GLOURIOUS GREEN HERON THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY TRIP TO CANADA
This blog will be a little different to my usual blogs as it will be a combination of a travel blog, visiting my family in Canada and my usual bird watching escapades. My flight to Toronto departed from Manchester Airport 8:30am on Friday 18th May which meant I had to check in before 5:30am. As I was travelling with my parents we decided that we would check into the Crown Plaza Hotel at Manchester Airport the night before.
Day 1 - Friday 18th May
The first day began with a 4am alarm call and after a shower I joined my parents at the hotel reception and we climbed aboard the shuttle bus to the airport and arrived at the airport just before 5am. We were flying with Air Transat and as we approached the check in desk one of the employees informed us that we would need a visa to fly to Canada, something which was news to us all. After having to apply for visas via my smart phone at a cost of $7 each and taking nearly an hour to do so we were able to check in and grab some breakfast before heading to our gate and boarding the plane at 7:45am.
The plane took off on time at 8:30 and after a flight of 7 hours and 45 minutes we landed in Toronto at 4:15pm UK time and 11:15am Canadian time. When we reached the arrivals hall my aunt & cousin were there to pick us up and take us to the town of Erin where we would be staying with my aunt. It was a warm 20°C when we arrived in Erin and in the trees in the garden were Common Grackles and a lone Chipping Sparrow singing away in a tree at the back.
After tea I walked down through Erin to the Credit River at Churchill Lane. The Credit River is a river in Southern Ontario which flows from above the Niagara Escarpment near Orangeville, through Erin, and empties into Lake Ontario at Port Credit, Mississauga. The total length of the river and its tributary streams is over 930 miles / 1500 kilometres. Despite urbanization and associated problems with water quality on the lower section of this river, it provides spawning areas for Chinook Salmon and Rainbow Trout. Much of the river can still be travelled by canoe or kayak and the local watershed management conservation authority, Credit Valley Conservation, operates several conservation areas including Belfountain, Terra Cotta and the excellent Island Lake.
The river became known as Missinnihe, or "trusting creek" to the Mississauga's First Nation who met annually with the white traders there. To the first nations, the river was "held in reverential estimation as the favourite resort of their ancestors and the band became known as the Credit River Indians. The origins of the English name come from the time when French fur traders supplied goods to the native people and it was known as the Riviere au Credit. The Credit River is home to a wide range of wildlife including 1330 species of plants, 64 fish species, 41 species of mammals, 5 species of turtles, 8 snake species, 17 amphibian species and 244 species of birds call this river home.
Back to Churchill Lane, which is located off the main street behind Valumart and is a short street which bridges / dams the Credit River. Looking up the river I could see Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles whilst below the lane I could see a pair of Eastern Phoebes flying from branch to branch over the water. Up in the trees to the right I saw a lone Yellow Rumped Warbler and joining the Eastern Phoebes was a Black Capped Chickadee which is quite similar to a Marsh Tit or Willow Tit that are seen in the UK.
There were also a couple of Black Squirrels making their way through the trees and as I walked round the corner and down the eastern banks of the river I spotted two Belted Kingfishers flying along the river in the direction of Churchill Lane. I made my way back to Churchill Lane and perched in the trees either side of the road were a pair of Belted Kingfishers although they didn't stay very long and flew off up river out of sight. Before I returned to my aunts house I paid a quick visit to Centre Street which is located further up the Credit River.
From Centre Street I was able to see more Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles as well as a Yellow Warbler and a few American Robins. As I was about to leave a Muskrat emerged from the reeds on the far side of the river and swam over to the waters edge where I was standing and after having a quick look at me swam off down river and I headed back to the house.
Day 2 - Saturday 19th May
It was a damp rainy day when I left the house and perched in the tree in the front garden was a lone Blue Jay. I walked down through the town centre to Coffee Time where we usually have a morning drink, but sadly it had gone downhill since our last visit in 2012 and we decided that we would try the Tin Roof Cafe over the road next time. Above the Coffee Time sign there were a group of about half a dozen American Tree Sparrows singing away and my first port of call on my way back for lunch was at Charles Street which is at the bottom end of the main street opposite what used to be Mundell Lumber which has now been pulled down.
On Charles Street there is a short bridge over the Credit River and in a tree on the left hand bank of the river was a single Baltimore Oriole. In the bushes on either side of the bridge there were Black Squirrels, Red Squirrels and Chipmunks ferreting about looking for food. I carried on up the main street and made another call at Churchill Lane where the Eastern Phoebes were still in attendance, as were Red Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and a Black Capped Chickadee. Further up the river there were two adult Canada Geese with four goslings in tow.
In the afternoon we went to the Mall in Georgetown as it was cloudy and drizzling with rain. I bought a Toronto Maple Leafs t-shirt and baseball cap before we all met up again for a drink at the food court. On the way home we called at Scottsdale Farm which is a conservation area a few miles north west of Georgetown and is run by Ontario Heritage Trust. The property was donated to the trust and the people of Ontario by the Bennett Family and the site is 531 acres in size. As we arrived in the cloud and mist a pair of Grey Herons and Great Blue Herons were flying off into the mist and out of site.
