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West Woodbine Beach, Dune and Meadow Habitat, Biodiversity and Damage report Summer 2022.

Updated: Sep 8

Last updated: September 8, 2022


Report prepared by:

Noam Markus

Clyde Robinson


Reviewed by:

Autumn Jordan - Urban Nature Organizer, Nature Canada

Ann Purvis - Toronto Nature Stewards

Jean Iron - Former President - Ontario Field Ornithologists

Ron Pittaway - Biologist, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, retired.

Bob Kortright - Former President - Toronto Field Naturalists

Owen Strickland - Citizen Scientist. Toronto,Ward 19.

John Nishikawa - Former President - Toronto Ornithological Club, co-chair of Nature Canada's Bird Friendly City - Toronto Team.

David Beadle - Entomologist, co-author and illustrator - "Peterson Field Guide To Moths Of Northeastern North America".


Summary

This report documents the rich biodiversity found within the habitat at West Woodbine Beach in Toronto, Ontario. The observations have been by citizen scientists, confirmed by local experts and through iNaturalist. It is hoped that this report will help the public and Toronto City Hall officials, be more aware of the rich biodiversity within the habitat as there is no current Environmental Assessment and no official plant inventory by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).


To date over 659 species of flora and fauna have been documented.


Location

The habitat is located at the west end of the largest beach in Toronto. Nestled between Ashbridge's Bay Park and Woodbine Beach. Ward 19, Toronto.

It is a flood zone.

Size: approximately 3.2 hectares.

Soil: sand and organic material from floods.


Photos: Google Earth


The habitat is a natural feature, part of the Natural Heritage System. The land is owned by TRCA and managed by the City of Toronto.

Since 2017 the City of Toronto has encouraged this habitat to naturalize.

2019 - TRCA treated the habitat with Phragmites control. Unfortunately, the Phragmites is back and we hope TRCA will take steps to control it again.

2020 - TRCA planted trees on the south/east corner of the habitat.


Since 2017 the habitat has evolved into a type of Vegetation Community that is rare in Toronto.


Ranking is based on TRCA data:

L2 -L3 = Species of Regional Conservation Concern.

L4 = Species of Urban Concern.

L5 = species that are considered secure throughout the region.


Flora

To date, 148 species of flora have been documented:


2 species ranked L2


Umbrella Flatsedge (Cyperus diandrus). This rare plant species, thought to have been extirpated from the region, was documented in the habitat in 2020 and will be

upgraded to L2 ranking. First regional observation in over 100 years, from this habitat!


Schweinitz's umbrella-sedge (Cyperus schweinitzii) - L2


10 species ranked L3:


Fen Orchid (Liparis loeselii) - L3

Shining Flatsedge (Cyperus bipartitus) - L3

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) - L3

Hardstem Bulrush (Schoenoplectus acutes) - L3

Small's Spike-rush (Eleocharis palustris) -L3

Slender False Foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia) - L3

Bushy Cinquefoil (Potentilla supina)- L3

Smooth Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) - L3

False Dragonhead - Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) -L3

Sphinx Ladies’ Tresses (Spiranthes incurva) -L3


15 species ranked L4:


Three-square Bulrush (Schoenoplectus pungent) - L4

Square-stemmed (Allegheny) Monkey-flower ( Mimulus ringens ) -L4

Torrey's rush (Juncus torreyi) -L4

Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) -L4

Baltic Rush (Juncus balticus) - L4

Knotted Rush (Juncus nodosus) - L4

Variegated Horsetail (Equisetum variegatum) - L4

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) -L4

Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)- L4

Broad-leaved Cattail (Typha latifolia) -L4

Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) -L4

Bottlebrush (Porcupine) Sedge (Carex hystericina) -L4

Virginia Pepper-grass (Lepidium virginicum) - L4

Soft-stemmed Bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani) - L4

River Wild Rye (Elymus riparius) - L4


3 species of Milkweed

Common Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed


Umbrella Flatsedge, L2. Photo by Owen Strickland Fen Orchid, L3. Photo by Anne Purvis Allegheny Monkeyflower, L4. Photo by Brian Stahls


Fauna

To date, 505 species of fauna have been documented:


Confirmed nesting birds:

Killdeer (L4). Ground nester.

Savannah Sparrow (L4). Ground nester.

Song Sparrow (L5). Ground nester.

Red-winged Blackbird (L5).


Killdeer - L4 Savannah Sparrow - L4


Photo: Migrating Semipalmated Sandpipers (Near Threatened).

33 species of sandpipers, plovers and gulls have been documented feeding on the habitat.

Shorebirds suffer globally from loss of breeding and migration stop-over, feeding habitat.


Insects:

392 species of insects including over 200 species of pollinators.

110 species of Butterflies and moths. 

58 species of bees and wasps.

68 species of Flies

22 species of Dragonflies and Damselflies

48 species of Beetles

6 species of spiders


Of special note is the endangered Monarch.

The habitat is a breeding, feeding and an important migration stopover location for the Monarch, many other insects and birds.

Please see the Mayor's pledge to protect the Monarch and The David Suzuki Foundation Monarch Pledge.

Monarch


Mammals:

Coyote - L4

Red Fox- L4

Virginia Opossum- L4

American Mink - L4

Striped Skunk- L5

Bats (Big Brown Bat -L4)

Common Racoon- L5

Eastern Gray Squirrel -L5


Winter:

Winter is not a time to abandon this habitat.

This is a very vulnerable time for dormant plants, hibernating insects and insect eggs that are attached to vegetation or placed underground.


Public Usage

This area is utilized year-round by hundreds of nature lovers from all walks of life who enjoy this wild patch of urban nature in an otherwise, well manicured park.


Damage to the habitat from use of the disc-golf course.

Late October 2021 an extension to an extensive disc golf course was installed on top of the habitat. It was operational until the end of March 2022.


At some time in March 2022 someone poured sand on the habitat in order to shore-up two disc-golf T-off locations that were flooded and muddy. This now shows as a "bald spot". Anything that was growing and living beneath was smothered.

These "dead zones", some measuring 15'x20', can be seen throughout the north course, at Ashbridge's Bay Park, where grass has been replaced with artificial turf due to repetitive trampling erosion. 

Dead zones can be seen in other parks as E.T Seton Park where large dead zones surround

T-off and basket locations (See photos below). 

We must not allow these dead zones to form and scar this sensitive habitat.


Bald-spot on the habitat

Damage from repetitive trampling as seen in the winter

Dead zones on north course at Ashbridge's Bay Park. Every T-off location and around each basket is a dead zone.

This basket was placed on top of the natural sand dune wall, where Switchgrass (L3) grows. Erosion of the sand wall is seen.

Dead zones as seen at E.T Seton Park, Ward 16, Toronto.


As we were told that the removal of the disc-golf course from the habitat was only temporary, we encourage the City of Toronto to recognise the importance of this naturalized habitat and find an alternative, more appropriate location for the recreational disc-golf course extension, so it can be utilized and enjoyed by players year-round without sacrificing such important habitat in the city.


Toronto City Council's biodiversity and pollinator protection strategies apply to habitats just like this one. These long-term, city wide, strategies were unanimously passed On October 3, 2019 by Toronto City Council and now it is important more than ever to follow up on these commitments.


We call on TRCA to fulfil their mandate of conservation and habitat restoration.


We welcome questions, comments and suggestions and would be happy to meet up at the habitat with anyone wanting to take a closer look at this special wild spot of urban nature in Toronto.


The report will continue to be updated throughout the summer and fall of 2022.

*All photos by Noam Markus unless stated otherwise

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