Authors Posts by Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

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From left, Iris and Cayla Rosenhagen with participants of the Beach Bucket Brigade. Photo by Raina Angelier

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

Smiles abounded on Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai during the Children’s Bird Walk and Beach Clean-Up on August 21st. Run by me and my sister through our education program, Beach Bucket Brigade, the event brought 20 children aged 4 to 12 and their families together to participate in fun, nature-themed activities. 

To kick off the program, we gathered on the beach to play ‘Sparrow Says,’ and read a book about our incredible avian life here on Long Island. Soon after, participants took to the paved nature trail to learn about and observe these birds in their natural surroundings. The children were delighted to see and hear mockingbirds, sparrows, catbirds, Mourning Doves, and cardinals.

Litter poses an immense danger to these birds as well as other local wildlife. Animals can get tangled up in it, or even ingest it, leading to heartbreaking outcomes. 

After observing such an abundance of wildlife, the families were motivated to do something to protect them, and so began the beach clean-up. Equipped with gloves and beach buckets to collect litter, we scoured the beach. We found a variety of improperly disposed-of waste including throw-away plastic utensils and straws, fishing lines, and lots of cigarettes.

At the end of the clean-up, we thanked the families for volunteering their time and told them they were heroes for doing their part to protect our environment. As a token of our gratitude, we gave the families eco-friendly souvenirs to take home with them.

The event was a great success. We collected an enormous amount of litter, all the while giving kids and their families an educational, entertaining, and fun-filled day to remember. Our hope is that by observing the wonder of nature firsthand, the younger generation will gain an even better appreciation and respect for it.

To keep an eye out for our upcoming programs, please follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/BeachBucketBrigade.

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

With a flap of the mechanical eagle’s wings above the stately façade of the Stony Brook Post Office, the Secrets of Stony Brook Village Tour had begun.

On August 26th, the small group gathered on the shady lawn beside the post office in the center of the charming village. There we met our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide, Deborah Boudreau, the education director for the Ward Melville Heritage Organization for the past 12 years. She began the tour by telling us about the picturesque shopping center where we stood. 

Built in 1941 by philanthropist Ward Melville as a part of his industrializing ‘rehabilitation’ project in the area, it was the first shopping center of its kind in the country. We then proceeded to visit the firehouse and the Jazz Loft, which at the time of Ward Melville was the Suffolk Museum. The museum, housing works by genre artist William Sidney Mount and a large collection of wagons and carriages, was eventually moved down the road to where the Long Island Museum stands now. 

The tour group visited the historic Three Village Inn and the Hercules pavilion overlooking the magnificent Stony Brook wetlands stretching into the Porpoise Channel. The vista was spectacular and full of life; a flock of geese swam by and momentarily joined our tour, and cormorants and gulls flew overhead. 

Inside the pavilion stands a figurehead of Hercules which once adorned the prow of the USS Ohio, and a wooden whaleboat recovered from an expedition to the Arctic in 1870. The tour concluded on Main Street across from the All Souls Episcopal Church with fascinating stories about the architect of the church and an actor who once resided in one of the Victorian-style homes along the road.

It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. Accompanied by such a congenial group of people, I learned so much about the village I love and grew even closer to it.

As we said our goodbyes, Deborah announced that the Ward Melville Heritage Organization would be running another tour, called the Stony Brook Village Secrets and Spirits Tour. Just in time for Halloween, this walking tour is taking place for two days only — on October 28th at 2:50 pm, and October 29th at 10:50 am. It will begin at the Stony Brook Post Office. The event costs $10 per participant and the WMHO recommends that participants make reservations. To reserve a spot on the tour or to find out more about the program, call 631-751-2244.

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching. 

Pictured with the West Meadow beach clean-up volunteers are, from left, co-founder of the Pollution Prevention Passport program, Cayla Rosenhagen; Town of Brookhaven Department of General Services Executive Assistant, Frank Petrignani; Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich; program co-founder, Iris Rosenhagen; Brookhaven Town Youth Board Chair Charlotte Pressley (third from right); Supervisor Ed Romaine (second from right) and Town of Brookhaven Environmental Educator, Nicole Pocchaire (right). Photo by Raina Angelier

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

In the words of Dr. Jane Goodall, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”

Environmental awareness is critical in creating widespread care for the nature that surrounds us. And when we care, we are driven to protect.   