As I was walking round I saw American Goldfinches, American Robins, Eastern Phoebes and nesting in the eaves of one the buildings were several Barn Swallows. Whilst we were sat down eating our tea a Ruby Throated Hummingbird flew in and made a brief visit to the flowers close to the house in the back garden before zooming off out of sight.
Day 3 - Sunday 20th May
On Sunday it was a much brighter, sunnier day and shortly after breakfast we headed west from Erin to the village of Belwood which is on the shores of Belwood Lake at the intersections of Highway's 19 & 26. Belwood Lake is a reservoir in East Garafraxa, Dufferin County and Centre Wellington, Wellington County. The lake is on the Grand River, whose waters were impounded in 1942 by the construction of the Shand Dam for flood control and the generation of Hydroelectricity.
My mum and aunt were going to go to the service at the United Church in Belwood and myself we were going to do a bit of bird watching at the lake. However due to a mix up in dates and service time all four of us ended up going bird watching. From the shores of the lake at Belwood I could see Great Blue Herons, Grey Herons and Turkey Vultures flying overhead. In the trees at the edge of the water I saw American Goldfinches, Common Grackles, Red Winged Blackbirds and Baltimore Orioles. On the ground there were American Robins, Chipping Sparrows and in a tree very close to me was a Warbling Vireo.
On the water there were Canada Geese and a pair of Wood Ducks and perched in the bushes rising from the water was a single Eastern Kingbird which was making regular flights to catch flies and then returning to the same perch. I made a quick visit to the Belwood Country Market store to purchase a drink as the weather was starting to heat up. In here I found out that on the bridge we had taken to cross Belwood Lake there was an Osprey nest on a manmade platform at the top of a telegraph pole.
We walked round and onto the bridge and found the Osprey nest which was currently empty but there were several Barn Swallows flying around and low over the water, sometimes perching on bushes at the edge of the water. Right next to the bridge there was a lone Canada Goose sat on a nest and as I was about to give up on the Osprey it flew over the water high above before making several passes over the nest before landing. I watched it on the nest for a few minutes before it flew off only to return just a couple of minutes later with a fish it had caught and it then went and landed in a tree at the edge of the lake to devour its prize.
All four of us now made our way to a cafe opposite the Country Market called Belwood Super Snax which is located just a short distance from the lake. The cafe was excellent value for money with 4 main meals and drinks costing just $32 (£18.50), the food was superb and I thoroughly enjoyed the pancakes that I had for lunch! After lunch we got back in the car and headed back across the bridge and down to the Belwood Lake Conservation Area which is at the southern end of Lake Belwood.
Entrance to the conservation area costs $7 per person (£4) and located just a short distance from the car park is another Osprey nest. One of the Ospreys was sat high up in a tree about 50 yards away, but you can watch the nest via a webcam at www.grandriver.ca/osprey and as I write this there is an Osprey sat on the nest right now. This area of Ontario from Orangeville north east of Erin right along the Credit River and then down to Belwood and beyond on the Grand River is sometimes known as Osprey Valley due to the sheer number of Ospreys nesting near the lakes.
At the edge of the lake and car park there was a single Song Sparrow singing away from a tree branch. From the car park I walked along the top of the Shand Dam, almost to the centre where there are steps down the face of the dam. I followed the steps down to the bottom of the dam where several people were fishing at the edge of the Grand River as it flowed away from the dam. I followed the path through the trees to where it returned to the river where I saw a Baltimore Oriole and Common Grackle on the far side of the river, whilst a Broad Tailed Hawk soared high overhead.
The path now turned away from the river and through the trees to a small lake hidden amongst the trees. I continued to follow the path round the lake and up the hill behind the lake and through the fir trees till I reached a clearing with a pond edged with reeds. At the other side there was a building with a picnic table in a bit of shade so we all sat down there as it was now getting quite hot. In the trees high above the pond there was a single Eastern Kingbird and moving around the reeds at the edge of the pond were several Red Winged Blackbirds.
After a while we made our way along the path back to the car park and set off back to Erin, calling at the village of Hilsburgh on the way back. I had a quick look at the lake behind the Foodland store where I was able to see Common Grackles, Red Winged Blackbirds, a Baltimore Oriole, Chipping Sparrow, American Robin and in the distance, creeping up a tree trunk was a Northern Flicker which is a type of Woodpecker.
Day 4 - Monday 21st May
Before I go into what I did and saw on day four I will give the history of the town of Erin. The town of Erin is in Wellington County and is around fifty miles north west of Toronto. Erin is an amalgamated town, composed of the former villages of Erin and Hilsburgh and the hamlets of Ballinafad, Brisbane, Cedar Valley, Crewson's Corners, Ospringe and Orton. The first settlements were built on the Credit River, which were Mills, between 1826 and 1829 and the settlement was then know as Macmillan's Mills after Daniel MacMillan who was one of the first settlers.
By 1839 a post office had opened and in 1849 the Union Church was being used and the population had increased to 300 in 1851 with the name of the village being Erinsville, although this was later shortened to Erin. In 1879 the Credit Valley Railroad reached Erin and in the same year it was incorporated as a village with the population now about 750. The railway was closed in 1988 and as of 2011 the population of the now Town of Erin, including all the included villages and hamlets, is 10,770.
