Sunday, March 1, 2009

Friday Night Owl Prowl

NWRS This past Friday, my 4 year old daughter and I set out for a night-time adventure. The place you ask? The  Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Dismal Swamp NWR is located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. We were there to participate in the scheduled 'Owl Prowl' event . It's one of the many activities that they offer throughout the year that's open to the public. It was a perfect evening to be out. The temps were in the mid 60s and there was very little wind.

Our guide for the evening started out by telling us about the different owls found within the refuge - the barred owl, the eastern screech owl (both gray and red form), the barn owl, the northern saw-whet and the great horned owl. He carried with him several cassettes with different owl calls on each one. The calls were intended to bring in the owls close enough for viewing. Once dark, we all got quiet and listened closely as our guide began to play the first owl call - the Eastern screech owl. Right away one answered back. He continued to call but the owl never came in close enough for viewing. Unfortunately, that was the closest we came to any owl contact that night.

Although we didn't see any owls, there was a lot of other things to see and hear. The warm evening brought out the spring peepers. Their sound echoed throughout the swamp. They were very loud at times but it was a welcome sound. At dusk bats began to fly about the sky chasing whatever insects there were for them to eat. This was the first sight of bats this year for most of us. Our guide identified them as the eastern red bats. Red bats are common throughout Virginia. They migrate south in autumn and are the first to arrive in early spring.

Other wildlife observed were wood ducks and American woodcocks. The woodcocks were very active and somewhat stole the show for the evening. Woodcocks are most frequently encountered at dusk, and we encountered quite a few of them. They were flying low and fast across the trail. Sometimes low enough to here their wings flapping. Definitely a neat bird to watch.

I look forward to going to another owl prowl in the near future. Hopefully next time we will actually see one. If interested, check with your area nature clubs. Owl prowls and night-time hikes are popular in many areas throughout the country.



Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

What a wonderful opportunity to go into the swamp. I am in the process of getting an ID on a baby owl, then I will post the photo and story. Owls are really interesting creatures.

Dawn Fine said...

I love going on owl prowls...dont always see the owls..but it is fun being out there for whatever else may show up...How did your daughter enjoy it?
It was interesting when you mentioned Great Dismal...Last year we happened upon the bird festival there...we will try to go again this year...
It was allot of fun..and i said to my husband it was the first bird festival where we didnt pay a thing...they fed us hotdogs and we got to make birdhouses and keep them...all free...and we saw some good birds..
Let us know if you are going and we will say hello..maybe even do a little birding together.

Unknown said...

That sounds interesting, what a trooper your 4 year old!

Alan Pulley said...

Hey Janet,
Can't wait to read all about it!!

That's so cool! We were there last year for the birding festival as well. Did you see the snake display? Oddly enough, that was my daughters favorite part. They let her handle several of the smaller snakes. She also enjoyed the owl prowl last week. We plan on going to the festival again this year. Let me know if your going - we will definitely have to do some birding together!

Hey Darla,
Yes she is! I'm trying to get her interested early in things like nature and gardening...

Machelle said...

I have always wanted to do this, i have NEVER seen an owl in the wild. I sometimes go out at night with my flashlight hoping to spot one, no luck yet. My family swears I am crazy. LOL