Exposed! The Wild Heart of Vibrant Calgary.

IN CALGARY, ALBERTA WILDLIFE IS CHERISHED, EVEN THE COYOTES WHO ARE CREDITED WITH KEEPING UNWANTED RODENTS UNDER CONTROL. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER, DEREK FOLDEAK, FROM CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA. IMAGE: ©RAVEN ROSCH-BARTSCH

By Derek Foldeak

Derek Foldeak is an amateur wildlife photographer who lives in Calgary, Alberta. I have always had an interest in photography, but it has only been in the last couple of years that I have really spent any time getting out and practicing my hobby.

Editor’s Note: Calgary, Alberta, sandwiched between the Great Plains and the Canadian Rockies is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities. Long celebrated as the country’s cattle-ranching capitol, crowned for over 100-years by its annual Stampede, this is about as close to an old-time wild west experience as you can get from this side of the millennium. But Calgary’s wild heart may be the thing most cherished by the people of this modern metropolis. What city with a population of 1.5 million protects 8,000 hectares (19,768 acres) of parkland with 905km (562 miles) of pathways, inside its city limits? In Calgary, humans, history, culture, and wildlife, including the coyotes, have all found a way to thrive together. Wildlife photographer and native son, Derek Foldeak, shares:

My Favorite Places for Bird Watching and Wildlife Photography in Calgary

WINTER IS A GREAT TIME TO BRING YOUR CAMERA TO CALGARY. PORCUPINE IS ONE OF THE MANY MAMMALS THAT CALL INGLEWOOD BIRD SANCTUARY “HOME” IN ALL FOUR SEASONS. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

Three “Wild” Parks in a Busy City

There is a great variety of permanent and migratory species of birds that call Calgary, Alberta home. There are plenty of amazing places in the city and close by for fantastic opportunities to view and photograph wildlife. Some of my favorite places to go in this city are Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Carburn Park and Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Trip Tips
What: Ingelwood Bird Sanctuary
Where
: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
When: October-April, Hours
Visitor Center: Yes
Who: Wildlife photographers, bird watchers, families Special programs for kids.
Why Important:
Dedicated as a bird sanctuary in 1929, this is an important resting stop for migratory birds.
Note: No dogs allowed

The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

For a quick walk-around, one of my favorite places to get out and enjoy nature is Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. It is a 36-hectare (89-acre) wildlife reserve that has more than 2km (1.25-miles) of walking trails located along the Bow River.

A Four Season Refuge

COLORFUL WOOD DUCKS, LIKE THIS MALE, TAKE UP SUMMER RESIDENCY IN INGLEWOOD BIRD SANCTUARY. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

There is a rich diversity of both resident and migrating birds (over 225 species), and mammals here that you may encounter while visiting the Sanctuary. Some of the permanent residents include black cap chickadees, Canadian geese, as well as many different species of ducks and other waterbirds. You may also encounter several different species of woodpeckers.

REST TIME WHILE MAMA KEEPS A WATCH AT INGLEWOOD BIRD SANCTUARY. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

ALBERTA’S PROVINCIAL BIRD, THE GREAT HORNED OWL SHARES THE SANCTUARY WITH NUMEROUS HAWK SPECIES, FALCONS AND, OF COURSE, SONGBIRDS. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, A Favorite of Song & Water Birds

In the spring this is a favorite place for nesting passerines or songbirds. Waterbirds, like northern pintail, spotted sandpiper, killdeer and common mergansers nest at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary’s summer residents include great blue herons and wood ducks as well as many types of songbirds such as yellow Warblers and goldfinches.

Look For Raptors

Other birds you may come across are bald eagles and ospreys and many different species of hawks or falcons. If you are lucky, you may even encounter Great Horned Owls.

PINTAIL DUCKS ARE DABBLERS (AS OPPOSED TO DIVERS), THEY “TIP-UP” TO FEED ON AQUATIC WEEDS, SEEDS AND INVERTEBRATES. PINTAILS BREED FROM THE CANADIAN ARCTIC TO THE SOUTHERN CANADIAN PRAIRIES AND GREAT PLAINS IN THE U.S. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

PINTAIL DUCKS ARE DABBLERS (AS OPPOSED TO DIVERS), THEY “TIP-UP” TO FEED ON AQUATIC WEEDS, SEEDS AND INVERTEBRATES. PINTAILS BREED FROM THE CANADIAN ARCTIC TO THE SOUTHERN CANADIAN PRAIRIES AND GREAT PLAINS IN THE U.S. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

From Feathers to Fur, Four Season Photography Ops

Some of the mammals you may encounter are both White Tail Deer as well as Mule Deer. You may also get lucky and see the beavers if you go early morning or early evening. Or you might see muskrats or porcupines.

