Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Closed For The Year...

All photos by K. Gipple
Sylvan Heights will be closed until the end of the week while we assess the extent of the damage and begin repairs to the Park and the Breeding Center, which resulted from this past weekend's heavy snow storm.

While the majority of the damage occurred at the Breeding Center, all the staff from both the Park and the Center have been working throughout the daylight hours to save birds and salvage the aviaries which collapsed under the tremendous weight of snow. A few birds were injured by the collapsing pens and some were buried under the snow that ranged from 12 to over 15 inches in depth.

Thank you to all our friends who have quickly responded to our call for help. We are most grateful for your generosity. And we are also extremely appreciative to those zoos who have responded to our request by sending crews over to help rebuild pens and aviaries.

For the moment, birds have been relocated into unaffected aviaries and temporary pens have been built while repairs are being made. If you would like to help, the park could use live Christmas trees as cover and sight barriers to help these relocated birds adjust to their new surroundings and provide shelter. So rather than leave your trees by the curbside this year, please consider donating them to us. To donate your tree, please call 252-826-3186.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Unique Gifts for Your Friends and Family

If you are still looking for some unique gift ideas this holiday season, here are some that the park has to offer...

Gift Passes:  Next year our price of admission will be going up a wee bit. But if you buy a gift pass to the park now, you'll lock in this year's rate!

A Year's Membership: Members receive free admission to the park all year long, a 10% discount in the gift shop, and a subscription to our Park newsletter. In addition, your membership also grants you free admission to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, the NC Aquariums, and the Nature Center in Asheville. Members are also invited to a special program, Waterfowl Reunion, once a year in the spring, where members enjoy complimentary refreshments and can get up close and personal with the park's new hatchlings.

Feed a Duck for a Year: This special program helps to care for the birds in the park. Your donation of $100 enables you to be the proud sponsor of one of the amazing birds in our collection for a year. Comes with a sponsorship certificate that you can display at home or at work.

Visit the Park's Gift Shop: Our store has many beautiful gifts in a wide ranges of prices to please anyone on your list. From books to clothing, puzzles to jewelry, we have some excellent products that people of any age can enjoy.

Gift Certificate to the Park's Shop: Take the guess work out of your holiday and give a gift certificate which allows the recipient to choose their own favorite item!

With warmest holiday wishes to you all...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Celebrate the 12 Birds of Christmas at Sylvan Heights!

Now through January 2nd, stop by the park and celebrate the 12 Birds of Christmas! From french hens to calling birds, geese a-laying to swans a-swimming, test your skill by participating in our scavenger hunt and see if you can answer all the questions we've put together for you. A fun activity for young and old, bring your family and friends with you this holiday season!

Check out this video with our director, Mike Lubbock, for more information about the 12 Birds of Christmas...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snapshots of Moonlight in the Park

Thank you to all who attended our Moonlight in the Park fundraiser. It was a smashing success, raising over 14,000 for the Park. Attendees enjoyed a meal provided by On the Square in Tarboro and live music.

But the highlight of the evening was definitely the live auction - thanks to our wonderful auctioneer, Phil Stanton. Some of the most popular items of the evening included the large globe made of semi-precious stones, a wine and cheese tasting for 12, a pet portrait by portrait artist Dorothy McLennan, and a pair of hand-carved harlequin duck decoys.

Sylvan Heights would like to extend a sincere thank you to all the individuals and companies who donated items for the evening's auction, as well as all those who attended the evening's festivities and who gave so generously.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The First Birds of the Roanoke Valley Symposium

photo by Katie Gipple
On Saturday, September 18th, Sylvan Heights will be hosting the first Birds of the Roanoke Valley symposium. Co-sponsored by the Halifax County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Medoc Mountain State Park and Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park, the symposium is being held to teach the public more about birding opportunities here and across the state. The Roanoke River region is one of the premier birding destinations in North Carolina.

