Tag Archives: Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Our fave 5 family attractions in Calgary

There are only two weeks of summer left (and a measly 10 days if your kids are in the Catholic system). It’s a time of mixed emotions — we’re sad because the season is coming to an end, yet ebullient at the thought of child-free September days. But we’re also plum out of ideas for how to occupy the children during summer break’s homestretch.

These are a few of our favourite outdoor places to go for fun, in no particular order. Some are popular attractions that charge admission; others are free. Hopefully one of our fave 5  stops will become your go-to.

Calgary Zoo

When the kids were little we had zoo passes and visited the Calgary Zoo almost weekly during the summer. Now that they’re older (11 and eight) we go about twice a year. It’s great fun to visit the animals that we think of as our old friends, including the gorilla troop, tigers and curious penguins. During our last visit we also bade Sabari, the rhinoceros, goodbye. He’s leaving in mid-September to make room for the giant panda exhibit, which is slated to open in 2018.

The Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo is a family favourite.

The Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo is a family favourite.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

We are a bit biased toward this protected natural area as we live a block away, but the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a neat place to bring kids. You have a great chance of seeing not only birds (from great blue herons to bald eagles), but other wildlife including deer and muskrats. Also, a lot of people don’t realize that all of the trails that were damaged during the 2013 flood have now reopened.

This is why they call it a bird sanctuary -- a great blue heron rests atop a fallen tree.

This is why they call it a bird sanctuary — a great blue heron rests atop a fallen tree.

Heritage Park

Did you know the rides at Heritage Park are now included in the cost of admission? During our last visit we were super excited to just hop on the swings and carousel on the midway of this historical village. For those new to town, Heritage Park is an “olden days” attraction that brings to life various eras of a settler’s life in the west, from the fur trade at a replica fort to the dusty streets of a frontier town complete with ice cream shop and candy store. All the workers even dress the part (and are knowledgeable about their particular role), which makes it fun.

Bennett loved the swings and Avery was brave enough to try them, even though the spinning almost caused lunch to come up.

Bennett loved the swings and Avery was brave enough to try them, even though the spinning almost caused lunch to come up.

St. Patrick’s Island

This new-ish urban park has a natural-materials playground, a wading area, walking paths and a giant grassy hill to walk up and roll down (where they show free movies on select summer evenings). What’s more, St. Patrick’s Island is right on the bike path by the Bow River near Fort Calgary, so you can easily get there under your own power, bring a picnic and make a day of it. Be sure and check out the other new natural play space in neighbouring East Village, or pop into the Simmons Building for a coffee, cocktail or baked goodie.

St. Patrick's Island is a lovely redeveloped urban park between the Calgary Zoo and East Village.

St. Patrick’s Island is a lovely redeveloped urban park between the Calgary Zoo and East Village. Here, Bennett wades in a Bow River off-shoot.

Calaway Park

The beauty of Calgary’s amusement park is its small size. You can easily “do Calaway” in a day and I’ve hardly ever encountered a wait time longer than 10 or 15 minutes, so you can go on your favourite rides more than once. And don’t miss the Bumper Boats on a hot day — the best!

On the airplane ride at the Calaway Park kiddie zone.

Bennett on the airplane ride in the Calaway Park kiddie zone.

Finally, don’t forget to go for ice cream one more time this summer! The Calgary Zoo, Calaway Park and Heritage Park all have ice cream vendors, and you can ride over to Village Ice Cream from St. Patrick’s Island, or pop in to the Inglewood Drive In for a chocolate dip cone or milkshake if you’re at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Now that's a proper kid-sized ice cream cone.

I scream for ice cream!

Advertisements

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary reopens!

More than two years ago, before the Calgary flood, one of our favourite things to do as a family was to walk the trails in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. In summer we’d look for ripe Saskatoon berries, in fall we’d admire the colourful foliage, and in winter we’d appreciate the stillness save for the chatter of chickadees. In all seasons there was wildlife, notably deer, and occasionally we’d see muskrats or a bald eagle.

Blake and Bennett spot ducks from a new bridge at the recently reopened Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Blake and Bennett spot ducks from a new bridge at the recently reopened Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

For the past two years Bennett would ask, “The bird sanctuary will be closed forever?” It began to feel like it. So we were thrilled to return from vacation on August long weekend and find out our old stomping grounds had been (partially) reopened. Not all of the pathways are ready for foot traffic — the flood did a number on the trails and infrastructure like bridges and viewing platforms — but our favourite loop that meanders past the Colonel Walker house, across the lagoon over two new bridges, and around to the main rehabilitated bridge, is once again open. We walked there on a recent evening to check it out.

Peaceful evening inside the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, which has finally (partially) reopened after the Calgary flood.

