Our Mission

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship is a local non-profit, charitable organization that assists land owners, managers and community groups in voluntary conservation, stewardship and restoration of important habitats on private lands and within communities of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. 

It's the Great Canadian Birdathon!

The Great Canadian Birdathon (formerly known as the Baillie Birdathon) is gearing up for another great year! Put on by Bird Studies Canada, the event is the oldest sponsored bird count in the country and usually raises around $200,000 per year to help fund the many research, education, and citizen science programs run by the organisation.

Other events put on by Bird Studies Canada include Project Feederwatch
the Christmas Bird Count, and the Important Bird Area Program

Birdathon participants sign up alone or as part of a team and find sponsors to donate to their fundraising goal. Then they pick a day in May and spend the whole day (or sometimes just part of a day) trying to find as many different bird species as they can.
Some sponsors base their donations on how many birds species are counted, so the more birds sighted the better! Teams and individuals can choose whether all of their proceeds go towards Bird Studies Canada or whether a portion is given to a conservation organisation of their choice.


Get involved!

Want to start your own team or sign up solo?  You can register here. Don't worry if you're not a bird expert - any and all participants are welcome.

Want to join an already-existing team? The Allen Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon is looking for team members! Their team page can be found here.

Not much of a birder but still want to help? You can make a donation to help a birding team reach their fundraising goal. If you want to support a local team,  here is the donation link to the team leader for the Allan Brooks Nature Centre.



BEWARE OF INVADERS!!

Saving the bees is all the buzz, but it's important to know what you are planting with "wildflower
mixes". These seed mixes, though beautiful, often contain hidden invaders that can cause problems in local habitats since they are chosen to thrive with little to no care. Make sure before spreading these wildflower seeds, that you have checked the plant list!!
Check out our Living in Nature Series Guide: Attracting Native Pollinators for a list of beautiful native plants that flower throughout the growing season, attracting bees and butterflies without introducing invasive plants. Plantwise also has a great "grow me instead" section.
Bee nectaring on native, flowering balsamroot.

Seeking Summer Interns

Are you looking for a summer job where you'll get real-world work experience beyond flipping burgers?


We are hiring hard-working summer interns for the 2017 field season to conquer invasive plants and engage our communtiy in hands-on stewardship intiatives- AND it's all in the beautiful Okanagan and Similkameen outdoors.

View the job posting here and apply by April 3, 2017 at 9am.


It's World Wildlife Day!


We have seen all kinds of wildlife using the habitat protected by our amazing Wildlife Habitat Stewards. In honour of World Wildlife Day we thought we might share some of our favorite photos!

To view photo captions, click the Fullscreen button in botton right corner of the slideshow. Then click "Show Info" in the upper right corner.



These busy badgers were seen last spring at one of our steward's homes in the North Okanagan. Just look how cute they are!

video

For a more great badger videos from the same stewards, take a look at one of our previous posts.


This speedy little Great Basin Spadefoot tadpole was spotted (along with many, many others!) at one of our Oosyoos steward's properties. This pond rears hundreds of spadefoots each spring.
video

Do you have amazing wildlife living on your property and want to help protect their habitat? Contact us to find out what you can do!

Creature Feature: Corvids

A corvid? What on earth is a corvid??

Corvids are a family of birds (technically named Corvidae) that includes crows, ravens, magpies, and jays, among a few others. This bird family is huge, containing almost 120 species, and can be found everywhere on earth except the polar ice caps. Most species are medium to large sized birds, with stout builds and strong, sturdy beaks. They are usually extremely social, mating for life and often roosting in large family groups.
Common Ravens are almost the size of a 
hawk and make a hoarse, croaking caw.
In the Okanagan-Similkameen, the most well known corvids are likely the Common Raven, American Crow, and Black-billed Magpie, but Steller's Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, and Grey Jays (aka Whiskey Jacks) are also members of the family.

