CARETAKER'S LOG


Sunday -- June 21, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature:80


Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!! It looks like its going to be a nice day.

It has been an exciting week down here with lots of new improvements to brag about. The weather cooperated too, giving us just enough time for the contractors to come down and make improvements.

First we removed all of the old plywood from the docks and installed all new 3/4 inch plywood to the swim dock, swim float and the Captain John Matthews memorial dock.

We also removed the old railing from the ferry and installed a fancy new railing designed by Stan Fowler. Dave Winer was instrumental in getting the new railings stained and helping me to get the new stanchions painted, then the contractors did the rest.

Another fancy new development is the addition of stairs leading down the bank at the swim float and a new dock ramp there too. The contractors even helped me to launch the swim dock when it was all done. It is going to be a big improvement over last year when we had to slip and slide down the bank to get to the river.

There is never a dull moment while the workers are here. I was always busy getting things ready for them or doing the detail work like installing ladder to the swim dock, adding the hinges for the ramp, and assembling Stan's one-of-a-kind railing. I also had to repaint all of the stanchions and help Dave with staining the boards.

It was also my job to waterproof the frames of the docks while the decks were off. Plus, I painted two casement windows. I did not get much grass cut this week.

Saturday -- June 13, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature:80


The temperature of the river is now up to 80 degrees. It just might be warm enough for me to take a dip. And the weather today is perfect too!

As predicted, the tree that fell downstream of the ferry is starting to trap a lot of driftwood, litter and foamy slim. I had to paddle out there yesterday and spend a couple of hours trying to clear some of that stuff out. It's amazing just how tightly packed all of that debris becomes. I felt like I was trying to break up a beaver dam. It wasn't an easy job, and it was a very messy job as well but I was able to free a lot of the crap and send it down river. The warm water made it a little less miserable.

Exciting news, we're hoping to get all of the docks resurfaced this week and soon we hope to be able to push them out into the river. I know everyone is looking forward to that. The even more exciting development is that we are also getting steps installed at the swim float area. It has long been a problem getting down that muddy back to the swim float and I've been trying to come up with solutions. Then one day it hit me. I'd like to say that it was my idea but in truth it was something I saw in an old photo of the Island. Apparently, back in the forties maybe, there was something known as the "swim steps". From the old picture I saw it looked like the steps were removable and were probably taken in every winter. It seems like the perfect solution, let's hope they work out.

Saturday -- June 6, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature:76


We've had some strong downpours recently but the river is not expected to go up too much. Four and half feet is predicted for the rest of the week, not so high that we have to close but not a fun level for using the ferry.

Our resident red-shouldered hawk has left the nest. I think I heard it calling for it's parents down by the bottom of the Island, but I'll probably never see it again.

Good news about the eagles nest. I spied not one, but two young eagles in the nest this week. I even heard one call out with it's high pitched screech!

I never did mention the howling, banshee sounds that I heard last month. I guessed that it was a group of coyotes across the river at Turkey Run Park. From the sound of it I would say that there were at least three, probably four animals yelping. And the moon was full too!

I ordered the patching material that I'm going to need to patch up one of the Club canoes and one Club kayak. Both craft are suffering with holes in the hull. It's nice to have a supplier, Sweet Composite, tight here in the neighborhood and within our Club as well!

I also ordered a pressure washer for the Club. We've never had a pressure washer here before but I think it is going to be a welcome addition. Unlike all the other pressure washers that I've used, this one is electric for easy use and convenience, yet still powerful, 2050 PSI! The Club captain, Alec, encouraged me to buy it so that we can keep the decks, and walkways looking clean and mildew-free, and also to make them less slippery.

Another purchase that I made recently was a new set of block and tackle for the ferry rope. It's vital to have the mechanical advantage of the pulley system to tighten the rope across the river, and the old gear that we have now is broken, rusty and unreliable.

I used up all of the $400 that the Club gave me for petty cash with these purchases, but it was nice to have the money on hand when I needed it to buy sanitizer and wipes for the Club.

Wednesday -- May 27, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature:72


The river is warming up nicely, now if it would only clear up and go down.

I can sit outside my front door and look up and see a young red-shouldered hawk sitting it its nest high in the sycamore by the boardwalk. I seems to have shed most of it's downy feathers and it shouldn't be long before it leaves the nest. So cool, just like watching Nature on PBS! Some of the other young birds I've seen include the Canada geese, of course, pheobes, titmice, mallards, and wood ducks. So far no sightings of the baby bluebirds. No activity at the eagles nest, might have had a bad outcome over there.

Some of the other birds that are just arriving include, eastern king bird, cedar wax wings, yellow-billed cuckoo, humming birds and night herons. I saw a cape may warbler and a barred owl up on Ruppert's yesterday!

Wednesday -- May 20, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature:62


Holy cow! Another huge sycamore tree fell into the river! This time the tree fell just downstream from the ferry, and I actually saw it fall! I was staring out the window while talking to my brother on the phone, as one does, and watched it slowly fall. There were two young people on the ferry and they had just launched from the mainland when BOOM, the tree crashed down with a giant splash, just six feet of them.

One of the high branches of the tree hit the Pepco power line that runs across the river but fortunately, the three-inch branch snapped and did not take down the power line. I was afraid, when I first assessed the damage, that all of the weight of the tree was resting on the power line, but no, it was just the big broken branch that was snagged on the power line that was causing it to sag.

Having that large branch hanging on my power line, and more importantly, my Fios internet cable, made me nervous. I paddled out there with some rope and some hand saws to see if I could remedy the situation. It was definitely tricky, getting the canoe under the fallen tree and climbing up to the branches that I needed to cut. I made good progress at first, cutting away the branches that were sticking up high near the power line., but I could not get that darn branch off of the power line. The branch was too heavy to lift off of the line and those darn sycamore branches are so curvy that the branch was actually hooked over the cable. I was about to give up but decided to try to twist the branch instead of lift it. To my utter surprise and great relief, the branch slid off the cable and splashed in the river below me! Wohoo!!!

It remains to be seen just how much trouble that this tree will cause, lying just downstream from the ferry and trapping and collecting everything that floats by. We'll just have to hope for the best and work on trimming it down in the mean time.

In other news, because of the virus I've roped off some areas around my quarters and I locked up the second floor of the Clubhouse and the tool shed. The defibrillator and the first-aid kit are now stored in the screen porch.

I also managed to shove the big, metal ramp for the canoe dock into the river. The canoe dock is not in the river right now, and I saw some members struggling to get their canoes launched. One family even built a makeshift ramp out of some old rotted logs in an attempt to avoid the mud. The ramp isn't as good as having a dock but it does allow you to get a canoe in the river without sinking into the soft mud by the river.

Now that we are semi-closed, I don't have to listen for the bell or pull the ferry, but there are still plenty of chores to keep me busy. Like cutting all of this "grass" that is suddenly growing like mad.

The last of the goose eggs hatched last night! This morning the cute little chicks are huddled next their mother in their down-covered nest. I'm glad that they are finally hatched and that they will soon be leaving that nest that's next to the screen porch. The adult geese have been pestering anyone who came near the nest.

Wednesday -- May 6, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.9     Water Temperature:59


It looks like I'll be coming and going in a canoe for a while. It's been a whole week since the dock went under water and it looks as though it will be at least another week before we see it again. The river crested at nearly 9 feet on Saturday (90,000 CFS) and right now it's 33,500 CFS.

There wasn't any damage from the high water, except piles of gooey mud on the boardwalk. The rising water didn't cause any problems but sometimes the timing of the receeding waters can give me headaches. Usually, I try to monitor the river as it's going down so that I can push the docks out with the water. Otherwise, they get beached, high and dry, on the Island. This past weekend, the water went down overnight, while I was sleeping. I woke up to find that the Captain's float, and it's many heavy segments, had drifted inland and was left a little further from the river. It could mean that we're in for some extra labor at the workday, unless, that is, the river goes up again and I can float them back out over to the river.

The other, more important issue during these river-drops, is the ferry. It's really a big problem if the ferry gets hung up on the posts for the dock. If the ferry gets stuck on the post and the river goes down enough, it could be near impossible to lift it up to get it off of the post. That's what happened the other day but in this case it wasn't too extreme.

The ferry was hung up, but there was only a small, six-inch, drop in the river. I was so glad that I got out there when I did and I was able to use my weight at the opposite end of the ferry, (leaning way out like in a racing catamaran), to lift the lip of the ferry off of the post, whew! Luckily, my little bit of weight was enough. I don't know what I would have done otherwise.