It was another sunny day when we left the house and the temperature had already hit 20°C by 9am and we walked down through Erin to the Tin Roof Cafe. After a white hot chocolate at the cafe we headed back up the main street calling in at Churchill Lane. Below the lane there were Eastern Phoebes, Yellow Warblers, Starlings and Common Grackles whilst above the lane on the water were Canada Geese and a female Hooded Merganser. In the reeds were Red Winged Blackbirds and flying through the air were a pair of Northern Cardinals which soon disappeared over trees to the right.
After lunch I went for a walk around north Erin, first heading along Dundas Street West to where it crosses the Credit River. From here I could see on both sides of the bridge, among the reeds, Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. I continued westwards before turning northwards into a wooded area as the temperature now hit 23°C and in the woods I saw a Song Sparrow and a Black Capped Chickadee. The number of bugs was making it difficult to continue on through the woods so I turned back and headed back across the bridge and turned left along Carberry Street.
Just a hundred or so yards along the road I turned left and walked across the grass to a gap in the trees to a path that leads you along the bottom of two lakes in Stanley Park. The reason for my visit to this area of Erin was to look for Belted Kingfishers as I had been recommended this site as a good place to see them by Ontario Nature. To the left in the reeds there were several Red Winged Blackbirds whilst in the trees above the path were a pair of Eastern Kingbirds. As I reached the end of the path I saw a Baltimore Oriole flying along the tops of the trees and I turned right up the western bank of the lower lake.
A little further up a pair of American Goldfinches were visiting garden feeders and on the grass at the edge of the lake were a group of around a dozen Canada Geese. Flying overhead were a pair of Tree Swallows and landing on a large boulder was a single Eastern Kingbird which moved onto a branch at the edge of the water before moving up to the telegraph wire above the road separating the two lakes. In a small fir tree at the edge of the lake a Song Sparrow was singing at the top of its voice as a pair of Mute Swans were swimming across the upper lake. I walked along the road as a pair of Northern Cardinals and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks flew overhead and a Baltimore Oriole perched right at the top of tall fir tree.
A little further along there was a Blue Jay on the ground before it flew off in to the trees when it saw me and a little further along a pair of Chipmunks were chasing each other up a tree trunk. I now exited Stanley Park and turned left along the main street and crossed the road and headed up to Tim Hortons for a quick pit stop. For those of you that don't know, Tim Horton was an ice hockey player who played 1,446 games in the NHL, mostly for Toronto. He opened his first shop in 1964, ten years before his death in a car crash in 1974 and there are now more than 4,600 Tim Hortons in Canada alone as well as nearly 20 in the UK with that number set to increase.
I left Tim Hortons and headed south down the path to where the Elora Cataract Trailway crosses the road and I turned left and headed down the trailway. Along this trailway I saw Baltimore Orioles and a pair of Northern Cardinals and flying high overhead was a Red Tailed Hawk. I turned off the trail, past the high school and back to my aunts house. During the evening we had a BBQ where my cousin and her husband and son came over to join us.
Day 5 - Tuesday 22nd May
It was a cloudy start to Tuesday with some light drizzle as we walked down through downtown Erin and visited the Tin Roof Cafe for our usual morning drink. On the way back to the house we called at Churchill Lane where the Eastern Phoebes, Red Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Canada Geese were all in attendance. The female Hooded Merganser was still on the water as a pair of Mourning Doves flew across over the water and landed in a tree and in the bushes to the side of the water there was a lone Black Capped Chickadee.
After lunch we headed north about 20km to Orangeville where my aunt dropped us off at Island Lake Conservation Area. The reserve is located between the towns of Orangeville and Mono in Dufferin County and is owned and operated by Credit Valley Conservation. Formally known as Orangeville Reservoir Conservation Area, the reserve was created in 1967 by the building of two dams. The reserve is 812 acres in size and has a wide range of habitats such as wetlands, forest, plantations and meadows. There are a range of activities available at Island Lake such as Hiking, Bird Watching, Fishing, Canoeing, Kayaking, Biking and Paddle boarding.
There are six trails to follow at Island Lake, but only one of them follows the banks of the lake and that is the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. I entered the reserve at the southern entrance near the south dam and turned right along the boardwalk at the bottom of the dam. I had not walked more than fifty yards when over to my right, through the trees, I spotted a Common Yellowthroat perched near the top of a bush. I continued along the boardwalk as Red Squirrels ran along in front of me and over to the left a Song Sparrow was singing away.
A little further along the boardwalk I turned to the right and up in the tree just to the right of the boardwalk there were a pair of Cedar Waxwings. Just after I passed them they flew across to a bush at the other side of the boardwalk and the Waxwings proceeded to pass a berry between each other as a sign of courtship. Further along the boardwalk now turned back to the left and inching its way up a dead tree was a splendid Red Bellied Woodpecker. After watching the Woodpecker for a few minutes it flew off and I continued on to where the trail crosses the Credit River where there were Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles amongst the reeds.
