Saturday, April 29, 2006

Walking the Wishart

I was out on the 4 km (Wishart) trail fairly early this morning, and for the first time this season (terrible to have to admit that).

Now that the days have warmed up a bit, morning is actually a great time to get out for a walk. The birds are usually more active than they are in the afternoon, and the trails themselves tend to be less busy than they get later in the day.

Spring walkers will notice that green is definitely starting to peek out from under last year's dead grasses. Many of the deciduous trees are budding as well. It's interesting to see, though, that even with the warmth we've had lately the mineral springs are still frozen and are likely to remain that way for a few weeks yet.

One of my more intriguing finds this morning was the beaver-chewed stump you see below:

And why on earth is a chewed stump intriguing? Well, for at least two years now we've had no sign of beaver activity in the Sanctuary at all. I think they probably moved on to greener pastures (or at least the river) when the water level in the lakes was so low during the drought. A freshly chewed stump is a pretty clear indication that they're back again. This one was very close to the far viewing deck on the West Lake. I'd expect to see the beavers doing repairs on the existing lodge across from the viewing deck if that's where they're hanging out, so make sure you keep an eye open for them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


And lots of it. I'm sitting at the front counter watching the very large spruce trees blow around like flags in the wind. Keep your eyes open and your head up while walking both on our trails and anywhere there are trees overhead. In the past we've had entire trees come down in the wind. I'm pretty sure that our regular trail walkers will be to report blown down trees and branches before the day is over.

More importantly, the wind is helping to disperse pollen and seeds, assisting in plant reproduction. During last year's big spring and summer winds we watched massive clouds of pollen blowing off the spruce trees.

Check out our article in the Sunday Red Deer Life.

Keep you hand on your hat. It's a good day for flying kites and watching the clouds race across the sky.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Life at the pond

I took a quick walk down the road to McKenzie Trail this morning to see how the clean-up after last summer's flood has come along. The park should be open to the public again in the first part of May, and we at the Nature Centre are looking forward to doing pond studies with grade five students down there this spring.

It's a bit of a windy day today, but the goose population out on the nesting islands doesn't seem to be especially concerned. The robins are busily hunting all over the park, and down towards the parking lot I could hear the phoebe calling (thanks for the heads-up on that one, Judy).

The loons seem to have moved back as well. Judy was saying that last year's nest had been washed out in the flood and she thought they may have decided to try Three Mile Bend this time instead, but this morning they were happily diving at McKenzie again. Considering the amount of river water that passed through the ponds last year, the birds may be finding interesting new sources of food there now.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Check out the Eagle!

Here is a live cam of a bald eagle nest on Hornby Island - just off of Vancouver Island, B.C. It's really cool!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Happy April

As you can see, it's finally starting to look less like winter out there. Not that I'm counting out another storm since this is Alberta (I am knocking wood as I type this), but even pessimistic me had to admit that it felt like spring this morning.

A chilly, breezy spring, yes. But spring nonetheless.

It's starting to sound like spring as well. The geese are very vocally reminding us that they're back, many other birds are setting territory, and the red squirrels (sorry for the slightly fuzzy shot. It was a quick hand-held zoom snap)... well, the red squirrels are as obnoxious as ever.

I mean that in a good way. I like red squirrels, but I'm the first to admit that between fighting with each other and chattering at every other animal or person who happens to pass by, they're not exactly calm neighbours.

Staying with the squirrels, our Richardson's Ground Squirrels (better known to most as gophers) have emerged from hibernation and are busily searching out anything remotely edible out there.

Yep, it's definitely spring. That doesn't mean, though, that we don't still have a bit of winter out on the trails. If you're going out for a walk, please be careful of the occasional icy patches still to be found in shaded areas.

And speaking of walks, be sure to drop by the Nature Centre on Saturday, April 8th for our Birds and Buds walk. We'll be looking and listening for signs of spring in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. The walk leaves the Nature Centre at 1:00 p.m. Please be sure to dress for the weather.

As always, give us a call at (403)346-2010 for information on this or any other Nature Centre program or event.