The day will begin at 9 a.m. with a symposium of birding, wildlife and habitat experts from across North Carolina, including such representatives as The Nature Conservancy-Roanoke River Project, Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge, Carolina Bird Club, Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park, Medoc Mountain State Park, Roanoke Canal Trail, and featuring the Carolina Raptor Center in Charlotte, NC.

Following the symposium Q & A session, lunch will be provided in the Sylvan Heights Golden Leaf Room, sponsored by the Halifax County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Birds of the Roanoke Valley attendees will then be invited for a complimentary guided tour of Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park with paid park admission.

That evening Medoc Mountain State Park will host a Hike into the Night, as part of the Birds of the Roanoke Valley celebration. Check out the sights and sounds of the wildlife that come out at night in Medoc Mountain State Park’s pine and hardwood forest and learn a little bit about identifying who is making those sounds. A park ranger will meet the group for a guided trip leaving from the picnic shelter at 9 p.m. Bring a flashlight with fresh batteries and walking shoes.

On Sunday morning an optional one-hour Roanoke River cruise by pontoon boat with Roanoke River Rentals & Guides will be available at 10 a.m. for an additional charge - $10 for adults, $5 ages 10 & up, free to those 10 & younger.

There are only 50 spots available for the Birds of the Roanoke Valley symposium and fewer than that for the hike and river cruise. Please RSVP with your plans for the symposium, guided tour, hike and/or river cruise by Monday, September 13, to Christina Gordon, Halifax County CVB, at 800-522-4282, 252-519-2603 or cgordon@visithalifax.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
We hope to see you all here!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Moonlight in the Park

Our fall fundraiser is only a few months away, and if you are a fan of the famous On the Square restaurant in Tarboro, North Carolina, you are in luck!

Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park cordially invites you to join us for an evening of cocktails, gourmet dining, entertainment, and live/silent auctions.

Owned by husband and wife team, Inez and Stephen Ribustello, On the Square is a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning restaurant. Their mutable menu celebrates seasonal, sustainable ingredients and is complemented by their eclectic and classical wine selection. In their quest to create a unique dining experience for their customers, the Ribustellos  continually seek to expand their knowledge and are currently the only couple to hold the Court of Master Sommeliers' advanced certificate. (Read their intriguing story here.) We are thrilled to have them cater Moonlight in the Park!

Items for the live and silent auction are currently being collected. If you'd like to donate a special item for the event, please contact us at the number below.

Tickets must be reserved and are available for purchase at the Park's gift shop, or by calling (252) 826-3186. All proceeds will support Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park.

Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Peacock Corn Maze Now Open

Next time you visit the Park, be sure to try your hand at the new six-acre Peacock Corn Maze!  Tickets are available at the Park's gift shop and cost $5 for adults and $3 for children. A one dollar discount is available for members or with a paid admission to the park. Each visitor will receive a map of the maze, which takes about 30 minutes to navigate. Children will also enjoy searching out the clues hidden in the maze to solve a riddle on the map. Sweet corn is available for purchase in the park gift shop.

The Peacock Corn Maze will run through October 31st.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sylvan Heights Contributes to Research Study

Sylvan Heights has a large number of interns and researchers who come to stay for various lengths of time throughout the year. It is such a pleasure to meet so many individuals - young and old – who are interested in conservation.

We are also proud to have been able to participate in so many scientific research projects and to share the wealth of knowledge that has been acquired here throughout the years. We look forward to contributing to many more studies in the years to come.

One of our most recent visitors was Jessica Meir, an American scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Jessica is a physiologist working on a research project with bar-headed geese. She came to the park to hand-raise and imprint a group of bar-headed goslings that she plans to train to fly in a wind tunnel for her study.

We are fortunate to be able to share more about Jessica’s work with you in the following video that she made while she was here. Thanks so much to Joe Holliday of the Commonwealth Progress for capturing her story on video…

Friday, June 4, 2010

What the Heck is a Lek?

Have you made a trip to the Park recently to discover our little secret? If not, let us introduce you to our newest exhibit and its distinguished inhabitants: Ruffs.