It's not looking too good for our hopes of reopening the Club. As of yesterday, 27,117 confirmed cases of the virus in Maryland, the most yet. 6 persons per 1000 in Montgomery County have contracted the virus. Major bummer

Friday -- April 24, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature:53


We're still adjusting to this new normal. Life on the river just ain't what it used to be. It's kinda weird to have so many people on the towpath and on the Sycamore trail everyday of the week. People in masks hiking, biking, running, and walking their dogs, but nobody on the Island or on the ferry. The ferry landing is a popular place though. Lots of people like to stand there and look at the river. Some folks even laid out a blanket and spent the afternoon camped out on the stairs.

Thankfully, it's considered essential to go outside for exercise and I've gotten off the Island and taken a couple of great hikes along the Great Seneca Greenway Trail. I'll have to write a trail description about it so that you guys can go check it out. Lot's of history.

It's too bad to have the Island closed during the Springtime, but so far we haven't missed too many nice-weather days. The weather has been mostly cold, rainy and very windy, not exactly paddling weather. And the temperature of the river actually went down! Brrr!

The weather hasn't been great, but it has been favorable for pulling weeds and invasive plants. I've been busy pulling up the lesser celandine and the knotweed, but overall I'm so proud of us and the great job that we've done at keeping the aggressive plants in check. There are hardly any oriental bittersweet or wisteria vines on the Island. The Japanese knotweed is coming up now but there are only a fraction of the number of plants that we've had in the past, and, it's being out-competed but one of our local favorites, the false Solomon's seal with it's subtle white blossoms. Also, there are very few garlic mustard. Sadly, the lesser celandine will be a constant battle for years to come.

Wednesday -- April 22, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature:53


Happy Earth Day!!

I am so bummed that we were not able to have our first annual Bluebell Bash Music Performance that was scheduled for last Sunday. It would have been so great, the river was low enough, and weather-wise it was one of the warmer days that we have had so far this year. I was really looking forward to a fun-filled day with lots of new and old members, and waitlisters, all getting together. And of course, I was looking forward to the chance to sing and play guitar for everyone. We'll just have to have an extra-special event next year at the Second Annual Bluebell Bash!

There are two newly hatched goslings on/near the Island now, two puffy little tennis balls with beaks, bobbing in the waves with their parents. They are from the first nest down at the bottom of the Island. Three of the five eggs in that nest did not hatch and were abandoned in the nest.

Monday -- April 13, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature:58


That was a pretty good rain that we had last night. I see that Seneca creek shot way up and is high enough to paddle today, in case anyone out there wants some high creek excitement this morning.

Normally, I'd be talking about the river going up and about the ferry closing, (it's predicted to crest tomorrow at 6.2 feet at the Little Falls gauge), but sadly, the ferry is already closed on account of the virus. Boo Whoo.

I've been managing pretty well during this "stay at home" order. I'm only going out for essentials, which means I'm not doing my regular trips to the hardware for materials and supplies. Luckily, I do have enough bleach cleaner to clean the decks and steps, most of them anyway. I also had enough transparent stain to stain the steps of the shed that I had already cleaned last month. Next on my list are a couple of painting projects, casement windows, shed roof, etc. It's good to have chores to do, it keeps me from staring out the window all day. Although, staring out the window is not a bad thing, it keeps me from staring at the ubiquitous computer screen all day, whew.

Typically, I'm not too worried about thieves or vandals trespassing on the Island and doing damage, but I do think that it is important that I maintain a presence here on the Island during this shut-down. Especially since my mountain bike was stolen from the Island while I was laid up at Mary's last month. The ferry had been left unlocked accidentally, (maybe by me), and some jerk took advantage and pulled themselves over on the ferry and took my bike. The bike was not locked and was stored under the shed. Thankfully, nothing else was stolen or damaged. The bike was not expensive, a 2009 Gary Fischer, "Whahoo", silver. If you happen to see it.

Thursday -- April 9, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature:62


I found another new goose nest on the Island. This one is only ten feet from my front door?! Those darn geese built their nest right next to the walkway that runs under my living room. I had to place some chairs across the path just so I wouldn't accidentally walk there and risk the wrath of the male goose that is always ready to pounce.

I discovered two more goose nests up at Ruppert's Island. One silly goose built her nest right in the middle of an old tire that was washed up there.

