Recently a friend of mine contacted me about an article in the local paper. I believe it was titled "BBQ for the Birds". There is an event coming this Spring where people can come out, have a burger and help build some bird houses as a community project. The area they want to revive is a stretch called The Lavender Creek Trail.
I was furious when I learned about this. The Forgotten Land I would imagine started out the same way.
I texted a few friends who have followed my nest box adventures. It was great to be able to vent to some who understood my upset. They are such friends I can properly vent to, using all the cuss words I want in the moment and no offense was taken.
I felt bad for my friend who told me about this. It was a bit of an educational experience for him. I apologized the next day. He took it all in stride, appreciating my views on the project.
I wanted to blog about this immediately but couldn't. It was almost midnight Friday when I heard about it. I woke up the next day and decided to let it go. I can't worry about everything that happens out there. I did decide at some point soon I would visit this Lavender Creek out of curiosity, perhaps take some photos of the area and blog about it. And that is what this blog is about...
The following Tuesday I had to run a few errands which would take me over to this area. It wasn't the best morning to do so as we were in the midst of a snowfall that was making for some crappy road conditions but I had to be out there anyway. I dressed accordingly and away I went.
So, for anyone wanting to visit Lavender Creek. The first thing they will find is that there is no real parking to the area. When one drives around and tries to find parking, they may get confused about a lot of things and even forget why they are there. Green space? Birding area? Say what? These photos might explain a few things to you.
Lavender Creek is not a park. It is a ravine in a hydro field. It runs a couple kms starting at Weston Road in the Stockyards District and heads west.
I managed to find parking to the north, on a side street in the residential beyond a line of industrial buildings. A short walk down the street and I was on the paved trail.
The stench in the air can choke a person. Across the ravine and up the hill are the meat packing plants along with a few still existing slaughter houses. I don't know if that is blood and guts in the air, or just the smell of death, but it is almost a permanent odour that hangs over the Stockyards. I've seen new townhouses go up here some years ago, starting at half a million roughly. Imagine spending that kind of money on a home and not being able to open your windows or sit in what little backyard you may have because of this smell? It was below zero Celsius and reeking; imagine a stank hot August afternoon? Honestly, even for a moment, it would make most people re-think their eating habits. Calling this "Lavender Creek" must have been a sick joke by someone.
I walked the path. I did not see a person through my trek. I guess I was the only one crazy enough to go for a walk in it. But I also did not see or hear much bird activity. One pair of House Sparrows, one lingering White-crowned Sparrow (which was a nice surprise) and a few Mallards down in the creek. My soundtrack to the walk was trucks running and cows mooing, awaiting slaughter.
I shouldn't put so much into this about the meat plants because in the big picture, the birds really don't care about such things, but people thinking of spending time in this area probably will. I understand the idea someone has to revive the area, awaken the community to nature and pay attention to what can happen in their little stretch of green space. Unfortunately the track record for most of these projects is ultimate failure. The Lavender Creek has the Stockyards going against it in every sense. As for the trail itself, see here.
The trail is narrow overall. The south side has a drop down to the creek and then a steep hill going up to the plants. It's a long narrow line of wooded area. I'm sure in the warmer months all the views of the plants and trucks disappear.
Half a dozen Mallards are calling this home for the winter.
The creek is not really accessible as there is so much growth along the steep hill. Who would really have a purpose to go down there anyway?
To the north is various industrial including a scrap yard and many other businesses I had no idea existed.
Just before the line of industrial is a lot of growth, it's thick and dense in many spots, a lot of sumac grows along here too.
Hey, there's a Squirrel!
It seems a Robin made a home here last year.
There is a White-crowned Sparrow in there... somewhere.
Lots and lots of Sumac.
There are no open fields for cavity nesters like Tree Swallows and Bluebirds. This is a haven for House Sparrows and little else. Nothing against the House Sparrow but they aren't high on a lot of peoples' lists nor other cavity nesting bird species. I suppose some House Wrens might find a box useful for nesting too.
My opinion is that this is good intentions but a bad idea. It is going to be a waste of time, money and items that could be used elsewhere in a more suitable area PROVIDING people are willing to continue to monitor and care for the nest boxes. They don't have to keep track of bird species, hatches and what not, but at the very least clean these boxes out annually and ensure they remain in good overall condition for birds to use, even if it is just House Sparrows.
The Lavender Creek really could use a make over but sticking up a bunch of bird houses with any people willing to come out for a burger and participate is not the only way. Off the top of my head, a good clean up of the area would be a start, perhaps neaten up the existing landscape, remove any invasive species, and grow some native plants. Right now the area is shit. It looks like it and smells like it. You can put a bouquet of roses on a pile of shit and it's still going to be just that... shit.
I guess this Summer season photo could make one think it's a nice place to visit, especially with the name Lavender Creek.
I've pondered the idea of voicing my disapproval to the project. I think it will go on deaf ears especially since money has been given, plans are well in the making, advertisements have been sent out. Aside from an email to them, I really do not want to involve myself in this. I am busy elsewhere as you are probably aware. I'd like to think there is more to this project than what they have posted but I wouldn't bet on it.
I intend on revisiting the area sometime after the work is done and will share my observations. I am curious how many bird houses will be set up along this stretch.