Thursday, August 13, 2009

Osoyoos Desert - Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Tucked into the southernmost corner of British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley, this extraordinary habitat is home to one of North America’s most fragile and endangered ecosystems. The area hosts one of the largest concentrations of species at risk (over 100 rare plants and over 300 rare invertebrates) in Canada, and is of international importance. Our desert is actually part of the Great-Basin Desert.

The Osoyoos Desert Centre is a 67 acre nature interpretive facility where visitors can learn about desert ecology, habitat restoration and conservation of endangered ecosystems in the South Okanagan. Guests are invited to explore Canada’s desert by taking a guided or self-guided tour along a 1.5 km elevated wooden boardwalk. In addition, the Centre features an interpretive facility with hands-on exhibits and a native plant demonstration garden.

The Southern Okanagan Valley provides the hot dry summers and mild winters characteristic of the arid antelope-brush ecosystem. This region is home to a diverse array of uniquely adapted wildlife species such the Nuttall’s Cottontail, Great Basin Spadefoot Toad, Western Rattlesnake, Tiger Salamander and Wind Scorpion, to name a few.

The humming birds ‘hum’ and the rattlesnakes ‘rattle’ in the bright morning sun of Canada’s only desert. Simmering at the northern tip of the Sonora desert system which starts way down in Mexico, this dry, arid finger extends up through North America to the resort and vineyard country of the Southern Okanagan Valley where the long hot summers and dry mild winters maintain an eco system unique in Canada.

Don’t worry too much about the ‘rattlers’ though; they are shy and are seldom seen, and only then if you stray from the raised boardwalk! But you can watch the humming birds, darting, diving, then hovering at their honey feeders.

Early morning is for the birds – and you can join local birding experts very early each Wednesday morning to see and hear the desert’s avian species and experience the beauty of the desert at sunrise. Nesting Bluebirds feed their young and Meadowlarks swoop after food.

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