Desert Society News

April 2015
April 26-May 15 10:00am-2:00pm
May 16-Sept 15  9:30am-4:30pm
Sept 16-early Oct 10:00am-2:00pm  
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Dear Supporters:

As spring slowly advances weather wise the hillsides have exploded into green, yellow and white. The balsamroot show in Richter Pass is magnificent this year with an underlay of lush green and clouds of white bouncing about on Saskatoon bushes in what is either a pleasant breeze or a howling wind. This morning a skiff of snow graced the higher elevations and the overlap between winter and spring was apparent. The unfolding of spring and the promise of summer brings my mind to the Desert Centre and the vital role our efforts play in preserving this 67 acres of antelope-brush ecosystem.

Our Board of Directors works with Executive Director, Denise Eastlick, to plan and maintain governance of the Desert Society. The board is comprised of volunteers, and interest in becoming a director is always welcome. If you are interested in volunteering your time and expertise as a board director, please contact us.

The Society certainly could not achieve all that has been accomplished without our dedicated and hardworking volunteers. Many of these caring people have been committed to the wellbeing of the Desert Society and the Desert Centre for years. For a variety of reasons volunteers do need to withdraw and we always welcome new energy. Experience is not necessary. If you have the desire to contribute to the Desert Centre, Denise and her staff will provide the necessary training. We also welcome people with handyman (or woman) skills as site maintenance is constantly needed. Volunteering can be particularly rewarding for young people who can list the experience on their resume or when applying for bursaries to help them through secondary education. Becoming a member is an important and valuable contribution, too. Information on how to become a member is included in this newsletter.

May your spring ease into summer with a bounce in your step and time to enjoy the wonders of the advancing season.

Lee McFadyen, President
Osoyoos Desert Society
The Wonder of Hummingbirds

Annually in March-April, a natural phenomenon is occurring across British Columbia - the migratory return of Rufous Hummingbirds after wintering in southwestern USA, western Mexico or Central America. Traveling some 2000 km at a few hundred km per week, hummingbirds are guided by an ancient internal signal to return to northern regions for summer feeding and breeding.

The main south-north route, rich in "roadmap" landscape features, is the coastal Pacific Flyway from Baja, Mexico to Alaska, providing mild weather that enables hummingbirds to arrive along south-coastal BC in mid-March and Osoyoos by early-April. Covering extremes of distance, some Rufous Hummingbirds summer as far north as Alaska and the Yukon!

Such wide range of spring migration requires tolerance to occasional cold temperatures, placing a premium on timing to coordinate with shelter, nectar and insect availability. Arriving at the breeding grounds too early without these factors in place would challenge survival and territorial competition. One wonders if migratory patterns are gradually evolving in a way linked to the climate changes from global warming that affect the timing of flower blooming (nectar), nesting conditions and insect populations.

While in flight, hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any animal, a necessity supporting their rapid wing beats during hovering and fast forward flight - around 50 flaps per second! With heart rates of 1000 beats per minute and 250 breaths per minute, hummingbirds in flight consume oxygen at a rate 10 times higher than trained athletes running at top speed on a treadmill.

As hummingbirds consume more than their own weight in nectar and insects each day, they must visit hundreds of flowers daily and forage in flight throughout daylight hours. Each night, or in times of low food availability, hummingbirds enter a hibernation-like state called torpor to store energy for the next day's activities.

Many species of hummingbirds produce sounds with their wings or tail, however the harmonics of feather sounds during territory intrusion or courtship dives vary across species. Male Rufous Hummingbirds have a distinctive wing whistle in normal flight that sounds like small coins jingling in your pocket. Research has shown that the whistle results from air rushing through slots between the tapered ends of the ninth and tenth primary wing feathers, creating a sound loud enough for detection by female or competitive male birds over 100 meters in distance. Behaviorally, the whistle alerts females and other males that a male bird is in flight nearby, providing an audible defense of feeding territory and courtship.

