Another successful planting in Cedarvale

13th May: Yesterday, we completed another very successful planting in the park (our 8th). We planted 300 trees and shrubs in under 2 hours (see table at end for species and numbers)! The chosen site was the slope down from the park entrance at Humewood and Heathdale. I snapped this picture of some of the plants all ready waiting the evening before:


The mulch was also there:


The planting day was cool and overcast, but luckily with no rain. As usual, the Parks staff, led by Cheryl Post, must have been there very early, because by 10 am they had all the plants in position where they were to be planted. Before 10 am the volunteers started to arrive. Cheryl instructed us to start at the bottom of the slope and work up. Here is one of the Parks staff giving a planting demonstration:


Then we set to. There were many scenes such as this:


And this:


There were no corporate groups this time. But we were expecting the 90 Urban Woods Beavers troop, and they soon assembled at the arena carpark:


With banners flying, they marched across the cricket pitch and received planting instructions at the planting site:


There were about 60-80 volunteers, including 20-30 Beavers and parents. By about 11.45 the job was largely finished, and we had enough time to distribute the remaining mulch among the 300 plants:


Thanks to careful planning by Cheryl and her staff, and hard work by the volunteers, the planting was as usual efficiently accomplished.

John Cummings

Here is the list of species planted and the numbers:

List of trees and shrubs planted 12th May 2018
Aspen, trembling 15
Basswood 5
Maple, sugar 10
Oak, bur 5
Oak, red 5 5
Pine, Eastern white 5
Total trees 45
Dogwood, alternate 40
Dogwood, grey 40
Raspberry, black 40
Raspberry, purple flowering 40 40
Rose, pasture 40
Serviceberry 25
Sumac, staghorn 30
Total shrubs 255
Total trees and shrubs 300

Sakuras are blossoming!

8th May: While the crowds throng to High Park, you can enjoy a somewhat more private view of our very own sakura (Japanese cherry tree) blossoms in Cedarvale:


They are about two weeks later this year than last, and only last about 10 days. So seize your opportunity while you can. This woman was enjoying a quiet read under one of the trees:


Next to the Community Garden the larger trees are also in full bloom


And there is an interesting effect with the deer in the mural at the back of the shed and the white blossoms behind it:


The trout lilies are also just beginning to appear. These are one of the “spring ephemerals”, and like the sakuras, are only there for a brief space of time.


This Saturday 12th May at 10 am we will be planting trees and shrubs with Parks on the slope below the park entrance at the junction of Heathdale and Humewood (beside the toboggan run). Hope to see you there!

John Cummings

“Clean the Ravine”

26th April: Sunday 22nd April was Councillor Joe Mihevc’s Cleanup Day in the ravine. We met as usual under the Glen Cedar footbridge, but set up our table with refreshments away from all the construction equipment for the ongoing re-surfacing and painting of the bridge. Here is the group, with the Councillor at far left. Cait Cuthbert took the photo. More people joined us later, with some 20-30 taking part in total, but the turnout was down from previous years.


This intrepid fellow clambered all the way up the slope, getting his feet very wet in the process, and found a “hang-out” spot, from which he returned with these two bags full of beer cans and bottles, and other assorted trash. Our table can be seen at left. Another guy returned with a large concrete garden urn balanced on his shoulder!


I was disappointed to find plenty of garbage still left to pick up on my usual walk through the park later in the week. However, we did remove many bags of recycling and garbage.

Spring is here at last!

The early flowers are starting to appear. Here is one of the many examples of colt’s foot, always one of the first to appear:


Here is a whole bunch of them under the Bathurst St bridge:


Up near the Ava Rd exit, I found several bunches of crocus, no doubt a garden escapee:


Near the TTC building on Glen Ayr, I found another non-native plant, scylla:


Tree For Me

On Saturday 21st April, we participated with Tree For Me (part of the Toronto Parks & Trees Foundation) at the Wychwood Barns in giving away about 100 young trees and shrubs for people’s gardens. This was postponed from Environment Day the previous Sunday, which was cancelled because of the storm. Friends of Cedarvale had a table in the Farmers’ Market to direct people to the tables outside where the trees were being handed out. This was a very successful venture, which we were pleased to be part of.

We had a busy three days, as on Monday 23rd April Susan, Ivor and I toured the park with Paul Orichefsky, the new park supervisor. Among the many things that caught his sharp eye was one of the TTC entrances:


He was struck by the large boulders encircling the entrance, calling it “Cedarvale’s Stonehenge”. I realized later that the TTC entrance at Ava Rd has similar large boulders around it. Someone must have hauled in a load of boulders when the subway was being constructed in the late 1960s. But do they have a purpose, or are they purely ornamental?

