Planned and Unplanned Actions City of Kingston

The City of Kingston prides itself on “where innovation and history strive”, and there are indeed examples of exciting policies and good infrastructure emerging  in our city. A good example is the city’s Waterfront Master Plan. Click here to see how it affects the Aragon Road. 

But if eager civil servants do not communicate between the silos they inhabit at City Hall, good plans  go awry. Take the latest example of unwelcome and unplanned tree planting in the Cecil and Wilma Graham’s nature park  opposite their century farm  on the historic Aragon Road. Located adjacent to the Esther March Bay, a secluded bay off Colonel By Lake, where nature has been left alone for the last century plus and where nature thrives.

Suddenly,  rows of evergreen seedlings in a straight pattern appeared in the park area that has been used for haying as long as people along the Aragon Road can remember. The soil has been treated with chemicals to destroy the grass  and flowers that grow in this ecologically important meadow habitat. It was Cecil and Wilma’s wish when they donated this valuable land bordering the lake, that it would remain natural and would be enjoyed by the public for observation of wildlife and for light recreational activities like hiking and birding.  Why would the city plant 4000 trees in a mono-culture of spindly evergreens in a strict geometric pattern, which is not compatible with a nature park. Photo credit: Jackie Duffin

Concerned citizens asked our Councillor Gary Oosterhof if he could help to explain this unwanted action.Bob Wolfe past member of the Rural Affairs Committee sent a letter to Councillor Oosterhof which is included in the August agenda for the meeting: click here for the letter with supporting documentation. It will be discussed at the September 25th meeting.

And here is the answer to inquiries from him, sent to the Councillor by the Department of Transportation and Public Work. (highlights by the website editor):

This is a seedling planting program that is done in partnership with the CRCA ( Cataraqui Regional Conservation Area, ed.) under a Provincial Program called “50 Million Trees”. It is part of a reforestation program and the City has participated since 2016 to support Council’s priority to Double the Tree Canopy. I believe the CRCA has a 3rd party that does the planting. I understand they do spray so the seedlings have a chance to survive rather than competing with the grass. I don’t have all the details but I can assure you the planter would be registered and would only use approved products. We can ask the CRCA for additional information if that is required. The planting is (sic) being done in a municipal park and it has not been our practice to notify area residents when we are planting trees on public land.

Sheila Kidd, Commissioner Transportation and Public Works

The Cecil and Wilma Graham park should not have  been used to plant trees without regard for the historic nature of the environment of the Aragon Road. It is a forced road, having evolved since the mid-eighteen hundreds into a heritage road with many important natural features that remind visitors and residents of our rural history. This is especially important to recognize since the road runs parallel with the Rideau Canal watershed, a UNESCO world heritage site.

We ask that the natural meadow features be restored to what Wikipedia describes as:  A meadow is an open habitat, or field, vegetated by grass and other non-woody plants. … They provide areas for courtship displays, nesting, food gathering, pollinating insects, and sometimes sheltering, if the vegetation is high enough, making them ecologically important. Click here for more.

The City’s Planning Department works hard to recognize habitats, historic features and sight-lines  in our natural environment and in the so-called build environment in the city’s center and  along its waterfront. All of this is part of the Official Plan and written in more detail in the Waterfront Master Plan. Why is Public Works going outside this plan and ignore  our efforts to keep the Aragon Road Kingston’s best kept nature’s paradise?

For the name “Paradise” see the Oral History of the Road. Click here.

Part of the Cecil and Wilma Park area looking from the Aragon Road to the west. This meadow is used for haying. We have spotted foxes and their young, wild turkeys and their fledglings, deer and many different species of birds and insect-pollinators. At the edges  and in other sections of the park, milkweed grows that is essential for the monarch butterfly population that is just recovering slightly from years of habitat destruction and is threatened with extinction. Photo credit: Jackie Duffin.

The park looking to the east over Esther Marsh Bay and Colonel By Lake. The waterfront is part of the Rideau Canal and the UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo credit: Henk Wevers. 

Esther March Bay bordering the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park. A sensitive secluded area that offers an undisturbed water and wetland habitat intertwined with the meadow habitat of the park. Photo credit: Bob Wolfe.

There will be continuing discussions in the Rural Advisory Committee on this topic and the citizens who care about the preservation of the historic aspects of the Aragon Road demand that the seedlings be removed to prevent the establishment of a disturbing mono-culture of spindly evergreens. See photo below which shows a planted plot of pine trees after thirty years of growth.

