Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sylvan Heights Kicks-Off Its Annual "12 Birds of Christmas" Event

If you haven't stopped by the Park lately, now's the best time to do so! Starting today, our annual 12 Birds of Christmas game will run through the end of the year. This holiday game is fun for people of all ages, and takes our visitors on a scavenger hunt throughout the park for the 12 bird species mentioned in our own version of the popular holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. See if you can spot the swans-a-swimming, geese-a-laying, calling birds, and of course, the partridge in a pear tree!

While you're there, think about catching up on your holiday gift buying. Our gift shop is stocked and ready with lots of fabulous products for children and adults. Take advantage of our current sale on embroidered sweatshirts, or consider buying a membership for a friend.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moonlight 2011

We would like to extend a warm "Thank you!" to everyone who attended our Moonlight in the Park event this past month.  And we'd also like to thank all of you who donated such fabulous items to our live and silent auctions. Because of your generosity, we were able to raise over $15,000 for the Park.

The evening was remarkable with fine food, awesome auction items, and the best auctioneer on the East Coast. (He certainly is the most entertaining one anyway!) Over 75 items were donated to this year's auction, so we were able to offer a silent auction as well. Some of the more popular items sold were the Topsail Beach week stay, Wine & Cheese Tasting for 12, and the Jefferson Hotel Champagne package. But the highlight of the evening was the auctioning of the Wildlife Photography Venture (bear-watching adventure), which sold for over $1,300!

We would especially like to acknowledge our volunteers and staff members who worked so hard to make the evening an enjoyable one for all of our guests. In particular, we'd like to thank all the members of our Friends of Sylvan Heights (FOSH) board who organized the event. Their hard work and attention to detail contributed to the success of the night.

In closing, here are a few pictures taken that night by our talented photographer and Assistant Curator, Katie Gipple.

We hope to see you next year!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November's Fundraiser

Our fall fundraiser is less than two weeks away! 

If you you attended our Moonlight in the Park event last year, you know how much fun we all had! This year's auction is shaping up to be even better than before and we have some fabulous items that have been donated, including a week's stay at an ocean-front cottage on quiet Topsail Beach.

Some of our other auction items include a champagne brunch package for two at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA; a private black bear viewing excursion near Lake Mattamuskeet; a fabulous capsule coffee machine by Nespresso; Italian cooking classes for two from Capri Flavors; and many more luxury items.

For a complete list of our auction items, visit our Moonlight Auction Item page.

If you haven't purchased your tickets yet, you must hurry! We've only a few spaces left.
Tickets must be purchased 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!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trick-or-Tweet at Sylvan Heights

Parents, if you are looking for a safe place to take your children trick-or-treating this Halloween, why not bring them to the park? On Monday, October 31st, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., Sylvan Heights will be open for a special after-hours event: Trick or Tweet.

Last year's trick-or-treat event in the corn maze was a great success. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene had other plans for our corn maze this year, so we have changed the plan just a wee bit and families will now be able to visit candy stations in the park where friendly costumed characters will be handing out goodies. A $2 donation is kindly requested.

Hope to see your little ghosties and goblins there!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sylvan Height's 5th Anniversary Celebration

We hope you will join us on Saturday, October 15th, as we celebrate our 5th anniversary.  Adults and children will receive a special discounted rate to enter the park - only $5 per ticket!  Special events are scheduled from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., including a live bird show and a demonstration by the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

We are here to serve you and know that nothing we do would be possible without all the support we have received from our community. We appreciate you letting us share our message of conservation and wildlife appreciation with you every day. And we delight in the new friends we have made along the way.

Here's to another five years...and many more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Species Spotlight: The Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

It has been a busy summer at the Park and we are glad to see fall arrive. If you haven't been to visit us in a while, now is the perfect time. The cooler weather makes your visit more pleasant, and the birds seem to be enjoying it, as well.

One of our newest birds on exhibit is the Abyssinian ground hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus). A native of African grassland and savanna habitats, this bird is an omnivorous ground dweller that eats mostly rodents, frogs, and snakes, as well as insects, seeds, and fruits. The hornbill's long beak even allows it to catch and eat venomous snakes, while keeping the bird's body safely out of harm's way. And the long featherless legs help it to move quickly and easily through the grassy environment.

One of the things visitors notice first about our female Abyssinian is her incredibly long eyelashes. Unlike ours, these lashes are not hairs but actually modified feathers that serve the same purpose and protect the eyes from sand and dirt.

That crazy looking thing on top of her beak is not really broken. It is called a casque, and is made of keratin. It is believed to help amplify their vocalizations so that other hornbills who are farther away can hear them. You may have noticed a similar casque on our silvery-cheeked hornbill.

Our bird can easily be identified as a female by her blue wattle, or throat pouch. Males puff theirs out during courtship, but they are different from the females' in that their wattles also have a bright red color surrounding the blue.

