Monthly Archives: September 2019

Lakeview Park

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Lakeview Park is part of the remediation plans that are being implemented at the site of the former Lakeview Generating Station.  The park as well, as a new community, will replace the generating station which was demolished in 2006-2007.  The new Lakeview Village is expected to be home to as many as 17,000 residents.  The old industrial site is now a brownfield where the soil is full of toxins.  Lakeview Community Partners are using sunflowers to absorb the toxins as they are phytoremediators which store the toxins in their stems and leaves.  Twenty-five pounds of sunflower seeds were planted in five areas covering 71 acres.  These seeds have produced over 1 million sunflowers which have become a major attraction for pollinators and photographers.  To check it out we parked in the free lot at 800 Hydro Road in Mississauga.

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Each sunflower can have between 1,000 and 1,400 florets which, if pollinated, can turn into seeds.  That means there could be over 1 billion sunflower seeds in these fields.

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The sunflowers are growing in in random rows and other meadow flowers have sprouted up in between them.  Purple asters, as well as the field thistle in the cover photo, are attracting all kinds of butterflies including Painted Ladies.

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The Painted Lady on this sunflower shows how the upper wing pattern differs from the under wing pattern seen in the picture above.

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This clouded suphur was one of many we saw in the grasses along the edge of the sunflower fields.

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There were lots of butterflies and that provides food for the praying mantis who loves to dine on their larvae.  The mantis will eat almost any caterpillar including the toxic larvae of the monarch butterfly.

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The monarch butterfly population in this area looked pretty good except that the ones we saw were almost exclusively female.  The male monarch has a set of spots on the hind wing that represent scent sacs used to attract the females.

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The common blue damselfly is just one of the varieties of damselflies and dragonflies that abound in the park.  Damselflies can be distinguished from dragonflies in the position of the wings during rest.  The damselfly will fold its wings up while a dragonfly leaves them extended.

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Although there is a loss of honey bees in general there was no shortage of bees in the goldenrod in the park.

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We walked down to the lakeshore and along the Waterfront Trail for a short distance.  Several swans were swimming in the lake near the mouth of Cooksville Creek and we noted that they had not been tagged.

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The Ridgetown can be seen where it is half sunken at the mouth of the Credit River in Port Credit.  The view across the harbour is nowhere near as attractive at the one behind us in the park.

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Lakeview village will be developing over the next few years and it will be interesting to see what the final community looks like.  For now, it is alive with insect life.

Google maps link: Lakeview Park

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German Mills Settlers Park

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The community of German Mills didn’t last very long and there is only one building left standing.  We decided to investigate the area which has now become a park and we found free parking on the end of Leslie Street where it has been closed north of Steeles Avenue.

The county atlas was drawn in 1877 and by that time there was no longer a community named German Mills.  The school was replaced in 1874 with a new building on German Mills Street but it is the last remaining structure from this early settlement.  On the map below Leslie Street is brown while John Street, a given road, is yellow.  German Mills Creek is in blue while our hike is roughly outlined in green.

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Jack in the pulpit grow for up to 100 years from their corm, a type of root similar to a small turnip, although basically inedible.  They spread through seeds that are grown inside their berries.  The berries will turn from green to red when the seeds are ready.  The berries can be harvested and the seeds gently squeezed out.  There will usually be 4 to 6 seeds in each berry.  These can be planted about 1/2 inch deep in the fall.

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German Mills was settled in 1794, the year following the founding of York (Toronto) by a group of German families.  They not only established the first industrial complex in Markham but set an early example of the development of Canada through a multicultural approach.  The settlement didn’t last long because the water supply was inadequate to power their mills.  The picture below shows a sketch of the settlement that can be found on an interpretive plaque along the trail.

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The main paved trail crosses German Mills Creek but we chose to follow the old road allowance for Leslie Street.  German Mills Creek appears to have a few minnows in it but not much else.  The creek runs for about 10 kilometres before emptying into the East Don River in the East Don Parklands.

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Pheasant’s-back Polypore is also known as Dryad’s Saddle and is one of the larger polypore mushrooms found in Ontario.  The caps can reach 12 inches or more with the example seen below coming in at nearly 13 inches.  Although this mushroom is edible it is also rather tough and rubbery.  The outer edges are sometimes pickled or fried and are reported to taste like watermelon rind.  They are common from May until November and they seem to have been quite prolific this year with some trees having had several crops growing on them already.

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On the county atlas above the lots belonging to John Lane and G. C. Harris have been outlined in black.  A large portion of each of these lots was used for gravel extraction between 1940 and 1960.  When the aggregate supply was exhausted the empty pit was converted into the Sabiston Landfill.  From 1960 to 1975 the landfill operated with no records of what types of materials were dumped there and in which sections.  The site continues to produce methane gas that is released into the air and leachate which enters the groundwater.  Today there is a one metre clay cap over the landfill and the area has been designated as the German Mills Meadow and Natural Habitat.

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The mound that represents the former landfill is now monitored for discharges.  A decade ago the Town of Markham was considering installing an aerobic system to help speed up the elimination of methane and leachate from the site.  Local residents protested the plan based on the fact that methane was below the 2.5% level that the Ministry of the Environment sets as safe.  The community succeeded in 2012 in getting the plan halted by arguing

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We found another one of these old canoes which has been planted to help encourage pollinators to do their thing.

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The community of German Mills constructed a one room log school to serve the children of the community.  In 1874 it was decided to replace the school with a larger board and batten structure.  The school was built with separate entrances for the boys and girls as was common in the Victorian Era.  One of the interesting features of the architecture is the way the batten curve into scallops under the boxed cornice of the roof.

