We've been eagerly anticipating "Big Night" since February, waiting patiently for the right combination of temperature and rain to head out to our local vernal pools. Our first attempt was earlier this month after some heavy rains. We made it a combo trip - geocaching and checking out vernal pools at a more heavily wooded part of Harold Parker State Park that we hadn't explored before. Just minutes into our hike, we heard "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" - the call of the barred owl (Strix varia). Another nearby owl answered. What a boon!
Naturally, the kids and I put our calling skills to the test and were richly rewarded by a gorgeous barred owl who flew between two tall trees just a few yards away. It stayed for a few minutes and thrilled us by obligingly returning our calls. As an added bonus, the owl appeared to have a snake dangling from its talons! Barred owls begin breeding in the cold of February, so perhaps this owl was bringing a prized meal home for its brooding mate.
No luck with the frogs and salamanders, but we did hear our first Spring Peeper that day.