Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned night heron

Black-crowned night heron at the Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto, July 2013

A week ago Sunday we went to the Brick Works which has been flooded twice this year from torrential rains.   A little over a week after the last flood and a clean-up effort, the site had recovered quite a bit. On the way over, the wildflowers by the railroad were dense leaving only the tiniest of paths to stumble through.

Black-crowned night heron

Black-crowned night heron at the Brick Works in July 2013, Toronto

Shortly after arriving at the Brick Works, we saw this black-crowned night heron in one of the ponds. He or she stood hunched and still for long periods, except when catching a meal.  It is heartening to see wildlife in Toronto in this place where nature is being restored so close to a major highway.

Fleabane on the Alvar at Singing Sands


Fleabane growing on the alvar at Singing Sands, Bruce Peninsula National Park, June 2013

While I was on the Bruce Peninsula, I saw many patches of lovely pink/white and yellow flowering Fleabane.  The flowers are 1/2 – 1″ wide on a plant 6 – 36″ high. Fleabane is in the aster family.  It got its name from the belief that the dried flower heads would get rid of fleas, according to the Audubon Field Guide to Wildflowers.  This particular type is, I believe, Philadelphia Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus.  A similar plant called Robin’s Plantain, Erigeron pulchellus seems to have fewer white/pink ray petals.  If I’ve gotten this wrong, do let me know.

These shown above are at Singing Sands, on the alvar, the pitted rocks.  I learned that alvars only exist in Estonia, Sweden and the Great Lakes Basin.  Water from rain or melting snow collects in the rocks’ small depressions along with silt and sand.  These provide growing places for plants that are able to live in harsh conditions.

More Dramatic Clouds

Clouds over Toronto

Sky over Toronto looking south from a little east of downtown, evening July 19, 2013

We didn’t get the full force of the storms that other parts of southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec got last night, but we had quite the show of amazing clouds. And there was much lightning to the south, perhaps across or over Lake Ontario.  

The Heat Wave Has Broken

Clouds over Toronto

An end to the heat wave–clouds over Toronto, July 19, 2013

We’ve had days of extreme heat, by Toronto standards, and humidity.  Up around 34 or 35 Celsius with great humidity making it feel in the 40s.  Earlier this evening, thunder storms brought us cooler weather and it looks like the storms are still brewing.

Singing Sands

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, Bruce Peninsula National Park, June 2013

Last month, on the Bruce Peninsula, we went to Singing Sands twice.  As I’ve mentioned, it’s part of Bruce Peninsula National Park, off of Dorcas Bay Road on the Lake Huron side of the Peninsula.  I loved walking on the beach among the rocks and footprints of the birds, seeing the tenacious plants that grow there, the patterns of water on sand, hearing the gulls and terns.  In past years, I’ve seen killdeer and sandpipers, but none this time. I wondered if there were fewer of them or whether I was there at the wrong time of day for them.

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, June 2013

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, Lake Huron, Ontario, June 2013

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, patterns of water on the sand, June 2013

Blue-eyed Grass

Blue-eyed Grass

Blue-eyed Grass at the Dorcas Bay Fen, June 2013

On the boardwalk through the Dorcas Bay Fen on the Bruce Peninsula, I also came across tiny Blue-eyed Grass flowers.  Lovely gems, blue-purple, growing near their larger showier Iris relatives.  The flowers are around a half inch wide and the plant can grow from four to twenty inches high.  Their Latin name is Sisyrinchium angustifolium.

Blue-eyed Grass

Blue-eyed Grass in flower, Dorcas Bay Fen, Ontario, June 2013

Northern Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant Flower, Dorcas Bay Fen at Singing Sands, Ontario, June 2013

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant with view of the leaves from which plant gets its name, Dorcas Bay Fen, Ontario, June 2013

When I was on the Bruce Peninsula in June, we went to Singing Sands, part of Bruce Peninsula National Park.  The Sands are on the Lake Huron side of the peninsula with an expanse of beach and waters that remain very shallow far out.  Bordering the Sands are a woodland and fen where I took a short walk on a raised boardwalk and photographed some of the plants growing there.  

The National Park signs say that a fen is a wetland with some drainage, often a stream.  The Dorcas Bay Fen has much calcium in it, but is low in nitrogen.  This makes it a good habitat for plants that get their nitrogen from insects.  The pitcher plant is one of those.  Insects that are attracted to their flowers may fall into their pitcher shaped leaves or they may be attracted to the coloured lips of the leaves. There, among downward pointing hairs, they are trapped,  fall into collected water and drown.  Their nutrients are then absorbed by the plant, both by enzymes it secretes and by bacteria breaking down the animal.  Adventures of life and death at all levels in nature!

The Northern Pitcher Plant’s Latin name is Sarracenia purpurea.  Its sci-fi looking flowers are around 2″ wide and the pitcher leaves can be 4 – 12″ long.  The plant ranges in height from 8 – 24″.  (Thanks again for these details to my copy of the Audubon Wildflower Field Guide.)

Dorcas Bay Fen

Dorcas Bay Fen in Bruce Peninsula National Park, June 2013

Wood Lilies

Wood Lily

Wood Lily in the Bruce Peninsula National Park, June 2013

When we were in Bruce Peninsula National Park, I noticed flashes of deep orange as we drove to the park office.  Later, having hiked the Cyprus Lake Trail, we pulled over on the road and I got out and photographed these Wood Lilies.  I have no memory of seeing them in earlier years, but I could have been distracted then.  These were very beautiful flowers–with a crispness to their shape.  I saw them twice going into the Park and also along the northern part of highway 6 as we travelled south from Tobermory.

Wood Lily

Wood Lily and fern between road and woods in Bruce Peninsula National Park, June 2013

My trusty Audubon Wildflower Guide tells me that their Latin name is Lilium philadelphicum.  They also say the flowers are 2″ wide, but I remember them more like 3″ wide.  They grow 1 to 3 feet high and bloom from June to August.

Large Yellow Lady’s Slippers

Large Yellow Lady's Slippers

Large Yellow Lady’s Slippers, by a laneway near Tobermory, Ontario, June 2013

When we were on the Bruce Peninsula, the yellow lady’s slippers were in bloom. They were by the roadside, in laneways and in the National Park where they were a delight to see.

Their Latin name is Cypripedium  calceolus. They’re members of the orchid family, one of a variety of orchids that the Peninsula is known for. The orchid grows to 8 to 28 inches tall with the yellow lip petal about 2 inches long. This is according  to my National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers and to my own observation. Though I did not go out and about with a tape measure!

I’ve included a photo from a laneway near where we stayed and from The Cyprus Lake Trail in the National Park.

Large Yellow Lady's Slippers

Large Yellow Lady’s Slippers in Bruce Peninsula National Park, June 2013

Smog in Toronto

Smog Over Toronto

Smog Over Toronto, evening July 2, 2013

I’ll be posting more about the beauty of Bruce Peninsula.  But meanwhile, we are in the midst of smog days in Toronto, which I think may be our first this year.  The smog alert began yesterday afternoon and is still with us.  From a high vantage point, where I took these photos, looking south from a little east of downtown, you can see the sweep of the pollution.  The smog is also over other cities and towns in southern Ontario. These are not uplifting photos, but more a call to continue working on reducing pollution in our societies.

Smog Over Toronto

Smog Over Toronto, morning July 3, 2013