Category Archives: Nature Walk Reports

Then and Now / Marie Curtis Park: December 3, 2018

I went early this morning to take photos of various plants from the large fields at Marie Curtis Park. First you will see a photo of the species from its flowering days and then a photo of the species as it looks today in early December.

Hedge Parsley

Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica)

Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica)

Queen-Anne’s-lace

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Pale-leaved Sunflower

Pale-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)

Pale-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus

Flat-topped Goldenrod

Flat-topped Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia)

Flat-topped Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia)

White Sweet-clover

White Sweet-Clover (Melilotus albus)

White Sweet-clover (Melilotus albus)

Spotted Knapweed

Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe)

Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe)

Chicory

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Canada Goldenrod

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

New England Aster

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliea)

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliea)

Some views of the park as it looked on this 2 degree, windy and overcast morning:

Our most interesting bird was a Common Loon. These are usually seen during migration far out in the lake, not in shallow Etobicoke Creek as this one was:

Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loon

In addition, a distant Raven flew by giving its famous “croak”.

Common Raven silhouette

Here is another species which I seldom see at this park:

Red-bellied Woodpecker

and of course many Mallards are settling in for the winter here:

Mlallard (female)

Species list: common loon, mallard, American black duck, common goldeneye, ring-billed gull, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, American crow, common raven,  black-capped chickadee, hermit thrush, house sparrow, northern cardinal, American goldfinch.  (15 species)
Miles Hearn
                                  WINTER POETRY
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway–
Thanksgiving comes again!
– Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

A Lilac Bud Mystery / Ashbridge’s Bay: December 1, 2018

Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

When most of the leaves have fallen from shrubs and trees, I find it fascinating examining twigs and buds. This website even has a section called Winter Buds where I show photos of the buds from over 125 species.

Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

The lilac bud always remind me of the “peace sign” from the 1960’s.

Over the past few winters, I have noticed something peculiar about Lilac buds.

Sometimes they are green:

Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

and sometimes they are brown:

Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

The brown buds have exactly the same structure as the green buds.

Why are some lilac buds green and others brown? It’s a mystery.

Sometimes you find the two in the same branches:

Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Another Lilac species, Japanese lilac,  is also found in Toronto, but the angle between the buds is quite different than the angle found with Common Lilac.

Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata)

Some views of the park on this 3 degree, overcast morning:

Despite the calm waters, we did not see many ducks. I did enjoy this view of a Mallard swimming next to a “bib” (hybrid) duck:

Mallard with “bib” (hybrid) duck

Mallard with “bib” (hybrid) duck

As usual, the chickadees approached us for food:

 

Species list:  mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, American black duck, gadwall, bufflehead, long-tailed duck, red-breasted merganser, ring-billed gull, hairy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, dark-eyed junco.  (14 species)
Miles Hearn
                                           NATURE POETRY
Bring forth the harp, and let us sweep its fullest, loudest string.
The bee below, the bird above, are teaching us to sing
A song for merry harvest; and the one who will not bear
His grateful part partakes a boon he ill deserves to share.
– Eliza Cook (1818–89)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lot of Gall / Bluffs: November 30, 2018

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Pine Cone Willow Gall

These growths, which resemble pine cones, are often found on willows.

Pine Cone Willow Galls

Galls develop during the growing season and are typically found in the terminal buds of willows.

Pine Cone Willow Galls

Here is a terminal bud without a gall:

Galls provide food and shelter for the organisms living within them.

Pine Cone Willow Galls

A gall midge (Rhabdophaga strobiloides) causes the willow bud to develop abnormally.

The growth that we see on some willows is called “pine cone willow gall” and is the temporary home and food supply of the midge.

Midges

At certain times of the year, there are countless midges in the air at places like Col Sam Smith Park.

Midges caught in spider web

Salix eriocephala, which is commonly called Heart-leaved Willow or Missouri Willow, is always laden with galls and can be identified by this characteristic.

Pine Cone Willow Gall

Here is the interior of a gall:

Pine Cone Willow Gall

Some views of the Bluffs on this 0 degree morning with light snow falling:

There were few birds except in the duck pond and at the feeding rock:

American Black Duck

Herring Gull

Trumpeter Swan

feet of Trumpeter Swan

Dark-eyed Junco (male)

Song Sparrow

Downy Woodpecker (male)

Northern Cardinal (male)

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Species list: trumpeter swan, Canada goose, mallard, American black duck, bufflehead, long-tailed duck, herring gull, ring-billed gull, mourning dove, rock pigeon, downy woodpecker, blue jay, American crow, common raven,  white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, house sparrow, northern cardinal, house sparrow, dark-eyed junco, American tree sparrow, song sparrow (22 species)
Miles Hearn
                                               NATURE POETRY
In the cloud-grey mornings
I heard the herons flying;
And when I came into my garden,
My silken outer-garment
Trailed over withered leaves.
A dried leaf crumbles at a touch,
But I have seen many Autumns
With herons blowing like smoke
Across the sky.
  – Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

 

 

The “Onion Dome” Bud / Humber Bay: November 29, 2018

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As I pointed out in a recent post, Viburnum buds are highly unusual in form.

Here is the “bunny rabbit” bud of the Wayfaring Tree:

Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana)

Its cousin, the Nannyberry also has a uniquely-shaped bud:

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

These buds remind me of Russian “onion dome” church spires:

Moscow church (wikipedia)

The Nannyberry, also called Sweet Viburnum, has a lovely flower in spring:

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

These flowers eventually become fruit:

Nannyberry (viburnum lentago)

Goats enjoy them which led to the common name “nannyberry”.

