Tags Posts tagged with "Sweetbriar Nature Center"

Sweetbriar Nature Center

Great Horned Owl, “Tiger Lily,” displays her prowess. Photo by Cayla Rosenhagen

Join Sweetbriar Nature Center for a Rock N’ Raptors fundraiser at the Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket on Saturday, Jan. 27 from 2 to 6 p.m. Enjoy live music, raptor presentations, raffles, games, food, and more. Bring your whole family or rock out with your friends. All the funds from this event and raffles help Sweetbriar take care of all the wildlife that comes through their doors and educate all the children that will be stewards of our planet. Held rain or shine. Tickets are $25 per adult, kids under age 12 are free. To order, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. 

Meet Jeff Corwin at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center on Aug. 27.

By Melissa Arnold

‘We cannot protect what we do not cherish, and we will not cherish what we do not know…’ — Jeff Corwin

Jeff Corwin has been a vocal and passionate advocate for wildlife and the natural world since the 1990s. The celebrated biologist and conservationist is a recognizable face on television, hosting shows including Disney Channel’s Going Wild, Animal Planet’s The Jeff Corwin Experience, and more recently, Ocean Treks and Wildlife Nation on ABC.

From a cobra festival in India and unexplored jungles in South America, to the African savanna and beyond, Corwin continues to teach audiences that our incredible world deserves protection.

On Aug. 27, Jeff Corwin will partner with Sweetbriar Nature Center to share stories from his adventures around the world and highlight the challenges faced by a variety of endangered species.

The special event, held at the newly renovated Smithtown Performing Arts Center (SPAC), will serve as a wonderful education event hosted by Sweetbriar, a not-for-profit corporation. 

“The Smithtown Performing Arts Center board is always seeking out opportunities to help out community-based nonprofits and share our beautiful, historic space.” said Michael Mucciolo, board president for SPAC. “Our theater has a long history of attracting families with young kids, and I think they’ll have a wonderful time seeing something they’ve never seen before and learning from such an expert like Jeff.”

Sweetbriar Nature Center is situated on 54 acres of garden, woodland, field and wetland habitats on the Nissequogue River. Hundreds of species of plants and animals call the center home — many arrived as part of their extensive wildlife rehabilitation program.

“Everything that we do here is for the benefit of the animals,” said Janine Bendicksen, curator and wildlife rehabilitation coordinator for the center. “Many of the animals that get brought in to us are often at death’s door, sick enough that they allow a human to pick them up. About half of them are successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild, which is fantastic.”

A lot of the patients they receive have similar stories, Bendicksen explained. A concerned member of the community might stumble upon an injured animal on their property or while out on a hike and contact their local Animal Control department, which then reaches out to Sweetbriar.

Whether it’s a wounded eagle on a bike trail or a couple of rabbits playing chase in a mechanic’s garage, the staff at Sweetbriar have seen just about everything.

Around 100 of Sweetbriar’s permanent residents are animals that are permanently injured or otherwise unreleasable. A few birds, including a great horned owl named Lily, have been there longer than Bendicksen has — more than 20 years.

Bendicksen studied fine art and art history, eventually finding her way to Sweetbriar as curator. In addition to her work with rehabilitation, she is responsible for creating art displays and supervising creative projects around the property.

“I was one of those kids who people were always bringing their animals to, and I tried my best to help them. Sweetbriar hits on everything that makes me happy,” she said.

The center’s educational team works hard to instill that same wonder and love of nature in people of all ages. This is especially evident during the summer, when hundreds of children from around Long Island come to the center for weeklong enrichment programs or day visits.

Throughout the school year, Sweetbriar also host field trips, opportunities for families, and in-school presentations.

The dual mission of education and rehabilitation is what makes Jeff Corwin the ideal guest speaker for the event, said Sweetbriar board member Maureen Calamia.

“Jeff has a great reputation and deep care for wildlife, especially those species that are borderline extinct. His enthusiasm is such an asset,” she said.

With only four dedicated staff members, Sweetbriar relies on the ongoing support of volunteers and donors. 

“A lot of people unfortunately don’t know what’s going on in their own backyard, or how to treat nature or wildlife. Sweetbriar does a tremendous service through their programming, both in person and also through their social media, which has a global following,” Calamia said. “They are great stewards, and everyone knows to turn to them if there’s an animal in need. This event is a wonderful way to support their hard work.”

“Tales from the Field with Jeff Corwin” will be held on Sunday, Aug. 27 at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main Street, Smithtown at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at www.sweetbriarnc.org or at www.smithtownpac.org. This event is made possible by a grant from the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning.

Sweetbriar is always in need of donations and volunteers, regardless of experience or skills. Visit their website or call 631-979-6344 learn how you can help.

By Julianne Mosher

On June 17 and 18, visitors from across Long Island headed to Old Field Farm in Setauket for Gallery North’s 19th annual Wet Paint Festival, a fun-filled weekend to not only admire local artists practicing their craft en plein air, but to see the excitement of a derby. According to Sally Lynch, owner and farm operator, the festival couldn’t have come during a better weekend.

The 2023 Seaside Hunter Derby took place on June 18 on the campus and as the riders competed, over 40 artists took to their canvases to paint and sketch the local scenery and content. 

“All the horse people are thrilled to see their horses painted,” said Lynch. “There’s a reason why the horse remains a constant subject of the arts.”

She added that the day before, the farm hosted vintage riders (ones who ride side saddle) in full old-school costume who also modeled for the artists on-site. 

The two-day festival also featured nature walks courtesy of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, live music by Tom Killourhy and the Keenan Zach Trio, plein air art tours with Jim Molloy and Nancy Bueti-Randall, a history tour with Margo Arceri of Tri-Spy Tours and an animal presentation by Sweetbriar Nature Center.

The event was sponsored by bld Architecture, Jefferson’s Ferry and Suffolk County’s Department of Economic Development and Planning.

All of the artwork created at the festival will be on display at the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook on July 5 through August 27. The public is invited to an opening reception on July 21 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Benner's Farm hosts their Easter Egg Hunt Weekend on April 8 and 9 this year. File photo by Rita J. Egan/ TBR News Media

Although spring and Easter are still a few weeks away, registration for these popular annual events is now underway:

Spring Festival and Egg Hunt at Sweetbriar

Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown hosts its annual Spring Festival and Egg Hunt on March 26 from noon to 4 p.m. Join them for a day filled with events, fun, and many wonderful animals. There will be games, animal presentations, crafts, face painting, and more. Egg hunts will be held throughout the day with prizes and a separate egg hunt for 2-4-year-olds to do with their parents. A special long-eared guest will be available for photo opportunities and refreshments will be available for purchase. Bring a basket. Tickets are $20 per child, $5 adults. To reserve your spot, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. For more information, call 631-979-6344.

Benner’s Farm Easter Egg Hunts

Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, East Setauket invites the community to their annual Easter Egg Hunt Weekend on April 8 and 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be craft vendors, baby bunnies and chicks to hold, baby goats and sheep to see and pet, many other barnyard animals to visit with and feed, an egg hunt in the fields every half hour from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (book your time slot online), pictures with the Spring Bunny and more! This is a ticketed event only. Tickets are $12 per person and are sold only online at https://www.eventcreate.com/e/easteregghuntsatbennersfarm. No tickets will be sold at the door. Questions? Call 631-689-8172.

Egg Hunts at the Hatchery

Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, 1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor will host egg hunts on March 18, 19, 25, 26, April 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 in 20 minute sessions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for children up to the age of 6 years old. Tickets are $12 per participating child, $5 “helper siblings” ages 7 to 12, $6 seniors, and $7 adults. To register, visit www.cshfishhatchery.org. For further details, call 516-692-6768. 

Sweetbriar Nature Center volunteer Dan Defeo with Hoover the Goat. Photo by Janine Bendicksen

By Tara Mae 

Hoover the Goat has foreseen the future…of football. Located in Smithtown, Sweetbriar Nature Center’s resident sports seer has predicted that the Philadelphia Eagles will beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl this Sunday.

Sweetbriar Nature Center volunteer Dan Defeo with Hoover the Goat. Photo by Janine Bendicksen

In a video posted to Sweetbriar’s social media accounts on Feb. 5, Hoover, who normally prefers hay, vegetables, and goat food, can be seen rather emphatically eating up the idea that the Eagles will take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

If there is a method to his magic  (Hoover has correctly predicted the Super Bowl winner for the past five years) he has selected not to share it. When pressed for comment about his decisive digestives, Hoover declined to spill the oats. 

Since he is not one to reveal trade secrets, the origin of Hoover’s psychic prowess remains a mystery. Nonetheless, he is adamant in how he articulates his chosen team. 

“We make up pictures of the two teams, and whichever one he eats is the winner. Hoover is very precise: he thinks about it and then takes a chomp,” said Wildlife Rehabilitation Director Janine Bendicksen. As a rule, Hoover does not deign to get emotionally involved in the team he tastes, but Bendicksen does wonder if they would otherwise cheer for the same one. 

“I am just curious to see if he goes for the underdog or the sure win. I always go for the underdog,” she added.

