The Flood Control Pond at G. Ross Lord Park

Sunday, August 8, 2021

G Ross Lord Park is one of our favourite places as followers of our Facebook page will know. We post wildlife and nature photos from there almost every week and the variety of creatures is outstanding. This post focusses on the flood control pond and the surrounding woods and grasslands and pays particular attention to the wide variety of birds that can be found there. The County Atlas from 1877 shows that there were two dams on the West Don River in the area that is now G Ross Lord Park. The lower pond supplied water to a saw mill and it is this flood plain that was used to create the flood control pond in G Ross Lord Park.

Following Hurricane Hazel in 1954 it was decided that flood control measures would be implemented to control the release of water to downstream areas. A dam was built on the West Don River near Dufferin and Finch that would be capable of holding five and a half million cubic metres of water. The G Ross Lord Dam was completed in 1973 and the flood control pond can rise by as much as five metres following a major rain event or during spring thaws.

It has been common over recent summers to see a pair of Herons and an Egret at the pond. This year there has been up to 14 Egret and 4 Heron at the same time. There’s five Egrets and one Heron in the picture below.

This aerial photo comes from the Toronto Archives and shows the site in 1971 before the flood control pond was created. The blue shows where the West Don River used to flow around a wide ridge of land and reveals that the hydro towers were originally located on land.

The dam flooded a large area of land that expands dramatically after every heavy rain event. A soon as the rain has stopped the dam is opened to allow the water to slowly drain away to create room for the next rain storm.

Although this is a man made pond it was formed around a river and has become home to a wide range of wildlife. The baby Painted Turtle featured below is native to the area but the Red-eared Slider I saw last year is a domestic pet that has been dumped in the pond. Over the years I have often seen a large Snapping Turtle just up-stream from the pond.

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to see a pair of Peregrine Falcons land on the mud flats when the pond was at a low point. There are a few nesting pairs around Toronto but most of them are in the area of Lake Superior.

There are often people fishing in the pond where they catch Brown Bullhead, Carp, Pumpkinseed and White Suckers. The Herons, Egrets and Cormorants live here in large numbers because of the easy fishing when the water level is lower. The Heron in the picture below has just speared a young sucker.

Cedar Waxwings live in the forests surrounding the flood control pond. They like to sit on branches and fly out over the water to snatch insects out of the air. There are several different types of damselflies and dragonflies that hover over the pond and make great snacks for the birds.

It’s common to see both Red-tailed Hawks and Copper’s Hawks in the area around the pond. The Cooper’s Hawk in the picture below is one of a pair that is nesting in the trees on the north side of the pond.

The image below shows the pond looking toward the east when the water is at it’s lowest level. When flooded, it can rise well into the trees on the other side as well as covering the place where this picture was taken.

Woodpeckers are very common in the park and there are at least three different species that feed off the bugs in the trees that have died from being flooded around the pond’s edge. The large Pileated Woodpecker is less common than the Downey and Hairy ones that can be found on almost every visit. The picture below shows a male Downey Woodpecker.

Spotted Sandpipers are shore birds that can be found all around the edges of the pond where they compete with Killdeer for the small insects and minnows that live there.

Over the years I have watched a pair of Belted Kingfishers working the river just upstream from the flood control pond. This year, they appear to have moved downstream to the pond where they can be heard before they are seen. Kingfishers are one of the chattiest birds and seldom fly without filling the air with their loud rattling scolding noises. They will sit on a branch until they see a fish under the water and they will dive at great speeds into the water to come up with their lunch. Both the male and female can be seen in the picture below.

The grasslands and new growth forests along the edge of the flood control pond have become home to a wide variety of songbirds. Various warblers share the trees with American Goldfinch and make for a nice splash of colour.

It’s alost certain that every visit to the flood control pond will be rewarded with the sight of Cardinals. These beautiful birds mate for life and can be seen and heard all year around.

When people think of bird watching in the Toronto area they often think of Tommy Thompson Park which is known for the wide variety of birds that can be seen there. If you live in the northern part of the city you may find that G. Ross Lord Park is more convenient and also has an amazing variety of birds.

Google Maps Link : G Ross Lord Park

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