Spring is officially upon us!
Do you have any plans yet for the Good Friday statutory holiday on April 18th? No school, no work! Why not spend the afternoon outdoors on a bird watching nature hike at Tommy Thompson Park by the lake?
This park is a great place to experience nature and the outdoors. It is arguably the best place for bird-watching in the city, with over 300 recorded species. There are also other wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as plenty of fishing possibilities. For a list of wildlife and fish species that you may encounter at TTP please visit the TTP Natural Heritage section and/or the Reports and Checklists section.
Spring, summer and fall are the most popular seasons for recreational activities such as hiking, running, roller-blading and leisure cycling on the park trails. Click here for a printable version of TTP trails - 2,206K The road that extends the full 5 km length of the site is accessible from the Martin Goodman Trail and the Waterfront Trail, making the park attractive for a leisurely stroll.
How long will it take me to walk/bike the Park?
Since everyone walks or cycles at different speeds and many of us stop to investigate and admire the natural wonders of the park it is difficult to determine how long it takes get from the entrance to the lighthouse at the end of the park. A very rough estimate based on an average walking speed of 4 km/h with no stops it will take about 2.5 hours to walk to the lighthouse and back - but allow extra time for frequent breaks plus a longer break when you reach the lighthouse to admire the Lake Ontario vista.
Streetcar service is also available on the Queen Street line (hop off at Leslie St.) plus a short walk into the park. Let me know if you need exact TTC directions ot try http://www.myttc.ca
Free parking is available in the parking lot inside the front gates on the west side or just outside of the front gates along Leslie St. and Unwin Ave. Please note that the TTP parking lot gates open on weekends and holidays at 9am and are closed and locked promptly at 6pm April to November.
Feel free to bring your camera to take photographs and binoculars for bird-watching!
After the hike, we can all go somewhere close for dinner together.
*FYI - There's some pretty cool apps you can get on your smartphone that will empower you to contribute to nature research as a "citizen scientist." For example, and this is related to our upcoming movie event, National Geographic has an app called "Project Noah" that I've downloaded. Available on both iPhone and Android, this is a new mobile application that lets you take cellphone pictures of birds, bugs, amphibians and trees and then sends back an identification of the exact type in as little as 24 hours. Noah in this case is actually an acronym for "Networked organisms and habitats."
For strictly bird watching or birding, there's another app called Sibley Guide. It's complete with bird calls and pictures for more than 800 avian species. It's always fun to try to mimic a bird call and attract them over :)
Hmmm... and I think I'll add this final tidbit about how this event might have any relevance to Chinese or Japanese culture. You'll likely see a lot of butterfly species at Tommy Thompson Park, as well. In Chinese culture, there is a legendary love story often thought of as the "Romeo and Juliet of the East" called the "Butterfly Lovers."
The legend of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai is set in the Eastern Jin Dynasty.
Zhu Yingtai is a beautiful and intelligent young woman, the ninth child and only daughter of the wealthy Zhu family of Shangyu, Zhejiang. Although traditions of that era discourage females from going to school, Zhu manages to convince her father to allow her to attend classes in disguise as a young man. During her journey to Hangzhou, she meets Liang Shanbo, a scholar from Kuaiji (present-day Shaoxing). They chat and feel a strong affinity for each other at their first meeting. Hence, they gather some soil as incense and take an oath of fraternity in the pavilion of a thatched bridge.
They study together for the next three years in school and Zhu gradually falls in love with Liang. Although Liang equals Zhu in their studies, he is still a bookworm and fails to notice the feminine characteristics exhibited by his classmate.
One day, Zhu receives a letter from her father, asking her to return home as soon as possible. Zhu has no choice but to pack her belongings immediately and bid Liang farewell. However, in her heart, she has already confessed her love for Liang and is determined to be with him for all eternity. Before her departure, she reveals her true identity to the headmaster's wife and requests her to hand over a jade pendant to Liang as a betrothal gift.
Liang accompanies his "sworn brother" for 18 miles to see her off. During the journey, Zhu hints to Liang that she is actually a woman. For example, she compares them to a pair of mandarin ducks (a symbol of lovers in Chinese culture), but Liang does not catch her hints and does not even have the slightest suspicion that his companion is a woman in disguise. Zhu finally comes up with an idea and tells Liang that she will act as a matchmaker for him and his "sister". Before they part, Zhu reminds Liang to visit her residence later so he can propose to marry her "sister." Liang and Zhu reluctantly part ways at the Changting pavilion.
Months later, when Liang visits Zhu, he discovers that she is actually a woman. They are devoted to and passionate about each other and they make a vow of "till death do us part". The joy of their reunion is short-lived as Zhu's parents have already arranged for her to marry a man from a rich family called Ma Wencai. Liang is heartbroken when he hears the news and his health gradually deteriorates until he becomes critically ill. He dies in office later as a county magistrate.
On the day of Ma and Zhu's marriage, mysterious whirlwinds prevent the wedding procession from escorting the bride beyond Liang's grave, which lies along the journey. Zhu leaves the procession to pay her respects to Liang. She descends in bitter despair and begs for the grave to open up. Suddenly, the grave opens with a clap of thunder. Without further hesitation, Zhu throws herself into the grave to join Liang. Their spirits turn into a pair of beautiful butterflies and emerge from the grave. They fly away together as a pair of butterflies and are never to be separated again.
There have been countless songs, operas, movies, plays, and dramas based on this famous tale. To read more about this tragic love story and its impact on Chinese culture, please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_Lovers
Finally, there is a pretty well-known violin concerto that accompanies this tale that everyone in China would immediately recognize. Below is a video of a live performance by talented Japanese virtuoso, Akiko Suwanai: