Twilight Tours Take Flight At Bird Sanctuary

Twilight Tour party (Photo by Suzie Alvey)
Twilight Tour party
(Photo by Suzie Alvey)

Nature lovers will be chirping with joy after visiting the Garden City Bird Sanctuary. A 9-acre portion of the nearly demolished Hempstead Plains, the sanctuary restored to life by Robert and Suzie Alvey, with the help of many charitable individuals and organizations. Being a dual use area, the goals of the reserve are to house and commercialize local plant and animal species, while simultaneously acting as a sump for Nassau County.

Suzie Alvey and Joanne Kastalek (Photo by Tony Cenzoprano)
Suzie Alvey and Joanne Kastalek
(Photo by Tony Cenzoprano)

Recently, both Alveys kicked off hosting yet another season of Twilight Tours at the preserve for the second year in a row. According to Suzie Alvey, they wanted to do something new. “Any time you have a charity, you have to think of different ways to get people to come in for the first time,” she stated.
All visitors were welcome to participate in the tours, which were repeated around every 20 minutes. Snacks and refreshments were offered to guests as they arrived and were available throughout the evening. They were also invited to explore the bird sanctuary before and after the expeditions.

Rob Alvey and Janice Cenzoprano (Photo by Tony Cenzoprano)
Rob Alvey and Janice Cenzoprano
(Photo by Tony Cenzoprano)

Rob Alvey led each tour, directing groups around the preserve and presenting various exhibits. He began by discussing some of the sanctuary’s newest additions, including as an amphibian pond and several projects currently being worked on. These, he informed listeners, are to be included in future tours. As he walked, he also pointed out a small, recently-built shelter near the entrance. Used for storage and nature camp activities, the shelter was donated and built by volunteers, including members of the National Peace Corps. On the topic of volunteering, Alvey mentioned the ways in which Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent blizzard affected the reserve almost two years ago. Generous volunteers from the County obliged to chainsaw the destroyed trees, while Americore volunteers carried out nearly 4 tons of debris. Thankfully, the bird sanctuary survived the storms and continues to grow.

Rosa and Junior Roberts (Photo by Suzie Alvey)
Rosa and Junior Roberts
(Photo by Suzie Alvey)

Carrying along, he led the crowd past a vibrant meadow of flowers, some which he pointed out, were planted by the Nassau County Girl Scouts. Festive orange flowers, also known as Butterfly Weeds, populated the majority of the meadow. The inventory was done about a year ago. The Common Milkweed, an attractive pink species, inhabited the field as well. Alvey explained that critters frequently hide in these tall grasses to avoid predators. “That’s nature,” he laughed.
Passing the meadow, visitors were ushered down a narrow path toward the back of the reserve. In this area, the amphibian pond was visible, stocked with tadpoles and several newts from last year. “Our main goal is to provide creatures with different habitats,” Alvey explained. Additionally, he indicated various trees surrounding the pond, including a Black Spruce tree that is not commercially available in the area. A gray horned owl box intrigued guests as well. Being that owls are common to the area, Alvey believed the nest to be a good investment. And as he told the crowd, if an owl never rests in the box, other birds will likely make use of it. “We’ve now seen over 100 species of bird here,” he said, moving them away from the pond.

Rob Alvey, Teresa Trouvé and John Cronin (Photo by Suzie Alvey)
Rob Alvey, Teresa Trouvé and John Cronin
(Photo by Suzie Alvey)

Backtracking through the clearing, he pointed out a large gazebo. He explained that it was a project, built from the columns of a friend’s house. A Boy Scout became excited at the opportunity to create something from the columns and commenced work on it. Alvey happily mentioned that a wedding was held under the gazebo several years ago.

Joanne Kastalek and friends (Photo by Suzie Alvey)
Joanne Kastalek and friends
(Photo by Suzie Alvey)

The final stop on the tour was a group of June shrubs near the front of the reserve which Alvey explained produced June berries, which are useful for attracting a variety of birds. They are also called service berries due to their role of sustaining soldiers in the Civil War.
As the group dispersed, many individuals chose to investigate the other areas of the bird sanctuary. With a walkway of memorial trees and an assortment of plant species, there was still much more to see. Alvey continued to speak to guests during this time. He mentioned the other nature preserves in Nassau County, saying that there are over 500 of these bases. He Alvey expressed his desire for such things to spread. “It’s a benefit to the community and to the county,” he said. “It feeds a bigger purpose.”

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