Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FROM THE "MINDFUL WORLD" BLOG - SPRING BIRDING IN SAM SMITH

BIRD WALK IN THE PARK: A mindfulness practice in nature

Nashville Warbler at Toronto bird walk
Nashville Warbler
Armed with binoculars and cameras, more than 40 bird watching enthusiasts gather at Colonel Sam Smith Park for a free monthly bird walk hosted by the Citizens Concerned About The Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW), an advocacy group that formed to safeguard public access to Toronto’s Humber Bay Shores from encroaching condo development.
The group, led by veteran birder Bob Yukich, heads to the lookout platform on the pond where a few barn swallows treat our eyes to their visually stunning display of acrobatics. Basking in the bright sun on this pleasantly warm April day, we stick around for awhile, watching them dart from side to side, circle and dive through the air as they catch a protein-rich insect lunch. Known as quite a vengeful bird, the unmated male Barn Swallow sometimes kills the nestlings of a nesting pair. Rather than turning off the female, his actions often succeed in causing a split, which opens up an opportunity for him to mate with the female.
We proceed to the waterfront where we catch some of the few remaining migratory waterfowl before they fly north to their summer homes. A flock of Long-tailed ducks sit lazily on the calm lake. With an intricate pattern of black, grey and white markings, this distinctive duck looks more like a finely-painted sculpture than an actual duck. Its beauty is not its only remarkable trait, the Long-tailed can dive to a depth of 60m and is known to spend more time underwater relative to time on the surface than any other diving duck.
We stroll past a couple of nesting swans before walking away from the water. Many of the mostly middle-aged regular birders cluster into groups and move at their own pace, some chatting about rare birds they’ve sighted, while others ask birding questions of the more experienced in the group. As we’re walking, one of the group members points out a Nashville Warbler. We stop and look. Bob gives a description of the bird to which one of the regulars, Dave, adds in: “Grey head and a banjo.” A bit of birding humour to brighten the day.
Dave has counted as many as 175 birds on a good year, just in the general vicinity of this park. Bob has counted even more than that, just in his own backyard over the years he’s lived in the city. Toronto is a prime destination for migrating birds since it’s positioned in the middle of many of their migration routes. Preparing for, or after, a long flight over Lake Ontario, some migrants stick around for a short time to rest and rejuvenate, while others choose the city as their winter or summer home.
We walk across a large, open field toward the edge of a forest, a prime birding spot since it marks the transition area between two very different terrains. “Keep your eyes on the ground,” Bob warns. A female Rufous-sided Towhee stands a few metres into the forest, loudly kicking up a storm of leaves as she looks for her next meal. After a good look we continue to meander through the park.
“Chee che che che,” a Palm Warbler sings to us from the tree canopy. Bob identifies the bird by sound, a difficult skill learned only with years of birding experience. Novices alone would likely have just heard a sound in the sky and walked on. Thanks to our guide we knew what the bird was, stopped, listened and took a good look at it.
It is this focused awareness that turns the hobby of birding into a powerful mindfulness practice. Birds are everywhere, but how often do we notice them? How often do we hear the ever-present soundtrack of bird song. Birding trains us not just to listen, but to pay close attention.
“Sharp-shin. Sharp-shinned hawk,” Dave shouts out. “See it. Square tail.” We look up to see this “Sharpie” soar overhead and quickly out of sight. “That’s good, mark it down,” Bob says, remarking how it is not a common sighting in these parts. Indeed, it was good to see this amazing carnivore that, despite being only 10 to 14-inches in length, can eat birds as large as an American Robin or Ruffed Grouse.
After walking through most of the park, we end up near Lake Shore. The remaining few who stayed to the end gather around Bob, who has his checklist out, tallying up the total. The group chimes in with all their favourite sightings of the day, while a middle-aged man speaks excitedly into his phone, repeating some of the highlights: “Nashville Warbler, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet.” A total count of 64 species in a couple of hours makes for a successful day of birding. Though birding can be tricky for the beginner, especially if done solo, a group bird walk shares the task among 40 pairs of eyes and ears, making it an especially rewarding activity for the novice birder.

For more information visit CCFEW.

