August 2, 2012
Cruising for Yellow Warblers
Back when Angie and I first REALLY got into birding, sometime after the backyard bird feeding craze caught on with us. We were learning more and more about the other birds that pass through the Toronto area, the migratory birds, and more specifically the Warbler species.
One of the first Warblers we discovered was the Yellow Warbler. They were in abundance in the Carden area on our first real big bird trip out. "Wow!" Look at the photo above, what a stunning little bird, and such a loud song for such a tiny little bird.
I thought these Warblers did not hang around Toronto at all, only pass through, and I'd have to visit far off places like Carden in Kirkfield Ontario, which is about 90 minutes away, to enjoy them.
And one day in late Spring or early Summer, I took notice to many of them still in a park along the Lakeshore. This park is called "Marie Curtis Park". I'd heard the birding here is great in the summer months. And to drive 15 minutes to see these Yellow Warblers was much more appealing than 90 minutes elsewhere.
There is something about Marie Curtis Park, that came as quite a surprise to me... it is a "cruise spot" for gay men. So many years ago I used to purchase my weekly comics at Pendragon just up the street from M.C.P. and I'd drive over to the park after and skim my new comic releases. Just sit on a bench by the lake and read a comic or two was great in the warmer months! Also, little did I know that back then, Angie lived in the area and often sun-tanned in the same park. Go figure!
So, the first visit to M.C.P. on my own birding one weekday afternoon was an uncomfortable time. Hey, be gay, be straight, I don't care; but please, keep the sex antics out of the public places. I will skip the details but let's just say I stayed off certain paths as I took notice to things unfolding (unzipping?) around me. Talking to others after this, is when I learned it is a well known "cruise spot". And assumed most activity was on weekdays when most people are working, kids in school, etc.
M.C.P. became a place I avoided after this just because I was not enjoying myself seeking out Warblers and wildlife in general when there was a fear of not knowing what was around the next corner on a path or that rustle in the bushes; was it a Rabbit or ???
Then, a few years later, one beautiful Saturday afternoon in July, I found myself with a few hours to kill on my own. So I went birding by the lake. I hit a few places and thought I should check out M.C.P. once again. I mean, it's Saturday! It's a beautiful day out. There are lots of people enjoying the lake trails as family outings. How bad could things be this afternoon for "cruising"? HA! Read on...
For the first while, I was enjoying the Warblers buzzing around. I even saw a Brown Thrasher and an Indigo Bunting. Nice bird sightings I don't see very often. I stopped at one point along the lakefront trail (paved path), viewing a Yellow Warbler bellowing out his song to the west of the trail. I got my bins up for a better view, camera hanging off my shoulder. Suddenly I hear some rustling in the bushes about 20 ft in front of me and out comes this old guy, pulling up the last bit of his pants and zipping up his fly. Our eyes met for a second before he reached down and pulled his bicycle out of the tall grass, hopped on and raced out of there as fast as he could. I guess me with the bins and camera made many things run through his head as he sped off?
I was in a slight state of shock to say the least. And next thing I know, up stands this large naked man, a real jolly fellow and he starts calling me to join him in the bushes.
I can compare the two guys to George Bush Sr. being the first one to surface from the bushes and the big jolly guy as a Rob Ford look-a-like.
For a moment I thought I should say something like, "if that thing can point out a Prothonotary Warbler, let's talk". But I opted for a silent and quick turn around, and began heading down the waterfront path with the general public out enjoying the beautiful day by the lake. About a minute later we all could hear a slew of profanities that were being shouted from another individual he tried to lure in.
It's a great spot for wildlife as we've seen Deer, Raccoons, Rabbits, and Coyotes occasionally have been spotted as well in addition to so many species of birds. It's the "two legged wildlife" I can do without.
This is one of a number of more interesting outings I will be sharing in the coming weeks.