Here is another look at the bud:

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

Some images from this 2 degree, overcast morning:

Some of the birds that I was able to photograph:

Red-necked Grebe

Hooded Merganser (male)

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Lesser Scaup

Buffleheads

American Wigeon

Mallard (female)

Common Goldeneye (male)

Red-breasted Merganser (male)

Long-tailed Ducks (male)

Species list: red-necked grebe, great blue heron, mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, gadwall, American black duck, American wigeon, bufflehead, lesser scaup, long-tailed duck, common goldeneye, hooded merganser, red-breasted merganser, herring gull, ring-billed gull, rock pigeon, black-capped chickadee, ruby-crowned kinglet, golden-crowned kinglet,  house sparrow, northern cardinal..  (22 species)

Miles Hearn

                                                  NATURE POETRY

Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.

– Edward Hirsch (b. 1950)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berries white? Quick take flight! / Marie Curtis Park: November 28, 2018

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR WINTER WALKS at http://www.learn4life.ca / discover the outdoors

I will be continuing to post regularly throughout the winter.

 

Ever since I got a bad case of Poison Ivy rash on my legs as a child, I have been fascinated by this plant. Whenever we see it during our walks, I always point it out.

There is a nice patch (who else would use the word “nice” with Poison Ivy?} at Marie Curtis Park and I have often photographed the leaves:

Poison Ivy (Taxicodendron rydbergii)

the leaves in fall:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

the flowers:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

the berries:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

the stalks:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

and the buds:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

Here are some berry photos from this morning:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

A few rhymes which help to identify and avoid touching this plant:

Leaves of three, let it be

Leaves of three, quickly flee

Berries white, run in fright

Berries white, quick take flight

All parts of the plant contain the irritant urushiol and both the stem and fruit carry on their poisonous ways long after the leaves have fallen to earth. Eating these berries can be a lethal experience for a human being.

Here are some photos the park on this 0 degree, windy and overcast morning:

As usual, we took a little side trip to see the Shagbark Hickory:

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Here are close-up looks at two of the birds from this morning:

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Thanks to Eugene who got this photo of a Muskrat:

Muskrat

Species list: Canada goose, mallard, American black duck, bufflehead, common goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, red-tailed hawk, ring-billed gull, hairy woodpecker, brown creeper, blue jay, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, hermit thrush, northern cardinal, American goldfinch.  (16 species)
Miles Hearn
                                                 NATURE POETRY
Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests.
  – Helen Hunt Jackson (1930–85)

Sweet or Sour? / Col Sam Smith Park: November 27, 2018

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This park has a very distinctive cherry tree which still is full of berries. A flock of about 6 robins have taken notice:

American Robin

After consulting various tree guides, it is clear that the tree is either a Sweet Cherry or a Sour Cherry. Both are Eurasian species which have naturalized in clearings, fencerows, roadsides, thickets and borders of forest.

 

There are several ways of telling them apart.

The leaves of Sweet Cherry are gland-tipped and hairy beneath the vein axils.

The magnifying glass tells me that these leaves demonstrate neither of these characteristics.

The buds of Sweet Cherry are shiny light brown while the buds of Sour Cherry are shiny reddish-brown.

Reddish-brown it is, so this is a Sour Cherry tree.

Of course,I could have saved myself all of this research. One of our walkers tasted one a few weeks ago. His decision? Sour to be sure!!

Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)

Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)

Here are some photos from the park on this 1 degree, overcast and very windy morning:

A few American Pipits are still present though they are devilishly difficult to get good photos of:

American Pipit

American Pipit

American Pipit

American Pipit

We had a good look at this perched raptor who appears to have just bathed:

Red-tailed Hawk

and some ducks far out in the lake:

Red-breasted Merganser (male)

Bufflehead (female)

Bufflehead (female and male)

and Red-necked Grebes who, to me, resemble curling rocks when they sleep:

Red-necked Grebes

Miles Hearn

NATURE POETRY

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.

– Robert Frost (1874–1963)

 

 

 

High ISO / Ashbridge’s Bay: November 26, 2018

If you take a lot of photos, you probably know all about ISO (which stands for International Organization of Standardization which the main governing body that standardizes sensitivity ratings for camera sensors).

The general rule is to keep your ISO at around 100. As you climb up and up (and my camera goes to 12,800), your images get grainier and grainier. Photographers call this “noise”.

Because the light was so dim this morning, I had to shoot at very high ISO’s. A challenge and you will be able to see the “noise”.

Here are some views of Ashbridge’s Bay in the rain:

Some of the plants:

Great Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Red Oak leaves (Quercus rubra)

a Norway Maple bud (Acer platanoides)

Queen-Anne’s-lace (Daucus carota)

A few birds were close enough to be photographed:

Mallard (female)

Mallard (male)

Ring-billed Gull

and, as usual, the hungry (and soggy) chickadees made a pleasing appearance:

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadees

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

The question likely will occur to you. Did anyone show up on this rainy, windy morning or will I be posting a “selfie”?

Miles Hearn

                                              NATURE POETRY

The Old Apple Tree

The sentinel of the winter

When snow falls all around,

She stands in haunted silence

Her cold feet in the ground.

 

When spring comes she will blossom

Her perfume fills the air

A wondrous gift for all to see

For everyone to share.

 

At harvest time, the apples red

We pick them all with care.

She proudly gives us all she has

Her bounty she must share.

 

In summer, winter, spring and fall

And weather dark and clear

It matters not, the apple tree

Stands guard throughout the year.

– Brian Whitefield (1949- ) written in Grade 9

Brian is second from the right in the above photo.