There is a lot of activity down at the eagle's nest too. I was concerned about that nest since it had been weeks since I had seen both of the adults together. The chick, or chicks should be about a month old now and there should be more activity around the nest as the adults work to keep the young ones fed. It was fun to watch through the spotting scope as the male eagle tried to swoop down on a group of female hooded megansers. The eagle was totally outmatched by the foxy ducks who simply dove underwater every time the eagle passed over. I realize that the eagles have more mouths to feed now, but maybe they should stick with catching fish.

The Carolina wrens seem to be on the same nesting schedule as the eagles and I was surprised to see that a brood of young wrens has already been fledged. Those cute little guys were perching on my windows yesterday with their baby downy feathers still sticking out of the tops of their heads.

Monday -- April 6, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature:58


The ferry, and the Island are closed, and will be closed until further notice.

Below is the link to the Governor's order.

https://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Gatherings-FOURTH-AMENDED-3.30.20.pdf

Saturday -- April 4, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature:58


It's been a couple of weeks since I posted anything so I figured I should try to get everyone up to date.

Sadly, like everything else, we had to close the Island. But even though the ferry is locked up, I have been going down there periodically to check on things. I'm staying at Mary's while I recuperate and while we wait for this pandemic to subside. It just make sense for us to stay on the mainland and pool our resources while we wait it out. Plus, until my weak heart is at full strength again, we thought that it would be smart for me to be close to the main road and have easy access to the hospital. You know, just in case.

We made the trip down there last week so that I could gather some clothes and things, and to look at the bluebells of course. I wanted to update the answering machine and to put up the "Ferry Closed " sign. We also had to go down there to raise the ferry rope and the bell rope since the river was predicted to go above five feet.

Strangely, getting to the Island while trying to maintain social distancing has been a challenge. Normally, walking down to the island on a Monday morning would be a solitary experience, but since no one is working and everyone wants to get outside, the trail to the Island is one of the busiest places around. Mary and I had to plan our visits accordingly and we were careful to sneak down there early in the morning, or after dark.

It was fun to be back on the Island after being away for so long. We walked around to say hi to all of our bird friends and we tried to drink in the beauty of all of those bluebells and other wildflowers.

We also wanted to check on the Canada Geese that nest on the Island every year at this time. It may be too early to know for sure but sadly there seems to be only one pair of geese nesting on the Island so far. I said this last year, but we seem to be coming to and the end of an era. We could be drawing nearer to the time when there will no longer be geese nesting on Sycamore Island. Last year there were only three nests on the Island, this year only one. So sad. During my first Spring on the Island there were close to twenty active goose nests on the Island. There was even a nest on the roof of the canoe shed!

While we were there we saw some migrating warblers, several yellow-rumped warblers and one palm warbler. They may have been migrating through, but let's hope they stick around and nest on the Island! No sign yet of anyone nesting in the birdhouse that I bought. My doctor has given me the green light to resume most of my normal activities so I will be going down to the Island more regularly now. My heart needs time to heal but part of that healing is doing the cardiac rehab and slowly increasing my tolerance for strenuous activity. With the ferry being closed for the virus, there won't be a need for me to ferry the members back and forth, but there are a few chores that I can do and some other maintenance-type things that I will need to keep up with. Another reason to be there is so that I can update the log on the old website since I am unable to do that remotely, like I am able to do with the new club express site.

Sunday -- March 22, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0 Water Temperature: 56


Ferry is Closed.

This is one of those stories that reminds us that you never really know what's going to happen next. It was Thursday, March 19, St. Joseph's Day, and the weather promised to be warm and sunny. I couldn't think of a better way to get away from people than by setting out in a canoe, so I planned a mini expedition up to Minnies Island, about two miles upstream. There is an abandoned house there that was once used by the Potomac Conservancy, and since it had been about eight years since I last visited, I thought that it would be a fun place explore.

Minnies Island is not visible from Sycamore Island, there is a big bend in the river, so instead of hugging the Maryland shore I made a b-line towards the inside of the bend on the Virginia shore. Good birding all the way and I even saw some hooded grebes that were now in their bright orange breeding plumage, a rare sight this far inland. Once I got past the lake-like water above the dam I had to fight against a pretty strong current. I hadn't checked the river gauge before I left and the river was higher than I had expected. Usually, if the river is over 3.5 I don't attempt to paddle upsteam too far. I found out later that the water level was 3.8 and rising, no wonder it was difficult.

