Recently, I joined friends on a walkabout of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. It had been on my list of places to check out this summer after repairs of the pathways severely damaged in the Flood of 2013.
Grabbing my bike and off I went for a leisurely ride along the Bow River (I love riding my bike; it makes me feel like a kid again) I stopped several times to take photos. It never ceases to amaze me the number of things there are to see and do along the Bow River from Deerfoot to Shaganappi Trails (which area highways for readers not who familiar with the fact Calgary calls its major roads ‘trails’). I especially love the Bow River pathway on summer weekends with thousands colourful rafters.
Where are the birds?
To be fair, our walkabout was on a hot summer afternoon when birds are probably enjoying a siesta. But I really thought we’d see something better than a robin. Those visit my backyard birdbath all the time. We wandered for over an hour and struck out when it came to seeing birds. We weren’t the only ones - even the serious photographers with their two-foot long lenses (I think there are some serious cases of lens envy at the sanctuary) had to resort to taking photos of dragonflies.
I see more birds while golfing at Redwood Meadows – flickers, whiskey jacks, blue jays, warblers, redwing black birds, several kinds of ducks and Canadian Geese. Although we saw a couple of deer at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary from a distance, at Redwood my golf mates and I often see a family of deer no more than a chip shot away.
Redwood also has a few resident rainbow trout in its crystal clear ponds, while the ponds at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary were murky and full of algae and debris. I realize Mother Nature is not always pretty or the best housekeeper, but when I think of a “sanctuary,” I picture lush forest, sparkling creeks/rivers and immaculate ponds.
The woods were still filled with debris from the flood, which I thought might make for interesting photography, but no matter how much I looked, I didn’t find the mysterious light and shadows often found in the woods along the pathways at Redwood.
In all fairness, because all the trails aren’t yet open, we didn’t actually get to the Bow River where we might have spotted some pelicans, maybe even a Bald Eagle or osprey. Ironically, on my way home, I passed by the West Hillhurst osprey family nest across Memorial Drive at the Boy Scouts/ Girl Guide offices and where two young osprey were posing for everyone to take a photo.
At Redwood, with its easy access to the Elbow River along the 13th hole and on the tee box at 14, there is a series of rapids that have a mystifying magnetism for me. I often wander over to the river even if my ball isn’t anywhere near that side of the fairway (yes, sometimes I am in the fairway) for a brief glimpse of the river.
And though the Colonel Walker historic house at the bird sanctuary was nice to look at, it wasn’t open for us to go inside. We all thought it would make a great restaurant like the Ranche in Fish Creek Park. It also made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to visit the old Riley House just a few blocks from my home.
Spoiled or Lucky?
I hate to be negative about the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, but when I think of a sanctuary, I think of a place that is sacred, special and surreal. In reality, when we were there the pathways were crowded with people (which is great on one hand), but hardly makes for the retreat or refuge experience.
Maybe I am jaded because I have easy access to the Bow River from my house. I can walk or bike in minutes to the south side of the Bow between Crowchild Trail and Edworthy Park and enjoy amazing rock beaches, hidden ponds, the pathway and the Douglas Fir Trail pretty much to myself. If anyone wants to be alone to think and ponder, you couldn’t find a better spot. Calgarians are lucky to have many different sanctuaries in all quadrants of the city.
In chatting to a friend about my reaction and the idea of doing a blog about my love of walking Redwood Meadows several times a week he said, “Well, you won’t gain many friends comparing a flood-damaged, public-funded, volunteer-driven, partially rehabilitated historic site to a membership-focused, green fee-funded, professionally landscaped golf course. He suggested I look at the Inglewood space as a work-in-progress, what some would call a “naturally raw area in the middle of the city.”
But what I love about Redwood Meadows Golf Course is not the professionally landscaped golf course, but the natural beauty and serenity of the river, ponds and wooded areas on the edges.
As I experience more outdoor places like the Stanley Glacier Hike, Grassi Lakes or the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary walkabout, I am developing a better understanding of why I love playing golf at Redwood Meadows four and five times a week. It is not for the golf, but for the leisurely walk where I get to experience the cloud formations, the ever-changing river, the reflections in the pond, the filtered light in the woods and the wildlife.
I love checking on the young ducklings, which have grown up quickly this year (we are all surprised that they have not become lunch for the coyotes). We all had a good laugh one round when six very young ducklings were jumping out of the water to catch bugs out of the air on hole #8. We admire the proud bucks, with their racks in the Fall, as they get ready for mating. It is not unusual to have four or five deer greet us on one of the tee boxes or run across the fairway as we play.
This whole experience got me to thinking "everyone needs to find their sanctuary in this world we share." For me, golfing is like a walk in a sanctuary, at least at Redwood Meadows, in the winter it is yoga at the Bohdi Tree.
Calgarians, we are lucky to have many possible sanctuaries across the city, for people of all ages, backgrounds and interest. And for bird watchers, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is their special place. I respect that.
As my father use to say, "We are lucky everyone doesn't like/want the same things!"