The Whitemud Creek Ravine is a place of intimate beauty. Of special interest is the elevated Oxbow, a remnant of the earlier river that once sat higher than Whitemud Creek. It is fed by spring flooding and underground water. Several animals feel protected in this special space.
Together with The City of Edmonton and the Edmonton and Area Land Trust we've protected the Oxbow lands in perpetuity. Specifically, we achieved our goal of having Larch Sanctuary designated as a Conservation Area, a much more protective zoning than the majority of the River Valley. This ensures that the homes in Larch Park will always border valuable natural habitat and an intact ecosystem.
Watch this short video, then scroll down to discover more about the different species you'll find in the Sanctuary.
You can find the smallest true frogs that live in Alberta in the Whitemud Creek Ravine. They range in size from 30-60 mm. You’ll recognize a wood frog by a dark brown or “bandit’s mask” across its eyes, brownish body and white stripe down its back. Spot it hunting for worms and insects in damp, shady wooded areas of the Sanctuary’s aspen parkland. This is the sound they make.
Wood frogs are Canada’s hardiest amphibian; able to tolerate subzero temperatures by producing an internal “antifreeze” in their blood to prevent tissue damage.
This small flycatcher has a dark greyish-brown head and back, white throat and dirty grey breast. You’ll recognize it by its characteristic phoebe behaviour, pumping its tail up and down while sitting on a branch. Its song is simple and sounds much like its name – fee-bee! Click to listen.
The Eastern Phoebe is one of the earliest migratory birds to return to the Sanctuary in the spring, and one of the latest to leave in the fall.
White Spruce Stands
In the lower ravine you’ll see groups of white spruce, trees ranging in age from 25 to 100 years old. Examine the twigs. You’ll notice 4 stiff, sharp needles arranged in a spiral pattern.
The Sanctuary’s white spruce stands provide important habitat and food for red squirrels, snowshoe hares, voles, and many seed-eating birds. Red squirrel populations especially depend on the seeds for survival.
This unmistakable large woodpecker has a large red crest, black body and white and black face stripes. The birds are year-round residents in the Sanctuary. Pairs remain together, defending their territory, throughout the seasons. Watch for large rectangular cavities excavated in deciduous or coniferous trees. The woodpeckers create these as they search for ants and beetle larvae. These cavities, in turn, become important habitat for other birds unable to excavate such large holes. Click to listen.
These melodic birds can be found along brushy edges of the creeks and Oxbow, and throughout the parklands. If you look carefully, you might spot the song sparrow’s nest on or near the ground, concealed under a tuft of grass or low in a shrub.
These songsters sing persistently throughout spring and summer. Click to listen. You’ll hear several clear notes followed by variable buzzes and trills.
We know many naturalists enjoy this area, and share their knowledge and appreciation with others. As with any protected area, the challenge for all of us is to hold our distance and tread gently: to protect animals and their homes at the same time as we marvel at their presence.
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