It was a fitting sendoff for the spring season — an owl took its first flight in two months last week as the final patient in care at MARS, while the organization prepares for its coming season.
The baby white owl was released under the watchful eye of his caregivers at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in a farm field off Comox Avenue.
“He was sighted by a person who came to view swans in the Comox Bay … and noticed the little owl was hiding beneath a tree covered in mud and feces from the swans,” said Reg Westcott of MARS.
“(The owl) got contaminated with some mud and could no long fly or bathe himself. He was essentially so skinny that he needed rescue so maybe the best thing that could have happened to him is that he got covered in mud in a place where people could see him.”
Westcott noted he suspects the owl was born last year in the Arctic. It required care every hour, for 24 hours a day to nurse the emaciated bird back to health.
“We didn’t have any medical intervention to do with him, but he was at a level of starvation where he couldn’t just be fed. He needed to be kept alive essentially on an elementary diet, very similar to an emaciated human or a human that is being kept alive by a tube,” Westcott added.
He suspects the food supply in the Arctic was strong, but by the time winter arrived and baby owls had to find their own territory and migrate to find food, it left the birds in a vulnerable situation.
“So if you left the Arctic on an empty stomach and fly 3,000 or so miles and you get here and all the food looks wrong to you … and you’re already weak and in a strange land, so it’s very hard when they travel this far,” he said.
MARS manager Maj Birch explained although they don’t have any wildlife patients currently in care, they will use time to clean, paint and get ready for the baby bird season.
“In May we can expect to see baby birds … ducklings, robins (babies) starting to nest. Owlets and have already hatched and eagles have been incubating eggs,” she noted.
The organization is also preparing for its open house April 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the public is invited to view the facilities, talk to members and learn about volunteering.
Two weeks later, MARS will host its second annual Walk for Wildlife at the Courtenay Airpark.
For more information on the events or the organization, visit www.wingtips.org or search for MARS on Facebook.