Finding Spring Ephemerals Off the Beaten Track in Montreal


Mont Royal is a great place to explore.  You can spend your whole day in this green space - there are trails (both formal and informal), lots of places to spend time under trees, a few great lookouts to see the city skyline, places to eat (Mt. Royal Chalet, Café des Amis - Pavillon, Maison Smith) and great scenic spots to rest and people watch by the lake.  And yes if you want to do an urban hike - Mont Royal is your spot - with options of 2 km, 4 km and 8 km hikes!

As mentioned in a previous Wild. Here. Montreal post, two cemeteries make up about half of the green space here and when we are visiting the city we love walking around the Mont Royal Cemetery.  Last spring we went off the "beaten path" and found some ephemerals under foot.  Mont Royal is a great place to take in all the tree blossoms and spring flowers!  This map provides details about all the services found on "La Montagne".

- Lots of red and white blossoms -

- Quiet trail through a small wooded area - 

- Where we found Trilliums! - 

- So many growing in the dappled light of the spring forest - 

- Pink blossoms also! - 

- This is the entrance we use off Remembrance Road - 

- There are many guided tours for nature lovers - 


- Along the path near Chalet du Mont Royal - 

- Some informal paths up the hill - 

- Spectacular spring blossoms!

Also, if you like dogs, don't miss out on Bois Summit (Summit Woods) which is just south west of  Mont Royal while you are there!  It's a favourite off leash dog walking spot.  Great views at the top here too!


You May Also Like:

Wild. Here. The Green Side of Montreal (April 2019)

An Urban Nature-loving Flâneur's Day in Montreal, Quebec (April 2019)

Looping around the Island and Industry in Montreal - Urban Nature Discoveries (October 2017)

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Get Outside for Your Tree Medicine this Spring!


Trees provide us with so many benefits.  They shade us, they clean the air, they hold water and carbon.  They can be a home to many wildlife creatures big and small supporting a complex ecology.  Heritage trees need to be valued and our urban forest canopy should be seen for the economic benefit it is.

Trees provide us with green.  That visual green stimulus calms our nervous system but there are other positive stimulus from being outside and under trees.  All of our senses are stimulated from the wind and fresh air, the wildlife and wood lots are more naturally humid and our skin can sense this.  There are colours and movements and textures and even the changes in walking surfaces and then there are the aromas and aerosols. These scents can not only affect our immune system in a positive way but they can also help with circulation and even improve our urban environments.

Think of the scent of pine or rose.  These can trigger positive mental stimulus as we might associate the aroma with a positive experience but these scents can also boost our health as can many other tree "aerosols" and plant organic compounds.  These tree oils (terepenes) are secreted for many reasons - to attract certain beneficial insects, to protect the tree from pests and even to regulate temperatures but we benefit also as these aerosols provide various health benefits such as being anti-viral or having anti-oxidant compounds or anti-inflammatory to name a few.




According to Diana Beresford-Kroeger (from a list of trees she recommended to Ecology Ottawa for replacing the dying Ash trees):

  • American Basswood which flowers in early summer can boost our health due to a lactone chemistry in its aerosol.
  • Black Walnut provides a service to urban environments by "neutralizing toxic benzene" from urban vehicle pollution with its chemical aerosols.
  • Eastern White Cedar has anti-viral aerosols that are released by glands in its leaves on humid days can "regulate the beating heart".
  • And two other evergreens: the Fir has antiseptic and antibiotic aerosols while the Spruce helps to lower blood pressure through its tree oil scent release.  Let me know of any others you have read about!


What a great reminder of the scientifically proven benefits of nearby nature and getting outdoors!

Where are some tree groves in your neighbourhood?  Some of the older suburbs in London, Ontario are lined with Basswood (Linden - Tilia) trees and Ottawa has a few old stands of conifer tree farms within city limits.  You can find Cedars in damp, lowlands of some greenspaces and Black Walnuts may be found along riverbanks where it is more temperate.



What tree scents give you that mental nature boost?

Do you have a favourite wood lot or tree-lined street to visit?






SOURCES:

Call of the Forest - Diana Beresford-Kroeger - Forest Fragrance

Take A Deep Breath – What Makes Tree Scents?  Trees Atlanta 2017

The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to improve your health, Ephrat Livni, Quartz 2016

Diana Beresford-Kroeger Ottawa Tree List, Ecology Ottawa 2013

The Healing Power of Pine, Sara Altshul, Health 2012


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Your First Step into Enjoying more Nature Connection


You've probably heard that getting outdoors and enjoying nature is good for you - that it will benefit you in many ways.  But it's that gap between knowing it and actually doing it where many people stumble.  If getting outside and enjoying nature can be a free outing (which means that the cost is not stopping people) and if nature is close by - whether it's a nearby park, a bike path or a tree-lined street (which means that access is not the issue) then what is stopping so many people?  Without these two obstacles, why are so many people still not getting out weekly and/or appreciating even the smaller touches of nature daily?

