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Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve

Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve Newsletter

August 2003

Fingers crossed as new plants go in

The sounds of clanging shovels and chatting students reverberated around the slopes of Todmorden again this spring as native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns were planted. The work is part of our on-going efforts to restore the Preserve to something like its original vegetation.

Forester Steve Smith (left) preps students from UofT School before they begin planting, April 2003.

On a newly-cleared area of floodplain forest east of the Pond, students and teachers from UofT School planted 14 species which had been chosen for their ability to grow in sunny sites. Species included Mountain Maple, a tall shrub which can tolerate a wide range of soil types; Black Cherry, a colonizing species of forest gaps which grows relatively quickly, and Purple Flowering Raspberry, an edge species which provides fruit for migrating songbirds in the fall.

We also worked in older restoration sites such as the start of the trail where Trilliums, rescued from a development in the north of the city, were planted ten years ago. They have established well and bloom profusely, but we wanted to add new species such as Witch Hazel, a medium-sized shrub which is the last plant to flower in the fall after it has dropped its leaves, and Ostrich Fern, a large fern which has edible fiddleheads, and often associated with Bur Oak (also present in the Preserve).

Then at the end of April, students and teachers from Rosedale Heights Secondary School (opposite Castle Frank Subway Station) hiked from school down to the site and planted over 60 trees, shrubs and wildflowers including Sugar Maple, once common in the Preserve.

Two more events in late spring in upland forest above the site of last year's main planting involved TMWP members and students from York University and St. Patrick's Catholic School. This site has deep shade and dry soils, so we planted Marginal Wood Fern which has distinctive leathery fronds and bears the spore-producing sori on the edges of the leaves; Sharp-lobed Hepatica, a delicate and pretty spring ephemeral wildflower, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, which has been doing well in other places in the Preserve.

This spring, 84 TMWP members, volunteers and students planted 700 trees, shrubs, ferns and wildflowers, comprising 23 species, at four sites (totalling about 0.75 ha) in the Preserve. In addition to the generous contributions of time and effort by all the planters (about 300 hours in total), the program was made possible by funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Members report nature sightings in the Preserve

There's always something different to see, hear or smell on the trail in the Preserve. That's why we remind visitors to come back again and walk the trail at different times of the year, and even at different times of the day.

This year, we are beginning to collect and compile nature observations from visitors in an effort to improve our knowledge of the site's ecology, and to help track the success of our restoration efforts. Your notes and observations, however brief, are always welcome.

Based on monitoring reports submitted by members and visitors, the peak flowering time for the spring ephemerals this year was a bit later than normal, from mid-May to early June. It was especially pleasing to see that Bloodroot, Jack-in-the-Pulpits and Wild Columbine are established in a number of places and flowering well.

The Starry False Solomon's Seal near the start of the trail put on a spectacular display this year, as did the Blue Flag iris which drooped gracefully over the water's edge at the Pond and in the Oxbow.

Hike the trail early morning or late afternoon and chances are you will see mammals in the Preserve. Cottontail Rabbits have been sighted recently near the dry meadow, and Muskrat have returned, having not been reported since 1997 when one spent the summer in the Pond and managed to eat its way through many of the wetland plants.

About 30 bird species reside at Todmorden, and this number swells during spring and fall migrations to over 80 species. This year spring migration peaked around May 20 and Magnolia Warbler and Redstart were seen in unusually high numbers. Most warblers move through, but the ubiquitous Yellow Warbler stays to breed and a family with recent fledglings was seen in July.

Red-winged Blackbirds nested in the marsh at the Pond and at the back of the Preserve. In June, a pair of Baltimore Orioles was seen mobbing a Grey Squirrel which was venturing out to try and rob their nest. The squirrel was thwarted by the precarious nest placement and a week later the oriole chicks had fledged. At least two pairs of Orioles nested successfully in the Preserve this year.

Green Frogs are resident at the Pond and the male call, which sounds like the twang of a loose banjo string, was heard through summer. Museum staff report that school kids were able to incite territorial males into frenzied calling simply by plucking rubber bands which were stretched over plastic containers.

Turtles, likely Red-eared Sliders dumped by pet owners, were spotted by a visiting school class in May basking on logs in the Oxbow. A couple of Garter Snakes were seen in early spring near the start of the trail, probably quite recently emerged from hibernation.

A common butterfly at the Preserve is the friendly Red Admiral, which often perches on walls to bask and will land on people. In the woodland, the fast-flying Mourning Cloak was seen occasionally. Monarchs frequent the dry meadow in summer where there is Common Milkweed, the preferred host plant for the caterpillars. Interestingly, we have never seen many caterpillars on plants at the Preserve and we ask members to keep an eye out and to let us know if you find them.

This summary was prepared by Mike Dennison, based on reports from Harvey Medland, Miriam Webster, Paula Davies, Bogna Jaworski, Lorrie Ann Smith, Mike Dennison, and Alejandro Lynch.

From top: Calling male Green Frogs can be heard at the Pond; Monarch butterflies frequent the dry meadow, Red-winged Blackbirds nested at the Pond.

Upcoming Public Events at Todmorden Mills

Members and friends are welcome to attend TMWP events. For planting events, we recommend that you wear sturdy footwear. We meet briefly in the parking lot before each event.

  • Thursday, August 21 6:00 - 7:00 pm. Meadows and butterflies. Join us for a guided walk where we identify meadow wildflowers and their insect visitors.
  • Thursday, September 18. 6:00 - 8:00 pm. Early Fall. We'll look for southward-migrating birds.
  • Saturday, September 27. 2:00 - 4:00 pm. Nature walk.
  • Saturday, October 4th 9:00 am - 12:30 pm. Wildflower planting. With American Express staff.
  • Thursday, October 9th, 4:00 - 6:00 pm. Wildflower planting.
  • Thursday, November 20 7:00 pm - 10 pm. TMWP Annual General Meeting and volunteer appreciation night. Guest speaker TBA.

News and Views

Todmorden Museum has a new acting Curator: Ulana Baluk replaces Rita Russell who is on maternity leave. We welcome Ulana and look forward to working with her this coming year. We also extend our best wishes to Rita, her husband and their new daughter, Sophia.

The City continues to develop a site plan for the redevelopment scheduled to begin in 2004. The latest plans call for retaining a vehicle link to the back parking lot and adding a pedestrian lane to the bridge to improve safety.

The annual spring garbage clean-up at Todmorden took place April 12. Thirty-four TMWP and FODE (Friends of the Don East) members and friends managed to fill about 30 garbage bags.

A Special Thank You

Once again, we have members, volunteers and supporters to thank for their wonderful help.

  • Our generous members who supported us with recent donations: Linda Carscadden, Leigh Davidson, Maria and Peter Frost, Dave Money.

  • Ellen Kessler, teacher, and students from Rosedale Heights Secondary School who assisted with spring plantings.

  • Nancy Clarke and Meg O'Mahony, teachers, and students from UofT School, who participated in Earth Day plantings.

  • Yelena Balic, teacher, and students from St. Patrick's Catholic High School who planted with TMWP volunteers.

  • Jim Hawtin, Toronto East Rotary Club, for coordinating our Earth Day planting.