Rufous tail-feathers also vibrate during courtship dives, producing a loud chirp apparently to impress females! When courting, the male first ascends in a spiral to some 30 meters high before dramatically diving over an interested female at a speed of 27 meters per second, equal to 385 body lengths per second, causing a high-pitched vibration of the tail feathers. The sound is caused by rapid air flow past tail feather tips, causing them to flutter and vibrate.

Spring is a wonderful time to stop by the Desert Centre to observe hummingbirds in action. Three species of hummingbirds - Rufous, Calliope and Black-chinned - are routinely sighted at our feeders. Their aerial acrobatics are sure to delight visitors of all ages!

April 21 - Annual General Meeting
4:30 pm at JoJo's Cafe
Get an update on the Desert Society's activities over the past year and its upcoming plans, then enjoy a special presentation about bokashi composting. Caf? owner and Desert Society board member Joanne Muirhead will share her personal experience with this effective food waste recycling system. 
Everyone welcome!

April 26 - Opening Day at the Desert Centre

10 am to 4 pm
Stop by the Osoyoos Desert Centre for a special day of activities.
~ Guided tours at 10 am and noon
~ Photo Walk from 2-4 pm
Free admission on Opening Day


May 9-10 - Birdathon

10 am to 2 pm at the Desert Centre

Take part in a weekend bird count at the Osoyoos Desert Centre starting on Migratory Bird Day. Record bird species you see during your visit and share the results with staff.

Desert Centre admission fees apply


May 15 - Nature, Inc.

3:00 to 4:30 pm at the Desert Centre

Enjoy a fact and fun-filled guided tour along the Osoyoos Desert Centre's boardwalk and discover some of the surprising ways nature is used in our daily lives. Find out how the plants and animals around us are used to create handy inventions, life saving medicines and edible treats. Take a look at some ways people benefited from nature in the past, then get the inside scoop on today's nature-inspired innovations and research.

$15 per person ~ Click here to book through the Meadowlark Nature Festival

Proceeds support the Meadowlark Festival and the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance 


Restoration Work Parties
Participate in one of our volunteer Restoration Parties, held on select Tuesdays in May and June.
Details in the 'For Volunteers' section of the newsletter

Special Events
Check our website for updates on programs and special events ~


July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 - Desert Night Tour

7:30 to 9:00 pm at the 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 and what you can do to help protect them.

Every Thursday in July

$10 per person ~ Advance registration required


August 8 - Romancing the Desert

5:30 pm at the Desert Centre
Join us for our popular annual fundraiser held each summer under a starry desert sky. Enjoy an outdoor dinner, wine tasting stations, a guided sunset tour through the desert, live music, a silent auction and more!  Proceeds support the Osoyoos Desert Society's habitat conservation, restoration and education efforts. 
$70 per person ~ Advance registration required

Invasive Species
Lisa Scott and Jessica Hobden
Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society

The grass is greening up, trees are budding and migratory birds are starting to return to this picturesque place we call home. All seems peaceful. But alas, we have aliens in our midst and at times, it seems there is no stopping them. I am referring to invasive plants; unwanted grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees that have been imported from areas outside of Canada. Unchecked by natural controls, invasive plants are spreading across our lands and through our waterways, and wreaking havoc with already fragile native species and ecosystems. The list of invaders is quite lengthy and sadly it is growing on an annual basis. Climate change is by no means going to reverse this trend.

There is good news though! In the case of invasive plants, individual and community action is particularly important and effective. So if you have not done so, take a moment to learn more about some of the invaders that occur in the Okanagan-Similkameen and consider how you can make a difference in your backyard or community. This article will highlight some of our spiniest invaders.

Puncturevine is native to the southern Europe and Mediterranean region. In Canada, it is known to occur only in the Okanagan and lower Similkameen valleys. It is most prolific in the sandy soils and forms dense mats along shoulders, gravel trails, vacant lots, beaches and unpaved parking sites, its stems reaching up to 3 metres in length. It readily makes its way into agricultural lands, where it grows between rows of grape vines, as well as ground crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and melons. It is a summer annual which means that germination starts during warm, late spring weather and continues until frost. Seedlings tend to emerge in flushes following rainfall or irrigation. The stems are covered by hairy leaves that are divided into six to eight leaflets. Yellow flowers appear as early as three weeks after germination and fruits with viable seed appear one to two weeks later. The fruits or seedpods consist of five sections that, at maturity, break into tack-like structures with sharp spines for which this weed is aptly named.

