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Posted by: Anna

"Exactly one year ago today, I came to hike at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area for the very first time. I'll never forget the feeling that hit me once I reached this point and got a glimpse of the sweeping majesty of the land, the distant mesmerizing point where the horizon meets the sky, clean fresh air and brilliant sunshine. I took this picture and fell in love. For anyone coming out here who hasn't been before, they'll likely feel the same"

Anna Aldridge, ASCCA Communications and Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

If Darkness Fails…

Late in the evening on March 18, 2017 a group of neighbours and friends gathered at Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA). Among these friends were the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) represented by five stellar volunteers, the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO) represented by their amazing Education Coordinator, and the ASCCA was joined by Ann Cross' son Marshall Abbott. But what prompted this meeting under the cover of darkness? Curiosity about our interstellar views and concern for that darkness itself was at the top of the list.

As mentioned in last month's article the trees along the 22X were recently cleared for future utilities. These utilities are to include new lighting along the highway. Lighting that has the potential to disrupt the dark sky that has allowed the ASCCA to become Canada's first Nocturnal Preserve and has given the Rothney Observatory years of important astronomical research. If the light fixtures that are planned along the highway and other nearby developments go into place, the resulting light pollution will be astronomical, which is sadly not a pun as with fewer stars seen through the glow of development would mean the Observatory's ability to operate under such brightening conditions would be increasingly limited, and possibly non-existent in the future.

The RASC did a wonderful job educating participants on the less obvious impacts that the new light pollution would have on the ecological balance of our Nocturnal Preserve. For example, there is the disruption that artificial light has on every organism's circadian rhythm, or the changes in foraging patterns of nocturnal animals who avoid bright lights. Birds who use the stars to migrate successfully year after year are having their maps obscured from the sky. Another impact is the insects and some birds who are drawn into artificial light that fly around, transfixed, until they fall to the ground in exhaustion.

We are not asking Alberta Transportation not to put up lights along the 22X; we are just asking them to reconsider the type of light fixtures and LED lamps that they plan to install. To install fixtures that will allow both the RAO and ASCCA to continue to operate in the best possible darkness. One grade six student who recently discovered the plans for new lights along the 22X blurted out “but don't they know there is an observatory and Nocturnal Preserve here?” The answer to that is yes they do know our concerns. What Alberta Transportation is unaware of is whether our neighbours care about what their lights will do to these two legacies of Sandy Cross. “What we need”, says Marshall Abbott, “is for those who are concerned about the lights to write to their members of government and ask them to please tone it down when it comes to these lights.”

For more information on the impacts of light pollution on astronomy and wildlife please go to the RASC website at http://calgary.rasc.ca/lp/  . To contact Alberta Transportation please email: Rizwan.Hussain@gov.ab.ca or phone (403) 297-5500

Laura Griffin
Education Intepretor

Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Posted by: Anna

Last week we saw unseasonably warm weather, a welcome respite from some of this winter's downright frigid temperatures. The cold weather, from time to time, has made it challenging for our volunteers to do their weekly nature survey, a 8 - 10 km trek that goes on and off the trails of the conservation area to do a detailed survey of seasonal plants and animals. On February 15, it reached a balmy 16 degrees, and our steward volunteers enjoyed their lunch on a grassy hill with a beautiful view! Dick Choy supplied us photographs of Great Hairy Screw Moss and the Earth Star mushroom. It's amazing what you can find in nature when you look for it, despite the cooler weather, the natural world is not only surviving, but thriving.

Anna Aldridge
ASCCA Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

2016 started winter a little bit (too) cold for comfort, with bitter chills and icy roads. For several weeks enchanting hoarfrost clung to swatches of grass and tree branches, making it feel a bit like living inside of a snow-globe. December saw a smattering of snow, which was a welcome change from the brown palette we see after autumn leaves have fallen. It wasn't until January when we saw real snow at the ASCCA. The cold had yet to subside, which meant the snow caught in the trees wouldn't melt until an eventual chinook. We were gifted with some of the most magical sights that nature has to offer this time of year, worth braving a few minutes cold for a few remarkable photos. With warmer weather on the horizon, the snowy grasslands and blanketed forests have begun to melt, and children are enjoying the sights and sounds that the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area has to offer. You can almost sense the approach of spring.

But let's not forget, it's not yet February, and this is Canada!

(photos: Anna Aldridge, December 2016 - January 2017)

 

Posted by: Anna

"When we hear the word conservation, we usually imagine other people involved in organizations trying to protect something that needs protecting.  We rarely see it as a word that applies to us as individuals within our own communities.  We rarely take ownership of this word.  It is better left to those who know more than we do.

Conservation more than anything means realizing that the earth, and all its land, living creatures and plant-life, are NOT commodities that belong to humans, but rather vital components of a community to which we all belong.  We cannot survive on this planet without a healthy land beneath our feet, and without the biodiversity of life that lives upon it.  Conservation means recognizing that all of our day-to-day actions and decisions impact the health of our natural world, and that by choosing and acting differently, and more conscientiously, we can both conserve and revitalize.

