Friday, October 27, 2017


This "red" squirrel was recently photographed by Eva Maar Thresher near the bridge on North Creek, just north of the spruce grove across the path from the Power House.

Eva contacted Ontario Nature for help with the I.D.

Here is what she was told ......

"In fact this is not a Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus Hudsonicus), which are indeed smaller and have more orange and grey fur, as well as a white eye ring. 

This is an unusual red variation of a gray squirrel.

Gray squirrels have some colour variability, for instance the black squirrels you see are actually black-furred gray squirrels and you may have heard of white squirrels sighted at Trinity Bellwoods Park, also gray squirrels, or you might have also seen black squirrels with white-tipped tails, yet again also gray squirrels. The photo you took shows a rare occurrence of a rather red-furred gray squirrel."


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Changing Seasons in the Park: Summer to Fall, by Nancy Barrett

American Goldfinch with thistle seed, late August.
Although Spring’s explosion of greenery after a long winter, the return of songbirds, and the promise of new life makes it my favourite season, the transition into Autumn runs a very close second.  From August through November, growth cycles may be winding down, leaves are falling, and many birds desert us for the warmer south, but there is still much to see and experience at Colonel Samuel Smith Park.  I’ve captured some of my favourite images during this season, and would like you to join me on a visual journey, with images gathered from my visits to the park over the years.
Early autumn meadow

This truly is a season of change…suddenly, large swaths of meadow turn bright yellow with goldenrod and counterpointed by the mauves of the asters.  The greens of summer are accented with the bright tones of butterflies and the reds of staghorn sumac.  There is no subtlety to the colours of autumn, making it hard to be sad about summer’s departure. These wildflowers, plants, and shrubs are among those inextricably connected with two important migrations that take place at this time:  Those of birds and Monarch butterflies. This time we’ll talk about the many birds that use the different habitats at Colonel Samuel Smith Park as a stopover to feed and rest, as well as some of the park’s resident species.

There is a “winding down” feeling, what with the frantic business of constructing nests, incubating eggs, and feeding young finally ending.  Birds who breed in the park, like the Red-necked Grebes, are usually feeding large chicks and have abandoned their nesting platforms in the harbour–which are then immediately taken over by cormorants as roosting rafts.  I have come across grebes with downy chicks in September; these little ones have to grow quickly before it’s time to leave in late fall.

  Above, a Red-necked Grebe family in September; below, a still-stripey juvenile being fed

Many species of birds that breed as far north as the Arctic circle follow the same routes south each late summer and autumn, following food sources and weather patterns.  The pure insectivores (swallows, swifts) are among the first to leave, followed by thrushes, warblers, vireos, flycatchers, hummingbirds, sparrows, creepers, and kinglets.  Some species that usually eat insects adapt to consuming berries or seeds; they need as much nutritious food as possible to survive their long journey.
Palm Warbler
Many young birds are still trying to grow quickly enough to be able to escape the cold winter weather; young goldfinches and cardinals are often heard into October, still begging for food from their parents. Juvenile raptors (hawks, falcons) and fish-eating waterbirds (herons, egrets, cormorants) are still learning to hone their hunting skills.  Quite a few warblers and vireos moult into drab winter plumage, making field identification difficult, and immature birds can add even more confusion.
Bay-breasted Warbler, September

Blue-headed Vireo, October

Immature Common Yellowthroat, September

Fall migration for many songbirds lasts longer but is more “stretched-out” than it is in spring, beginning in August but lasting to late October.  Yet on favourable days with SE tailwinds, the trees and shrubs can seem to be swarming with different species, similar to spring.  Late-departing Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets dart around, making their distinctive three-note, reedy calls.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Winter Wren

Migrating sparrows of different species will mix together and the underbrush can seem alive with them.  On warm fall days, male White-throated Sparrows will occasionally sing their spring song; chickadees, cardinals and robins do the same.

White-throated Sparrow, November
Swamp Sparrow, October
Immature White-crowned Sparrow, October

American Goldfinches nest late in the park and surrounding areas, ensuring that there will be an abundance of thistle and milkweed seeds for both nesting material and to feed their young.  Rather than migrating far south, goldfinches move southward where the average January temperature is no less than -17C.