Friday, November 25, 2011

NEW REPORT ON TORONTO PARKS FUTURE BY "PARKS PEOPLE" ORGANIZATION

The recently founded Park People organization has produced a document called "Pathways For Parks" in which they presents their ideas for improving our parks without increasing city spending. It's their answer to the question: "What would you do instead of cutting the parks budget?".
Some of the key recommendations include: our parks would be better if they were staffed with a dedicated city worker in each park, had an active local “Friends Of” group and were supported by private donations. 
The report is the result of research and consultations with park advocates across North America as well as the collective experience of park volunteers and experts in the growing Toronto parks movement.

Solutions Highlights:

• shift the City’s maintenance delivery away from “flying squads” to dedicated local park staff;
• re-allocate capital expenditures to address the $261 million backlog in repairs to park and recreation facilities;
• facilitate the development of new park conservancies to share park oversight and invite community and private sector investment;
• allow new healthy local food concessions in parks to attract and keep residents in parks all year while also generating revenue;
• expand inspections and establish benchmarks to ensure consistent quality control across all city parks.

OUR URBAN FOREST UNDER THREAT

 
"At the end of November 2011, Toronto City Council will begin reviewing the 2012 budget that will affect many of our city services. There will be urban forest items on the City Council meeting agenda scheduled for November 29th and 30th. Please let your Councillor know today that healthy trees are a priority in our neighbourhood!

Here are some points to consider:
 
  • A healthy urban forest
    Our urban forest is the living green infrastructure that makes our city livable.  We receive huge returns on any investments we make in its care and maintenance in the form of clean air, reduced storm water costs, shade, UV protection, tourism dollars and increased property values.  A study in New York City revealed a $5 return for every $1 invested.
     
  • A recent Toronto study shows that our urban forest provides the equivalent of at least $60 million in ecological services each year (air quality improvements, carbon sequestration, etc.).  The benefits derived from the urban forest significantly exceed the annual cost of its management.  Protection of our existing trees is of utmost importance – Toronto’s tree protection bylaws must be maintained and enforced.
     
  • Ash trees represent about 9% of the current forest canopy in Toronto. The spread of Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect, will decimate our ash population over the next ten years. Tree protection and planting will need to increase significantly, just to sustain existing urban forest canopy levels.
     
  • Funding for our urban forest has already been reduced.  In 2009, Toronto City Council approved funding for a seven year service plan to better protect, maintain and grow our urban forest; this funding was reduced in 2010 and then suspended in 2011."