Conservation is an internal mind-set as well as an external action.  We must start recognizing that a healthy wilderness, abundant species, and respected resources are imperative to sustainable life on earth.  Nothing else we do or dream about or create will matter if we do not have a planet on which to live. 

Conservation means you and I and every other person on this planet taking positive, responsible action to ensure that this planet continues to live, so that we can live upon it.

Conservation means life."

- Jennifer Clark

Jennifer has enjoyed visiting the ASCCA on hikes and for programs with her son, and hopes to encourage others to appreciate nature.

Posted by: Anna

This week, I once again ventured out into the great beautiful land of ASCCA with a group of our steward volunteers for their weekly nature survey. I was amazed at the rich natural beauty around me, several times having to stop to take it all in. I made a comment that the aspen trees must be preparing for Halloween, with their striking orange leaves and black bark. This time, our group was smaller, being composed of skilled hiking lead Bev Lane, the eager and inspiring Ing-Britt Renborg, the insightful and enthusiastic Linda Blasetti and the seasoned outdoors (wo)man, Martha Clarke.

I of course had to learn the non-technical name for black knot fungus (poop on a stick) and was surprised to see purple showy fleabane in bloom among the prairie grasses. We were extremely lucky and saw a young male moose, bounding away from us when we startled it upon cresting a hill. A 'small rodent' crossed my path, luckily avoiding being stepped on. Continuing on my path, as the volunteer coordinator at the ASCCA, I will continue to be energized by the whimsy, change and strength of boundless nature.

A very happy and healthy thanks-giving to you and yours.

Anna Aldridge
Communications and Volunteer Coordinator
Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Posted by: Anna

Yesterday, I experienced what I can only describe as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, joining a small group of ASCCA's dedicated volunteers on their weekly hike and nature survey. Bev Lane and Ing-Britt Renborg, along with Ursula Wiese, Peggy and Chris Mills and Mal and Linda Blasetti all impressed me with their knowledge of the land. We all started out from Belvedere House on what would be about a 7 km trip around the conservation area. We traveled along the trails some, where the volunteers pointed out native flowers, grasses and even invasive 'noxious' weeds such as pesky burdock and yellow toadflax (aka butter and eggs).

Before stopping for lunch, we headed carefully down the grown-over Pine Creek Trail, which has been closed some years for habitat restoration. There was some excitement when our group happened upon an elusive owl, though it was hiding a bit too well for me to see. Following lunch in a secluded clearing, the most enjoyable part of the hike for me was heading down an old rancher's path close to Paradise Trail, lined by thick aspen forest. I felt transfixed and transported to a separate magical world with its own time and space.

I will always treasure my day spent with ASCCA's volunteers and their infectious love and enthusiasm for nature, and our need to watch over and protect it. 

Anna Aldridge
​Communications & Volunteer Coordinator
Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Posted by: Anna

Last week, I experienced hands-on the some of the important work we're doing at ASCCA to restore and protect natural habitats. A few years back, in partnership with The Carbon Farmer, we began an initiative to plan 1 million trees, shrubs and native grasses on select portions of the conservation area. On August 19, I had the privilege of joining Brad Rabiey at the south-west corner of our land to plant a few lodgepole pine saplings. UPS Canada has been a valuable partner in turning our ambitious dream into a reality, and two of their staff came along to plant trees and be part of what will be a lasting legacy on the land.

Anna Aldridge
​Communications & Volunteer Coordinator
Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

 

Posted by: Anna

We love our volunteers! Long time volunteer Dick Choy, who works on special projects and does land maintenence with our habitat manager Reg Rempel recently shared some of his stunning photography with us. Take some time to scroll through this short gallery of his photos taken this week (August 16, 2016).

Also, make sure to share your own nature photos with us!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @ASCConservation.

From top -

1. Wasp nest

2. White-tailed deer skull

3. Combtooth fungi (grows on aspen logs in moist areas)

4. Coral fungi (grows on coniferous forest floor)

Posted by: Anna

This past Saturday (July 23) we hosted a successful educational event, Old Tales about Red-tales with a presentation from Brian Sevick, a dedicated academic who spent thousands of hours on our land researching the behavior and habits of Red-Tailed Hawks for his research thesis. Brian enthralled a full-house at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area, delighting us with tales of his tremendous knowledge and insight into such a fascinating species.

Brian's presentation was followed by a lovely hike down to Pine Creek Lookout to do some hawk-spotting. It was a warm and sunny afternoon and the hike was enjoyed by all. We were even able to see a few hawks in flight and perched in the treetops (bringing scopes and binoculars aided us in this quite a bit!). We would like to thank everyone who came out to make this event such a success and fantastic learning experience.

For now, enjoy happy trails and stay tuned for ASCCA's next event!

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area wildlife + plants

Wild Strawberry
Fragaria virginiana
Compound leaves with 3 leaflets, that are broad, oval shaped and toothed.  Blue-green in color, smooth above and hairy below. White flowers grow on a leafless stem, 5 petals per flower.  "Berry" is 10-15mm in diameter (much smaller than the berries you buy in the supermarket).
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Click on Area Wildlife
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