The birds, animals and fauna populating South Okanagan’s grand vistas will play a leading role as the 2019 Meadowlark Nature Festival opens Thursday morning.

The festival, a South Okanagan spring tradition that dates back to 1998, offers interactive, multi-disciplinary events that explore and celebrate the spectacular natural environment of the Okanagan Similkameen.

In the South Okanagan, that includes visits to the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area southwest of Osoyoos, a burrowing owl field trip and time spent with seven species of snakes.

You can also explore the daytime sky using a powerful telescope, cycle the trails between Oliver and Osoyoos and — if getting outdoors isn’t your thing — you can still enjoy nature Friday afternoon with a sit-down Osoyoos Desert Centre-sponsored event at the Sonora Community Centre.

This year’s Meadowlark Festival offers more than 75 tours in the Centrral and South Okanagan. Here are a few of our picks for the Osoyoos area.

Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area
Thursday, 9 a.m. Kilpoola conservation area

Join staff from the Nature Conservancy of Canada for a tour of the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area. Located south-west of Osoyoos, these lands sit in the heart of a crucial migration corridor for species moving between the desert areas of the western United States and the dry grasslands of interior BC.

Be prepared for an adventure on rough roads. You will need a 4×4 vehicle that you are comfortable driving through some sections of road that are narrow and overgrown with brush.

Lehmann Springs Tour
Friday, 10 a.m. Bridesville

View a spectacular stand of old-growth western larches and other wildlife including the Williamson’s sapsucker, red-tailed hawks and flickers living within the Ponderosa pine, spruce and Douglas-fir forest. Natural springs bubble up from the earth feeding into Nine Mile Creek, providing precious water for wildlife and fascination for visitors. Located half-hour from Osoyoos.

Snakes Alive! Snakes of the South Okanagan
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

The South Okanagan is home to seven species of snakes. Learn about the biology and habits of local snakes, as well as conservation efforts to help these species at risk. Several species of live snakes will also be shown in order for you to be able to recognize and identify these wonderful creatures.

Oliver to Osoyoos Cycling Loop
Sunday, 8:30 a.m. Oliver Visitor Centre

Starting from the old KVR Station in Oliver, the tour will cycle along the Okanagan River to the natural habitat information kiosk located on Route 22. Following Route 22 for 1 km, the group will then cycle towards Osoyoos along a recently resurfaced section of the former KVR rail bed, before looping back across a wetland area to the point of departure.

Look up… Way up!
Sunday, 1 p.m., Newton Observatory

Join acclaimed amateur astronomer, pioneer of “cold camera” astrophotography, educator and writer Jack Newton, along with his wife Alice, for an afternoon of daytime sky viewing at their renowned Osoyoos observatory. Perched 1,600 feet above the valley floor, the observatory is equipped with a 16-foot dome and computer-controlled telescope that offers exquisite viewing of daytime objects.

Kilpoola Lake Connectivity IBA Tour
Monday, 9 a.m., Kilpoola Lake

The Important Bird Area (IBA) Program is designated by a specific set of scientific criteria and includes critical sites in more than 100 countries. The Kilpoola area is identified as one of these globally sensitive areas. See interesting lakes, an old growth forest, birds, plants, and exceptional views while enjoying a day in the South Okanagan wilderness.

More information on these events — and many more — is available at meadowlarkfestival.ca. You can also access an online program guide.

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