Spring 2022


Western Bluebird - pc Leor Oren.JPG

President's Message


Looking into the cascade of fresh green leaves outside my office window, lilac and choke cherry blooms peeking through, and on sunny days their soft perfume permeating the air, I feel joy in uncertain times. Birds flit here and there, and it is difficult to believe night time lows are still regularly dropping to +4 or less. However, spring rules supreme; valley bottom Saskatoon blossoms are now tiny fruit and the balsam roots are setting seed, hungry little creatures eagerly awaiting this food source to eat and stash for winter survival, thus helping disperse seed and plants. A parade of close to the ground wildflowers have bloomed, are blooming, or getting ready to bloom and set seed before hot weather dries the soil. They come, then are gone. To enjoy them, we must carefully tread through the hills, these shy beauties are not visible as we flash by on the highway. A gentle walk through can nourish us and restore our faith in the nature of things. Red twig osier blossoms are showing white and wild rose are growing rapidly, putting on structure before bud set. A short journey up Kobau, or Anarchist, takes us back a week or two and we can again enjoy the swaying clouds of Saskatoon blooms and the gold of balsam root. Along the rivers and creeks cottonwood lucky enough to remain, will soon emit their special, wonderful fragrance and then the cotton will fly, to a chorus of achoos, but late nesting birds and little creatures will delight in gathering the cotton to line their cribs. So spring has sprung, in spite of low temperatures and in spite of our complaints. 


This morning's chilly +4 got me thinking about growing our vegetable seedling in my own  greenhouse. Tracking daily temperatures was vital and our records go back to 1962. Checking them, most years April and May temperatures fluctuate widely with lows to -3 and highs of 33. Many vegetable crops need warm soil to germinate and back in the 70s, the luxury of heat tapes and heat pads to warm the soil did not exist. We warmed the air and hoped to maintain adequate soil temperatures, always a challenge. This springs continued cold concerns me beyond greenhouse soil temperatures and human interests; most insect species emergence and mating cycles are triggered by temperature. When one cold day after another flows through May, reduced insect numbers mean birds and other insect eaters must work harder to stay nourished and feed their hungry young, sometimes resulting in starvation. And so the unpredictable weather flows through nature and human activity, which are inextricably linked. 

Ant-brush May 2022 pc Larissa Thelin.jpg

Meanwhile, at the Osoyoos Desert Centre our senses are fully stimulated by a sea of yellow and sweet perfume wafting over the landscape. The antelope brush is in full bloom. Well adapted to the dry shrub steppe, antelope brush has a long tap root, (15-18 Ft) and shallow, laterally spreading roots. This root diversity provides access to both groundwater and seasonal precipitation. As the shrubs mature into a spreading, leafy canopy, they provide a cool, shady micro-habitat for wildflowers and the little animals and insects thriving in this ecosystem. Each shrub produces abundant large shiny brown seeds providing food for the Great Basin pocket mouse, deer mice and voles, who harvest and cache a large percentages of the seed crop, putting away their winter food stores. Inevitably, some cache seeds are left to sprout, providing a nutritious salad, although grazing is seldom complete and some of the seedlings become the future generation of antelope brush. While antelope brush is the signature flora at the Desert Centre, most of the plants mentioned above also dot the landscape.

new boardwalk opening day 2022.JPG

Wending its way through the green and yellow is something new, the grey of the rebuilt boardwalk. The Desert Society Board has been concerned over the condition of the old boardwalk for some time and our ever watchful Managing Director, Jayme Friedt became aware of the Government of British Columbia’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) to help BC communities recover from the economic impacts experienced from Covid-19 and she applied. We gratefully received a grant enabling us to have the boardwalk replaced. This project was an excellent example of what can be accomplished when Provincial Government stimulus, local businesses, volunteers, Board members, staff, and the public work together for a common goal. It was a BIG project and I know Jayme will have much to say about it so I will say no more.


Behind the scenes while the highly visible boardwalk project was underway, Birgit Arnstein and Joanne Muirhead developed a Volunteer Recruitment plan and Birgit worked with the Osoyoos Elks organizing the Board to volunteer at the Elks Thursday night bingo, bringing $500 to the Society's coffers.


