Prince’s Island Park
Last June’s epic 100 year flood, which flooded a good part of downtown Calgary (and many other areas of the city), completely submerged most of Prince’s Island and severely damaged our beloved park. Thankfully, intense restoration efforts have been ongoing all year long and I’m happy to report that our city’s treasure is slowly being restored to its former glory.
An Eventful Spring
Our Prince’s Island walks have been full of happy surprises this spring. We’ve seen different kinds of wild waterfowl we haven’t seen in the park before, such as the American Wigeon and the Common Goldeneye. And there seem to be more Blue-winged Teal families this year.
We believe that there are new kinds of waterfowl in the park this year due in large part to last June’s flood, which altered part of the landscape along the north bank of the island, resulting in more wetlands areas (which are perfect for waterfowl).
A Delightful Duckling Experience
Seeing all these sweet little ducklings this spring brought to mind a delightful little experience we had at the island a couple years ago:
It was a glorious early summer’s day: clear blue sky, warm but not too hot, a gentle breeze softly rustled the aspen leaves, bees busily buzzed in the bushes and butterflies flitted about as we sat basking on a small wooden footbridge at the farthest end of the park. It’s a part of the park not frequented by many people, especially at that hour of the morning, so it felt as if we had the place to ourselves.
Sitting quietly together at the far end of the lagoon, perched on a little footbridge over a clear babbling stream, we were mesmerized by countless mercurial flashes of silver under the water, which we knew were small schools of trout minnows reflecting silver glints of sunlight as they turned this way and that hunting for food; every once in a while jumping clear out of the water to snag low-flying insects, shooting silver sparks of light in the air before plopping back into the water, leaving behind a series of beautiful expanding illuminated concentric circles on the surface of the water.
We sat in meditative silence, both utterly lost in the beauty of the natural show when, out of nowhere, a mother duck and four ducklings appeared right before us.
They had been feeding along the edge of the narrow stream which flowed directly under the footbridge we were sitting on. We froze, not wanting to frighten them. The ducklings were very small fluff balls, perhaps a day or two old and they were too sweet for words. We held our breath, expecting them to turn back once they spotted us.
But they didn’t turn back. It surprised us to see them continue their slow, silent approach toward us, feeding along the stream’s edge until they were literally at my feet. A wire mesh screen under the bridge blocked their route downstream and there was no other way for them to continue but to scramble up the narrow path of the embankment directly beside me to get to the other side where they could return to the stream. But my foot was directly on the only path they could take up the embankment. Surely, they would not venture to come that close to me…
Mom was the first to walk over my foot. She seemed confident and determined to lead her young fuzz balls over to the other side of the footbridge. I didn’t move or breathe, though inside I was jumping for joy as, one by one, each little duckling followed Mama’s lead, quickly scuttling over my foot as fast as they could and scrambling up and over the footbridge to plunk themselves back down into the stream.
We were over-the-moon with delight. It was clear to us that those ducks knew we would do them no harm. We still often speak of that morning. It was a perfectly magical moment.
This year is the first time we’ve ever seen a Common Goldeneye at Prince’s Island and the first time we’ve ever seen Goldeneye ducklings. These black and white fuzz balls are incredibly adorable.
Our Resident Beaver’s Handiwork
You know when you come across tree stumps that look like a giant pencil sharpened with a jackknife, you’ve got a beaver on your hands. The park has always allowed one or two beavers to live on the island, but monitors their activity, balancing their presence with maintaining the integrity of the park. In order to preserve the trees, the bottoms of many tree trunks are encircled with mesh wiring to protect them from tree-munching beavers.
The photo above shows the small dam built by the beaver after last year’s flood to keep the lagoon waters from flowing out into the Bow River. On the far right, just out of the above frame, the beaver has built an extensive dam, repairing a good part of the river bank destroyed by last June’s flood. The dam created new wetlands where many of the wild waterfowl now nest.
Beavers tend to be nocturnal, so we don’t often spot them during the day. But on this particular morning, we were fortunate to be graced by a daytime visit from our little friend.
If you are interested in beavers, or enjoy watching high quality nature documentaries, I recommend watching the beautifully filmed IMAX production Beavers, part of which was filmed in Kananaskis Country, just outside of Calgary. Director Stephen Low captured some of the most amazing footage of beavers ever filmed. It’s a fascinating and technically brilliant film. Here is a short trailer:
All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife