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Chilly Nature Walk – Ashbridges Bay

Today’s nature walk with Miles Hearn was at Ashbridges Bay. This is a very popular summer spot, with a really nice beach and many beach vollyball courts. There weren’t so many people around today. Temperature hovered around the freezing point this morning but in exposed areas, the wind was biting. This was a good day to have mitts over gloves. Miles equips himself with hand-warmers, which keep his mitts toasty for hours.

The open lake was a striking deep blue this morning. We also had some great views of downtown Toronto to the west.

The plentiful chickadees didn’t mind the cold.

These delightful little birds were happy to take seeds from our hands.

I’ve been posting photos of spindle trees almost every week lately because this time of year they are in their glory. I simply can’t resist a couple more.

Aren’t they beautiful?

I thought tamarack and larch were the same thing. I learned today that they belong to the same family – Larix – but are different species. Here in the park we saw both the larger larches and the smaller tamaracks.

The photo above is a larch cone and below, tamarack cones.

Once the leaves fall, nature offers us a different look at some shrubs and trees. For instance, Miles pointed out the leaf scars on some Kentucky Coffee Trees.

It’s also time to look at tree buds. Most trees have buds which are a uniform size throughout the tree. I learned today that the cottonwood is an exception to that rule. It has buds of a variety of sizes.

Cottonwood buds

Male cardinal

This yellow lichen was very striking. We might not have noticed it with all the leaves on the trees.

The bird highlight today was a Ruby-crowned kinglet. Many times when you see these birds you differentiate them from the Golden-crowned kinglet due to the absence of a gold marking on its head. The ruby version of this bird often doesn’t show it’s red crown. On this particular bird though, the red marking on its head was quite clear.

It’s only the male who has the crown patch. This bird forages for insect eggs and larvae for a living, extracting lunch from tree bark.

There’s a little beach at Ashbridge’s Bay bordered by a beautiful large Russian olive and a Sea buckthorn.

Russian olive
 Sea buckthorn

Next week will be the last of this series of walks and it will be close to home at Marie Curtis park, which forms the boundary between Long Branch (which is part of Toronto proper) and Mississauga to the west. I’ve also signed up for a series of 6 more walks – and these will be winter nature walks – in January and February.

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