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Originally known as school section number 2 there were over thirty different teachers who served here between 1874 and 1962 when it closed.  The original bell still hangs in the bell tower.

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One of the notable teachers from the school was Leonard S Klink who taught here in the 1890’s.  He was responsible for getting the students to plant rows of spruce trees around the sides of the property.  These trees continue to mark the outline of the school yard.  Klink went on to serve as the President of The University of British Columbia from 1919-1944.

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Poison ivy seems to have had a good year and there is plenty of it in German Mills Settlers Park.  The sap contains a substance known as urushiol that usually causes a reaction within 24-48 hours.  Controlling poison ivy by burning it can be very dangerous because inhalation of the smoke can cause the rash to develop on the inside of the lungs.  This can be very painful and possibly fatal.

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Bur Oak is a member of the group of white oaks and is also known as mossy cup oak.  The tree typically reaches 30 metres tall but has been known to be as large as 50 metres.  Like most oak trees they grow slowly but can live for up to 400 years.  The acorns are also large growing up to 5 cm in size.  These trees produce a heavy crop of acorns every few years in a process known as masting.  This bumper crop overwhelms the ability of the local wildlife to consume the acorns and ensures the survival of some seeds.

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German Mills Settlers Park is about to undergo construction work to prevent erosion from damaging the sewer pipe that runs along the length of the creek.  This will change the natural look of the creek for several years.

Google Maps Link: German Mills Settlers Park

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Cooksville Creek

Monday, September 1, 2019

Cooksville Creek in Mississauga has its entire watercourse within the city and in fact it even flows under Square One Shopping Centre.  Over the years it has come under great stress as a result of the changing nature of the watershed development.  With so much of the surrounding areas now paved over and developed the flash flooding of the creek has become a serious problem leading to erosion and property damage.  There are 304 buildings in the lower watershed that are subject to flooding in a 100-year event like Hurricane Hazel.  The city is currently implementing new flood control measures including widening of the creek bed south of Mississauga Valley Boulevard.  We found free parking at the Mississauga Valley Community Centre.  From there we went to explore the construction of the flood controls on the creek.

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The main flow of Cooksville Creek has been diverted into a pipe while they widen and deepen the channel.

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The woodlands on either side of the ravine are home to a large population of squirrels.  There is a constant food supply for them in the cone and nut trees and both black and red squirrels can be seen collecting food for their winter supply.  Having a good food supply for one species means that they will become a good food source for another predator.  We saw this red-tailed hawk sitting in a tree keeping an eye open for breakfast.

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The danger exists in the air from the hawks and on the ground from the coyotes.  The mud in the exposed creek bed has been crossed over many times with coyote tracks.

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The river grapes are starting to ripen along the sides of the trail.  The crop this year looks to be doing very well with lots of fruit for the wild animals to feed on.  Coyote feces that we see along the trail seems to contain a lot of seeds and fruit husks and this isn’t unusual in the summer and fall as they supplement their diet.

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The lower part of this reach was reworked a couple of years ago to increase stability of the sides and create retaining pools to hold the water during flood events.

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The transition point between the section that was completed and that which has not been touched recently.  Although some sections appear to be quite naturalized they have in fact all been subject to more than one repair since the creek was urbanized in the 1940’s.  Of the 14.9 kilometres of creek there are only 1.2 kilometres that are natural while there are a full 35 kilometres of gabion baskets which are failing.  The flood water has washed in behind them in places causing them to collapse into the creek, further diverting the flow and causing more erosion.

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The mallard ducks that were born this spring have now become fully grown.  We were enjoying watching them walk up the little waterfall in the creek.  Over the years the repairs to the stream have reduced most of the natural pools and riffles in the watercourse.  This is one of the places where the water gets oxygenated.

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It’s the last weekend of the Canadian National Exhibition which always features the famous air show.  On the way back home I would be treated to a squadron flying in formation on their way back to the airport.  Just as the airshow marks the end of the CNE and the unofficial end of summer, nature’s air show marks the return of fall.  We saw a gaggle of geese flying in the “V” formation that they use when flying south,  The strongest birds fly in front while the weaker ones follow in their wind currents.

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There are sections that have not been subject to heavy equipment in recent years.  The undergrowth in these areas is first generation of trees.  There are no large oak or maple trees that one would find in a succession forest.  Where the work was completed in the past few years there are newly planted trees that may some day provide a mature forest.  For now the trees are stripped back away from the edge of the creek so that there is no shade over the water.  This leads to higher water temperatures and destroys the habitats.  Cooksville Creek is essentially a dead creek with nothing but a few water skimmers in the upper reaches.  This loss of riparian vegetation is a contributing factor to the decline of the Red-Sided Dace in the past 30 years.  At one time they would have been populous in Cooksville Creek as they were in most GTA waterways.

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At this time you can’t walk the entire course of Cooksville Creek due to the construction work.  We went through anyway and although it was a holiday Monday there was someone on site who ignored us.  Once you get south of the railway tracks there is a large green space that was formerly occupied by several homes.  This is an interesting place where you can find foundations and driveways that are being overtaken by the new growth of vegetation.

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This area was accessed by Given Road which we have previously described in a post that can be found at the link above.

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Cooksville Creek is a real mess today and you wonder how it can ever recover.  However, if you look closely, every ravine has a set of sewer access points that are dated from the 1950’s and up.  These remind us that there has been heavy equipment in the ravines before and since the infrastructure below will need maintenance at some point, there will be again.

Google Maps Link: Cooksville Creek

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