Adorable Ducklings at Prince’s Island Park

7712d72Prince’s Island Park

In the heart of Calgary, flanked by the beautiful blue mountain waters of the Bow River, and only a 20 minute walk from our abode, sits our favorite park: Prince’s Island Park, a large island (about 20 hectares, or 40 acres, in size) accessible only by pedestrian bridges. When standing in the middle of the island, one is completely surrounded by grass, trees, sky and the clear blue mountain waters of the Bow River. A good part of the island has been intelligently developed to handle heavy use (among other things, it is the venue for the hugely popular Calgary Folk Festival), while the back part of the island remains intentionally undeveloped and wild, so as to attract wetland birds and other creatures.

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.

77623dd2An 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).

American Wigeons

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Blue-winged Teals

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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.

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Common Goldeneye

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.

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Our Resident Beaver’s Handiwork

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Beaver-munched tree stump.

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.

Beaver Dam

Here you can see our resident beaver’s handiwork on one side of the lagoon.

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.

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Beaver lodge. Note the small sapling in the bottom right corner of the photo, enmeshed in wire to protect it from the beavers.

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.

Beaver

Our resident beaver at Prince’s Island Park.

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:


Image Credits:

All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife

 

8 thoughts on “Adorable Ducklings at Prince’s Island Park

  1. Oh Jeannie, these are beautiful! I loved the story of your delightful duckling experience :))) I also believe that animals can sense if humans mean harm or not, and Mama Duck knew she’d be safe in your hands (err…walking over your feet ;)). It must be really something to see so many different types of duckies in-person, and Prince’s Island Park must be like a taste of heaven.

    The beaver documentary looks very interesting too! I’ll have to see if it’s available here :)
    Wish you a wonderful week & weekend too!

    • Thank you, Takami. You are too kind. Our little duckies were on the far side of the lagoon, a fair distance away, so the photos are highly cropped. The light was harsh late morning backlighting and I admit my shots didn’t turn out as well as I’d pictured them in my mind. Still, I enjoyed the process and was glad to get the shots I got, as I didn’t have much time to take them. These guys are not always visible and when they do come out they are super shy and swim very quickly (to say the least, tracking moving subjects is not yet something I’m great at). And I agree with you–when our energy is calm and peaceful, we are more likely to attract wildlife to us.

      I know you’d love the beaver documentary–it’s some years old now (1988) but it still feels fresh. The film actually had its inception in your part of the world: director Stephen Low was commissioned by the Nagoya Regional Office of the Dentsu Corporation in Japan (and their client, the Chubu Electric Power Company) to develop a film concept. Low suggested doing a wildlife documentary about the beaver, one of nature’s greatest engineers. Do look for it–it’s excellent.

      Enjoy the rest of your week and upcoming weekend!

  2. I can hardly believe it’s been a year since the flood. How interesting, though, that you may be seeing new species of waterfowl following that period. I love your little ducks, and I can certainly understand how the park is your favorite. It’s wonderful to see life regenerating in a place that was so negatively affected only a year ago!

    • Thank you so much for your comment. It IS great to see Prince’s Island being restored to its former beauty. We especially appreciate that the City has made this park a priority for restoration, putting tons of money and manpower toward that effort. It’s wonderful to see life blossoming there again.

  3. A wonderful series of shots and I’m happy to hear the park is recovering from the terrible spring floods from last year..What a wonderful place to have in the city and close to home :) Very nicely done Jeannie..

    • We very much appreciate having such a lovely park so close to us, in the heart of downtown Calgary. We visit it often all year round, including skating on the lagoon in the wintertime. Thanks for stopping by Sam. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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