The last time I was at Presqu’ile Park it was a flood year and the Marsh Boardwalk, a kilometre long boardwalk and trail loop that winds its way through the extensive marsh and then back through a sandbar woods. It is a fantastically beautiful walk. I took a number of pictures, imagining a little suite of black and whites.
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The Comfort Food Diner
East End Toronto
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This morning, while drinking my morning coffee, I glimpsed an unusual bird in our big old apple tree out back. What I initially saw was a back view of a black bird with some white bits. It was around the same size or perhaps just a little smaller than the red-winged blackbirds also on the tree.
The bird flew away, and returned a moment later. This time I could clearly see the bright red breast and broad beak of the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I’ve seen these birds many times in our area but this was a first for our feeder.
Early this morning, I drove down a steep street called Beechwood in the Don Valley, past the place where they train police dogs, and parked at the bottom. I was meeting up with naturalist Miles Hearn and his crew of Saturday morning nature walkers.
For readers not from here, Toronto is a city which was built between two rivers, the Humber on the west side and the Don on the East, along the shores of Lake Ontario. If you are ever visiting Toronto during the nice weather months, I suggest renting a bike for day. You might start quite a way up on the Don, such as at Beechwood where we walked today. You could bicycle all the way down along the river to the Waterfront Trail and along Lake Ontario all the way to Port Credit and beyond. It is a fantastic way to see a different side of Toronto. You might like it so much you will want to take a bike out of the Toronto Islands and enjoy riding around there, or perhaps start along the Humber by Lambton Woods and cycle all the way down. For a big bustling city, we have plenty of natural areas and places to walk or cycle.
This section of the Don Valley was home to paper mills for 130 years until they finally closed shop in the 80s. The City demolished the old Domtar buildings and did a significant clean-up in an effort to renaturalize the area. Across the river is a woods known as Crothers Woods after the family that owned a company selling heavy equipment, headquartered at the top of the hill. My late father-in-law, George Gregory, worked at Crothers for many years. He had quite a success story with the company, starting at the bottom and working his way up to a VP role with the company. Crothers is now Toromont and now there is a Loblaws grocery story near where the Crothers building was.
Since the paper mill days, this area has been transformed into parkland with many forest trails, and an area called Cottonwood flats, which contains a fenced off area to protect nesting birds. The Toronto Field Naturalists do plant and bird surveys in this area.
There is plenty of poison ivy (as well as loads of stinging nettle) through here so I would not recommend leaving the trail if you are in sandels and shorts. Poison ivy is a curious plant. Sometimes it is green, sometimes red, sometimes shiny, sometimes with leaves with jagged edges. Sometimes it grows low to the ground and at other times it can be a vigorous bush. Be wary if you see a plant that has sets of 3 leaves hanging down. “If you see 3 you’d better flee”. I think the proverb goes something like that, and “if the berries are white, better take flight”.
May Apple grow knee-height. When there are 2 branches at the top, the plant produces a bud, or “apple”, which of course is not an apple at all. I’ve been told that black morels often fruit under May Apple. I’ve looked numerous times, though, and I can’t say I’ve found any there.
There are a few ponds near the river. Logs strewn along the shore of the ponds are good habitat for a common flycatcher called an Eastern Phoebe.
There were many yellow warblers around this morning. We could hear their calls on either side of the trail. Sweet-sweet….cherry cherry sweet. Each time, though, I would just catch a glimpse of one of them and didn’t get a chance at a good photo. Some days are like that.
This area is a good place to see Baltimore Orioles and also Orchard Orioles.
There are lots of Manitoba Maples along the river. They are quite pretty now in full flower. Manitoba Maples are also known as Box Elders. One of their most common characteristics is a tendency to grow in all directions. It’s quite common to see a large trunk growing almost parallel to the ground. In late summer, Manitoba Maples in our area are often a host for a good edible mushroom, the Hypsizygus ulmarius. This mushroom is known in some areas as the Elm Oyster, but I have never seen one growing on an elm tree. They like the soft maples best. These are very tasty mushrooms, by the way. They have a firmer texture than the super-tender Aspen Oysters (Pleurotus populinus), which we see way earlier in the season, at the beginning of June.