Longspine sandbur
is an annual invasive grass in the Okanagan-Similkameen, although it is native to southern U.S. states. It prefers sandy soils and disturbed sites at low elevation and is commonly found side by side with puncturevine. Stems can grow upright, but also branch and spread flat along the ground. The leaf sheaths are flattened, very loose, and have a tuft of short hairs where they join the blade. The seeds resemble small, spiky peas that turn brown at maturity and easily fall from the plant.

Puncturevine and longspine sandbur are great at hitch-hiking on shoes, tires, animals and equipment. They are also common contaminants of fill, gravel, sand and other aggregates, so be wary if you are importing such materials to your property.

The best method of controlling these spiny species is to prevent establishment by destroying the first plants found in an area before seeds begin to form. Because they germinate all summer long, monitoring and repeat treatments are continually required. We encourage landowners to patrol infested sites every 3 to 4 weeks to effectively control plants. Young plants are easily controlled by hoeing, shallow tillage or by carefully hand-pulling plants. If seedpods have not yet developed or are immature (small and green), the plants can be composted. If plants have already matured and the seedpods have ripened (turned brown and easily fall off the plants), plants should be carefully pulled and bagged, then taken to the local landfill.

What you can do - As a concerned landowner or member of the public it is important to be able to identify local invasive plant species. Prevention is your first tool. Knowing your invasive plant species will help you identify and remove them and will increase your knowledge of what non-invasive species to plant. For intelligent and efficient control of invasive plants, some knowledge of their life cycle - the plant's seasonal pattern of growth and reproduction - is useful. Understanding how human activities contribute to invasive plant spread will also help minimize and prevent infestations on your property or in your neighbourhood. Minimizing soil disturbance and re-vegetating disturbed soils promptly will increase competitive vegetation and crowd out opportunities for invasive plant growth. Also, keep equipment and vehicles clear of hitchhiking seeds and plant pieces. Encouraging invasive plant control on adjacent properties will benefit you as well as your community. Above all, be patient and persistent.

For further information on invasive species go to or contact the Program Coordinator for the Okanagan-Similkameen, Lisa Scott, at 250-404-0115 or email her at

Help Wanted!
Handyman  - Spring is a busy time at the Desert Centre, with lots of maintenance projects to tackle. If you are able to help out with boardwalk repairs, fix-it jobs, electrical issues and other site maintenance, please get in touch!

Computer Tech - The Society is in critical need of someone to troubleshoot computer and technology issues that occur from time to time. If you are willing to be our on-call tech support, please contact us.

Volunteer Opportunities
The Desert Society ha s a variety of fun and worthwhile volunteer opportunities. Joining our volunteer team is a great way to share your time and expertise, support the Society's efforts, and have fun being part of a great team! Opportunities include:
~ Front desk reception at the Desert Centre
~ Site maintenance
~ Habitat restoration and native landscaping
~ Event and fundraising support

Spring Cleaning Day
Thursday, April 23
9:00 am to noon at the Osoyoos Desert Centre
Join us for a morning work party to get the Desert Centre ready for Opening Day. Lend a hand tackling some cleaning and maintenance projects.
~ There will be a variety of indoor and outdoor jobs to choose from.
~ Refreshments provided.

Restoration Work Parties
Tuesdays, 10 am to noon  
May 5, 12, 19, 26 and June 2
Join us for some native landscaping and habitat restoration projects at the Desert Centre.
~ Please bring your work gloves and a shovel.
~ Refreshments provided.
~ Everyone welcome!

For more information contact the
Osoyoos Desert Society at or call 250-495-2470

What Are the Differences Between a Bobcat and a Lynx?
by Michelle Lancaster, Education Coordinator
Osoyoos Desert Society

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) and Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) both belong to the Lynx family. Both are solitary cats with very similar physical appearances. The two cats are fairly elusive and, if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one, can be difficult to tell apart.

