Holiday Open House at Soldiers Delight

bakesale0812-08-18.jpgSoldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. (SDCI), the Friends group supporting Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills, Maryland, was pleased to participate in a festive Holiday Open House hosted by Patapsco Valley State Park, under whose purview this protected wilderness has operated for several years.

bakesale0912-08-18.jpgEager to utilize a networking opportunity to raise funds for our ongoing conservation efforts to benefit the endangered ecosystem, we organized a bake sale in the visitor center auditorium to take place during the Open House. Paula Becker, volunteer coordinator for Soldiers Delight's Serpentine Ecosystem Restoration Program (SERP) and a baker extraordinaire, recruited volunteer bakers for the event and donated much of her own time and ingredients to bake a plethora of sweet delights for us to sell. Another longtime SDNEA supporter, Donna Shoemaker, contributed scores of delectable pastries, all imaginatively themed to suit activities or creatures found on Soldiers Delight acreage. Several SDCI board members also baked, resulting in an abundance of delicious treats to adorn our bake sale tables.

Master naturalists Chris Volrath and Bonnie Pavlak spar with invasive branches at the Holiday Open House at SDNEA
In another part of the visitor center, Paula had recruited a pair of master naturalists to staff a table to display the intrusive habits of invasive plants and show how they threaten the viability of rare and endangered plant species such as those that comprise the fragile ecosystem at Soldiers Delight. SDCI vice president Lynell Tobler led guided tours of our Exhibit Hall, describing the history of the area and what makes the habitat so special.

jackandfrankwithjesse12-08-18.jpgSitting at table near the lobby, author Jack Wennerstrom and photographer Frank Wisenewski autographed copies of their latest collaboration, a coffee-table compendium of stunning color photographs of Soldiers Delight, accompanied by lovely prose. There are still some books left for sale at the visitor center if you need a perfect gift for the nature-lover on your list!

Outside, Skip Bird and Brenda DeLuna of the Westminster Astronomical Society, held forth in the parking lot with a large telescope outfitted with a solar lens for safely viewing the sun. Visitors took turns peering through the scope at the star which provides light and nourishment to our planet.

bryanandgho12-08-18.jpgIn our nature classroom, PVSP Scales & Tales naturalist Bryan Feylock displayed one of the raptors from our aviary, a majestic great-horned owl whose injuries from a car strike prevent it from ever returning to its natural habitat -- but do not detract at all from its regal bearing.

walnutsnowmanmaking0212-08-18.jpgSharing space in the auditorium with our bake sale was PVSP seasonal naturalist Courtney Birkmeyer, who led a holiday crafts program in which all manner of woodland creatures could be constructed of natural materials such as walnuts, acorns and sweetgum balls. Even some of the PVSP rangers and other staff got in on the fun, crafting jaunty snowmen from walnuts. 

Intrepid wildlife enthusiasts gather to tour the aviary at SDNEA, where they helped to chart the birds' food intake.
But perhaps the biggest draw of the Open House was that of our aviary, one of six in the state of Maryland which house rehabilitated raptors and other birds as avian ambassadors for PVSP's Scale & Tales program, which was open to the public for guided tours only on this special day. Although the hourly tours were free, for a fee, avian enthusiasts could join seasonal naturalists for the morning feeding, helping to weigh the food and track the animals' food intake if they wished.

All in all, the Open House was a sweet success, garnering several hundred dollars from the bake sale for our conservation efforts and enlightening many interested visitors about the unique and wonderful characteristics of Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area. It was fun to share what we love so much about Soldiers Delight. And now dozens more people have also learned to cherish the many attributes of our beloved habitat.

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