Visitors are now treated to a rare sight in North American zoos, as our group of 19 birds is the largest in the country. In fact, only one other facility in the U.S. – the San Diego Zoo – displays Ruffs, and we are happy to be able to join them in educating the public about this spectacular species.

Ruffs are named for the dramatic collar of feathers that encircles the male’s neck during the breeding season. Reminiscent of the fashionable “ruffs” worn by Europeans in the 17th century, these collars are impressive to behold.

Ruffs are also unusual for the variety of plumage colors and patterns among individual males during the breeding season. In the winter months, it is hard to distinguish males from females. But when summer arrives, individual males develop a breeding plumage in shades of black, brown, rusty red and white – all in unique combinations and patterns. This phenomenon is thought to be a means of identification, unlike most bird species, which use vocalization to distinguish one from another. 

Three of our male Ruffs beginning to come into breeding plumage.

But perhaps this species is most remarkable for the fact that they are the only “lekking” sandpiper. A lek is best described as an arena where male birds gather for the purpose of competitive breeding displays. For example, in the summer, groups of Ruffs will migrate North to their breeding grounds in Northern Eurasia. Once there, males will come together on a daily basis at a particular spot and compete for the opportunity to mate with a female.

Dominant, or “resident”, males are dark in appearance and aggressively defend a small territory within the lek. “Satellite” males have lighter plumage with white ruffs and, although they do not defend a territory, they are tolerated in the arena by the resident males.

With Ruffs, there is a third group of breeding males. "Faeder" males mimic females in plumage and behavior. They do not possess the colorful feathered collar of most males and do not perform any breeding displays. Instead, faeders roam between territories posing as females, and covertly mate with females when an opportunity arises.

At the leks, males perform a number of courtship displays such as “Wing-fluttering”, a “Strut-walk”, or “Flutter-jumps” to name a few. Females visit the leks to mate with the male of her choice. Afterwards, she leaves and assumes all responsibility for the care of the eggs and chicks. The male’s job is done.

Other lekking species include Sage Grouse, Prairie Chickens, Musk Ducks, Birds of Paradise, and Hermit Hummingbirds.

Breeding Ruffs primarily eat insects, but this diet varies during migration and in winter based on food availability, and may include small crustaceans, fish, grains and grasses. Here at the park, our group is fed a commercial diet for sea birds.

Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park is taking advantage of this unique learning opportunity and is participating in an on-going Ruff behavioral research project with East Carolina University and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

So next time you visit the Park, be sure to stop by and check out our Ruff exhibit. It is located along the path leading to the Beaver Pond Blind.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Aviculturist Members Enjoy Duckling Day

On May 29, the Park hosted its annual Duckling Day event. Aviculturist Members enjoyed a delicious breakfast provided by the staff and volunteers of Sylvan Heights. Afterwards, the members were divided into groups and treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Park's breeding facility, which is not open to the general public.

We'd like to thank all of our members for their continued support of the Park. We'd also like to thank our dedicated staff and volunteers for all of their efforts and contributions, which enable us to produce quality events for our visitors.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Looking to Improve Your Photography Skills?

We are excited to announce that on Saturday, May 22 from 9 am-3:30, nature photographer, Sol Levine, will be teaching a photography workshop here at the Park.

Geared for beginners and intermediate level photographers, this class can help you become more comfortable with your camera. In addition to learning how to compose images in an outdoor setting, the workshop will also discuss your photography equipment and the affect that the changing outdoor lighting has on it. Budding photographers from 14-years-old and older with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a bit of patience are welcome to participate in this course.

Sol is an award-winning nature photographer whose work has appeared in books, magazines and calendars, as well as museums and art centers. His most recent award was in a Canon Worldwide Photo Contest. Fuji Film has used Sol’s photographs in show booths and two were chosen for an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Sol is a member of the Carolina Nature Photographer’s Association, the North Carolina Master Photographers Association and the North Carolina Wildlife Artists Society. To learn more about Sol Levine, you can visit his website http://www.naturesimagesbysol.com/

To register for this exciting workshop, you can contact Sol Levine via email at naturpix@mindspring.com (This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it) or by calling him at 919-453-2653.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Celebrating Members and Birds

Here are a few pictures from our Waterfowl Reuinion and Migratory Bird Day events. Members enjoyed meeting many of our outreach animals up close as well as brunch and touring the Park. Many were also able to witness the grand opening of our new Beaver Pond Blind, which was made possible by funding from Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

Hope to you all get a chance to come out and see some of our new changes soon!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day and International Migratory Bird Day at the Park

Things have been extremely busy the last few months at the Park. In March, we hosted our first Chili Cook-off, which turned out to be a resounding success. Thanks so much to our Friends of Sylvan Heights (FOSH) Board for all their hard work, and especially to Board Members Jackie Jones and Michael Procino for organizing the event. Twelve fabulous chili entries came from different areas within the Roanoke Valley area and over 200 people attended the event to sample and vote for their favorite chili. The “Taster’s Choice Award” was won by Gra Whitehead representing Down East Animal Refuge. And the grand prize went to Carol Shields whose “Roanoke River Chili” was created using locally grown and harvested ingredients.

So far this month, the Park has enjoyed record-breaking numbers as families and friends eager to get out and enjoy the arrival of spring, have visited with picnic baskets and cameras in hand. But the birds aren’t the only things our visitors are looking at; Photographers have been spotted snapping shots of the landscaped grounds also, as tulips, azaleas and many other plants have opened their blooms to welcome the warm, spring sunshine.

This Thursday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, a global celebration of our environment. People around the world will be participating in events and activities that show a commitment to the protection and responsible stewardship of the planet. Why not celebrate by taking a little trip out to visit us and learn more about the amazing creatures that share our world?

Also, on May 1st, all members of the Park are invited to attend our annual member appreciation event, “Waterfowl Reunion,” from 9 am until noon. Join us for a fun-filled morning where you can meet our special program birds, see the new hatchlings, get hands-on with many of the young birds, and enjoy complimentary gifts and refreshments. Not a member? No problem! You can purchase your membership when you arrive. For more information on individual and family memberships, please visit our website.

Your family can even make it an all-day trip and stay for our International Migratory Bird Day celebration. The Park opens to the public at noon and visitors will be treated to an entertaining and informative program on Operation Migration, a project to help save the endangered Whooping Crane. You can read all about our ties to the project here.
Remember the movie, Fly, Away Home? In case you thought that was just a Hollywood stunt, come to the Park to learn how a similar project is carried out each year to save the Whooping Crane population in North America. Meet staff from Operation Migration and learn just how they are able to train those cranes to fly behind ultra-light airplanes. You’ll also be able to watch a handler don a crane suit and hand-feed our own young Whooping Crane! This promises to be a fun and informative program for all ages.

We hope to see you all there!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vote for Your Favorite....Chili!

Join us this Satuday night, March 13th, at Sylvan Heights' first official Chili Cook-Off! Experience the park after hours as you sample chili from more than 10 different contestants. The park will be open for this event from 6 to 9 pm.

Two awards will be given; one to the most popular chili voted on by you, the general public, and the other to be determined by a panel of local celebrity judges that includes Miss North Carolina. Visitors to the event will receive a ballot that will allow them to vote on their favorite chili based on appearance, aroma, flavor, and creativity.

Don't miss out on your chance to vote for your favorite chili!

A silent auction comprised of various types of animal-themed art will also be held that night.

Tickets for this fundraiser are $15. Why not enjoy a fun evening while supporting your favorite local park?

Tickets are on sale now at the park's gift shop. Or reserve your tickets by calling (252) 826-3186.

