Tag Archives: river grapes

Marita Payne Pond

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Marita Payne Pond is in a small residential park that follows the Don River through the Dufferin Road and Steeles Avenue area. The pond, and the park it is located in are named after Marita Payne who is a Vaughan resident. She is remembered for winning two silver medals in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She is also currently a co-holder of the Canadian record for the 400-metre dash.

The park was developed on the grounds of the former Glen Shields Golf Course (1952-1979) where it ran along both sides of the Don River. The 1967 aerial photo below is from the Toronto Archives and shows the river and an earlier pond where Marita Payne Pond is today. The fairways and greens from the old golf course can still be seen in the picture. The table lands were developed for housing while the ravine areas were turned into Glen Shields Park and Marita Payne Park.

The pond serves as a flood control feature by holding heavy rainfall until it can be slowly released into the Don River. The pond is fairly small but has a surprising amount of wildlife.

Although the pond has been home to a Great Blue Heron for the past several summers it was a pleasant surprise to see a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron standing on the rocks at the storm water outfall into the pond. Juveniles have a brown colour with lighter streaks and a pale yellow beak. As they mature the belly turns a pale white and they develop a black crown and back. As their name suggests, they are nocturnal and do most of their feeding in the evenings. During the day they can be hard to spot because they sleep in trees or dense foliage. The average Black-crowned Night Heron can expect to live for about 20 years.

Great Blue Herons, on the other hand tend to live for around 17 years. With their wingspan of nearly two meters they are able to reach speeds of 55 kilometers per hour in flight. It’s common for them to nest in large colonies and then fly for up to an hour each day to reach their feeding places. There has been a Great Blue Heron at Marita Payne Pond for several years in a row and it’s likely the same one each year. Birds that have been banded for tracking purposes are known to migrate to the same place each winter and return to the same nesting grounds each spring. For some reason many of these birds moved farther north this spring and we seem to have a lot more of them in the GTA. The Great Blue Heron in the cover photo is a second one, the first time I have ever seen two at this little pond. It is flying with its neck stretched out straight unlike the normal retracted “S” curve we usually see when they’re in flight.

Painted Turtles usually live between 20 and 30 years but some have been known to survive for 50 years. When you see the feet of Painted Turtles you may notice that some of them have long nails while others have relatively short ones. The long-nailed ones are the males and they use them to stroke the female turtle on the head to indicate interest in mating. If she is tickled correctly she will dive to the bottom of the water and wait for him to come and mate. When I took the picture below I thought there was just one turtle in it but a second one decided to photobomb my picture. That was nice of it.

Call Ducks are domesticated and sometimes kept for pets. They were developed in the mid-19th century as hunting ducks. They were specifically bred to be smaller than average ducks so that they could lure other ducks into funnel traps and then escape through the small exit. They also have a distinct call that carries well and can lure wild ducks from great distances. With the advent of duck whistles and the decline in popularity of hunting, Call Ducks became relatively rare. In the mid-20th century they made a come-back as show ducks and as livestock on hobby farms where they are raised for eggs and food. The pair of Call Ducks at Marita Payne Pond were quite attached to each other and when they decided to sleep they snuggled up and dozed off.

I was surprised to see a Cormorant at Marita Payne Pond for the first time in nearly 20 years of visiting here. An adult Cormorant will eat about a pound of fish per day which is nearly 10,000 pounds in their 23 year lifetime. The pond is said to have Bass, Carp, Sunfish, Catfish and Black Crappie but I wonder if it isn’t being over-fished by the large predatory water birds.

Pleated Inkcap Mushrooms grow in short grass or on wood chips and can be found in the mornings, especially the day after a rain storm. These little mushrooms are also known as Little Japanese Umbrella and the caps are between 1 and 2 centimeters and stand atop a 6 centimeter stem which is only 4-5 millimeters in diameter.

These mushrooms are very frail and thin. The radial grooves that extend from the centre to the edge of the cap match the gills on the underside. They reach maturity around noon and after releasing their spores they bein to fade away. Twenty-four hours later there will be hardly a trace of their coming and going.

The Eastern Grey Squirrel comes in both grey and black colours. Both can be born in the same litter but some confuse them for two different species. The black ones are more common in the northern range of their habitats while they don’t exist at all in the southern United States. Some populations are also known to have a black body with a red tail and a few groups of albino squirrels have also been reported.

The trail through Marita Payne Park is part of the Bartley-Smith Greenway, a 15-kilometer trail that follows the West Don River. As you follow it north-west you pass under the Glen Shields Avenue bridge and the trail changes to fine gravel from pavement. The park also become a little less maintained between here and and where it passes under the bridge for Highway 407.

I was wondering if the second Heron at Marita Payne was possible the one that is usually at the old dam just past the 407 bridge. As it turns out, this bird is in its normal spot at the base of the abutment from the dam. There’s no shortage of Herons this year in any of our parks.

River Grapes or wild grapes are growing in abundance along the side of the river. From the looks of the fruit, it’s going to be a good year for a large crop. Cultivated grapes have been developed from wild grapes by choosing plants that are the hardiest and cross breeding them.

Destroying Angel is one of the poisonous mushrooms that grow in the region. They are often found growing solo and can be identified by their bright white colour and the large veil below the cap. A distinguishing feature is the sac-like cup at the bottom of the stem.

Highway 407 was originally proposed in 1959 but the first section wasn’t opened until 1997. When construction was completed through the Concord area it was decided to re-align Highway 7 where it crossed the West Don River. A small portion of the old highway was closed and the bridge was removed. There is still a small section of the old road allowance that can be found just before the present Highway 7 bridge.

We often look for loop trails so that we can experience more terrain without having to go back over sections we already explored. Trails along the rivers in the GTA tend to be “out and back” as the parks are normally only as wide as the floodplain of the waterway they surround. It’s amazing how often we see something on the way back that was missed on the outward part of the journey. This time it was a baby Snapping Turtle that was lying in a puddle on the edge of the path. It looked a lot like a leaf in the water and could have easily been stepped on or crushed by a bike tire. Snapping Turtles can live up to 45 years in the wild and this one will have a better chance after I moved him up onto the grass between the path and the river.

Returning to the pond, it’s possible to follow the trail to the corner Of Glen Shields Avenue and Dufferin Street where it cuts through the Ghost Town of Fisherville before ending at the entrance to G. Ross Lord Park.

Marita Payne Pond has a direct connection to the Don River and fish have an easy way into the pond. Perhaps this is why such a small pond can support four large fishing birds.

Relayed blogs: Fisherville – Ghost Towns of the GTA, G. Ross Lord Park

Google Maps Link: Marita Payne Pond

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

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

Also look for us on Instagram

Hornby – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Beginning in the 1830s the area north of Oakville was opened for settlement and the community of Hornby found itself becoming an important stop on the trip into town.  Hotels were opened and in 1850 Trafalgar Road (7th Line) was planked as far north as Stewarttown with a toll station in Hornby.  However, by 1877 the railway had bypassed the town and Milton had been named as county seat.  Hornby began to decline back to a county village.  Today there isn’t much of the community that was named after Hornby Castle in Yorkshire but we went to see what could be found and photographed before it  disappears forever.

Hornby became stretched out along what is now Steeles Avenue to the point where it was referred to as Hornby and West Hornby.  Two cemeteries mark the eastern site of Hornby.  The Methodist church was originally located on Lot 1 Concession 8 on the corner of the William McKindsey lot.  On April 30, 1832 the land was sold to the Methodist Trustees.  The land actually belonged to Kings College until 1840 and so the indenture wasn’t registered until 1842.  The congregation built a small frame church and began a cemetery beside the church.  They soon outgrew the frame church and moved to a new location leaving the cemetery behind.  It has since been restored with the markers being gathered into a central location for preservation.

IMG_7573

in 1856 the Wesleyan Methodist congregation built a new brick building a little farther west.  This brick building was part of a preaching circuit that included Bowers, Munns, McCurdy’s, Omagh and Bethel.  In 1925 the Methodists and Presbyterians joined to become The United Church of Canada.  This building served the congregation until November 17, 1968 when it was closed and the parishioners joined with the Ashgrove United Church.  Since then the building has been used as the Hornby Townhall.  The spire with finial was built by Gordon Brigden at his machine shop in Hornby.

IMG_7561

The first church built by the Presbyterian Church in Hornby was a frame structure constructed in 1835 across the street from the Wesleyan Methodist Church on Lot 1 Concession 9.  Many of the founding settlers of Hornby are interred here and the cemetery remains active today.  The original frame church was replaced in 1878 with a brick structure.  The congregation did not choose to join the United Church and remained active until 1971 when it was amalgamated with Knox Presbyterian in Milton.  The church building was destroyed by fire in 1978 and arson was suspected but never proven.

IMG_7566

The first school building in Hornby was in a log cabin built in 1826.  It was replaced with a new brick building in 1870.  It operated as a school until 1963 when Pineview school was built on 5th sideroad.

IMG_7565

Samuel Brooks owned this one and a half story farm house in 1878.  The property changed hands several times until Frank Chisholm farmed the property through the middle of the twentieth century.  There have been multiple additions to the house over the years.  By the time it was assessed for cultural heritage in 2018 the structure was deteriorating and there was damage to the roof that had been covered over with plastic.

IMG_8401

There has been a fire at the home since then and there is little doubt that the structure will be demolished for safety reasons.  As of our visit the back door was open providing access to a very unsafe structure.  It will likely be removed for safety reasons.

IMG_8420

The drive shed on the property is in similar condition and the former farm will likely soon fall prey to the urban expansion that is spreading along Steeles Avenue.

IMG_8435

We had parked on Trafalgar Road where there is an entrance to the Halton County Forest.  After making our way through town and back up Hornby Road it was time to cut back through the forest to the car.  There is a cairn commemorating John Coulson who owned the property and bequeathed it to the county for reforestation.  The 89 acre tract was planted with white pine in 1959 and left to regenerate.

IMG_8440

A summers worth of growth goes into producing seed pods to carry on the family line.  The wild cucumbers have produced their edible seed pods, each one containing four seeds.  In the next few weeks the bottom of each seed pod will open up and drop the seeds to the ground below.

