It’s considered to be a common owl of the eastern United States. But there aren’t really all that many of them. As a carnivore of rodents and birds, the barred owl needs a sizable territory and a suitable habitat for roosting and nesting, such as Pocahontas, with almost 8000 acres and a variety of forest ecosystems. If you get lucky, you may hear one or a pair calling briefly in the afternoon, as I have along the Bright Hope Trail. Our expression “that’s a hoot” might come from listening to barred owls, as their vocalization can be quite amusing. This photo shows the pine stand where one of the owls was hiding, but I was unable to pick out its roosting place in the trees.
Let’s begin a mind’s-eye hike at the Swift Creek Forest Trail parking area. Moving south, we shortly pick up the Fendley Station Trail and pass the northern intersection with Fendley Station Loop A. We are now in the watershed of a small stream which is evident as we pass through a low area and cross a culvert through which water flows to the east. Proceeding up a slight grade, we come to the southern intersection with Loop A, and we turn onto it. Continuing eastward for some distance we begin to descend through the watershed, eventually reaching a ford where the trail again encounters the same stream, now somewhat more robust.
Here we go off-trail to follow this stream, a tributary of Swift Creek called Shawondasee Creek (Shawondasee was a god of the American Indians). As we bush-whack downstream southward, water from another brook joins the creek, keeping the water flowing through all months of the year. After a few minutes of tromping through this area of deciduous forest, we begin to see the water of the creek widening into pools. The pools are backed up behind dams of sticks, built by beavers that have found this area to be suitable habitat. Continuing along the creek, we find a series of these dams and the tell-tale chewed tree trunks and saplings. Four such pools are pictured below.
Eventually we come to the park boundary with YMCA Camp Thunderbird. The creek feeds into the camp’s Lake George, a reservoir which is also beaver habitat. The camp staff find that they and the beavers can coexist peacefully, and they have designated the landscape of beaver dams as Beavertown.
Thoughts on the park, its residents and how to preserve its natural beauty.