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Sunday, May 27, 2012


At this year's Bird Festival, FOSS volunteers, along with visiting families, built bat houses as well as the usual tree swallow nesting boxes.

Why build a bat house?

Many bat species would typically roost under the bark of a dead tree and other safe crevices. However, due to habitat loss, this is often not an available resource. Bat houses provide a safe and secure home for bats to roost during the day and to raise their young.

Bats significantly reduce the amount of pest insects in our backyards while at the same time helping farmers and gardeners by eating insect pests. An individual bat can eat thousands of insects in just one night! More bats eating insects mean less pesticide use in our environment.

White Nose Syndrome, a virulent bat-killing disease, is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of bats, particularly the Little Brown Bat, Ontario’s most common bat species.  There’s no cure for this disease — which doesn’t affect humans, so don’t worry about getting infected — but by having bat boxes around, you could make the bats’ lives that much easier. That extra boost could help get them through winter, when the disease hits hardest.

Bats are helpful, not dangerous animals. They are safe and beneficial to have in your backyard. Less than 1% of bats have rabies.  The disease is also fatal to bats.  They are not carriers of rabies.

If you want to build a bat house for your home or cottage, here is the same Conservation Authority approved design we used at this year's Bird Festival. 
Locate your bat house about 12 to 15 feet above the ground on a building, tree or pole - a building will offer the most stable temperature. Orient your bat house to get maximum warmth, especially in the morning (southeast exposure).  If your bat house is not occupied by the end of the second year, try moving it to a new location.  The perfect location is near a permanent source of water (ideally within a mile of a stream, lake or marsh).


This red-wing blackbird repeatedly dive-bombed a red-tailed hawk Saturday adding a little feathered lustre to a demonstration in Etobicoke Saturday (VERONICHENRI/TorontoSun).

TORONTO - A red-wing blackbird who dive-bombed a red-tailed hawk and a bald eagle during a demonstration in Etobicoke was one lucky nest-protector.
Despite repeated kamikaze strikes Saturday, the much bigger juvenile flesh-eaters kept their beady eyes focused on owner Sam Trentadue. Raw chicken strips both he and the volunteers held were more appealing than a pesky interloper.
A flashing beak or taloned claw could easily have turned their tormentor into a nice light snack, “but they’re not trained to hunt and kill,” Trentadue told a mid-day audience at the third Spring Bird Festival.
Raised and trained by commercial breeders with the Ontario Falconry Centre in Scarborough, the hawk and eagle were among several raptors brought by him and partner Laura Brunato plus apprentice Bharathy Jayakhanthan, 16.
If freed, which is not allowed, the hawk, eagle, American kestrel, Great Horned Owl, prairie falcon and a turkey vulture named Frank — for Frankenstein — “would not survive,” Trentadue said.
Trailing light plastic lines attached to their legs, to prevent them flying off, the birds were released from the partner’s gloved hands or perches, pouncing on raw chicken shared with volunteers.
“He was kind of heavy and my arm shook a bit,” Kim Sine, 9, of Etobicoke, said, after the hawk fetched a treat.
Her dad, Brian Sine, who came with his wife Marcia and son Marvin, 6, for the second year, said “the wife is interested in birds” and the festival was a good family-oriented event.
There were “oohs” and “aahs’ when Trentadue said the owl — which kept turning its head almost full-circle — favours fresh skunk more than other prey in the wild. It avoids the repulsive impact of being sprayed because “they can’t smell.”
But several youngsters groaned when told a nervous turkey vulture may defensively regurgitate a ‘cast’ pellet of unwanted meal remains which, after a day of festering will smell so bad “it will empty the whole park.”
Luckily for the enraptured crowd, Frank was well-behaved when he landed on Kyle Hammond’s gloved hand — the five-year-old describing the bald-faced bird as “different.”
Trentadue, who regularly takes his flock to schools, fairs, public events and movie sets, said his centre is affiliated with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Organized by City of Toronto staff, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Humber Arboretum, Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront and Friends of Sam Smith, the festival attracted more than 150 registered participants.
Birdwatchers reported spotting more than 22 wild species during walks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Prescription for health and happiness

