Spending time in Kildonan Park and vicinity on a winter’s day can reveal, as City of Winnipeg naturalist Rodney Penner says, things that are normally hidden or elusive in nature.
For example, at about 11 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2013, while out for our daily walk, my friend Peter and I spotted a coyote prowling along the river bank near Kildonan Park Golf Course. Peter even managed to take a photo of it with his small digital camera.
"In the past an American marten showed up in Kildonan Park and provided a special wildlife viewing experience for those that saw it," Penner notes.
The marten, which was active in the park about a year ago and also captured on digital camera, is not the only member of the weasel family you might have the opportunity to see in Kildonan Park.
"Another member of the family is the American mink which is often found along the edges of rivers and creeks," says Penner, who works for the City of Winnipeg Naturalist Services Branch.
He points out that the river bottom area along the Red River is the most likely place to see this critter. As with most animals in winter, it is most active during the milder days and nights.
"Tracks are a great way to find wildlife activity in winter," adds Penner.
"The best time to look for tracks and evidence of wildlife is when the temperatures get up near zero for a day or two. Natural areas and corridors along rivers and creeks become filled with the tracks of wildlife following a warm spell in winter."
There are also numerous common winter birds that park enthusiasts can spot.
For example, Mike Quigley, education coordinator with the Naturalist Services Branch, points out that downy and hairy woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays,and bohemian waxwings are all resident in Kildonan Park and environs, as they are elsewhere in the city.
"Although not as common, pileated woodpeckers would also be a possibility in the park. This winter, flocks of pine grosbeaks have been present throughout the city too, so Kildonan Park would also be a possibility," he says.
Biologist Dr. Christian Artuso, who has developed the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba and works for Bird Studies Canada, comments that one of the amazing things about Kildonan Park is its tall cottonwood trees that are impressive to admire at any time of year.
He’s so right about that. Artuso also points to basswoods, ash, Manitoba maple, American elm, among other types of trees, which form the "riparian" forest in the park.
"They provide a different sort of habitat and microclimate close up from the river," he explains, adding there’s a chance of seeing waterfowl, and even a bald eagle, if there’s open water in the river.
Martin Zeilig is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.