Winter 2021 e-Newsletter


On this chilly -9 day with snow to whiten the ground, the birds are chipping, chirping and squabbling at the feeders, voraciously eating sunflower seeds for the energy quick fix they need to stay warm. Close by, a territorial Townsend’s solitaire song fills the air while defending patches of juniper trees against intruders. Feeding largely to exclusively on juniper's ripe, fleshy berries during non-breeding season, this solitaire hit organic pay-dirt when it found my juniper patch. Little did I know how sweetly rewarded I would be when planting them about 45 years ago.

At 5 am the land was bathed in moonlight, with long shadows stretching across the valley. Shattering the quiet is the chilling, solitary, coyote call. I can imagine the scurrying to safety of little furry creatures not eager to become a meal. The great horned owl is hooting, defining territory, preparing for another breeding season, right in the depths of winter, while the birds at the feeder concentrate on calories. Seeds fall to the ground which entice the mice which invites a pygmy owl to feed at the smorgasbord. On numerous occasions I have seen little pygmy sitting in a tree just outside my window, either with mouse in claw, or belly full and snoozing.

The year 2021 will go down in history as one showing just how brutal Nature’s cycles can be, to the landscape, to ecosystems, and to people. The pandemic, a heat dome, expansive forest fires, heavy snow followed by an atmospheric river set the scene for devastation on a scale seldom seen in BC. We can only imagine how wildlife is affected while human communities are devastated, causing much suffering. These trying times have brought out the best in so many people who have generously given day to day essentials, their time, their equipment and cash donations to help ease the suffering of those caught in the tide. Crews are working around the clock to repair damage, often in very trying circumstances. Hats off to them.

Meanwhile the Osoyoos Desert Centre is bathed in the same moonlight as my Similkameen home. Some inhabitants have migrated, some hibernated and others will be searching for food and avoiding being eaten. Life has adjusted to winter conditions. During daylight, the old boardwalk is being removed and the new one built. C3 Industries workers are mindful of the ecological importance of the site, working in the least invasive way possible. Their progress is impressive.

We are fortunate to have Larry Stone generously volunteering his time as Project Manager and to have Board members, Peter Beckett, Roger Horton, and Trevor Reeves as the building committee, who in concert with Jayme Friedt and Leor Oren spent many hours doing the many tasks required before a project contract was signed.

We are also fortunate to have dedicated volunteers whose energy is essential to maintaining the Desert Centre, and the other Board members, Deb Sherwood, Birgit Arnstein, Laurie Watt, Joanne Muirhead, and Jordan Carbery whose thoughtful input oversee the wellbeing of the Society. Working with them is rewarding and a pleasure.

The Board joins me in expressing our thanks to all the staff but especially to our Managing Director, Jayme Friedt and Desert Centre Manager, Leor Oren who landed in their positions during difficult times and made the necessary adjustments to keep the Desert Centre operating.

And now to a gentle closure: May good health be your best companion, may the holidays have lovely surprises and may a stroll down the new boardwalk be one of your summer pleasures.

On behalf of the Osoyoos Desert Society Board,


Lee McFadyen

President, Osoyoos Desert Society




Building the future

Like many people and businesses experienced this past year, 2021 certainly had its challenges. For ODC ongoing restrictions due to COVID as well as wildfires hurt our bottom line. Admissions were down over 2020 which was already a difficult year. Thankfully we were able to take advantage of some employment and COVID relief funding opportunities to help offset our expenses. We also got great support from individual and corporate donors which helped tremendously. So, as we head into 2022, we do so with cautious optimism.

While 2021's been winding down, we've been ramping up for a very exciting and momentous occasion that will literally walk us into our future. Our biggest news of the year of course was receiving the BC government’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) grant, providing funding that is allowing us to replace our 25-year-old boardwalk trail. We were very pleased to award the contract to local landscaping and property maintenance company C3 Industries Inc. Working with C3 allows us to honour the objective of the grant to infuse economic benefit into our local economy and create jobs.

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An integral and invaluable member of the boardwalk project team is volunteer project manager Larry Stone. Hot off his gig overseeing construction of the new Osoyoos Museum, Larry jumped right in without hesitation to take on the gargantuan task of overseeing construction of our new boardwalk. Thank you Larry!

Construction of the boardwalk is going great! We are so pleased that C3 staff member Ethan McMullen is capturing the progress in weekly drone recordings. You can see Ethan's recordings on our YouTube channel here. While you're there, be sure to subscribe to keep up to date on all the exciting happenings at ODC!

