A wild day of the week at Bright & Early Discoveries

At Bright & Early Discoveries day care on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead, Wednesday is wildlife day.

While some may feel that every day with young children is wildlife day, this is different.

Working with the school’s nature coordinator, Thea Cohen of Riverhead, the kids at Bright & Early are introduced to different animals every Wednesday, courtesy of Ms. Cohen. He’s a wildlife volunteer at the non-profit Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, which operates a hospital for injured wild animals.

Last Wednesday, two members of the rescue center — education coordinator Jim MacDougall and his wife Cheryl, who is a raptor handler — brought along several birds from the center to show the kids. These included: Millennial, a peregrine falcon; Meap, a great horned owl; Aria, an eight-week old Eurasian eagle-owl; Archimedes, an eastern screech-owl, and Sonia, a red-tailed hawk.

Some of the animals cared for at the shelter are injured and cannot be returned to the wild.

“It’s very important that young children get acquainted with wild animals, and earth and insects so they can spark their enthusiasm about nature at an early age and not get lost in technology and video games,” said Ms. Cohen, a volunteer who often goes on calls of injured animals in the Riverhead area.

Bright & Early’s owner, Jennifer LaMaina, said the kids “can’t wait” for the program to start each Wednesday when they get to see different animals.

Bright & Early Discovery was founded in 2016 on Union Avenue by Ms. LaMaina, who is a licensed master social worker. The school moved to its new location on Northville Turnpike about one-and-a-half months ago.

Ms. LaMaina said the facility is licensed for 60 children, ranging in age from six weeks old to 12 years old, and currently has about 30 per day, although it’s almost filled to capacity for September.

Photo caption: Cheryl MacDougall holds a eastern screech-owl. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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