CARETAKER'S LOG


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 canalbycanoe.com 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. http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=lwx

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.

Thursday -- March 30, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 58


I had to replace the pulleys on the safety chains for the ferry yesterday. Every two years or so they wear out. Once they wear out, they get stuck. Once they get stuck the ferry gets stuck in the middle of the river, usually on a Saturday when I'm not here. So I replaced the pulleys. It was a little dicey standing on the stepladder on the ferry using both hands to install the pulley. The trick was to make sure that the ferry didn't move while I was standing on it.

There has been a second goose nest spotted down near the bottom of the Island near the new stick hut. That makes two, and I'm guessing that we'll have a third nest up near the top of the Island before too long.

Thursday -- March 23, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 48


Things are really picking up in terms of the bird activity. Partly because of the season and partly due to having bird feeders kept full of sunflower seeds, I've seen twenty-one different species of birds today and about 75 individuals! That's not even counting the shore birds or ducks.

I also counted three squirrels at the feeder.

Tuesday -- March 21, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 48


The river shot up yesterday, somewhat surprisingly. I guess that there was some melting of what little snowpack there was in the mountains. The river got very close to five feet but it's leveled off now. Pretty mellow for a Spring freshet (flood).

Monday -- March 20, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 48


Happy first day of Spring!

It seems appropriate that one of our resident geese pairs would lay their eggs precisely on the first day of Spring. That means that we'll have some baby goslings running around here by Easter Sunday!The not-so-good thing is that they built their nest very near the house, directly under the outside corner of the deck. This is a high traffic area on the Island so I hope we don't disturb their nest too much. I discovered the nest by chance the other day. I happened to be walking near the corner of the deck when all of the sudden two adult geese began honking and hissing and charging at me. I retreated quickly wondering what I had done. It wasn't until later, when I peaked from the safety of the screen porch, that I realized I had walked too close to the new nest. The geese always seem to bring a lot of drama to the nesting season.

There are goldfinches nesting nearby as well and it's cool to see the males now with their splotchy color pattern as they molt from dull olive to bright yellow.

Wednesday -- March 15, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 38


Yikes, it looks like winter wasn't quite over yet. The bluebells and daffodils thought that it was safe to come out and I thought it was safe to turn the water on in the clubhouse but this crazy weather had other plans. Now the ground is covered with four inches of ice, its 20 degrees and the wind is blowing at 20 miles an hour! Now, I have to leave the faucets in the Clubhouse dripping so that the pipes don't freeze! I hope the bluebells will recover ok. They have had snow on them before but I'm not sure I've ever seen them completely buried.

The temperature of the water is dropping as well and the river went from 52 degrees down to 38 degrees in four days! I guess I unlocked the club boats to early as well.

The weather is cold but the birdlife on the Island has become very active. The geese have paired up and are now looking for nesting spots. The eaglets across the river have hatched and are now keeping the adult eagles very busy. The wintering water fowl are passing through on their way back north and we've seen scaups, grebes and mergansers. Our island nesters are arriving as well, and now the call of the red-winged blackbird is common, and I just saw my first Phoebe. The most unusual sighting I've had for this late winter time of year was a great egret. What a treat to have this majestic bird of white framed with a background of snow.

One of the new members was here the other day. She had brought her kids and some friends down to enjoy the Island on a warm weekday. The funny and sad thing was that they had no idea about how to ring the bell for the caretaker. I saw them standing there on the stairs, but having groups of people on our landing is an hourly occurrence so I did not pay any attention to them. They did not leave right away and eventually got my attention. Normally, I don't respond well to someone on the opposite shore yelling "you-who" but luckily for them I went over and picked them up and taught them the most fundamental rule of The Sycamore Island Club, how to ring the bell.

I fixed the ping-pong table. I had ordered the new caster bars to replace the ones that had broken and finally got around to installing them. It was a very tricky job to do alone but I figured it out and now the ping-pong is back in action. So PLEASE, don't sit on the ping-pong table.

I installed some new blinds to go with the new windows that I installed in my quarters. They are two-inch faux wood blinds and they match very nicely with my furnishings and the faux wood paint job that I did on the window trim and baseboard. They provide privacy yet allow the light to come through. They really add a lot to my quarters and I think the next caretaker will appreciate them.

BTW, the CCA, Down River Race is on May 13, not the 18th or 19th as stated in the Islander.

Friday -- March 3, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 50


The Virginia bluebells are starting to bloom. When the temperatures went into the eighties last week, we knew we were going to get an early Spring. We saw the first open bluebell blossoms on Sunday. Last year it was on this date that the bluebells were just beginning to break through the ground, so it looks like the bluebells are blooming a full two weeks ahead of last year. Isn't it great to have this log to annually record how the plants and animals are responding to a changing climate.

There are some other signs of this early Spring. I've seen wood ducks, and cormorants and red-winged blackbirds and the sprouts on the long willow branches, hanging like green beads on a dangling string. These are all welcome signs of the coming season but this year I don't seem to have the same glee about Spring as I have had in the past. This past winter was so mild that I never got a chance to really miss the warm weather or the sound of the birds singing or the leaves on the trees. The short winter meant that I never got to see a frozen canal or a towpath covered in deep snow. Spring is such an exciting time but somehow this year it seems tainted.