Tag Archives: Broad Winged hawk

Imperial Oil Lands

Saturday, March 4, 2017

J. C. Saddington Park sits between Mississauga Road and the mouth of the Credit River.  To the west of Mississauga Road, south of Lakeshore, lie the 73 acres of brown space known as the Imperial Oil Lands.  There is parking on at the end of Mississauga Road at J. C. Saddington Park, as can be seen on the Google Earth map below.  Key points from today’s exploration are also marked on the map.

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Thomas Nightingale opened a brickyard on the west side of the Credit River in the 1880’s. The addition of a stone crusher increased production to the point that by 1900 there wasn’t enough local labour to run the brickyards.  A series of bunkhouses were constructed and Italian workers were brought in to meet the demand.  The archive photo below shows the Port Credit Brickyards in their prime.

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After the First World War, the clay was becoming exhausted and the yards started operating at a loss. By 1929 the brickyards were closed.  This brick was found on the property of the old brickyards where it was made, perhaps over 100 years ago.

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In 1933 the Lloyd Refining Company purchased part of the property to build a modern refinery capable of producing 1,500 barrels a day.  The refinery changed hands a few times including 1937 and 1946.  In 1955 the property was purchased by Texaco and their Canadian subsidiary McColl-Frontenac began operating the refinery.  In 1959 the name was changed to Texaco Canada Ltd.  Petrochemicals were produced here beginning in 1978 but by 1985 it was starting to be decommissioned.  The oil tank farm was removed first and by 1987 it was fully closed.  Only one small building remains on site along with a storage shed.

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The property has sat vacant for a couple of decades now and is highly contaminated from its years as an oil refinery.  As of March 2017, Imperial Oil is selling the property to a developer who plans to develop a waterfront park, mid-rise condos and affordable housing on the site.  Today the property is home to a large selection of wildlife.  Coyote scat is everywhere and rabbits and squirrels provide food for them as well as the hawks.  A white tailed deer was casually feeding just inside the fence from Mississauga Road.

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Roadways and concrete pads mark the locations of the former tanks and buildings.  The property is marked as no trespassing because of the numerous hazards that exist throughout.  This story is presented to preserve the site as it exists at this moment in time.  Soon it will change forever and this chapter will be lost.  Choosing to explore here is solely your responsibility.  A large man-made pond covers a section of the property and may feature in redevelopment plans for a central park within the community.  The pond is currently full of pipes that have started to break apart over the years of abandonment.

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The lower corner of the pond still has the dam and flood control devices intact.  Two sluice gates could be opened by turning handwheels.  The cover photo shows a closer look at the mechanics of the system.

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Outflow from the pond was transferred to a series of settling ponds to remove solids from the water.  From here it was carried through a concrete pipe and released into the lake.

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We made our way to the end of the concrete pipe that discharged the water from the pond on the Imperial Oil Lands.  The round concrete pipe has been encased in a concrete shell to protect it from the effects of the lake.

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The Waterfront Trail takes the name Imperial Oil Trail as it passes along the lake side of the property.  We followed it west to where you are forced briefly to follow the road.  That wasn’t such a bad thing as we were treated to a broad-winged hawk sitting on a hydro wire.  These birds usually winter in the south and I wonder if this one was noticing the -20-celsius wind and wishing it hadn’t come back yet.

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Ben Machree Park has some interesting wood carvings by Jim Menkin.  Jim has converted dead tree stumps into art with his chainsaw in many parts of Ontario including Orangeville and Mississauga.  This park features three wood carvings named “Sirens of Homer’s Odyssey”.

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We returned along the Imperial Oil Trail east toward the mouth of the Credit River.  Just east of the concrete drainage pipe from the oil lands is a lengthy finger pier extending out into Lake Ontario.  This pier provides great views to the west looking toward Rattray Marsh.  To the east, you can see the Ridgetown with the city of Toronto in the background. The ship is partially sunk at the mouth of the Credit River to provide shelter for the marina.  Our post on the Ridgetown contains its fascinating history.

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In the 1940’s Port Credit ended at Lake Street, of all places!  Today it extends out into the lake in the form of J. C. Saddington Park.  This park is built on a decommissioned dump that was in use from 1949 to 1970. A pond has been created for recreation and fishing and benches positioned around for relaxation. The pond has a thin layer of ice on it from the past two days of cold weather and a light dusting of snow.  A sliver of the moon can be seen above the trees in the middle of the picture.

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Three historic buildings stand in the corner of the parking lot. Dating from 1922 to 1923 the Port Credit Waterworks pumping station was a major advancement in the infrastructure of Port Credit.

