3/18/2015

Guest Post: Toronto’s Winter Waterfowl By Deborah M. Buehler

The pedestrian bridge spanning the junction between Embayment C and Cell 3 in Tommy ThompsonPark (TTP) swayed slightly in the brisk winter breeze.  On the bridge, people chattered with excitement about how to tell a Greater Scaup from a Common Goldeneye (or for the hardcore birders, from a Lesser Scaup) and speculated about whether the swans with their head’s tucked under their wings were Trumpeter or Mute. 

Enjoying Winter Waterfowl at the pedestrian bridge viewing station. Photo: Don Johnston


Then someone called out, “Mink!” 

The mink’s would be prey (a Red-breasted Merganser) narrowly escaped, to the collective “Oh!” of myself, and about 20 others, who had piled onto the bridge as part of the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) Winter Waterfowl Event on March 7th, 2015. We were further delighted when the mink scampered across the open ice of Embayment C with the Toronto skyline as a backdrop. 

Toronto skyline from Tommy Thompson Park – now picture it with a mink running across the ice. Photo: Debbie Buehler.
The pedestrian bridge provided an ideal viewing platform, not only for mink, but also for a variety of ducks and swans. I had volunteered to staff the bridge with long time TTP volunteer naturalist Don Johnston. As part of the event, TRCA had interpretive stations and walks at various places within the park, but I thought the bridge would be the best place to see the waterfowl. I was not disappointed! We had Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, Mallards, American Black Ducks, a White-winged Scoter, and a Canvasback with it’s longer neck and wedge shaped head in direct contrast to the similarly colored Redheads. The ducks were gathered in the small stretches of open water on either side of the bridge, taking advantage of easily accessible food, mainly zebra mussels, according to Don.

Ducks and Trumpeter Swans in Embayment C. Photo: Debbie Buehler
A few days earlier it was doubtful that we’d be able to see anything at all from the bridge. The deep cold of winter had frozen the water around the bridge solid. But a few warmer and sunny days, coupled with winds that caused the water to flow quickly between the two bodies of water, provided just enough ice break-up to attract the birds. 

Ducks in Cell 3. Photo: Debbie Buehler
Freeze up on the Great Lakes, is a much bigger problem for ducks than it is for human duck watchers. These past two winters have been brutal. When the lakes freeze, and especially when sheltered inlets and bays freeze, it becomes much harder for ducks to reach their winter foods. Last winter proved lethal for many of Toronto’s winter ducks, and this winter has also been very hard.  

Ducks in Embayment C. Photo Debbie Buehler
Although some of Toronto’s winter ducks – like the Mallards and American Black Ducks – will stay to breed in the area, many will migrate north to lakes and ponds in the boreal forest. And some, like the Long-tailed ducks, will carry on all the way up to the high Arctic. Indeed, some of the ducks were already feeling amorous. A few Common Goldeneye drakes even provided a few moments of display

Common Goldeneye with head back mating display. Photo: Debbie Buehler
Over the course of the morning I spoke to many people on the bridge, from hardy winter regulars, to people out of their first event. I even had the pleasure of meeting one of the TRCA’s restoration staff. We chatted about the work he’d done in Embayment A – now one of my favorite places in the park. 

I looked around at the snow-covered landscape and commented: “You have one of the best offices in the world!”

A smiled and nod indicated that he agreed. More proof was that he was back “at the office” on the weekend, his time off, eager to show his 4-year old son the wonders of his workplace and Tommy Thompson Park.  

About the author:

Deborah Buehler is an ecologist, a writer, a devoted mother and a TTPBRS volunteer extraordinaire. She has a passion for critical thinking and muses about how humans are adapting to and changing our environment in the context of culture, ecology, evolution and sustainability. Read more about Deborah on her blog.

2/17/2015

Annual Winter Waterfowl Special Event!



TTP's Winter Waterfowl Event is set for Saturday March 7th!

Many ducks spend the summer breeding in the Arctic and migrate south to Toronto for the milder winter. Come out to see and learn about these spectacular winter visitors at this one of a kind event!

To register for one of the workshops or guided nature walks, follow this link -https://ttpwinterwaterfowl.eventbrite.ca/ Or explore the park on your own and stop at the viewing station at the pedestrian bridge.

For more information, email ttp@trca.on.ca or call 416-661-6600 ext. 5770.

12/03/2014

Holiday Hours at Tommy Thompson Park

Don't be left out in the cold! Plan your winter visit to Tommy Thompson Park carefully.  
TTP is a wonderful destination during the winter. The heavy snow weighing down the bows of Pine trees on Peninsula B, the bright morning sun glistening off the ice of Cell Two and the crisp cold air from across Lake Ontario certainly create the ideal winter experience. Yet there are some hazards to keep in mind during your visit to the park. The weather can change suddenly and ice forms quickly and unevenly. For your safety, do not walk on frozen bodies of water. Also keep in mind that very strong and cold winter winds blow off the lake, so be sure to dress warmly before venturing out to the lighthouse.

2014 Migration Monitoring Summary


The 2014 Monitoring season has come to a close. This year, we were surprised by new species visiting the station. Scroll through the list below to see how many of your favourite birds frequent Tommy Thompson Park.