Her exhibit is located between the African aviary and the spur-winged geese exhibit. Next time you are at the park, be sure to stop and say hello!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sylvan Heights Featured On Our State Magazine's Website

UNC-TV and Our State magazine worked together to create this awesome video about Sylvan Heights, and Our State has featured it on their website. We appreciate all the work both organizations have done and if you haven't been to the park yet, here's your chance to see what all the fuss is about. Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Native Wildlife at Sylvan Heights

You all know about our wonderful animal collection that continues to grow each year. But did you know that many native species also "call the park home?" On your next visit to Sylvan Heights, take a look around and see how many "wild" animals you see in the park. Here are some that we happen to have caught on camera...

photo by K. Gipple

Red-Shouldered Hawk

While these birds often wreak havoc on the minds of our captive species, there is no denying their beauty. Red-shoulders are common in this area, and they actually are the diurnal counterpart to the Barred Owl. Both occupy the same niche, but the hawk hunts during the day and the owl hunts during the night.

photo by K. Gipple

White-tailed Deer

These quiet and graceful animals are frequently seen from our Bird's Nest Treehouse and Beaver Pond Blind. Early morning and evening are the best time to see them.

photo by K. Gipple

Blue Jay

These bold and noisey birds are known for their intelligence, which they use to find and consume their favorite food: acorns! They do not frequent our feeders at the park, but they can be seen flitting among the trees and vegetation.

photo by K. Gipple

Ornate Box Turtle

The staff here at the park has been keeping track of these fabulous reptiles. So many have been found in the park, that a marking system was created to monitor the population. They are often found in the swap area, down by our bridge.

photo by K. Gipple

Northern Cardinal

This little bird has probably recruited more bird watchers in this country than any other. They are not a migratory species, so their scarlet plumage is a welcome splash of color against winter's drab landscape. In the spring, they are busy, busy making little stick nests in the bushes. Keep an eye out for one in your yard and maybe they will allow you to observe one of nature's precious secrets: the hatching and raising of baby birds.

photo by K. Gipple

Northern Flying Squirrel

What a surprise it was for us to find this little guy occupying one of the songbird nest boxes that we have set up around the park! And even more interesting is that since this time, we have found two other boxes with flying squirrels inside as well. Two of the boxes are found in the Memorial Garden, each with a messy little nest inside. Be sure to keep an eye on them next time you visit, and you just might see this:

photo by M. Hazelton

photo by K. Gipple

Great Blue Heron

Down in the swamp by the Bird's Nest Treehouse, a great blue heron has taken up residence. Visitors can watch him fishing in the shallow waters. The largest heron in North America, this species can be found as far south as the Galapagos Islands.

photo by K. Gipple

Five-lined Skink

These quick little lizards can be found all over the park. Though they can deliver a strong bite, they are not dangerous. And they sometimes become a tasty treat for larger birds like herons, egrets, and others.

photo by K. Gipple

White-throated Sparrow

Often overlooked, these dashing little birds are regulars at backyard bird feeders. Many people dismiss them as just another little brown bird, but if you take a moment to really look at this sparrow you will be amazed by its beautiful coloration.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sylvan Heights Celebrates International Migratory Bird Day

This Saturday, May 14th, Sylvan Heights will be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). Developed by the non-profit, Environment for the Americas, this program is the only international education program that highlights and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Migration is simply defined as the seasonal movement from one place to another. The main reason that birds (or most animals, for that matter) migrate is to find food. You might be surprised to learn that many species, like songbirds, shorebirds, and some waterfowl, migrate (fly) at night when the air temperature is cooler and predators like hawks are less active.

And since most waterfowl are migratory species, this makes Sylvan Heights the perfect location for learning about the migration process. In addition, before coming out to the park on Saturday, you might enjoy visiting the official IMBD website and downloading some of their free education materials. The website is a WEALTH of information for both adults and children. There you will find fact sheets, coloring pages, as well as games & activities on a variety of topics including bird basics, migration, and habitats, to name a few.  Be sure to investigate the themes of previous years, as you will find additional educational resources on those webpages, too.

Here are some additional lesson plans on the topic of bird migration:

Hopscotch Migration (Grades K-6)

Bird Migration (Grades 5-8)

Songbirds at the Crossroads of Migration (High School)

You can also learn a lot at the online Smithsonian's Migratory Bird Center. (I love their Migration Game!)

And finally, here are some great books on this topic:

For Children-

by Laura Goering

by Mary Cuffe-Perez

by Jane Duden

 For Adults-

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Mother's Day Gift From Us..

Black swan with cygnets

Mother's Day is just two days away, and if you haven't thought of a special gift to give yours, then we're here to help! This Sunday, May 8th, if you bring your mother to Sylvan Heights, we'll let her in free (with the purchase of at least one regular admission)! This is a unique gift that allows your mother to spend some fun quality time with her family in beautiful surroundings.

So pack a picnic lunch, grab a blindfold, and surprise your mother with a joyous outing she won't soon forget!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mark Your Calendars for Waterfowl Reunion

Another reason to become a Sylvan Heights member! All members are invited to join us for the 2011 Waterfowl Reunion on April 30th from 9am to 12pm. Meet our education program birds face-to-face, and see our new hatchlings! Author David Gessner will be giving a presentation on the migration of ospreys, based on his book, Return of the Osprey, after the event at 1:00 p.m.