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


City celebrates third annual Spring Bird Festival at Colonel Samuel Smith Park

The third annual Spring Bird Festival will be held later this month at Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
The free event, which serves to inform residents and park users about the importance of bird habitats, will feature a live reptile and amphibian display, guided bird walks, children's activities, bird and bat box building, a live snake display, bird-viewing stations and educational displays.
Hosted by City of Toronto staff, in partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation, Humber Arboretum, Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront, and Friends of Sam Smith, the Spring Bird Festival will be held on Saturday, May 26 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Colonel Samuel Smith Park, 3131 Lake Shore Blvd. W.
Colonel Samuel Smith Park is a well-established bird stopover location for more than 270 species of birds along the Etobicoke waterfront.
Hourly guided bird walks run from 8 a.m. to noon. The festival officially begins with children's activities, educational displays and live bird demonstrations at 9 a.m.
Admission to the festival is free. Parking is limited, but the site is accessible by public transit.
For more information email or call 311.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Students explore hidden nature in the city. James S. Bell Junior Middle School students Briar Harling, 9, Jaiden O'Brien, 8, and Ethan Butler, 9, joined their Grade 2/3 class Monday at Colonel Samuel Smith Park for outdoor nature programming hosted by Humber Arboretum's Centre for Urban Ecology. Here, they show off some of the unique leaves they collected during a biodiversity game. 

Students explore hidden nature in the city

Humber Arborteum kicks off its south Etobicoke programming

A morning of flower picking, leaf collecting, bird watching and nest spotting had kids from James S. Bell Junior Middle School marvelling with wide-eyed enthusiasm at Mother Nature Monday, as Humber Arboretum kicked off its first season of nature programming at Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
Lucy Woods and Justice McChesney, both 7, were among the 19 students in grades 2 and 3 to get first crack at enjoying the May-June pilot project, which is aimed at south Etobicoke elementary school classes. Neither could contain their excitement at all they'd learned during the morning's Plants program, led by Nature Interpreter Chris Bialek.
"I learned that plants are an important resource in nature because they keep us alive by making us oxygen and food," Lucy declared proudly.
Added Justice: "Plants are great! They help us breathe, but some are very poisonous and can hurt us, so you have to know the difference."
Already a fixture for many northern Etobicoke schools at the college's North Campus (near Hwy. 27 and Finch Avenue West), Humber Arboretum's Nature Programs kicked off its inaugural season at the college's Lakeshore Campus this week with the James S. Bell visit.
The southern migration of the programming came as a natural move, Bialek said, given that Humber's Lakeshore campus is nestled in one of the city's most diverse urban green spaces - Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
"It's such a great area out here, and we really want to try and get as many schools out down here so the students can come and experience nature," he said. "The big part is making the kids think that nature is fun and that it's not going to hurt them. Some are terrified of snakes and everything else, so this is about teaching them that they're not going to get hurt and that they're going to have fun."
This May and June, classes ranging from grades 1 to 8 can sign up for a multitude of curriculum-connected programming meant to enhance and bring to life the science-based lessons they learn in the classroom. From Magnificent Monarchs, to Amazing Animals, to Cool Coyotes, each program offered caters to specific grades. (See sidebar for a full list of available programming).
Monday morning's Plants program, which had Daunet Morrison's grades 2 and 3 class out scavenging for as diverse a collection of leaves as could be found, perfectly complimented a unit she's currently teaching on biodiversity.
The whole program, she said, was a fun - and eye-opening - experience.
"It's absolutely incredible down here. I didn't even realize this (parkland) was here," she said. "It's been a great day so far."
A full day of Humber Arboretum's Nature Programming (which includes a morning and an afternoon program) down at Colonel Samuel Smith Park costs $11.50 per student participant (not including HST) - but Morrison's class, plus five other lucky classes, got a discounted rate, thanks to a subsidy generously donated by Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW).
"We thought, just to jump start the program, we would offer a subsidy of $5 each for the first 150 kids," said Barbara Keaveney, CCFEW's secretary. "There is so very little outdoor education now in the schools...and it's just so good for the kids to get out. (Colonel Samuel Smith Park) is the only location we know of that's on the lake in Toronto and there's also a huge diversity of wildlife here. There's beaver, fox, lynx, deer - and the birds are amazing, too.
"The kids just love it."
For more information about Humber's nature programming, email or call 416-675-5009.

Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology's Nature Programs:
- Nature Walk (Grade 1 - January to December)
Using the trails of Colonel Sam Smith Park, take part in exploratory activities designed to look closely at nature.
- Habitats (grades 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 - January to December)
What is a habitat and why is it such a significant ecological concept? Learn about the four basic needs of all living things.
- Birds (Grade 1 - January to December)
What makes birds unique? Learn where they live, what they eat, and how they behave. Feed the winter Chickadees.
- Cool Coyotes (grades 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 - January to December)
Learn about the amazing biology and behaviour of our local elusive coyotes (pups to adults) through a variety of games and activities. This program will lead students to better understand the importance of top on the Lakeshore and how to peacefully coexist with a variety of wildlife species.
- Magnificent Monarchs (grades 1-4, 6, 7)
Students will have an opportunity to learn about the characteristics, lifecycles, and behaviours of Monarch butterflies (a species of special concern). A plant, migration, or cultural celebration focus can be provided.
- Trees (grades 1, 3, 4, 6 - January to December)
Trees play an important role in our lives. Learn about forest ecology, fruits, seeds, and tree life cycles.
- First Nation Games (grades 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 - Mid-May to November)
The First Nations People played many games. Have fun learning about their customs.
- Renewable Energy (Grade 5 - Mid-May to November)
Learn about different types of renewable energy and how we benefit from each.
- Plants (grades 3, 4, 6 - Mid-May to Early September)
Learn about the importance of the variety of plants in our world.
- Amazing Animals (grades 2, 4, 6 - January to December)
Uncover the differences between the animal groups. Wildlife native to the area will be emphasized.
- Insects (grades 2, 4 - Mid-May to November)
Examine and compare fascinating insects in different habitats.
- Pollinators (grades 1-4, 6, 7)
Are you aware of the many ways that humans rely on pollinators? Learn about the diversity of pollinators and find out how and why we should act to protect them!
- Ecology Games (grades 4, 6, 7 - March to November)
Play a variety of games and learn that everything plays an important role in nature.
- Watershed Awareness (grades 7, 8 - January to December)
What is a watershed and how do you study one? Identify your watershed address.
- Milkweed Meeting Place (grades 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 - June; September to November)
While learning about general plant characteristics, students will better understand how the Monarch caterpillar's only food source, the Milkweed plant, acts as a habitat for a community of interacting insects.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The Australian Rules footballers were so concerned about the frantic killdeer defending her nest last Saturday that they painted markings around it to alert people to its hard to spot location. 
David Chapman's staff (Parks Supervisor) placed the cones around as well and have been alerted about holding off mowing that section of the playing field until the young leave the nest (all being well!). The eggs take 24 to 28 days to hatch and the young are mobile and usually move away from the nest very soon after hatching.  Keep your fingers crossed.


CANADA WARBLER - can be seen passing through Sam Smith

There is an excellent article in today's Toronto Star on songbird migration through Toronto.  Unfortunately, the writer does not venture to the west end of the City and misses out on describing another terrific place to witness this miracle - Sam Smith Park!

"Songbird ‘superhighway’ runs through Toronto as 50 million will fly over in spring migration"