Once over the bridge the trail takes you into a wooded area where there were Black Squirrels amongst the tree trunks and over to my left a lone male Northern Cardinal was sat on a branch with its back to me. A couple of hundred yards later the path comes into a clearing by the South Dam where in the trees I spotted a couple of Yellow Warblers and sat on a branch high above the water was a Belted Kingfisher. The path now plunged back into the wooded area, winding its way up the hill and over the access road for the main car park and as the path started to go down hill again I spotted a Red Squirrel close to the path in a fir tree.
We now reached the Gatehouse where if you arrive by car you must pay to enter, however if you arrive on foot like we did it is free. The path now turned through trees again where I saw a couple of Black Capped Chickadees. The path crossed another road and started to head downhill towards the boat hire area and just a few yards in front of me a Chipmunk was busy preening itself at the edge of the path. As the path reached the bottom of the hill there was a small lake where just in front of the reeds was a Green Heron and just to its left there were also a pair of Painted Turtles on a log.
A couple of minutes later the Green Heron flew off south west from the lake and I continued on turning left when the path split in two. Over to the right there was an Eastern Kingbird perched on a branch at the edge of the water and over to the left there was a Tree Swallow sat at the top of a dead tree. After a brief stop at the Rental Centre to get a drink and a chocolate bar I continued along the trail where there were several Yellow Warblers moving from bush to bush. I followed the trail round to the Amphitheatre where amongst the trees I saw a Black Capped Chickadee and as we only had limited time I turned round and headed back along the trail.
As I neared the Rental Centre the Yellow Warblers were still flying about from bush to bush and hiding in one of the bushes were a pair of Gray Catbirds. I headed back past the lake where the Green Heron had been and up the hill, through the trees and past the Gatehouse again. I continued on through the trees to where it reached the opening by the South Dam where two Baltimore Orioles flew across the clearing to trees at the other side. I now followed the trail down the hill to where it crosses the river and onto the boardwalk where there were still Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles making a lot of noise.
Further along where the Cedar Waxwings had been earlier there were a couple more Baltimore Orioles. A little further along, just to the right of the boardwalk there is a small body of water and as I looked over the fence, just a few feet from me was a Green Heron perched on some branches exposed from the water. The Green Heron didn't seem at all bothered by my presence and continued to scour the water for a fish and after a while moved round and faced the other way. I watched it for a good ten minutes before I moved on and as I reached the trees where I had seen the Common Yellowthroat earlier I saw a Blue Jay moving from tree to tree.
We had a little time before we were due to be picked up so we headed past where we had entered the trail and continued on to the western end of the South Dam. From here I saw Yellow Warblers, Red Winged Blackbirds, Canada Geese, Common Grackles, Song Sparrows and Mourning Doves. We now walked back to the trail entrance and joined my aunt and headed to Townline Fish & Chips for tea. After tea we headed a short distance along the road to watch my cousin's son play baseball for Orangeville Bengal's U16s and although it was entertaining I still prefer Cricket!
Day 6 - Wednesday 23rd May
Today we had our usual walk through Erin down to the Tin Roof Cafe and on the way back we stopped at Churchill Lane. The usual birds were there, including the Eastern Phoebe, as well as a pair of Belted Kingfishers which flew overhead and an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flew through. We moved on to where Centre Street meets the Credit River where further up stream I could see a female Hooded Merganser and sat on a branch was one of the Belted Kingfishers. Just a minute or so later an American Mink appeared just a few feet in front of me stood on the reeds and looking straight at me.
The Mink just stood there for a few minutes without moving before it dropped down into the water and disappeared from view. After lunch we headed across to Belfountain where we visited Belfountain Conservation Area which is also on the Credit River. In 1908 Charles Mack bought a portion of property known as Belfountain Conservation Area and by 1914 it was opened to the public. The temperature had now hit 24°C and after we were dropped off at the entrance to the conservation area I headed through the entrance and followed the Credit River to where the Pond Loop Trail starts. I crossed the river and headed along the path to where it reaches the dam and I crossed the river again using the wooden suspension bridge.
Once over the bridge I turned left onto the Gorge Loop Trail which takes you through the trees high above the Credit River. The trail eventually turns left and takes you down the hillside to the Credit River to a wooden bridge where high above me I was able to see a Turkey Vulture. Once over the bridge the path started to rise up the hill side, leading me back to the dam and wooden suspension bridge. I crossed the suspension bridge again, thus completing the Gorge Loop and this time turned right back onto the Pond Loop.
I walked along the banks of the Credit River until we reached the end of the loop and turned left up the stairs to the car park. At the top of the steps I saw a Crow and in the bushes to the left there was an Eastern Phoebe. We now made are way back to the entrance and followed the Forks Of the Credit Road to the centre of Belfountain where we visited Belfountain General Store to get an ice cream. After tea we walked down through Erin to Churchill Lane to see what would appear during an evening rather than our usual morning visits. Below the lane there were Eastern Phoebes, Common Grackles, Red Winged Blackbirds and American Robins.