Corvids are a very unique group of birds.  Even though they are classified as Songbirds (a bigger group  of birds that includes many other small birds like robins, sparrows, warblers, etc), most do not truly sing as other songbirds do, instead using a multitude of caws, whistles, chirps, gurgles, and chatters to communicate. It is also interesting to note that many corvids are exceptional mimics as well; hand-raised Common Ravens can be taught human words and Steller's Jays produce a surprisingly accurate Red-tailed Hawk scream.  Many corvids, crows and ravens in particular, have been observed participating in activities that can really only be classified as 'play'; tobogganing down inclines, tug-of-war with siblings, and aerial acrobatics are just some of the activities that have been observed.


Canada's new national bird, the 'Whiskey
Jack' is a corvid! Photo by Walter Siegmund
Corvids are by far the smartest group of birds on the planet. After accounting for their smaller body size, these birds have brains comparable to dolphins and apes, two animals we have long known are highly intelligent. Various species of Corvids have been proven to be able to use tools, solve puzzles, recognize facial features, and count to 5. Others have the ability to recall past events or plan for the future (episodic-like memory) and communicate information about something that is distant, either physically far away or far away in time (lingual displacement).

To learn more about corvids and more about how amazingly smart they are, feel free to visit the links below:
A writer befriends some corvids
Impulse control in jackdaws and ravens
Have issues with an annoying corvid?
Wikipedia article on Corvids

Seeking field assistant

Are you looking for some experience working in wetlands in the Okanagan? We are hiring a field assistant for a short contact in March with a possible extension mid-May to mid-June contingent on funding.
If you are a motivated self starter and want to make a difference to wetlands in the Okanagan then head on over and have a look at the job posting here

Creature Feature: Spadefoots

Click the play button in the audio player below.  Does that noise sound familiar?


(If you can't see an audio player,  click here to open it in a new tab. Audio is from californiaherps.com)

No, that's not your spouse snoring last night. That's a male spadefoot trying to impress the ladies!

Spadefoots are a light grey-green colour with darker blotches
along the back. Their round, squat bodies are 2-3 inches long
and their eyes have a distinctive 'cats-eye'' vertical pupil, 
The Great Basin Spadefoot can be found through most of the Okanagan-Similkameen region, though because they are nocturnal and hide underground, they are not often seen. It was once thought that Spadefoots were a kind of toad, but scientists recently discovered they are unique enough to make up their own group. Part of what makes them unique is a small, fingernail-like growth protruding from each back foot, which lets the spadefoot scrape dirt out from underneath itself to burrow backwards into the ground. Spadefoots quite literally have spades on their feet!

The odd snoring call that you heard at the beginning of this article is the mating call of the male spadefoot. The males gather along the sides of small ponds to call for females and on a clear night, these calls can be heard over 200 metres (650 feet) away.  Spadefoots breed in early spring when the snow melt and spring rains have created temporary pools in which mating and egg-laying can occur. These pools quickly dry up once the weather beings to warm, so spadefoot tadpoles have one of the fastest development times of all frogs and toads; after an egg is laid, it takes only 60 days to grow into an adult.

In addition to their digging abilities and speedy development, spadefoots are also unique in their extreme hibernation. Winter and most of the fall is spent spent in true hibernation underground and the heat of the summer is spent in aestivation, a type of hibernation used by some animals to escape extreme heat. Up to 8 months of the year is spend in these dormant states and a spadefoots can live for up to ten years.

Due to habitat destruction and loss of breeding habitat, the Great Basin Spadefoot has been listed as a Threatened species in British Columbia.

FrogLogs® allow trapped animals
 to escape swimming pools.
If you have a swimming pool and have discovered spadefoots, salamanders, or any other kind of animal in your pool filter (dead or alive), please contact us and we may be able to provide you with a FrogLog ® (see left photo).

 If you have spadefoots on your property and may be interested in becoming a Wildlife Habitat Steward, click here for more information.

