Wednesday -- June 14, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 84

Three cheers for Club member Jody B. for painting all of the exterior doors of the Clubhouse!! Jody started her project during the Spring workfest and has been coming down off and on since then, painstakingly preparing and painting a total of 12 doors! I think her hard work is going to pay off and we will all be able to enjoy the beautifully painted doors for a long time! Thank you Jody thank you! I think that we should nominate Jody as the Volunteer-of-the Year!

Tuesday -- June 13, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 80

The Island is hopping! All day Saturday and Sunday and even yesterday, there has been a steady stream of bell-ringers. Can't say that I blame them, the weather is hot and the river is cool. It just make it hard to get anything done around here. I did, however, manage to launch the swim float.

BTW, some of the comments that I have heard from new members and waitlisters make me think that we need to emphasize more that this is a volunteer club. I'm the caretaker, but I can't take care of everything by myself.

I saw a chipmunk on the Island on Sunday. I'm pretty certain that I've never seen a chipmunk on Sycamore Island before. Makes you wonder how it got here. Maybe a hawk dropped it by accident.

The humming birds are regular visitors to the feeders now, so cool. We also see the prothonotary warblers regularly. It's great to have them here nesting on the Island but it may be coming to an end. I saw that the young prothonotaries have already left the nest.

Saturday -- June 10, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 72

The lawn mower has broken again. I'm not too thrilled with this machine. Last year I replaced the cable and belt and it looks like the same problem is back this year. Back to the drawing board. I hope the grass doesn't grow too much while I'm fixing it.

I had to reinstall the sink in the men's bathroom. It was very poorly installed during the renovation and it was slowly leaking out of the drain. I had to take the whole thing apart and recaulk the seal in the bowl. Seems OK now.

The mulberries are ripe and that means that every morning the young geese are here with their parents, earnestly gobbling them up. The turtles in the channel are enjoying the berries too and it's rare if a mulberry manages to float as far as the ferry before a turtle grabs it from below. It's funny though, I only see the turtles in the morning when its sunny in the channel. Once the shade hits, they head to the other side of the Island.

I ran across two deer by the canoe dock the other day. I could tell that one was a male because he already had some small antlers growing out of his head. There also seems to be a fox on the Island. I'm guessing that it's a grey fox. We've seen it's tracks in the mud and I think the fox is responsible for the mysterious holes dug along the trail at the bottom of the Island. My guess is that the fox is digging up the voles for dinner.

Wednesday -- June 7, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 72

The river is going down and warming up, and it is slowly clearing up too, so maybe some bass fishing this weekend!

Speaking of bass, I caught a nine-inch bass on Sunday with my bare hands. I was pulling the ferry toward the Island when I saw a fish near the surface of the water. It wasn't dead but it seemed to be in distress. I pulled the ferry up close and reached down to grab it. That's when I noticed what was wrong with the fish. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that there was another, smaller fish wedged, head first, in the bass's mouth. The smaller fish was too big for the bass to swallow and it's barbed fins prevented the bigger fish from spitting it out. So basically, the bass was suffocating from having his would-be meal stuck in it's gills. I did my best to try and pull the small sunfish out of the basses mouth and eventually I separated the two. The little sunny was obviously dead but the bass seemed to have a little life left in it. I thought about eating it but it was a little small so we put it back in the river and hoped that it would revive itself.

The fish sort of floated toward the muddy shore of the Island with one tiny side fin flapping. I went to tell Mary about the drama and she came back with me to see how the fish was doing. That's when we saw something else that we couldn't believe. In the short time that I was gone, a northern water snake had come along and was now trying to swallow the bass! I did not think that the snake had a chance at swallowing a fish that was at least four times as wide as it was, but for thirty minutes that snake sat on the shore and slowly stretched it's body and consumed that entire fish! Unbelievable!

Sunday -- June 4, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 72

Reminder about the Club's rule. There is no trash pick-up on the Island. You must take all of your trash with you! There is no longer a courtesy trash can in the kitchen. Please use trash bags provided and take all of your trash with you. Don't leave your trash for someone else to carry up the hill!

Also, we had a problem with some high school sophomores staying out in canoes until after dark yesterday. We love having your kids down here but please, be sure that they are aware of all of the rules. Thanks.

Friday -- June 2, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 68

The ferry is open. Yea!

