Sunday, March 29, 2020


Are you amateur naturalists looking for something to occupy yourself with at home?  Try out the Field Guides website for some great podcasts on North American wildlife.

If you've been out looking for Woodcocks recently (an activity called "timberdoodlin'" in some parts of the USA), podcast #37 might hold your interest.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


The birds have started returning to the park.  Photographers and birders are once again on the move. The Swallow Field quietly waits for its cheerful occupants to noisily claim their nesting spots - the first one was spotted by Bruce this morning just off Whimbrel Point.   The miracle is happening once again.

The days are tough right now.  But the age old cycles of nature can help settle our troubled thoughts during this chaotic time. 

And the return of birds ... the best of all!

Try to get out and greet them ... but, remember to keep that safe distance from each other.

Not sure what you're looking for and how to identify them?

Birds Canada has come up with a bird guide tailored exactly to date and location based on Ebird records.  It will print a visual guide to the birds you might expect to see on any given day in Sam Smith Park (or any other location) - and it is surprisingly accurate.  Species on yesterday's list were actually there!

Here's the link and some screenshots from today's guide.  Take a break from the worries and quietly enjoy.

Also, take a moment to learn about the life histories of the species you see by visiting Cornell Labs Bird Guide.  Check out range maps to see just how far they have traveled from their wintering spots to greet you!

Monday, March 23, 2020


EARLY CALLOUT FOR ENTRIES: While you're staying safely at home and doing your part in social distancing, here's a project for you!

Start going through your nature photos that were taken in the park to enter into our contest this fall! 

Information for Exhibitors

Gallery Opening: September 10, 2020, 6-8 p.m.
Runs: September 9 through October 8, 2020

Entry Info:

  • Up to 5 images per photographer at $25 for non-FOSS members, $20 for FOSS members.
  • Submissions are due August 1, 2020 by sending JPEG files via email to  
  • Photographs must be taken at Col. Sam Smith Park.  
  • No discernible photos of people or boats will be accepted.
  • Work can be listed for sale by the artist.
  • Specs:
  • Image size 8 x 10" or larger
  • Black frames with white mats

Note from the Assembly Hall Gallery:

Use secure wire hanging system with more than one hanging point and screw eyes placed no more than 6” down from top of frame. In hanging position, the centre of the wire should be 3” from the top of the frame.
Suitable frame styles and materials: While we recognize that custom framing can be very expensive, we caution that some styles of retail frames, meant for home use only, are not suitable. Any work deemed fragile will require an additional waiver signed by the artist. Insurance is provided against vandalism, theft, fire, smoke or water damage, but not against accidental breakage of glass or damage to fragile articles. 

Please contact Nancy at with any further inquiries. 

More details to, GO!

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Toronto Parks has included work on the North Creek Wetland lookout in their 2020 budget.  Following suggestions from Friends of Sam Smith Park, the work this summer involves replacing the current metal grill with one that will make it easier for wheelchair access, walking devices and strollers etc.  The problem is that the grill spacing is too wide and small wheels get stuck.

We wish to thank our Parks partners for their quick response to the issue.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Today, FOSS volunteers Bruce, Stefan and Terry carried out the annual cleaning, sanitizing and repairing of the Tree Swallow boxes in the Swallow Field.

Some boxes “disappeared” this winter.  They will be replaced by the end of next week.  Some additional ones will be installed as well.

The birds will start arriving in the next couple of weeks.

Last year, we had a problem with non-native House Sparrows.  Box occupancy by HOSPs was higher than it had been in previous years so we employed some new strategies.  We put “scarers” (tinsel, fishing line etc.) around the entrance holes and we also numbered the boxes with yellow tags for easily shared identification when evictions were required.

We had some success, but, this year, our visit today showed that they are back in force.  Quite a large number of the boxes were already occupied and nest building had begun in some of them.

After cleaning out the boxes, we put cardboard covers over the entrance holes.
Given that HOSPs are larger, heavier and more aggressive that Tree Swallows, the thinking is that, as soon as the swallows arrive, and they arrive in large numbers at about the same time, we will remove the covers.  Hopefully, this will give the swallows a fighting chance against the sparrows who will not be defending already established nests with, quite probably, eggs in them.

It’s an experiment that may work.  We have researched this common problem extensively and discovered that there is no definitive answer.

We will monitor the situation daily.

If anyone has any T bar fence posts in
their garage that they would like to donate to increase the capacity of the Swallow Field, please contact Terry at

(By the way, the T bars in the field are almost all "wonky". The reason for this is that the soil is only a few inches deep with demolition rubble underneath.  This is a lake-fill site.  No matter how hard we try to put them in straight, metal and rock have their own way of doing things!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Alan Roy, who organizes the Sam Smith Park annual spring clean-up, has already been busy putting subtle hints around the park to remind people to turn up for the clean-up.

