Tag Archives: North Carolina

Meet #ScienceWoman Daffny Pitchford

Celebrate Women’s History Month with us! This year, we’re looking forward by honoring women across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and female conservationists who are making history in our agency and in conservation. With each #ScienceWoman, we’ll share a photo and a couple questions and answers about her work. Stay tuned for posts throughout the month! 16579954340_7d6c3da798_o Meet Daffny Pitchford, our refuge manager at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. She earned her degree at North Carolina Central University, where she studied biology.

Daffny considers Mamie Parker, former Regional Director of the Northeast, as one of her conservation heroes. “Her encouragement and wise words are always remembered on those busy days,” says Daffny.

Daffny became interested in nature and “all things wild” when she was young. Her and her father would often explore her backyard or go fishing in nearby creeks. She says her “favorite times as a youngster were spent either up a tree or in a creek catching frogs and crayfish.”

Her favorite species is the cardinal, because it was easy to identify as a child. Also, it’s the state bird of her home state, North Carolina.

Tune in again for more #ScienceWoman posts later this month!

Friday Flick: An “Irruption” of Snowy Owls

Look out, Northeast — already there have been many more sightings of snowy owls this season, and much further south than expected.

An irruption, in birding, is when a species of bird moves into an area where it doesn’t normally winter. Snowies have been spotted as far south as North Carolina this year, in what’s being considered one of the most dramatic snowy irruptions witnessed in recent years. This wintering season, one was even spotted in Bermuda — certainly a warm weather destination far from the upper latitudes where they typically make their home.

While some species of birds winter in unorthodox areas because of a lack of food in their normal wintering grounds, many believe these snowies are moving south this winter for another reason. It might suggest that prey was abundant this summer in the eastern Arctic, leading to excellent breeding conditions. Some biologists believe that after an initial boom in the lemming population ended, high numbers of these young owls took flight to find resources elsewhere.

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There have been numerous snowy owl sightings at national wildlife refuges. This photo was taken at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge by Don Freiday.

Snowies like open areas, like shorelines and open fields, and unlike most owls, are diurnal — that is, they’re active both in the day and night. That said, these owls still hunt at night and remain relatively sedentary during daylight. But as awesome (in the original sense of the word) as seeing one of these birds is, take care not to disturb or get to close to them! As a migratory bird, snowies are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The recent interest in snowy owls is perhaps thanks to the popular “Harry Potter” franchise of books and movies. In the films, the protagonist’s pet owl is played by the male snowy owl Gizmo.

These Arctic nomads are capable of crisscrossing continents in search of abundant prey, sometimes flying more than 600 miles each summer. They can cross oceans or even hunt on of ice flows. So, I hope you have the good fortune to spot a snowy owl this winter. I hope that I will have the good fortune of crossing paths with one in the fields of Massachusetts this holiday season.


Another snowy owl perched in Edwin B. Forysthe National Wildlife Refuge. Photo via Stan Lupo.

A tool to hunt fires in the Great Dismal Swamp?

It’s been two years since a lightning strike sparked the Lateral West Fire that burned at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge for four months. The fire burned over 6,000 acres in Virginia and North Carolina as more than 400 firefighters from local, state and federal government agencies worked to extinguish it.

Our friends at NASA’s Langley Research Center have begun a project to design and build equipment that could help locate fire sources within the Great Dismal Swamp. Check out how Mike Logan, an aerospace engineer is leading a team to design an build an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to do just that, which could help put out fires in the swamp and possibly save money.

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A firey tornado rages off Corapeake Road in the Lateral West Wildlfire on Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The fire burned in the scar of the 2008 South One Fire in a restoration area for Atlantic white cedar. Credit: Greg Sanders/USFWS

The following story was originally published on the NASA website: 

You could say that the idea came to him in a cloud of smoke.

Over the summer, Mike Logan, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, put a group of students to work designing and building an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that could one day help to snuff out fires in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp.

The origins of the project go back to August of 2011. A lightning strike in the swamp sparked a blaze that ended up burning for four months. At one point, wind pushed the smoke as far north as Maryland. Logan, who lives due north of the swamp in South Hampton Roads, often found his house in the path of the acrid cloud.

“After choking down a few dozen clouds worth of peat bog smoke, which I found out I’m allergic to, I thought, you know, there really ought to be a better way,” he said. Head over to the NASA website to keep reading this story >>