Attract Native Pollinators

While it is cold and snowy outside and it may not seem like there is an end in sight, spring is just around the corner- why not think forward to spring and start making plans to have beautiful flowering plants throughout the remaining three seasons.

Insect pollinators, including bees, butterflies, beetles and flies, are responsible for one in every three bites we take. In addition to pollinating food plants, many native pollinators also control unwanted pests and improve soil quality. As an added bonus, attracting native pollinators to your property is beautiful, and pretty easy work! 

1. Diversity! Plant diverse colours and shapes of plants and plants that flower throughout the growing season. 

2. Plant flowers in clumps. This will reduce the distance that pollinators need to travel in order to gather pollen and nectar. 

3. Enhance habitat. Not only do pollinators require flowers for pollen and nectar, pollinators benefit from additions to the landscape such as shallow water baths for drinking. 


The endangered Behr's Hairstreak is found only where Antelope Brush habitat is- south of Penticton.  These little butterflies use antelope brush as their larval host plant and one of their favourite nectar plants is yarrow.

Arrowleaf balsamroot is a sure sign of spring on hillsides of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.

Monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive.  Plant the native Showy Milkweed for these iconic butterflies.

The Mormon Metalmark is found only in Cawston, Keremeos and through the Richter Pass.  This friendly butterfly needs snow flowering buckwheat to survive.

Whenever possible, don't use pesticides! Most pesticides are non-selective and harm beneficial insects you are trying to attract.

 For more information on how to attract native pollinators to your property, including a plant list and where you can purchase them in the Okanagan, see our Living in Nature Series Guide.

We ❤ Wetlands

Its the 20th Annual World Wetland Day!

As we have said before, wetlands are one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the Okanagan-Similkameen region; over 85% have been destroyed.  Here at OSSS, we work a lot with wetlands up and down the valley. In fact, almost half of our stewards have some kind of wetland on their property.

So what exactly do we do with the wetlands we help steward?

Last spring, we got an  amazing volunteer turnout when we partnered with TD Bank and the City of Penticton for TD Tree Days. Over 550 plants were planted at Riverside Marsh in Penticton in less than 3 hours!
Almost four and a half TONNES of garbage were pulled out of an Osoyoos wetland in 2015.  That's the weight of a fully-grown elephant! Native plants were planted along the sides of the pond to help stop bank erosion. 

Last spring, we began creating a new wetland in Lumby. It may not look like much now, but in addition to the pond, this 2-acre reclaimed hayfield already has almost a thousand new native plants in the ground!


Over in Summerland, the Okanagan Crush Pad Winery will have 2 new wetland ponds created this year in one corner of their property. In the meantime, we have already improved the surrounding area by planting 1200 native plants

.

"Frog Logs" were given to 12 stewards that have swimming pools near wetlands with amphibian populations. If an amphibian crawls into a pool, it cannot climb the slippery sides and often drowns. These ramps allow the unfortunate frog, salamander, or spadefoot to escape before they get sucked into the filter.


So, what can you do to help local wetlands??


Volunteer with us
We couldn't even begin to do what we do without the tireless work of all of our volunteers. From pulling weeds to picking garbage to planting native plants, out volunteers do it all! Click here to sign up as a volunteer.

Stop the spread of invasive species
Many invasive species, like the American Bullfrog, the Red Eared Slider, and Yellow Flag-iris have devastating impacts on wetlands, whether it be eating everything in sight (bullfrog) or completely choking out open water (flag-iris). Don't plant non-native plants in your pond or near any body of water and never release a non-native animal into the wild.

Become a Steward
Not all wetlands are full of cattails: a spongy wet meadow and a small depression that has water only in the spring are both different kinds of wetland. Do you think you might have a wetland on your property and want to protect it? Contact us here.

Talk about it
Lots of people just don't realise how valuable and important wetlands are to the world.  Wetlands provide us with flood control, groundwater recharge, and water filtration, all for free!



Thank you to our partners and funders

Thank you to our partners and funders