My son Jaden arrived home from school excited to announce that his grade four class was going on a trip to the Greenwing Legacy Centre and wetlands at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. I was equally excited to learn that they needed a few parent volunteers to go along. So I quickly said "sign me up!"
I really wasn't sure what the day would involve, but we were instructed to bring along our rubber boots. All I had was a pair of low-cut "duckies" and a pair of extra socks. I hoped they'd be sufficient. When we arrived, I have to admit, I was a little bit relieved when the instructor announced that we wouldn't be doing any wading into the water that day. Instead, the kids would be able to explore life in the wetlands safely and dryly from a floating dock.
Stephanie Patriquin was our guide for the day. I was impressed at how well the kids answered her questions as she introduced the various types of wetlands and their value to our ecosystem. Following an educational relay race, we were ready to head out into the field (or should I say...the wetlands) to collect some specimens.
The marshlands at the park are actually man-made, though you'd never know it. The only clue was an over flow pipe that had been installed to prevent flooding. We followed Stephanie down the scenic trail like little ducklings to the dock. Each child received a small net to catch critters in, and within seconds they were catching all kinds of bugs and things and began filling the buckets. I was truly amazed at how quickly they collected such a variety. I took a moment to take in the scenery overlooking the water and even spotted some geese and a red winged blackbird.
We worked our way back to the Centre where we were about to learn about the creatures we had just collected. Stephanie placed a small sample under the video microscope that conveniently shows everything clearly on a large TV screen so we could all see.
I must say, it was really cool to get such an up close and personal look. There were some pretty freaky looking creatures in there too - many of which were barely visible to the naked eye. I had typically thought of the Wildlife Park for its variety of birds and animals, but this demonstration definitely gave a whole new appreciation for the smaller, less visible life at the park.
We probably could have been entertained there for hours, but to our surprise our visit was also about to include a quick visit to see the animals at the park too!
The bears were up and moving around and the otters were entertaining as usual. It was nice taking a guided tour to learn additional facts about the various birds and animals. For instance, I didn't know that owls use ultraviolet vision to see mouse urine in the dark, making it easier for them to track and hunt.
We concluded our day back at the wetland centre where the kids were free to explore the various interactive exhibits for a few minutes before we had to pile back into the bus.
I stepped outside for a quick moment to enjoy the view overlooking the marsh once more. The area includes the 1km wheelchair accessible Wetland Interpretive Trail, as well as the 3km St. Andrews Marsh Trail - a woodland walking trail to a viewing station beside the St. Andrew's Marsh. Both are great spots for birding and definitely worthy of further exploration on our next visit.