Monday, November 21, 2011

ETOBICOKE GUARDIAN REPORTS ON HUMBER COLLEGE'S EXPANSION PLANS

Humber College officials met with their Lakeshore Campus neighbours this week to discuss long-term revitalization plans to accommodate their ever-growing student population - including the construction of a Welcome Centre and a new 150,000-sq. ft. building.
Of Humber's current slate of 25,000 full-time students, 7,000 are currently attending the Lakeshore Campus and those numbers are only expected to increase in the years to come, said Humber president John Davies.
"We're a growing, popular college...but of course that creates pressures for us to provide increased capacity, and that's why we're here tonight: to look at the pressures we have at Lakeshore Campus and to share with you some of our plans," Davies told a standing-room-only crowd at a community consultation meeting Wednesday, Nov. 16.
Davies estimated the student population at the Lakeshore Campus will eventually cap out at 10,000 - a 3,000-pupil increase from their current numbers - because "there isn't really any space in this area for much more than that."
"We are absolutely aware that we have a certain amount of land to work with and that we have a community that we have to be a part of," he added.
In recent years, Humber officials have made creative use of the limited land and property they have available to them in and around the campus, repurposing many a building north of Lake Shore Boulevard West to suit their needs (see sidebar for examples).
Now faced with even more student demand for the Lakeshore Campus' degree- and postgraduate-heavy slate of programming, Scott Valens, Humber's staff architect and associate director of capital development, took the opportunity Wednesday night to share some of the college's proposed plans for growth:
1. Post-2014, Humber plans to build a 150,000 sq. ft. building along the south end of Twenty-Third Street, developing the building so there's a two-storey street edge, stepping back to an additional three storeys. Also proposed is a multi-decked parking garage on the site, increasing parking from 650 to 1,500 parking spaces. The parking deck and new building would be accessed from Lake Shore Boulevard West at Twentieth Street.
2. Proposed plans for a Welcome Centre along Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive (on the northwest corner at Lake Shore Boulevard West) are still "very conceptual" at this point, Valens said, but also very necessary. The plan is to develop the centre with short-term underground parking, which would allow visitors "to arrive, find out what the campus is all about, and basically find out where they need to go," Valens said, noting that the facility would also eventually house registration, test centres and counselling.
3. Humber recently acquired Wildside Motorcycles, 3246 Lake Shore Blvd. W., for the purpose of developing a fitness facility featuring aerobic and weight room studios. While the college has not started designing it yet, Valens said it's expected the new facilities will "provide a greatly needed increase for student facilities, as well as access for the community."
4. Building G is the last of the heritage cottages to be restored and renovated. Humber is currently looking for ministry and/or partner funding for this 8,000 sq. ft. facility.
5. Humber recently renovated a portion of the second floor of its Community Medical Services Building at 3170 Lake Shore Blvd. W. for use as an early childhood education facility. The plan is to maintain the existing pharmacy and doctors' and dentists' offices on the main floor, while using the second and third floors for Humber faculty offices.
6. Toronto's Catholic school board is set to build a replacement school for the aging Christ the King Catholic School along Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive, just south of the proposed Welcome Centre. The 530-pupil school is expected to be about 55,000 sq. ft.
Reaction to the proposed plans at Wednesday night's meeting was mixed, with many in attendance applauding the college for its efforts, while simultaneously expressing concerns over parking pressures, traffic increases and the loss of green space the projects were thought likely to bring.
Brian Bailey, president of Citizens Concerned About The Future Of The Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW) has lived 100 metres from the entrance to the college at Twenty-Third Street for 16 years. He said plans to change access to the college parking lot to Twentieth Street would cause traffic headaches for all.
"You'll have to put a traffic light in, which means you're going to have three lights within very short distance of each other at Kipling, Twentieth and Twenty-Third streets," he lamented. "I would avoid Lake Shore like the plague if there's one more traffic light put in."
Meanwhile, calling Humber College an "asset to the community", longtime community activist Ruth Grier expressed her hope that Humber's expansion might improve transit in the neighbourhood.
"If your advocacy with the TTC can do something, it would be greatly appreciated by everyone in the community," she said to applause from the crowd. "We've been trying a very long time...to get a streetcar starting at Long Branch, going to Humber, then up Roncesvalles to meet the subway."

AUSSIE-RULES FOOTBALLERS BUILD NEW EQUIPMENT STORAGE AREA

A gravel pad is being constructed at the south west corner of the oval sports field.
We are told that it is being built to accommodate storage bunkers for equipment used by the Australian-rules football teams that use the site. We assume that the three metal storage containers near the bridge along North Creek will be moved to the pad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

CITY SEEKING INPUT ON NEW PARKS PLAN - ONLINE AND COMMUNITY MEETINGS

City of Toronto seeking public input for a new five-year plan for parks,
trails and natural areas

The City of Toronto's Parks, Forestry and Recreation division is seeking public input for the new five-year Parks Plan. As directed by Council, the plan will guide decision-making and investment in City parks in order to meet the diverse needs of Toronto residents, including:
designing beautiful, unique and sustainable park spaces
protecting and expanding natural areas
balancing park uses to include play spaces, natural areas, sport activities, urban agriculture and cultural expression
engaging the community through stewardship, volunteering and partnerships, and
ensuring that the City's parks and trails are available and accessible to all residents.

"This is an important opportunity for Torontonians to express their opinions about the Toronto parks system," said Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40 Scarborough-Agincourt), Chair of the City's Parks and Environment Committee. "I encourage everyone to complete the online survey or attend a public consultation session."

Residents are invited to attend one of four public consultation meetings:
Scarborough - Monday, November 7, Warden Hilltop Community Centre, 25 Mendelssohn St.
North York - Wednesday, November 16, Mitchell Field Community Centre, 89 Church Ave.
Toronto East York - Thursday, November 24, Wellesley Community Centre, 495 Sherbourne St.
Etobicoke York - Thursday, December 1, Amesbury Community Centre, 1507 Lawrence Ave. W.
The public can also provide feedback about parks services through an online survey, launched today at
http://www.toronto.ca/parks/parksplan.

For more information about the public survey or to participate in a public consultation session about the new Parks Plan, visit
http://www.toronto.ca/parks/parksplan  or contact 311.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. Toronto's government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

NOV 16 - HUMBER COLLEGE (LAKESHORE CAMPUS) CONSULTS WITH COMMUNITY



PARK ISSUES UPDATE

South Parking lot - Councillor Grimes has requested staff work with the Toronto Parking Authority to implement 2 hour limited parking during school hours, as soon as possible.
 
Stormwater Management - The next public meeting for the Etobicoke Waterfront Stormwater Facility Study will be in January 2012 at the Assembly Hall, but a firm date has not yet been set. The team is still compiling results from their modelling studies and public comments. At the January meeting their recommended solution will be presented, but it is not set in stone - they will still be accepting feedback at that time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

UPDATE ON TCDSB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PLAN


From a recent report to the Lakeshore Grounds Coordinating Committee.
The Board has a 99 year lease on a site fronting on Lakeshore Blvd. on the west side of Col. Sam Smith Drive.    Ministry funding for a new school has been approved.   Christ the King and St. Teresa’s Schools are to be merged and the new school will accommodate 530-550 pupils.    The hiring of architects and consultants and beginning the site plan approval process with the City has just begun.    It is unlikely that the school will be completed before September 2014 and it could well be 2015.

Christ the King has been designated an Eco-School and Principal Pillo described the many activities and initiatives that encourage environmental conservation and practices - for example there are no plastic water bottles used!     It is one of the leading schools in the City in this respect and they look forward to continuing and expanding these activities on the new site.

Maia Puccetti is an architect in charge of planning and approvals for the Board and she explained that meeting LEED construction standards was extremely difficult within the provincial funding guidelines but that the Board was committed to as green a construction process as possible.    They are involved with the Evergreen Foundation and have “greened” many existing school sites.     The Lakeshore site is small and they anticipate a 40 - 50,000 square foot school.   They typically build to two storeys but may consider three.      She identified the management of storm water as being very expensive because of new City guidelines and was aware of the proposals for daylighting the creeks on the Grounds.

There was considerable discussion about the traffic congestion at Lakeshore and Col. Sam Smith Dr. during school drop off and pick up times and the Board was urged to consider locating the elementary school drop off point on their own property rather than on Col. Sam Smith Dr.

The Board is aware of the location of the heritage orchard and the community concern about protecting it.    However Ms. Puccietti pointed out that long experience with school playgrounds has taught them that nut trees and fruit trees present problems - the nuts become weapons and the fruit trees attract bees and wasps!     They are hoping to use the land between the school property and the Lakeshore Blvd. as passive play area and it would have to be fenced.

There will be consultation with the community as the planning process proceeds and the website of the Board will provide updates.  


Saturday, October 1, 2011

SAM SMITH BIRD WALK ON SATURDAY OCT. 22 AT 9.00 AM

A great opportunity for the whole family to get out an enjoy the autumn migration in Sam Smith Park

Saturday, October 22nd 
9:00 - 11:00 am, Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Leader: Glenn Coady
Meet in the south parking lot (where the road ends) at 9:00 am

Friday, August 12, 2011

LETTER FROM FOSS TO TCDSB REF NEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Read Etobicoke Guardian article and a previous FOSS post for the announcement of the plans to build the new TCDSB elementary school "Christ the King" on the Lakeshore Grounds.  This is a letter sent today from FOSS outlining some of our members' concerns and interests.

Toronto Catholic District School Board
80 Sheppard Ave. E.
Toronto, Ontario
M2N 6E8

August 12th, 2011

Attention:      Ann Andrachuck, Trustee Etobicoke/Lakeshore, Chair, TCDSB
                    Angelo Sangiorgio, Associate Director,Planning/Facilities, TCDSB

We understand that provincial approval and funding have recently been received to construct a new elementary school on the Lakeshore Grounds and that there is a 99 year lease agreement between the TCDSB and the City of Toronto for that site.  We also understand that at the TCDSB’s upcoming August 31st meeting this project will be discussed. 

