Category Archives: Articles

10 Early Signs of Spring in the Don Valley: April 2, 2018

Ever the optimist, I went out on March 19 hoping to find 10 early signs of spring.

The results: not one.

No singing birds and no emerging plants except for green leaves that have endured the winter for Garlic Mustard, Motherwort, Dame’s Rocket and others.

This morning I had success. Here is my list:


Some green leaves have just emerged.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)


American Robin


The buds of Honeysuckle stay hidden all through the winter and emerge in spring.

Morrow Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii)


Mallards tend to stay in largish groups during the winter but pair off and begin looking for secret nesting places in spring.


These tiny, round, green leaves are plentiful at the moment.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)


The males are starting to develop their breeding gold colours and blackish head markings.

American Goldfinch (male)


American Goldfinch (male)


The pussy willow-type flowers are now out.

Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides)


I had many singing Song Sparrows this morning.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow


It can be recognized by its boat-shaped leaf tips. Kentucky Blue Grass is famously neither blue nor from Kentucky.

Kentucky Blue Grass (Poa ptatensis)


A female is already claiming a nesting box and the male is nearby.

Wood Duck (female)

Wood Duck (male)

Wood Duck (male)

There are also a few human signs of spring.

#1 The mountain bike trails show lots of activity.

#2  I’ve got the Benjamin Britten SPRING SYMPHONY in my car CD player.

Poems with a spring theme by Spenser, Milton, Herrick, Auden, Blake and others set to music with full orchestra by one of the finest 20th century composers.

Miles Hearn







Hartlaub’s Gull: Cape Town, South Africa

The Hartlaub’s gull or King gull is a small gull. which is a non-migratory resident of the Atlantic coastline of South Africa and Namibia.

About one half of the total population, estimated at 30,000 birds, are within the greater Cape Town area.

It is a mainly white gull with a gray back and upper wings.

The black wingtips have conspicuous white “mirrors”.

The dark bill and legs are red.

The Hartlaub’s gull has accommodated well to humans and can be very tame around habitations. It is an omnivore.

The Hartlaub’s gull  is the tenth rarest of the world’s 50 or so gull species but is common in Cape Town and is regarded as a nuisance, fouling buildings, making a lot of noise and bathing in urban ponds.

The name comes from the German zoologist Gustav Hartlaub.

Miles Hearn



Coleman Park

As the father of four children, I have spent many hours in various East York parks that have playground equipment. During this year’s March break, I am going to revisit one each day and make a post of some of the nature that I find there.

Coleman is a small park containing tennis courts and playground equipment.

Here are some of the planted trees:

Kentucky Coffee Tree;


the triangular buds of Hackberry;


Norway Maple;

Norway Maple keys;


the red buds of Linden;

the seeds of Linden

Amur Maple keys;

Sugar Maple with much lichen;

Red Ash;

The green labels indicate that the tree has been sprayed to prevent Emerald Ash Borer.

White Spruce;

White Spruce cones;

White Cedar cones;

Here are some of the species occurring naturally next to the fence:

Manitoba Maple;

Manitoba Maple;

Wych Elm with its blueish bark;

a row of Manitoba Maple;

Norway Maple with its reddish buds;

the tendrils of Riverbank Grape vines.

Miles Hearn