Acting as the Society’s President is a privilege; we are a working Board and we are always ready to assist Jayme and Leor. Along with managing the Society’s affairs (Jayme makes this an easy task) we get our hands dirty helping with many projects. Long time Board members, Peter Beckett and Roger Horton with Trevor Reeves, now into his second year on the Board, constitute the building committee in concert with Jayme and Leor. With the help of volunteer project manager Larry Stone, the group guided the completion of the Boardwalk. Jayme and our treasurer Laurie Watt kept a watchful eye on the CERIP grant and all went well. Many footfalls will benefit from your commitment to this project.


This brings me to our need for a new treasurer. Laurie Watt has decided to retire, something he thought he did when he and Marianne moved to Oliver, but no, he has spent the last 18 months acting as our treasurer. He has spent many hours updating our financial procedures and leaves us in good stead. Thank you, Laurie. Laurie has provided an outline of tasks and the treasurer works with Jayme and our bookkeeper. If you, or someone you know is interested in joining the Board and becoming our new treasurer, please contact the office. Its not all work, we also have fun.


While we have staff, the Desert Centre could not function without our dedicated volunteers. They are an integral part of ‘the team’. They are ‘doing good’ for the larger community and can have a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work. Thank you. We look forward to another season of working together and I appreciate any opportunity to meet you.


In closing, may a visit to the Centre be part of your summer, may you enjoy the new boardwalk and other upgrades, become a member, become a volunteer, offer your services as our new treasurer, visit our website, and during the winter months join us for the renewed Winter Series.


Finally, we will continue to follow Covid mandates as they evolve. May you avoid Covid, find innovative ways to love and share, and embrace the magic of spring.


On behalf of the Osoyoos Desert Society Board and staff,


Lee McFadyen

President, Osoyoos Desert Society


A Legacy Continues

Despite a stormy curveball thrown at us by Mother Nature, ODS President Lee McFadyen and MLA Roly Russell cut the ribbon on our new boardwalk on April 21st! The Osoyoos Desert Centre’s new boardwalk is many things to many people: A dream come true, an enormous weight off shoulders, a gargantuan undertaking, an exciting next chapter - but most of all, it’s an homage to our founders. 


Over 30 years ago, a handful of enlightened people recognized the importance of this natural resource, this habitat that is essential to a vibrant and viable ecosystem for all who live here. They saw that it was disappearing fast and decided to do something about it. They acquired this land, and with a volunteer workforce built a 1.5 km wooden boardwalk so people could explore this extraordinary environment up close without harming it. They wanted people to immerse themselves in it, connect with it and understand why it’s so important to protect it for future generations. Over the years, our boardwalk has become the signature feature of the Osoyoos Desert Centre experience and it’s an honour and a privilege to carry forward that legacy. Thank you to everyone that contributed to this milestone project - the Province of BC, the ODS building committee (Peter Beckett, Roger Horton and Trevor Reeves), C3 Industries, Larry Stone, James Friedt, all our dedicated volunteers and the entire ODS board of directors and staff.

Boardwalk by the Numbers

101,986 feet of new composite decking

42,118 feet of 2 x 8 joists

7,200 joist hangers

46,000 deck clips

51,500 screws

119,700 nails

11 helicopter fly days

616 sections of old boardwalk flown out

603 sections of old boardwalk repurposed

8 bins of debris taken to the landfill


Thanks to the incredible support of local homeowners, farmers, ranchers, businesses and other conservation groups, 98% of the old boardwalk stayed out of the landfill and is being repurposed. Big kudos to our Desert Centre Manager Leor Oren who spent countless hours, many on weekends, coordinating all the comings and goings as a plethora of trucks, vans, trailers, flatbeds, etc. hauled away tons of lumber throughout the winter.


For a job well-done, six months of braving all sorts of weather and their unwavering commitment to outstanding workmanship, ODC was pleased to present C3 owners Martin and Trish Hahn and the entire C3 crew - Marco Agostinho, Lane Busby, Bruce Dibbs, Trevor Kaminski, Garret Mardian, Ethan McMullen, Callahan New, Richard O’Neil, Travis Shendaruk, Kobe Snow and Gabe Wood - with Certificates of Appreciation.

dismantling the old boardwalk.jpg

On what was one of the busiest opening weekends at the ODC in many years, visitors were treated to some face painting fun courtesy local artist Nancy Gray whose Spadefoots, snakes, cottontails, salamanders and butterflies donned little cheeks and arms throughout the weekend.


