Tag Archives: cardinal

Cook Woodlot

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Cook Woodlot was once part of the property belonging to Thomas Cook who played an important role in the community of Carrville in Vaughan Township. The county atlas below shows his property outlined in green while the woodlot comprised the section closest to the Northern Railway line. Settlers would often clear most of their lot but left a woodlot that served them as a source of lumber and firewood. There is limited parking on Halo Court and residents would likely prefer people to park on Peter Rupert Avenue if they plan to visit. Notice that Peter Rupert owned the land below the woodlot and he lends his name to the avenue. His property extended west to Keele Street and was the site of Rupert’s Chapel in the former community of Sherwood, a Ghost Town of the GTA.

Cook woodlot is large enough to be home to a variety of animals. The oak trees seem to support a large number of squirrels. These in turn support a number of predators including red-tailed hawks and coyotes. The coyote in the picture below was sitting in the trees when I spotted it. It allowed me to get three successively closer pictures before it got up and took off.

I took two more pictures as it retreated. Although it took its eyes off of me it made sure I wasn’t following it. They have keen hearing and can detect the squeak of a mouse from 100 yards away.

Pear-shaped Puffballs grow on decaying logs and stumps. These ones were still fresh and had a white mass in the centre that hasn’t gone to spores yet. Some of these have been partially eaten by insects and they are considered choice edibles. Although, again, we promote a no picking type of hiking adventure.

An earlier crop of puffballs have reached the stage where they have released most of their spores. They have a small opening near the top of each of the small balls. When they are poked with a stick they still have enough spores to release a small green/brown cloud. Between the effects of wind and rain these spores will be released in an effort to spread the fungus to new hosts.

At the edge of the forest the trail turns and runs along the former pasture on Peter Rupert’s property. At the far end it comes to a paved trail that leads south to Rutherford Road and a large storm water pond. To the north it runs along the western edge of the wood lot and passes a couple more storm management ponds.

Cardinals have a curved beak and powerful set of jaws that allow them to crack hard seeds and nuts. Cardinals have one of the greatest varieties of seeds and nuts in their diet of any species in the local bird population. They eat about 40 different types of grass and sunflower seeds and during summer supplement 30% of their diet with various insects. This allows them to survive quite well in the winter as most of their food sources stay above the snow level.

There appeared to be a large population of juvenile DeKays Brownsnakes. One feature of the young snakes is their small patch at the back of the head. While we saw four different snakes there was one that stood out from the others. This specimen was more red than brown in colour.

On the lighter side, we found several places along the paved path where someone has written messages on the trail. It would appear that they made at least a second trip as I venture that very few people carry a piece of chalk in their pocket when they walk. The part that caught me funny was the fact that most of the feces on the trail wasn’t from a dog. Some contained a lot of seeds and was likely from racoons while other piles had a lot of fur in them suggesting that the local coyote was using the trail in more ways than one. It makes me think that someone should write on there: “You don’t know sh*t, this is coyote”, etc.

Thomas Cook left us a little more than a woodlot. You can’t fully tell his tale without touching on the community of Carrville. This was a mill town in support of a flour mill that was built by Michael Fisher in 1816. Thomas Cook and his brother William emigrated from England in 1831 and Thomas bought the mills from Fisher. He added other mills and built a store in 1856 which contained the post office from 1865 to 1923, of which he was the first post master. The Carrville Mill Dam was originally built in 1816 and must have been repaired many times. It still exists, but on private property, and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Trust. This dam served Cooks mills and it is said that his name is carved in the structure. The picture below was taken from the August 26, 1987 Town of Vaughan council act designating the dam.

The Primitive Methodists began meeting at Cook’s Mills as early as 1848 and in 1850 at the urging of Thomas they erected a white frame church near Bathurst Street. The land belonged to The Evangelical Association and they shared the building until 1857 when it was vacated by the Methodists in favour of their new church building. This church has been moved about a kilometer east on Rutherford Road and can be found in Wood Park.

Thomas Cook wanted the church to have its own land and so he donated it in 1857. He also provided the clay for the bricks which were made nearby on the property. To keep costs down he provided housing for the work crew while they erected the church building. He was known to provide the minister who served the church with lodging and a horse for his personal use. It was known as Cook’s Mills Primitive Methodist Church until it became Carrville Methodist in 1884. They joined the United Church in 1925 and continued to serve the community until the congregation could no longer support themselves and merged with the United Church in Maple. The building now serves as a community centre for the Jewish group Maon Noam.

Thomas Cook also donated land for a cemetery beside the church. Burials date back to 1860 and the cemetery is still active with interments in the past few years. A single tall white grave marker stands near the centre of the cemetery marking the resting places of Thomas Cook, his wife and two children.

Thomas was born in 1801 and after coming to Canada contributed greatly to his new home. He died on Christmas Day in 1877 and although there is a woodlot named after him there is no information plaque there to tell the story of his legacy.

Perhaps one day we’ll return with a feature story on Carrville as a feature story in our Ghost Towns of the GTA series.

Google Maps Link: Cook Woodlot

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Betty Sutherland Trail

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Betty Sutherland Trail runs for 1.83 kilometres from Leslie Street and Sheppard Avenue to Duncan Mills Road and Don Mills Road.  The park is named after a long time city councilor who was active in supporting Toronto’s recreational areas and trails.  She was also a member of Toronto Region Conservation Authority.  The park runs through an area known as Henry Farm.  The farm was settled in 1806 by Henry Mulholland and was later owned by George Stewart Henry who was the 10th Premier of Ontario.  To explore the trail we parked near the corner of Duncan Mills Road.  The formal trail runs on the west side of the river at this point but we chose the less traveled east side of the river.

The cover photo shows one of the stone buildings associated with Duncan Mills which used to operate at this site.  In 1935 a pump house was built to bring water from the river to Graydon Hall at the top of the ravine.  This water flowed through terraced gardens as it returned to the river.  These two old buildings greet you as you enter the trail and their story can be read in more detail in our story Graydon Hall.

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The East Don River runs along side of the trail.  The river was frozen over in many places but still had open water where the ice hadn’t formed.

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The trail passes under the 401 where the steel girders are marked Bridge & Tank.  This company has its roots in Hamilton in 1872 as the Hamilton Tool Works.  It went under several names until the Second World War when it began manufacturing tanks for the military.  In 1954 they became the Bridge and Tank company and continued operations until 1984.

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A series of side trails form a loop extending the trail and providing access to a couple of ravines

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The Betty Sutherland Trail is well known to bird watchers as a place to see a multitude of species.  This late in the winter there are relatively few but that is about to change very soon.  We saw several cardinals standing pretty in the trees and singing to their females.

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On the west side of the river stands the North York General Hospital.   The idea for this hospital began in 1960 when a group of local citizens met to explore the possibility of building a 70-bed community hospital.  On March 15, 1968 the new hospital was dedicated by the Premier of Ontario.  The present building includes a major expansion that was completed in 2003.

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The trail ends at Sheppard and Leslie which was the former community of Oriole.  We crossed the road to have another look at the old dam that marks the site.  Click on the link to read the story of Oriole – Ghost Towns of the GTA.

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The trail is wide and had three clear paths running along it.  Ideally the walkers would take the middle path while skiers would go single file in the two outside lanes.  If the outside paths were once ski trails they have been over-run with footprints of pedestrians.  With a little luck pedestrians will be sharing the path with cyclists instead of skiers in the next couple of weeks.

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Pine Grosbeaks are normally a northern bird and are uncommon in Southern Ontario and we were lucky to see this female in the top of a tree along the trail.  Pine Grosbeaks move south in the winter looking for food at which time they will feed on buds in maple trees.  They are a member of the finch family but are one of the larger, plumper species.

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The Betty Sutherland Trail is just part of the extensive trails that follow the East Don River.  At this time they are not continuous but each section is well worth the visit.