Immature American Goldfinch feeding on 
Spotted Knapweed, August

Every fall, in early October, American Pipits stop by along the rocky outcroppings in the park to pick around for insects and seeds.  They’re returning from the high tundra, where they breed in summer.

American Pipit

Even though the park doesn’t have the best shorebird habitat, some migrants still stop in along the beaches to rest and feed in the fall.

This Greater Yellowlegs was catching small fish in the pond in early November

A single Sanderling on the beach in September

Double-crested Cormorants begin leaving, and diving and dabbling ducks and other waterbirds begin to move through.  Diving ducks can form huge staging flocks just offshore, and take advantage of the good feeding in the harbour and the pond.

Double-crested Cormorant in the mist
American Coot with maple leaf
Northern Shoveler drake
Northern Shoveler drake
A drake Hooded Merganser catches a hefty fish. November
Great Blue Heron
A female Belted Kingfisher watches the pond for her next meal
This usually shy Adult Black-crowned Night Heron was patiently waiting for a fish just off the observation platform

Sometimes, the internal navigational wiring is faulty, and some birds wander far from their usual home ranges; sometimes, high winds from hurricanes in the southeast will blow rare and unusual species off course and into our back yard.  Col. Samuel Smith Park is no stranger to visits from rare birds; birders and photographers will often travel far to see them and add them to their life lists.

This Cattle Egret, native to southern US states, Central and South America, turned up in fall last year and remaining for weeks, happily eating grasshoppers and fishing
This immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron, a rare visitor from the south-central U.S., attracted lots of birders in late August and September 2014

Not a rarity but rarely seen due to their secretive habits, usually hidden behind tall wetland reeds, Least Bitterns have been recorded in late summer/fall for several years now.

A juvenile Least Bittern, October 2014
This is an adult Least Bittern that was seen in the same area one year later.

Nesting near or in the park and always watching with sharp eyes are the avian apex predators such as Peregrine Falcons and Cooper’s Hawks, looking for careless birds.  Occasionally, migrating Ospreys stop by for a quick seafood meal. 

This Peregrine Falcon was enjoying a bath in early November during a break from hunting. This is “Lucky”, who rules the roost at the Islington and Bloor nest site
This Osprey made a successful catch in the yacht harbour
Adult Cooper’s Hawk, November
Green Heron fishing on a foggy morning

Join me next time for an article on the great Monarch butterfly migration in Col. Sam Smith Park and more.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Recent report from local resident, Ian MacEachern, on lighting problems in and around Sam Smith Park.  This report, dated October 23rd, was sent to City Parks, Humber College, the TCDSB, TRCA, and Toronto Hydro.

To whom it may concern,

I wish to draw your attention to light and safety issues for night travelers on public walkways, paths, parking lots and roadways on City or School Board(s) properties on or surrounding Humber College campus and Colonel Samuel Smith Park and Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive.

On the evening of October 20, I counted over 35 burned out or flickering street, path, parking lot lights on or abutting City of Toronto property (Parks, Public Works, TTC, Parking Authority) or TRCA, Humber College, TCDSB and/or TDSB properties. Below is a summary:

• 2 pole lights out in the Toronto Parking Authority lot at Power plant;
• 2 pole lights out in Toronto Parking Authority lot at bottom of Colonel Samuel Smith Drive;
• 5 pole lights out on path from Colonel Smith Drive to bottom of 23rd Street;
• 2 path lights out east of Lakshore Yacht Club towards point along promenade;  
• 21 lights out on both sides Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive from Kipling Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard to bottom of Colonel Samual Smith Park Drive - street lights and decorative lighting on TDSB and or TCDSB property and adhjoining mutiple TTC stops; 
• 4 lights on north and south side of Lakeshore Boulevard West from 23rd Street to 13th Street.
• Note that the lighting for the skating area was not in my count.