The poison hemlock is growing well this year and we had several large plants that were flowering here on the Island. I knew they were a neurotoxin and that all parts of the plant could kill you if you ate them, but I never bothered to eradicate them until now. I saw something on facebook that made me worry that a child could accidentally become poisoned simply by picking the flowers and getting the residue on their hands and into the mouth. I carefully removed the four-foot plants that were growing near the captain's float, just in case. After all these year of weed whacking, it's a miracle I didn't get poisoned.

Thursday -- June 1, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 68

The ferry is still closed today but they say that by tomorrow the river will be below five feet.

Monday -- May 29, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.37     Water Temperature: 68

Happy Memorial Day!

The ferry is still closed and there's no telling when the river will recede enough to reopen. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

The tree that fell into the river just downstream of the ferry is now gone! We can now breath a sigh of relief that that strainer is no longer a menace. But the tree didn't go away on it's own and it took a lot of coaxing to get it gone.

It was last Sunday when I decided that something needed to be done with that fallen tree. The accumulating pile of debris was beginning to smell and when a carrion-eating black vulture started to forage alongside the goslings and ducklings I figured that the situation was getting urgent. I was going to call the professional tree guys but I decided to save the Club a ton of money and try to do it myself.

My hope was that if I could walk out onto the tree from shore, I might be able to cut it and free it from the roots that were still attached to the bank. Once the tree was cut, I thought, the force of the current would push the tree, and all of that trash would magically float away. I was pretty sure that I didn't want to stand out over the river cutting a log with our giant long-bar chainsaw between my legs so I used an ax instead. It was a little scary walking out over the water with the big ax in my hand but once I got into position the chopping went pretty well. Chopping an 18-inch diameter tree while standing over the river was a pretty manly way to remove the tree but sadly there came a point when I wasn't able to get a good swing.

There were some long-time members here at the time and Peter Friedman suggested that we use one of the antique saws from the clubhouse to cut the log. It was a little crazy, using a two-person saw, one person in a canoe and the other on the tree. It didn't work so well. Then young Joe Friedman used the one-person bucking saw and he was able to make some good progress with that. Sadly my strong helpers had to leave to catch an airplane and I was left on my own. I did my best to saw the log but the more I cut, the more the log pinched my saw. I decided to attach a come-along to the tree to help pull it open and allow me some room to cut. It was a lot of trouble getting the come-along in place but it didn't do anything. This was no wimpy tree that we were dealing with. It was after dark by this time and I had to quit.

The next day I went out there with a battery-powered reciprocating saw. It wasn't the best tool for the job but it felt a lot safer than being out there with a chainsaw. It took quite a bit of effort but finally I had cut the tree trunk enough to cause it to drop and separate. Thankfully there was a small sycamore tree there and I was able to grab it and hold on when the tree dropped. I had done all of the cutting that I was able to do and now the tree was out of reach.The only thing to do now was to wait and hope that I had cut it enough for it to break loose and float away when the flood waters came. Luckily for us, that's exactly what happened last night.

Saturday -- May 27, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 68

The ferry is closed today due to flooding. The ferry will remain closed until at least Monday morning.

Friday -- May 26, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 66

The river is going up and it looks as if I'll have to close the ferry later today. It's been a bad month for high water and ferry closings. The ferry has already been closed for 12 of the last 20 days and now it looks like we will be closed for these last days of May! Lets hope that things change for next month and we can get out there and enjoy the river.

The river did go down long enough for us to have the 62nd annual Down River Race, sponsored by Sycamore Island and the Canoe Cruisers Association. It was a great time with good weather and it was fun to have all of those hardcore paddlers here on Sycamore Island. This race has a long tradition and it has always been an exciting part of my life down here on Sycamore Island. I've missed the last three races so it was good to be back in the fold. I remember the 50th annual race when Angus Phillips wrote it up in the Washington Post and we had Bob Harrigan here, one of the original racers from 1956!

The preparations started last Friday when Gerry came down and we hoisted up the finish line across the river. Gerry did some other things to get ready. Later, the race organizer of the CCA, Howard Morland, came down to deliver the food and beverages.

On Saturday morning, we were up early moving tables and making lemonade for the racers. The relief caretakers were here, Eric and Audrey Lieberman, as was George Mulusky, our entertainment committee chair. Everyone was so nice and they all did a great job getting the Island ready for the onslaught of racers.

