Maryland Outdoor Club
Sun, Oct 17 2004 - Night Hike at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Katie Stofer
Participants:Katie Stofer, Linda Werner, John Putman, Mark Reynolds, Andrea Kostin, Angela Grillo, Kate Scherr, Kristen Larson

Write Up:
Despite a small mixup with directions and traffic on both I-70 and 295, our group finally gathered at the North Tract of the 13,000+ acre Patuxent Wildlife Refuge outside Laurel. It was a brisk Sunday evening, but very clear.

We met up with our guide, Rod, and got a little background on the refuge. After signing our lives away saying we would not sue if we were blown up by landmines on the property (the refuge used to be part of Ft. Meade, and there are still live rounds in some places, apparently), we set off on our quest for wildlife.

We had gone only a few steps from the warmth of the ranger cabin before we stopped for our first listening. We heard wrens, cardinals, and towhees, which Rod told us were named after the sounds of their calls. We tried, but were not necessarily convinced of this; none of us were true birders, I guess.

Rod tried a few owl calls to try to get us a chance to spot one. Their call, he said, was saying 'ho cooks for you? Who cooks for you?' None of the group was brave enough to try the call, but after trying at a few spots, we finally found a couple of owls to respond. We were in a perfect spot to see them, right in between them, but they stayed hidden. We listened to their hooting to each other for a few minutes, until they gave it up, realizing that neither was going to enter the other's territory. While we never caught a glimpse, it was still pretty cool to hear them calling to each other.

A little further into the refuge (we didn't really hike, it was more of a walk, probably no more than a 1-mile roundtrip), we heard some strange sounds: birds that sounded more like gulls, or other birds you'd hear at the beach. True enough, Rod told us they were plovers, indeed a shorebird. Apparently there's a marshy, sandy patch that used to be a beaver pond in that part of the refuge, and the shorebirds come in and make it their home.

We tried for a little longer to spot some things, and had a close call with what we thought was the glint of the eyes of a fox, but which turned out to be the eyes of a spider (though not one of the black widows that live around there). By far, however, the most active wildlife were the non-natives, with a nearby television or radio drowning out a lot of the wildlife sounds we were trying to hear. Darn invasive species! The planes from nearby airfields also droned overhead several times.

Anyway, after our walk we headed into Laurel to have some grub and warm up a bit. All in all, it was a good time and a nice evening to be out. We learned a lot about the refuge, and several people expressed interest in coming back to a walk in the spring or summer to try and spot some other wildlife, or to take advantage of the refuge's biking and hiking trails. There were no pictures, as it was dark and we didn't want to scare the wildlife any further!

--Katie Stofer

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