vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Barred owl watches us at Crow’s Nest, and a parking lot will open soon

Watch for a full story on the status of Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve in the paper in the next few days.

Until then, check out this awesome owl that photographer Marie Sicola and I saw on Monday, when we visited the preserve with Mike Lott, the manager from the Department of Conservation and Recreation. A gang of turkeys had flown off the one-lane road in front of the pickup truck before Marie had a chance to take any photos. We were hoping to still spot some wildlife on our way out of the preserve, when I spotted this barred owl up in a tree.

An adult barred owl watches us at Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Marie Sicola/The Free Lance-Star)

For  those of you that haven’t been to Crow’s Nest, and didn’t make it to Saturday’s twice-annual field day, you’ll get a chance this week to see a small part of the preserve on a regular basis.

That part is north of Accokeek Creek, a strip of land along the freshwater tidal marshes. It’s where beavers have built a lodge, and ducks, geese and Tundra swans spend their winter.

Earlier this year, DCR used grant money to build a 20-space parking lot just off Brooke Road. But it had been gated up for months, never opening for public use. Lott says there were delays in getting informational signs made, detailing the scientific importance of freshwater marshes and of Crow’s Nest itself. (The rest of the grant money is being used to construct new trails.)

Those signs were going to be installed this week, Lott said Monday. Two short walks lead to the creek’s edge, directly across the marsh from where hikers will one day explore the 3-mile Accokeek Creek Loop.

DCR is in the midst of the permitting process to install a 350-foot pier at the parking lot, across the marsh and into the creek’s channel. In the next year, kayakers and canoers could explore Crow’s Nest via paddling trail.