Google Maps Link: Betty Sutherland Trail

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Meadowvale Conservation Area

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Armed with the new camera I got for Christmas and the promise of a warm sunny day we set off for Meadowvale Conservation Area in Mississauga.  We have previously written about much of the history of the conservation area from the perspective of the various dams and berms associated with Silverthorne’s grist mill.  We won’t cover that again here and the link will be supplied again at the end of this story.  Today we were interested in the western side of the conservation area where the Toronto Suburban Railway used to run.  The Toronto Suburban Railway operated 5 electric commuter lines, including the one that ran up Yonge Street known as the Toronto & York Radial Railway   The line to Guelph was the longest in the system at 49 miles.  Stop 47 was a small station in Meadowvale after which the line crossed the Credit River and ran through the property that would become the conservation area.

When visiting the conservation area in the 1990’s there was quaint little suspension bridge that carried the pedestrian trail across the Credit River.  It was demolished in 2009 leaving only the metal posts on the river bank.  A decaying sign in the woods announces the removal of the bridge but it isn’t really needed any longer.  To see a picture of what the bridge looked like you can follow this link to a similar bridge in Warden Woods.

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My new camera allows me to get much better shots of birds and the cardinal in the photo below was only a small red spot to the naked eye.  I think I’m going to like having it along.

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The new bridge is a little farther south and considerably longer.  It crosses an area that is likely under water when the river is flooding.

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From the west end of the bridge there is a line that can be seen running horizontal through the woods.  This is the right of way for the former Toronto Suburban Railway.  The official opening of the railway came on April 14, 1917 and soon trains were running between Lambton and Guelph every two hours.  The trip lasted two and half hours and was very popular until the early 1930’s.  Rising costs, poor profits and a string of accidents coupled with a new love of the automobile led to the line being closed in August of 1931.  The tracks were removed in 1936 and in many urban areas the line has been built over with housing developments.

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The bridge that carries Old Derry Road over the Credit River was built in 1948.  It is known as a camelback truss bridge and is part of the Meadowvale Cultural Heritage District.

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The tail race for the Silverthorne grist mill joined the river just north of the bridge.  The tail race was crossed by the radial line near the last house on Willow Lane.  Both of the abutments are crumbling after 100 years with no maintenance.  This picture was taken at the time we explored the side of the conservation area with the mill foundations in it.

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The abutments for the crossing of the Credit River are still easy to locate a short distance north of the truss bridge.  The picture below shows the south abutment as seen from across the river.

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The last house on Willow Lane is undergoing a restoration.  The south abutment can be seen in the lower corner of the picture and the abutments for the crossing of the tail race are basically in the front yard.  With frequent passenger and cargo service this must have been a great place for train enthusiasts or a noisy place for anyone else.

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The abutment on the north side of the river has become completely overgrown with vines and must be all but hidden in the summer when the grass is full height.  Behind the vines the century old concrete is crumbling badly.

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Where the radial line ran through the park there are still about ten of the old electric poles standing.  The poles supported an overhead caternary system that delivered 1500 volt DC to power the cars.  They can be picked out because of their straight lines and flat tops.  In several cases the pole has a blue slash on it as can be seen on the extreme left in the cover photo.

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Fungus can still be found in the winter and it often adds colour and interesting patterns to what can be an otherwise drab landscape.  These turkey tail fungus entirely surrounded this old stump.

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The intersection of the radial line with the active Canadian Pacific Railway appears to lie somewhere under the six lanes of the new Derry Road.  North of Derry, the Samuelson Circle Trail continues on the old right of way.  The berm can be identified in many places along here because it rises a couple feet above the surrounding land.  Culverts allowed drainage from one side of the berm to the other and one can be found in this section.

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Cinnabar-red polypore can grow p to 14 centimetres in size and those pictured here are some of the larger specimens.  They grow all year and some will produce spores in the second and third years.  This fungus is not edible.