Birding notes from Ken Morin

23rd April: Today’s stroll produced a smattering of migrants. From one end of the park to the other Golden-crowned Kinglets buzzed along the path and landed close at hand. Tiny, kinetic birds that don’t stay in one place for long:

Golden-crowned Kinglet Adult male

Photos: The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Also, a few Ruby crowned Kinglets:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Adult male

They are similar, but have a white eye ring and naturally a red striped head. The Wetlands proved to be a happening area. A pair of Eastern Phoebes flew back and forth from the fir trees as is their practice, return to their perch and then bob their tail. In the trickle were two White throated Sparrows poking about for food:

White-throated Sparrow Adult

The maple woods offered a Hermit Thrush probing backyard lawns and brush rubble looking for a bite. So, the spring migration is starting to happen. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for new daily arrivals.

Also, what may be a first – a pair of Double crested Cormorants flying overhead as I left the Windley Road exit:

Double-crested Cormorant Breeding adult

Next event

Our next event will be a tree planting with Parks on Saturday 12th May at 10 am. The location is on the slope beside the toboggan run below the park entrance at the intersection of Humewood and Heathdale. The best place to park would likely be at the Phil White Arena. Hope to see you there!

John Cummings

Toppled tree, an icy scene, construction continues, a new bridge and signs of spring?

19th April: It has been over a month since I last posted: I have been rather occupied with Tree For Me, which has now been postponed to Saturday 21st April at the Farmers Market.

Even before the recent mini-ice-storm, strong winds must have toppled this spruce tree in the little wood just north of the construction cabins:


Here is a closeup:


At some point the surface runoff creek beside the path got blocked, a small pond formed and then froze over:


You can see the dogwood red osier in the foreground:


Meanwhile, construction continues slowly despite the bad weather at the Glen Cedar footbridge.  Work has started on the new wooden surface of the bridge at the south end. Before that, the painting contractor was sand-blasting the girders inside protective plastic sheeting, ready for repainting. At the same time, this enormous piece of equipment appeared, with large pipes leading from it up to the bridge.


Unfortunately, this is all that is left of the nice patch of sumacs that used to be here:


And we fear some of the rather rare varieties of aster and some colt’s foot may be somewhere underneath all the construction supplies etc. On the bright side, we have gained a new bridge, right under the big bridge. We should come up with a name for it and have a naming ceremony!


Earlier, I had observed a hopeful sign of spring at the north end of the park near Ava Rd:

Cedarvale March 2018 3

But I think these are all now buried under the new layer of snow. Spring will arrive – sometime!

Hope to see you at either or both of the Farmers Market on Saturday and Cleanup Day on Sunday 22nd (10 am under the Glen Cedar bridge – somewhere among all the construction equipment!).

John Cummings

Sakuras damaged; other vandalism; bridge update.

12th March: Sadly, I have to report that some of our sakura (Japanese cherry) trees have had branches ripped off them. Here is the worst example:

Cedarvale March 10 2017 018

The sakuras were a gift from the Japanese government to the City of Toronto. Here is another one:

Cedarvale March 10 2017 017

There was lesser damage to two other trees. Earlier, I had photographed the structure below, without noticing the damage to the trees. When I went back to photograph the trees, the structure had been dismantled; but it appears that the broken-off limbs were used in the structure. If you observed any of this while it was happening, please let me know. We will report the damage to Parks.

Cedarvale March 10 2017 016

Also, two of the new lighting posts along the path close to Ava Rd have had graffiti painted on them. Here is one:

Cedarvale March 10 2017 020

On a more positive note, work is progressing on the Glen Cedar footbridge. All the old wooden surface on one side of the bridge has now been removed, revealing the bare girders underneath:

Cedarvale March 10 2017 015

Here is another shot, looking down through the girders:

Cedarvale March 10 2017 014

So far, there is no sign of the new surface being put on. Today, there was a lot of activity around the bridge. We will continue to watch with interest.

Before the snow departed, I took this shot of shadow effects from the low sun on the slope down from the Humewood entrance:

Cedarvale March 10 2017 013

Our next event will be Environment Day on Sunday 15th April at Wychwood Barns. As part of the TreeForMe program, we will be giving out free trees to homeowners who sign up to plant them in their gardens. We will be looking for up to 50 homeowners to receive trees and also volunteers to help on the day. I will soon be posting more details about this. If you are interested in either getting a tree or volunteering on the day, let me know.

Cleanup Day will follow on the next weekend, 22nd April. So we are going to be busy!

