Tommy Thompson Park: Double-Crested Cormorants

Canadian Center for Inland Waters

A few weeks ago we took photographs of the cormorant/gull/tern colony near the Canadian Center for Inland Waters, Burlington.

Double-Crested Cormorant Colony near the Canadian Center for Inland Waters, Burlington, ON

Double-Crested Cormorant Colony

Double-Crested Cormorants near the Canadian Center for Inland Waters, Burlington, ON

Double-Crested Cormorants

Double-Crested Cormorants near the Canadian Center for Inland Waters, Burlington, Ontario

Double-Crested Cormorants

Double-Crested Cormorant near the Canadian Center for Inland Waters, Burlington, Ontario

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant flying near the Canadian Center for Inland Waters, Burlington, Ontario

Double-Crested Cormorant

This visit piqued interest in the double-crested cormorant. To that end, I purchased The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah written by Linda R. Wires – an exploration of the roots of human vs. cormorant conflict and the circumstances that have led to its management. The scope of the author’s survey included Point Pelee and Tommy Thompson Park (“TTP”).

According to TTP’s website, “The TTP cormorant colony is the largest on the Great Lakes at 11,900 nesting pairs in 2013.”

A 2009 Toronto Star article reported that due to the sheer number of cormorants the black-crown heron population on TTP decreased from 1,200 pairs in 2001 to 500 by 2009! A review of the 2012 webcam summary clearly illuminates the displacement of ring-billed gulls. See photographs dated March 27th vs. April 8th and April 25th vs. June 25th.

Ms. Wires noted Audubon said, “their appetite is scarcely satiable, and they gorge themselves to the utmost at every convenient opportunity“. A 1999 newspaper article regarding the cormorants’ impact on Little Galloo Island, New York, reported environmental officials estimated cormorants consumed 87.5 million fish from eastern Lake Ontario the previous year. Their impact on the fishing industry including recreational fishing is an ongoing concern.

My favourite quote from the book belongs to John Steinbeck. In Log from the Sea of Cortez he wrote, “It developed that everyone in Cape San Lucas hates cormorants. They are flies in a perfect ecological ointment…As one of our number remarked, “Why, pretty soon they’ll want to vote.”

The final area of impact is the damage to trees. A May 13, 2009 Toronto Star article reads, in part, “One arm of the Leslie Street Spit, home to Tommy Thompson Park…looks like a wintry apocalypse…These widely unloved, fish-eating migratory birds are ruthless nestbuilders. With their hook-tipped bills, they strip tree branches: their guano becomes a hyper fertilizer, wrecking the chemistry of the soil…in Point Pelee National Park, 20,000 cormorants have stripped away 41 per cent of the tree canopy.”

Tommy Thompson Park

It was therefore decided that we would trek to Tommy Thompson Park.  Our day started with a sumptuous crème brulee French toast at Le Gourmand (Spadina and Queen Street West, Toronto). This is one of our favourite spots for breakfast, lunch and pastries.

French Toast at Le Gourmand, Toronto, ON

French Toast

We encountered the following during our sojourn at TTP:

Trumpeter Swan and young at Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, ON

Trumpeter Swan and cygnets

As we approached the colony we heard what we thought was a dog fight. Turns out we were hearing night herons! O, the uninitiated!

Black-Crowned Night-Heron at Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, ON

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Looking around we could not help but marvel at the opportunity to be in such close proximity to the cormorants and the herons.

Double-Crested Cormorant Colony at Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, ON

Double-Crested Cormorant Colony

Colonial Waterbird Viewing Blind at Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, ON

Colonial Waterbird Viewing Blind

Double-Crested Cormorant at Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, ON

Double-Crested Cormorant

Sensitive Bird Area Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, ON

Sensitive Bird Area

TTP is the first park we’ve visited where endless wave after wave of cormorants fly directly and silently over our heads. It’s a bit eerie yet fascinating.

We thought we’d have a bit of fun creating a Toronto skyline postcard featuring the CN Tower and the double-crested cormorants!

Double-Crested Cormorants invade Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, ON

Double-Crested Cormorants

We wrapped up our visit to Toronto with a bite at Jersey Giant on Front Street where we took in the final quarter of the Germany vs. Ghana soccer game followed by a brief visit to Yonge and Dundas.

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