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Local businesses raise money for ODC

We were so thrilled to be the beneficiary of two great community fundraisers this past summer. Penticton's Tin Whistle Brewing Company helped out our restoration efforts by donating to the Osoyoos Desert Centre five-cents from every can sold of their "Queen of Tart" prickly pear cactus sour beer. Big shout out to Tin Whistle for implementing a green business model and supporting conservation!! Oh ya! The beer was pretty darn good too!

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In Osoyoos, foodies and Osoyoos Desert Centre fans alike savoured a delicious bite courtesy Chef Joe Dierickse, Chef de partie at The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry. As part of Osoyoos Home Building Centre’s Community Fundraisers Chef Joe showcased his talent on the Traeger Smoker featuring smoked corn on the cob and wild rice salad. What a scrumptious day that was!!

Many thanks to both Tin Whistle Brewing and Home Building Centre, as well as everyone that took part, for your support!

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New Honorary Lifetime Members Join

Small but Illustrious Group

Osoyoos Desert Society board of directors were pleased to award Ernie and Kathie Westphal a Lifetime Honorary Membership. Ernie and Kathie are not only dedicated volunteers – Ernie helping on our maintenance crew for many years and Kathie helping at our admissions desk – they are also substantial financial supporters of the society. They join Fred Hamilton, one of the Society's founders and Roger Horton, a twenty-year volunteer and present board member, as Lifetime Honorary Members. Congratulations Ernie and Kathie and thank you for your ongoing contributions and dedication!

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Great Staff = Great Events

Thanks to employment grants from the Canada Summer Jobs program and Eco-Canada we were able to hire three conservation tour guides this summer: Andres Mancera Barreto, UBCO student studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Shannon Eriksen, Sports Management student at Camosun College; and Osoyoos Secondary School student Prabhnoor Samra joined our staff. Andres gave two great nature talks in August. Eat or be Eaten looked at how species survive and interact in search of food and To Bee or Not To Bee spotlighted pollinators and why they they are so critically tied to our own sustainability. A third talk, Living with Rattlesnakes was presented by Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre Snake Biologist Chloe Howarth who showed us how to identify different snake species in the South Okanagan.


Shannon Eriksen gave a hands-on bluebird nest box building workshop called For the Birds. This sold-out event included step-by-step instruction to build your own take-home nest box as well as discussions about bluebird ecology, life cycle, and the recovery of declining populations.

We look forward to presenting many more events like these in the coming years!


School Visits and Educational Activities

While COVID has greatly hindered our ability to gather, ODC was happy to be able to host a few school and other groups including OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre, Cactus Kids Camp, Similkameen Elementary Secondary School, UBC Forestry field trip, Penticton Newcomers Club and Senpaq'cin School. The groups toured our facility and learned all about our antelope-brush habitat, desert adaptation and our conservation efforts to protect species at risk. Special thanks to the Grade 6 and 7 students from Senpaq'cin who also volunteered to help install new bluebird nest boxes around the Centre.

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Behr's Hairstreak Survey

This summer, in conjunction with the Antelope Brush Ecosystem and Restoration project initiated earlier this year and funded by the South Okanagan Conservation Fund, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, staff member Andres Mancera Barreto conducted a Behr's hairstreak survey at the ODC. His survey, the first conducted in 18 years at the ODC, was designed to understand the current state of the red listed Behr's hairstreak butterfly, gauging how the population has changed over that time. Unfortunately the numbers that were observed indicate a decline in population. Read Andres' full report here.


Our Volunteers are the Best!

Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Osoyoos Desert Centre and Society. Their contribution to so many of the different areas and activities of the ODC is essential and invaluable. At our admissions desk, volunteers Nancy Heather, Kathie Westphal, Alice Partridge, Alicia Osland, Cheryl Place, JoAnne Birch, Isla Petreny-Mackenzie, Shirley Boyle and Nancy Nowak welcomed guests to the Desert Centre, providing information on our wonderful desert environment and the conservation and stewardship activities of the ODC. 

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Our restoration and site maintenance crews included Patrick Bouillet, Paul Doyle, Mary Doyle, Fred Hamilton, Mat Hassen, Lee McFadyen, James Friedt, Dan Nieman, Shirley Boyle, Cheryl Place, Steve Nowak, Laurie Watt and Ernie Westphal. They helped with removing invasive species, pruning overgrowing shrubs and transplanting native species and various construction projects. The ODC looked fantastic this year!


