August 31, 2010

Sweetbriar Nature Center

One of my favorite things to do on warm and sunny summer afternoons is to go on long nature hikes. With today being just such a day, I stopped off on my way home from work to visit the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, NY. The Sweetbriar Nature Center is a building dedicated to native wildlife rehabilitation and education about the unique ecosystems found on Long Island. It is situated on a 54-acre preserve filled with walking trails that meander along side the Nissequogue River through varied garden, field, woodland, and wetland habitats. As I ambled through the numerous paths with camera in hand, I encountered jagged stairways, dense vegetation, graceful birdsong, the trunks of mighty fallen trees, the gentle rushing of water--nature hikes always offer a potpourri of sensory stimuli; I must have spent two hours on the color-coded paths that wind through the preserve.

On the premises, there is a screened butterfly vivarium that houses over 20 species of Lepidoptera and the lush foliage necessary for their survival. One can see all of the stages of creation at work, from the egg to caterpillar to the chrysalis to the winged mosaic that is the butterfly. Highly cool.

The butterfly vivarium is a wonderful place, though I think the thing that I most enjoyed was Sweetbriar's Indoor Rainforest. Here, I strolled through a tropical environment, meeting a variety of animals: boa constrictor, parrots, macaws, iguana, tarantula, a working honeybee hive, an ant farm, and, perhaps the strangest creature that I've ever seen, the walking stick.

I was very happy to spend my afternoon at the Sweetbriar Nature Center. Not only is it an interesting place to explore, I also find their efforts toward the conservation of the earth's critical habitats applaudable.

"Your word, O Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures."

~Psalm 119:89-90