MARS Moments: First impressions from a newcomer

  • Aug. 6, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Reg Westcott with Brinley, a great horned owl, tells children how wildlife are injured and come to MARS for care.

Reg Westcott with Brinley, a great horned owl, tells children how wildlife are injured and come to MARS for care.

Rene Jorgenson

Guest columnist

I have been given the honour of filling in for Sandy Fairfield, the education co-ordinator for Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, to write this month’s article of MARS Moments.

Admittedly I was bit nervous writing this article. I have only recently started volunteering for MARS as my interest and background lies in outdoor environmental education. From my experiences working for the City of Calgary Parks at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, I have come to appreciate and admire the complexities of our feathered friends. At my time with a program called Nature School, I discovered the great care provided by the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society and how their owl and hawk ambassadors have not only educated students but have kindled that sense of awe that only a wild animal can do. It is that connection we all need to bring us together to share our love of nature and the need to protect it. What MARS does on a daily basis is nothing short of amazing, which is why I would like to share my personal perspective as a newcomer to MARS and its inhabitants, human and otherwise.

I first discovered MARS on April 6 of this past year when I took my kids to the MARS open house at their facility on Headquarters Road. The spark was lit. I knew I wanted to be involved when I met Brinley, the beautiful great horned owl ambassador and Reg who informed us about her.

The next encounter with MARS was in early June at the Outdoor Show at the Courtenay Rod & Gun Club.

This time I was able to engage in conversation with Reg and express my interest in volunteering. He was very welcoming and told me how I can get involved, which brings me to my most recent experience and initiation with the founder, Maj Birch.

I met Maj for an orientation and facility tour just over a week ago. What was supposed to take roughly an hour turned into two and a half, as our conversation kept getting interrupted with the business that is such with running a rescue centre.

The first interruption was a couple from Comox who brought in a small injured juvenile bird thought to be a Towhee that their cat unfortunately caught. First impressions do go a long way and what I admired most about Maj with my introduction of her was how she handled this situation.

Her caring not only extended to this little bird of unknown origin but to the people who brought him in.

There were a few other interruptions that I was happy to let run its course, such as running out of bugs for feed and figuring out how to make freeze-dried bugs edible by adding water and turning them into bug stew; introductions of the young and talented interns who summer at MARS; phone calls; scheduling; and finally getting a generous donation of hand-picked berries for the birds. And that is just in the short time that I was there!

This year MARS needs your support more than ever. It is really the volunteers who help us do the work we do and the contributions from the community that make MARS what it is. We are only just into August and MARS has already dealt with 496 cases. That is usually the average number for a whole year and there are still five months to go!

These cases do not include the number of calls MARS gets in a year with questions and concerns about wildlife.

With some quick math, I estimate that MARS has helped approximately 10,000 animals since its inception, just over 20 years ago. Now that is an organization that I feel proud to be a part of and I hope that you do too.

For more information on how you can get involved, please check out our website:


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