Peaceful evening inside the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, which has finally (partially) reopened after the Calgary flood.

We immediately spotted several fawns walking in the brush on the other side of the lagoon, their mother grazing not far away. Then, we saw an enormous great blue heron perched atop a fallen log. We got a good look and then he took flight, his enormous wings beating the still air.

This is why they call it a bird sanctuary -- a great blue heron rests atop a fallen tree.

This is why it’s a bird sanctuary — a great blue heron rests atop a fallen tree.

On the other side of the lagoon, where the forest is thicker, we saw what looked like numerous trails leading from the water into the trees. On closer inspection we realized they are beaver runs and lead to trees that have been felled by the industrious critters, which have pretty much taken over during two years of free-range chewing.

Have trees, will chew. The beavers have taken over the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Have trees, will chew. The beavers have taken over the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

As we walked along the path we kept our eyes peeled for the fawns, and we were lucky to spot all four of them (!), plus mama having a rest among tall grass near the water’s edge.

One of four fawns spotted on a recent evening.

One of four fawns spotted on a recent evening.

Her babies were skittish, but mama deer is entirely non-plussed about sharing the bird sanctuary with humans again.

Her babies were skittish, but mama deer is entirely non-plussed about sharing the bird sanctuary with humans again.

In all, it was a special evening that reinforced why we love — and truly missed — the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Earth Day at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

I didn’t realize yesterday was Earth Day until we had completed our walk around the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and one of the sanctuary volunteers delivered the news. It suddenly made sense why the trails were busy with families, couples and birders enjoying the sunny 23C weather and hoping to catch a glimpse of a gosling, robin or ruby-breasted whatchamazoo.

With the knowledge it was save-the-planet day (and not just the first nice day of spring), I felt kind of bad that we’d gone on a walk instead of planting trees or building a composter or converting our home to wind power. A bunch of moms in Canmore even changed their cloth diapers simultaneously! As it stood, Blake and I had endured a struggle getting the children out of the house for a walk:

It's too bright! It's too hot! Please don't make us commune with nature on Earth Day!

At least we spent a good chunk of the day outdoors, forcibly enjoying nature. I think our outing was environmentally-friendly too.

  • We walked to the bird sanctuary instead of driving;
  • We picked up garbage during our hike (well, my husband picked up two pieces);
  • We didn’t even feed the birds this time;
  • We saw a coyote, two woodpeckers, and a goose nesting in a tree trunk. I suppose we could have gone all Hunger Games and brought the goose home for dinner, but I think that’s frowned upon (even if sustainable);
  • Bennett dressed in camo shorts to blend in with the natural prairie and river surroundings. Avery didn’t get the memo; she rocked a polka dot shirt and heart-patterned skirt, an ensemble so loud I’m sure that’s why we didn’t see any deer.

So, Mother Nature, I’m sorry we didn’t help out more yesterday. But we didn’t do any harm either. I think they call that a net-zero kind of day.

What about you? Did you get outside, hug a tree or otherwise on Earth Day?

For the birds: Birdwatching with kids at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

It’s that time of year in Calgary when there’s not a lot to do on the weekend. Fortunately, we’re not yet totally snowed in, so if it’s a nice enough day we like to get outside. We live in Inglewood, an inner city neighbourhood next to the Bow River that happens to be along the migratory path for various species of birds. It’s a short walk to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What kids in their right mind would want to spend a Saturday afternoon bird watching at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary?” It’s a valid question. My husband and I are hardly “twitchers” (that’s British for “hopelessly dorky birders”), but we like to see bald eagles and Northern flickers during walks around the ‘hood. We’ve also been hissed at by Canada geese when we get too close in the spring so we’re comfortable around feathered creatures. Our kids like to watch the ducks and geese take off and land en masse in the river, but the idea of the children crouching quietly in the bushes, with binoculars, for hours, waiting for a ruby-striped whatchamazoo to alight on a tree branch, is laughable. So to get their buy-in on these little nature outings, we bring bird seed.

Birding with kids: bring seeds.

 My daughter had no problem enticing a chickadee and a nuthatch onto her hand. The bird would only stick around long enough to grab a seed or two, then fly back to a tree. Tip: the birds prefer the hand held highest and filled with the most seeds. Rule sticklers take note: this practice is frowned upon. Serious adult bird watchers armed with telephoto lens cameras and bird books scowled in our direction, so my husband urged Avery to hide the seeds. But the birds were obviously famished and followed us around the lovely trails practically begging for more.

Who could say no to these beady little eyes?
We kept feeding the birds until the seeds made one of them spontaneously combust:
 
 
The glory of bird watching revealed.
At which point we high-tailed it home.