Above the lane there were Canada Geese and more Red Winged Blackbirds and in the trees above a Baltimore Oriole and Eastern Kingbird. In the trees down by the water below the lane a Downy Woodpecker was making its way up the trunk of a small tree and in the large trees above Cedar Waxwings were starting to arrive. A few minutes later the number of Cedar Waxwings had risen to twelve and as they flew off up river a pair of Rose Breasted Grosbeaks took their place briefly before they flew off. As we started to walk back a Belted Kingfisher flew overhead and a Blue Jay made a quick visit and as we neared the house a pair of Chimney Swifts darted overhead.
Day 7 - Thursday 24th May
On Thursday morning we headed to Island Lake Conservation Area again whilst my aunt played Tennis in Orangeville. We entered the reserve through the southern entrance again, but this time we headed west, past the end of the South Dam where we saw Yellow Warblers, Red Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Song Sparrows and Mourning Doves. The path now took us through the trees to the first of six wooden walkways over the water where a Belted Kingfisher flew high overhead.
In the water to the side of the walkway there were a couple of Canada Geese and several Painted Turtles close to the walkway on both sides. I continued on through more woodland to the second walkway where there were more Canada Geese and Painted Turtles as well as Red Winged Blackbirds and Yellow Warblers at the water's edge. I continued walking along, over the third walkway to the North Dam where I turned east walking along the dam where Common Grackles and Red Winged Blackbirds were moving from tree to tree.
At the end of the North Dam the path turns south through the trees where after a short distance I saw a Mourning Dove sat on the top of a wooden post. A little further along, at the top of a fir tree, there was a Northern Cardinal singing at the top of its voice and down near the bottom was an American Robin. After the Northern Cardinal flew off I continued along the path through the fir trees and just after I crossed a track going across the path I saw to my right and slightly above me a male American Redstart looking right at me.
The American Redstart stayed there looking at me for a couple of minutes before moving to a branch just a few inches away from the one it was on. It continued to look at me and after a few more minutes I continued on to where there is an Osprey nest site and the path turns left in a north eastern direction. As I walked along I could hear Chipmunks calling from the trees as well as a Red Squirrel scurrying along the ground. A little further along the path opens out onto grasslands and soaring just overhead were a pair of Turkey Vultures whilst over to my right, on the water, were more Canada Geese.
As the path reaches its northern most section it plunges back into a wooded area before turning south and heading across a wooden walkway over the water. Just to the right perched in a bush at the edge of the water was an Eastern Kingbird and flying above me and over the water were Tree Swallows. After trips across two more wooden walkways I reached the other side of the lake and I turned right along the banks of the lake, spotting Song Sparrows, Yellow Warblers, Common Grackles and Red Winged Blackbirds.
A little further along the path snaked through the trees before emerging onto a wooden walkway over a creek where, hiding in the trees, was a Warbling Vireo. After being sat on the branch for a minute or so the Warbling Vireo was scared off by a passing cyclist and it flew off to a tree much further away from the walkway. I continued along the path, past the Amphitheatre, over a small wooden bridge and as I approached the Rental Centre I saw Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Kingbirds, Gray Catbirds and Tree Swallows.
It was nearly lunch time and the temperature was now a hot 27°C so I continued on through the trees and past the South Dam and down the hill to where the boardwalk starts and it crosses the Credit River. In the reeds at the side of the river were Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles and as I continued along the boardwalk there were a couple of Baltimore Orioles in the trees above me. I had a look at the site where I had seen the Green Heron on my previous visit, but there were only three male Mallards there today.
We now left the reserve and were picked up by my aunt and before we headed back to Erin we went to the Bluebird Cafe & Grill in Orangeville town centre. After lunch the temperature had now gone past 30°C and felt even hotter with the humidity being more than 90%, so we returned to Erin and finalised our plans for a trip to downtown Toronto the next day.
Day 8 - Friday 25th May
We left the house at about 8:30am and were dropped off at Georgetown GO train station by my aunt at about 9am. Today myself and my parents were heading into Toronto and we bought three all day pass for the GO Transit system from the ticket machine at the station. The GO Transit system is an interregional public transit system in Southern Ontario and it primarily serves the conurbation referred to as the "Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area" with operations extending to several communities beyond Toronto and Hamilton via Bus and Train services.
We caught the 9:20am GO Bus from Georgetown to Mount Pleasant GO Train Station and left the bus and caught the 9:55am GO Train to Union Station in Toronto. The GO Trains are quite different to our trains at home as the GO Train is a double decker train were you can sit downstairs or upstairs like the double decker bus in the UK. The GO Train arrived in Toronto at Union Station just before 11am and the temperature was already close to 30°C.
Toronto is the capital city of Ontario and is the largest city in Canada with a population of more than 2.7 million. When the Mississaugas surrended the area to the British Crown, the town of York was established in 1793 and later designated capital of Upper Canada. York was renamed as the city of Toronto in 1834 and became the capital of Ontario in 1867. The Great Toronto Fire of 1904 destroyed a large section of downtown Toronto and the fire caused more than $10 million worth of damage and resulted in more stringent fire safety laws and expansion of the cities fire department.
