Spring on the Spit: cormorant nests

Cormorant nests

Winding up our Spring on the Spit series, this photo was actually taken early in the fall, after nesting season is over and the cormorants that nest in these trees have abandoned them for the season.

The area that contains these trees is off-limits to people during nesting season (April through August, if memory serves). After all, cormorants are Important Birds and need their privacy. Exploring this area each autumn, I always think it’s a shame that cormorant droppings destroy the habitat here. I’d like to think that it’s all part of nature’s cycle, but it’s possible that there are just too many cormorants here doing too much damage. It’s an eerie place to walk through when the birds are gone, and it looks like a war zone to boaters in the Outer Harbour.

Toronto and Region Conservation is hosting a public meeting on April 3 (PDF notice) at the Mennonite New Life Centre on Queen Street East to discuss possible approaches to cormorant management in Tommy Thompson Park.

Liars!

Just the latest spam from the Star

One of the benefits of owning a domain (like valdodge.com) is that you can easily create individual email addresses for every company you do business with, contest you enter, or form you fill out. In the seven or so years since I started doing this, I’ve amassed over 660 unique email addresses for companies and organizations I deal with. It may sound unwieldy, but it’s quite transparent in use; all mail comes into a single mailbox and can be easily filtered. Best of all, when I receive a “special offer” from someone I don’t know, it’s easy to tell how they got my address. It’s also quite easy to simply delete an address (and thus any spam that may go with it) when it’s no longer needed.

One of the things that chaps my ass the most is companies I deal with on a regular basis that suddenly start sending me spam or “monthly newsletters” after years of being well-behaved. Into that category now falls the Toronto Star. I’m not singling the Star out for sending me spam, but for outright lying about their “opt-in” list. I started receiving contest entries and “marketing mail” from the Star about six weeks ago, and have since received five messages. That’s definitely not a lot, but it’s five more than I’ve received in all of the previous years that the Star has had my (unique to them) email address. This kind of thing usually indicates that an overzealous marketing department has decided that although I checked the “don’t email me” box a few months/years ago, surely I didn’t realize what I was doing and don’t still want to miss out on all of the fun and adventure of receiving their spam. After all, their marking crap is so much cooler and more desirable than the marketing crap I usually get.

The Star’s account manager, showing my current ‘opt-in’ statusSo I logged into the account manager to see if maybe I’d “forgotten” to opt out of receiving crap from the Star. And guess what? Not only had I not “forgotten,” but they even declare right on the account manager page that I’m “not receiving” spam from them. Well, that’s news to me.

So congratulations, Toronto Star, on joining the ever-growing ranks of companies that lie to their customers for the sake of padding an eyeball count. Do you really think that pissing off your customers is a good thing? Apparently you do.

Spring on the Spit: Quonset hut

Quonset Hut on the Leslie Street Spit

This old Quonset hut is familiar to anyone who has gone for a stroll or bike ride on the Leslie Street Spit. Shawn Micallef wrote an article in the Star last fall about the history of Quonsets in general and this one in particular:

Above the front door are the faded words “Testing Building.” It once housed the Toronto Port Authority’s gauge for measuring lake levels.

It has played a role in films over the years, including Bulletproof Monk and Canadian Bacon. For the 2006 Michael Douglas film, The Sentinel, it was converted into an east coast fishing shanty, complete with lobster traps.

Shawn also reports that the Quonset will be demolished and a proper visitor centre erected in its place. Although the building is obviously past its best-before date, I’ll still miss it when it’s gone.

Tomorrow: the final edition of Spring on the Spit.

Spring on the Spit: busy beavers

Beavers have done a real job on these trees

There’s a good-sized beaver lodge not too far from the southern tip of the Leslie Street Spit. It’s in the pond behind these trees, just out of camera view. Even if you miss the lodge during your visit, you can’t miss the work of its residents throughout this section of the park. The tree in the foreground of this picture has a large pile of fresh shavings at its base and will probably be felled by the industrious beavers within a few days. Their impressive lodge is big enough to be seen on Google Maps.

I didn’t notice whether the beavers on the Spit have been tackling any trees as large as their Don Valley cousins have been.

Spring on the Spit: pointing the way

Moon & pylon, Leslie Street Spit

Today’s spring picture from the Leslie Street Spit shows us an artfully-placed traffic pylon pointing up at last week’s waxing gibbous moon, already high in the sky in the late afternoon.

As an aside, I always used to think this phase of the moon was called a waxing gibbon until I was old enough to realize that the term would more accurately describe an ape with a Brazilian.

Spring on the Spit: bridging the gap

Old ship’s bridge at the Outer Harbour Marina

Today’s photos of the Leslie Street Spit take us to the peninsula that contains the Outer Harbour Marina. The old ship’s bridge sitting on the peninsula’s tip is a familiar landmark to Outer Harbour sailors but is virtually invisible to most people visiting Tommy Thompson Park.

These pictures were taken in March 2004, before I had a high-quality digital camera. Looking at them reminds me just how much I miss Velvia and a proper fisheye lens. What I don’t miss is endless hours spent scanning slides. Still, I’m tempted to run a couple of rolls through the old camera this weekend. Maybe someday I’ll get a nice full-frame DSLR and have the best of both worlds.

Spring on the Spit

Brick Beach on the Leslie Street Spit

I usually start stretching my cycling legs around mid-March each year, getting ready for longer rides in the season ahead. Although I commuted and ran errands on my bike throughout this winter, I hadn’t been out for any pleasure rides of significant distance since November. But when that sun starts melting the snow and the days start getting longer, the call of the road becomes too strong to resist. I don’t care if it’s still cold and windy outside; my legs want to spin.

The Leslie Street Spit is my most frequent late winter/early spring destination. It’s one of the few car-free places in the city where you can ride at this time of year and not worry about dealing with snow and ice. It’s also among the most photogenic destinations with a wider variety of landscapes than you’d expect of a long finger of dirt in the lake.

This beach, for example, is made almost entirely of bricks. The constant action of the water has worn away most of the corners so they look like colourful bars of soap. A few feet in from the shore, most bricks still have rough edges. They get smaller and smoother as they get closer to the water. At the water’s edge, they look like colourful little pebbles. In a few years, this could look like just another sandy beach.

Old bricks on the beach, Leslie Street Spit

In the middle of this picture, you can see mortar still holding the remnants of two eroded bricks together.

I’ll have more pictures from the Spit in the days ahead.

Snow mountain revisited

Snow mountain revisited

All of the heavy equipment was parked at the other end of the lot when I revisited the Unwin Avenue snow dump this weekend, so there’s not much in these photos to establish scale. The top of that pile of white snow at the centre of the picture above is about 8 feet high, if that helps. Enough of the snow has already melted that what’s left is indistinguishable from a pile of dirt from a distance. As the spring progresses, it’ll become indistinguishable from a pile of dirt even close up. All of this will be melting untreated virtually straight into the lake. The Don is also in for a rough spring and summer with melt from the snow dumps in the valley almost guaranteed to foul the river through July.

Unwin snow mountain with Hearn Station & smokestack poking out from behind

Tumour on Snow Mountain