Is this example of a mono-culture what Public Works wants for the sight lines towards the Rideau Canal? Would Parks Canada like this view, and does it honor our history and the Waterfront Master Plan?

To go back to the INDEX click the icon below.



Sunrises over Colonel By Lake vary in an infinite series of colours and shapes, sometimes changing in a matter of minutes. The photos were taken in the fall and winter from the patio of our house at the western end of Colonel By Lake.

These photos were taken in the winter looking east over the lake. Cloud formations make the sunrises more interesting. Click the arrows on each side of the the picture for the slide show to start, or use the dots below the photos. These pictures are not protected by copy right. Please feel free to use them as you see fit.

AND NOW, we have reached the end of this post, I hope you liked the sunrises, just a small selection of many in my database. This post was made with updated software that includes slide shows and allows different arrangements of several photos in a block.

The next post will show a sample of sunsets. In many ways they are even more spectacular as they occur in the evening a time of the day that allows to admire the subtle changes, as the sun slowly but quite perceptibly sinks below the horizon.

Stay posted.

To go to the INDEX, click this picture

Mute Swan Couple Persists; 2015-2019

“All up”: Queen Elizabeth’s swans checked and counted:


The animals around us are busy building  their nests and hatching their young. Mark Fleming, a neighbour on our road and and avid  nature photographer, explores the lake and the river in his kayak as soon as the water is ice free. He sent us beautiful photos of water birds and mammals building their nests and dens and starting the breeding  season early in the month of May, 2019.

A Mute Swan couple near the large wetland  that is part of Esther Marsh. 

A goose’s nest has been built, eggs laid and now the hatching begins.

In the same area, but more to the south is evidence of beaver dam building.

The large dome of the beaver den has been co-opted by a  Canada Goose, and why not. It’s great for safely hatching her eggs.

Can you see her?

Maybe not, so have a look at the cropped photo below.

For details on the building habits of animals see this blog of the National Geographic.

mark mute swan nest island 20 may 2019

The rocky island, just south from the canal between Colonel By Lake and the River Styx, has always been an attractive place for gulls, cormorants and since 2016 a pair of Mute Swans, that built a nest on the rocks. A hard but solid foundation. This year when the photo was taken,  Common Terns, on the left, sit side by side, resting from their long migration. They  will spend several weeks in our area.

North American  terns spend the winter in South America or along the Pacific Coast of Central America. One-year-old birds often stay on the wintering grounds and do not migrate to the breeding grounds until they are 2 years old. For more CLICK HERE.

mark mute swan nest island detail 20 may 2019

Here is mother swan with six cygnets seeking the warmth of the sun and of the mother. In the first week of their lives they are prone to hypothermia from the cold water, rain and wind. They also have to learn to feed, while depleting the nutrients of the  egg yolk that  clung to their bodies  when they  hatched.  

Three years ago, I was able to observe this couple from my boat. They had two offspring and none survived. It is well-known that young couples are not very successful in breeding and protecting their young. Of these six cygnets at best three or four will grow up to fledglings  and then they might run into more trouble on their migration to open water south where they overwinter.  However there are plenty of Mute Swans, an invading species, around the lake and especially in the River Styx, all along the wetlands going up to Lower Brewers Locks. Adults can live up to 10-20 years and they mate for life.

And finally, a female Red Winged Blackbird.  She is clinging to two different stalks of bulrushes.

To go back to the INDEX   click here.


Spring 2019

One our neighbours on the Aragon Road alerted us in mid-February to the early presence of waterfowl in the open canal that connects the River Styx with Colonel By Lake at Alan’s Point, at the end of the road. On February 15th, around 4:15 pm she counted sixteen Mute Swans in the shallow water that is rich in bottom vegetation that the birds can reach with their long necks.

Mark Fleming, another nature-loving neighbour went out, a few days later and took  photos that he shared with me. There were less swans, but now there were a large number of Canada Geese as well.

This photo is taken just to the west of the canal where it joins Colonel By Lake, the dead tree stump in the background has served as a nesting post for an osprey pair that return to the lake in late March and early April.  

On the ice and in the water at sub-zero temperatures in February, 2019. Sixteen Canada Geese and two Mute Swans, one on the ice the other in the water.

“Welcome back.” As soon as the breeding season starts in April when the ice is out of the lake and the river, these birds become fiercely territorial and the stately Mute Swan will chase away the Canada Geese, sometimes over long distances across the lake or from one bay into the other.

Restoration Work of Kingston Mills Locks

Parks Canada started restorative work on the locks and infrastructure around it in November 2018.  It will take three winter and spring seasons to complete it. The work will stop at the end of April of each year to allow for the opening of the Rideau Canal early May.  It’s hard to believe but that is only a bit more than three months from now.

The first step was to built extensive enclosures over the locks so the space can be heated with propane. The photos will give an impression of the extent of the construction site.

Enclosure of the west side of  the first lock at Colonel By Lake. When finished, the lock space can be heated and the restoration work can be started. The logistics are extraordinary and the work will involve removal and replacement of damaged limestone blocks, backfill and grouting. In fact, it will involve a total overhaul and rebuild of the stone works.

Enclosure in progress on the East side of the lock.

The picnic area is now a staging and logistics area. This will be restored again to a grass covered camping and picnic area in April-May, we imagine.

The lockmaster’s office grounds have become a storage area for propane tanks and piles of scaffolding.

All the while the lake level is low and will remain extreme low to  allow the restauraton work to proceed. The run-off below the weir creates a nice winter scene.

From the Parks Canada website: Kingston Mills Lock Rehabilitation is part of an unprecedented $3 billion dollars investment over 5 years to support infrastructure work to heritage, visitor, waterway and highway assets located within national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas across Canada. These investments represent the largest federal infrastructure plan in the 105-year history of Parks Canada.

For more information go here:



Jackie Duffin and Bob Wolfe, neighbours on the Aragon Road, sent us early morning photos of water birds congregating on a thin sheet of ice that had formed overnight on Colonel By Lake

“On 22 Nov we woke up to find the lake had frozen with the extreme early cold….(the only year it happened earlier was 1995). But more amazing was the massive number of geese and some ducks that had flown in the evening before and remained there overnight. At first we couldn’t tell it they were floating in the water or sitting on top of the ice. As it got brighter we learned that it was the latter. They were huddled to keep warm — and to our amazement a lonely swan showed up too. By the end of the day they had all flown away.”

The photo below is especially beautiful with some of the birds in focus while others are resting in the early morning fog that hovers over the cold surface. To the right of the standing geese seems to be a little open water with two geese floating in the opening.

Why don’t their feet freeze to the ice? I looked it up on Google: Ducks, as well as many other birds, have a counter-current heat exchange system between the arteries and veins in their legs. Warm arterial blood flowing to the feet passes close to cold venous blood returning from the feet.”

That means the arterial blood flowing into the feet has given off its heat-energy to the the venous blood that is being returned to the body. And that means the cooled arterial blood flowing into the feet doesn’t lose much heat to the cold ice.  In this way only five percent of body heat is lost through the feet. In fact the feet are close enough to the temperature of the ice that they don’t freeze to it. A wonderful evolutionary heat exchange system.

Why don’t  waterfowl  that float and swim in ice-cold water not become hypothermic and die? Are the feathers and down so well organised in layers that the skin doesn’t get wet? And therefore the body doesn’t lose much heat? After all we would die from hypothermia in less than a few minutes if we were submerged in water at zero degree Celsius.

Google: “If you can watch some ducks for a while you might notice that they spend a lot of time nibbling their feathers with their beaks. This is called preening. While the duck is preening she is spreading oil all over her top layer of feathers. The oil comes from a special place near her tail called a gland and when she spreads the oil over her feathers it makes her feathers waterproof. The water can’t get through the first layer of oily feathers and so all of her feathers underneath stay dry and fluffy and keep her warm all over.”

A view from the Wolfe/Duffin property on Colonel By Lake, just north of Kingston Mills on the Rideau Canal between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario.

Among the many geese there is one lonely swan.

This could be a mute swan, a trumpeter, or a tundra swan. It is difficult to see from a distance like this. It’s most likely a mute swan, the ones we see each spring and summer on Colonel By Lake and in the River Styx. These swans are an introduced species from Europe and Asia. They have an orange coloured beak and an elegantly curved neck while swimming. Tundra and trumpeter swans have a black beak with a straight neck and are more in groups. We saw them last week on our visit to the Opinican Resort at Chaffeys Locks on Lake Opinican about forty kilometers north of Kingston on the Rideau Canal.