A big shout out must go to our building committee made up of Peter Becket, Roger Horton and Trevor Reeves. Taking on replacing the boardwalk has been a huge job and they've rose to the challenge and taken on the many tasks with gusto! That's on top of installing two rain screens above the doors leading into our interpretive building, dismantling and installing new sentinels at the gate, refurbishing the parking area and acquiring and installing two rain collection barrels. These guys have been busy!!

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If there's anyone in a non-profit society who tirelessly works behind the scenes out of the spotlight it's the treasurer! Special mention must be made not only to our past treasurer Vaughn Denis who sadly passed away this year (We miss you Vaughn!) but also to our new treasurer Laurie Watt. Laurie came on board just as we were ramping up with all sorts of new projects and funding streams and was able to take it all in, put it down on paper and have it make sense to everyone! And he can swing a hammer too! Thank you Laurie!


Finally, without a doubt, we simply wouldn't exist without the huge support of our volunteer Board of Directors. Many thanks to Birgit Arnstein, Peter Beckett, Jordan Carbery, Roger Horton, Lee McFadyen, Joanne Muirhead, Trevor Reeves, Deb Sherwood and Laurie Watt. Your dedication to the Osoyoos Desert Centre is unwavering and very much appreciated!


Thank you to you all! We look forward to an exciting 2022 season and we'll see you in the spring!


As a non-profit charitable organization, grants, donations and sponsorship from individuals, foundations, government and corporate funders are our lifeblood. We simply could not exist without them. Thank you all!

Government, Foundation and Major Corporate Funders

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Individual and Corporate Donors

Carol Boan

Pat Burke and Dan Gresley-Jones

C4 Wise Design

Deborah Cardinal Rhyason

William Dell

Ev Denis (in memory of Vaughn Denis) Mike DuMoulin

Hon. Ross and Linda Fitzpatrick

Forbidden Fruit Winery

Jayme and James Friedt

Riley Goldstone

Fred and Julie Hamilton

Hiltop Body Shop

Home Building Centre

Marko Ilic

Knightrous Contracting

Linda and Larry Larson

Marie Sherry McDonald

Suzan McKortoff

Minuteman Press

Steve and Nancy Nowak

Okanagan Containers

Osoyoos Aggregates

Pacific Haven Landscaping

Phantom Creek Estates Winery

Trevor Reeves

Renowerks Construction

Matthew Sherman

Ed and Thelma Silkens

David Smith

Tin Whistle Brewing Company

T.L. Timber

Ray Town

Georgina Turner

Lucie Vallieres

Earl Paul Vince

Laila Virding

Marlene West

Ernie and Kathie Westphal

Max Wyman

Osoyoos Desert Society Members

Birgit Arnstein

Peter and Yvette Beckett

Norm and Mary Bennett

Marilyn Bergen

JoAnne Birch

Leslie Birch

Andy Blair

Ken and Diane Blow

Carol Boan

Gail Bourget

Ray Bowes and Sylvie Doyon

Pat Burke and Dan Gresley-Jones

Vivienne and Robert Calder

Jordan Carbery

Judy Dallas

William Day

Paul and Mary Doyle

Mike DuMoulin

Kurt Evans

Dorothy Fairbairn

Hon. Ross and Linda Fitzpatrick

Tom Gee and Kathy Gibson

Kathy Green and Allen Hartman

Fred Hamilton HLM

Tom Harvie

Nancy Heather

Deirdre Holmes

Diana and George Holmes

David Hooey

Roger and Claire Horton HLM

Donna Kelso

Ken Knuston

Linda and Larry Larson

Shannon Marfleet

Brad Marshall and KyLee Fournier

Julie Martineau

Lee McFadyen

Brian and Sandra McGowan

Suzan McKortoff

Charles McNeill

Derek McQuinn and Stephanie Bonnar

Gwen Monteith and Robert Klei

Joanne Muirhead

Cori and Christian Noel

Steve and Nancy Nowak

Doreen Olson

Alicia Osland

Janelle Parchomchuk

Alice Partridge

Isla Petreny-Mackenzie and

Ralph E Petreny

Richard Poutney

Alan and Isabel Quinn

Rob Rainer

Trevor Reeves

Jack Rogers and Sue Duncliffe

Catherine Roome and Bill Walsh

Michael and Vera Ryan

Mary Lou Schmidt

Bob and Deb Sherwood

Ed and Thelma Silkens

David Smith

Trish Stevens

Georgina Turner

Rod and Romana Van Lissum

Caroline Vandonkersgoed

Earl Paul Vince

Laila Virding

Laurie Watt

Marlene West

Ernie and Kathie Westphal HLM

Lisa Young

HLM = Honorary Lifetime Members

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250.495.2470 | mail@desert.org | WEBSITE

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