Some people just don't know what they really like to do outdoors - something that would draw them out regularly.  They may just think: I don't want to go to my local park, I don't like sitting on a park bench and I really don't want to be a walker.

It can be difficult to figure out what type of nature/outdoor activities would help facilitate a more regular outdoor routine but if you are curious, take a look at the questions below to take your FIRST STEP towards establishing a more consistent nature connection.

Here are some things to ask yourself so that you can start identifying the most enjoyable nature fixes for you:

Do you enjoy ACTIVE or PASSIVE activities?

Are you more of an athletic person or someone who likes more leisure activities?  Perhaps you like a mixture of both?  Both types of activities can be enjoyed outdoors, whether it is jogging, snowshoeing or being active on water (to name a few active options) or whether it is reading a book, listening to a podcast or enjoying a leisurely stroll.

Should nature be more of a BACKDROP for your activities or do you want it FRONT and CENTRE?

Nature can be a backdrop, when you take whatever you love to do and do it outdoors.  So think of reading outdoors, picnic outdoors, running outdoors or other indoor activities that you can easily switch up by bringing them outside. But if nature itself is of interest, whether animate or even inanimate, flora or fauna or even weather patterns, choose activities where it becomes your focus, the foreground if you will.  You'll want to know more about your surroundings, you will want to identify nature or at least get more personal with it - perhaps even name a favourite tree or it could mean that you want to use it to express an artistic side like sketching or painting.

Do you appreciate a SCIENTIFIC or more CREATIVE approach to things?

If you are scientific then you can enjoy a myriad of opportunities to help in studies, research and field observations - some local and some national and even international.  Field studies are a great option to get you outdoors - some can even be done as a nature or wildlife volunteer for a local organization.  On the other hand, if you want to nurture your more creative side, you can paint, sketch, take photographs and/or do anything creative outside (dancing, theatre, writing).  Nature for creatives can be a relaxing backdrop, the focus of your creativity or a refreshing space that inspires new ideas.

Are you CURIOUS or a DREAMER?

If you are curious and inquisitive, you might find yourself outdoors with identification books, learning about specific flora and fauna or wondering about the patterns and behaviours of what you are seeing.  Learning can compliment your outdoor exploration and it can also be done outdoors wherever you find yourself.  If you are more of a dreamer, you may find natural spaces encourage this contemplative side of yourself.  You may not want to do anything outside other than wander, let your eyes meander and take in sites and just allow yourself to be guided by intuition and the freedom of movement.  Nature can nurture your need to seek beauty (perhaps you'd like to be a sunset seeker?), inspire your natural expression to channel into art pieces,  or you can just lie back and watch the clouds go by.



Do GOALS or LISTS motivate you or are you more a SEEKER and ADVENTURER?

Birding is one of the top outdoor hobbies for achieving "life" goals and adding to a checklist of "birds seen".  Not only can rare birds become intensely sought out "lifers" but the motivation to see certain birds can encourage many to get outdoors when nothing else can.  But if birding isn't your thing, there are other goal-oriented nature activities you can enjoy including creating your own checklist of "Kayaking every river and lake" or "Visiting every park" or completing a series of activities - perhaps a monthly orienteering exercise or a summer trail running series.  It could start as a 100 day project or it could be an endurance activity that requires regular training.  Or if lists and goal oriented activities don't inspire you, an immersive experience where you explore the wilder parts around the city and discover spaces and scenery that are not known to the majority of urban dwellers could be your thing!  You may be surprised with some of your discoveries that are just out of sight of the regular routes you take on a car or bike - hidden in quieter spots and you may also enjoy more encounters with wildlife in green spaces and see unique flora that doesn't appear in your local park.

Are you SOCIAL or more of an INTROVERT?

Depending on whether you are an extrovert or introvert, you may be interacting with nature differently, or at least choose to do different activities depending on your energy levels.  The good news is there are various types of social activities that might be better suited to specific social interests.  I wrote a blog post about outdoor options for both introverts and extroverts - suggesting specific outings that might suit each type of personality better - some that are more quiet and contemplative and some that involve big groups and more socializing.