Over 5000 mallards overwinter at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. But, in the areas of open water you can also find bufflehead and other ducks and belted kingfishers and lesser scaup and more. Or you may meet a porcupine walking in the snow.

Carburn Park

AUTUMN AT CARBURN PARK, BLUE JAY IS ONE OF THE SPECIES THAT MAKES ITS HOME HERE ALL YEAR. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

AUTUMN AT CARBURN PARK, BLUE JAY IS ONE OF THE SPECIES THAT MAKES ITS HOME HERE ALL YEAR. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

Carburn Park, which is also located along the Bow River, is another great place to visit.

Trip Tips:
What: Carburn Park
Where
: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
When: Year ‘round
Visitor Center: No. Restrooms, yes.
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Why Important:
Mined for gravel in the 1980s, the park’s 2 ponds and river channel is now habitat for fish eating birds, diving ducks and more. Its varied habitats also includes a significant deciduous forest.

Carburn Park has several walking trails, and three man-made ponds to explore. There are also several picnic tables where you can stop and have a bite to eat.

Plenty of Wildlife Calls Carburn Park home.

You can almost always see the whitetail deer, as well as numerous squirrels, and if you are lucky, you may see the muskrats and beavers.

Prime your camera for the many small birds and songbirds that live here year round or just visiting for the summer, you may see yellow warblers, chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.

Pond Side Drama

THE AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST FLYING BIRDS WITH A WINGSPAN REACHING T0 3 METERS (9.8 FEET), IS A MIGRANT, ARRIVING IN LATE APRIL AND HEADING BACK TO THE FLORIDA AND MEXICO GULF COASTS IN SEPTEMBER. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

Some of the more giant bird you may see are bald eagles as well as geese and several different duck species. You may also get lucky and see American white pelicans, and cormorants. Keep your eyes open for action. Pelicans, who scoop their prey from the shallows, have been known to steal the fish cormorants flushed from deeper water before it gets a chance to grab its lunch!

Fish Creek Provincial Park
Exploring Canada’s Second Largest Park

GROUND NESTING KILLDEER USE THEATRICS TO PROTECT THEIR YOUNG. WHEN A PREDATOR NEARS THE NEST IT RUNS, NOT FLYS, DRAGGING ITS WING ON THE GROUND MIMICKING INCAPACITATED AND EASY PREY. AS THE PREDATOR CATCHES UP, THE KILLDEER FLYS OFF, LEAVING IT CONFUSED - AND FAR AWAY FROM THE NEST. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

Trip Tips:
What: Fish Creek Provincial Park
Where
: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
When: Year ‘Round
Visitor Center: Yes
Who: Wildlife photographers, bird watchers, families
Why Important:
The Park is part of a diverse watershed that incorporates spruce forest, riparian, wetland, aspen parkland and grassland ecosystems. The waters are quality monitored.

Fish Creek Provincial Park has over 54 miles of hiking and biking trails. There are picnic areas as well as a beach area.

Get Ready for Raptors

There is abundant opportunity for photographing birds (over 200 species) or mammals in Fish Creek Provincial Park. Some of the raptors you might come across includes hawks (Northern harrier, sharp-shinned, Swainson’s, and more), falcons (Gyrfalcon, peregrine, prairie), and bald eagles as well as ospreys.

You have an excellent possibility to see great horned owls that call the park home.

FISH CREEK PROVINCIAL PARK IS HOME TO RAPTORS GREAT, AND GROWING INTO GREAT, LIKE THIS GREAT HORNED OWLET WATCHING FROM A TREE STUMP. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

map-of-the-park.jpg

The Bow River flows through the eastern side of the Park, while the Fish Creek runs across it and it is dotted by lakes and ponds. All that fresh water means you also have a great chance to see many different geese and ducks species as well as the fishing raptors.

PLENTY OF FRESH WATER AND FISH ALL THROUGH FISH CREEK PROVINCIAL PARK MAKE FOR GREAT OSPRY SIGHTINGS (AND PHOTO OPS.) IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

If you are lucky, you may also come across whitetail deer or porcupines, coyotes and maybe even bobcats. If you like to get out and enjoy nature, this is the place for you.

Throughout the city of Calgary there are more parks and plenty of ponds, so far, these three are my favorite, but Calgary has many great places that I have yet to explore. Stay tuned!

BALD EAGLES, NEARLY EXTINCT IN THE 1970’S, ARE BACK. COBURN PARK’S TALL TREES AND ABUNDANT FISH MAKE FOR PERFECT HABITAT. IMAGE: ©DEREK FOLDEAK

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