When I think of elements that make Calgary an awesome place to live, wildlife immediately comes to mind. With several natural parks linking the city to the great outdoors, we are blessed to have wild residents and visitors all year round. They traverse the river valleys and ravines, treading timeless trails and tracks, usually in silence and anonymity but sometimes crossing our paths. A walk in Fish Creek Park for example might allow a glimpse of a beaver developing the engineering marvel that is his dam. The tawny shape of a coyote might be seen in March as she hunts for mice. Her pups are nearby, hidden in a well-concealed den. Most times, the grazing Mule Deer are not fazed when I come upon them. They raise their heads and twitch their big trumpet ears, knowing that I am no threat.
On a hill I might see mum skunk with her babies. They have just emerged from their den and they follow her in rolling balls of fur as she shows them around their new environment. Depending on the season, there are many more such sights to enjoy. A fox could streak across your path heading for the creek, or a porcupine might climb a nearby tree searching for berries. The scream of the Red-Tailed Hawk circling effortlessly on the high air currents will not be a surprise. On the other hand, the sight of a black bear making her way towards a clump of berry bushes with a cub trailing behind her is a real bonus. Equally delightful is the loud staccato sound of the Pileated Woodpecker decimating a fallen tree trunk in search of dormant grubs. And I am honoured when I see my Black Capped Chickadee friend fluttering towards me. He alights on my hand. He knows I have sunflower seeds for him.
Calgary has many seasonal avian visitors who travel on the wide flyway that extends all the way from the Arctic to South America. I love to watch them from my window. Once on a cold January day, I saw a magnificent Snowy Owl sitting on one of my garden posts framed by snow-dusted spruce trees. In summer I welcome the Baltimore Oriole but have been unable to locate her hanging nest, one of the finest examples of intricate construction known to Man. I could go on: I marvel at the brilliant blur of the Humming Bird. The lament of the Mourning Dove haunts me, while the song of the Evening Grosbeaks in the high poplar branches lifts my spirits. I chuckle at the incessant chatter of the wren or the noisy quarrelsome energy of the Pine Siskins. I am filled with admiration as I watch the Kildeer crying and feigning injury so pursuers will chase her and not see her defenceless chicks. With such sights to see, there can never be boredom.
I have all this and more in Calgary. Yes, I know there are some that take wildlife for granted. Or worse, fear them or perceive them as threat or nuisance. I, of course, vehemently disagree. Those feathered, furred or scaled creatures are just like me, “caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
|Max Foran is a professor at the University of Calgary and historian of all things Calgary.|
In Your Words, YYC is a regular CIA feature that allows awesome Calgarians to share their awesome views on our great city.