John Cummings

Bird sightings in and around Cedarvale

Our resident bird-watcher, Ken Morin, has been in the ravine three times lately. On his first trip, he observed a Cooper’s Hawk at close quarters:

Cooper's Hawk Adult

All photos: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Here is his report for Thursday 22nd February 2018

Today while attempting a stroll in the ravine I was stopped by the icy way below the Glen Cedar footbridge. Up to that point I had seen only a few House Sparrows and a Cardinal but heard plenty of hammering, generators and nail guns firing. As I turned back from the workers’ sheds I ducked in behind to the small nook along the fence. This spot has been fortuitous in the spring and fall and today was no exception. As I stood I noticed some movement; peering between the limbs I found a Cooper’s Hawk, an adult, at eye level. It hopped over to a larger limb and observed me for several minutes before lifting off and away. Now, I realize that this is not an uncommon sighting in the ravine. I only wish to draw attention to the fact that one never knows what is about and it is good to stop and look and listen sometimes.

The real news of the day came on my return home and at a visit to the off leash. A Snowy Owl was reported perching atop an antenna along St Clair near Christie. All white, a male no less. A magnificent bird that inspires people. This species has been seen in Toronto and area along the waterfront mainly. This far uptown is quite remarkable! They will sit atop hydro poles for prolonged periods so keep your eyes peeled.

Snowy Owl Adult male

Friday 23rd February

Today I brought the crampons/icers so I could walk the length of the ravine. Nothing to report at the top end and very little until I sidelined by the end of the marsh. Between lamp posts 7 and 8 there is a path that leads up the slope beside the apartment block. Ventured along about 30 paces and heard some drumming and squeaking. A couple of Downy Woodpeckers were at work hammering away at a fallen log. I stood and watched at close range as they were unbothered by my presence. A Brown Creeper flew into an adjacent tree and started its upward spiral around the trunk. Then a gang of birds flew into another nearby tree and pecked at berries. Hard to define due to dull light, but I felt they weren’t sparrows. Eventually, as they moved into different positions the colouring became more visible. A dozen Goldfinches. Not quite in their beautiful breeding plumage, but starting to colour. Then, a White breasted Nuthatch landed and began its upside down bug hunt. The tree foragers were hard at it seeking insects. Finally, the Northern Cardinal which had been singing crossed over the trail path and the woodpeckers came along and continued their labours close to the walkway. What was lovely about this expedition was the complete lack of joggers, dog walkers and groups of whatnots. Just me and the birds.

On Monday 26th February, Ken observed a species that so far has not been recorded by us in the park: the Merlin:

Merlin (Taiga) Adult male (Taiga)

This is his report: Today there was a species that has never been observed previously, a Merlin. This is an uber predator; for its size it punches well above its weight. Can’t imagine the ravine becoming a feeding pit for raptors. The hawks no doubt will have something to say about this.

The boys are back in town! While sitting on a fallen tree I could hear a soft trilling in the marsh up ahead. As I ventured along the path there it was – a Red Winged Blackbird in full mating plumage. The song was gentler than the usual concaree they belt out and it chatted softly after making its song. This caused other red-winged blackbirds to respond and I counted a half dozen in trees and flying about. The males arrive prior to the females (which are not to be heard or seen) and scout out territory. The marsh has become home to a small colony and needs to be protected from dog incursion. I informed several dog owners about this situation and most agreed that protection is in order. While many canines stick to the path with their owners while off leash, the individuals that let the dogs run wildly and freely are a concern. Not just the birds need protection; there could be turtles, snakes, salamanders, butterflies, etc. that don’t need the added incursion and stress. Not to mention the foxes, coyotes and coywolves.

Here is the tally for the morning: Chickadee, Robin, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Cardinal, Red tailed Hawk, Junco, Goldfinch, Crow, House Finch and House Sparrow. Good birding to all.

Thanks to Ken for these reports of resident and returning bird-life in the ravine.

John Cummings

Hard-to-find butterfly can be seen in Cedarvale

17th February 2018: Did you realize that Cedarvale Park is one of the few places in the GTA to see a butterfly called Arcadian Hairstreak (satyrium acadica)? Here it is:

Image result

I was informed by  Antonia Guidotti, President of the Entomological Society of Ontario, that a count was conducted in the park on 8th July 2017 and 11 species were recorded:

Pieris rapae                       Cabbage White

Celastrina lucia                 Northern Azure

Cupido comyntas             Eastern Tailed-Blue

Satyrium acadica             Acadian Hairstreak

Danaus plexippus             Monarch

Nymphalis antiopa          Mourning Cloack

Polygonia comma            Eastern Comma

Polygonia interrogationis Question Mark

Vanessa atalanta             Red Admiral

Polites peckius                  Peck’s Skipper

Thymelicus lineola           European Skipper

Among them is the aforementioned Acadian Hairstreak. A note was attached to this species with the information that our park is one of the few places in the GTA where you can see it.

I have added the list to the web site under Cedarvale Park/Flora and Fauna/Butterflies (below trees and plants, and birds).

Antonia added that this year’s count will take place on 14th July 2018. They welcome new participants! I have added this event to the web site under About Us/Upcoming Events.

So if you are interested in butterflies, you now have a list of what to look for.

John Cummings