Leslie Spit

I haven’t been to the Spit since we left for Nova Scotia last summer, so it was about time.  I didn’t want to go this winter until we got some snow to make it pretty. Then when we finally got some snow that stuck, I wanted to give the water a chance to freeze up.  After a number of snowfalls, weeks of temperatures in the negative double digits and seeing some ice forming along the lake by us, I thought it was time to check things out.

The Spit, aka Leslie Spit, aka Thommy Thompson Park, is only open to the public on weekends and holidays. This weekend, well, no blue skies to cast interesting lavender and blue shadows across snowscapes and not enough sun to give interesting lighting for very long, but Sunday began with snow, which has its own charm.  It didn’t last for too long, and though the sun fought for a while, giving a magical diffuse lighting, eventually, it lost the battle and the cloud cover became heavier. By the time I headed out of the park, the snow had resumed and I had switched from shooting at 200 ISO to 1600 ISO. THAT is how a photographer measures the density of clouds.

Snow surfers! A reason I wanted to wait until the sheltered waters between the Spit, Toronto Islands and the Toronto waterfront had a chance to freeze is that when frozen, you can see some wonderful things to point a camera at. These snow surfers had fresh powder on top of a frozen lake as a playground. They started out from Cherry Beach and surfed to the spit and back.

It was pretty much me with a few other hikers near the beginning of the park, a fair number of cross country skiers that were all through the spit … and a few intrepid souls on bicycles.

I hiked around for about 4 hours in the snow.  Great exercise, good to be away from the computer, and I found a few things at which to point my camera. Like there was any doubt.

Colours! There may not be leaves, but this doesn’t mean a lack of colour. Dogwood lends the cheeriness of red to bare woods; birch, the starkness of white; other varieties of trees, added tones and textures.

Not everyone hates snow and winter and if you need proof, head to the Spit! Cross country skiers are taking advantage of the weather while it lasts and what is better than getting away from it all without really having to get away from it all? This place is a treasure.

The snow makes this look like a frozen, deserted wasteland. This is actually one of the ponds created in the Spit, frozen over and snow-covered. There is a road on the other side that wanders along the open lakeside.

Here, Lake Ontario is visible behind the skiers.

On the other side, a view of the Toronto skyline. The empty Cormorant and Black-crowned Night Heron nests are visible in the trees; beyond them are the Toronto Islands.

A closer look at the Cormorant nests as the sun tried to make an appearance.

About halfway to the end of the Spit is a bridge. It’s around this bridge that some open areas of sheltered water live and around which a variety of ducks hang out. Last year, there was a much larger ice-free area; this year, there were only a several small pockets of open water. The birds were actively diving and feeding, bringing up shellfish and what looked like fish. If you’re a photographer who likes to photograph ducks, sitting on the bridge allows one to observe and photograph them at rather close range.

When someone inevitably walks across the bridge and scares the birds, you have an opportunity to catch them in flight. Wait, they will come back. They really don’t have much choice unless they want the open waters of the lake itself. These are a couple of Redheads.

Fisherman may not like mergansers, but if there really is a problem with not enough fish for humans and the critters that depend on them for life itself, it’s not the birds or animals that are overfishing. Male mergansers are here for the winter. Once mating season is done, they disappear, leaving the females to raise the young. Scientists wondered where they went. Turns out, the males have a big bachelor party up around the James Bay area during the summer. They are striking-looking. It’s not evident in this lighting, but the heads are actually green. For those of you in the CG world, it’s a green with a low diffuse value.

A female Common Goldeneye paddles around.

A Redhead has successfully caught something to eat while the Goldeneye looks appalled. Or itchy.

Landings can be tricky. Because the available pools of water are so small, many times, the  ducks land close to the water and walk into it.  But hitting the ice results in many slipping as their feet make contact. Some manage to recover from the skid as this Merganser is doing.

Many times, birds ended up on their backsides.

A numer of birds are coming in for a landing at once. The Redheads skidded into the water; the Merganser is attempting a more direct approach.

This Merganser and Oldsquaw are puddle buddies for a while.

Skiers are heading out of the park.

Last year’s vegetation looks drab and dreary until the snow falls, after which it provides splashes of colour on the otherwise monochromatic landscape.

As I mentioned above, there were bicyclists!

This bicyclist seems to be travelling at a faster pace.

Let’s finish with another splash of colour against a monochromatic background.

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