Tag Archives: Egret

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

Like at at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikigthegta.com

Also look for us on Instagram

Hiking the GTA #100 – Amazing Animals

April 28, 2014 to July 18, 2015

Presented below is a gallery of animal pictures taken during the first 100 hikes on the Hiking the GTA adventure.

On July 21, 2015 I published my 100th post in this blog under the title Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks.  That post looked back at the creation of Hiking the GTA and listed the top 15 hikes as determined by activity on WordPress.  This post presents some of the amazing animals that we encountered along the way.  By hiking quietly and keeping off of the beaten path you have the opportunity to come face to face with some of the wide variety of wildlife we share our parks with.  Most of the animals are more afraid of you than you are of them and will disappear quickly.  In reality some of the plants in our parks are more dangerous than the wildlife.  The following pictures are in the order in which I took them except that I saved my personal favourite for last.  Links to the related articles are provided where additional descriptions of the animals are presented.

This White Tail Deer buck was following me through the woods along Wilket Creek on June 22, 2014.  This was the only creature I saw all year that made me nervous as I’m usually the one doing the following.

IMG_2389

The little baby Cross Orb Weaver spiders in this picture are just hatching and look like grains of pepper leaving the egg sac.  The mother spider had previously brought a Daddy Long Legs spider into the web to provide a breakfast to the hatchlings.  Seen near Middle Road Bridge on Aug. 16, 2014

IMG_2944

This Red Tailed Hawk was feasting near Barbertown on Aug. 23, 2014.

IMG_3098

Also seen in Barbertown was this Dekay’s Brown Snake on Aug. 23, 2014

IMG_3021

The Monarch Butterfly below was seen at the forks of the Don on Sept. 14, 2014.

IMG_3361

Spadina House has it’s own resident fox as photographed on Dec. 21, 2014.

Spadina 74

This Snowy Owl was seen at the Adamson Estate on Jan. 24, 2015

IMG_2092

This coyote was photographed in West Deane Park on Jan. 31, 2015

???????????????????????????????

The beaver in this picture was seen in Etobicoke Valley Park on Feb. 28, 2015

IMG_2663

This White Egret was fishing near the dam at The Old Mill on May 10, 2015.

IMG_4287

The Red Breasted Grosbeak below was photographed in Norval on May 16, 2015.

IMG_4404a

This Trumpeter Swan, complete with tracking tag, was seen at the mouth of the Credit River and featured in The Ridgetown – Port Credit on May 23, 2015.

IMG_4755

This Black-crowned Night Heron was published in The Forks of the Credit – The Stone Cutter’s Dam on July 18, 2015.  Unlike the Great Blue Heron in the cover photo it does not have long legs and neck.

IMG_6600

Hiding in plain sight in the picture below is a new born White Tail Deer Fawn.  This is my favourite picture of the past year and was taken near the Barber Paper Mills on June 6, 2015.

IMG_5361

This is just a sample of the some of the amazing animals we saw on our journeys in the first 100 hikes in this blog.  Many others were featured and many more will yet be photographed on future hikes.

visit us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

The Old Mill

Sunday May 10, 2015

It was 20 degrees with rain in the forecast and the Japanese Cherry Trees in High Park were in full bloom.  Unfortunately, several thousand other people went to view them as well and there was simply no parking.  (This would have been a good time to use the subway). Fortunately, the Old Mill is very close and has some interesting things to explore.  Parking in the parking lot on the east side of the Humber River we chose to walk as far north as the old dam and then from there back to the mill.

False Solomon’s Seal is growing in the woods along the east bank of the river.  This plant can be eaten in the spring when the stems are still tender.  The native peoples used it for it’s strong laxative properties.  When it is a young plant is strongly resembles another highly toxic plant so please make sure that it is positively identified.