Many of these foot and vehicle traffic areas are already under illuminated even when the lights are functioning - and, I wager, fall well below the City’s own street lighting safety standards.   

My concerns about lighting safety in this area are not new.  All but one of the 10 or so decorative lights on the west side of Colonel Samual Smith Drive from Kipling to the Father Redmond property, installed at condiserable public expense, have been out for a number of years and reported several times by me to Toronto Hydro, 311, TCDSB, TTC and Parks – some (TCDSB) never bothered to acknowledge and others indicated that the lights, while in the public right-of-way were not their concern or that the problem was being worked on.  Several of the street and path lights on the east side of Colonel Sam Smith Park Drive - alongside the Assembly Hall, Tim Hortons, TTC stops and the HC securty office - have also been burned out for some time.  

I wrote to Humber College President’s office in 2010 with simialr concerns suggesting that HC lead (along 22 Division, Toronto Hydro, Parks, TPA and Water Plant) some form of annual or semi annual public lighting survey for the broader campus area to identify outages as well as areas where lighting needs to be improved for users. I even offered to volunteer to help organize. No acknowledgment or response as yet – but my offer to assist still stands.  

Reporting street light outages is normally done through Toronto Hydro.  But many of the decorative street or path lights I’ve mentioned do not fall within Toronto Hydro jursidiction and do not have numbers or identifiers, making timely repairs near impossible and discouraging reporting by regular users.  Nor is there any non-emergency, online information with basic information on how one reports outages or areas of concern or general locations within the broader HC campus area.  

My intent here is only to ensure all lights are operational but also remind Humber College and the City of Toronto and its agencies of a shared responsibility and accountability for reliable and suffient lighting levels on the abutting public properties where students and the public travel to and from classess and events.  Each light in the area bounding Lakeshore Boulevard West, 23rd Street, 13th Street and the water and can easily be identified, in order to enable reporting when a light is not working, and also be placed on a rudimentary map. The map can be placed on HC or Toronto websites or the Friends of Sam Smith Park – as long as people know and can conveniently report outages. 

All accountable and responsible agencies could be showing more leadership to provide timely responses to outages and to identify areas where lighting upgrades are needed.  I find it hard to believe that ligthing safety is not a demonstrable top-of-mind issue for agencies at this time of year for students, park goers, off leash users or LSYC members for that matter.     

Note to recipients – I could not find suitable email addresses, so please forward my concerns to appropriate officials in your agency.

Please and thank you for your attention to this matter.  I’m happy to accompany any officials on a walking audit if requested. 

Ian MacEachern


Recent correspondence between the New Toronto - Lakeshore Village Residents' Association and Mark Grimes, Councillor for Ward 6.

Monday June 19, 2017
Councillor Mark Grimes
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5H 2N2

Re: Concerns about vehicle and cyclist traffic in Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Dear Mark,

We are writing to you this morning with concerns we the New Toronto-Lakeshore Village Residents Association have regarding vehicles in Colonel Samuel Smith Park and cyclist speed in the park. 
We have witnessed and taken pictures of several vehicles driving out on the spit that juts out into the lake on the east side of the park. 
On the Victoria Day weekend a gentleman drove his Hummer to the point for a picnic with his family! We encourage the picnicking, but would like the vehicles left in the parking lot. This gentleman gained access to the park from the southeastern entrance off Lakeshore Drive. There used to be a metal pole at this entrance that would prohibit large vehicles, but was removed over a year ago now. We would like to see this post reinstalled.
The second concern we have is motorized bikes, scooters and motorcycles people are riding in the park. We would like to see clear signage informing the public that “no motorized” vehicles are allowed in the park unless the individual has mobility issues.
Thirdly we would like to see signs posted informing cyclist that the speed limit in the park is 20 km. per hour.

RE: Vehicle Traffic in CSS Park

I just wanted to provide you with a brief update regarding the concerns that you brought to the Councillor's attention about Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
The in ground bollards on either side of Colonel Samuel Smith Park off Lake Promenade and Twenty Third Street were removed in December 2016 at the request of Transportation Services to accommodate the council approved cycling infrastructure winter snow and ice clearing initiative along the waterfront trail.
Work orders have already been raised to install p-gates at both these locations which can be opened during the winter and closed the remainder of the year.
In addition "No Unauthorized Vehicles Permitted" signs were installed this morning.
Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the Councillor.