Hope to see you all there!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Whooping Crane Arrives at Sylvan Heights

Sylvan Heights is proud to introduce one of our newest additions to the Park: a young whooping crane. Only a handful of places in North America work with these birds, and the Park is the only private facility given the privelege to display this endangered species. Hatched last spring at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, the young male whooping crane incurred a leg injury and was deemed non-releasable back into the wild. Sylvan Heights is thrilled to be given the opportunity to use this bird as an animal ambassador to educate the public about the plight and resulting programs successfully created for this species.

The rarest of the 15 crane species, whooping cranes are native to North America. In 1941, a bird count revealed that only 16 living birds were left in the wild. Since then, extraordinary conservation efforts have been made, the result of which is that we now have just over 500 birds in the world.

The tallest bird in North America, an adult whooping crane is imposing. They stand between 4 and 5 feet high, with snowy white plumage, except for a brilliant red cap on the top of their heads, and black facial markings and black primary feathers clearly visible in flight. Their long, spear-like beaks and fierce golden eyes make an adult whooping crane quite formidable when protecting its young. 

They get their name from their distinctive "whoop-like" call, which pairs often make in unison. Whoopers are gregarious by nature meaning that they prefer to live in a group, or in their case, family groups. They frequent marshes, shallow lakes and lagoons where there is an abundance of aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates for their young to feed on. Sometimes adults may kill larger prey such as rodents, snakes and small birds.

In the wild, whooping cranes naturally migrate 4000 km from their breeding grounds in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park to their wintering grounds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
However, scientists became concerned of the potential risk associated with having only one wild population of whoopers. They recognized that the group could easily be wiped out by disease, bad weather or other factors. 

So a successful captive rearing and reintroduction program using ultralight airplanes was implemented. It focuses on raising the chicks of captive pairs and "guiding" them on their first migration southward. Operation Migration has been remarkably successful in its goal to establish an eastern population of migrating whoopers. Each fall, a team of dedicated conservationists, guide a group of young birds from Wisconsin south to Florida.

But OM also works with other species including sandhill cranes and Canada geese. To learn more about their programs, please visit their comprehensive web site. It includes a great deal of information on everything from the natural history of the birds themselves, to video clips about training the young birds to follow the ultralights, to audio bites of vocalizations, and much, much more. 

Then grab your coat and head to the Park for your first encounter with our magnificent whooping crane and see it for yourself!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Calling All Chefs!

Do you have the world's best chili recipe? Does your office, church or organization cook up a mean bowl of five-alarm chili? Then get a bowl (or 5 quarts!) ready for the hottest event this spring!

We are excited to announce our first "Chili Cook-off" fundraiser! On Saturday, March 13th, from 6 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., contestants will battle for first place as a judging panel comprised of members of the food industry vote for their favorite chili recipe. In addition to receiving $250, the first place winner will also have their name engraved on a new plaque at the park as the official "Chili Cook-off" winner for 2010.

Tickets to the event will be sold to the general public, who may also vote for their favorite chili. And a second "Taster’s Choice" award will be given. This winner will receive $100, plus free passes to the park.

Chili stations will be placed around the grounds, and a table with 3 chairs will be provided for each station. Each contestant will also receive 3 free tickets to the event. The amount of chili per entrant (not to exceed 5 gallons) will be determined by the number of entries and tickets sold to the public.

Complete guidelines and pre-registration forms are available at the park or by calling Jackie Jones at 826-5500 or by emailing jackiejjjj@aol.com.

Tickets are available from members of FOSH (Friends of Sylvan Heights) at $15 each. They may also be purchased in the Park's gift shop.

But hurry and sign up today - the deadline for chili registration entry is March 1st.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Celebrate this Valentine's Day with Romance in the Park

If you're looking for a way to surprise your sweetheart this Valentine's Day, then consider treating him or her to a romantic evening in unique surroundings. Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park will be holding it's 4th Annual "Romance in the Park" on Saturday, February 13th, from 7 to 10 pm. Join us for a fun evening of food, wine, live entertainment and dancing.

Tickets are available for $60 per couple and $30 for singles. Park Members will receive a membership discount. For more information, please contact Jo Ann Josey at 252-826-3186.