Fine Feathered Friends...Flock to Northwest Calgary!

October 25, 2020 by University District

U/D Approved Photography – Capture the Perfect Nature Shot!


Fall in Calgary can be a missed season at times!  Calgarians ache for a hint of autumn fun, from the change in foliage to the crunch of leaves underfoot to crisp, starry nights. This year, we were lucky to experience fall at its best!


As many of our residents shared with us on social media, it was ideal to get outside, walking or bike riding. What a treat to explore the neighbourhood before the first snowfall! Plus, it was a great time to enjoy nature, with no shortage of wildlife ready to enjoy the weather with us.


Around University District (beyond our favourite #dogsofUD) we see the coyotes and rabbits scurrying about on the hills near Shaganappi Trail. Meanwhile, hawks and eagles circle overhead, especially over Edworthy Park.


This season, birds were aplenty at U/D, loving our special wetland and pond near the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Fellow northwest Calgarian Patrick Kornak, an experienced photographer, caught our eye last year with some of his birding images from this favourite spot.





As a born and raised Calgarian, Patrick has lived in Brentwood and Dalhousie communities all his life.


He began as a professional photographer at just 12 years of age when the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald enlisted the determined pre-teen to freelance, photographing the Calgary Stampeders. Later, he went on to attend the Alberta University of Arts (formerly Alberta Art & Design College) and teach photography at SAIT for 18 years with its Continuing Education program.  From working at Saneal Cameras in Market Mall to taking part in the local family business at Brentwood Printing, life in the NW has been savoured in the best light.


Patrick’s 51-year career has led him to pursue different specialties of photography — from weddings and portraits to sports and fine arts — where he’s found personal growth and pure enjoyment as a photographer. He combines his love of photography with inspiring natural surroundings. His emotive, stunning images of our community prompted us to showcase his work and top-pick images from the wetlands.


When a person is passionate and lives and breathes what they do. You can tell from the excitement in their voice as they share their story. Clearly, Patrick is no exception.  He candidly shared with us not only his life-long interest in photography and refining his skills, but also his love for NW Calgary.

Similar to Patrick, many residents and community members have favourite things or go-to spots at University District that they love. Take a look here at some of the suggestions the team at the Discovery Centre and our builder partners have. Visit here for more information.




Though Patrick isn’t a birding expert, he’s found beauty and appreciation for birds as he’s photographed them over the years. This past birding season between Calgary’s spring to fall has especially proven to be fruitful, with an abundance of sightings that have led to Patrick’s stunning photography that caught our attention.


To get you excited for the 2021 season and for some birding inspiration, here are Patrick’s top images!



A relative newcomer to the pond over the past year, the red neck and white body is a great contrast, especially compared to the other usual ducks.

Downy Woodpecker

The woodpeckers are skittish and often stay nestled amongst the trees that run along the edges of the pond. Patience is a virtue. With fast-moving subjects, keep your distance and let them settle to capture them at their best!

Mallard Mother with Ducklings

The spring brings out a variety of different ducks and their offspring. Mallards are the most common and the young stay close to mom. Quiet observation and allowing them to get used to your presence will usually bring them close enough for a good photo.

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Usually the herald of spring. Their song dominates the pond as they fly around between the trees and the cattails. Capturing them in flight makes for an interesting subject image.

Male Red-Winged Blackbird

Taken early morning in the spring, the sun coming from the east lights up the bird’s breath as it sings in the cool morning air. Light direction plays a key role in making a good photograph amazing!




We talk often about about live, work and play around Univeristy District. This seems to be Patrick’s motto for life in NW Calgary. Whether honing his own skills or teaching a course, Patrick puts his knowledge and hands-on approach to capture the best of what’s in our backyard.


“Over the years, I’ve explored the nature that surrounds us at its best – untouched yet integrated into our community developments. There isn’t any shortage of new areas to explore here. It’s been a natural progression to start photographing nature because of the wildlife that lives in the NW. With an extensive variety of subjects, especially if you’re patient, it’s exciting to learn about the animals that also call Calgary home.”


So where does he recommend to start taking pictures?


He visits the wetland area at U/D regularly and will often venture there looking for some inspiration. Prior to the Alberta Children’s Hospital developing, there didn’t seem to be much there, he recalls. Now, with our community’s accessibility, the pond and wetland area is more discoverable. There’s an opportunity for residents and neighbours, visitors and fowls alike to enjoy the area. To Patrick’s surprise and delight, the North Pond, the gateway to the northwest corner of the community, has also been an ideal location to capture birds at their best.


Have we captured your attention yet with the beautiful wildlife that surrounds our community?


Come and take a stroll to see the natural scenery here at U/D, and explore our all-seasons paths and parks.


Even during winter, there will likely be a photo opportunity just around the corner!


For both children and adults alike, finding some way to express yourself creatively has all kinds of benefits. Making time to play in fun, artistic ways can be relaxing. Take a look at these U/D approved ideas to get your creative juices flowing!




  • A kind reminder to be respectful by giving the animals space and not intruding on their habitat.
  • Rather than chase animals, sit, relax and watch. Take time and let them come to you.
  • Study the animal’s behaviour. Movements and sounds can indicate their next steps. Watch and anticipate what the animals will do. This will help you capture an image more easily.
  • If you’ve invested in a high-quality camera, consider adding a zoom lens.




“My life circles around NW Calgary,” says Patrick. “I have never wanted more beyond that.


“I’ve had the privilege to see this part of the city grow immensely. When Northland Drive didn’t exist. There was only an empty field and you were looking towards the mountains,” shares Patrick. “The development has changed with more NW communities and infrastructure, but the community feeling of NW Calgary never disappears. This is one of the reasons why Varsity, Brentwood, and other NW neighbourhoods are voted as the most desirable or best to live in the city.”


Beyond the views and the friendly faces of neighbours, Patrick shares that the characteristics and personalities of the NW communities blend.


“University District just feels like it fits. It kind of weaves together as an extension of those areas rather than being a completely new and separate community.”


Patrick’s wife, a nurse who has worked at Foothills Hospital for more than 20 years, enjoys her daily commute with him to work which includes driving past University District.


“It’s exciting to see the growth of the community from the ground up. With more residents and community members milling about, especially on the pathways and on Main Street, it’s become so inviting!




However you choose to connect to nature, find a quiet moment. Take in the beautiful natural environment, so close to inner-city Calgary. You never know if you’ll have some wildlife company peeking through the bushes or amongst the grassy lands that we’re fortunate to have in our NW backyard.


Do you love the great outdoors near University District? What’s the most interesting wildlife that you’ve seen? Share your comments with us below or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And don’t forget to share pictures and tag us! We are on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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