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Situated just west of Keremeos, British Columbia is a world class hiking experience called Cathedral Lakes. From the base camp along the Ashnola River, you are driven 15 kilometers through pristine forests to the Lodge at 2,000 meters (6,800 feet) above sea level making it Canada’s highest full service resort. The amenities at the lodge include comfortable bedrooms or if you chose there are self-contained cabins, gourmet meals and a hot tub.
Cathedral Lakes was the brainstorm of Herb Clark, a local resident of Keremeos, who in 1934 purchased 2 parcels of land from the provincial government. Shortly afterwards 2 log cabins were built on Quiniscoe Lake and he then began a guided horseback service into the resort. In 1990 the property was sold to the current owner whose vision is “To offer our guests the chance to escape from the modern world, it’s pressures and complexities, to a place where they can reacquaint themselves with the simple beauty of nature”.
There are 7 glacier lakes close to the resort, all of them are moderately short hikes of 3 hours or less duration. Looking into the crystal clear waters of these lakes you will see trophy size Rainbow and Cutthroat trout. On the morning we were leaving we used a boat and went out onto Quiniscoe Lake, in fairly quick order one trout was landed and not long afterwards a second. Talk about fresh fish served up for lunch.
In total there are 60 kilometers of well-maintained hiking trails, by far the best hike was climbing 1,700 feet to the Rim Trail. This hike takes 6 to 8 hours to complete and is approximately 10 kms. Once on top you have a 360 degree view of the Cascade Mountains and far off in the distance one can see the majestic snow covered volcano Mount Baker.
There are numerous rock formations along the trail including the Devil’s Woodpile (formed by quick cooling lava), Stone city, Smokey the Bear and the Giant Cleft (geologists believe the impressive cleft was caused by the erosion of an intrusion of softer rock).
Seemingly ever present are striking Mountain Goats, high alpine birds like the White Tailed Ptarmigan and over 200 species of Wildflowers. This is truly a naturalist’s paradise and an adventure not to be missed.
For more information about guided hikes see Great Horned Owl Eco Tours
In 2003, the Burrowing Owl was placed on the Species at Risk list, reporting less than 1,000 pairs remaining in the wild.
Earlier this month, I had the rare opportunity to assist the Executive Manager of the BC Burrowing Owl Conservation Society with placing metal leg-bands on the Burrowing Owls in their care. It’s an interesting process that takes much care and attention, so I wanted to share my experience with you.
After retrieving the owlets from the nesting chamber a number of statistics are recorded for each bird: weight (at four weeks of age the average weight stands around 130 grams), overall condition of health, tarsus (length of lower leg from elbow to talon) and length of wing.
Two metal bands are attached one to each leg, the first is a US Fish and Wildlife band and the second band was developed by the Society. You will notice that the coloured band has large font, when looked at from a distance using binoculars or a telescope one can read the letters and numbers. This day we visited three different sites, banding a total of 17 birds.
Many birds are banded for identification purposes or as part of population and migration studies. Most wild birds found with bands will have been banded with what’s termed as a “federal band”. However, there are many other types of bands depending on the type of bird. If you have found a banded bird or just spotted a bird with a band while birdwatching, reporting that band number and location seen can give researchers important information. In some cases it may help an owner find a lost bird.
I’ve had the pleasure of following this particular group of owlets. On June 9th, during my first visit, we found their nest chamber contained 8 day old chicks. It’s evident that Burrowing Owls develop very rapidly, (seen in the photo below) at four weeks they are nearly the same size as their parents. When examining the wings there were many feathers still in sheaths.
Born in the South Okanagan grasslands the parents must bring a steady supply of insects and rodents to feed the ever growing brood until they reach six weeks.
In the first nest chamber we were able to also catch the mother, who as it turns out weighed less than all of the 8 chicks she was raising.
If you would like to learn more about Burrowing Owls and bird watching in the South Okanagan, join us on one of our interpretive nature hikes and birdwatching tours.
If you see a bird in the wild with a band, please take the time to report your encounter (and/or recovery) on line at www.reportband.gov
Recently I assisted the Executive Manager for the BC Burrowing Owl Conservation Society in the field checking up on three nest sites where captive as well as returning Burrowing Owls are breeding.
The Burrowing Owl has been absent from the landscape from the South Okanagan of British Columbia since 1970, mostly due to land disturbance and increased use of pesticides. Not only in British Columbia has there been a decline in populations but as well in the 3 prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In 1995 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) declared the Burrowing Owl to be nationally endangered. Today it is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 pairs remaining, making it one of Canada’s most endangered birds. …Read more
Yours truly had the opportunity to take part in this short film with a handful of locals from the South Okanagan-Similkameen to describe why they love the grasslands of the region and why these rare ecosystems need to be conserved.
For more information on CPAWS-BC’s efforts to create a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, visit www.cpawsbc.org/campaigns/south-okanagan-similkameen