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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!

Posted by: Anna

This week, (July 20), our lovely volunteers completed their latest nature survey at the Cross. I'm hoping to accompany them next week. It's a fantastic time of year for spotting flora and fauna in the area; flowers are blooming, deer and elk are roaming, and saskatoon berries are ripe for the picking (though we leave them for the animals).

Peggy & Chris Mills, Linda & Mal Blasetti, Martha Clarke, Ing-Britt Renborg, Dick Choy and Bev Lane found some rather exotic-looking thistles. I was amazed to see the bright colours from the photos that were sent; it looked like something from the Amazon rainforest!

If you have yet to visit us, July and August are ideal times to book a hike.

Posted by: Anna

To the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area, all living creatures are number one. Bears, deer, hawks and cougars, and yes … even caterpillars. Bats are especially included on this list. These mammals given the power of flight can eat up to 600 insects per hour (including mosquitos), making them one of our best friends. No picking favourites though!

On May 26, Evergreen, HSBC, Calgary Quest School and ASCCA set out on a mission to build bat boxes. The day started out sunny with a fresh morning dew scent to in the air. The bees were humming, the birds singing and vans and cars were pulling up full of exhilarated kids and volunteers. After we all got to know each other, tasks were assigned and people got organized and ready to go. The bat boxes had three layers of wood, giving the bats two roosting areas, breathing holes and inside entrances … what luxury! The day went smoothly and by the end we had them all built.

On June 22, two Cross Conservation employees headed out to the Calgary Quest School to paint the bat boxes black. The Calgary Quest school Green room students did an amazing job once again, and now the bats will be plenty warm in their new homes. We’ve installed two little suggestion slots at the bottom of the boxes and are expected to get feedback from the bats once they are up. ASCCA would like to thank Evergreen, HSBC volunteers, our volunteers Catherine, Diane, Jocelyn, Barry, and the Calgary Quest School for a job well done. Great work!

- Zachary (Education Summer Student, ASCCA)

Posted by: Anna

This week, a group of our dedicated volunteers took a hike on our land near the old Pine Creek Trail to do a survey of some of the diverse flora and fauna at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area. Summer has arrived, meaning that our volunteers were able to spot some beautiful flowers, some purple round-leafed orchid and some little white one-flowered wintergreen (pictured below). Volunteers were also able to see quite a few species of birds and insects, including the tiger swallowtail butterfly, whitetail deer and mountain bluebird!

Special thanks to Peggy & Chris Mills, Linda & Mal Blasetti, Ing-Britt Renborg and Bev Lane for your detailed nature survey, we hope you enjoy hiking at ASCCA all year long!

Posted by: Griffin

It is not quite the double double gold story of the Olympics that hockey and curling provided, but it did leave a lasting impression. Today after a wonderful Winter Walkabout program with the Olympic Heights grade 1's we were heading back to Belvedere House. They had answered all of the head conservation officer's question. Snow is good and bad, depending on who you are, the trees and the forest are very much alive in winter, and yes there is evidence that animals are still here. The magic of the day was not yet over, to our delight a long-tailed weasel came bounding (that's the track pattern we learned earlier) out of the forest and towards us. It raced along the snow and then thought better of getting too close to our group. The weasel struck a quick pose like a figure skater just before the music begins and then it circled back and went back into the forest leaping over logs and ducking under branches with more grace then a slalom skier.. A very cool ending to a wonderful winter adventure.

Posted by: Chris

It goes without saying that over the past week we have gotten a lot of rain. When it comes to weather like this we as people tend to stay in, but the wildlife here at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area are loving it! Our particularly late spring had resulted in a very slow bloom of many of our native plants. Thanks to this rain though, the Wolf Willow is thriving and the deep red of our Red Oiser Dog Wood branches is being the be hidden by it's newly formed leaves. It may seem obvious that the plants would be loving the rain but the animals at the Cross Conservation Area are enjoying this downpour as well. Since fewer school classes and hikers are going out on the trails, many of the animals that are usually hiding are coming out. It is not uncommon to see a herd of White-tail Deer to be walking right outside of Belvedere House in the morning or a Golden finch feasting at the bird feeder.

Although the weather is not ideal for us to be outside right now, it is a great opportunity to observe many of the more elusive creatures in the grasslands.

 

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area wildlife + plants

Fairybells
Disporum trachycarpum

Habitat: The Fairybell is common throughout the wooded areas of Alberta from May-June preferring the nice, damp soil.

Description: Greenish-white bell-like flowers hang down and droop from slender stalks and are usually covered by their leaves.  The leaves are long and range from ovate to oblong.  They only flower for a short time but the orange-red berries they produce take the whole summer...

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