Rooting for the underdog is a common experience for the staff and volunteers of Sweetbriar, a wildlife education, preservation, and rehabilitation center; they may see and treat hundreds of injured animals in a year. Many come for a recuperative stay and are rereleased when rehabilitated, but others live out their days in structures located on the preserve’s property, tended to and supported by a dedicated group of caregivers.

A Sweetbriar rescue who has lived at his forever home for 13 years, Hoover is one of approximately 100 permanent residents. He is, thus far, the only creature that has exhibited such clairvoyance at the sanctuary.  

“We were looking to figure out an animal that might be able to predict the Super Bowl as a spoof, and Hoover has never been wrong,” Bendicksen said.   

Although Hoover does not perform his talent for a live audience, opting to make his selection with only a couple of his opposable-thumbed friends in attendance, Sweetbriar does offer many other many programs and events that allow patrons to interact with the organization’s ambassador animals. 

Hoover the Goat chomps down on a piece of paper depicting his pick for the winning team.
Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

“Hoover prefers not to participate in our events and we always honor the animal’s feelings,” said Program Coordinator Veronica Sayers.

Still, the impact of Hoover’s social media presence is an asset to Sweetbriar’s efforts to educate and inform the public while protecting and preserving wildlife and its natural habitat. As a nonprofit that relies heavily on donations, Sweetbriar Nature Center utilizes all the tools it has available including social media and community outreach. 

“We mainly use this to educate the public. The more people know about wildlife, the easier our jobs get,” Sayers said. “Social media is a way to get to a lot of people and educate them. For example, in the last five years, possums have gone from being viewed as pests to being appreciated. Social media helped fix that perception.”

To witness Hoover make his prediction, visit Sweetbriar Nature Center on its Facebook page or on Instagram @sweetbriarnaturecenter. 

Sweetbriar Nature Center is located at 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown. The nature center and preserve are open daily, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To learn more about Sweetbriar’s upcoming activities and programs, including a day camp for children ages 6-11, during the February public school break, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org or call 631-979-6344.  

Photo from Sweetbriar Nature Center

In celebration of Galentine’s Day, Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown will host a Galentine’s Hoots and Handmade Pottery event on Friday, Feb. 10 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Get your gals & pals together for a crafty evening of making pottery and meeting some amazing animals. No experience needed! Alison from Pottery on Wheels will teach you how to throw pottery on a wheel and make sculptures. The fun event includes everything you’ll need to make two hand thrown wheel pieces and a small sculpture. You’ll also be meeting some of the Center’s amazing ambassador owls and other animals. Light snacks and drinks will be served.

Pieces will be fired and glazed back at Alison’s pottery studio and returned to be picked up about 2 weeks later. A wonderful opportunity to learn pottery and have the most unique pottery experience!

This event for teens & adults (anyone under 17y must be with an adult). Tickets are $100 per person. To register, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. Questions? Call 631-979-6344.

Stitch the Red-Tailed Hawk is just one of many raptors living at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by John Davis

By Tara Mae

Birds of a feather, come together to support Sweetbriar Nature Center’s latest event, Rock ‘N’ Raptors, that puts the “fun” in fundraisers! The celebration will be held on Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Bates House, 1 Bates Road in Setauket from 2 to 6 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Smithtown wildlife rehabilitation and nature preserve.

Meet Lily the Great Horned Owl at the Bates House in Setauket on Dec. 11. Photo by John Davis

“We have never done an event that featured only raptors, though they are the majority of what we have [at Sweetbriar], so it is an important opportunity to promote them. They are really expensive to feed…and since organizations like ours are not funded by the state or local governments, we largely depend on the generosity of our supporters,” said Sweetbriar’s Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Janine Bendicksen.

The fundraiser will feature live music, raffles, games, and other activities. An auction, currently underway online, will conclude in person that night. St. James Brewery will provide beer and other beverages while Maui Chop House’s food truck will be onsite offering savory snacks. Homemade baked goods, created by volunteers, will be available for purchase. The guests of honor, raptors including a barn owl, Eurasian eagle owl, great horned owl, red tailed hawk, will make a fashionably late entrance as the music fades out, intermingling with guests and performing a demonstration. 

Brimstone (William M. Kucmierowski), a pro-wrestler, author, actor, and host of The Grindhouse Radio, will act as Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon. Three different tribute bands will provide the soundtrack for making merry and raising money: The Petty Rumors, a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover band; Streetfighter, a Rolling Stones cover band; and 70s Rock Parade, a genre cover band. Each will each play a 45 minute set. All of the entertainment is donating their time. 

