This weekend, celebrate Earth Day in a unique way by supporting local wildlife education and care as Erath Winery in Dundee hosts Wings Over Wine. Started in 2015, Wings Over Wine is a wildlife rehabilitation program that aims to raise awareness and funding for injured and orphaned Oregon birds of prey by hosting events at vineyard sites. We caught up with Wings Over Wine ambassador Alina Blankenship to learn how tasting fees are helping rehabilitated raptors take flight.
Where did the idea for Wings Over Wine originate and how does it work?
Wings over Wine is a program of Perch, a 501(C)3 organization that provides wildlife education and support for local, licensed wildlife rehabilitators. We engage in wildlife education utilizing non-releasable, rehabilitated live birds of prey including owls, hawks and falcons, often at wineries. Sometimes, when our habitat, topographical and legal requirements align, we are able to coordinate the release of a rehabilitated raptor at a vineyard.
What are the advantages of the vineyard environment for the birds? In what ways do the birds help the vineyards?
Vineyards can make exceptional release sites as agriculture invites a higher concentration of agricultural pests, such as starlings, which a released raptor is happy to prey upon. Usually, vineyards are situated a distance from areas with high vehicular traffic, reducing the likelihood of a car strike which accounts for many of the injuries sustained by wildlife.
Tell us a little about the raptors: what types are rehabilitated and how many have been released since WOW started?
All species of native wildlife are cared for by the local rehabilitators, but the most frequent of the raptors are the populations that reside in areas close to human activity, including red tailed hawks, great horned owls and barn owls. Since we began two years ago, we have been able to release ten birds of prey in qualified vineyards.
How have the releases been received by wineries and participants thus far?
While all of been memorable, some have been particularly poignant such as our very first at Oswego Hills Vineyard and Winery when a barn owl was released in memory of a fallen Marine CPL Keaton Coffey on the Memorial Day weekend anniversary of his passing. With incredible generosity for the wineries and their guests, we have be able to provide substantial funds to American Wildlife Foundation and Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center to assistance in the amazing work that they do.
For you, what’s been the best part of the program?
The best part of Wings Over Wine is the public. Many people have never looked into the eyes of an owl and many are forever changed when they do and reevaluate how view nature and the environment. Also, people are deeply touched when a wild animal returns to where it belongs. There is seldom a dry eye in the house.
Earth Heart Erath Days: April 22-23, Erath Winery, Dundee, 11am to 4pm – $10
For more information about this event and upcoming releases visit wingsoverwine.org