In Toronto there are many places to visit such as the CN Tower, Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome), Ice Hockey Hall Of Fame, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, Ontario Place and the Harbour Front on Lake Ontario. Toronto is also home to six major sports teams which are the Toronto Maple Leafs (Ice Hockey), Toronto Blue Jays (Baseball), Toronto Raptors (Basketball), Toronto Argonauts (American Football), Toronto Rock (Lacrosse) and Toronto FC (Football). The city also has a rugby league team, Toronto Wolfpack, competing in the third tier of the British leagues as well as hosting an Indy Car race every year.
We left the station and headed along the walkway to the CN Tower which from 1975 to 2007 was the tallest structure in the world at a height of 1,815 feet or 553.3 metres. The CN stands for Canadian National and construction was started in 1973 and completed by 1976 at a cost of more than $63,000,000. It is now the ninth tallest tower in the world and the tallest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere and attracts more than two million visitors every year. The CN Tower can be seen from 60km or 37 miles away to the naked eye and still holds four world records.
It has the highest public observation gallery (Skypod) at 447 metres, the longest metal staircase with 2,579 steps, the highest and largest revolving restaurant at 351 metres and the highest wine cellar at 315 metres. The price had gone up since my last visit to the CN Tower and was now $38 / £22 for an adult ticket and once I had purchased my ticket I headed to the lift to the observation deck. The lift has a glass front so as I went up in the lift I was able to see high rise buildings of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario as I neared the observation deck.
From the observation deck I was able to see Lake Ontario, Toronto City Airport, Rogers Centre, BMO Field (Toronto FC), Air Canada Centre (Toronto Maple Leafs, Union Station and most of downtown Toronto. I moved round to the stairwell and descended to the lower observation deck where there is a glass floor and after a few moments of indecision I walked onto it and stood looking through the glass floor at the ground 350 metres below. I now made my way to the lift that takes you up to the Skypod which is 447 metres above ground and from here I could see even further. I was about to go back to the lift to head back down when I saw a group of people using the CN Towers skywalk experience where you can walk on the outside of the observation deck, attached by a harness and lean out over the edge.
You can also lean back over the edge with just the harness stopping you from falling, something I was not keen to experience! I went back down to ground level via the two lifts and after a quick visit to the visitor shop I headed the short distance to Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant for lunch and yes it is owned by the greatest ice hockey player of all time Wayne Gretzky. As I left the restaurant the temperature had now reached 32°C with the humidity making it feel close to 40°C so I headed back past the CN Tower and Rogers Centre to the harbour front and spent a bit of time sat in the shade.
Once I'd cooled down a bit I walked back to towards the CN Tower and headed into Ripley's Aquarium of Canada where they had Lionfish, Green Sawfish, Tiger Sharks, Archer Fish, Electric Eels, Stingrays and Green Sea Turtles as well as many other exhibits. It was now 5pm and we headed back to Union Station to get the GO Train which this time was heading all the way back to Georgetown where we were picked up and taken back to Erin, thankfully the temperature was now only 29°C!
Day 9 - Saturday 26th May
This morning I called at Centre Street before I went anywhere for a morning drink and here I saw Red Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Eastern Kingbirds and Canada Geese. I had been there a few minutes when, as a Muskrat swam across the river, a Green Heron flew down stream right past where I was standing. I now walked down to Churchill Lane to see if the Green Heron had stopped there but all that I saw were American Robins, Canada Geese, Blue Jays and Eastern Phoebes.
In the afternoon the temperature had reached 28°C so I headed for the largely tree covered Scottsdale Farm. The area around the buildings was still busy with Barn Swallows, American Robins and Song Sparrows and from there I followed the trail round to the eastern end of the lake. Behind the buildings I spotted, sat at the top of a tree, a Bobolink. The Bobolink has a strange call that can sound a bit like R2D2 and this one started to produce that trademark call.
I now walked over the creek that emits from the end of the lake and over to my right there was a Yellow Warbler, Gray Catbird and Song Sparrow. Flying high overhead there were a pair of Baltimore Orioles and calling from the top of a tree was a Northern Cardinal. I now made my way onto the trail leading into the woods and a little further along there was a trio of Cedar Waxwings over to my left.
After another hundred yards or so I made a detour from the trail and followed a path along the edge of the field where Song Sparrows and Red Winged Blackbirds were singing from the trees. Over to the left in the field there were a pair of Bobolinks singing from the tops of bushes and perched at the end of a branch of a large tree there was a lone Eastern Bluebird. Behind me, amongst the trees, there was a House Wren sat on a branch hidden amongst the leaves and as I followed the trail to where it crossed the road I saw a Downy Woodpecker probing for food high up in a tree.
I now made my way back along the trail towards the lake where along the way I saw Eastern Kingbirds, Chipmunks, Red Squirrels, Black Squirrels, Grey Squirrels, Monarch Butterflies, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies and as I reached the lake I saw a Painted Turtle slide off a rock and plop down into the water. As I reached the building the Barn Swallows and American Robins were still making regular visits to and from their nests with the Robin even feeding its young whilst I watched. Just above me in the trees as I reached the car I spotted a pair of White Throated Sparrows which flew off before I could take a picture.
Day 10 - Sunday 27th May
Today I walked down to the Tin Roof Cafe before heading to Churchill Lane on my way back where I saw Eastern Phoebes, Canada Geese, Common Grackles, Red Winged Blackbirds and American Robins. In the bushes at the side of the Credit River I saw an Orchard Oriole, Mourning Doves and Blue Jays, whilst overhead there were a pair of Baltimore Orioles. As I was leaving a Green Heron flew over me and landed about two hundred yards further up the river on an exposed log.
I now walked round to where the river meets Centre Street, hoping to see the Green Heron move further up the river but I was out of luck. There was a commotion at the other side of the river, amongst the reeds, as the Red Winged Blackbirds were going crazy and the reason for this soon became apparent. An American Mink emerged from the reeds with a Red Winged Blackbird chick in its mouth and swam across the river and disappeared out of sight. It returned a minute or so later and swam across to the reeds and a couple of seconds later the birds were going crazy again before the Mink came back across the river with another chick in its mouth and it repeated this feat one more time before I left.
Just before lunch I headed west to Guelph where I had lunch at the York Road Kitchen & Chocolate Bar where the food was superb. On the way back to Erin from Guelph I stopped at Guelph Lake where I saw Ospreys, Red Winged Blackbirds, Canada Geese, Common Grackles and a Northern Cardinal. The temperature was now approaching 30°C again so I got back into the car and continued my journey back to Erin.
Day 11 - Monday 28th May
This morning I went down to Churchill Lane and Centre Street on the way back from the Tin Roof Cafe seeing all the usual birds, but at both sites I saw and heard several Green Frogs. After lunch I headed west to the village of Elora, which is located in the Grand River valley and a place I visit every time I go to Canada. Elora was founded in 1832 by Captain William Gilkison, originally from Scotland, when he bought 14,000 acres of land on the Grand River and by 1833 Gilkison had opened a sawmill and a general store.
The village changed its name from Irvine Settlement to Elora in 1839 and Gilkison named it after his brother's ship, which was itself inspired by the Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. The original five storey Elora Grist Mill, built in the 1830's, was a sawmill, distillery and flour mill over the years and in the 1970's it became a luxury hotel. The luxury hotel closed down in 2010 and plans were made in 2016 to convert it into apartments and a hotel by the new owners. However these plans changed, it will now be a hotel and spa costing $120 million and open in late spring 2018 according to the Toronto Sun newspaper.
The Grand River flows through Elora and it starts near Wareham, Ontario and winds its way through Grand Valley, Fergus and to Elora and eventually emptying into Lake Erie and is more than 170 miles long. The Mohawk name for the Grand River is O:se Kenhionhata:tie which means "Willow River and during the 18th century the French colonists named it Grande-Riviere. It was later renamed as Ouse River by John Graves Simcoe for the River Great Ouse near his childhood home in Lincolnshire, although the anglicised form of the French name has remained in common use.
After a look around the shops of Elora and a quick look from the bridge over the Grand River, where I saw Barn Swallows, Mallards and Common Grackles, I made my way along East Mill Street. After a couple of hundred yards I turned right on to Geddes Street and walked the short distance down to the banks of the Grand River. I ventured down onto the stones that edged there way towards the middle of the river where common Grackles and Starlings were flying down from the trees to wash in the water and the temperature had now reached 31°C.
I made my way back across the stones to a bench at the side of the river and in the trees there were House Sparrows, American Goldfinch and a Downy Woodpecker. Flying low along the water there were a couple of Ring Billed Gulls and I was about to leave when a female Northern Cardinal flew down and landed in the shallow water in front of me and proceeded to wash itself, occasionally hopping on rocks to shake off excess water before moving up into the trees and out of sight again. I now moved up river to the town of Fergus where I saw a Great Blue Heron fly along the river past some Ring Billed Gulls and a pair of Canada Geese with chicks at the side of the river.
The town of Fergus is only a few miles from Elora and it was incorporated as a village in 1858 and named after one of its founders, Adam Fergusson, and the population is now more than 20,000. It was approaching 5pm and I now headed along the road to Belwood and after a quick look at the Osprey nest which the Osprey was currently sat on I walked back towards the car and a Great White Egret flew over the road and disappeared into the distance. I now called at Belwood Super Snax for my tea and after I saw a pair of Canada Geese with 9 goslings as well as a few Barn Swallows and a Turkey Vulture flying overhead.
Day 12 - Tuesday 29th May
I ventured down to the Tin Roof Cafe for my White Hot Chocolate before walking up to Churchill Lane where there were three Eastern Phoebes as well as more than twenty Canada Geese. On the trail at the side of the river there were Red Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, American Robins and a lone Blue Jay. After lunch I headed to the Forks Of The Credit Provincial Park which is a few miles east of Erin and the Credit River runs through most of the western edge of the park.
It was a warm 27°C when I arrived at the reserve and I headed off down the Meadow Trail which takes you through the bushes towards Kettle Lake. I had gone a few hundred yards when a Monarch butterfly fluttered across the path and settled on a reed and a little further along, by the edge of the water, a Song Sparrow sat at the top of a bush with a beak full of caterpillars. A little further along I saw Yellow Warblers and a single Black Capped Chickadee, further along as I reached the top of a hill I saw a female Indigo Bunting briefly perching on a branch before flying off.