IMG_8398

River grapes have also come along nicely this year.  These wild grapes have been bred into our table grapes to help produce a strain that is resistant to our climate.  These grapes can be turned into a tasty grape jelly.

IMG_8394

We followed Trafalgar Creek part way through the Coulson Tract and came across a cluster of asparagus that has no leaves but there are still many seeds on it.

IMG_8391

There are still several early twentieth century homes and farms in the Hornby area. but the former community is in danger of being over run by urban sprawl.

Google Maps link: Hornby

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

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

Also look for us on Instagram

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.

IMG_6500

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

IMG_1762

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.

IMG_6621

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.

IMG_1763

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.

IMG_6602

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.

IMG_6581

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.

IMG_6584

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.

IMG_6597

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.

IMG_6613

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.

IMG_6493

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.

IMG_6499

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

IMG_1684

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

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

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

Passmore Forest

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Passmore Forest is in the neighbourhood of L’Amoreaux in Scarborough.  It is named after Josue L’Amoreaux who lived between 1738 and 1834.  He was one of the first settlers in the area, arriving in 1808.  Josue was a loyalist, of French Huguenot beliefs, who fled to Canada after the American Revolution.  By the 1840’s there were two churches and in 1847 L’Amoreaux was given the designation of School Section #1 for Scarborough Township.  A post office was opened in 1854 but it wasn’t until 100 years later that the community was transformed into suburbia.  West Highland Creek is a tributary of Highland Creek which forms the eastern end of the Scarborough Bluffs.  The creek feeds L’Amoreaux Pond in a park known as L’Amoreaux North Park.

img_4564

Passmore Forest is named after Frederick Fortescue Passmore who was born in England in 1824 and emigrated to Canada in 1845.  He served his apprenticeship under Sandford Flemming and was the draftsman on the St. Catharines Town Hall (1849).  In the 1850’s he listed himself as an architect, surveyor, and civil engineer.  Passmore is known for his survey of Scarborough township in 1850 and again in 1862.  There were 15 saw mills operating in the area by the early 1860’s and the amount of forest cover had dropped by 40 percent between the two surveys.  The cover photo shows one of the large pine trees that stand in the woodlot.

Along the side of L’Amoreaux lake, the trail passes this large wasp nest.  Nests grow in proportion to the size of the colony.  Nests will only be used for one season as only the fertilised female will survive the winter.  She will start a new nest in the spring in which to lay her eggs.  When the sterile females are born they become workers who tend the nest and see to its expansion as the colony grows.  Later in the year, the queen will produce some male wasps to fertilize the new generation of queen wasps.  These females will then seek shelter to survive the winter and start the cycle over again.

img_4567

Near L’Amoreaux Pond there are two interpretive signs which tell a brief story about a native village that was found here in 2000.  When contractors were preparing to build a subdivision on the property near the pond they found native artifacts just below the top soil.  Experts were called in and before long a 2.6-hectare village belonging to the Huron-Wendat people was uncovered.  Eventually, 17 longhouses were uncovered as well as over 19,000 pieces of stone tools, copper beads, pottery and pipes.  Shells that likely originated on the east coast were found indicating that a vast trading network existed at the time. Estimates are that up to 1,000 people may have lived here for about 50 years.  No signs of fortification were found as there were no fence posts surrounding the village, one of about 25 villages on the north side of the Great Lakes that belonged to the Huron-Wendat.  The name of the village has been lost, but the dig site was named “Alexandra”.  This village was roughly the same size as the one uncovered at Crawford Lake.  There were no burials on the site and after the archaeological dig was completed the developers were allowed to go ahead and build single-family houses on the property.

img_4575

A small footbridge crosses the West Highland Creek above a concrete catch basin.  The basin was full of plastic water bottles and other assorted garbage.  The trail leads from the water up a slight incline to Passmore Forest.

img_4578

Thunderclouds contain small particles of ice that collide and cause an electrical charge to build up.  Trees and other objects on the ground can also build up an electrical charge and when the charge coming down from the clouds meets that of the tree an exchange of current takes place in what we call a lightning bolt.  This bolt of electricity is very hot, up to 54,000 degrees F.  This is about six times hotter than the surface of the sun and can burn the inside of a tree.  Many forest fires are started by lightning strikes.  The picture below shows the inside of a tree that has been struck by lightning.

img_4579

River grapes have taken over a large part of the forest.  Their vines can climb to the tops of some of the tallest trees, reaching up to 115 feet in length.  These longer vines tend to have reduced fruit production with the younger, lower, vines having more grapes.

img_4584

Another view across the pond in L’Amoreaux North Park.  The edge of the pond has a paved trail running around it with benches set at intervals for quiet enjoyment.  Ducks, geese and gulls were here on this day but herons are also common.

img_4599

Passmore Forest isn’t large, as forests go, but it is a significant percentage of the old growth forest in this area.  F. F. Passmore lives on in the name of this forest as well as Passmore Avenue which has been abandoned in several places.

Google Maps link: Passmore Forest

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

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