Bike ride, May 24

It’s Victoria Day and a Saturday and the weather is beautiful. I went out with LotStreetWiz, who was doing a short, medium effort run as part of his Ironman training program. We drove to the Don Valley and took to the multi-use paths along the Don River. This is only the second time I’ve ridden my new bike. It’s as light as a feather compared to my old Trek, which I’ve been using for most of the last ten or fifteen years both for commuting and occasional pleasure rides.

There were lots of families cycling and walking, plus a few runners. We didn’t go very far, and it was hard at first to keep the bike down to running warm-up pace. Then we decided to cut short the run and we rested at the Forks of the Don, where the east and west branches come together.

I pulled up some dog-strangling vine, an invasive weed that has invaded the valley in the last few years. Across the river from us was the wreckage of a wood & iron bridge carried downstream in the spring floods a couple of years ago.

Don Valley, Toronto, sunny day, wreckage of old bridge

The point on the right is between the two branches.

Forks of the Don

Beyond the point, you can see the west branch of the river fading into shadow.

other branch of river beyond shore of this branch

Just upstream is the confluence of the east branch with Massey Creek. Here and there in the valley, a pink-flowered bush is blooming.

Pink blossoms on a bush, Southern Ontario

I biked a little further. I looked at the giant “elevated swamp” sculpture with its solar-powered waterfall, from the old Don Road bridge.

Art project eco-swamp in Toronto\'s Don Valley

Here’s the old Don Road bridge.

Don Road Bridge in Don Valley, Toronto, with sun shining through

Here’s a view through the columns to the railing of the old bridge over the east branch… [My God! That’s why they call creeks “branches” in the States and you can get “bourbon & branch water” to drink! Or is it “runs”?]

Old bridge over Don River in Toronto

The sparkling water of the east branch goes under the old Don Road bridge. Here’s a look through the fence.

Here’s a look over the fence.

Don River in sunlight

This is my bike on the other side of the bridge.

Old Don Road bridge, with bicycle

Beyond the bridge is the Don Valley Parkway with a smattering of Saturday-afternoon traffic.

When I got back to LotStreetWiz, he told me that he’d seen a handsome black-crowned night heron at a shallow spot further up the river. I went back and checked a couple of gravel-bars, but I didn’t see it. Then I powered back to the car.

birds, black-crowned night heron, perching

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Family time

We had a family day today, with a long bike ride in the Don Valley river system and then lunch and a movie at home.

We saw deer!

We saw deer, in daylight, in the city of Toronto. About 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, we were drove off Highway 401 westbound onto the Don Valley southbound. And there in an open area to the south and west of us were two deer. They were perhaps 120 metres away and completely unconcerned by the traffic or the surrounding apartment buildings. They were in a grassy area attached to one of Toronto’s many river valleys.

(The picture is from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources‘ deer information page.)

Coyotes in the city—response

As I was looking for information about coyotes eating pets, I found a report for the city of Toronto that said there were few sightings each year and the sightings were actually decreasing. I wonder if one person in a hundred would bother to report seeing a coyote to the city or if they would know where to send their information. I sent the details of mysighting to the author of the report, who forwarded it; and I got this response back:

I am a supervisor with Toronto Animal Services and I’ve been asked to respond to your concerns about a coyote sighting in the Don Valley.

The City of Toronto has had a population of urban coyotes for at least 25 years. Because their normal behaviour is to avoid humans and they are most active during dawn and dusk, there are many residents in the City who have never seen a coyote and in fact don’t realize that they live here.

I’m very sure that what you saw in the Don Valley was a coyote – you seem to know that in silhouette, the differences between a dog and a coyote is the tail carriage. I also know that there are many coyotes in the ravine and this is normal urban coyote habitat.

As long as the coyote is hunting and carrying on in a normal way, there are no concerns at all with the coyote being there. Coyotes become problematic when they become habituated or socialized to humans. This sometimes happens when there is a good food supply from improperly managed garbage or when someone is deliberately feeding them. When coyotes are deliberately fed by people, they quickly lose their natural fear and their normal behaviour is modified. When they have access to garbage, these intelligent animals associate the garbage meal with humans. At that point, they will sometimes interact with people in ways that are uncomfortable for us. For example, they are very curious about our domestic pet dogs. If they are not very scared of the dog owner, they might follow an owner with a leashed dog at a fairly close distance. Sometimes, they might show aggression toward a dog. On very, very rare occasions, they may even show aggression towards people. In Toronto, we have only had experience with one coyote who was actually biting people – we were eventually able to track down the person who was deliberately feeding it and captured the coyote as well. Again, this type of situation is very rare and is not generally a concern for Toronto residents.

We are very lucky in Toronto to enjoy so much green space in parks and rivers. Urban wildlife is part of the enjoyment. Coyotes are probably the least offensive in terms of nuisance wildlikfe calls that we receive in Animal Services (raccoons, skunks etc).

Please contact me if you wish to discuss further.

I think I saw a coyote in the Don Valley!

About midnight last night I was driving in Toronto. I came off the Don Valley Parkway into the Bayview Extension, also in the Don Valley. Just as I came off the ramp, I saw a greyish, wolf-like creature. trotting out to the other side of the road, ready to cross. As soon as it saw the car, it whirled around and ran into the protective woods. That is not the normal behaviour of a domestic dog!

This is bad news for us as the coyotes have been in the west side of the city for some time, but so far they haven’t been much in evidence on our side. Though I haven’t been seeing as many cats on the streets at night… Coyotes can outrun them and will eat them. So now we have the choice of keeping them in or fencing the entire yard so that a cat can’t get out.

Since coyotes are extending their range north due to lack of wolves, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to extirpate them from the city.

Dog-strangling vine: get rid of it!

If you have this invasive weed growing on your property, please pull it up by the roots before it goes to seed. It’s a perrenial that will smother your other plants and blow seeds all over the countryside. It’s in Toronto now—there’s a lot in the Don Valley.

It’s also called dog-choke vine and its more formal name is swallowwort.

We saw a black-crowned night heron!

Fishing in shallow water. In the Don Valley. On our Saturday bike ride.

The one in the picture that I linked to looks almost blue, but they’re really just grey.

The black-crowned night heron is Nycticorax nycticorax.

There’s another picture of one on this page: Balboa Pavilion, Newport Beach.

Link: Urban ecology.