Friends of Sam Smith Park (FOSS) would like to have this letter placed on the agenda for that meeting and we also invite the Board to initiate public consultation on the placement and design of the school by holding community meetings at the earliest opportunity.

Friends of Sam Smith Park (FOSS) is a six year old group of local residents and park users dedicated to protecting, enhancing and preserving the naturalized areas of Colonel Samuel Smith Park.  We would like the opportunity to table some of our concerns and interests around the construction of the new school, particularly with regard to the environment and the preservation of the essential character of Sam Smith Park as a “nature park”.

First, we note that there are mature trees on the property and we are anxious that as many as possible be retained.  We hope that an inventory is carried out in accordance with the City's tree policy and that more trees will be replaced than need to be removed to allow for construction. 

We have waited a long time for the heritage orchard to be restored and, as it is part of the school site, we would welcome your support in persuading the City to finally take some action to provide for the protection and/or replacement of the orchard.

There is a wonderful tangle of lush flora on the site that provides wildlife habitat.  To preserve this protective cover, there needs to be as much vegetation retained as possible.   Generous, naturally landscaped setbacks from Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive and Lakeshore Boulevard would also help achieve this.

The Toronto Catholic School Board could use the construction of the new school as a catalyst to restore North Creek that runs through this section of the Hospital Grounds.   Restoration of the creek, including the planting of native species along the edges, would help re-establish this valuable riparian pathway used by birds during migration and by mammals as a movement corridor in the park.  Storm water run-off from any paved surfaces on the school site could be channeled through the creek to help maintain water levels.

Given the nature of the site and Sam Smith Park in general with its shoreline, wetlands, meadow and woodland supporting a magnificent web of life and a diversity of environments that provide food, habitat and protection for the many species of birds, animals and plants that call it home, we anticipate that environmental programmes will be emphasized in the school’s curriculum.

We also trust that the architects and designers will adhere completely to the lease agreement in terms of shared parking.  Underground parking might be included in the design to reduce the size of the asphalt footprint.  Or, failing that, a permeable surface should be considered if outdoor parking is necessary.

We assume that the Board will adhere to all the Urban Design guidelines adopted in 2004 and to the conditions outlined in the lease with the City with respect to no fencing other than for the kindergarten playground.

We are delighted that Christ the King has been designated an ECO school and hope that the new school will be built to LEED standards. 

We were wondering whether a representative of the Board will be attending the next meeting of the Lakeshore Grounds Coordinating Committee so that the other tenants of the Grounds can be advised of the Board's plans.  Information about this committee can be obtained from the local Councillor’s office.

We look forward to any opportunity to work with you.

Yours sincerely

Terry Smith
Acting Chair 
Friends of Sam Smith Park

Thursday, August 4, 2011

NESTING BOXES

The tree swallow nesting boxes built by FOSS members and participants at the last two Sam Smith Bird Festivals have been well used this year.
(Thanks to George Raikou for this wonderful photograph.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

RED NECKED GREBES HAVE EGGS!

Photo by George Raikou
The nesting platform closest to the beaver lodge is occupied by grebes and there are now two eggs! Hopefully they will be successful this year.




Red-necked Grebes typically build their nests in shallow water with marsh vegetation. Both male and female help build a floating nest made of plant material and anchored to emergent vegetation. The female lays two to four eggs. The young are fed by both parents and often ride on their backs. Shortly after hatching, they can swim by themselves.

The Toronto Region Conservation Authority has been placing nesting platforms at Sam Smith for the past few years in an attempt to encourage these birds to breed here.  There are breeding pairs successfully established in Bronte harbour.


The map shows that we are at the extreme eastern edge of their breeding territory.




CONSERVATION AUTHORITY FAMILY NATURE EVENTS


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FOSS MEMBER WINS ETOBICOKE GUARDIAN "URBAN HERO" AWARD

Last night, the Etobicoke Guardian awarded the "Urban Hero" award for the Environment to Terry Smith, a founding member of Friends of Sam Smith Park.
In a quote from the Guardian article, Terry affirms a conviction of his and, in a way, restates one of the core guiding principles for FOSS ...........

