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Karen Sun leads another informative nature walk

11th August: Despite threatening weather, we set off at 6.30 pm from the Heath St entrance last Wednesday 8th August under the guidance of our intrepid leader, Karen Sun, from Parks, Forestry and Recreation:

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There were 19 of us at the start. Here is the other half of the crowd:

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Karen said that her favourite flower book is Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, because it uses drawings rather than photos, making identification easier. We set off down the path, stopping frequently to identify plants. This is Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). a native plant:

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Nearby was Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus), a non-native plant (Karen later kindly checked all my plant names and gave me the Latin name and whether native/non-native):

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Here we have White Vervain (Verbena urticifolia), a native plant:

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We have a lot of this particular plant, Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida), another native one:

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Here Karen is talking about all the non-native trees and plants, some invasive, that have increasingly colonized our ravines:

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This is one of them – the delightfully descriptive Dog Strangling Vine (DSV) (Vincetoxicum rossicum), a non-native and invasive plant (see below). Karen said that a natural control for DSV, a moth, is being worked on. Another one in this same location that is unfortunately quite prevalent in Cedarvale is Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). I observed this plant on my trip to England in its native habitat, where it is kept under control by competition from many other plants such as nettles, docks, thistles etc.

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Another import – the yellow flower below –  is Yellow Toadflax/Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris):

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And two more non-native flowers are Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), the yellow flower, and Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), the purple flower:

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Here is Purple loosestrife again, with Comfrey (the white flower, non-native) (Symphytum officinale) in the centre:

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Yet another non-native and invasive plant is Sweet white clover (Melilotus albus):

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Here is a native plant which rejoices in the lovely name of White snake root (Ageratina altissima):

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The last one Karen pointed out is one of the first to appear in spring, with its yellow flower that is easy to mistake for the dandelion. At this time of year, the flower has gone and there are only leaves to identify it – Coltsfoot (tussilago farfara):

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At some point in our walk, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, so we turned back before even reaching the cat-tail wetland and the Bathurst St bridge. Demonstrating the power of water, here is Ivor standing beside the enormous crevices created in the path by the torrential deluge on the night of the previous Tuesday 7th August. By today they had all been filled in:

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Many thanks once again to Karen for giving up her off-work time to help us understand the ecology of our beloved park.

John Cummings

 

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The park is not a dumping ground!

7th August: Recently, I came across two cases of illegal dumping in the park. The first was just inside the Humewood/Heathdale entrance, right in among our most recent planting. Someone had pruned a blue spruce tree and hauled the cut branches to dump in the park:

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I moved them out beside the sidewalk and will request Parks staff to remove them (they did, very promptly):

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The other case was behind the outdoor skating rink. Someone had dumped two lots of broken bathroom fixtures. This was one of them:

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I gradually moved the mess over to the garbage container, one heavy plastic bag at a time, over a period of four days. As balm to the soul after all this labour, I went and contemplated the flourishing Joe-Pye Weed:

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Don’t forget our nature walk with Karen Sun of Parks tomorrow evening at 6.30 pm, starting from the St Clair W subway exit on Heath St W.

John Cummings

Shade structure in dog park to be removed and replaced

18th July: I was just about to remark on the new shade structure in the dog park, when I heard from Councillor Mihevc’s office that it is to be removed and replaced! As he says, this project has indeed been “marred with problems”. Apparently, the contractor hired for the installation did not meet the specs that were clearly laid out in the tender. The shelter has been installed too low, and in the wrong colour! It has been decided that the shelter will be removed and a new one installed in September. It will be forest green and a little more than two feet higher than the one shown below:

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Apart from this debacle, I was pleased to note several changes in the park on my return from almost two months in the UK. Next to the dog park, two green bins for organic waste (mainly dog poop) have been installed. This should help with the problem of dog poop contaminating the recycling. I had read that only a small proportion of organic waste in the recycling means that the whole bin-load goes to garbage.

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Here is the new sign:

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Another new sign has gone up in two places; it is about coyotes:

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The sign may be helpful in our campaign to persuade people to keep their dogs on leash when not in the off-leash area. In an earlier blog, I reported that someone had also sighted a coy-wolf in the park; this is a cross between a coyote and a wolf.

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Finally, fresh wood chips have been put down to cover the wet patch part-way along the path north from Markdale School parallel to Strathearn Rd. Several months ago, one of my dog-walker friends had asked me to contact the then park supervisor, Diane Tomlin, to request the new chips. She had put through a work-order. Sometimes the system works: the chips are now in place!

The staircase beside the Glen Cedar Rd footbridge was supposed to have been closed last Monday 9th July. However, there was a delay and the steps were actually closed on 16th July. Update #2 from the city does not say how long the staircase will be closed. The update says the bridge renovation is now expected to be finished by September. It also says that areas affected by the construction will be restored.

John Cummings

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:

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The mulch was also there:

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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:

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

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And this:

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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:

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

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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:

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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
   Number
Trees
Aspen, trembling 15
Basswood 5
Maple, sugar 10
Oak, bur 5
Oak, red 5 5
Pine, Eastern white 5
Total trees 45
 
Shrubs
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:

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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:

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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

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

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

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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:

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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:

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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