Going Into The Wild At A Local Nature Refuge (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Going Into The Wild At A Local Nature Refuge

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." This week's theme is Going Places and thus far, we've mostly been moving around our urban landscape. But in this next segment, we're going to get a bit more wild. In just a few minutes, we'll trek out to some of the more remote corners of Maryland's Assateague Island as we search for some wild horses. We start, though, a bit closer to home, at the Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge. Environment reporter Sabri Ben-Achour journeyed there on a warm spring night when love was most definitely in the air.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

00:00:43
An unseasonably warm breeze welcomes the sunset near the Occoquan River about 30 minutes south of the District, near Woodbridge, Va.

MR. BOB STUDHOLME

00:00:51
If you look through the scope, there's a bunch of green in front and then in sharper focus, it just moved again, and just moved again, you'll see some sticks and you keep looking at that pile of sticks. It's an osprey nest that was commandeered by a great horned owl. You'll see movement if you just be patient and keep looking.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:01:07
That is naturalist Bob Studholme.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 1

00:01:09
It's sort of like -- oh, let's move in.

STUDHOLME

00:01:11
Yeah. Little gray fuzzy head.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:01:14
Oh my gosh, he's looking straight at us, you can -- his eyes are like -- you can see his eyes, they're kind of glowing. And the ospreys or the hawks, they don't come back and try and kick the owl out?

STUDHOLME

00:01:24
No, that'd be a one sided battle. They're smarter than that. The horned owls has several nicknames, one of which is tiger of the woods. They're pretty much about as high on the top of the food chain, for around here, as you can get.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:01:36
As dusk sets in, everything takes on an orange glow. And from every hole in the ground, fork in a tree, the park springs to life. A group of nature lovers, Friends of the Occoquan they call themselves, gets together at this refuge a few times a year, at night, just to see the show.

STUDHOLME

00:01:53
Some species of animals are only active during that crepuscular period between day and night.

MR. LARRY UNDERWOOD

00:02:00
Yeah, that's the fancy word, crepuscular.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:02:03
Larry Underwood is a retired biologist. He says this is the best time of day and the best part of the year to come.

UNDERWOOD

00:02:09
You're likely to get the night animals overlapping with the day animals so you're going to see some of each.

STUDHOLME

00:02:16
There goes a muskrat.

UNDERWOOD

00:02:17
Muskrat.

STUDHOLME

00:02:19
And there's a snapping turtle there.

UNDERWOOD

00:02:22
We're getting a third turkey. There he goes.

UNDERWOOD

00:02:25
Oh, he just displayed, he displayed.

STUDHOLME

00:02:31
And a deer.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:02:32
Don Moore is associate director for Animal Care at Smithsonian's National Zoo. He says it's not surprising to see all these animals at dusk.

MR. DON MOORE

00:02:40
Well, you have to think of time as a niche in ecological terms, right. So we know that spaces are niches, there's a tropical forest niche, there's a temperate forest niche, there's a river niche. Well, time is also a niche.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:02:57
So is sound.

MOORE

00:02:59
You know, we've got a little bit of an arms race going on, if you will, between the predators and the prey. So the owls have these very, very nicely designed ears so that they can triangulate on the noise that's coming from a prey. And the prey, mice and birds and things, have voices that are almost ventriloquial in their capabilities.

STUDHOLME

00:03:30
That's the ending note of the Red-Winged blackbird.

UNDERWOOD

00:03:34
And that's a male blackbird that's establishing his territory, he's defending his territory from other males.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:03:40
The warmth of the day still hangs in the air. But the sky has gone dark. And all around, from every angle, there's a steady din. Naturalist Rick Czarnowsky peers into the bushes with a spotlight and spots a tiny frog.

MR. RICK CZARNOWSKY

00:03:57
There he is. Right in the center of the light.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:00
Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Looks like he's blowing bubble gum.

CZARNOWSKY

00:04:04
Yeah, that's his vocal sack.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:08
He's so tiny, but so loud.

CZARNOWSKY

00:04:09
Yeah. And you can see the faint -- very faint, but there's an X on his back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 2

00:04:14
What type is it?

CZARNOWSKY

00:04:15
That's a spring peeper.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:17
He says it's surprising to see these little guys still out with the early spring and the warm weather, he predicted we'd miss them.

CZARNOWSKY

00:04:23
But maybe there's still an occasional female that comes through that they're trying to get lucky with.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:30
Not everyone has left the bar yet.

CZARNOWSKY

00:04:33
Possibly not.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:35
And then, in the distance...

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:39
...in case you missed that, that was a barred owl. There's only one nest in the whole refuge.

CZARNOWSKY

00:04:48
I never get tired of hearing owls. I mean, that's probably my favorite sound.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:57
Sometimes in order to go places, all you have to do is get the timing right and open your ears. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

00:05:11
We've got photos, links and plenty of ideas for local spots to do some pretty groovy night listening on our website, metroconnection.org. And if you are someone who hears plenty of wild nightlife where you live, we'd love to hear your stories. Just send a note to metro@wamu.org.
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