A press conference was held on August 18 at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook to announce the launch of Brookhaven Town’s new environmental conservation program for all ages. The event, preceded by a beach clean-up with over fifty volunteers, celebrated a novel way for locals to get involved in protecting and appreciating the natural beauty our town has to offer. 

Members of Brookhaven’s Youth Board, including myself, joined Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, and town environmental educator Nicole Pocchiare at the beach to kick off the Pollution Prevention Passport initiative.

The Passport program encourages community members to visit Brookhaven’s many parks and beaches and record their travels in their very own document of travel. Additionally, it fosters environmental stewardship by supporting and suggesting eco-friendly decisions and collecting litter. 

Inside the passport, participants will find pages to tally the kinds of litter they have found, to document and illustrate their experiences, and record the conservation efforts they have made during their outings. A map featuring an inspiring list of Brookhaven’s abundant parks and beaches can be found in the back of the passport. 

After filling in the passport, it can be submitted to the Town for a “Stamp of Stewardship,” as recognition for the participant’s contribution to protecting Brookhaven’s green spaces.   

To download and print a passport of your own, or to find out more about the program, please visit brookhavenny.gov/passport.

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching. 

A view of the bell tower from the Vanderbilt Mansion courtyard. Photo by Cayla Rosenhagen

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

Passing through the elaborate iron gates leading into the Vanderbilt Eagle’s Nest estate, visitors are swept back through time to a decade long gone. Guests are immersed in the decadent Gold Coast era of Long Island’s history. 

For many years, the Eagle’s Nest mansion and the rest of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport have been one of my favorite locations to explore. My family and I are frequent visitors. On July 16th, we had the pleasure of returning to the Vanderbilt property to attend the 31st annual Shakespeare Festival.

Eagle’s Nest, a 24-room Spanish Revival mansion, was constructed by famed architects Warren and Wetmore by order of William K. Vanderbilt II, great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1910. In 1950, the estate and grounds were transformed into an education center, inviting the public to come visit and live like a Vanderbilt.

On the evening of our visit, Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” was being performed by the Carriage House Players in the grand, cobblestone courtyard situated in the middle of the manor. Arriving early to picnic on the back garden terrace, we indulged in delectable take-out from a local café. We set up our lawn chairs by the fountain, where we had a breathtaking vista. Across the well-manicured, grassy slopes, Northport Bay stretched calmly between us and the peninsula of Eaton’s Neck. It was a clear evening and the Sound with Connecticut beyond it was in perfect view. Robins foraged nearby and swallows practiced their aerial acrobatics overhead.

Shortly before the play began, we gathered in the courtyard with several dozen other audience members to take our seats. The courtyard, an ideal setting to watch one of the Bard’s most beloved plays, was illuminated by intricate iron lanterns and string lights overhead. Lined with garden beds of vibrant flora, the space radiated with Mediterranean splendor. The half-moon shone brightly over the terracotta-roofed belltower above the portcullis entrance. 

The play itself was a joy to watch. The actors truly enraptured the wit, humor, and magic of Shakespeare. By the time the show ended with an extended applause, the sun had set, and the stars appeared above us in the twilight sky. As the other guests exited, I took a moment to myself on the back patio, soaking up the enchanting moment. In a dream-like state, I watched the glimmering fireflies over the lawn and gazed out upon the water. Sailboats, only visible in the night by their multihued lights, paraded by with chiming bells. A faint melody of whimsical, classical music filled the salty, sea air. As I left the fairytale-like setting, I knew I would be back there again soon.

