The irrigation canal in southeast Calgary is drained in late September, and as the water level drops, it exposes lush shorelines with plenty for the birds to eat. From mid-September to freeze-up is the time to get out to look for waterfowl, gulls, and late migrating shorebirds.
Fall colours reflected in the remaining water
I usually explore the sections from the canal headworks near the Max Bell Arena to south of 50 Avenue SE. There are four parking areas, and you can go up and down a portion of the canal from each one. It’s a long walk to do it all at once, but a fairly short bike ride.
Click to enlarge the map.
Max Bell Arena: Access from Barlow Trail SE, just south of Memorial Drive. There is a large parking lot north of the arena, and you can walk down to the canal headworks from there, and walk along the east bank. If you want to get to the west bank, you have to cross over at the 17 Avenue SE bridge.
Bow Waters Canoe Club: Access is off 26 Street SE, just south of 17 Avenue. Cross the bridge to get to the paths on the west side. The path on the east side between here and Gosling Way has some steep, difficult terrain, and it is almost impassable by bike. This lot is fairly secluded and I don’t like to leave my vehicle there. I prefer Max Bell or Gosling Way.
Gosling Way: Go west off 26 Street SE at 34 Avenue. This is the road that goes to the Inglewood Golf and Curling Club. The parking lot, used by off-leash dog walkers, is just west of the bridge over Deerfoot trail, on the south side of Gosling Way. It only holds about ten vehicles. From this lot, walk down to the bridge over the canal and take the paths from there. In the winter, you can also park at the golf and curling club, but it is a bit of a walk back to the canal.
50 Avenue SE: It is difficult to park here. There are only two small spots, each with room for two cars, at the east end of the bridge over the canal. It can also be a very busy road, so I avoid parking here as well, and usually just walk from Gosling Way.
The canal has a paved path on one side (sometimes on the east, sometimes on the west) and a dirt or gravel path of sorts on the other side. I like to go on the east side in the mornings and on the west side in the afternoons, to keep the sun behind me. This late in the year, the water is usually frozen in the mornings, so there are few birds around. But on warm afternoons the ice melts, and the birds arrive.
Muskrat and female Hooded Merganser
Detail of Gosling Way Parking. Click to enlarge.
Looking north to the bridge on Gosling Way.
Lately I’ve seen quite a few Canada Geese, Mallards, and Ring-billed Gulls, and a few Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, and Greater Yellowlegs. In past years I’ve seen Redheads, Blue-winged Teal, Killdeer, Long-billed Dowitchers, and Rusty Blackbirds all feeding along the shorelines.
Mallards and an assortment of Yellowlegs.
Muskrat and Mallard sharing the Muskrat’s lodge. Background by Monet.
A Black-billed Magpie looks for food on the old canal bottom.
Posted by Bob Lefebvre