle. All of the members pitched in to work the grill and to get the food out while I pulled the ferry back and forth all day. Luckily, there were some kids that wanted to help with the ferry, I don't think I could have done it without them. We all had such a good time that I didn't even mind scraping all of the mud off of the bathroom floors and doing all of the other cleaning up that I had to do this morning. Lets hope that Mia and Steve volunteer to run the regatta again next year!
Speaking of large crowds, I think we set some sort of record for the month of August. There were 11 sign-in sheets for the month and they were all filled in, which means that we had close to 400 people visiting the Island in one month!