Throughout the summer, the museum hosts live theatrical performances in the courtyard every Wednesday and Friday at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 7 p.m. This year, the featured plays are “As You Like It,” “Titus Andronicus,” and “Richard III.” Tickets for the shows are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and children. In addition to plays, the Vanderbilt grounds also host a variety of other events. These include tours of the mansion and museum exhibitions, magic shows, concerts, art workshops, yoga classes, and a wide array of planetarium shows at the Reichert Planetarium for the whole family’s enjoyment. Please see their website, vanderbiltmuseum.org, for more details.

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

In 2011, Stitch, a young Red-tailed Hawk, was flying low over the grasslands hunting for her next meal adjacent to Sunken Meadow Parkway. She could never have foreseen how drastically her life was going to change that day. The hawk spotted a rodent darting out onto the highway and she swooped in. With all her attention focused on her prey, she did not notice the cars hurtling toward her and was struck. 

Fortunately, a good Samaritan rescued Stitch, and she found her way to Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown to be expertly cared for. The team at Sweetbriar did an amazing job rehabbing Stitch back to health. Although she cannot be released into the wild as a result of losing an eye and part of her wing, she now lives a comfortable and happy life at the Center.

Over 2000 animals, like Stitch, are taken to Sweetbriar every year to be rehabilitated, including various reptiles, rodents, opossums, deer, and birds. The staff at the Center work tirelessly tending to the animals and eventually releasing many of them back into the wild. The dedicated team also cares for about 100 permanent animal residents who cannot be released and often answer 50 to 100 calls a day regarding animals in need. Additionally, they run educational programs and events to encourage the public’s appreciation and respect of Long Island’s unique wildlife and ecosystems.

On July 11th, I attended an event at Sweetbriar hosted by Long Island BIRDtography, a Facebook group made up of local photographers and birding enthusiasts. The fundraiser allowed the photographers to meet and photograph Sweetbriar’s ambassador raptors. Participants heard the extraordinary backstories of the birds of prey and how each one made their way to the Nature Center. 

We met Bee, a female American Kestrel who was captured for falconry and malnourished, as well as Nugget, an Eastern Screech Owl who was rescued from a collapsed nest in a storm, and Tiger Lily, a Great Horned Owl who was hit by a car. Other birds of prey we met included Cleo the Harris Hawk, Nebula the Barn Owl, Seven the Barred Owl, and of course, Stitch the Red-Tailed Hawk. 

All of these birds are now permanent residents of Sweetbriar because of their inabilities to survive in the wild due to injury or imprinting on humans. In addition to our feathered friends, we were greeted by some furry ones, too. As we were snapping photos of the birds, Charlotte, a very amiable white-tailed deer, sauntered up to us looking for attention. Also, Ricky, an Eastern Grey Squirrel, and Tulip, a Virginia Opossum nearly stole the show with their cuddly antics.

Among the 2 dozen photographers at the fundraiser, Susanne Bellocchio, one of the administrators of BIRDtography, warmly expressed, “It was just a perfect day…Everyone is so kind…I am thrilled…These birds would never be something I could get to photograph.”

The team at Sweetbriar was so welcoming and eager to share their extensive knowledge about the animals. The employees and volunteers I met with greatly expressed how much they love their time at the Nature Center and how rewarding their jobs are.

Veronica Sayers began her career there as a volunteer to care for the baby squirrels and she was later hired as the program coordinator three years ago.

“I love teaching people of all ages about our local wildlife and the environment around them. When I see people excited about what I’ve just taught them, it’s a wonderful feeling. The wildlife rehab part of my job is a passion of mine as well. Nursing an animal back to health and seeing it released back into the wild is a thrill,” Veronica explained when asked about her favorite aspects of working at the not-for-profit organization.

Isabel Fernandes, the Wildlife Care Coordinator, feels it is critical to educate people about wildlife, so they become good ambassadors in their own homes and communities. She loves “seeing kids so excited to see the animals up close and personal.”

Sweetbriar’s many upcoming events can be viewed on their website. They truly have something for everyone. Check out their adult and children programs and the long-anticipated Taps and Talons beer-tasting event, presented on September 19th for those 21 and over. The Center also offers frequent yoga classes in person as well as online.