"The more high tech and built-up our city becomes, the more we need the restorative power of nature for our physical and mental well-being," said Smith, who works with Friends of Sam Smith Park, the Lakeshore Planning Council and Good Air, Safe Power (GASP). "Our communities and parks need lots of quiet natural spaces where we can see wildlife, where we can escape from the pressure, the rush and the concrete."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

PLANTING NATIVE GRASSES IN PARK

Indian Grass
On Saturday, members from FOSS (Friends of Sam Smith Park), LEGS (Lakeshore Environmental Gardners) and CCFEW (Citizens Concerned for the Etobicoke Waterfront) planted Ontario prairie grasses around the skating trail.  Species included Indian Grass, Maiden Grass and Switchback.  These are all native, extremely hardy, colourful in late Summer and hosts to butterflies and other insects.  Some wildflowers were also planted in what remains of the meadow.

Friday, June 24, 2011

NEW CATHOLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL A GO

The "Guardian" is reporting that the province has approved $10.25 million for the new elementary school on the Lakeshore Grounds (south west corner Lakeshore and Kipling).   Architects will be appointed at the August Board meeting and they expect construction to be completed in less than 3 years.   It will be for 536 pupils.  The building will have three stories and have approximately 40 ground level parking spots.  The plan says that there will be “proposed orchard rejuvenation with new specimens” south of the school.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SATURDAY - NATIVE SPECIES PLANTING AROUND SKATING TRAIL

Please join us for a planting of native species around the skating trail.  We need lots of volunteers to help naturalize this area.
The skate trail planting is this coming Saturday (June 25), from 10-12.  Janette Harvey from the City will be bringing gloves (although feel free to bring your own gardening gloves if you prefer), trowels, and all the plants.  The event runs rain or shine (with the exception of lightening/thunder), so everyone should come prepared with rain gear or sunscreen and hat depending on the weather.
We'll be planting according to the landscape plan for the skate trail area and Janette will also bring additional native wildflowers and grasses for the adjacent areas.  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

KITE FLYING IN TORONTO'S PARKS


Kite flying in Toronto parks is currently being dealt with by Toronto City Council.
In order to ensure the health and safety of park users, staff, and wildlife in City parks, the Parks and Environment Committee recommends that…:
  • City Council prohibit kites with strings made out of hazardous materials in City parks.
  • City Council authorize competitive kite flying activities in City parks through the Parks, Forestry and Recreation permit process.
  • City Council prohibit competitive kite flying in parks that have significant bird activity.
This motion passed at the parks committee and now goes on to city council.
For a background to this issue, read this Globe and Mail article and the City’s own report.
Friends of Sam Smith has requested that Sam Smith Park be designated a “park that has significant bird activity”.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ART AND PHOTOGRAHY SESSIONS IN THE PARK START NEXT TUESDAY

Art in the Park sessions will start next Tuesday. June 7th. Meet in the parking lot around 9:00 a.m.  Everyone is welcome.  Please bring your own art materials.
 

We're also going to try a photography workshop on the 14th starting at 7:00 pm - again meeting in the south parking lot area.


Questions?  E-mail Don McClement or call him at 416 259 5856.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

BIRD FESTIVAL



Yesterday’s Spring Bird Festival was a tremendous success. The weather cooperated once the morning fog lifted and the rain overnight ensured there were lots of interesting warblers still resting and feeding in the park for us all to enjoy. The CCFEW bird walks yielded many varieties.
 
The Art, Photography and Nesting Box Building booths run by Friends of Sam Smith Park were well attended.  Eager children constructed twenty-five tree swallow boxes and these will be installed on the Toronto Islands. Thanks to John Hayes from the High Park Nature Centre for teaching the children all about the need to provide nesting boxes to tree-cavity nesters who have fewer old trees to use in urban areas as well as helping them to build them.
A wonderful collage of children’s nature paintings was created by the youngsters with help from Don and Donna-Marie and this will be on display soon at Birds and Beans cafĂ© in Mimico.
George Raikou and the other photographers showed their work and offered tips on taking successful nature shots.
Much appreciation must be given to the staff at City Parks and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority for all their hard work.  This second annual Sam Smith Park Spring Bird Festival establishes our park as the best nature park to visit in the west end of the city.

