Desert Society News

July 2016

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Dear Supporters:

We are delighted to be sending out a summer newsletter to let you know about the latest Desert Society happenings. Our recent shift to four newsletters a year - distributed in January, April, July and October - gives us an opportunity to share articles and update you in a more timely manner on Desert Society news and events. Keeping you informed is particularly important this time of year when so much is going on. The Desert Centre has been very busy since we opened in April, including gearing up for some exciting events in the coming months.

On July 16th and 17th Art in the Desert will be held at the Desert Centre. This popular art show, formerly called Art in the Garden, has chosen the Desert Centre as its new venue. We are thrilled to be hosting the event which showcases paintings, pottery, jewellery and photography from local artists. In addition to viewing and/or purchasing original art, you will be able to enjoy a wine tasting courtesy of Oliver Twist Estate Winery. A full schedule of tours will also be available throughout the day, as well as our hands-on Interpretive Centre.

A few weeks after the art show, the Desert Centre will be hosting its annual fundraiser, Romancing the Desert. More than a dozen local wineries and restaurants will be on hand to provide an evening of fine wine and delicious food. The event features an outdoor dinner in a beautiful desert setting followed by a twilight tour along the Desert Centre's boardwalk. During the one-of-a-kind guided tour guests will visit stations en route to sample local wines and enjoy a variety of after-dinner treats. A silent auction and live musical entertainment round out the evening's festivities. This year's Romancing the Desert is an extra-special one as we'll be commemorating the Desert Society's 25th anniversary. We hope you will join us on August 13th for the celebration!

Further details about Romancing the Desert and Art in the Desert are included in the Events section of this newsletter. There is also information about our Desert Night Tours. This specially-themed tour provides an opportunity to experience the desert after sunset. Whether you tour the Desert Centre in the cool of the evening, or stop by during our regular daytime hours, we look forward to welcoming you to explore and learn about our spectacular local habitat!

On behalf of the Board of Directors
Lee McFadyen
President, Osoyoos Desert Society 


Tale of a Broken Wing
By Michelle Lancaster, Education Coordinator, Osoyoos Desert Society

It is hard to see an injured animal and not want to try and help. In this case the bird has a broken wing and is unable to fly. Dragging its wing, stumbling and looking pathetic the bird is clearly a soon-to-be meal for a predator that will undoubtedly follow and catch the weakened animal. Deciding to see if you can help, you approach the bird, it moves a little farther away, you approach again and the bird calls loudly and moves just a little farther. You are getting closer and closer as it stumbles and hops along always just slightly out of reach. Finally, only a few feet away, the bird suddenly perks up, its wing makes a miraculous recovery, and in a flash it is gone leaving behind nothing but a woeful "kill-deer" cry.

Broken wing act.  Photo by Phil Gilston 
The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is named after its wailing call. It is a common bird often seen in open areas such as sandbars, mudflats and grasslands. If a dog, person or predator disturbs a killdeer while it is incubating its eggs, it will put on quite the show. The sneaky bird that has fooled so many will perform what is called the "broken wing act." The ground nesting bird will flutter away from the nest with one wing hanging loosely as if it were broken. The predator will be attracted to the injured bird and the killdeer will be able to lead the danger away from the nest. If an animal like a cow, with little to no interest in the bird or eggs, should approach the nest the killdeer may choose to use a different distraction strategy. The killdeer will remain on the nest allowing the animal to approach close enough that the nest may soon be stepped on. The quick bird will then fly up in the face of the intruder and may even be bold enough to strike it on its muzzle. The animal, startled, will typically move in a different direction.

Killdeer over her four eggs at the Osoyoos Desert Centre. Photo by Skye Eriksen

A killdeer nest is not easily spotted, probably because there is no real nest. Rather, the female will lay her eggs in a small depression directly on the ground. Unlike the ground nesting California quail which will usually hide its nest under vegetation and line it with grasses, the killdeer will seldom add grasses and twigs and usually chooses a nest site located somewhere in the open. This year at the Desert Centre a pair of killdeer chose to locate their nest on a gravel walkway. This may seem like a poor choice for the killdeer, however the blotchy and speckled eggs are so well camouflaged they become nearly invisible. 
Killdeer eggs camouflaged in gravel.
Baby killdeer feeding. Photo by Bob Zeller

The eggs are rather large for the size of the bird. Although a killdeer is comparable in size to a robin, its eggs are nearly twice the size of a robin's egg. Four eggs is a typical clutch for a killdeer and both the male and female will incubate the eggs. Males will often be seen taking the night shift and females are more commonly seen incubating during the day. The large eggs take longer to hatch than the average backyard bird. A robin's eggs will generally hatch in about 13 days, but killdeer eggs require double that time.

Killdeer babies are born ready to run! They are covered in down right out of the egg and their eyes are open. Like chickens, quail and ducks, killdeer are precocial and ready to feed themselves immediately. A large egg and longer period of incubation is required for precocial birds. Robin babies are altricial. They are born mostly naked, helpless and unable to leave the nest. They are dependent upon their parents for food and for care. Newly-hatched killdeer can't fly but they leave the nest immediately. They still need their parents for protection and guidance but their legs are strong and they are able to feed themselves, running about jabbing at the ground for small insects. The young remain on the ground for nearly a month before they are able to fly. The downy plumage is lost rapidly as they grow and by midsummer they are almost indistinguishable from adults.


Thursdays: June 30 & July 7, 14, 21, 28
7:30 - 9:00 pm at the Osoyoos Desert Centre

Experience the magic of the desert at night. Take a guided tour along the Desert Centre's 1.5 km boardwalk and get the inside scoop on our desert's "wild" night life. Learn fascinating facts about the many nocturnal animals that call this habitat home. Owls, bats, deer, snakes, black widow spiders, or maybe a coyote ... you never know what might go bump in the night!
July 16 & 17 ~  9:30 am - 2:30 pm
at the Osoyoos Desert Centre
For Art Show details contact
250-495-2019 ~

Enjoy or purchase original paintings, pottery, jewellery and photography by local artists. Treat yourself to a wine tasting by Oliver Twist Estate Winery. Take a tour of Canada's only desert.

Art Show included with Desert Centre admission
Click here for Desert Centre hours and admissions
$3 OFF admission coupons (valid July 16 & 17 only)
available at:
  • Osoyoos Art Gallery 
  • Osoyoos Home Hardware 
  • Imperial Office Pro 
  • Lady Chadderton's 
  • Oliver Twist Estate Winery
Saturday, August 13
5:30 pm at the Osoyoos Desert Centre

Experience the beauty of the desert from sunlight to starlight. Enjoy an evening of food and wine highlighted by a twilight tour through one of Canada's rarest habitats. Savour an outdoor dinner in a beautiful desert setting. Following your meal, take a stroll along the Desert Centre's boardwalk on a one-of-a-kind guided tour through this spectacular habitat. During the tour you'll stop at stations en route to sample local wines and enjoy a variety of after-dinner treats. The evening also features live music, a silent auction, door prizes and more! Proceeds support the habitat conservation, restoration and education efforts of the Osoyoos Desert Society.


Your support makes a difference. Memberships and donations help fund the Desert Society's
habitat conservation, restoration and education efforts.

Membership is $25 per person per year.

Members receive Desert Society newsletters and FREE admission to the Desert Centre.


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Thank you!

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 The Osoyoos Desert Society