Saturday, April 29, 2017

Expect the Unexpected When at the Pond


Its the first day of visiting the pond after registering the program and its one of the coldest and windiest days imaginable. I know its too early in the season to see any frogs but at least I will be able to capture some great shots of waves when down by the lake. What I didn't expect, was to find any wildlife, and especially on such a windy day though there in the sand, and just washed ashore, what do I see but a turtle? This led to a rescue mission with this new found friend in the form of a red-eared slider. I come to learn that he is not a native turtle but a domestic one that someone has released into the wild. He is a resilient little guy to have managed the cold turbulent waves of the lake in winter. Turtles are a symbol of mother earth, I figure he's a good omen for the Frog Pond. Here's how I found him washed onto the beach after a large wave and I'm pleased to say I have now adopted him. 


Part of adopting this pond includes monitoring whats happening and being attentive to things that may impact the quality of water. The concern with this pond is where its situated and how close it is to the lake. A great deal of waste can wash up onto the beach and into the pond. Like many other natural environments in Toronto, and especially those that are near water, there is a shocking amount of plastics that end up in there. Unfortunately this pond has sections where the surface is almost completely covered by small plastic pellets. I soon learn that they are called nurdles and they are a combination of both a waste product used in the manufacturing of plastics and they are plastic bits that have worn down over time. I head down to the pond a couple of days in a row with boots, gloves, bags and strainer in hand. My goal is to remove as many as possible before the pond becomes active with frogs. It's a beautiful sunny afternoon in March and I collect bags of the stuff. I make another visit though I soon begin to realize how many spiders I have been encountering. I decide to stop. 


I've been questioning myself after emailing the TRCA to introduce the project. I emailed them to inquire about their near future plans for the service road and to ask if they would consider putting up a road sign about the turtle crossing area along the service road. It's been weeks and they haven't responded yet and I wonder why? Perhaps they think I'm not serious, or that I am bothering them but my concern is genuine and real. Last year, on a number of occasions, I came across snakes crossing the road at the same location. And in September I came across a large snapping turtle, again at the same location. It was crossing from the lake side going towards the side of the bluffs for winter hibernation. I sent photographs of the snakes and snapping turtle and indicated the location that they cross, which is parallel to the pond, but up the hill from it. And the week after emailing them I came across the first garter snake of the season. I know the TRCA is busy but I will email again this week. Of course now I'm even more concerned because they have been busy with repairing sections of the road that have washed out and vehicles are coming down the road often. Here's the garter I came across, slithering into the forest as he crossed before me half way up the east section of the service road.


A couple of days after announcing the Adopt-A-Pond program to fellow community members, I came to learn that the pond is already being well-cared for and watched over by a very active and wonderful community member Rosalee Mitchell Spohn. I also soon learned that the pond has already been informally named Guild Park Frog Pond and for short, the Frog Pond. For the Frog Watch program I chose the name Guildwood Pond and new to the community I hadn't realized that anyone really thought much about the pond so I didn't think of consulting with anyone about the name... finally after a little  humming and hawing, I graciously accepted the inevitable, and that was to let go of the name I selected and go with the name already being used... so for this project, and going forward, the pond is called Guild Park Frog Pond, though in conversation everyone we simply refer to it as the Frog Pond. Its good to meet other like-minded people in the community. Together we'll take care of this great place.


In the first few days after announcing the idea of adopting the pond, I am mortified by the strange change to the colour of the water. There have been some heavy wind storms, the storm water outflow is not far from the pond, its possible that contaminants from runoff have gotten into the pond. I'm shocked by the disturbing opaque yet almost neon turquoise colour. What a disaster... and I wonder how is it possible for any form of life will live in this place? I hope it will just be a matter of time, waiting and hoping in the weeks to come that the pond will naturally recycle and cleanse itself. I hope it will, if not I will be so disappointed...


We are well into April and there are still no frogs. Actually on two occasions I did hear the sound of a frog plopping into the water from the edge and I just caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, but still nothing other than that. I look back at the dates from last year and realize that at this time there were plenty of frogs out and I even have a recording of a full orchestra of their singing. Feeling disappointed, I wonder if perhaps the strange colour of the pond indicated that there was some kind of contamination. I checked in with Rose to see if she has come across any frogs and unfortunately she hasn't either. A couple days later she sent a picture of a poor lifeless Eastern American toad, definitely not a good sign. Not feeling optimistic about things...



Another week has passed, something seems to be happening... I still haven't seen any frogs or toads though after waiting a little while I notice a raven suspiciously hopping along the trail on the outer edge of the pond. It seems kind of odd and I continue to watch him. He alternates a walk and a hop and its just a matter of time and I see him capture something. I'm sure he has gotten a toad. I snap a number of pictures and will zoom in on them when I get home. For now, I go to the area where the raven was so I can investigate the little trail to see what was over there. I found nothing. I decide to sit for a awhile and to see what happens. After a little while, miracle of miracles, I am delighted to hear the sounds of life in the pond. I hear both the American Eastern Toads and a Green Frog calling. The raven visits me and I shoo him away... 