Where will you see them?
The location and habitat where you see the cat might provide a clue to its identity. There are only a few areas where both species co-exist. The Canada Lynx is well adapted to the boreal forest habitat and tundra of Canada and Alaska. Their range extends into the northern United States and can reach north of the Arctic Circle. Their natural tolerance to cold temperatures helps the Lynx withstand the harsh climate (their thick fur coat doesn't hurt either). Bobcats can tolerate a more varied habitat than the Canada Lynx. They can be found anywhere from marshes and swampy areas in the southern part of the continent, to mountainous, forested areas in the north. And, of course, can be found in desert and scrub habitat like we have at the Desert Centre. The range of the two cats overlaps in some areas, including along the Canada-U.S. border (see map). In the Okanagan, we are lucky enough to have both species!

How can you tell them apart? 
There are a few ways to spot the difference between a Bobcat and a Canada Lynx. Some key physical features include their size, coat, tail, ears and feet. 

Size - Bobcats are smaller than the Lynx - they are only about twice the size of the average house cat and weigh between 5 and 14 kg. Canada Lynx are slightly larger and weigh between 10 and 20 kg.

Coat - Bobcats have a shorter coat with more spots than the Canada Lynx. The Lynx has longer, light gray to brown fur without much pattern. Unfortunately, the soft coats of both cats are prized possessions in the fur industry. While the Bobcat population has managed to remain somewhat stable, the Lynx population is declining in parts of Canada.

Ears - The Canada Lynx has impressive, extra-long ear tufts and shaggy fur around its cheeks. The long, black ear tufts, which can grow to be almost an inch long, act as excellent hearing aids, enabling the agile cat to pick up on the soft footsteps of its prey. The Bobcat has ear tufts too; however, they are only impressive when compared to a house cat. 

Tail - Of course, when we think of Bobcats we think of their "bobbed" tails. In actual fact, both cats have a short tail. A Bobcat's tail has a black tip striped with black bands towards the end. A Lynx's tail has a black tip all around, and appears like it was dipped straight into a bottle of ink.

Feet - The Lynx has a combination of long legs and oversized, hairy feet that aid in movement through snow. The big, furry paws act like snowshoes to help keep this cat agile and on top of the snow. If you are comparing tracks, the tracks made by a Canada Lynx are larger than a Bobcat's. Their big, fluffy feet leave a larger indent around the actual paw print making them appear even larger than they already are. 

Finally, while not a physical characteristic, we should take into consideration differences in behavior, too. A Lynx is more likely to provide us with a bit of a show, often sticking around in an area for a period of time even after being spotted by a person. Bobcats tend to be the more elusive of the two. They are generally more secretive and will take off at the first sign they have been spotted. Bobcats also have more of an attitude! They've even earned themselves the nickname "spitfires of the Animal Kingdom" because of their fierce hunting style and bold behaviour. 

So whether you're observing a track or the real thing there are ways to tell these cat cousins apart. Now you just have to be lucky enough to see one!
A Fundraiser for the Desert
Proceeds support the habitat conservation efforts of the Osoyoos Desert Society

Saturday, August 8, 2015
5:30 pm to midnight
at the Osoyoos Desert Centre

Experience the desert
from sunlight to starlight
Outdoor Dinner followed by a
Guided Walking Tour through one of Canada's  rarest habitats
Wine Tasting Stations and
After-Dinner Treats
Live Entertainment
Silent Auction

Tickets $70 per person 
Advance booking required
Call 250-495-2470 ~ 1-877-899-0897 
or email
Your support makes a difference. Memberships and donations help fund the Desert Society's
habitat conservation, restoration and education efforts.

Membership is $25/year.

Members receive a bi-annual newsletter, and FREE admission to the Desert Centre.


Payment may be made through the secure, encrypted PayPal link, or you can  click here  to download a mail-in registration form.


Thank you!

For more information visit our website or follow us on social media. 
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 The Osoyoos Desert Society