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Oyster Bay Easter program features recovering hawk at Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center

Naturalist teacher Derek Gerardi of Setauket introduced Canuck,

Naturalist teacher Derek Gerardi of Setauket introduced Canuck, a red-tailed Hawk, to a group of 40 children after the egg hunt at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center in Oyster Bay. (March 30, 2013) Credit: Mary Kate Mahoney

Children who participated in the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Oyster Bay discovered much more than just colored eggs.

The sanctuary offered Easter basket-making activities, festive treats and encounters with its feathered and scaled residents.

“We hold the egg hunt to bring the community together and open up the sanctuary to show people how beautiful it is,” said educational manager Rebecca Oyer of Huntington Station.

Held for the past three years, the egg hunt has gained popularity, selling out three sessions on Saturday. The first session welcomed 40 toddlers and their families, while two following sessions invited children 4 to 10 to create Easter baskets and stroll through the sanctuary gathering eggs.

Once each child gathered 12 eggs, they could trade their findings in for a souvenir bag filled with Easter candy and toys.

Sanctuary volunteers were available all day to help children with basket making and to guide them throughout the outdoor trails.

“Just being outside in the open air is so peaceful,” said volunteer and retired school teacher Barbara Mallon, of Port Washington. “The children have been very enthusiastic.”

The hunt was followed by a 30-minute presentation led by the sanctuary’s naturalists.

“It’s great to be able to inspire people to become interested in nature,” said naturalist teacher Derek Gerardi, who held a presentation on egg-laying animals. “All this cool stuff is right outside your window; you don’t have to turn on ‘National Geographic’ to see it.”

The highlight for many of the children came when Gerardi introduced Canuck, a full-grown red-tailed hawk, to a stunned crowd. The hawk, a native to Long Island, is recovering at the sanctuary from being hit by a car several months ago.

Tom and Dawn Pologruto, of Huntington, brought their sons Thomas, 1, and John, 2, to the egg hunt to enjoy the outdoors and celebrate the holiday during one of the first warm days of spring.

“We came for the Easter egg hunt,” Tom Pologruto said, “but the animals were definitely the best part.”

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