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Nature Walk – Marie Curtis Park

Today’s nature walk with Miles Hearn took place close to home at Marie Curtis Park. This is our final walk of 2018 in this series of nature walks. More walks will take place beginning in mid-January. Meanwhile I plan to do other walks on my own and possibly also with Toronto Field Naturalists, a group I recently joined.

Lake Ontario

It was very cold when I arrived at the park but the temperature rose during the walk and it became quite comfortable. I was ready for the cold though, with long-johns, thermal socks and a mackinaw under my warm jacket.

Marie Curtis Park contains hidden treasures. When you enter the park and cross Etobicoke Creek, the amount of forest trails is not obvious. Beyond the forest, there is access to large meadow with an old water tower and some ponds.

We started along the creek, which is home to a variety of ducks and many gulls at the mouth.


Ring-billed Gull

Gulls overlooking the lake

The highlight of today’s walk was a fairly close sighting of a Red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk

Isn’t that a spectacular bird? There were also some chickadees around, and cardinals and we heard, then saw a Hairy woodpecker.

Adjacent to Marie Curtis Park are the Arsenal lands. This is a 15.7 acre property. The water tower is part of the original complex, which included a WWII small arms factory and rifle range. When you hike in there, you come across some strange wooden structures.


I’ve learned these are sound baffles which were erected to mitigate the noise from the old rifle range. There are some lovely ponds in there.

In one of the ponds we spotted a muskrat.

If you walk along the bike path which runs through the Arsenal Lands, you can see a great deal of invasive Japanese knotweed on both sides.

Mile-a-minute on both sides of the path

This plant is an annual and grows very fast. No wonder it is also known as Mile-a-minute. If you look closely at Japanese knotweed this time of year, you can see little dart-shaped items, which are the fruit of the plant.

Japanese knotweed or Mile-a-minute fruit

The colour highlight of today’s walk was a High-bush cranberry along the bike path.

Highbush cranberry

More fantastic red can be found on the Sweet briar rosehips.

Sweet briar

This is a great time of year to look at buds. Here is the Missouri willow.

Missouri Willow

And here are some Silver maple buds.

Silver maple buds

We have several varieties of oak in Ontario. Each have distinctive leaves. Here is a typical Swamp white oak leaf, still on the tree at the end of November.

Teasel is a plant we see on most of the nature walks throughout the season. It looks lovely with a bit of snow.


Another plant we see all season is poison ivy. Right now though, the tell-tale three leaf configuration is absent. You can still identify this plant by the berries. Beware – the leaves may be gone but this plant can still cause nasty reactions. Look but don’t touch.

Poison ivy berries

The most unique tree in the woods at Marie Curtis and the Arsenal Lands is the Shagbark hickory. In summer it is difficult to get close to this tree because it is surrounded by thorny blackberries. This time of year betting around through that brush is much easier.

1 Comment so far

  1. Lovely trail which we have cycled on countless times to the Rhododendron Gardens or elsewhere…or when we cycle from Burlington (GO train to get there) home to TO…I enjoy your nature updates–and yes it was cold out there today!!

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