Calgary’s Pearce Estate Park: A Wetland in the Middle of the City

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“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful —
an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”

~Ansel Adams

Pearce Estate Park Interpretive Wetland

Please join me on a long, meandering walk through the beautiful wetlands of Pearce Estate Park in Calgary, Alberta. You may want to pack a picnic lunch. This walk cannot be rushed—it should be slowly savoured. The treasures here are not necessarily obvious to those who rush through—they reveal themselves only to those who are willing to stop, look and quietly listen.

Pearce Estate Park is one of my favourite city parks in Calgary. It’s a 15 hectare park nestled into a curve in the Bow River. This beautiful city wetland project was a collaborative effort between Ducks Unlimited and the City of Calgary, assisted by some significant corporate sponsorship. Several aquatic habitats were constructed to create a series of wetlands with a winding stream, ponds and bogs, pathways, bird-watching blinds and viewing decks. The goal of the project was to track the path of a typical foothills stream from its source to its outlet. Enhancing the wetlands are rolling terrain, grassy meadows and patches of forest.

Wetland Conservation

Wetlands are vital parts of the ecosystem of the Canadian prairies but many of them are routinely filled in to build new roads, expand our cities, build new suburbs and create more farm land. Fortunately, this is starting to change as people everywhere are coming to understand the critical role wetlands play in maintaining a robust, flourishing ecosystem. In 2004, the City of Calgary adopted a wetland protection policy to preserve some of the thousands of wetlands within its city limits, making it one of the first cities in Canada to do so. Pearce Estate Park was designed to educate people about the importance of wetlands in the natural world. Calgary has several other wetland parks within its city limits, including Confederation Park, Laycock Park and Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Here are some of the treasures I discovered and photographed over several walks through Pearce Estate Park this summer: wetland birds and flora, woodland birds, vibrant wildflowers, and even a glimpse into the macro world.

Take your time, breathe, and enjoy the stroll:

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One of the ponds in Pearce Estate Park.

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

— Aristotle

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Viewing deck built out into another of the ponds.

“Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere
and circumference nowhere.”

— Blaise Pascal

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A beautiful little stream rambles through the park.

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Meadows flank a meandering stream.

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 Stop, close your eyes and listen to the sweet music of water tumbling over rocks.

If You Build It They Will Come

An astonishing number of Red-Winged Blackbirds, one of my favourite birds to see and hear, take up summer residence in this lovely city wetland. What a pleasure it is to be able to enjoy these beautiful birds within just a short drive from our abode. I love spending time sitting on a bench, eyes closed, face turned to the sun, and revelling in the symphony of the Red-winged Blackbird. For me, their songs and calls are a quintessential prairie experience, and to be able to listen to the chorus of their many varied songs and calls without having to leave the city limits is such a treat.

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Papa Blackbird keeping an eye on us.

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Mama with lunch for the little ones.
 
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The Red-wing Blackbird fledglings blend into the cattails so well they are almost impossible to see unless you know they are there.

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Mama Blackbird watching her fledgling.

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Papa Blackbird surveys the area.

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Blue-winged Teals feeding in a stream.

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If you are quiet and still, the Black-capped Chickadees will come to take black oil sunflower seeds right from your hand. This one sang a little song before managing to gather four seeds into his beak!

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The park is home to a pair of Belted Kingfishers. This is the male. Sadly, this was my best shot.

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A juvenile robin enjoys the morning sun. The park is also home to many other birds, such as Northern Flickers, Tree Swallows, Savannah Sparrows, Swainson’s Hawks and Baltimore Orioles.

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One of the park’s mandates is education; thus, it is not uncommon to see happy groups of school children perched at the edge of a pond or a stream collecting pond water or simply peering intently into the water, pencils and notebooks in hand.

“Happiness … not in another place but this place,
not for another hour but this hour.”

— Walt Whitman

Rich Biodiversity

The wetlands and surrounding woodlands are teeming with all kinds of flora, including a wide variety of wildflowers and many different kinds of grasses and aquatic plants. Here are some shots of the flora that grows wild beside the marshes, in the woodlands and in the meadows.

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Green cattail blossoms growing at the water’s edge.

“A multitude of small delights constitutes happiness.”

~ Charles Baudelaire

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 Brome grass blowing in the breeze.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

~ Annie Dillard

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 Crested Wheat-Grass

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.

~ Walt Whitman

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Wild Tansy

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Hempnettle growing on the bank of a stream.

DSC_5441_0235.zjpgWild Blue Flax growing in the meadow.

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Sowthistle

“At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough.”

