CROW’S FEET – Not All Storm Ponds Are Created Equal

crows feet American Avocets Over the Pond

During our many in-Chestermere birding adventures, Elaine and I took time to view the various storm ponds for bird life, especially starting during spring migration and then throughout the summer months into fall.  We came to realize that like any ecosystem, even within a storm pond, there are unique features that attract wildfowl and birds more than others.   Of note, Crystal Park Pond located just metres west of the WID canal and south of Lakepointe Drive, has features that make it a prime choice for several species of birds.

Unique to Crystal Park Pond, is the relatively shallow north end,  a peninsula or island, jutting from the west side and a thick bullrush growth that surrounds the majority of the pond.  All of these factors provide key essentials for both specific species of birds and wildfowl.  The shallow north end is great for wading birds such as the lesser yellow-legs, the black-necked stilt, American avocets and the occasional willet.  With their long bills they can easily probe the soft bottom for minute insect life, mollusks and adult insets hatching.  Ducks such as the mallard, northern shoveler, redhead, canvasback,  lesser scaup, ruddy duck, cinnamon teal and the green winged teal, can also siphon food within easy reach.  The island provides resting and nesting habitat.  It’s amazing seeing 30 or 40 shovelers or mallards huddled together, resting, feeding and them moving to nesting grounds.  Key to the excellence of Crystal Park Pond is the thick bullrush shoreline.  During our observations we have seen numerous red-winged blackbirds and yellowheaded blackbirds raise their families right in the bullrushes.  Families of eared and horned grebes use the mid to southern sections of the shoreline to raise their young.  Additionally the sora rail and marsh wrens also hide in these protective thickets.  Crystal Park is surrounded by paved walking paths and some fencing and is easily accessible for fine bird viewing.  

We found the water bodies at the golf course had some of these features, especially along the residential sides, providing suitable habitat for additional species such as purple martins and tree swallows.  In reflecting upon the structure of the other storm ponds within Chestermere, some have well established bull rushes, but may be too deep to attract shorebirds and puddle duck species.  The pond located near the intersection of Chestermere Boulevard and Rainbow Road on the north side, provides great feeding opportunities when midge hatches occur.  We have observed hundreds of tree swallows swooping in for a fantastic hatch.  

If you do have a passion for birding and like an enjoyable walk, Elaine and I would encourage you to do the loop around Crystal Park Pond.  The bird life is excellent and photographic opportunities do occur.  If you do bring your pet pooch, be sure to prevent your pet from heading into the bullrushes.  There may be a new family of grebes, blackbirds, rails, wrens or ducks in the vicinity that depend on the unique structure and location of Crystal Park Pond.

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