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Meadowvale Conservation Area is full of interesting historical artifacts for those who like to look for such things in the area in which they are hiking.  Many of these are associated with the Silverthorne Grist Mill which we covered in detail in a previous blog. The Guelph Radial Line has left only a few clues to the former right of way as it passed through the GTA.  A ghostly set of piers that cross the old mill pond in Limehouse is one example of interesting place to visit.

Google Maps Link: Meadowvale Conservation Area

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High Park – Zoo

Saturday Nov. 29, 2014

It was zero degrees and quite nice when the sun was out.  We parked in the parking lot near the Grenadier restaurant where there is plenty of free parking.   High Park is too big to be explored in a single session so we returned to pick up from where we left off at Colborne Lodge last week.  John George Howard had donated 120 acres of his land to the city for High Park in 1873. His remaining 45 acre estate, including Colborne Lodge, had been added to the park in 1890 when he died.  The city has acquired two other parcels of land to bring the park up to almost 400 acres.  We went down the hill past the area known as the dream site.  Here there is an outdoor theatre.

Along the way we found a place where a group of cardinals were feeding.  In most bird species the males are brightly coloured while the females have more earth colours. This helps the female hide in the nest to protect the eggs.  This was a rare group of cardinals that actually sat still long enough to get their picture taken.  The female has a little red on her wings and tail feathers as well as a red beak and crest.

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The male cardinal is bright red all over except a little black around his beak.  Male cardinals will use themselves as a distraction to keep you from finding the female during nesting season.  The male will attract your attention and then deliberately lead you away from the nest.

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We found a random tree in the park that has been sparsely decorated for Christmas.

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In 1967 the Toronto International Sculpture Symposium was held in the park.  It was located not far from the swimming pool and ice rink.  Of the 10 permanent sculptures there are still 5 remaining.  One of these is known as Three Discs and was created by Menashe Kadishman who is a world famous Israeli artist.  This is the only one of his sculptures in Canada.  Standing beside it the height appears to be between 25 and 30 feet.

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In 1893 a zoo was added to the public attractions at High Park making it one of the oldest continually running public zoo’s in North America.  Originally the zoo area contained pens for deer.  Over the years the zoo has contained specimens of animals from all over the world. Today it is home to emu, highland cattle, sheep and peacocks as well as the animals pictured below.  Admission is free making it a great place to visit often.

The zoo still houses a form of deer, this northern species is commonly called reindeer. Reindeer are also known as caribou and are featured on the back of the Canadian 25 cent coin. They are unique among the deer family in that they are the only ones where both the male and female grow antlers.  The male antlers, like the ones below, tend to be grander and more complex.  The female antlers are thinner and simpler.  The male in the picture below had an injury on his forehead that is currently healing.  The medication has caused his fur and parts of his antlers to turn purple.

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The Yak is native to the Himalayas.  It is designed for cold weather, being able to easily withstand -40 C.  It’s lungs are large and it’s blood is designed for high elevations.  This is the smelliest animal in the zoo, another feature that makes it suitable for the Himalayas.

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In the early 1800’s it was estimated that there were 60 million bison in North America.  By 1900 that number had dropped to as low as 1,000 animals.  Preservation efforts have restored their numbers to about 350,000.  American Bison are often called Buffalo but are in fact only distantly related to the buffalo. High Park has had bison for over 100 years, meaning that they have been part of the conservation effort from the earliest days.  The cover picture shows the bison as they appeared in 1926.  This little female bison was born this spring and can live for 25-30 years.  It’s possible that she is one of a long line of bison born in High Park and descended from the bison in the cover photo.

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The archive photo below shows a buffalo pen at the zoo in 1908.

High Park zoo. - [1908?]

When we got back to the car we found a 1974 Monte Carlo in the parking lot.  These cars were one of my favorites back when they were new because I always like the exaggerated folds on the side panels.  In 1973 the US federal government had mandated a 5 mph front bumper and extended it to include the rear bumper for 1974. This car features both and the tail lights are date coded 74.  The idea was that a car should be able to withstand a 5 mph impact without damage to the lights, engine or safety equipment.

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Much of High Park remains unexplored, awaiting future expeditions.

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