We hope to see you all on the 30th! And if you plan to attend, please RSVP by April 27th to enjoy complimentary gifts and refreshments.

Congratulations to our Chili Cook-Off Winners!

All photos by Katie Gipple.

March’s “supermoon” shed an abundance of light on this year’s chili competition at Sylvan Heights.

On Saturday, March 19th, the Friends of Sylvan Heights (FOSH) hosted the Park's 2nd annual Chili Cook-Off from 6-9 p.m. Nine chili cooks entered a variety of chili recipes that included everything from sweet potato to pineapple. And the event attracted about 200 visitors who came to support the Park and act as “taste-testers” by voting for their favorite recipe.

Among the entrants were: Karen and Bill Bunn, with their “Southern Spice” chicken and pineapple recipe; Michelle Hawkins’ “Hot Momma’s Chili;” Kevin Hawkins’ “Fireduck;” Reginald Newsome and his spicy “Sweet Temptation Remix;” Medoc Mountain’s “Fire on the Mountain;” and “Dead-Eye Dick’s Chili” by Hunter Letchworth.

A panel of three judges blind-tasted each chili for appearance, texture, flavor, and aroma. There were also marks for best presentation. Elizabeth Murphy with her sweet potato and black bean chili came in 2nd place with the judges, while contestants Kathy and Chris Lewis won the grand prize of $250 for their “Poppa's Original Recipe” chili.

The People’s Choice award was given to the contestant who received the most votes from the guests. The Scotland Neck Lion's Club came in second place, and the $100 top prize was also awarded to Kathy and Chris Lewis!

The contestants were set up around the Multinational Pond, a layout that allowed for greater accessibility, which everyone liked. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and it was a beautiful evening for such a fun event.

The Chili Cook-off is a fundraiser organized by FOSH, with all proceeds of the event going to help meet the daily needs at the Park. To date, more than 20,000 visitors have toured the Park so far this year.

Plans are already being made for next year's event, which promises to be bigger and better. Mark your calendars now for the 3rd annual Sylvan Heights Chili Cook-Off, March 17, St. Patrick's Day. Plan to come and enjoy the chili or be a contestant - either way you're a winner and the Park wins, too.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Second Annual Sylvan Heights Chili Cook-Off

Does the mere mention of your chili bring tears of joy to your family's eyes? Do dinner guests magically appear at your door when you are in the kitchen stirring a bubbling pot of chili? Then maybe you should think about entering the second annual Sylvan Heights Chili Cook-Off!

The Grand Prize winner will take home $250, and a second $100 prize will be awarded to the winner of the People's Choice.

What's that you say? You can't cook worth beans, but you are a chili-lover at heart? Or maybe you are on a deadline and can't enter your winning recipe this year? Then never fear, you can still join us and bring all your friends to cast your votes for your favorite chili. We'll supply the tasting cups, you supply the taste buds.

The event takes place on March 19th, at Sylvan Heights from 6 to 9 pm. Tickets are now available for $15 at the Park's gift shop. For more information and contest rules, send an email to or call 252.826.3186

We hope to see you ALL there!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend, people all over the United States and Canada will be participating in the 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This year, the GBBC runs Friday, February 18th, through Monday, February 21st.

Sylvan Heights is happy to welcome local students who will be counting our native birds at the park on Friday at 10 a.m. And we invite all of you to come out and visit us this weekend.

Our location has attracted a wide variety of bird species over the last few years, including pileated woodpeckers, prothonotary warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and many, many more. Just a few weeks ago, a small group of sandhill cranes were seen regularly around the park.

The four-day count takes place every February, and averages 10 million bird observations. People of any age can participate and no experience is necessary. Contrary to its name, you do not have to count birds in your own backyard, but can elect to count them anywhere - at a local park, school, etc. The project itself is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

First, participants commit to counting birds for at least 15 minutes during one or more days of the count.

Second, during your count, you record the highest number of birds of a single species (i.e., 5 cardinals, 8 house finches, 2 chickadees, etc.) that you see at one time.

Last, submit your data by going to the website and entering your checklist.

A joint effort between Cornell University and the Audubon Society, as well as Bird Studies Canada, this Citizen Science Project is a valuable tool for scientists studying local bird populations. The data recorded help them to monitor the effects of changing weather patterns or diseases on bird populations, compare migratory behaviors to previous years, and monitor "irruptive" species (birds that appear in great numbers some years and not in others).

To learn more about the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit their website at  It has a wealth of information and includes games and activities for kids like puzzles, coloring pages and bookmarks. You can also learn more about birds, flip though their photo gallery, and even see last year's bird count results.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We Are Open Again!

The park is now open once again. Our South America exhibit will remain closed until all the repairs have been made, but all other areas of the park are now accessible to the public. Hope to see you all here soon!