Best regards,
Daniel Fleming
Planning & Business Specialist
Office of Councillor Mark Grimes
Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore
City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, Suite C48
Toronto, ON, M5H 2N2
tel: 416-397-9273
fax: 416-397-9279

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Leader: Ross Harris
This can be a great time to see a wide variety of late fall migrants and early winter visitors. 
Note that due to activity at the yacht club there may not be any parking available in the South Lot by 9:00. There is lots of parking just up the road at the Power House.


Thankfully, no large trees fell.  Parks Forestry has recently been removing old "problem" trees that were in danger of coming down.


FOSS received a complaint about a a wheelchair getting
stuck in the metal grid surface of the new wetland lookout.

The City was contacted and the original contractor returned to adjust the platform pieces.  They also installed a few additional clamps where there are gaps to ensure that they don't get wider and to reduce the length of the gaps.

Hopefully this fixes the problem.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Summary: FOSS Steering Committee Meeting                                         
7:06PM, LAMP, 185 5th Street, Etobicoke

FOSS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: October 24, 2017, 7:00PM, LAMP (large meeting room).
a)    Volunteers needed for projects such as—2018 FOSS Photography Exhibition, May Bird Festival, and the Winter Bird Feeding Project at Colonel Sam Park.
b)   Treasurer’s Report
c)    Question and Answer Session
d)   Formation of a Steering Committee (maximum 12) for selection of an executive
e)    Slide show presentation of Sam Smith Park and its wildlife
f)     Door prize—framed nature photograph
g)   Refreshments

ASSEMBLY HALL CULTURAL DAYS (SEPTEMBER 30): FOSS volunteers will lead nature photography sessions in Colonel Sam Park and facilitate children’s bird feeder and bird nesting material projects.

SPRING BIRD FESTIVAL UPDATE: Deemed to be a great success. Thanks to all the volunteers and attendees. Large crowds. Additional exhibitors would be greatly welcomed for 2018.

INVASIVE SPECIES: FOSS Steering Committee members successfully cut and bagged most of the burdock (a weed known to be a danger to small birds as they may become captured by the sticky dried seed heads) in Colonel Sam Park. The team’s goal is to attack this plant in May 2018 when it is in flower. Additional volunteers welcome.

 DRUG/GARBAGE PROBLEMS AT COL. SAM: Discarded drug paraphernalia and litter are on-going detriments in the park, particularly in the North Creek area. Visitors are asked to notify the police at 416 808-2200 for drug infractions and 311 for trash build-up.

TWO-HOUR PARKING LIMIT ON SOUTH LOT AT COLONEL SAM: Vehicles are being marked and fines are being issued.

Sunday, October 1, 2017



Tuesday, October 24th, 2017
7.00 p.m.

Community Health Centre

185 Fifth Street, Etobicoke, ONT M8V 2Z5

FOSS President's message
Questions and Answers
Committee volunteers
Presentation by Sandra Hawkins
Door Prize
Everyone welcome


Irene Cholewka - Photography Workshop Facilitator

"I was honored to be a part of the Wild in the Park Workshops on Saturday September 30, 2017! It was lead by Nancy Barrett who was amazing, full of wonderful and helpful information and fearless!

We had 2 groups- one at 10:30 am and the 2nd at 1:30 pm. All I can say is that this was a great fun learning experience for me and I hope the attendees also got to take away some good information and helpful hints from our workshop. 

For me, my personal feeling of satisfaction of trying to help someone to achieve that special photo, with the right light, fuzzy background and subject in sharp focus is the best feeling one can have. I felt like a proud momma!

We saw everything from birds, to flowers, some autumn colors and dragonflies. We even saw a garter snake! Fearless Nancy picked up the snake so everyone could get a good look and photo of it!

This was a great experience for me, and look forward to doing it again in the future."