Spring Thaw On The Way

It won’t be long now before the surface run-off begins on our local trout streams. There is significant ice build-up on Bighill Creek, but the surface flow from some warm weather will start to deplete the thick winter ice and cut through in places. When this happens, it is not a good idea to be on the ice for any reasons.

I have watched the flow on some areas of the Bighill Creek, where the channel stays ice free for most of the winter, and there has been good flow over the winter months. In these few areas, some birds and wildlife gain access to feed on the stream trout or the invertebrate populations in the Bighill Creek. In particular, Dippers, which feed on insect life below the surface and mink, which like to forage for a winter meal of fish.

This Dipper has a large caddis fly larva in its beak. The bird dives below the surface to forage under rocks and debris for aquatic invertebrates. They are a regular visitor to the Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. Dippers are very entertaining to watch, when they are in their feeding mode.

The ground water spring creeks that feed Bighill Creek have been flowing good all winter, except for the Ranch House Spring Creek, which is lower than in previous years. The tiny trout from this year’s hatch on Millennium Creek are doing well, and this batch will help to maintain the brook trout population on the lower reach of the Bighill Creek. The clear flowing waters of Mill. Creek are a perfect winter habitat for newly hatched trout.

The hatch of brook trout started early this new year and the trout all looked to be in good condition. Later on, these new trout fry will slowly worked their way down to the BH Creek and help repopulate the lower reach of the stream. I took this photo of a newly hatched brook trout larva, this past January of 2019.

With this warmer weather over the last few days, I suspect that the trend may continue and we will have a normal start time for our riparian planting program this spring. If we can be on the area streams by the first week of May this year, it will be a good, early enough start for the 2019 season. We have a lot of native willows and trees to plant this year (9,300), so far.

I have been in touch with the “Friends of Nose Creek” group, and they informed me that they will be conducting a spring planting program on Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary, this spring. This was great news to hear. I don’t know how many plants they will plant, but I will let you know when I find out. The more people involved in riparian planting in our area, the faster the riparian recovery and the better for our local waters, and the fish and wildlife that depend on the habitat.