CARETAKER'S LOG


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.

Friday -- January 31, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature:41


Last day of January, hard to believe. Overall, it was probably the mildest January that I've ever experienced while living here on Sycamore Island, and it looks like February might be mild as well. They are predicting temperatures in the 60's this weekend, so I guess the X-country skis can stay in the closet, bummer.

I did make a quick run up to Ski Liberty this past Wednesday since the ferry was closed, good fun! The high water kept the ferry shut down for four full days in January. Not a good trend to start the year, closed for four out of 31 days.

I refinished the stairs in my quarters, something that I've been meaning to do for years. There are four stairs that lead from my lower level up to my living room level, and they were in desperate need of sanding and refinishing.

The living room addition was constructed in the mid 90's, so it's been 25 years since the steps were installed, and 25 years of wear and tear have taken their toll. The glossy finish was worn off years ago and the wood underneath, a soft pine, was starting to wear away as well. The look of these steps has been bugging me for a while. I didn't want the steps to wear right through, or get deep wear marks in them like the stairs at the old lockhouses. Plus, the uneven wear made the steps an unsightly two-tone color of dark, varnished wood, and contrasting lighter, raw wood.

I don't consider myself a big procrastinator but if you refinish the only steps to your living room, you can't use your living room until the next day. So that has been my obstacle and my excuse thus far. Until I devised a mini scaffold that is, with a stout board and a step ladder, I made it possible to climb over the freshly finished steps.

These poor steps are nothing beautiful to look at. They have been submerged twice from flooding and they have been rather abused. Someone even drove some 6 penny common nails right into the middle of one of them. Yes, they are rough, but now they have a nice new, shiny coat of varnish, three coats actually. But the most important thing is that I can now walk by them and not think about how I should refinish those steps someday! What a relief!

Thursday -- January 30, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.88     Water Temperature:41


As promised, the ferry is now open.

I'm posting this onto the original caretaker's log but that website, sycamoreisland.org does not seem to be working right now. I'll cut and paste this to the new site, sycamoreisland.clubexpress.com.

Sunday -- January 26, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.3     Water Temperature:36


THE FERRY IS CLOSED!

Lots of rain in the watershed equals high water on our river. Sorry folks.

Tuesday -- January 21, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature:36


Winter is here! Brrrrrr. I had to winterize the Club kitchen and Bathrooms yesterday. That means I had to shut off the water to the sinks and toilets. You can still use the toilet in the Men's room and you can get potable water from the tap in there too.

I hope it doesn't get so cold that the river freezes but we'll have to wait and see I guess. The good news is that the cold snap has brought the ducks back. We are so lucky. Back before I lived on the river I would have to make a special trip out to Seneca Lake or Black Hill Regional Park to see the over-winter waterfowl but now the ducks are just a few yards away from my front door.

Sunday -- January 19, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature:40


There is going to be an open house/open Island here today. It will be interesting to see who shows up. I suppose the weather could be worse considering that it's the middle of January but I wish that it wasn't so windy. I'll have to make sure that I time the ferry trips to avoid the 30 MPH gusts that they are predicting. The wind was blowing so hard the other night that the bell started ringing.

I had to carry the 24' ladder over to the mainland. The old copper phone lines were dangling low to the ground from the utility pole. The copper lines were disconnected weeks ago, but I didn't want anybody fooling around with them, so I put up the ladder, coiled them up, and tied them high up on the pole. While I was up there I noticed that the junction box for our new FIOS cable was upside down and full of rain water. I used some zip-ties to secure it better and I let all of the rain water drain out. The fiber optic cable is so tiny, (less than the width of a hair) that I feel like we need to be extra careful with it.

Monday -- January 13, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature:50


This brief shot of warm weather is nice but now all the winter ducks are gone. Who knows where they go but last Thursday and Friday there were scores of ducks all around the Island and now there are none. So sad. My favorites, the hooded megansers were here for weeks and were joined recently by other diving ducks, scaups, grebes and buffle heads. I love to watch, and listen to, them take off from the river. Their little feet are moving so fast for take-off, that those little guys sound like they are playing a super-fast drum roll on top of the water.

Wednesday -- January 10, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature:38


I picked up some fancy, Martha Stewart stencils for our sign-in box. Going upscale!

We had the meeting on Wednesday night. The funny thing was, Amber and Hans had no idea that we were gathering at their house until we started showing up. Amber wasn't even there, but Hans and the kids scrambled and it all worked out. Thanks Hans, for being so flexible and accommodating.

The most important part of the meeting was that Tryon Wells was named an honorary member! He's been a member for 37 years and has filled many of the officer's positions over the years. Plus, he built and managed our website for over twenty years! Tryon has been such a huge part of this Club that it is hard to overstate all that he has done. Thanks Tryon!

BTW, I am now posting this log on the new website for the Club. Go to sycamoreisland.clubexpress.com to follow me there. It's hard to change but the new website allows me to add pictures to my posts. Right now it's only visible to logged-in members but we hope to make the log/blog public in the future.

Wednesday -- January 8, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature:39


Club meeting tonight at the home of Hans and Amber. Hope to see you there.

I had to remove and refurbish the metal box that houses the sign-in sheet on the ferry. Over the years I have had to fix it up a few times, I've had to fix the hinges, mend the box after a tree fell on it, replace the clip board and I've had to repaint it at least four times. This time I had to replace the rotted wood beneath the clip board. I also replaced the active-member list with new velcro to hold it inside the top of the lid, I added new cordage and refastened the platform that it sits on. Then I repainted it, forest green this time, and finished with the gold stenciled lettering. Next time you're on the ferry, take a minute to admire this simple piece of craft work. This box has been here longer than I know but it represents a different time. This box wasn't made of plastic in some far-away place. My guess is that this box was custom-made by a local tinsmith. Someone with the skills to bend and fabricate galvanized metal into a durable box that has lasted us for decades. Incredible.

While I was in the refurbishing mode I decided to clean and repaint one of the trophies that we have here. This trophy is from a race that was won by our Club at the regatta that took place here way back on September 3, 1928. It's a silver-plated cup, about 7 inches tall, that's cut in half and mounted on a coat-of-arms shaped wooden plaque. I polished the silver and repainted the black plaque. I'll have to devise a new way to reattach the cup to the plaque since the old wires are mostly broken but otherwise, I just need to find a place to hang it.

I also stripped and refinished a small table that I found in someone's trash. It looks great and fits perfectly in my little foyer.