The blog needs updating. I open up the City of Edmonton’s natural area parks web page to choose an area to profile. After debating visiting a park closer to me on the east end, I give into my curiosity and decide to head to Secord Wetland on the west end of the city. Not having the luxury of a GPS or even a map function on a smart phone, I jot down a few directions and head out. The Anthony Henday gets me to the west end more quickly and painlessly than I anticipated and soon I am turning onto 217 street. To my left lies a typical residential neighbourhood of single family homes and to my right a wall of trees with a slight glimmer that can be seen through the undergrowth. I continue down the street to a bend in the road where the wall of balsam poplar and trembling aspen open up to a clearing with mowed turf and two picnic tables. Though no visible sign to announce the wetland is present, I see a shale path leading past the turf area, then disappearing into the trees. I park the car and ready myself to explore. Bug Spray? Check. Camera? Check. Notepad? Check. Guidebook? Check.
The dark clouds and thunder to the west do not deter me from the task at hand. As I enter the woodland I am greeted by prickly rose, Alberta’s provincial flower. Despite having more than enough photos of the plant I snap another and head on. The forest floor is dominated by wild raspberry and I stop to get a close up shot of a raspberry flower. Although I know it is too early for ripe fruit I look anyways, setting myself up for disappointment. With such a short summer in Edmonton I shouldn’t be wishing it was later in the season, but raspberry is my favourite fruit and I have a hard time relinquishing the thought. Rolling thunder in the distance urges me on, past the bench that would be a good place for quiet reflection, past the chattering squirrel and chickadee that I know will elude my camera, past the fireweed that is growing in more open light, and back onto a sidewalk into suburbia.
I stand confused for a moment before realizing the path continues back into the forest from the sidewalk a few paces ahead. I venture off the sidewalk and down a small bank to the edge of a sediment forebay, a small pond that collects storm water and allows pollutants to settle before entering the main wetland. The shore is dotted with willow shrubs and two female bufflehead ducks are swimming on the water. The noise of my camera spooks them and they fly away, but not before I can get one mediocre shot. I make my way around the edge of the pond noting the wild currants, 7 ft tall cow parsnip, and a cimbicid sawfly having a rest on a leaf. I am now able to view the main wetland and the many families of bufflehead ducks that have made it their home.
As much as I would like to stay and watch the ducks the thunder is getting closer. I take a few pictures and continue back along the main trail. The forest has closed in narrowing the path, and I notice the paper birch with a line of holes along the trunk — evidence of sapsuckers. Other birds with various calls are singing, broken by the distinct chatter of a red squirrel that doesn’t want to be outdone. I can see the forest ending now, being replaced by rows of fenced back yards. I am ready to turn back but something catches my eye. There are cattails growing along the northwest edge of the forest. The ground around the cattails is dry and I assume at some point in the spring the area must have been flooded. Feeling like a kid in a candy shop, I ready my camera and photograph the sedges, buttercups, smooth fleabane, and marsh hedgenettle growing in and around the cattails. The threatening sky convinces me to leave my new found treasure and make my way back to my vehicle. The birds and squirrels have quieted, replaced by the sound of trembling aspen leaves being blown by the gusting wind. I make it safely into the car before I am engulfed in a downpour. As the rain falls I scroll through the photos on my camera — 82 shots in total — a photo representation of Secord Wetland. This natural area park, like the others I have visited, is full of biodiversity yet unique in its own right. When it comes to nature, our city has so much to explore and observe. These natural areas, like Secord Wetland, are an important part of what makes the City of Edmonton a great place to live not only for us but for the animals and plants that share it with us. View more photos of my visit to Secord Wetland on Flickr!