So what do you think?

Do these questions help identify some possible options for you?

Have you thought of how your nature outings can suit your personality before?



By asking these questions, hopefully this can allow you to explore a variety of opportunities to connect with nature, some more immersive then others, but all providing that Vitamin N that adds so much to our well being.  And if you find something that you really love doing - that will ensure that you get out more and increase your time outdoors!


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Urban Wildlife Sightings of a Flâneur in Montreal (including a rare bird!)


It was early spring so I wasn't expecting much but was curious to see if there would be anything different from what I was seeing in Ottawa.  It was good to walk by some bodies of water (where birds will gather) and also visit some city parks of various sizes.  But you never know where something interesting will pop up so if you are keen about urban wildlife stay sharp and observe with as many senses as possible!  A good birding ear will tell you a lot about what is around (says someone who wants to improve hers!).

And something interesting did pop up in Montreal!  I've been occasionally seeing photos like this bird in various online feeds (they are a bit like a unicorn for birders!) so I was excited to see something I didn't recognize but that stood out and then when I realized what I was seeing - I started madly snapping.  Unfortunately it was in branches and I couldn't get the best focus and I was also a bit self-conscious pointing my camera at someone's front yard!  I found the bird along a street with some brownstones - small square of a front yard with a bird feeder.  But it was a thrill indeed!

The other thing about city birding is that if you are not with another birder or you have a time crunch you may not be able to stay and take as many photos as you'd like to get that PERFECT shot.  And also as mentioned above there is that self-conscious worry if your camera is pointing toward's someone's private property (or is it just me?).  To get around this, going to city parks at off peak hours will offer lots of opportunities so that you don't have to stray too far into the suburbs!  Or the other opportunity in cities are the cemeteries - these can be havens for wildlife especially if there is a waterbody included in the landscape.  These are great migrating rest stops in the spring and fall.

Here is what I saw as a follow up to my Urban Nature-loving Flâneur's Day:

LACHINE CANAL

(City and water birds)

- Gulls were definitely back in the city (best way to identify is colour of legs!) -

- Sweet gull tracks on the melting ice! -

- A Red-winged Blackbird sans epaulettes! -

(Did you know that males can "hide" their flashy colours. Females are brown and arrive a few weeks after the males.)

- Brown bird (unidentified) -

- Love doves errr... pigeons! -

(Did you know that Pigeons and Doves are the same bird family: Columbidae?)

- Another unidentified bird as we were rushing back to Bonadventure... (House Sparrow?) -


MCGILL

(The usual suspects plus one rare find!)

- Very calm squirrel - less than an arm distance away- 

- Love this small pigeon park I found! -

(La Puissance Psychique des Animaux a.k.a The Psychic Power of Animals)

- And here it is.... a leucistic House Sparrow!! -

(If it was albino, it would have red or pink eyes.  Leucistic refers just to the feathers.)



PARC LA FONTAINE



- Lots of squirrels - managed to capture a photo of this one having lunch! - 


You May Also Like:

The Urban Birds of Palm Springs (Winter 2018)

A Spring Walk Along the Thames River (Spring 2017)


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An Urban Nature-loving Flâneur's Day in Montreal (Quebec)




We decided to call it a day of reconnaissance.  The sky was grey, the city was grey, the trees were bare - it just wasn't going to be a great picture-taking outing.  I came home and remembered that I had photos of a better day in Montreal - everything bright green and blue!  Of course those types of pictures are the ones I WANT to share with readers!  But afterwards I thought of the falsity of the internet and even more of social media - where most everything is rosy and positive and perfect.

Unlike our lives, unlike most of our days and really difficult to try and compare ourselves and reality to.  We went to Montreal on a day that was overcast but the temperature was mild and spring-like and I was able to walk most of the day outdoors and still enjoy myself, still benefit from nature, being under trees, seeing the water melting and most of the paths dry.  Grey days OUTDOORS can still provide some of that mental health benefit that nature is so well-known for and there is still fresh air, the opportunity to walk in parks and to enjoy time away from desks and screens.

So I enjoyed my day as a "flâ·neur" - I checked out a few "green"spaces that were new to me, we enjoyed some fantastic cafés and I had a delicious lunch on my own and I didn't have to fight through the throngs of people that we would most likely find during the summer.  Here is what I saw:


- Faint colour of buildings behind a bare tree -

- Faubour Park in Griffintown (historic site of St Ann's Irish Church) -

- Check out these stairs to nowhere! -

Found between Boulevard Robert-Bourassa and Rue Nazareth at Rue William.  There is also a children's park, an outdoor gym, lounge chairs and an amazing large white statue at the south end of this linear park.

