Double-Digits in Humber Bay

8 April 2014 — Could it be better? Full sun, no clouds, & the thermometer finally pushing its way up into double-digits. So I, plus half the rest of the world it seems, head for Humber Bay in the west end. This is where the Humber River dumps into Lake Ontario, and waterfront parks and butterfly habitat dance with new condo towers immediately to the north.

Look … open water for the gliding swan.

swan off Huber Bay Shores

I come in through the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat (HBBH), a wonderful array of meadows, grassland, rocks and paths designed to attract and support these glorious insects.  Some 20,000 recorded species in the world, I read on a signboard; 130 of them found in southern Ontario and only six likely to be spotted here.

“I like this one!” cries a little girl, planting a chubby finger on her favourite image among the six. “The Viceroy,” says her mum. “Gosh, it looks just like the Monarch…”

She’s right and, a little farther into the Wildflower Meadow, a compare/contrast image of the two insects explains why.

signboard, HBBH

Clever old Viceroy! The adult Monarch is poisonous to its predators, the Viceroy is not, but by mimicking the same coloration, the Viceroy is also shunned. (One tiny diference: that black band across each lower wing. Shushhh. Don’t tell the predators.)

Next, one of my favourite spots in the HBBH: the Home Garden. The main feature here is the artwork — apparently a big ornamental bird house, with an oval of metal ravens. And yes, that’s what they are, but with more meaning than that.

Spirit House & Guardians, in HBBH Home Garden

The bird house is a Spirit House (Feir Mill Designs), reflecting the legend that butterflies are the spirits of the departed; the flock of ravens are Guardians (artist Amy Switzer), symbolizing community and collaboration.

Collaboration, for sure — between sculpture birds and real ones. Each year those ravens are packed with straw and other handy litter, as real birds claim nest space inside.

See the little guy on the tail of this raven?

metal Guardian raven, real sparrow!

I head now for Humber Bay Park East — not to be confused with Humber Bay Park West, the other lobe of twinned park stretching into the lake. Enroute, speaking of birds, I spot a bird feeder. It looks entirely unofficial to me, but so charming, and I’m delighted it has not been removed.

tiny birdhouse, Humber Bay Shores

Once in the eastern park “lobe,” it’s a short walk to another of my favourite locations.

Very different mood from the Home Garden. It is the monument to Air India flight 182 and its 395 victims, who died when the terrorist bomb planted here in Canada blew the plane out of the sky just off the coast of Ireland back in 1985.

More poignant than ever right now, with Malaysian flight 370 still missing.

Air India flit 182 memorial, Humber Bay Park East

I’m standing quietly by the wall of names, thinking how people always pause, always show respect, thinking how I’ve never seen any vandalism, when a man steps up beside me, touches a name in the list, and says: “I knew him. We worked together.”

I look up, inviting further comment if he wishes to make any. He sighs. “He didn’t want to go home right then. All the sectarian violence, he wanted to stay away, but… family events, family pressure…”

There’s nothing to add, so we don’t, and after a moment we walk on, our separate ways.

Mine takes me first along the north edge of this park, looking back to the shore and the city beyond, the wonderful white parabola of the Humber River pedestrian bridge a stand-out, even from here.

Toronto from Huber Bay Park East, incl white Humber River bridge

Benches are dotted here and there, with the weather finally warm enough to make them seem inviting. Look at this couple, aren’t they wonderful? It was only later, looking at the photo, that I really appreciated their loving body language, each circled toward the other.

view to city, with CN Tower

The south shore of this park faces into the lake, and here the rocks are still ice-crusted. Never mind. The dogwood grows redder by the moment, about to burst into new life, and there, those dots all along the shoreline, people are positively cavorting. Cavorting, I tell you; Canadian restraint be damned, it finally feels a wee bit like spring, and we are giddy.

north shore, Humber Bay Park East

Where there are rocks, there will be piled-up rocks. Here, a carefully balanced display atop a handy chunk of log.

north shore, Humber Bay Park East

I head back out of the eastern park to the main shoreline, a different route this time, through the stormwater management facility. You see more and more of these along the lakefront, designed to slow, settle and cleanse stormwater before it hits the lake. I like them, both for what they do and for the graceful design. Public art, with civic purpose.

stormwater management, Humber Bay

Promising Humber Bay Park West a visit some other day, I turn east again, back though the HBBH and for a while along Marine Parade — the busy road dividing nature to the south from urban development to the north. More sculptures, giant bronze sunflowers that you see in various locations, here plonk in the roadway meridian.

sculpture in Marine Parade meridian

See what I mean about urban development? (That toppled signboard is inviting you to view yet another “release” — real-estate lingo, good grief — of brand new condo units.)

Oh, but look south, almost immediately opposite. A butterfly arch, to welcome us back into the gardens.

archway into Wildflower Meadow, HBBH

And in I go. And, after a while, out I come. Because I am about to take advantage of all that urban development, and have myself a latte in a streetcorner café.

Which I do. And then I walk on, ultimately taking myself up through High Park to Bloor Street before catching a streetcar back home.

Next post, I’ll take you there with me.

Leave a comment


  1. Penny what a magical looking space, wild nature dotted with wonderful symbolic sculptures, set between the water and the high-rises…..a liminal space between nature and man 🙂

  2. Great tour and so nice that Spring is beginning at last. Do they have lots of milkweed there for the monarchs? Will be planting some in my garden this year!

    • I should check on that. I know (and they explain) that the whole area is planted with the plants & shrubs good for the butterfly life cycle, and rimmed with nice flat rocks to serve as their sunning beds. Stewardship volunteers work each season to maintain the health of the grounds, and to root out invasive species.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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