I know reached the point where the Meadow Trail meets the Trans Canada Trail so I now joined the Trans Canada Trail and headed towards the Credit River. Along the trail I saw several Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies as well as a few Eastern Kingbirds and Song Sparrows. The path now enters fir woodland and starts to descend the hill down to the Credit River where there were a few Common Grackles around the edges of the river. I now rejoined the Meadow Trail and followed it back up the hill through the fir woodland and once reaching the top I saw more Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.
As the trail turned eastwards I saw a trio of Cedar Waxwings up in the trees to my right and yet more Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies fluttering along in front of me. I now reached the point where the Meadow and Trans Canada Trails crossover and I turned right and headed south along the Trans Canada Trail. A little further along the trail turned left and when it reached the southern end of the Kettle Trail I saw several different birds. To my left there were a pair of Eastern Bluebirds moving along from bush to bush, to my right there was a Field Sparrow sat just above the grass.
Along the Kettle Trail there were a pair of Brown Headed Cowbirds moving along trying to find food and moving between the trees were Yellow Warblers and Baltimore Orioles. I walked along the Trans Canada Trail as it went round the bottom end of the Kettle Lake and in the tree branch hanging over the trail there were a pair of Chipping Sparrows. The path now turned towards the car park and sat on the top of a nest box, which was at the top of a wooden post, was a Tree Swallow. It flew off but soon returned to its perch as a Turkey Vulture soared high overhead. and as I reached the car park there were several Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies.
Day 13 - Wednesday 30th May
Today I took a different morning walk to the one I usually did and I started by heading along Dundas Street West towards the Credit River. I reached the bridge over the river and either side of the road I could see several Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. I continued on and started to go into the wooded area at the other side but had to turn back due to the sheer number of flies and bugs. I returned along Dundas Street and turned left along Carberry Street, walking between American Robins as I turned off and headed across the grass to where the path goes along the southern banks of the lower lake at Stanley Park.
I reached the end of the path and turned right up the western banks of the lower lake and there several Tree Swallows flying over the lake and half a dozen Chipping Sparrows in the trees at the other side of the path. A Baltimore Oriole and Northern Cardinal flew overhead and landed at the top of fir trees at the other side of the lakes and a pair of Eastern Kingbirds moved from one bush to the next at the edge of the lakes and then out of sight.
I now exited Stanley Park and headed up to Tim Hortons for a morning drink and a break from the heat which had now reached 28°C. Afterwards I headed back down the main street and turned left onto the Elora Cataract Trailway spotting Song Sparrows, Black Squirrels, Red Squirrels and Chipmunks before I turned off and headed back to where I was staying. In the afternoon I headed a short distance to the village of Hilsburgh and again walked along the Elora Cataract Trailway.
I had only gone a short distance when I saw a Hairy Woodpecker just at the side of the path in a tree ferreting about on the branches and trunk of the tree for food. A little further along I saw Yellow Warblers and a Black Capped Chickadee. I continued on but after a while I turned back as it was getting hotter and hotter and when I reached the point where I had joined the trail and took a slight de tour where a road to the trailway crosses between two lakes. As I arrived at this site I saw an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly fly down and land on the ground and I managed to get quite a few photos and it would still be there when I walked back ten minutes later.
There was an Eastern Kingbird in the tree consuming a Dragonfly which flew off and a Baltimore Oriole flew high overhead, as did a Belted Kingfisher. As I was watching the lake I saw a Painted Turtle emerge from one side of the road and start to slowly cross the road. There were a couple of near misses with cars driving along the road and it was not even a quarter of the way across so, fearing it might get run over, I picked it up and moved it to the other side of the road where it was heading. After ten seconds or so it made the short distance to the water and slid down the bank and plopped into the water. It briefly swam along the surface of the water before diving deep into the water and disappeared from sight.
Day 14 - Thursday 31st May
Today I walked down through Erin and made my final visit to the Tin Roof Cafe and on my way back I made final call at Charles Street, Churchill Lane and Centre Street. I saw Eastern Phoebes, Red Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Canada Geese, American Robins and a lone Baltimore Oriole. Back at the house my cousin and his wife came round to see us before we left and as were sat out at the back of the house I saw a Purple Finch sat right at the top of a fir tree.
Just after lunch we left for the airport to head home and as we drove down to the airport the temperature hit 33°C. We arrived just before 4pm and our flight was due to leave at 7:15pm and after checking in we headed through the security checks and duty free. We boarded our plane at 6:30pm but by 7pm we were having to de-board as the air conditioning wasn't working and the plane was very hot. We re-boarded the plane at 8:15pm, but yet again we had to de-board as this time they couldn't start the engine and a severe thunder and lightning storm had rolled in, so at 8:45pm we were back in the terminal. We eventually re-boarded for the final time at 11:30pm and took off at 12:15am, just 5 hours later than scheduled and landed the next day at 7am, midday UK time.
In total I saw 61 different species and below is a gallery with some my best pictures included.