Mammals of the Leslie Street Spit, Toronto

Photo of a Red Fox for the Mammals post.

More than twenty species of mammals have been recorded on Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit, an artificially constructed peninsula that juts into Lake Ontario from the city’s east end. With more than three million people, Toronto puts the kind of pressure on its parks and green spaces that should eliminate any hint of the wild and … Read more

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Audubon Again: Another Look at the Fair Incognito

Audubon's Gyrfalcon: featured image for Audubon Again post.

I have been thinking and writing about Audubon’s story of the Fair Incognito, the woman who commissioned him to draw her portrait in the nude, for the past two or three years. I kept returning to the subject because I never thought I really understood why the artist felt compelled to set this story down … Read more

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The Omnipotent Goddess of Spring

Feature photo for spring post.

My friend and sometime birding companion, Lynn Pady, recently sent me a copy of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” a poem about the bird we call a Kestrel. I don’t know for sure but suspect this may be a product of spring fever on Lynn’s part. It’s not the first time she’s emailed me this … Read more

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Parlez-moi d’amour: Is this the most romantic song ever recorded?

Photo of Lucienne Boyer from 1939.

I’ve been listening to Lucienne Boyer’s recording of “Parlez-moi d’amour” (1930) on and off for about twenty-five years and have never grown tired of hearing it. I came to the song through a two-disk CD I bought of chansons françaises, the type of music performed in the cabarets and music halls of Paris over the … Read more

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Nature’s Narcissist: The Prothonotary Warbler

Feature photo for the Prothonotary post.

At some point over the long course of its evolution, the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) developed the peculiar habit of staring at its reflected image in the still waters of the swamps that it calls home. This mirror gazing does nothing to advance either of the bird’s main aims in life, which are to eat … Read more

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Wasps Are Wonderful! Especially the Flower-visiting Kind

Photo of a Bramble Mason Wasp.

Over the past summer, I became fascinated by flower-visiting wasps, especially the solitary kind that build individual nests, either by burrowing into the ground or by fashioning small mud-nests that they attach to plants or artificial constructions. For one thing, these wasps are plentiful where I live in Toronto, Ontario. Throughout the summer and into … Read more

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Tennessee Coneflower: An Honored Guest in My Garden

Feature photo for the coneflower post.

I first read about Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) in the catalogue I get every year from Salt Spring Seeds on Vancouver Island. The notice described it as a rare and uncommonly attractive wildflower that was thought to be extinct until 1968, when researchers discovered a surviving pocket in a cedar glade in central Tennessee. Tennessee … Read more

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Hawk Drama at High Park

Feature photo for Red-tailed Hawk post.

On June 13, I went to High Park in Toronto’s west end for what I thought would be a day of butterflies and dragonflies. The park is vast (161 hectares, or 400 acres) and contains a variety of habitats, including wetlands and one of the last dry-oak savannahs in the Greater Toronto Area. More than … Read more

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Early Blue Cohosh: Another Native Knockout

Early Blue Cohosh feature photo.

I like every element of the popular name: Early Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum). Early means the flowers appear when I most long for them—in April, when winter has just released its grip, and the soil, if not frozen, is still clammy and cold. Blue signifies a color I don’t see much of so early in … Read more

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Toronto Dragonflies: A Study in Diversity and Beauty

Photo of a 12-spotted Skimmer.

Recently, I was asked to compile a checklist of the dragonflies and damselflies that frequent the Leslie Street Spit, the so-called “urban wilderness” and parkland that extends into Lake Ontario from Toronto’s east end. One thing that intrigued me about this project was the contrast between the old and new that it illustrates. On the … Read more

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