The following article was submitted by John Wilkinson on behalf of the Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society. Pic Cred: Paula O’Keefe-Blitz.
If you have come across an injured, orphaned or sick bird anywhere on the northern Sunshine Coast in the last six years, chances are you entrusted the care of your bird to ‘The Bird Lady’. And chances are you probably had a tough time tracking down this mysterious woman. That is about to change.
For those of you who have never met Merrilee Prior, aka The Bird Lady, she has been caring for birds in this area since 2010. Over the last six years she has taken in birds of all sizes and descriptions in ever increasing numbers. She has worked with everything from day-old baby hummingbirds to full-size trumpeter swans; song birds of all kinds, sizes and ages; and raptors from the tiny pygmy owl to a golden eagle. Each year she has seen approximately a 50% increase in the number of birds cared for and last year she dealt with a total of 181 birds, most of which she was fortunate enough to care for here in Powell River.
She has been aided in her professional development, initially by Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in Courtenay, where she worked for a year as a commuting volunteer. In the ensuing years she has been the beneficiary of very generous training and professional support from staff at the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (O.W.L.) in Delta and Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center (Wild Arc) in Metchosin. And though she has carried much of the cost of this work herself, she has also had the help of a handful of very generous and supportive individuals and businesses with this community.
In 2014, Wild ARC began encouraging Merrilee to enlist people to help her with the daunting workload in the busy summer season and by the middle of the 2015 season, it became clear she could not sustain the rapidly increasing workload, even with the help of a few volunteers. So late last year she called together a group of people who had expressed a strong interest in her work and as a result the Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society (PROWLS) was incorporated in early February.
PROWLS is still in it’s infancy, working on the basics of building a strong non-profit society, and it will take them a few years to be become fully established. One of the first things PROWLS needs to do is build a strong membership base. Like all non-profits, particularly in the early stages, PROWLS will rely heavily on the support of its volunteers.
So they are embarking on their first membership drive on March 12th at the always popular Seedy Saturday event. Membership is $10 per year and gets you a very cool fridge magnet. But what PROWLS is really looking for through the membership drive is volunteers. Yes, they will need help working with the birds but equally important they will need volunteers who can lend their skills to help build a strong organization. So drop by and visit them at Seedy Saturday and don’t be shy about telling them how talented you are. If you can sew, if you can build, if you can write proposals, if you can organize volunteers, if you are an experienced fund raiser or if you are a dynamite cage cleaner – they need you!
As we all know, a healthy environment depends to a great degree on a healthy bird population. One of the biggest threats to birds is human activity, whether it be large scale industrial activity or just us driving down the highway. Supporting organizations like PROWLS helps minimize our footprint on this earth and ensures we pass on a healthy bird populations to our children.