East Battle River Valley, “Rest and Be Thankful,” and Were We Thankful!

East Battle River

Under David’s leadership and sunny skies, 19 intrepid hikers, from New Norway, Camrose, New Sarepta and Edmonton, traversed the challenging Easternmost hike of the meandering Battle River.

Although we had to trek up and down gully after gully, the views of the river valley were spectacular. When we rested for lunch on “Rest and be Thankful” hill, we were indeed thankful —and rested— as long as our leader (who forgot his lunch) allowed.

We imagined the Grand Trunk Railway trestle bridge that once spanned the entire valley, we admired the red tail hawks riding the wind currents and ignored the plentiful seagulls squawking overhead.

Rest and Be Thankful

At lunch Elizabeth, aka Madame Butterfly, recognized the rasping, cricket-like sound of a Clay Warbler and the group pointed out several Cabbage Butterflies, a Mourning Cloak or two and a Swallow Tail Butterfly.

The musky-sweet scent of blooming Silver or Wolf Willow was distinct but not overpowering, as it can be. Other distinctive native Alberta flora caught our eye:  Three Flowered Avens or Old Man Whiskers, Heart Leaved Alexanders, False Toad Flax, lots of Saskatoon still in bloom as was the Chokecherry, Gooseberry and several types of currants. Also identified was Silverweed, Buffalo Bean or Golden Bean, Mouse-eared Chickweed and most spectacularly, Shooting Stars.

Hikers at East Battle River

Further, we saw evidence of early spring blooms on the Crocuses and some Prickly Pear Cactus came along for a ride on some of the hiker’s socks. There was no sign of the Milkweed that was planted along the route by previous irreverent WTA hikers (who will not be named).

When we looked back over the valley as we finished our hike, five sleek bay horses suddenly appeared at the top of the ridge to show us that they knew we were in their pasture and to thank us for the rare entertainment that we brought to the East Battle River Valley.

North Miquelon Boardwalk, Beavers, and Blooms

Our first hike in the country this year, and talk about May flowers! It was the perfect day to see blossoms on our native fruit trees and the woodland plants and shrubs.

Here is the list of what the twelve of us saw in bloom today:

early blue violet (see right)early blue violet
wood violet
fairy bell
saskatoon (see above)
pin cherry
red currant
black currant
goose berry
dew berry
bracted honeysuckle
low bush cranberry
sandwort

We also saw a white tailed deer and a frog.

North Miquelon Boardwalk

Here we are on the smart new boardwalk that the trail maintenance team installed last week. The heap of boards at the bottom left is the old walk.

 

 

 

 

Poplar tree, a beaver's work-in-progress

As you know the beavers are very active in this area. This tree will not be standing upright for much longer. Here you see only the base of a really tall poplar tree. We did not linger for long.

Big Lake, Butterflies, and Birds

Our hike last Sunday was at the Big Lake area west of St. Albert. It’s a wonderful place to visit in the spring. We started with a walk through the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park. The trees were just starting to leaf out, and the growth on the forest flower was only a few inches high. Most remarkable was the white butterflies—they were everywhere.

Then we went on to the lake, where we saw ducks, geese, and snipe.

We were very fortunate to run into Dale Scott, a wildlife photographer, who had set up a tripod and giant camera on the boardwalk over the marshes. He was photographing Phoebes.

Eastern Phoebe by Dale Scott

Unless you are an experienced birdwatcher, you don’t notice these birds until someone points them out to you. And then suddenly you see them everywhere.Song Sparrow by Dale Scott

Dale has very generously provided the two photos on this page—photos which he took that day. The one above is an Eastern Phoebe and this one on the right is a Song Sparrow. You can view more of his beautiful pictures on Flickr.