Nothing heralds the coming of spring more than birdsong at dawn and cherry blossoms. They have finally come to Toronto, and everyone, everyone feels it. Last Sunday, more than 50 people came together for a Jane’s Walk before daybreak to hear the birds in High Park. This week, many more will flock to the park to see the cherry blossoms. Spring is here, at last.
Do you know of the High Park Nature Centre? Located off Parkside Drive, near the Howard Park Tennis courts, in the north-east section of High Park, the Nature Centre offers a broad range of nature walks, sketching excursions, bird walks, naturalist camps, all range of activities for young people, adults and seniors to explore the park.
Last Sunday’s “Dawn Chorus Walk” was organized by Jon Hayes of the Nature Centre and Emily Rondel of Bird Studies Canada. Emily knows her birds, imitates their distinctive songs, and encourages even a large crowd to distinguish one from the other. Who could imagine that we would all hike quietly through the woods and then stand in silence to hear the cacophony of sounds? We learned that birds migrating back to Canada are tired after crossing the Great Lake waters and congregate in green spaces north of the lake to rest. Most fly further north; over 50 species nest and breed in the park. Early morning, before the sun rises, their day has begun, and we were in the centre of it.
Ben’s Bird Sanctuary was one of the surprises of our visit. This is an unofficial bird feeding station created by the late Ben Holloway and his friends, which does not show up on official High Park maps but is not far from the Allotment Gardens. This delightful grove of homemade bird-feeders attracts birds all year long: chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, juncos, a throng of birds to watch.
Since March, the Nature Centre website has mounted a “Cherry Blossom Watch” on the Sakura trees, originally presented to the citizens of Toronto by the Japanese government and planted on the hillside overlooking Grenadier Pond. The “Watch” has photos tracking the trees from their earliest buds to the appearance of florets and then the developing blossoms, which have opened this week and are predicted to be at their best right now. Their photographs of this evolution are marvellous. Among other things, they show that, on April 15th last year, we still had snow. Not this year. This year, we can see the blossoms bloom in time for Mother’s Day. My mother would have loved that.