I happened to be in Hamilton, Ont., yesterday with time on my hands and took the opportunity to explore Cootes Paradise. Steeltown may be notorious for its air pollution, but it also offers access to remarkable green space and natural areas such as Royal Botanical Gardens (RBC), waterfalls like Tews Falls in Dundas, and Bruce Trail along the Niagara Escarpment.
Cootes Paradise at the west end of Hamilton Harbour is the most significant wetland on this part of Lake Ontario. Urban runoff, uncontrolled land use and the introduction of carp into Lake Ontario led to serious decline in the wetland’s ecology over the past century. RBC has worked at restoring it since the 1990s.
Diverse habitats make the whole area a great birding destination. Hamilton Harbour draws all kinds of waterfowl in the winter, while adjoining woodlands offer winter shelter and summer nest sites for songbirds. Rarities often turn up here. I have occasionally travelled to Hamilton to spot hotline species like brown pelican.
Yesterday I arrived with binoculars but my eyes were drawn to things closer at hand. Winter bares the landscape of distractions like flower, fruit and foliage. Underneath lie intriguing structures, the girders and crossbars of life. For artists and craftspeople these dead husks and shells appear pregnant with inspiration.