After a September heat wave that had “global warming” written all over it. the weather in Toronto has suddenly turned fall-like. But before the chill of autumn sets in, there was one warm, golden day, the kind that makes you rouse yourself from whatever you’re doing and head outdoors, to enjoy this one last gift. And where better to do it than the Toronto islands?
If you’re new to Toronto, the islands are a local treasure, a strip of land that lies across the mouth of Toronto harbour, separated into a number of islands by narrow channels. It’s mostly parkland, filled with huge trees, lovely beaches, and lagoons where sometimes you can spot herons and mink snagging a fish or two.
I’ve visited the islands hundreds of times, often to shoot photos of the birds that use it as a stopping point on their migration — like this osprey I photographed last year. But this time, my visit was at least partly out of curiosity. Due to heavy spring rains and high water levels on Lake Ontario, the islands were closed for much of the summer: other than the few people who live there, no-one was allowed to visit until early August. This was the first time I’d ventured over, and I was interested to see how things looked.
Happily, what I found was a place that looked much the same, but very green and a little wet. Most areas were open, and it was still a pleasure to walk along the pathways and wander into the woods to find flocks of sparrows and golden-crowned kinglets. Ducks still floated on the trout pond, and the gardens near the pier were furiously in bloom.
But the effects of the floods were still very visible. One of the beaches was closed because of the water levels, pools of standing water were surrounded by fences, and the path leading to the historic lighthouse was closed off with sand bags. I didn’t get to Snake Island, one of my favourite haunts, but I’m told it’s still closed as well.
Sometimes, Toronto seems to be a charmed city, far from the savage weather that afflicts other parts of North America — like the recent southern hurricanes. But even here, the effects of climate change are being felt. Luckily, they’re not disastrous — yet — and I can still escape for an afternoon of nature in a green place with the city skyline looming up beyond the trees. The Toronto islands are still the city’s treasure; let’s hope they stay that way.
Photo at top taken with the ZTE Axon cellphone