Basking in the warmth of enthusiastic guests and bright sunny days was the star of the show, our amazing new boardwalk.

cerip acknowledgement.jpg
Larissa pic.jpg

New Faces at ODC

ODC is pleased to welcome two new summer conservation tour guides who will be with us to the end of August.

Larissa Thelin has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from Vancouver Island University and is now completing her Master of Science in Biological Sciences at University of Alberta. 

Connor Baerg has just finished his third year at UBCO where he studies environmental science. Larissa and Connor will be helping with guided tours and school field trips, sharing information with our visitors about local ecosystems and conservation efforts, monitoring spadefoot breeding ponds and hummingbird feeders, monitoring bluebird boxes and recording bluebird data as well as other research and restoration activities. Welcome Larissa and Connor!

Connor pic.jpg
Linc small.jpg


Many thanks to Lincoln Best for his talk and walk Wild Bees and their Floral Relations in the Southern Okanagan that took place at ODC on Sunday May 15th. About a dozen people braved the rainy day to learn about bee biodiversity and the several new species of bees discovered in the Okanagan over the last 10 years. The event was presented on behalf of the Native Bee Society of British Columbia and the Master Melittologist program. Thank you Linc! Hope to see you again soon!

For 20 years Lincoln Best has been documenting the southern Okanagan’s bee biodiversity, which is known to host about 450 species, many unique to this region. Read more about Linc here.

Bombus melanopygus.jpg

For the Birds!

We are so happy to be a part the Meadowlark Nature Festival reboot after a two year hiatus! Welcome back Meadowlark! Come on out and take part in a special Meadowlark Festival bluebird nest box making workshop on Sunday May 22 at 11 am to 1 pm at the Osoyoos Desert Centre. Get step-by-step instructions to build your own take-home nest box as you learn learn about bluebird ecology, life cycle, and the recovery of declining populations. Open to all ages. Bring some friends or family members and build a nest box as a team or work on your own. For more information and to purchase tickets click here

Opening day bird boxes 2012 _2_.jpg

Interested in learning more about this extraordinary place we call home? For many years our very own Osoyoos Desert Society President Lee McFadyen has led many Meadowlark Tours. This year she's giving four: Ginty's Pond, Bluebirds Vistas and Vines, Bring the Sockeye Back and Similkameen Pines. Read more about them here


Motus Wildlife Tracking System

This winter ODC partnered with Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada and other partners to undertake a migratory connectivity project of the threatened Lewis’s Woodpecker. The project will help determine Lewis’s Woodpecker’s post-fledging habitat use, migration timing and routes, and overwintering sites. Lewis’s Woodpecker is found only in the southern interior of British Columbia, with the core of their Canadian range being in the south Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, but also with a sub-population in the Boundary and the East Kootenay. There are fewer than 1000 individuals, and there is evidence of ongoing declines in parts of its Canadian range where it has been monitored over time. Furthermore, the loss of wintering habitat in the pine-oak ecosystems of southern Oregon south of northern Baja California and Mexico may be as important to population declines as the loss of breeding habitat.


The project will study the migratory connectivity of Lewis’s Woodpecker using the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, the large antennae you’ll see affixed to the west side of the interpretive trailer. The Motus system uses stations like this to track birds, bats and even insects. It can detect animals equipped with a small radio tag (nanotag) when they are flying nearby. This antenna is one of hundreds of similar stations from around the world that help us study wildlife movements and help with conservation efforts.

become a member.png

It's not too late! Become a Member Today!

Just a reminder if you haven’t renewed your membership yet, it's not too late! Memberships run annually from April 1st to March 31st and entitles you to unlimited free admission to the Osoyoos Desert Centre, 10% discount in our Gift Shop and advance notice of select events and programs. Memberships are $25 per person, per year. Become a member or renew your membership here. See you at the Desert Centre!

Facebook  Instagram