Having first connected with Sweetbriar through social media when he reached out to Bendicksen to see if he could meet baby squirrels being cared for in its rehabilitation unit, Brimstone is happy to lend his name and talents since he wants to amplify both the center’s work and its needs. 

“As a native Long Islander, I have known about Sweetbriar for many years, but I did not know in detail the true heroes they are until I was going back and forth with Janine on social media,” Brimstone said. “I got to see what they do at Sweetbriar and how they rehabilitate the animals. They are overworked and underappreciated and it kills me that they do not get the help, attention, and assistance that they deserve.”  

Meet Nebula the Barn Owl at Sweetbriar’s fundraiser on Dec. 11. Photo by John Davis

John Davis, who has been volunteering at Sweetbriar for two years, was similarly drawn to work with Sweetbriar after he visited the center and explored the nature preserve while participating in a photo shoot with a photography club. Now, he volunteers there a couple days a week and primarily handles the raptor residents, inspired by their majesty even in adversity. 

“They are majestic, powerful, efficient, streamlined, glorious hunters that are incredibly beautiful. What I find most interesting with our raptors is despite their shortcomings, whether it’s wing injuries or vision loss…or both, they’ve all found a way to adapt. They know their own  aviaries and navigate then with precision despite not being able to fly or see,” he said. 

As a tribute to the raptors and a sign of his dedication to the cause, Davis is coming out of retirement for one night only, resuming his role as the bassist and a vocalist for 70s Rock Parade. (He retired from the group last year.) Davis also helped connect the musicians with Sweetbriar.

The power of community interdependency, both in the animal kingdom and human society, are themes that tie this event and Sweetbriar’s mission together. Located on 54 acres of diverse garden, woodland, field, and wetland habitats, Sweetbriar’s rehabilitation unit, in addition to the raptors, houses other animals, such as rabbits, squirrels, songbirds and even tarantulas. 

There are over 100 permanent residents who call Sweetbriar home. Many of them live inside the center, but most reside in permanent enclosures. The staff and volunteers of the center, who may receive hundreds of calls a day about distressed or injured wildlife, treat more than 2000 patients a year, over half of whom are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.  

Addie the Red-Tailed Hawk is just one of many raptors living at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by John Davis

“What the people of Sweetbriar do is incredible. They care for injured animals rehabilitate them, if they are not able to be released, Sweetbriar keeps them for their lifespans,” Davis added. 

Ultimately, the goal of Rock ‘N’ Raptors is simple: to enable to Sweetbriar to continue its lifesaving work while encouraging people of all ages to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the natural world and its inhabitants.  

“Sweetbriar is so special, and as a nonprofit, it relies on people’s generosity and good hearts…I show up to the center and my blood pressure goes down; it is my zen,” Davis said.

Tickets to Rock ‘N’ Raptors are $25 each, free for children under the age of 12. To register, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. For more information, call 631-979-6344. 

Leonardo “Leo” DiCatprio, the Eurasian Lynx that was loose and eventually captured on Long Island earlier this summer, has settled into his permanent home at the Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve. Joining the more than 100 wild and farm animals that reside at the Animal Preserve, Leo was revealed to the public in his new enclosure on Nov. 22.

“We are grateful that the DEC and SPCA felt the Ecology Site was the right environment for Leo and we are thrilled to have him among our residents,” said Brookhaven Highway Department Superintendent Daniel Losquadro. “However, we hope when people come to enjoy this facility and view the animals, they understand the dangers in keeping wild animals as pets. While we have no idea why Leo was being kept as a pet, we are very happy that he is safe and healthy at our facility.”

Since arriving at the Ecology Site in August after being cared for at Sweetbriar Nature Center, Leo has gained 15 pounds and enjoys various enrichment activities to stimulate his natural behaviors. He can often be seen running, stretching his legs, climbing, jumping and pouncing —performing all natural cat-like behaviors.

“The Suffolk County SPCA is pleased to have a close working relationship with the Holtsville Ecology Site and its wonderful, caring staff,” said Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross.

The Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve, 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can view the animals, free of charge, including peacocks and mustangs, a bobcat, an American black bear and an American bald eagle. Call 631-451-5330 for more information.

By Serena Carpino

During the summer, Stony Brook Village Center is often bustling with friends grabbing iced coffee from Crazy Beans and families enjoying Sweet Mama’s ice cream after a long hike at Avalon Nature Preserve. Last Saturday, they were greeted by a friendly quartet of critters during one of Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Pop-Up Saturday events. 

The animals were visiting from the rehabilitation program run by Sweetbriar Nature Center. Sweetbriar is a non-profit organization that provides shelter for injured animals and educates the public about the environment.

