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.