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A lovely morning at Sam Smith Park

Today’s nature walk with Miles Hearn took place close to my home – just down the street – at Col. Sam Smith Park. Although I’ve been in this park many dozens of times, it’s a fantastic place that just keeps on giving.

Chicory

Our meeting place was at the very east end of the park. I walked in from the west. As I walked by the the yacht club, a shorebird walking along the docks caught my eye, a Spotted Sandpiper.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

walnuts

When I think of birds at Sam Smith Park, the spring migration comes to mind, when we catch a glimpse of the wonderful world of the many warblers which stop on their way north. Or perhaps, the dead of winter when the basin hosts many winter ducks, and often a snowy owl who takes up residence on the docks. Still, on this beautiful July morning, Miles logged 28 different species of birds.

For me the bird highlight was seeing three Great Blue Herons at once at the pond.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
2 Great Blue Herons

If you’re ever walking along the rocks on the south edge of what we call “the spit”, which forms the yacht club basin, look down now and then. Some of the huge rocks along there hold many fossils.

Fossils

This has been a record high-water year in the Great Lakes. Here in Sam Smith Park, one of the main paths along the lake remains flooded.

Flooding

There are lots of butterflies in the park right now. Look for them around Milkweed and Canada Thistle and Knapweed.

Monarch
Red Admiral
Swallowtail

We saw a few Yellow Warblers today, some of them quite close up. They have a distinctive song. Miles translates it to English, as: cherry cherry…cherry cherry sweet.

Yellow Warbler

The other common birdsong today came from Song Sparrows. We saw them all over the park.

Song Sparrow

You can here the tikita of Goldfinch all around the park too, and every now and again you catch a look at one flying or in among the leaves on a tree.

Goldfinch
Bathing Robin

We came across bath time for robins in the park. Here’s a juvenile robin enjoying a refreshing bath in a path puddle.

Bathing Robin

In the winter, there are many, many ducks around the park. This time of year it’s mostly mallards, this time accompanied by a couple mute swans.

Usual Suspects

There were many Cormorants around. We watched long lines of them flying low to the lake. In the yacht club basin, there are some nesting platforms put out there for the Red Necked Grebes. Cormorants are interlopers on these platforms, and often disturb grebe breeding.

Cormorant on a grebe platform. The Red-Necked Grebe looks on

Queen Anne’s Lace are a common sight in the park and all over Southern Ontario. When you come across some, have a closer look. Many of the blooms we saw today had residents – soldier beetles.

Queen Anne’s Lace with resident Soldier Beetles

You can find a variety of edible berries in Sam Smith Park, including Serviceberries (Saskatoons), Highbush Cranberries, and Nannyberries (Sweet viburnum). These Nannyberries are unripe. When ripe, they are dark blue and starting to wrinkle a little. I’ve never eaten them. Apparently the best way to deal with them is to boil them down for half an hour, then remove the pits and eat the remaining slurry like a jam.

Nannyberries

Here are some of the wildflowers we saw today…

Knapweed

St. John’s Wort
Yellow Bedstraw

Viper’s Bugloss

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