At the event, families met four different animals: Stitch the red-tailed hawk, Oreo the hedgehog, Holly the box turtle, and Turnip the eastern screen owl. They were able to pet Oreo and Holly as Christionna Carini, a Sweetbriar employee, told their stories. Oreo’s previous owner gave her up after learning that hedgehogs are nocturnal. Holly is one of many box turtles at the center.

“We have a lot of box turtles because they are at risk for habitat loss or injuries,” Carini said, “We also have box turtles that are perfectly healthy but since we don’t know where they came from we can’t release them.”

Though the families were not allowed to pet Stitch and Turnip, Carini shared their stories as well. Stitch was injured by a truck and suffered multiple injuries.

“Oftentimes what happens is people might throw an apple core out the window, a squirrel might run across the road for it and then the hawk goes for the squirrel,” Carini said.

Though Stitch lost an eye and part of her wing after the accident, she was fortunate that her bone breakage was not severe. Turnip has bad vision, which currently prevents him from surviving in the wild. 

During the afternoon, about 60 people attended the Pop-Up event. This is not the first time Sweetbriar employees have brought animals to community events. Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said, “Over the years we’ve had them come to different events either in our cultural center or on the property. They are a very good nature preserve and rehabilitation facility.”

According to Rocchio, the Pop-Ups have been a popular source of entertainment for families throughout the summer.

“With the success that we’re receiving from the general public … we will definitely be doing more of them next year,” she said.

Pop-Up Saturdays, which are sponsored by Edward Jones of Stony Brook, will continue at the Stony Brook Village Center until Aug. 27. Rain dates are the following Sunday.

Aug. 13 features storytelling and sing-alongs for kids with Johnny Cuomo from 2 to 3 p.m. at the inner court and Burke & Brenda from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of the post office. Aug. 20 there will be adoptable dogs from 2 to 4 p.m. and a free martial arts class from 2 to 3 p.m. Marty Macaluso will be on hand Aug. 27 for caricatures.

Sweetbriar Nature Center’s Janine Bendicksen said the teeth of the lynx are about 2 inches long. Photo from Sweetbriar Nature Center

A lynx was captured and brought to Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown after roaming around the Town of Islip for three days.

An escaped lynx is calling Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown its temporary new home. Photo from Sweetbriar

On July 29, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Suffolk County Police Department officials announced the capture of the lynx. It was first spotted on the loose July 26. The SCPD received a call on July 29 that the animal was seen on Hawthorne Avenue in Central Islip after a few sightings around the town. Third Precinct and Emergency Service Section officers captured it after it was tranquilized with the help of Frankie Floridia, from Strong Island Animal Rescue League, who brought the animal to Sweetbriar.

The SCPD has not confirmed who the owner of the lynx is. 

Now named Leonardo De Catprio, after he arrived at the nature center, the veterinarian examined him and found he had some parasites, ear mites and a small wound on his face and mouth, according to Janine Bendicksen, the center’s director of wildlife rehabilitation and curator. Overall, he was in good shape and estimated to be around a year old.

She said she was in the vet’s office when Leonardo was being examined. His mouth is big, she said, with teeth 2 inches long. As he was being sedated, he swatted and roared.

“It was just scared,” she said. “I’m sure it has a very sweet side, too. You just don’t know. It’s a wild animal.”

Bendicksen said Leonardo is currently not visible to the public as lynxes are nocturnal.

“It’s not something that wants to interact with the public,” she added.

A GoFundMe page organized by a Sweetbriar employee has raised more than $2,400 toward a $3,000 goal as of Aug. 3. The money will go toward the care of the lynx as well as for the specialized food he needs.

“It eats a lot,” Bendicksen said. “It’s 35 pounds now, and it’s probably going to double in size.”

The lynx Leonardo De Catprio being examined after being captured July 29. Photo from Sweetbriar Nature Center

She added owning such a pet is illegal. Lynx do not make good house pets, she said, and people shouldn’t be fooled by their cuteness.

“They’re very cute and very sweet when they are young, but when they become adults, they’re not pack animals,” Bendicksen said. “They become solitary. They become aggressive. They become territorial. They don’t want to be with their momma and daddy and family anymore. They want their own territory and do things on their own.”

The deep-wooded animals, which are not native to the area, are known to travel as far as 7 miles when they hunt, according to Bendicksen.

Eventually, the lynx will be moved to a sanctuary once an appropriate one is found. The Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are helping in the efforts to find Leonardo a new home.

“It is an unusual thing for us to have at Sweetbriar,” she said. “We deal with
native wildlife.”