Its the last weekend in April and finally the pond is full of life. I receive an update from Rose that she has spotted some frogs, so I look forward to getting down there the next day with my camera and recorder. I'm delighted, the pond is thriving and I'm able to identify them by their calls. I sit down by the edge and as I'm setting up my camera, I look down and find there beside me a wonderful toad. I capture some pictures and videos of her and some sound recordings from the pond. Both the American Toads and the Green Frogs are singing. I'll upload a video and some sound recordings soon.


If you would like to follow this blog and receive automatic updates by email, please subscribe in the upper right corner of the blog. Its free, and its fun and a great way to connect with nature. Thank you!

I have adopted the little turtle from the beach. If you are considering adopting a domestic turtle, visit local not-for-profit organization: Little ResQ 

If you find a native turtle in the wild, please do not remove it unless it is injured. For advice you may contact the charitable organization: Toronto Wildlife Centre

Learn more about the worldwide problem of nurdles in our water: Nurdle Hunt

Would you like to join us on a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup project? Please visit our site for updates: Toronto Natural Shorelines

If you would like to add your voice in support of asking the TRCA to add a snake/turtle crossing sign to this service road, please email them HERE

The Guild community has a number of Friends groups that you can join if you live in the area. Visit: Friends of the Guild Park or Friends of the Bluffs 

Are you interested in learning more about the Frog Watch, Turtle Tally and Adopt-A-Pond program. Visit here: Adopt-A-Pond


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Taking a Closer Look at the supporting documents behind the Scarborough Waterfront Project


In December 2016, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority announced their preferred alternative for the East Segment of the Scarborough Waterfront Project. Unfortunately their decision involves destroying over half the natural shoreline of this segment. They proposed an alternative which places a service road in place of the beach. The artificial structure will be 1.7 km in length and involves lake-filling the area with construction debris,. The structure will be lined with armour rock, altering the side of the geologically significant bluffs as it progresses to the top. This selected alternative will destroy the natural sand beach of this segment, block access to the water, displace local wildlife and degrade the natural beauty of the area. All at the cost of over $60 million to tax paying citizens. 

In an attempt to better understand the TRCA's rationale for this decision, I decided to read the supporting documents that are guiding the Scarborough Waterfront Project. This was a daunting task but I figured if I could find something that would shed light on this project, that it would be worth it. 

The documents are quite varied, some more popular than others, but all the documents are referred to as the foundational documents in the TRCA's Executive Summary of the Environmental Assessment:

  • The Waterfront Plan for the Metropolitan Toronto Planning Area, 1967
  • Watershed Plan, 1980
  • The Waterfront Trail: First Steps from Concept to Reality, 1991
  • Regeneration. Toronto's Waterfront and the Sustainable City: Final Report, 1992
  • Lake Ontario Greenway Strategy, 1995
  • Integrated Shoreline Management Strategy (ISMP), 1996

As I began reading through the documents, I was surprised and refreshed to find that the majority of the documents actually recommend the importance of preserving the natural shoreline of Grey Abbey and East Point. The documents emphasize conservation, protecting wildlife and habitat, and a visionary, generational approach to planning. They introduce the concept of an ecosystem approach to management, recognizing the role of the community, maintaining access to the water and respecting the natural features of a landscape. Not one document suggests placing the trail on the water’s edge of Grey Abbey Beach. Not one policy recommends destroying this natural shoreline. 

So the question remains, why is the TRCA proposing an alternative that is so antithetical to the spirit and intent of each and every one of these documents? 

Its a good question, and one we all deserve an answer to. 

To assist with this, I have put together a report that takes a closer look at all the documents. The report draws attention to the key issues surrounding the proposed alternative for Grey Abbey Beach and includes original quotes:

LINK to PDF: Taking a Closer Look

I hope you have some time to read the report, some of the quotes are inspiring! 

Please feel free to share it with your contacts.

Many thanks!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spring Walks Along the Shores of the Bluffs

Thank you everyone that joined us for our recent walk on Sunday April 9th! We had a wonderful event with a group of 57 people joining us. Our intent was to walk the full shoreline of East Point but we found that due to the heavy winds of the past month that much of the sand beach had been washed away. This is not an unusual occurrence, especially in an area that is over 3 km in length. The shoreline from East Point to Grey Abbey has been shaped by the elements of wind and water over time and the sand beach that accumulates by the silty clay of the bluffs eroding, is constantly changing. 

Walking tours are a great way to share the history and beauty of an area with the public and our East Point walk was wonderful! Please stay in touch and join us for our next walk in May. Details are below. Our group 'Friends of the Bluffs' are leading the walks. We appreciate your support and if you can't attend a walk, please share with your friends. Enjoy the pictures, thank you for your support!

East Point Walk on Sunday April 9, 2017

Walking down to the beach

Steve sharing some information about our next walk with the group

Jen talking about the shoreline to the group

Enjoying the natural sand beaches of East Point

Unique Features of East Point Park

East Point is known for its beach and meadows though it also has a beautiful pond that a number of beaver families have made their home. The area is also known for its birds and in addition to a having a bird watch feature, the region is a recognized flyway for migrating birds.