The first of the competitors arrived about noon. I heard that the fastest racers did the whole 7.5 miles in less than one hour! We were ready with the post-race cookies and the fried chicken lunch. Before long the Island was crawling with happy people all wearing identical t-shirts, day-glow race T's that were given to all the racers and volunteers. Then it was time for the awards and the ice cream! Thanks to everyone that pitched in. The crew from the CCA did a marvelous job at cleaning up and putting everything away. Someone even took my recyclables up the hill! Thanks to George and Eric and Audrey for getting everything ready and being so good-spirited about it. Hopefully we'll get some more Sycamore Islanders in the race next year.

Wednesday -- May 24, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature: 66

My fundraiser and Blog, Canal BY Canoe, was featured in last week's Potomac Almanac! Here is the link to the print version.

Thanks for all your support to raise money to get kids into the Park!

Thursday -- May 18, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 60

The ferry is open!

The river went down a little faster than expected so we're open for business!

Yesterday was the day, the day that the momma goose finally gave up on her four eggs that she had laid back on March 20. I'm not sure how they decide that it's time to give up but when I went out there yesterday morning the eggs were in the nest all alone.

Wednesday -- May 17, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.3     Water Temperature: 58

The ferry is still closed today and tomorrow, but it's looking good for Friday and the weekend. The river crested at 6.54 feet and is slowly going back down.

A tree fell into the river just downstream from the ferry. It's not in the way yet but it has created a big strainer and it is catching a lot of flotsom, driftwood and trash. At this rate we'll soon have to clear a path for the ferry. Right now the edge of the pile is just a canoe's length away.

Having that strainer so close makes me a little nervous too, the strong current there could easily pin someone underwater. On the positive side, all of that debris has created a new place for the sanderlings and sandpipers to forage and we've been getting some close-up views of them.

Friday -- May 12, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 58

The ferry is closed...again. Can you believe it? The river didn't spend very much time below five feet and now we have to close the Island for another weekend!

BTW, since the river is so high, and getting higher, the CCA had to postpone the 62nd annual, Down River Race. The new race date is next Saturday, May 20, put it on your calendars!

No promises as to when the ferry will be running again. They are calling for another inch of rain yet, before it's all over.

Wednesday -- May 10, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 64

One of the most important jobs after a flood is to push the docks back out into the river, before the water gets too low. When the river goes up, the docks naturally float toward the middle of the Island. When the river goes down the docks are left high and dry, like beached whales, up on the bank. I try to stay ahead of the receding river but the river keeps dropping while I sleep so sometimes, like yesterday, I wake up to find the docks half grounded. I was afraid we were going to have to have another workfest just to push the big docks back out into the river but I pulled out the caretakers bag of tricks and I was able to get the docks back out without calling for the cavalry.

Big news, there was a humming bird at the feeder yesterday! I put up the humming bird feeders last week and this is the first time that I've seen the birds at the feeder. Lets hope they stick around. The other exciting bird that I saw was a indigo bunting. It's a spectacular, blue bird and I'm sure that I've never seen one on the Island before. This bird is more common at higher elevations.

Monday -- May 8, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.2     Water Temperature: 64

The river got up to 8.3 feet yesterday before it started to go back down. I was surprised at how high it got and how fast it was rising on Saturday. Mary and I had to hurry on Saturday afternoon as we prepared the Island for the flood. The dock on the Island was under water when we arrived so we had to deploy the ferry bench to act as a bridge from the ferry to the island. It was amazing to watch the stairs on the mainland quickly disappear under the muddy water as we tied up the ferry and raised the tow rope. We also had to free the ferry from a thirty-foot log/tree that was wedged against the safety chains. The other important job was to get some floatation under the ramp for the plastic dock. Without it, that heavy ramp would sink to the bottom.

It was quite the adrenaline rush being on the Island as the water quickly closed in around us and it was even more of an adrenaline rush canoeing across the channel to the mainland. It's a very short trip but we were glad to get out of the middle of the river with all of those big trees sailing by us.

There was a little excitement here last week, apparently I was a missing person for about twenty minutes.

There was a family of members here last Thursday and when they were ready to leave they rang the bell, but no one answered. They searched the top of the Island calling my name but they still got no response. After not finding me they began to get worried and decided to call the Club president and alert him and then they got panicy and searched my apartment, thinking that I may have suddenly fallen ill. Meanwhile, I'm down at the bottom of the Island, busily chopping stinging nettles, when my phone starts blowing up and I realize that something is up. When I got back to the ferry I felt like the prodigal son, and it was really touching to see how glad they were to see me, having come back from the dead and all.

