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Cape’s Ground Owl Day remembers burrowing owls — and their supporter

By CJ HADDAD - | Feb 2, 2021

This year’s event was in honor of the late Mayor Joe Coviello, who was a strong supporter of Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and the preservation of species that call the city home. Mayor Coviello dressed to the nines at the inaugural Ground Owl Day two years ago to resemble an “Inner Circle” member (those whom you see in Punxsutawney). File Photo

Cape Coral dignitaries and residents gathered Tuesday morning at Pelican Baseball Complex to celebrate the city bird in a unique twist on a long-time American tradition.

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife’s third annual “Ground Owl Day” paid homage to the burrowing owl and looked to the Cape’s tiny feathery friend for some guidance on what kind of weather to expect over the next six weeks, just as the groundhog does in Punxsutawney, PA every year.

“It’s our own take on the classic event and it’s really about spreading awareness and providing education on burrowing owls and is our official city bird,” said CCFW Vice President Pascha Donaldson.

This year’s event was in honor of the late Mayor Joe Coviello, who was a strong supporter of CCFW and the preservation of species that call the city home.

Mayor John Gunter, along with District 3 Councilmember Tom Hayden and District 2 Councilmember Dan Sheppard were in attendance, as was Coviello’s wife Diane and one of his sons.

“It was a good day despite the windy weather and people got to learn a little but about who we are and why this day came to be, and why it’s so important to celebrate the burrowing owl,” Donaldson said.

Gunter read a Ground Owl Day proclamation and Cape pioneer and business leader Elmer Tabor spoke of his first experience at the inaugural event where Mayor Coviello dressed to the nines to resemble an “Inner Circle” member (those who you see in Punxsutawney).

He then presented the Coviello family with framed picture of eagle parents with a baby at Oasis Woods in Cape Coral, as the late mayor was a fervent eagle-lover as well as a supporter of the city’s official bird.

“She was very moved,” Donaldson said. “Joe was a huge supporter of the eagle ordinance and held strong on it time and time again. He was very strong on maintaining the ordinance to how it is today.”

The ceremony concluded with burrowing owl mascot “Athene” whispering in Gunter’s ear as to whether she saw her shadow. To either your disappointment or delight, Athene reported she did not see her shadow, therefore signaling a near end to Southwest Florida’s “winter weather.”

Ground Owl Day usually serves as a precursor to the annual Burrowing Owl Festival, but this year’s event has been cancelled due to COVID-19. In its place will be a virtual “Owl Fest Auction” to raise money to support CCFW’s mission.

Up for auction will be a potpourri of dining, cultural and other activities, and unique items.

The public will be able to view upcoming auction items beginning Feb. 7 with bidding taking place from Feb. 17-27.

For more information on CCFW and the upcoming auction, visit www.ccfriendsofwildlife.org.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj