Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Condie Nature Refuge

Trip Date: December 2013

Christine and I spent a week back home in Regina over Christmas this year.  It was the first time in two years that we'd been home for the holidays.  It's always nice to go home and see friends and family that we don't get to see very often.  It's also the time of year where I get to overindulge on turkey dinners and Christmas baking!  After several days of eating, and drinking, it was time to get outside, stretch the legs, and breathe in some fresh air, so I headed out to Condie Nature Refuge for some much needed exercise.  Condie is only 14km northwest of the city along Highway 11.  

Condie Nature Refuge
Condie is far from an untouched prairie ecosystem, despite what you might be picturing in your mind when you hear the word "refuge".  The reservoir, that is home to both fish and waterfowl, was created when the Canadian National (CN) Railway damned nearby Boggy Creek in 1924 to create a source of water for their steam engines when they rolled through Regina.  On top of that, more than 80,000 trees and shrubs have been planted in the area over the last 30 years.  This has resulted in more tree shelter than would typically be available in a traditional prairie setting.  Despite these changes the refuge remains a haven for many different plant and animal species.

The Whooping Crane statue that marks the entrance to the refuge
I vaguely remember spending some time out at Condie in elementary school for field trips.  More recently I spent a day out there as part of a project for an Outdoor Education class I was taking in University, but it had likely been at least eight years since I had spent any real time there.  I was pretty excited to see what Condie had to offer on a beautiful winter's day and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the resident wildlife.  When I pulled into one of two parking areas in the early afternoon I was pleased to find out that other than two ice fisherman I would be the only one enjoying Condie's wilderness on this day.  

Shortly after beginning my hike I ran into this item.  At first I thought it was someone's poorly hidden geocache, but after opening it up I realized it was a marker for an orienteering course that's likely used by school groups.
Outside of a few birds, I didn't see much in the way of wildlife.  However, evidence of different animals was quite prevalent, as you'll soon see in the following photographs.

Tracks made by a small canine, likely a Fox or a Coyote
More canine tracks
A very frozen Boggy Creek
The shallow Boggy Creek valley
I startled these Grouse and they didn't fly away until I was almost on top of them.  To be honest I think they surprised me more than I scared them!
Grouse tracks in the snow
Boggy Creek
These tracks are likely made by a Snowshoe Hare
Ring-Necked Pheasant tracks
A bird's nest tucked away in a grove of trees
The Condie reservoir
Apparently the reservoir is stocked with Perch and Pike
Tree silhouettes created by the Sun
Rumour has it there's a local Beaver that lives in the refuge.  Here's some evidence to support the rumours.
This female Ring-Necked Pheasant flew right in front of my Jeep while I was driving home from Condie.  It landed in the snow and quickly ran into the nearby brush.

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