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.

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