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Calgary’s Wetlands, So Much to Explore

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Brendan Troy, Aug 16, 2013.

  1. Mosquitos suck; both literally and figuratively speaking. Somehow they are incredible at finding your ears and evading your flailing hand as you frantically try to stop that horrifying buzz. Unfortunately though, mosquitos are linked to water in so many ways that it is hard to avoid them in our summer months. As ponds, rivers, lakes and wetlands lure us in with an expanse of open water and the illusion of refreshment, the mosquitos lie in wait. As we approach, they emerge to ruin our experience. This is incredibly unfortunate as water sources are a vibrant show of wildlife throughout our spring, summer and fall. Water is life and this could not be more evident than within an established wetland.

    Life abounds as the sun rises over a large wetland in east Calgary. Photo by Brendan Troy.

    As Calgarians, we have a connection with our mountains to the west , the prairies to the east and the foothills found somewhere in the middle, and within all of these areas wetlands can be found. Find these wetlands and you will discover some absolutely amazing wildlife. From mammals to amphibians, birds to insects, it can all be found within a wet, mosquito filled oasis.

    Waking up bright and early and venturing into Calgary’s wetlands will give you the best opportunity to view some interesting critters. Wandering Garter Snakes will be lethargic as they slowly regain their body warmth from our life-giving sun. Beavers will still be hard at work, completing the end of their night shift before they retreat to their cool waterside lodge for the afternoon. And the birds will just be waking up, making a beautiful racket.

    On a gloomy morning this Beaver seems quite relaxed in his calm pond. Photo by Brendan Troy.

    Calgary is home to some incredible shore birds. Great Blue Herons impress us with their incredible size and graceful, slow flight pattern. White-faced Ibis can be seen in high numbers in some areas, a bird that most would associate with the tropics. And a record holder in the bird world, for having the longest legs in proportion to its body size, the Black-necked Stilt will amaze with its backwards bending knees.

    A White-faced Ibis warms up in the early morning sun. Photo by Brendan Troy.

Watching these birds in their natural habitat is truly fascinating, each species with a different tactic to find prey. With such an array of bird species, it’s easy to spot more than 10 different species at a small slough or pond and more than 20 at a larger wetland. Add to this the occasional Striped Skunk, White-tailed Deer, or Moose and you can have a very exciting adventure.

    Though one of our city’s gems, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, is still closed after it was completely dismantled by the flood, there are so many other great locations to view wetland activity around Calgary. You’ll be in for a treat if you can make the drive south to Frank Lake, just east of High River. Here you could spot as many as 40 different species in one day. But closer to home, Fish Creek Provincial Park and the Weaselhead Natural Area are also excellent places to view wetland wildlife.

    White-tailed Deer buck feeding. Photo by Brendan Troy.

    If you come prepared, a wetland can be a fun and exciting place to visit. As the Western Chorus Frogs croak and the many species of dragon and damselflies whiz by, you’ll be entranced by the level of constant activity. So don’t worry about those ‘skitters and get out and enjoy our amazing wetlands.

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