With my feet firmly planted on a rock, I feel a fresh breeze blowing in, rustling through last year’s dry grass. Spring has come to the prairies, and there is no better place to celebrate this wondrous time than at the Northeast Swale. The Swale is a unique and unassuming landscape. From afar it may just look like an open field on the edge of a growing city. But it is certainly more than that, with wetlands nestled in an ancient river channel and endangered grasslands in between and around them.
Soon this place will be alive with flowers, birds, bugs, and many other critters. I am always happy to welcome back the migrating birds and find my first crocus here. Grasslands contain a miniature world around our feet, and you may need to take a closer look to find the flowers. Some are smaller than my pinky nail, but no less beautiful or important for that. These first blooms are vital to our early pollinators.
My favourite place to walk is along the ridges, as they are rich in biodiversity. Nestled between the rocks you’ll find many different flowering plant communities. In the cracks, these prairie plants eke out their tiny existence, and it always amazes me that flowers can grow with so few resources. At this time of year you are sure to find crocuses, moss phlox, and soon-to-bloom three-flowered avens.
After walking the ridges I always make sure to take a break from looking down, and spend some time watching the wetlands and the skies for birds. As the ice breaks up, ducks will come and go, and shorebirds will scurry along the waters edge. Keep an eye out for hawks, circling on the hunt for lunch, and listen for the meadowlarks melodic spring song.
Getting to know a place is a real joy, watching it change through the seasons, finding new things while walking the same paths. Even though I’ve been here dozens of times, each visit still feels a little like an “adventure”. So if you are ready to celebrate the prairies in spring (but don’t want to leave the city), make your next adventure a visit to the Swale.
– Meghan Mickelson
All photos © Meghan Mickelson
Northeast Swale Watchers
Are a group of concerned citizens from a variety of backgrounds who have been monitoring development & advocating for the protection of the Swales since 2011.
Gallery of Spring Wildflowers
Early Blue Violet
Early Yellow Locoweed
Birds to see and hear
- Western Meadowlark
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Northern Harrier
- Canada Geese
- Variety of ducks
- This Singing Land – a literary field guide of the Swales
- Northeast Swale Nature facebook page
- Saskatchewan Wildflowers by Glen Lee
- Northeast Swale ebird – record what birds you find and share your data
- Northeast Swale iNaturalist – record what species of bugs, plants, and animals you find while on your adventure