Friday, May 27, 2011

HOW TO MAKE A SWALLOW NESTING BOX

If you and your kids made a nesting box at the Bird Festival for installation on the Toronto Islands, you may want to make one at home for your garden or country property.

Boxes are easily made from a 6' X 6" X 1" pressure treated board ($3 at Home Depot) and construction plans are available at http://www.coveside.biz/tree-swallow-house-plans.htm The clean-out side panel should be secured with a small screw to deter vandalism. Boxes should be placed facing any direction other than north and at about five feet. This would make a great school or interest project to do with your kids.
Nesting boxes need to be cleaned out and sterilized with a white vinegar/water spray before every season.

A nesting box with these dimensions and this sized entrance hole is good for tree swallows, song and house sparrows and, if you're lucky, maybe even a Bluebird!.

Monday, May 23, 2011

SATURDAY, MAY 28 - SAM SMITH SPRING BIRD FESTIVAL.



WHIMBRELS!

The Toronto Ornithological Club is again co-operating with the Center for
Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary/Virginia Commonwealth University, in monitoring the Whimbrel migration observed during the period of May 19 to May 30 at Col. Sam Smith Park.
Daily observations are conducted during that time period from 6.00 a.m. on at the South Peninsula of the Park. 
Peak migration dates are May 24 and 25 with peak hours expected at 06:00 and 08:00 EDST.  Hopefully there will be some stragglers still to be observed at the Bird Festival on May 28th.

The migration progress of individual Whimbrels with satellite transmitters can be followed on 'tracking@seaturtle.org' and http://wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?project_id=369

Sunday, May 8, 2011

THE BIRDERS ARE BACK!

Spring migration is well under way.  Songbirds, including the beautiful, brightly coloured woodland warblers, are turning up in significant numbers.
Birders can be seen every morning prowling the osier dogwoods near last Saturday's planting, the spruce grove along North Creek near the Power House and the north swale.  These are favoured spots for viewing warblers.
Green, natural space along the Lake Ontario north shore, like we have at Sam Smith, is vital to these long distance travelers for feeding and resting up after their nighttime lake crossing on their way from the tropics to the boreal forest to breeds.

Here is a report from Wayne Renaud, a local birder.  He listed on Ontbirds, a subscription bird alert website, the birds he observed yesterday in the park.

Blackburnian Warbler
Jerry Lewchyschyn, Brian Tannahill and I spent 3 hours this morning starting at 7:00 am birding the park and adjacent Humber Lakeshore College campus.  Warblers: Yellow-rumped (45); Palm (17); Black-and-white (12); Black-throated Blue (10); Magnolia (8); Black-throated Green (5); Nashville (3); Yellow (3);  Chestnut-sided (2); singles of Cape May, Blackburnian, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart and Ovenbird.  Other notables: 1 Eastern Towhee; 3 Field Sparrows; 1 Swainson's Thrush; 1 Veery; 5 Hermit Thrush; 3 White-crowned Sparrows; 8 Chimney Swifts; 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks; 2 Great-crested Flycatchers; 1 Least Flycatcher; 1 Blue-headed Vireo; 1 Warbling Vireo.  On and off the Peninsula: 2 Spotted Sandpipers, 4 Lesser Scaup; 4 Greater Scaup; 10 Long-tailed Duck; 7 Red-necked Grebe; 1 Horned Grebe; 1 White-winged Scoter. 18 Red-breasted Merganser; 4 Gadwall; 7 Mallard; 1 Blue-winged Teal. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

LAST SATURDAY'S WILDLIFE HABITAT ENHANCEMENT

The planting organized by Trees Across Toronto last Saturday was a resounding success.  Well over a hundred volunteers turned up to plant 800 trees and shrubs, all in the space of about two hours.  It was muddy, soggy and hard work but the cheerful volunteers "stuck" (literally!) at it until the job was done.  Special thanks to a large enthusiastic group from a north Toronto temple, all followers of the late Indian guru Sai Baba, a proponent of doing karmic service for the community.
The plantings will enlarge and enhance the Osier Dogwood area to the east of the sports oval that has become, over time, a significant wildlife corridor and birding hotspot in our park.
Below are photographs and a list of the species that were planted..
(One photograph shows a brave Killdeer sitting on its nest while all this activity was taking place around it.  Can you spot it?)