High Park, Toronto
High Park is a park west of downtown Toronto comprising areas of parkland and woodland which are very popular with the locals. It can be reached by underground train but in the early morning a taxi is better. The park is quite large and borders onto Grenadier Pond on its western edge. We started at the north entrance and worked our way south and west, through the woods, to where Ellis Park Road borders the pond, then down the edge of the pond towards the main roads. We also visited the wooded areas to the east of the park near the smaller ponds.
The first birds we saw on entering the park were Ring-billed Gulls. These are extremely common here and were seen everywhere. We saw only two (American) Herring Gulls. Reaching the edge of the woods that drop quickly to the pond we saw White-breasted Nuthatch, Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed Vireo and heard Blue Jay. A bit further south and into the woods (at that time infested with tens of thousands of caterpillars) we added Red-winged Blackbird, Baltimore Oriole and Northern Flicker.
The north end of Grenadier Pond is quite reedy and holds a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds. At one point a Coyote appeared and caused about 40 male Red-winged Blackbirds to take to the air in panic. Also here were a pair of Killdeer, American Robin and Common Grackle. We heard Northern Cardinal and soon found a singing male sitting obviously on an branch over the path. It felt unreal to actually see one of these quintessentially American birds so close. Flying over the pond were Great Blue Heron and Black-crowned Night-heron. The latter could also be seen on the west side of the pond, best viewed from the path alongside the east side. We saw at least six Black-crowned Night-herons here either flying or on the shore. Feeding over the pond were Barn and Tree Swallows.
Further south where the pond becomes wider is an area of landscaped parkland where we added (Eastern) Warbling Vireo and a singing male Nashville Warbler. Also along here is a Purple Martin box which housed a few pairs of Purple Martins along with the usual House Sparrows. We also saw our first Chimney Swifts above here. Near the shore of the widest part of the pond we saw sunbathing turtles.
The land increases in height towards the small eastern ponds then drops down to the stream before rising again. This area is more heavily wooded than other parts of the park and we added Eastern Wood-Pewee, Downy Woodpecker, Winter Wren, Yellow Warbler, Pine Warbler, Cedar Waxwing and, in a tree, a sleeping Racoon.