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Burrowing Owl Festival: Annual ode to Cape’s official bird this Saturday

By Staff | Feb 21, 2019

After newly dubbed Owliver and Owlivia saw their shadows earlier in the month to declare six more weeks of “winter” for Cape Coral residents, the burrowing owl – along with many other Cape species – will be the center of attention this weekend.

The Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife will host the 17th annual Burrowing Owl Festival at Rotary Park this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The day will be full of fun and educational opportunities about the city’s official bird, as burrowing owls are the only owl species that live underground and have been given the status of threatened by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“I’m looking forward to educating lots of people about our local environment to help protect the burrowing owls and all of our wildlife here in Cape Coral,” said Pascha Donaldson, vice president of the CCFW.

Thousands of residents from across Southwest Florida attend each year to enjoy nature-themed activities such as bus tours to observe the burrowing owl habitats, interactive butterfly exhibit, nature hikes at Rotary Park, guest speakers and more.

New this year will be the presence of Croc Encounters, as they will bring a live alligator and African tortoises weighing 150 pounds.

Attendees will be able to hold a live gator and get a photo, as well as observe several different types of live animals that will be present.

“It will be a great highlight of the event,” said Donaldson.

A demonstration of how to install a starter burrow-in case you want to have some of the Cape’s cute little buddies on your property-will be put on, as well as information on how to “adopt a burrow.”

The CCFW is reaching out to citizens to put a starter burrow in their front yard for free, teaching those how to maintain their environment as development continues to desecrate the documented 2,700 burrows in the city.

“This is important because we are in a building boom,” said Donaldson. “We want to live with the wildlife. This can be achieved buy smart planning. We can come put a starter burrow on your property. Everyone can pitch in. We can even show you the right plants to put in.”

A festival favorite is the butterfly garden which was dedicated to CCFW member Tom Allen, who passed away in 2010 and was the driving force in getting the exhibit built and stocked.

CCFW also offers native butterfly plants for purchase to enhance your property, Donaldson said.

The festival is for all ages and families, even the kids, as there will be a Kids Arts and Crafts Corner to keep the little ones busy-it’s even educational.

Education is the theme of the day, as residents-whether just arriving in Cape Coral or have been here for years-can come learn about what makes the ecosystem go in Southwest Florida, said Donaldson.

“It’s an environmental education tying wildlife, plants and water all together. They’re all connected,” she said. “People need to see the relationship between the trees, water and animal life.”

Guest speaker topics will include gopher tortoise and turtles, burrowing owls and a documentary on butterflies to be shown inside at the on-site environmental center.

Admission is a suggested donation of $5, with children under 16 being free.

All proceeds will go towards the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, a sister 501-c3 of CCFW, which is in the process of looking for land to acquire with burrowing owls or gopher tortoise.

Food vendors will be present to serve lunch and refreshments.

Parking is free at the Westin Hotel (not on the grass).

Rotary Park is at 5505 Rose Garden Road.

For more information, visit www.ccfriendsofwildlife.org.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter:@haddad_cj