We hope you like the photos of a very late fall migration on our doorsteps.

 Click on the icon  of the mute swan to go to the INDEX of this site


Wild Turkeys Invade Conservation Area

This wild turkey visited us in the late winter of 2017-18 together with her or his mate. Little did we know that they might well be the couple that populated the Cecil and Wilma Graham Memorial Park on the Arragon Road, adjacent the conservation area on Casey’s Island, a large wild piece of land protruding into Colonel By Lake and Esther Marsh Bay.

Fast forward to the summer of 2018 when mother and father were observed in the meadow that is part of the Graham park with several tiny chicks that had the greatest difficulty navigating the trail that the parents left in the tall grass.

Then, we  recently received these photos from Bob Wolfe and Jackie Duffing residents on our road and avid nature watchers.

An invasion of young wild turkeys in their garden, attracted by the seeds left in the grass below the birdfeeder. How many juveniles do you count? And did you notice the chickadee on the feeder wondering what in the world in going on below?

After a good meal there needs to be time to rest. What better than a garden bench and chair?

Here is a bit of information about the introduction of the wild turkey in the Ottawa Sun: The last native wild turkey in Ontario was recorded in 1902. Generations later, Ontario wanted to provide birds for hunters. The Ministry of Natural Resources brought American turkeys into southwestern Ontario in the 1980s, and in 1997 released the first couple of dozen in Eastern Ontario, in Renfrew County. The ministry described them at the time as “like a grouse on steroids.”

But these are different birds than the native Ontario ones — a bird that is hardier in cold, happy to browse in farm fields, not afraid to live near people, and able to multiply fast. Today, there are many thousands here and in West Quebec, and more than 70,000 across Ontario. 



Mid August later in the afternoon nature seems to take a break from the feeding frenzy and the fight between the species to survive. Cormorants rest on old tree stumps in Colonel By Lake left over from the flooding of the banks for the Little Cataraqui River to finish the Rideau Waterway at Kingston in 1832. Other waterbirds hide along the water’s edge protected by the dense shrubs, overhanging trees and dead branches. Here are some of those that I discovered with my binoculars and then tried to photograph.

A solitary wood duck resting in the curve of some old roots and stump that floats in the water partly stuck in the mud or the shallow bay that is  part of the Kingston Mills Marsh, a provincially significant wetland. Look good and there are two painted turtles sunning just in front of her.

A male wood duck swimming lazyly among the waterlilies and occasionally taking a nibble from the duck weed that floats on the surface of the clean water in the bay.

A green heron stands like a rigid sculpted figure on a log near shore and near our dock. It shares the space with a family of painted turtles unlikely company.

A solitary sandpiper visits our bay. I have seen flocks of these from our boat, feeding on the dense carpet of water lily leaves where there are many insects on the wet leaves and small critters in the water. These small hyperactive birds are irregular visitors on Colonel By Lake. They breed in the northern part of Canada but are migrant throughout the Great Lakes area in Canada and the US. They winter around the Gulf of Mexico. When the conditions are good they gladly seem to take advantage of the food supply on our lake during their migration.

Wood ducks got the name because they like to perch in old dead trees near the water, these two seem to have found the ideal spot. They blend in with the tangle of branches and weeds, but obviously the area is good for their health, they are fat and plumb. This might be a pair because there were several younger looking ducks of the same family around in the water to just float of feed.

Can you spot mother duck sitting satisfied on a branch while her flock are busy to paddle around in the water and snack on the weeds?


A more than 150 year old oak tree didn’t fall in our forest, but it shed a large branch in a violent windstorm one night. The trees around it didn’t protect her. The branch was almost as old as the trunk. In the middle of the night a sound different from howling wind caught our ears, it was a rushing then crashing sound as if an electric bolt from a thunderstorm had hit the tree. The next day showed the damage.

Almost a year later, Mark Fleming, a resident on our road started to cut boards out of the branch to make a coffee table and other pieces of woodcraft. Here is a photo reportage you might enjoy.

Mark cut the boards that are from one to 1.5 inch thick with a chainsaw guided by a portable saw jig. The very broad cut at the crotch of the branch was cut free-hand. The piece that came off is now a very artistic coffee table.