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:

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Here is a closeup:

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

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You can see the dogwood red osier in the foreground:

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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

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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:

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

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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.

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

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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:

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Here is another shot, looking down through the girders:

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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:

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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:

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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

Miles Hearn leads wintry walk

6th February 2018: Here is my belated posting about the winter walk last week.

On Wednesday 31st January, noted naturalist Miles Hearn led a winter walk in Cedarvale Ravine for the Toronto Field Naturalists. Some Friends of Cedarvale people also went along. There were 15 of us in total. Conditions were not ideal: it was snowing and cold. But at least the ice that had turned the path into a skating rink earlier in the month was now covered with a fresh layer of snow, making walking much safer. Miles demonstrated that even in winter you can identify trees from their bark and other plants from remaining vegetation. Here he is,  pointing out two different types of burdock.

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You can see how cold it was from the way everyone is dressed up:

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Here is a silver maple:

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The group trudging uphill near the dog park (with the construction sign for the bridge repairs in view):

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This is red ash:

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We spotted 9 bird species: cardinal, chickadee, Cooper’s hawk, goldfinch, house sparrow, nuthatch, robin and woodpecker (downy and hairy). Here we are looking up at one of them:

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Miles is leading the group through the cat-tail wetland below the Bathurst St bridge:

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You can also look at Miles’ own posting from his web site below. This was an invigorating and instructive walk. Many thanks to Miles for taking the time and braving the elements with us.

John Cummings

 

 

Scaffolding going up at Glen Cedar bridge – slowly!

22nd January 2018: The contractors are getting the scaffolding up under the Glen Cedar footbridge, in order to access the underside of the bridge and remove the old wooden surface. They are proceeding at what might be termed a “deliberate” pace. Today, for example, there was not a soul in sight (admittedly, the weather was foul).  Why did they elect to do the project in the depths of winter? Here is the scaffolding beside the stairs. These are to be replaced with a metal staircase.

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And here is the north-west side, seen behind the sumacs:

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Work began earlier on the south side:

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And here it is at a later stage:

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After the long icy period, we had above-freezing conditions, rain and considerable water flows. This is the improvised bridge connecting the main path near the exit to Forest Hill to the “desire” path over to Lonsdale:

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This is the greatly expanded creek just nearby:

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Somehow it seems strange to see last year’s sumacs still surviving among the winter snow:

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The old cat-tails are starting to go fluffy, while the yellow of the willows behind them is definitely a little bit brighter

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Our next event will be a winter walk led by Miles Hearn for the Toronto Field Naturalists, which we are invited to join. It will start at 10 am on Wednesday 31st January from the Heath St exit from the St Clair West subway station. Hope to see some of you there!

John Cummings