The Center and Preserve are open for the public to visit daily. The grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are free of charge to enter. The main house is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and the butterfly house is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a minimal entry fee. I encourage you to visit the outdoor animal enclosures and walk along the Preserve’s beautiful nature trails.

Sweetbriar Nature Center is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization and therefore relies on the community’s generosity to continue their invaluable work. Make a difference by attending their programs, visiting the Center, or through a donation. Monetary contributions can be given through the Donate Now button on their website or by participating in AmazonSmile and selecting Environmental Centers of Setauket Smithtown to receive donations. They also use Amazon Wishlist to ask for necessary animal care supplies.

Visit Sweetbriar’s website, sweetbriarnc.org, to learn more about their mission, to see complete listings of their programs, and to view heartwarming photographs of the animals they have rehabbed. The site also provides comprehensive resources for what to do if you should find an animal in need.

In the words of Veronica Sayers, when asked what else community members can do to support Sweetbriar, she replied enthusiastically, “Share, share, share! Talk about us and what we do. Let your schools and libraries know we do programs. If you learned something about wildlife through us, please share it. Become a Sweetbriar member. Attend our events! On social media, comment and share our posts. If you have the time and can commit, consider volunteering.”

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

“Look, look! There’s a bird up in this tree … and there’s a nest, too!”

A young boy with binoculars pressed against his face cheerfully announces what he has found. An American Robin flies to her nest, cozily tucked in a nearby cedar; the child notices she has a worm in her bill. More young birders gather to watch in awe of the mother robin feeding her recently hatched chicks.

Nothing compares to watching a child’s face light up with happiness and fascination as they become immersed in the world of birds. I had the joy of seeing this firsthand. On June 27th, my sister Iris and I launched the first Children’s Birding Adventure at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket for Four Harbors Audubon Society. 

The event began early in the afternoon at the entrance to the park, as enthusiastic families circled around to introduce themselves on the lawn overlooking the lake. Their children ranged in age from infancy to age 10 and were bubbling over with questions and stories about wildlife they had seen. One of the participants, Olivia, 8, a birder for about two years, looked forward to seeing a Northern Cardinal, one of her favorite backyard birds. 

Before our walk began, the children engaged in a round of nature-inspired activities, including Sparrow Says (Simon Says with an aviary twist) and a storytime, featuring a book by Kermit Cummings entitled A Backyard Birding Adventure: What’s in Your Yard? To further their birding knowledge, we presented the budding ornithologists with a photo album of birds we were likely to spot on our adventure. Bird BINGO cards, illustrating the same feathered friends, were handed out to all the children so they could record their sightings in a novel manner. Each youngster was then lent a pair of child-sized binoculars and taught how to use them.

Eagerly, we headed down the path encircling the picturesque Mill Pond. As we strolled the half-mile paved loop, a dozen children and their families surveyed their surroundings for birds and were met with great success. Catbirds, swallows, woodpeckers, swans, and warblers filled the lenses of every pair of binoculars. Little eyes spotted blue jays, sparrows, and egrets; the children announced their birding discoveries to the group with delight. The group paused along the old stone bridge and I pointed out turtles on a floating log and the blackbirds who nest in the nearby reeds. When birds weren’t readily in sight, scurrying chipmunks, zigzagging butterflies, and the iridescent wings of dragonflies captivated the young minds. As the hour-long event came to a close, it was so gratifying to hear from both parents and kids alike that fun was had by all, and much was learned about the natural world.  

The members of Four Harbors Audubon Society have been my role models and mentors for many years and continue to inspire me. I started participating in their monthly bird walks when I was the age of many of the children who attended Saturday’s event. At age 16, I now serve on the Board of Directors for 4HAS, and it is a privilege for me to contribute to the younger generation’s love and appreciation of birds. Who knows? Birding may become a lifelong passion for them, as it has for me.

In the future, Four Harbors Audubon Society plans to run the Children’s Birding Adventures on a seasonal basis. If you are interested in joining us for our next program, please email us at [email protected] 

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photojournalism. In addition to the Four Harbors Audubon Society, she serves on the board of directors for Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.