Both the Trout Lilies and the Trillium are in bloom now.
The Crothers Woods area of the Don Valley is a popular spot for nature hikers, bicyclists, including mountain bikers, dog walkers and runners. When I was a boy, my dad told me the Don was a very polluted river, and I can imagine with 130 years of paper mills, it was. I’m really happy to see it evolve into a place where people go to enjoy recreation in nature.
Today we went to see Walking in Circles: Treading Water – Bruce Parsons/Art Projects 1971 – 2022. The show runs through May 7 at the Neilson Park Creative Centre in Etobicoke (at the western edge of the amalgamated Toronto). If you’ve never been to this unusual artspace tucked away in a residential neighbourhood, I recommend you check it out. Bruce Parsons latest exhibition in this space is excellent, well worth the trip west for those of you who usually consume your art downtown.
Bruce’s exhibition features recent work on the ground surrounded by what amounts to a mini-retrospective of his painting – plus an outdoor labyrinthian work.
I admire Bruce’s work because he has a strong personal vision and a wonderful ability to make work which can be at the same time serious and whimsical, and work which pulls me right into his world. It is very inspirational to me as a painter. There is so much going on in this work.
Bruce has enjoyed a long career. On the walls, you will discover a wonderful variety of work going back decades. I would love to see some of the large new floorpieces in one of our big art institutions like the National for people to enjoy for decades to come.
We went to the Arts Centre to see Bruce Parsons work, and that’s what I’m writing about here, but if you go, don’t neglect the fab exhibition of work by John Parsons (yes he’s Bruce’s brother) in the Park View Gallery.
The Neilson Park Creative Centre is located at 56 Neilson Drive, Etobicoke.
I met up with Miles Hearn’s Saturday morning nature walk group this morning at 8:00 at the east parking lot at Marie Curtis Park. What a perfect morning to wander about Marie Curtis park proper and the Arsenal Lands.
There were many birds singing this morning both in the woods and the around the fields. It turned out to be a fabulous outing. Here are some of the plants and birds I photographed along the way.
The yellow warbler along with the pine warbler, nest in Southern Ontario. The others are just passing through.
I’ve photographed the sound baffles in the Arsenal Lands countless times. Back in WWII there was a machine gun factory on this site. They tested the guns out back of the building, which made lots of noise, so they built wooden sound baffles to mute the noise some.
We’re back on our usual schedule, and I’m back in front of the microphone, co-hosting with the fabulous Candy Minx. I have to up my game now after hearing the excellent job Special Agent Sarah did helping out with the last episode!
Listen right here or find the episode at all the good places. For the omnivores out there, we’re looking for the best meatloaf recipes. Send us yours and tell us why it’s so yummy. If you’re a vegetarian, tell us about your fave plant-based comfort food recipes. The agents love their comfort food!
Early in the episode, I mentioned the phrase Death Don’t Have no Mercy in this Land, and associated it with the late Rev. Gary Davis. Death never takes a vacation in this land. He comes to the house and he don’t stay long. Look in the bed, find your brother gone. Here is the Reverend:
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The latest episode of The Agency Podcast is now available. Listen right here or find it at all the good podcast places. Some listeners will especially enjoy this episode because they won’t have to listen to me. The wheel has been in spin in my world this week and I haven’t been able to participate in the podcast. The truth is I haven’t even had a chance to listen to the episode yet, but I know it will be fab.
This week Candy co-hosts with The Agency’s special correspondent Sarah Elliot. They talk about the uptick in documentaries about con artists, especially men, who prey on women – very successful women.
Candy also hangs out at The Peppermill in Las Vegas with stand up comic Kristeen Von Hagen. Kristeen is a long time colleague of Candy and she works with the troupe PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS.
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