Birds of a feather really do flock together.
Thanks to a $50,000 donation from the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls (SORCO) and the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C. now have a permanent roost.
That money went to secure ownership of the property for the non-profit organizations which operate out of the original SORCO location near Vaseux Lake, just north of Oliver. The Land Conservancy (TLC) which previously managed the site had run into financial problems which cast some doubt over the future of the property where raptor recovery and enhancement programs have been underway for over a decade.
“This is just super important for us, especially because we don’t own any of the other sites that we use,” said SORCO executive manager Lauren Meads, who manages the two programs. “It’s a great thing because it gives us some stability, especially because we rely heavily on donations and we can relax a little knowing that there is a future for the facility.
“The Burrowing Owl Winery has been a part of the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society since the early 90’s and right from the beginning they have been our major sponsors. Jim (winery chair) and Midge (Wyse) have even been out digging burrows with us.”
One of the major projects on the property that was put on hold when TLC ran into creditor problems was the construction of a new clinic. It has since been completed and this Sunday the public will have an opportunity to see the new facility at the annual open house. Special guest will be B.C. Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon, herself a former rancher in the Merritt area and past director of the Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C. She also served on the provincial task force on Species at Risk.
Also on Sunday there will be a silent auction, a 15th birthday party for Houdini, the resident great horned owl, site tours and more.
This day is the only time during the year the public is able to get a closeup look at the work which goes on there. Among those volunteering this year at the open house will be Wyse’s daughter Kerri McNolty and her 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.
“I think first and foremost my parents are committed to the societies because they are conservationists and lovers of wildlife,” said Kerri, speaking on behalf of the family. “They have both, but I guess my father more so, have spent countless volunteer hours doing every task required and continues to do so at the age of 75 and shows no sign of slowing down.”
The parents also instilled that love of nature in their children Kerri, who works in marketing at the winery and her brother Chris, the president.
“That’s why me and my kids are going to be at the open house selling raffle tickets to raise money,” said Kerri. “Each burrowing owl eats two mice a day and mice cost $1 each, so that’s what we’ll be doing.”
The involvement of the Wyse family began before the Oliver winery even existed. Jim noticed a sign lying on the ground during a walk around of the property which said the burrowing owl was endangered and the society was working to rehabilitate the species in the area. It was from that point Jim Wyse began doing whatever he could to assist in that recovery, including using the moniker Burrowing Owl for his new business.
“The name was a very genuine attempt to raise awareness for the species, it certainly wasn’t done as any kind of marketing tactic, it was a very genuine desire to want to help,” said Kerri.
She added it was also her father’s business skills which helped him convince the court to release the property from creditor protection for a relatively modest amount of money and convey it to the two societies.
The $50,000 was part of the estimated $80,000 raised by the winery annually.
“We collect a ‘voluntary’ $3 donation from all of our winery visitors, and these funds are used for a wide variety of strictly environmental and conservation uses so that we have been able to provide essential funding when government sources have really dried up,” said Jim in an earlier statement.
Sunday’s open house begins at 10 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m.