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.

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.