Prince’s Island Park: Constructed Wetland

It was such a pleasure to discover a constructed wetland in the heart of Calgary, Canada. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know it was even there until I finally walked to the far side of Prince’s Island Park the other day. I used to work beside the entrance to Prince’s Island Park so I am amazed that I never knew about the wetland. Obviously, if you are close to the river at all in Calgary, you will notice the large population of Canada Geese and various duck species but you would never guess that there is a wetland tucked into the park. The wetland was created to treat storm water before it enters the Bow River, but it also acts as a new habitat for lots of species and increases the biodiversity of the area.

This amazing work has been carried out by the Alberta Conservation Association. By artificially damming water and planting carefully selected plants like Wood’s Rose, Balsam Poplar and Slender Wheatgrass, they have developed a very impressive constructed wetland.

After the initial construction, it is up to nature to take over and that is definitely what has happened here. Whilst walking around the wetland area, you are surrounded by waterfowl, mostly Canada Goose, Mallard and the American Widgeon and the trees that line the pathway are filled with birds. I was treated to a sighting of my first North American Water Vole which was swimming between the banks of the wetland.

North American Water Vole (Microtus richardsoni)

Wetlands are an extremely important and useful ecosystem that we need to preserve and learn more about. I love that the pathway takes you all around the wetland banks on Prince’s Island and is filled with information signage to help teach people more about the importance of the flora and fauna of this special habitat. Constructed wetlands are a concept that other large cities should be thinking about; they increase biodiversity, improve water quality and can act as a buffer zone against floods, storms and other extreme weather events, especially along coastlines.

Solace in the City

I always have and always will prefer to be in natural landscapes over urban landscapes. So, when I find myself in an urban environment I am constantly looking for little pieces of nature peeking through. Nature gives me Solace, it calms me and this is important to find in the noisy, busy world that we live in.

The city of Calgary in Canada is a thriving metropolis and is luckily surrounded by nature on all sides. The Rocky Mountains can be seen from the city and the Bow River flows right through it. The Bow River is my favourite place to visit in Calgary, as it is always filled with nature. By only taking a few steps away from the busy streets, you can experience the solace of the river. All of the urban noises are overshadowed by the sounds of the river; the fast flowing water rushing by, the Magpies and of course the Canadian Geese. You can nearly forget your in the heart of a city if you sit there for long enough, which I think is pretty amazing.

The image displays a section of the WWI memorial found along the riverside in the Kensington neighbourhood of Calgary.

Polar Vortex-ing

So, I have finally been introduced to the brutal Canadian Winter over the last few days. Most of North America has been suffering through some extremely cold weather over the last week, the weather system was named the Polar Vortex. Although Calgary was quite lucky and didn’t get the lowest temperatures across North America, it was still very cold!!

Let’s be honest, some of the photos that have been circling social media about the Polar Vortex have been both shocking and entertaining!!

With temperatures plummeting, most people were staying indoors, but some people braved the cold to take some incredible photos and videos. We were introduced to the “Frozen Pants Challenge”, some crazy frozen hair-do’s and a lot of people creating their own snow. I tried out the latter and headed out into -36°C with a flask of boiling water ready to recreate the many photos I seen online. It was a lot of fun, throwing a cup of boiling water into the air and watching it instantly freeze and turn into snow. I captured some cool photos and videos, but I started to get cold very quickly.

A few things that I have never experienced before 2019’s Polar Vortex;

  • Freezing nostrils (not pleasant at all)
  • Freezing eyelashes
  • My I-phone turned off at 60%
  • My camera started malfunctioning

Looking at photos of Lake Michigan and Niagara Falls during the big freeze were mesmorizing and beautiful but looking at them, I just see the impact of Climate Change. While North America was experiencing some of its coldest temperatures, Australia was in experiencing it’s hottest month on record. Tasmania is being ravished by wildfires and the smoke is spreading to New Zealand. To me, it is alarming how different the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are acting at one time. These extreme weather events are a clear indicator for a changing climate, and it is something that we all need to focus on and stop ignoring.

We can make a change and we must make a change.

Calgary New Central Library

I visited the new Calgary Public Library located downtown at the weekend and was I amazed to see large crowds filled all four floors. As I arrived at the steps to the entrance I was overwhelmed by the amazing architecture that stood before me. The wooden infrastructure is a beautiful addition to such an urban space.

As soon as I walked in the door I just felt excitement, I wanted to explore every inch of the building. The building was bustling and I was eager to scale the stairs to see as much as possible. The large windows throughout the building give a great view of the surrounding city. If like me, you like a view with your coffee and a book then this is the perfect place. Yes, there is a coffee shop so you can enjoy a nice latte when you visit.

We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story while we’re here; you, me, us, together… we change the world one story at a time.

Richard Wagamese

It was inspiring to see the children’s section full and how the kids were enjoying the culture, art, education, games and overall fun offered at the library. We need to make these types of educational spaces a place that the younger generation want to visit and I feel that this has been accomplished here.

It is safe to say that I am a geography nerd so when I spotted a cartography section, I was very excited. There are both modern and historical maps of Calgary and widespread Canada which offer lots of interesting information. There are so many things other than books that you can explore here.

We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth

John Lubbock

I can’t wait to take another trip to the library and hope people will keep visiting in such large numbers.

I’m not allowed to use the “I’m not a morning person” excuse anymore!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a morning person as I love my sleep far too much. However, this morning I got up and went for a walk just catching the sunrise, and it was glorious. I walked through the busy streets of downtown Calgary until I reached the Bow River and crossed the bridge over to Prince’s Island Park. As I reached the park, the hustle bustle of the crowds heading to work faded away and soon the only noise was from the nearby Magpies. Looking towards the trees, it only took a second to spot the Black Squirrels darting between the branches high above me. I just stood there staying as still as possible, watching as they ran between the branches, down the trunks and along the ground. They are such playful animals, so small and fast that they barely make a sound. In this part of the park, I was surrounded by complete silence. As I walked towards the river again, I found the waters filled with Canada Goose and it looked like they were having my lie in this morning. Most of the geese had their heads all tucked in, trying to keep warm. They didn’t make very much noise either, so my morning continued to be quiet and peaceful, giving me a clear headspace for starting the day.

As I left Prince’s Island Park and entered Eau Claire I spotted another squirrel darting around on the ground, but this time it was a Grey Squirrel. As I got my camera ready, the little fella stood up on his back legs and just stared at me. You would think he was nearly posing for my photo. Again, I was too scared to move in case I spooked him. And after about 20 seconds, we both went on about our day, with me walking back into Downtown Calgary and him running up a tree trunk.

It was so encouraging to find nature, wildlife and even silence in the middle of such a busy city. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, whether it be urban or rural, nature makes it way through and can always be found. I’m sure it is pretty obvious by now, but I am very happy that I got up early this morning and I might even make it a regular occasion.