No worries, it gave me a chance to try some alternate routes upstream and it was fun to hug the Virginia shore for a change, especially since there were a few hikers to wave to as they hiked along the trail at Turkey Run Park. I made it past the rocky point with the high cliffs above me on my left and soon I was paddling hard to get past one of the ridges that I needed to ascend in order to reach Minnies. It felt good to exert myself and get my lungs pumping.

I took a water break behind an eddy and prepared for the next ledge. This ledge gave me a lot of trouble and I started to wonder about just how high the water was. The large volume of water forced me to traverse across the river, looking for an easier path upstream. By now I was working really hard and sweating. It was really starting to feel like an expedition as I was determined to reach my goal despite the ledges and pushy whitewater. I was forced to traverse back across the entire river, maybe 200 yards toward Maryland, until I reached the shelter of some small islands. There I was able to squeak through some small channels between the rocks and closer to my goal. I was pretty hankered by then but my destination was within reach. Just one more 100 foot channel to overcome.

A group of crows greeted me and kept watch over me as I rested and listened to their chatter. There was an attractive looking sand bar on the far side, at the very bottom of Minnies, but I chose not to land there since the vines looked impenetrable. I crossed the channel and tried to paddle along the Virginia-facing side of Minnies but the current was just too strong and I had to land at the first tree along the bank that I came to. It was about 3:30 by then.

Minnies is smaller than Sycamore Island but the banks are high and steep. I had to crawl up twenty feet to level ground and then I had to struggle through the jungle of vines that made it difficult to get to the upstream side of the island where the house was. I was amazed at how overgrown the island had become, but otherwise not much had changed since my last visit. When I reached the house I climbed the steps to the large deck and I peeked in the windows. I was surprised to see that there were still a lot of miscellaneous items scattered about inside; books, binoculars, bleach bottles and a pot bellied stove. There was also an EARTH DAY flag hanging by one nail outside, above the bolted door. I stood on a chair to pull it down and I stuffed it in my pack. I was pretty certain that no one would miss it.

I ate my snacks and drank some water before I walked around the house to see what else I could find. There is a small cove next to the house and as I stood by the water I started to feel some discomfort in my chest. I brushed it off, thinking that it was just my lungs recovering from the trip upstream. I wasn't worried but I thought that maybe I should start heading back to Sycamore Island, since it had taken me longer than I thought it would to paddle up to Minnies, plus I had a good 30-minute paddle back.

I worked my way back to my canoe and noticed some yellow ragwort flowers blooming on the bank, but I didn't seem to have the energy to dig out my iPad to take a picture. I climbed into the boat and let the fast current carry me back the way I came. It was 3:50 by then. I quickly passed by the two most difficult ledges, but I wasn't enjoying the rapids as I might have otherwise. I was starting to feel worse and found myself being reluctant to paddle. My phone made the noise that someone had texted me. I dug it out of my pack to see who it was but I didn't seem to have the energy to reply. My chest pain was getting worse by then, and I figured it would be a good idea to tell someone where I was and how I felt. There was no question, I had to call Mary.

Thankfully she picked up the phone. I told her that I was experiencing chest pain and if she would be so kind, could she please call my cardiologist, just to see if they are open and around. We hung up, but I must have sounded distressed because right away she called me back, even before calling the doctor. Joe, she said, go to Lock Seven. I don't think that I was thinking very clearly at that point, and I told her that maybe I had already passed Lock Seven. Thankfully though, I realized that I was actually parallel with the lock, but stll a few hundred feet out in the middle of the river. Yes, I said, I'll paddle to Lock Seven and meet you there.

That was at 4:00. While she was busy driving and calling the doctor I was fighting off the urge to take a nap. My body did not seem like it wanted to paddle and I sat there with limp arms for a few seconds. I was hoping that the river would carry me in the right direction, but I quickly realized that I needed to paddle if I wanted to get to shore. By now, with the pain radiating down my left arm, I was sure I was having a heart attack. I had felt this kind of chest-crushing pain before, back in 2016 when I needed my first stent, so even though that had not been an actual heart attack, I knew the signs and I guessed that I had over-exerted my heart in my ascent to Minnies. I could see the white of the lockhouse to my left but I had one more tricky ledge to navigate. I knew the slot that I had to hit and now I was very glad to have the extra water in the river to get me past that small and bony passage. I made it past the ledge, had to, but the pain by now was debilitating. Decision making and route finding were near impossible as I floated past one more tiny island to a place where I could see a low gravel bank. I gathered my strength and I went for it.