— Toni Morrison

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Red Clover Blossom

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”

~ Iris Murdoch

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White Cockle

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“Our relationship with nature is more one of being than having.
We are nature: we do not have nature.”

~ Steven Harper

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Prairie Coneflower

Wonderful how completely everything in wild nature fits into us, as if truly part and parent of us. The sun shines not on us, but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.

~ John Muir

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Prairie Coneflower

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Common Toadflax growing near a stream.
 
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White Clover, also called Dutch Clover.

The world of life, of spontaneity, the world of dawn and sunset and starlight, the world of soil and sunshine, of meadow and woodland, of hickory and oak and maple and hemlock and pineland forests, of wildlife dwelling around us, of the river and its wellbeing–all of this [is] the integral community in which we live.

~ Thomas Berry

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Tufted Vetch

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Woolly Burdock Buds

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Woolly Burdock

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 Common Burdock

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night.

It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the Sunset.”

~ Chief Crowfoot (a chief of the Siksika First Nation)

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Saskatoon Berries, a very popular berry, found here on the Canadian prairies as well as Northern Canada, British Columbia, the Northwestern, North Central United States and Alaska. They are sweet and delicious, somewhat similar to a blueberry, and prized by people and birds alike. Historically, they made up an important part of the Cree First Nations diet. The name “Saskatoon” derives from the Cree name for the berry, “Mis-sask-quah-too-mina”.

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Aster

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Bladder Campion

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 Scentless Chamomile

“As humankind gets to know its fellow creatures,
interest is often followed by compassion”

~ Anne & Paul Ehrlich

Macrocosm

While the birds and wildflowers are often easy to spot, getting down low to look at the itty-bitty stuff yields a new treasure trove of beauty.

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Hoverfly on Canada Thistle

“The beauty of nature—of such organisms as butterflies, birds, reef fishes, and flowering plants—is widely recognized. But many less well-known fauna and flora are—when viewed objectively—attractive also. For example, some tiny wasps and flies, if seen under a microscope, appear to be fashioned out of solid gold. And the algae known as diatoms have glasslike shells that are as exquisite and varied as snowflakes.”

~ Anne and Paul Ehrlich;
Preserving Biodiversity Just For the Beauty of Mother Nature;
Mother Earth News

DSC_6498_1736CRzCabbage White Sulfur Butterfly

Some of nature’s most exquisite handiwork is on a miniature scale, as anyone knows who has applied a magnifying glass to a snowflake.

~ Rachel Carson

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Six-spotted Lady Beetle on Wild Tansy

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European Skipper

 

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 A six-spotted lady beetle on tansy.

 

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 A bee, knee-deep in a Woolly Burdock blossom.

Aquatic Life

At first glance, it doesn’t look like there is much in this pond water, but looking at the water for just a few seconds with my trusty Papilio Butterfly binoculars reveals a whole new microcosm of life.

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The pond is teeming with minnows, water boatmen and loads of water striders—an insect so light it glides on the surface of the water, creating tiny indentations on the surface with its legs, looking as if it were walking on a thin film of plastic. Light-filled bubbles burble to the surface. Sparkles of light shining on the surface look like amazing crystals. Pond snails slither on aquatic plants with miniature blossoms, damselflies hunt from the floating bits of reeds. Time ceases to exist—there is so much beauty to behold in just a one small patch of pond water.

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The stream, rife with minnows released from The Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery, one of Alberta’s biggest fish hatcheries, which sits adjacent to Pearce Estate Park.

 

This brings us to the end of our stroll. One can’t help but leave this beautiful city park filled to the brim with the wonders of nature.

 

Papilio Butterfly Binoculars

I love looking at bugs, butterflies and water bugs and minnows just as much as I love looking at birds. If you enjoy looking at the macro world, I highly recommend investing in a pair of Pentax Papilio butterfly binoculars. These ultra-close-viewing binoculars (Pentax Papilio Butterfly Binoculars) are my trusty companions on our walks. They are very bright and great for bird-watching, but what I like them best for is the macro-close-up view. If you like looking at very small things, these close range binoculars are for you. They bring the macro-world incredibly close. They focus perfectly and brightly as close as 18”, revealing the most amazing and incredible detail in the beautiful pollen in a flower or the wings of a butterfly. A whole new world opened itself up to me with these beauties.

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Image Credits:

All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2015 madlyinlovewithlife

19 thoughts on “Calgary’s Pearce Estate Park: A Wetland in the Middle of the City

  1. A fantastic series of shots Jeannie..It’s great to see such a diverse amount of nature in the park. Wonderfully done my friend…Have a great new week :)

    • Thanks so much, Sam! It truly is a treat to have a park like this in the middle of our city. It so reminds me of all those beautiful prairie ponds of my childhood, like the ones you get to enjoy on a daily basis. Thanks for stopping by and have a happy week! :))

  2. A masterpiece Jeannie. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this wonderful walk. What a beautiful city park. You call attention to what we would normally pass by. Lovely narrative, photographs and quotes.

    • Oh, thank you so much for your kind words, Maria! I’m so glad you enjoyed your walk through the park, as that was my aim. As always, it’s truly a pleasure to have you stop by for a visit. Sending you lots of good wishes! :))

  3. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!
    What a delight, what a treat. I enjoyed so much this trip to the wetlands. The birds (and the one that flew into your hand!), the flowers, the bees (!), the sky…everything. This is the ultimate therapy for the soul, and a reminder that no matter how we humans create problems, this world is so beautiful, and Nature finds a way to maintain her balance. Of course, I realise that each of us can contribute in our own way, as everything is a team effort ;) Thank you, thank you Jeannie! This is what I need to start the week.

    Wishing you and your partner a wonderful week too!!

    • Hello Takami,

      Thanks for taking the long stroll through our urban wetland park with me. It is such a lovely little spot and I so appreciate that the city and the other sponsors took the initiative to build and maintain it. I totally agree that nature will always try to seek balance, whether it’s on a molecular level or a systemic level and it think it’s doing an amazing job of thriving on this planet. It’s my intention that we as humans can find more and more harmonious ways to inhabit this planet. I hold to a strong vision that future generations will be even more in tune with that. For the time being, I’m so appreciative of all the efforts being made by so many, like the decision for our city to value and preserve existing wetlands as it continues to expand. Thank you, as always, Takami for taking the time to read this long post and for writing such a thoughtful comment. Wishing you and yours a very happy week ahead. :))

  4. What an incredible place…and also incredible to have a city devoted to making such smart decisions to not only benefit nature – but to bring the people in the middle of the concrete jungle a respite from modern life. Wonderful photos accompanied by your words. Cheers to a great week ahead Jeannie.

    • Hello Randall! Yes, we are quite fortunate that Calgary has an extensive parks system which is highly valued by all the residents. We are happy to have our tax money go towards maintaining our cities parks. In many of the parks, you would not know you are in a city at all. One of Calgary’s parks stretches 19 km (12 mi) from east to west, making it not only the largest urban park in Canada, but one of the largest urban parks in North America at a total of 13.48 km2 (5.20 sq mi). Thanks so much for stopping by. Wishing you a happy day wherever you may be wandering around the globe at this moment!

  5. Jeannie..you are SO lucky to have a beautiful park like this so near to you. If I had a place like that near to me, I’d be there every weekend! Your photos are breathtaking. Have you seen any Monarch butterflies migrating yet? Many of the flowers you photographed are nectar sources for them. I can imagine how lovely the park would be in the fall and winter, too. Lucky lady! Take care.
    Lis

    • Hello, Lis! We really are fortunate here in Calgary—this park is only one of many fabulous parks within our city limits. We love so many of them and visit them all year round. I have not seen any Monarchs at all this year. They make it up here in small numbers (we are at the very northern limit of their summer migration) but they do not come here in great numbers so I don’t always get the pleasure of seeing them in the summer. This summer, sadly, I have not seen any (so I am especially enjoying seeing your Monarchs). Thanks for stopping by. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. Have a wonderful weekend! :))

  6. Jeannie, the Park is your haven, isn’t it?! How you must lift your spirits by going there…and the Park lifts in spirits in return when your kind soul visits it and its wildlife. How fantastic you and your partner must be in character to be able to have birds light upon your open hands…and sing you a song!

    Your floral photography is just stupendous. Such clarity and sharpness.. depth of field mastery… composition… each and every photograph..! I can never come close to such art… The constant breeze here is my mortal enemy; how do you communicate with the wind spirits to calm down so you can take another fantastic photo???!!! Even the insects pose for you!

    • Thank you, kind sir, for your very nice words. We truly feel fortunate to have so many parks and natural areas in Calgary. It is one of my great joys to walk around and take photos of the birds and flowers. But, you are too modest, for your macro photos are truly inspiring! I too must battle the wind. With the narrow depth of field on that macro lens, most of my shots are out of focus. Thank goodness for memory cards that allow me to take a zillion shots! Wishing you a very Happy September! :))

  7. Pingback: Calgary’s Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre « madlyinlovewithlife

  8. I am in awe! This was a spectacular post filled with the most spectacular photography I have ever seen! What a delight to see the chickadee eat out of your hand! Magnificent!

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