More west side nature news


The opening picture is looking up into my backyard Sour Cherry tree. This was the “off year” so there were fewer bushels of cherries. We make little ramekin pies. Since the tree overhangs the yard into my neighbours, they pick some and make jam.

For many years, I have found my west side neighbourhood rather shortchanged in the bird variety department. But lately, more varieties have been coming. There is now a cardinal pair nesting near Gladstone/Preston (see what a family-suggestive sculpture can accomplish?).

And a pair of beautiful yellow grosbeaks had been visiting my cherry supply. Alas, last week the gorgeous male flew into a window and expired. He is now interred in my composter. I haven’t see Mrs Grosbeak since. Is she tending the eggs, or feeding young ones all by herself? Or did she abandon them in favour of another male’s song?

Along with fellow community members, we sat on the Public Advisory Committee for the OTrain pathway design and construction. We had a lot of input into the landscaping. In particular, we held out for traditional native species of BIG trees, since there isn’t much underground infrastructure or overhead wiring along the path alignment.

We didn’t get any butternut or walnut trees or burr oaks planted (hint: big, and bear nuts) but we did convince the city, via their consultants, to put in some chestnuts. And to avoid little lollypop trees they so love to plant in paving base along the streets.

We discussed fruit trees, as they are important food sources for birds and chipmunks and squirrels and raccoons and skunks  (in roughly descending order of desirability). We had to forego crab apple or pear trees, as people might biff the fruit at passing OTrains.

Cherries were also ruled out. Turns out the City doesn’t approve of them, because they attract song birds and obnoxious “pests” like chipmunks and raccoons. Now fruit trees can make a mess over pavement:


But if the trees are set back from the path, I maintain they should be welcome in the City. Live and let eat is my motto. Birds and small animals make the city human(e).

For ambitious community gardeners, and the frugalistas amongst us, there is a pile of abandoned wood chip mulch at the main entrance to Woodroofe High School with this invitation on it:



It reminded me of a neighbour’s sign in his front snowbank last winter: FREE snow, shovel all you want.