Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tommy Thompson Park - Toronto

Well I have been lucky enough to spend the past two beautiful Sunday's out at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto.  What a unique location this place is.

Tommy Thompson is owned and managed by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, but is still used today by the Port Authority.  It is also known as the Lesley Street Spit, and is completely human made through being a site for disposal of not only dredged materials, but also surplus fill/old materials from other development sites around Toronto.  Much of the "beach" is made up of old rebar, brick, glass, and other concretes. Because of this, it's not advised to go swimming in this area (there's plenty of other beaches nearby) but the paths are really wonderful for walking and biking.

I really enjoyed myself going onto the beach and checking out all the old weathered rocks.  You can find some pretty cool things out there, and there is lots of weathered glass (that's not sharp anymore) to collect!

More can be found about Tommy Thompson here: http://www.tommythompsonpark.ca/

View of the Toronto Skyline
The first weekend Mike and I took a 3 hour bike ride checking out the main biking paths.  The area in general was pretty quiet for birds this day.  We saw more Eastern Kingbirds than I could count, a few yellow warblers, a white egret, song sparrow, Caspian terns, and WAY too many double-crested cormorants to be normal.

Kinda cool shot of a tern with the CN Tower
We first stopped at the location where the Toronto Bird Observatory is!  Here they set up mist nests during migration and band birds that are caught there.  I am REALLY hoping that I will be able to volunteer here this fall (fingers are crossed!).  Here we were able to see a red-tailed hawk who had just caught a mouse sitting very close to us.  It was quite the site, although she was being stubborn and staying enough out of view to get a crappy photo.

My favourite part of this ride was the baby barn swallows that I spotted still in their nests. They were SO adorable and almost falling out they were getting so big!

Baby Barn Swallows

Momma Barn Swallow

This past weekend I went again for a Sunday bike ride.  The baby barn swallows had fully fledged (meaning that they were out of the nest), so that was a little disappointing. According to the TRCA worker they had left the day before.  I saw quite a few more birds this day than the weekend before.  While out by the first lookout area I got a great view of a Song Sparrow. The two of us "chatted" for a bit until he got fed up and left me alone making bird noises, looking rather dumb.  A bit further down the trail there is a lookout towards the skyline.  Here I saw dozens of kingbirds, Caspian terns, a cedar waxwing, yellow warblers, great egret, and one of my favourites...a Belted Kingfisher.

Cedar Waxwing
Belted Kingfisher looking for a meal

It was really cute when this little girl came by and was looking out at the skyline and birds with her dad, when suddenly she let out this piercing scream!! I turned and ran a little thinking that she had seen a snake (which made me want to see it!) but no...it was a caterpillar.  She was frozen in the middle of the path so I had to go, pick up the little caterpillar, and move it out of the way so that she could move.  It was so hilarious!

Song Sparrow singing away

Further on I biked past the bird observatory and spotted the Red-tailed hawk again just above me.  Got a FANTASTIC view, although camera wise..just a silhouette. I decided to try to take another trail leading into the back.  It had some great views of the skyline as well as an amazing view of the Double-crested cormorant colony.  It was a close up view..without getting too close. It's astonishing to think that not too long ago these birds were on the brink of extinction and we were fighting to save them!  I have no idea how many birds can fit into such an area, but all i could think of was "Man, I'm glad I'm not under them right now.."
Red-tailed Hawk

Baby Kingbird
While in this same area I happened to be screamed at by a baby kingbird!  Literally!  I turned around and suddenly this little thing was flying into my face screaming, so naturally...I screamed to!  And then followed it's screaming to figure out what the heck that was!  Standing trying to ID it was eaten by fire ants.  First time EVER being bitten by them and goodness, I know why they are called fire ants!

Overall, this is such a wonderful place to visit.  Being a disturbed site, there is a lot of more "weedy" species when it comes to the vegetation, but it still provides great habitat for resident and migrating birds.  Once in a while you can spot a little black-eyed susan poking out too!  If anyone is in for just a bike ride or some birding, definitely come check this place out.  I already can tell that I'll be hitting it up quite a few more times once migration hits!!

Happy birding!

View of the Double-crested Cormorant Colony

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