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Swans, Canada Geese and several species of ducks were all to be seen in the lake today.  Of interest was the fact that they have gone back into pairs after spending the winter in groups.  Spring must be coming soon…

A 1973 Toronto Archive Aerial photo of the oil lands can be accessed here.

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Mountsberg

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mountsberg Conservation Area covers 472 hectares of which 202 are covered with a water control reservoir.  Since 1994 the park has featured a Raptor Centre which is home to a collection of 15 birds of prey.  Horses and sheep call the farm home along with bison and elk.  There’s also a play barn for the kids to enjoy and a Maple Syrup festival in the spring. Sixteen kilometres of hiking trails criss-cross the park and allow you to experience the abundant wildlife.  There is a $7.50 fee per car and you have to put it into an envelope so be sure to bring correct change or plan to make a donation.

Archibald (Archabald on the County Atlas below) Cameron moved from Perthshire in Scotland in 1833 and settled on 100 acres of land.  His son, Duncan bought the property adjacent to his and Donald purchased two parcels of land next to these.

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Duncan Cameron purchased the 100 acres to the east of his father’s lot and started his homestead there.  In 1857 he built a stone house and a barn, both of which remain today. The house has an odd window on the second floor which was shaped like a simple diamond.  The county atlas shows how close to the house the Credit Valley Railroad was constructed when the Milton line was extended to Galt in 1879.  The Duncan house remained in the family until James Cameron, Duncan’s son, passed away in 1962.  The farm changed hands a couple of times and was purchased in 1964 by The Halton Region Conservation Authority.  They built the dam in 1966 and the Wildlife Centre in 1974.

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Near the barn is an observation tower which looks out over the Mountsberg Reservoir. Bronte Creek was dammed and the reservoir has since been stocked with fish.  Bass, Pike, Crappies, and Perch can all be caught in the shallow waters.  The former Credit Valley Railway crosses the reservoir on a berm that previously passed through a farm field.  The lower section of the reservoir has been drained for the winter.

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On the north side of the tracks, just east of the house are the remains of the family lime kiln.  It was built shortly after the house, likely around 1860, for the use of the family. Limestone was common in the area and settlers would load it into a set kiln like this one. Wood was packed around it and burned for several days until the limestone was broken down.  The limestone was broken into lumps around 2 inches in diameter and layered into the kiln along with the fuel.  It would take about a day to load the kiln and then it burned for three days.  After two days of cooling down, it could be unloaded and the lime separated from the waste.  Lime was used in the making of soap as well as construction materials.

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The first Earth day took place on April 22, 1970.  Since that time it has grown into an international event that takes place in 193 countries around the world.  In 1990 Earth Day 20 was celebrated and in Mountsberg Park the Plant-A-Tree program contributed the small forest on the north side of the train tracks, across from the Cameron House.  These trees are doing quite well a quarter century later.

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The Raptor Centre at the park is home to many birds that have been rescued locally and are incapable of survival in the wild.  The Great Horned Owl on the cover photo is one of two in the park.  These owls have a grip ten times as tight as that of a human and talons that can hold with as much as 200 pounds per square inch force.  They are known to take prey that is up to three times their weight and this includes skunks, opossums and even other raptors.

The Gyrfalcon, seen below, lives in arctic and sub-arctic regions and is rarely seen in Southern Ontario.  This is the largest of the falcon species with the females weighing up to two kilograms.  Their diet contains mostly of other birds including ducks, gulls, and geese but they also enjoy lemmings and hare.

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Rough-legged Hawks are the only hawks in Ontario that have feathers on their legs extending down to their feet.  It weighs about a kilogram, with the female being slightly larger. They are a northern bird and live mainly off of small rodents like voles and lemmings. They can be occasionally be seen in Southern Ontario during the winter.

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Broad Winged Hawks live in large forests and prefer small rodents for their prey as they only weigh about 500 grams themselves. They are relatively small among the hawk family but congregate in large flocks known as kettles in the fall to migrate south for the winter. A kettle of broad winged hawks can contain up to 1000 birds

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Takenya is one of two red-tailed hawks at the centre but she sits up and pays attention when you call her name.  One of the trainers suggested that the birds don’t actually know their names but as the picture below shows, she would turn her head and stare right at you when you call her.

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American Bison, often called Buffalo in error, are kept on the farm.  As we approached they moved across the field but soon returned to stand by the fence.  The largest of the five already had a broken horn and was clearly guarding the smaller ones.  It routinely stood between me and the smallest one so getting a picture was quite difficult.  I wasn’t sure if it was my red coat or the imminent arrival of the ladies with the food buckets that had their attention but after feeding they went for a run around the pen.  They can reach speeds up to 60 kilometres per hour.

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Mountsberg has extensive hiking trails as well as the dam that are yet to be explored.  This is a park that will require more than one visit.

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