IMG_4195

Robins lay their eggs in clutches of 3 to 5 eggs.  They hatch about two weeks after they’re laid and the bald babies with their eyes closed are protected by both male and female birds.  A couple of weeks later and the young birds are already proficient fliers.  A mating pair will raise two or three broods in a season.  Only about 25% of the young will survive the first year with the longest known life span being 14 years.  Robins take the egg shells and throw them at some distance from the nest.  This is to keep predators from robbing the nest.

IMG_4261

The Humber was dammed just north of the Old Mill.  Today, most of this has been removed for flood control following Hurricane Hazel in 1954.  An egret stands fishing in the waters just below the water falls.

IMG_4284

In the 19th century people had a love for the plumage of the egret and this led to their demise. Egrets are monogamous with both male and female protecting the young in the nest. The little ones are fiercely aggressive with the stronger ones often killing the weaker so that they don’t all reach the fledgling stage. Over hunting lead to their near extinction and the implementation of some of the first conservation laws protecting birds.

IMG_4287

The cormorant in the picture below looked like he was having fun.  He rode the river straight toward the fastest part of the water falls.  He did his last second launch and landed gracefully to score a perfect ten.

IMG_4308a

An earlier mill bridge over Catherine Street was made of steel truss with a wooden decking and it was lost in the spring ice break up of 1916. The picture below shows the bridge on Mar. 29th in the ice field.  Two days later it was gone.

old mill bridge

The bridge was replaced the same year by this three arch stone structure.  Stone arch bridges date back to Roman times and the frequent loss of bridges on the Humber led to the decision to construct this more substantial one.  Frank Barber had pioneered the use of concrete in Canadian bridge construction in 1909 and by 1913 had designed all nine that had been built in Upper Canada.  His design for the bridge at the old mill has survived 99 spring ice break ups and Hurricane Hazel while others up and down the river have been lost.  The Humber River divided York County and the Township of Etobicoke at the time of construction and their crests are carved in stone on either side of the centre arch.

IMG_4283

Water from the dam on the river was brought under Catherine Street via the head race which flowed through this passage.

IMG_4210

From here it was dropped onto the water wheel.  This type of water wheel is known as over-shot because the water comes from above.  Close examination of the wall in front of the wheel shows that the tail race used to pass through here but has been closed off with new stone. There is a straight line up the wall that marks the old passageway.

IMG_4220

The first mill in York (Toronto) was constructed in 1793 at the request of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe and this was the first industrial site in Toronto.  It was known as the King’s Mill after King George III of England who was the reigning monarch at the time.  The mill went into operation the following year when the mill wheels and gear systems arrived from England where they had been forgotten the year before.  The government elected to lease the mill and ended up with a long series of mill operators.  The first mill was a  saw mill but while Thomas Fisher was the miller he replaced it with a grist mill in 1834.  William Gamble bought the mill and replaced it with a new larger mill.  This mill was destroyed by fire in 1849. The fourth mill was built on the same location by Gamble.  During this time it was known as Gamble’s Mill and the upper story was used to store apples.  During the winter a wood burning stove was kept going to keep the apples from freezing.  This practice ended badly when the stove overheated in the winter of 1881 and burned the mill down.  It sat abandoned until 1914 when Robert Home Smith, who was instrumental in developing the Port Lands, bought 3000 acres in the area of the mill to create a subdivision.  He converted part of the site into the Old Mill Tea Garden.  Various additions were made over the next 80 years as the area became a focal point in the community. In the  1990’s significant restoration and reconstruction of the original grist mill was undertaken and in 2001 the Old Mill Inn was opened with 57 luxurious suites.  The picture below shows some of the original stonework from the 1849 mill with the new English Tudor style hotel on top.

IMG_4230

The stone on the lower portion of the mill is darker and may represent the foundations of Fisher’s mill.  The cover photo shows the abandoned mill as it looked in 1913 just prior to the start of redevelopment.

IMG_4233

I close with this majestic tree simply because it’s nice after months of brown and white photo’s to have a vibrant green one.

IMG_4198

Google Maps Link: The Old Mill

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com