How many cities can boast a natural sand beach over 3 km in length, an area that offers so much value and all we have to do in return is to preserve the natural beauty that is already there? 

If you would like to learn more about the work we are doing to raise awareness about this area of the bluffs, please visit our website at

Setting sun around the point of East Point in spring 2017

Golden light across the pond

From the Archives

Join our next walking tour in May: 
Walk Along the Guild Park Shoreline on Sunday May 7 at 2pm

Join us for an afternoon walk along the Eastern shore of the Guild Park and Gardens. Learn about the interesting history of this section of the Scarborough Bluffs and how things have changed over the years. This section of shoreline is a wonderful place for walking and cycling, though it is also recognized as an area for wildlife with rabbits, deer, mink, amphibians, reptiles, shorebirds, and more. This walk will be a relaxing tour highlighting the main features of the area with some conservation discussing the hidden potential of how the area can be even more sustainable as a natural area and more successful as a public place.

Points of Interest and conversation
• The original shoreline of the Scarborough Bluffs
• Looking back; reflecting on the waterfront plans of 1967 
• Remnants on top; traces of the mysterious Amphitheatre  
• How and why the Guild beach and frog pond came to be 
• Armour rocks and areas of concern  
• Recent history of shoreline hardening along the edge  
• What are the lost opportunities for recreation?  
• End of the path; a potential place for quiet reflection 
• Sand beaches in the east are attracting shoreline birds 
• Sharing the shoreline; residences with riparian rights  
• How can the shoreline be a better place for people and nature? 
• Tour will wrap up with a visit to Guild Park and Gardens 

Walk Details
We will meet at the entrance off Guildwood Parkway at Galloway Road and walk down the service road to the shoreline. There is a parking lot at 309 Guildwood Parkway. For public transit, take the 116C bus from Kennedy station. Please note that the walk is down and back up a very steep grade hill but the surface is smooth. Once we get to the bottom, the road is level of crushed gravel. The walk will be 2 hrs and is suitable for all ages. There are no washroom facilities. 

From the Archives

Monday, April 3, 2017

Adopt-A-Pond Update; Discovery on the Beach

This update is a re-introduction to the Adopt-A-Pond program I'm participating in, with some images of the lake, the pond and my discovery on the beach. For those that don't know the area surrounding the Guildwood Pond, it is situated along the shoreline and only a few metres from a sandy, yet rubble-filled beach. It's a great setting for a variety of reasons and if you look past the concrete debris, it truly is beautiful. 

Ducks in flight, heading out to the lake

Bull rushes in the pond

The pond is not that big, but a pond does not have to be large in size to provide value to the natural environment. At its widest it may be about 50 ft and its length is over double that. Small in size but a great home to our local amphibians. 

The images here are the mid section, where the pond may be 3-4 ft deep and the outer section, closest to the beach where it is the most shallow end. The water level does fluctuate quite a bit due to the close proximity to the shoreline and at times the pond can be flooded by high water levels. 

South east side of pond

Shallow north west end of pond

I enjoy visiting the area often, because of how close it is to the lake, and I'll often find myself there regardless of the weather. I especially look forward to spring when the melodic sound of frogs are singing and calling against the backdrop of waves rolling onto the beach.

A few weeks ago there was a tremendous wind storm and I wanted to get down to the water to photograph the waves. I figured I may as well venture over to the pond at the same time. I knew it was early in the season but figured I would mark this date as the official first day of my visit for the Adopt-A-Pond program which includes the Frog Watch and the Turtle Tally. 

The waves were quite spectacular and I was out for over an hour taking photographs from along the top of the Guildwood revetment wall.

Waves from armour rock revetment, facing towards the east 

Waves facing west

I finally headed over to the area where the beach and pond are and the beach provided a wonderful angle for the waves coming in. I was pleased with how it looked, and even with the construction rubble along this section of shore, it still proved to be a great spot for taking photographs.

Guildwood beach

I had been out for a couple hours which felt like longer in the strong winds, so I decided I would take a look at the pond and then head back home. Well just as I was turning away from the beach to walk towards the pond, something caught my eye and I looked down onto the sand and there was a little turtle about the size of a tea saucer! What a delightful discovery. Though after I had a little more time to process it, I realized how unusual it is to find a turtle along the shores of a fresh water lake, on a cold and windy day, and especially in March!

Recalling that turtles hibernate in winter, and they usually don't come out until the month of May, I wondered, what possibly could this little guy be doing on the beach? I assumed he was quite young, and thought perhaps he didn't do a very good job in burrowing himself in mud for winter hibernation and he must have been washed out by the heavy wind and waves. 

Waves coming into the sand, gravel and rocks of Guildwood Beach

Can you see him in the picture above? He is the little circular shape in the lower left side, above the log and below the rocks. And in the picture below, a closer look at him on the sand! What a little cutie... motoring along on the beach, after his big adventure in the cold, and turbulent waves of Lake Ontario. He seems to be facing the direction of the pond. Is that where he is going? 

Stay in touch to find out where he is now...

Turtle on the Beach