A visit to a Canadian (semi-) desert

What I love most about exploring a new area is the a chance to see animals I’ve never seen before. The southern interior of British Columbia did not disappoint.

The area around Osoyoos, BC is covered with fragrant sagebrush, gnarled antelope-brush, and low-lying cacti. Technically the region is a semi-arid shrub-steppe—something of a semi-desert — and is home to a plethora of rare species.

I’ve used an under-appreciated scientific classification system to categorize the fauna I came across into three distinct groups: beautiful, ridiculous, and ridiculously beautiful.


This is my terroir! I assume that is what this male ruffous hummingbird is trying to tell me via its side-eye stare. Important side note: the Osoyoos region also produces some of Canada’s best wines. I just explained my pun. I apologize. I’ve now met my Canadian quota of including at least one apology in all written text.
A black-headed grosbeak proudly shows off the latest in leaf hat fashion.
Robber flies are the models of the fly world. Look at those strong back muscles, doughy eyes, and fashionable orange shoes.


California quails are portly flying soccer balls with a dangling fascinator and a minuscule bill. Their unmistakable call sounds like Chi-ca-go. Ridiculous all around.
A semi-desert is an odd place to find an amphibian, but some have found a way to make it work. This wiggly Great Basin spadefoot t(o)adpole is on its way to adulthood. Those back legs have a hard spade-shaped digger knob that the adult spadefoots use to bury themselves during a drought.
A killdeer took over incubation duties from its partner and preps to squat on four well-camouflaged eggs. Not the bird world’s comfiest nest. Poor killdeer.
A conchuela bug (Chlorochroa ligata), commonly called a stink bug or shield bug. This little dude damages peach trees, which is ridiculous because peaches are delicious.

Ridiculously Beautiful

A female metallic green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) pollinates a thistle flower. She could not get enough of this thistle and was still there when I came back an hour later. Or at least I think it was still the same bee. She might have metallic green friends. Beware my power…
A male bullock’s oriole scans the horizon. The more brightly coloured males apparently sing more sweetly than the drabber females, but the females sing more often. I can confirm that this guy’s voice was top-notch, but he left the stage far too quickly.
A male western bluebird perches on a fencepost looking for ground insects to nab. He’s a lightweight and weighs only about an ounce.

You may have noticed that none of the pictures above are of our furry brethren. I almost photographed a wily least weasel, but my camera was in manual focus mode while I tracked a quail through the bush. It was a California quail conspiracy!

I’ll end with a well-camouflaged cottontail to assuage the mammal-lovers out there. I highly recommend visiting the southern interior of British Columbia for the vistas and diverse wildlife viewing. Did I mention Osoyoos is also a great wine region?

Where’s the rabbit?
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