See you there!

Sunday, February 16, 2020


The City of Toronto is running a study to find out how the City's existing Dogs Off-Leash Areas (OLAs) accommodate an increasing human and dog population.  We want to hear what you think about the study's draft recommendations for improving existing off-leash areas.  The survey closes on February 18, 2020, so please take a few minutes now to let your opinion be known; click on the link below:


Shoreline reinforcement along the marina's eastern shore with added fill
and rocks thrown onto ice (reducing the effectiveness of the flood barrier).
Feb. 2020. 
 Photo by Brian Bailey
Many regular park users will notice how the regular cycle of water levels in Lake Ontario has changed over the last several years.  Flooding in the spring of 2019 alone altered the shoreline, in some cases drastically, and trails became impassable for months. 
The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has been deploying different tools to remediate the effects of flooding, including adding rock fill to reinforce the seawall along the marina. Similar water level fluctuations may be expected in spring 2020; we'll be monitoring to see how well the new barrier stands up.  

Spring flooding still blocked the marina's eastern trail as late as
June 2019, when this photo was taken. 
Photo by Nancy Barrett

Flooded trail, June 2019. Photo by Nancy Barrett
Find further info about this project at this link.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


Summary: FOSS Steering Committee Meeting                                         
January 27th, 2020
6:30PM, LAMP, 185 5th Street, Etobicoke

COL. SAM CLEAN UP DAY WITH ALAN ROY: April 19, 2020 (Sunday), 9am-3pm. Rain or shine. For more information, check blog or:

ANNUAL COL. SAM BIRD FESTIVAL: May 23 (Saturday). Kids’ activities. Bird walks. Nature exhibits. Check the blog and/or the following web site for details:

NEW TORONTO HOLIDAY MARKET: Deemed a great success for both kids and adults. Thanks to all who attended in spite of the wind and the rain. FOSS has been asked to participate again in 2020. FOSS hopes to expand the activities on offer. Adults particularly enjoyed making Christmas “swags”. They will definitely be available once more in 2020.

BOXING DAY BIRD COUNT: FOSS thanks all participants. For results, check the blog.

BURDOCK REMOVAL/PLANTING PROJECT: Tentatively scheduled for a weekday in June. Check the blog for updates. FOSS will work in conjunction with the TRCA. Continuing work begun in July 2019, burdock will be eradicated from Whimbrel Point. The area will then be re-planted with wildlife-friendly native plants. Volunteers are much appreciated.

APPLE ORCHARD: FOSS has indicated its concern over the status of the apple orchard and what may happen to the land  if the orchard is not maintained. Humber Lakeshore Principal (Mr. Derek Stockley) has been made aware of these concerns. He has indicated that Humber is presently consulting a landscape architect and an orchard specialist. A follow-up with the community is promised once talks with the City of Toronto have been concluded.

POLLINATOR MEADOW: Representatives from FOSS met in the park (January 27th) with city staff and four students from Fleming College in Lindsay. As part of a course project, the students will produce a Citizen Science Pollinator Monitoring Guide designed to aid interested FOSS volunteers with monitoring the success of the pollinator garden over time.

WASHROOM AVAILABILITY: Washrooms at the Ken Cox Community Centre are open to the public during the opening hours of the centre—including evenings. A sign at the bus stop indicates their location. After skating season ends, contact Mary Campbell ( 338-7027) at Councillor Grimes’ office if the washrooms at the Powerhouse are not open.

BEAVER-CUT TREES: Beavers have cut down several larger trees in Col. Sam. FOSS has learned that although TRCA will provide protective mesh, it will NOT provide the workers to install it. Such work would have to be done by volunteers.

COYOTES WITH MANGE: Three coyotes suffering from mange frequent both Col. Sam and Humber Bay Parks. The Toronto Wildlife Centre is monitoring these animals. Dog owners are advised to keep their pets on a leash. When/if possible, the coyotes will be captured and treated. These animals are extremely wary and suffer greatly from stress when captured.

VIEWING PLATFORM GRATING: The city plans to replace the grating on the viewing platform with a mesh narrow enough to safely accommodate wheel chairs/baby buggies. The work is not scheduled to take place until after the May 23rd Bird Festival.

DRUG/GARBAGE/TREE PLATFORM 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. Any problems reported to 311 are greatly strengthened when accompanied with a photo.

Friday, January 3, 2020


We would like to thank all the participants in the count for sending in their findings and several photos.

The photos are courtesy of Brian Bailey and Sandra Hawkins.

Click here to see full size PDF of results.