Category Archives: Wildlife

One side benefit of the leash free zone.

The new leash free zone has taken some of the pressure off the wild area. The evidence for this is the fact that the old path is quite overgrown.

The old path is visible as a mild depression in the undergrowth.

There is a path there somewhere.

The lack of dogs and humans is also helpful to new plantings that are part of the rehabilitation of the former staging area. The bags at the base of some of the trees are containers which allow water to be released slowly (I always wondered). The brand name is Tree Gator.

New plantings of trees and grass. Our plentiful rainfall this summer is helping. Let’s hope winter ice is kind.

In the meantime, work continues on re-lining the sewage pipes that run along the Humber. The project has blown past its announced completion date of July 2017.

This equipment fire across the river on July 9th may not have helped the project timeline.

Construction Progress Report

Much has been going on in Raymore Park over the summer although progress on the retaining wall seems to be slow. The dog leash enclosures are partly complete but not without controversy.

  1. The retaining wall is looking quite magnificent and it looks as if it will do the job for centuries. It looks as if the wall will be curtailed, ending before its planned end-point. This is apparently because riparian rights for the end property extend to the river and the owner feels that remediation will cause further erosion.
The wall in a completed section.

The wall in a completed section.

A view of the total wall so far.

A view of the total wall so far.

2. The off leash areas.

Two areas are being built, one for smaller dogs and one for larger breeds. One section has been built (topsoil removed, drainage completed and topped with limestone chippings).

Sadly, a sanctuary for birds and small animals has been removed to create the area. It was basically a couple of trees surrounded by dense shrubs that were impenetrable to all but small animals. It was a bit of an island or small thicket in the park but it has been removed in what seems like callous disregard for wildlife. Surely there was room to place the leash free zones without destruction of a natural resource like this?  It speaks to a lack of care for the environment and a distinct lack of planning. Let’s hope there are no more unpleasant surprises from Toronto Parks who don’t own but manage Raymore Park.

The island in from Google Earth.

The shrub island (to the right of the old baseball diamond) from Google Earth.

This thicket is no more, sacrificed for the dog enclosure.

This thicket is no more, sacrificed for the dog enclosure.

The island site shortly after its removal.

The island site shortly after its destruction.

One of the dog enclosures; further north than anticipated.

One of the dog enclosures; further north than anticipated.

More fencing and drainage pipes for the next area.

More temporary fencing and drainage pipes for the next area.

 

Spring advances slowly.

An Asian ladybug checks out some fragrant Willow blossoms.

An Asian ladybug clambers over some fragrant willow flowers by the Humber in Raymore Park.

Cool weather continues to make spring a long season this year. The upside to this is the ability to watch plants come to life in slow motion.

Willow trees (Latin name, Salix) are common in Raymore Park and they are native to Canada. They love watery environments and are easily propagated. They can be seen planted throughout the park, although, like walnuts, they don’t need much encouragement. Their flowers are particularly fragrant and have a lilac type smell.

The ancient Greeks knew about the medicinal abilities of willow bark extract to cut pain and reduce a fever. Native Canadians also used it in the same way. Scientists in the 19th Century extracted a chemical, which they named salicin, from the bark and converted it to salicylic acid and later still, to acetylsalicylic acid. The drug in this form is still in wide use today and more commonly known as ASA or aspirin.

As for the Asian ladybug, this was introduced by farmers in the U.S. to fight aphids and they do that job very well. Unfortunately they are not as benign as our native ladybugs and tend to find crevices in homes as well as contaminate grapes used in wines. They have to a large extent displaced our native bug. One year at a Niagara winery I drank some red wine which was ‘flavour enhanced’ with large numbers of the creatures accidentally harvested with the grapes. They have an unforgettable and bitter taste! It didn’t seem to bother anyone else so I let it go. Canadians can be very polite and forgiving.

Wineries now take precautions not to harvest ladybugs along with their grapes.

Chapman Road Sewers set to carve up Raymore Park

Once upon a time, when infrastructure repairs were carried out in a natural setting, not much thought was given to vegetation. It was assumed that plants would take care of themselves once land was allowed to return to a natural state post-construction. Today, we are far more thoughtful and city contracts are written to specifically protect vegetation when possible and restore it if destruction is necessary.

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The sewer that runs along the Humber Creek has reached capacity and must be upgraded or ‘rehabilitated’. A stretch of vegetation has been cleared in preparation for the installation of a higher capacity sewer network that will serve residents of the area. The Chapman sanitary sewer as it is known runs from Royal York Road, roughly following the Humber Creek and crosses under Scarlett Road into Raymore Park before joining up with main sewer that runs alongside the Humber.

Amazingly, as part of the $9 million contract, every one of the hundreds of trees removed on public or private property for the project was catalogued and while only the native ones will be replaced, thousands of other native trees and shrubs will be planted. To get an idea of the modern-day eye for detail and care that will be taken, a set of plans for a small segment of the sewer can be found here.

The swath of land cleared and ready for installation of new sewer pipe and pumping station.

A swath of land between Scarlett Road and the Humber River being prepared for installation of new sewer pipe and a pumping station. Notice how rich the soil is.

The work and re-planting should be completed by next fall and the replacement native trees and vegetation will eventually make the affected land better than before it was cleared (because non-natives will not be replaced). Of course the whole point of the work will be the prevention of sewage back-up into residents’ homes as happened in July 2013. Hopefully this will allow many decades of trouble free use.

 

Great Egret takes flight.

Raymore Park has an astonishing variety of wildlife. Great Egrets are occasionally seen in the park and this one was seen taking off last month after wading through shallow waters ahead of the weir. They were nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th Century for their plumage which was used to decorate ladies’ hats. Once a purely migratory bird in southern Ontario, It is estimated that as many as a thousand breeding pairs make their home in Canada. Great Egrets are related to herons and have a similar profile. The first time I saw one in Raymore Park I thought it was an Ibis as they look so similar. The Ibis has a range much further south and is also a relative.

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Click for larger image.

Great Blue Heron sticks around.

This Great Blue Heron surely only has a few more days left in Canada as the weather gets progressively colder. The Humber is frozen in calmer spots which must make for poor fishing yet this bird didn’t want to leave the lagoon. This is the latest I have seen a Heron on the Humber.

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Slim pickings.

Lawn gods don’t ask for much.

Who knew that all you have to do to maintain a spectacular lawn is cut and aerate it. The occasional re-seeding helps too.

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This grass in Raymore Park hasn’t been treated with weed killer or insecticides in this century and is cut relatively infrequently (with a mulching mower) and aerated annually. In spite of that (or perhaps because of it) there are no bare patches, few weeds and no animal diggings for grubs. When a weed killer ban was proposed around 1999, there was a huge outcry from those who thought that weeds would replace grass in Toronto’s parks. Somehow, the chemical lawn brigade’s fears were as justified as those around computers and the Millennium.

There is a tree that leans at a jaunty angle and I confess to walking at a brisker pace when underneath it. I have the impression that the lean is increasing so perhaps this winter will be its last.

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Lastly this group of Hooded Mergansers have returned to the Humber to add an exotic air. They are quite shy but don’t seem to mind hanging around with the resident mallards.

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