I guess the wind was blowing in such a way that I couldn't hear the bell so I supposed I should have told them where I would be, so that maybe they wouldn't assume the worse. I am so touched by the concern for my health, but maybe I should tell you all that I had my one-year, follow-up cardiologist appointment this past week and the doctor said that my heart was beautiful and that my stress test was perfect(his actual words). So maybe we can dial back on the panic button a little bit. Thanks for worrying about me!

Saturday -- May 6, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 68

The ferry is closed today due to flooding. Ferry will remain closed until further notice, probably Tuesday.

Thursday -- May 4, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 68

We had Potomac catfish for dinner last night and it was delicious. The sausage had gone bad so we used it as bait and before we knew it we caught two nice catfish and we were eating fresh grilled fish for dinner. We made a bit of a mess getting them cleaned, but I think we satisfied our inner hunter-gatherer for a while. Plus, it's not smart to eat fish from this river everyday, especially catfish.

The goose that laid her eggs under the deck on March 20 is still out there waiting for them to hatch. There must be something wrong, her eggs were supposed to hatch by April 20 and here it is May. The two other nests were successful and those geese are long gone, so we're a little worried about what's going to happen. How long will she wait before she gives up?

Sunday -- April 30, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 72

Mary and I got back from our vacation today, 65 miles down the Potomac in 11 days! We paddled up to the Island at about 4:30 after putting in on the canal at Swain's lock at 11:00 am this morning. Peter Jones was there to greet us, along with some other Islanders. It's nice to be back and the first thing that Mary and I noticed was how much greener the Island was after just a week. It was amazing to see the dramatic change.

Make sure that you go to Canal By and check out all of the cool pictures and stories about our trip down the mighty Potomac.

Wednesday -- April 19, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 66

No baby geese yet. I thought that we would see some little feather balls walking around by now but nothing yet.

One of my favorite new waitlist- members was down yesterday. The last time Steve came down he brought us some gourmet salt. This time he brought down some new ping pong paddles and balls, little soccer balls for the foosball table and some chalk for the pool cues! Thanks Steve! I know some young members are going to be happy to see some real foosballs on that table.

I'm all ready for the workfest on Sunday. They are calling for rain so we might not get the painting and staining done but we can at least get those docks out.

I hauled a bunch of trash out to the dump the other day and I installed the plywood over the insulation under my living room.

Club Captain, Stan Fowler was here yesterday. He came prepared to redo the chains that hold the zip-line. He wanted to protect our trees from being damaged by the chains so he cleverly attached wood blocks to the chain to keep them from digging into the trees. He also cleaned up the cable and added new bolts and added tennis balls to absorb the impact. Nice work Stan!

Finally, make sure that you follow and read about our trip down the Potomac River from Brunswick!

Monday -- April 10, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 58

The ferry is open.

Friday -- April 7, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 58

Lots of rain yesterday and now the FERRY IS CLOSED.

The ferry will be closed tomorrow and Sunday as well.

Workfest postponed until April 23!

Thursday -- April 6, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 58

The Wildflower Walk is on Saturday and it looks like the flowers are cooperating with the schedule. The bluebells are at their peak right now and the Island looks as if it is hosting a flower show. Most of the flowers that you'll see on the flower walk are here on the Island, like Dutchman's breeches, cutleaf toothwort, squirrel corn, sessile trillium and the spring beauties. Some flowers that you'll see, we don't have down here on the low-lying Island such as the bloodroot and the twin leaf. You will probably see some trout lilies but they will be yellow ones. Sycamore Island is the only place that I've seen the white variety of trout lily. Just another example of what makes Sycamore Island so special.

I'm not sure if they are considered wild flowers but there is a nice big grove of common blue violets near the bottom of the Island. They are not as showy as the bluebells but lovely just the same.

Wednesday -- April 5, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 56

The ferry is open.

Monday -- April 3, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.3     Water Temperature: 56

The ferry is closed. The prediction is that the ferry will be closed through Wednesday at least. You can check the levels at this site.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that we can still have the workfest on Sunday.

The cormorants are back and there are wood ducks everywhere. Back in the 1980's when I first started watching birds, it was rare and exciting to see a wood duck even in remote areas. So to have them abundant here inside the beltway is really cool. I just learned that wood ducks will commonly lay their eggs in another wood ducks nest. I always wondered why we sometimes see the mother wood duck with twenty or more chicks swimming behind her.

Saturday -- April 1, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.95     Water Temperature: 56

We decided to close the ferry today. the river is not quite five feet but because of the the strong wind we thought that it would be safer to keep the ferry closed.

Judging by the river predictions, the ferry will be closed tomorrow as well.