It’s not exactly a safari, but it may be as close as we get on Long Island: Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown is hosting a drive-through event so families can see birds of prey from the safety of their cars.
Spaced out along the center’s gravel road will be at least five animal educators with birds and other animals for families to see. “At each animal, the volunteer is going to do a little introduction and a little history about that animal,” says Isabel Fernandes, wildlife care coordinator.
The center has an entrance and exit that will allow cars to flow through in one direction. Visitors will stay in their cars and center volunteers will stand at least 6 feet away as they introduce a redtail hawk, an Eastern screech owl, an American kestrel falcon, an opossum, and Nebula the Barn Owl, some of the more than 100 animals cared for at the education and wildlife rehabilitation center.
The “Birds of Prey Drive-Thru Day” has two sessions, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. May 30 (with a rain date of May 31). Tickets are $20 per car an include a sapling giveaway to each car from Bartlett Tree Experts. Reservations are mandatory to control the number of attendees and payment is online; participants can print out their tickets or show them on their phone through their car windows.
The event officially celebrates Nebula the Barn Owl’s first birthday. She’s an owl that the center has raised since she was 2 weeks old and “looked like a giant Q-tip,” says Veronica Sayers, program coordinator. Nebula has become quite popular on the center’s social media and events, Sayers says.
FIRST DRIVE-THROUGH EVENT
To add to the festivity, participants are asked to decorate their cars using recycled materials and items from nature. The winner for the best-decorated car will be announced on the center’s Facebook page the next day, and the winner will receive a Sweetbriar goodie bag.
“You know how people are decorating their cars to drive by for birthday parties? That’s exactly what we’re looking for,” Sayers says. “The kids could even just color pictures and tape them to their car windows.” The center asks, however, that families refrain from using balloon decorations or from beeping their horns during the drive-through.
This is the first time the nature center has done a drive-through event, Fernandes says. "We’ve never had to do it this way before."
Can’t make it to the drive-through? The center also introduces one of its animals at 2:30 p.m. every Thursday during a live, interactive, 10-minute presentation on the Sweetbriar Nature Center Facebook page. That’s been happening since mid-March, Fernandes says. Featured animals have included snakes, a hawk, and baby birds.
The center itself is currently closed. “We hope to open the grounds soon,” Fernandes says.
"Birds of Prey Drive-Thru"
WHEN|WHERE 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. May 30 (rain date May 31) at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown
INFO $20 per car. Tickets can be purchased at sweetbriarnc.org; 631-979-6344.