- Great outdoor space along the Lachine Canal - lots of places to sit and lounge - 

- My best sky picture of the day! -

- These are some other new lounge chairs that the City of Montreal is adding to parks which we spotted in a couple of places during our visit -

- Spotted something fun in the trees! (rue de la Gauchetière and rue Peel) -

- Cute little yellow bird houses! -

- Parc Place du Canada -

- Large tree near McGill Campus -

- My favourite small park: Square St. Louis -

- New park for me: Lafontaine Park -


NOTE: Lafontaine Park has an ampitheatre, a restaurant, an art gallery and more!  Many people jog or walk around the lake and there is lots of seating (including picnic tables).  I've added this to my "must return in the summer/fall" list!


- And as always, your trip to Montreal would not be complete without a walk around Old Montreal! -



**Find out what wildlife was spotted on this trip in the following blog post: Urban Wildlife Sightings of a Flâneur in Montreal.  I saw something that I've only seen online or on social media before!



You May Also Like:

Wild. Here. The Green Side of Montreal (April 2019)

Looping around the Island and Industry in Montreal - Urban Nature Discoveries (October 2017)

The Pleasure and Benefits of an Evening Stroll (June 2017)



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The Green Side of Montreal (Quebec)

Montreal is a large city (Great Montreal is 4 million people) but it offers quite a bit of green space in its core, including Mont Royal, Old Port of Montreal, Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame.  We had the opportunity to go there this April for the day and I was hoping to share sunny, first of spring like photos but we we didn't have much luck.  It was a warm day, good for walking around but with the grey skies it didn't make for a great photo experience.  But it reminded me that we had a great visit in 2017 so I thought I'd share some of those photos.  And our recent trip has just made us more motivated to return to Montreal soon to see the city in a much more colourful state - stay tuned!

If you are going to Montreal and would like to enjoy some of the city's greener areas - here are some of our recommendations:


Cemeteries on Mount Royal  

The whole of Mont Royal is beautiful - lots of paths: paved, gravel & dirt and beautiful scenery including a lookout showcasing downtown and Lac aux Castors to enjoy - whether resting in the grass, walking around the water feature or enjoying food at the restaurant overlooking this blue gem.

Included in this "green lung" of the city are two cemeteries (Cimetière Mont-Royal and Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges) that offer accessible quiet streets where visitors can wander around enjoying the beauty of these two well landscaped areas.  These spaces are a truly wonderful urban ecological experience in this built-up city as they provide greenspace for a variety of wildlife including owls and other birds and foxes, groundhogs and many other mammals and also include many heritage trees.  (Stay tuned for a special blog post about the Trilliums we found hidden in a wood stand within one of the cemeteries!)  We access the beautifully landscaped memorial space from Voie Camillien-Houde and Remembrance Road but there are a few entrances for both of these cemeteries.



Many small Downtown Parks

I love stumbling across small squares and unique city parks when I'm a tourist in a new location - they are so much fun to find and delight in!  One park I always enjoy visiting in Montreal is Square Saint-Louis.  We discovered a few new ones on our 2017 visit, including the one pictured above (an unnamed park across from the inter-city Bus Station), Parc Paul Dozois and Victoria Square!  I'd also recommend exploring church courtyards - make a mental note of their locations so that you can wander by a few as you go to specific destinations that are part of your city tour.

- Lovely sculpture in Parc Paul Dozois -

- Beautiful shaded space in Parc Paul Dozois -

- Domtar's landscaped front entrance (as of 2019 - no longer a park) -

- Small Park with Sculptures near Quartier des Spectacles -

- Beautiful Church Courtyard -

- Victoria Square (close to a favourite gelato spot of ours!) -



Old Port of Montreal

As mentioned in my other blog post about Montreal (2017) - it's such a lovely walkable and bikeable city and a wide multi-use pathway lines the port area and links to other areas of the city including the Lachine Canal (which we visited this April).  There are lots of big beautiful trees, lots of places to stop and rest, and a pond (bassin) to enjoy a stroll around.  We even spotted a Spa on the water (Bota Bota) and there were many sunning themselves on the deck!  What a great way to relax outdoors! 

- Red-winged Blackbirds in the heart of the city! - 

- Beautiful Treed Port of Old Montreal - 

What have been some of your favourite green finds when you visit other cities?

Check out our other "urban green" city tours here:



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