Once the tip of my canoe touched the shore, I slid off of my seat and slumped down with my butt on the bottom of the canoe and my back resting against the seat. I waved and shouted to a lady that was walking her dog along the trail. I wanted someone to lead Mary to where I was. She wasn't much help. My phone rang and I instictively picked it up. It wasn't Mary so I hung up and dropped the phone back down to the bottom of the canoe. Turns out that it was my cardiologist calling. Soon Mary arrived, she had no trouble finding me, and I was so happy to see her racing across the gravel bar. Even before she reached me I told her to call 911, I was having a heart attack. Calling 911 from a mobile phone can be confusing for the dispatchers, but Mary knew what to say about our location near Glen Echo, and the dispatchers had the rescue squad from the Glen Echo Fire Department on their way. That must have been about 4:15.

Right away we heard the sirens and Mary assuringly told me that that sound was for me. It seemed like a long time between the time we saw the fire trucks and the time the EMTs arrived at the canoe but it was still only 4:32 when they did the EKG on me while I was sitting in the canoe (after putting a mask over my nose and mouth, of course) My phone rang again and this time Mary picked it up. It was the cardiologist again who started asking about my symptoms until Mary told him that we had already called 911. It was amazing, Mary was on the phone with the doctor and with the dispatcher, who was on the line with the EMTs, directing them where to go. As it turned out, my cardiologist was the emergency doctor on call that day, so there was no hesitation, I was going to Suburban, even though Sibley might have been closer. What a break. No hugs or kisses, my job was to sit still, I didn't even have the strength to open my eyes. I was awake and listening to the EMTs and it was amazing to hear them make dozens of split-second decisions. It seems that they may have deployed the river rescue guys too and there was another ATV rescue vehicle coming along the towpath. After looking at my scary EKG they gave me a nitroglycerin tablet to open my arteries and a few baby aspirin to chew on. They pulled me out of the canoe and onto the gurney and six of them carried me up to the towpath from the river and then directly into the ambulance.

I was in a lot of pain and my breathing was very shallow. It reminded me of some of the survival stories that I've read and I just kept thinking that I just had to keep breathing and hold on. Strangely, I noticed that the pandemic meant that there was almost no traffic on the beltway and we got to Suburban lickety-split. It was hard to gather the energy to answer the EMT's questions. I told them that I was 5'7" even though I'm 5'6", only because I was getting it confused with my age of 57 years. They gave me an IV and an oxygen mask. Soon I was seeing the exit signs over me as they whisked me through all the doors into the emergency room where I was met but a large welcoming party including my surgeon. He seemed more concerned than I've ever seen him and in the elevator he told me it was the real deal this time. I nodded my consent so he could give me the catheter like the last time. Also, while en route, his wife called and I heard him tell her to do dinner without him, since his patient was in the middle of having a heart attack. It was very helpful for me to have gone through this procedure before, different circumstances of course, and I was just hoping that they could catheter me through my wrist (which they did) and not my groin, silly. They were cool, calm and efficient as I lay there groaning.

I was less scared now, not that I had much time to worry anyway. I was on the operating table so I was pretty sure I was going to make it, despite the extreme pain. The doctor kept telling me to hang on everytime I moaned and I kind of lost track of time. Before too long I could feel the warmth of the blood rushing back to my head and I knew that was going to wake up from this bad dream. As I regained some clarity I thought that they must have had to do another stent since the pain was not going away, but no. I recieved just the one stent, and surprising to me it was in the exact same spot as my first stent four years ago. It was 6:18 by the time I was wheeled into the recovery room. It was weird, I was only one of two patients in there. So different than the last time when I was just one of maybe two dozen outpatient cases. I suffered chest pain throughout the night which was normal considering everything. Surprisingly, I was able to go home the next day, wow.

Saturday -- March 21, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature:56


The ferry is closed. Due to the Corona Virus the ferry and the Island will be closed until further notice. Thanks.

Friday -- March 20, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature:52


It hasn't been difficult to achieve my "social distancing" lately, since hardly anyone has been visiting the Island. I'm a little surprised. The kids are out of school so I thought that I might get busy, but I guess it hasn't been real warm yet. Not exactly Sycamore Island weather.

Lucky for me I have my bird friends to keep me company and right now the variety of birds is at it's best. Over the last couple of days I've sighted 37 different species of birds! Not only do we have all of the beautiful, wintering waterfowl here still, but the cormorants, wood ducks and great blue herons are now arriving to begin their mating season. We also had two rare migrants pass though. I saw three hooded grebes, still in their winter plumage, diving around the ferry and there were several red-breasted mergansers treading water out in the middle of the river.

The Canada geese are also preparing to build their nests and one breeding couple has staked out an area near the trail at the bottom of the Island. I may have to erect a detour sign there to direct folks around that menacingly defensive couple.

Friday -- March 13, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature:51


It's nice and warm out today but remember folks, you can't use the Club boats until the water temperature is 55 degrees or above. The river is 51 now so maybe we can use the Club boats later this weekend.

Thursday -- March 5, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature:48


Exciting news! There is an active eagle's nest across the river in Virginia. It's a new nest, but it's in the same large sycamore tree that's downstream near the second mansion. It will be fun to watch the eagles again this year, we haven't had an active eagles nest there since 2017. Seeing the eagles make me think of our neighbor and fellow eagle watcher, Jack Caldwell. Jack lived up the hill where he could see inside the nest and he used to bike by here all the time to give me updates. Sadly, we haven't seen Jack in a couple of years, not a good sign.

Our other nesting raptors, the red-shouldered hawks, have built their nest as well and for the second year in a row, it looks like they will be nesting in the sycamore tree that's right next to our own boardwalk! They had one baby hawk last year and we got to see it as it left the nest and learned to fly.

Most of our bird-feeder birds will be building their nests this month. We saw some bluebirds on the Island so I bought a new bluebird house to encourage them to stay. Soon the pheobes will be building a nest under the tool shed, but the warblers won't arrive until April to build their nests.

Of course, the most dramatic and obvious nesters are the Canada geese. They have been making a lot of noise and doing a lot of chasing around for the last month and now it seems that they are looking for nesting sites.

Thankfully, the beaver are not stealing the spotlight anymore, but we did have the very unusual sighting of a red fox on the Island. The only other time that we've had red foxes on the Island was when the river was frozen and they could walk over. I really didn't expect to see a red fox here, since it would have had to swim over. A grey fox maybe, but not a red fox.

Monday -- February 29, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature:42


Things are looking a little different down here now, we had to take down a few trees. It's always different this time of year, without the leaves on the trees, but now, without that large, hollow tree by the board walk and without some of the other smaller trees near the ferry cables, things are looking kind of sparse.

Geoff, and his expert gang of tree trimmers, was here on Friday and in no time they began transforming the Island canopy. With their auto-ascender and their super-sharp chainsaws, they made quick work of the dead trees that were near the buildings and the other weed trees and invasive tress that we didn't need. It will be interesting to see what it will look like once the leaves are back and the canopy is full again. I love working with these guys, very efficient and no wasted efforts.

Speaking of efficient workers, I had to have the plumber, Charlie King down here recently as well. Unlike the tree guys, who can't be bothered with driving on the towpath to bring their tools down, Charlie King had to drive down the towpath to bring us our new hot water heater. It all went smoothly and I really appreciate having these professional contractors doing the work down here, unlike some of the fly-by-nighters we've had here in the past. I know, for example, that I don't have to worry about the hot water heater being properly grounded and installed according to code. (Apparently the plumber that installed the last hot water heater, during the renovation, didn't bother with connecting the ground wire and had added a second, unneeded valve to the "send" pipe, causing a potentially dangerous situation.)

It's nice to get things done during this time of year while the Island isn't busy. I also spent a couple afternoons cleaning the steps to the tool shed and deck. Our new captain would like to see some spiffing up so I'm trying out some different methods of cleaning in order to keep the decks and steps clean and free of mold and mildew. Maybe we'll purchase or rent a small power washer.

Thursday -- February 20, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature:43


I don't talk about bats very much here in this column. We often see them in the summer just before dark but these poor bats don't get any respect. I can name every bird that I see down here but when I see a small bat fluttering around, I just assume that it's a little brown bat,(the most common bat in Maryland), and I move on to something else. I suppose I could be excused for my lack of enthusiasm since small bats don't have any distinguishing field marks and, unless you can hold one in your hand, it is virtually impossible to make a positive ID. That all changed yesterday when I got the chance to look at a small bat up close and personal.

I was up in the tool shed, rooting around next to the shop-vac, when I heard a hissing noise. My automatic reaction was to think "Snake!" and I jumped back. I didn't see a snake but I heard the strange noise again and I thought that maybe the shop-vac was shorting out and making a sparking noise. Of course that was wrong because the shop-vac wasn't even plugged in. I was stumped, until I looked on the floor next to the shop-vac and saw a small bat lying on it's back, with it's wings spread wide, it's mouth wide open, and it was hissing at me. Doing its darndest to scare me away. It's wings spread out to about ten inches wide but it's body was only about three inches total.

The poor thing was obviously in stress. It could spread it's wings and hiss but it seemed unable to fly. My guess was that it got trapped in the tool shed over night and it was now suffering from exposure and hunger. Or maybe it was hurt from flying into the windows trying to escape. It seemed helpless, but it didn't look like it was at deaths door so I tried to help it out. I scooped it up with a snow shovel, never touch a wild animal with your bare hands, and I took it outside to see if it would fly away. I rested the shovel and the bat onto a table but the little guy just kept threatening me with it's tiny fangs. It's little heart was beating a mile a minute so I decided to try to give it some water. I went to get the eye dropper of water and when I came back the bat was still there but it had wrapped it's wings around itself so that it was now just a tiny ball of fluff. So different looking than the menacing beast that I had first encountered.

I grabbed a box and an old table cloth and with gloved hands I put the bat into it's new little bed. I carefully tried to get some water into it's mouth without drowning it. It was amazing to see how readily the water beaded off of its fur, like it was wearing a raincoat. It was also amazing to get a close-up look at the bats wings. Tiny "hand" bones spread out to form wings, making it the only flying mammal. I always thought of bats as flying mice but it turns out, with DNA analysis, that bats are actually more closely related to humans than to mice. Go figure. I got more aggressive with the dropper until I saw it's little tongue moving. I gave her a little more water and then placed the box on a chair in the warm, winter bathroom, maybe she would recover.

There are ten bats species that are native to Maryland. The most common are the large brown bat and the small brown bat. I assumed that my bat was the later but after looking it up and doing some serious examining, I realized that this bat was an Indiana bat, still native to Maryland.

Several hours later I went to check on my patient, and surprisingly, the box was empty. I lifted the box, I moved the chair, I scanned the ceiling, but no sign of a bat. I looked behind the towel rack, I stood on a chair and looked on top of the lockers, but still no bat. I started to wonder if the bat had somehow crawled under the door. There was only one place left to look. I moved the fire extinguisher away from the corner and there she was, doing what bats do, hanging upside down. What I could not believe was that this bat was so small that it could hang from the edge of the three-inch baseboard and not touch the floor! I opened the windows, turned off the light, and shut the door. This morning, the bat was gone. I guess my little bit of nursing was all that it needed.

Friday -- February 14, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature:43


The ferry is open and it looks like it will be open all of this holiday weekend.

Happy Valentines Day and Happy Presidents Day!

Wednesday -- February 12, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature:44


The ferry is open again. The river was nice today and receded just enough for us to use the ferry again. Unfortunately, they say we may have to close again on Friday and Saturday. Fingers crossed.

Monday -- February 10, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.6     Water Temperature:44


The ferry is closed today and with the recent predictions, it looks like it will be closed most of this week.

I'm so glad that I fixed my mailbox last week when the ferry was still operating, it would have been a pain to carry those digging tools across the river in a canoe.

The Club and I share a mailbox up on MacArthur Blvd. and it was in pretty rough shape. I replaced it once, way back in 2004, and I had to replace it again since the door was rusted and it would not stay closed. I also had to replant the support post since the erosion there was causing it to slide downhill and look crooked.

Getting all of the tools up the hill was no small part of the job but the tricky part was to fit the new post in the limited space next to the neighbor's post. I dug a new hole and with the help of a bag of quick-set cement mix I was able to reset it. So now we have a shiny new mailbox, and it's nice and straight, pointing directly up at the noon-day sun!

No time to rest on my laurels though, today we have a new maintenance issue. The hot-water heater seems to be leaking. Always something.

Friday -- February 7, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature:45


The ferry is open today but it looks like it will be closed all weekend. It took the predictors a while to get it right, but I think we have an accurate forecast now, 5.4-foot crest on Sunday afternoon. Last Wednesday, they were predicting that the river would reach 7.6 feet, but that forecast had to be modified. I guess we didn't get the amount of rain that was expected.