Tag Archives: Pollution

History of Cootes Paradise Marsh Hamilton

History of Cootes Paradise Marsh

Tuesday July 26 2011

Bee collecting pollen


Prior to the 20th century, the nutrient-rich, shallow waters of Cootes Paradise thrived as a coastal freshwater marsh habitat. Almost 100 percent of Cootes Paradise was covered with emergent aquatic plants like wild rice and submergent plants like wild celery, providing food, shelter and migration stop-overs for a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. The lush wetland also provided ideal spawning, nursery and adult habitat for many fish like bass, perch, pike, herring and trout. This lead to its protection, first as a fish sanctuary in the 1870’s, and then as a wildlife preserve in 1927, and finally through the formation of the Royal Botanical Gardens in the 1930’s.

Cootes Paradise Marsh

The plentiful flora and fauna of Great Lakes coastal freshwater marshes did not go unnoticed by settlers in the 1800s. Cootes Paradise and its surrounding natural habitats offered abundant fishing and hunting opportunities, fertile farmland and convenient access to water. However, human settlement of Hamilton Harbour and its surrounding natural lands brought with it several stressors that, over time, had a cumulative impact on the natural abundance of Cootes Paradise and neighbouring lower Grindstone Creek marshes. Throughout Cootes Paradise’s watersheds, agricultural practices and residential, commercial and industrial development contaminated connecting creeks with sewage effluent, eroded soil and sediment and chemical runoff and destabilized flow patterns. In 1852 the Desjardins Canal, a shipping channel dissecting the marsh was recut through the centre of Burlington Heights directly connecting the marsh to the lake water levels, and disconnecting it from the Grindstone Creek marshes. In 1957 the lake water level became regulated with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway further disrupting natural water cycles in the marsh.

RBG fishway

Introduced European and Asian species thrived in this altered environment. Among the first non native species (1870’s) the common carp was purposely introduced as a replacement for the disappearing salmon. The feeding and spawning behaviours of non-native carp uprooted and destroyed marsh plants and re-suspended sediment muddying the waters. By the end of the 19th century, in addition to the rapidly rising carp population, exotic plant species like purple loosestrife and reed manna grass, also purposely introduced to North America, began successfully outcompeting and eradicating, native plants in the wet meadow areas.

Large Mouth Bass

As human pressures on the watersheds increased, the decline in the health and biodiversity of Cootes Paradise became markedly visible. By the 1930s Cootes Paradise experienced a 15% permanent reduction in marsh vegetation, and by 1985 the level of plant loss reached 85% of its original coverage. This permanent loss of aquatic flora had a direct negative impact on water quality and the fish and wildlife inhabitants and economies of Lake Ontario. Since its dramatic decline began the Garden’s has been focused on restoring Cootes Paradise, with carp removal first attempted in the 1950’s.

Concerns over environmental degradation led the International Joint Commission to designate Hamilton Harbour as one of 42 Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes. In 1986, the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was initiated to address this environmental degradation in the Harbour and key remaining areas like Cootes Paradise and lower Grindstone Creek. Under this plan, a variety of new conservation projects and monitoring programs have been implemented by a variety of stakeholders to control pollution, restore and improve fish and wildlife habitat and communicate the health status of the wetlands.

Nutrient Issues

The nutrient levels (phosphorus and nitrogen) in the wetlands reflect the waters that flow into them. While the very high nutrient levels are improving, they are still extreme (hypereutrophic), resulting in ongoing algae blooms. Water sources include several urban storm drains and sewer overflows, a wastewater treatment plant (King St, Dundas) and 25 creeks draining just over 400km2 of land. None of these sources meet Provincial Water Quality Guidelines (PWQG) for Aquatic Life on a consistent basis. However, the largest creek, Spencer Creek, is the healthiest, originating 25km to the north above Beverly Swamp, and entering the western end of Cootes Paradise, with 95% of its watershed within the provincial Greenbelt.

The waste water plant located at the western tip of Cootes Paradise has undergone numerous upgrades over the past 40 years. Currently it flows at approximately 200 litres/second and operates as tertiary treatment plant (1985), with an overflow tank to stabilize and optimize its treatment ability (2005). The plant removes essentially all particulate, >95% of the phosphorus, but releases very high levels of nitrate (>15mg/l). Despite the significant phosphorus removal, the levels are still 7 times those found in natural waters, and are only exceeded by urban runoff as a source of phosphorus to the marsh, generating thick rafts of algae in the area it discharges.

While rural areas continue to improve practices to retain agricultural fertilizers on the land, the urban areas continue to expand. The rain water runoff from urban areas is surprisingly high in nutrients, and after rains provides concentrations poorer than that of the waste water treatment plant effluent. Due to the size of the urban areas in Ancaster, Hamilton, Dundas and Waterdown, this stormwater often overwhelms the marshlands, particularly after summer thunderstorms. Considerable improvements to inflowing water from the older portions of the City of Hamilton have been made through the construction of multiple sewer overflow tanks. This includes two on Chedoke Creek, one on Ancaster Creek, and one at the head of Westdale Creek. These now capture over 1 billion litres of water per year, diverting these waters to the main waste water treatment plant, and reducing sewer overflows by 95%.

Sediment contamination with nutrients has resulted from the above issues. Sediment samples have been taken on an ongoing basis since the 1970’s. These initial samples showed nutrient levels averaging 5 times that of natural sediments. However with ongoing improvements to inflowing waters the nutrients levels have healed significantly, and as of 2006 averaged only 50% higher than natural levels.

Rbg Fishway


Located at the mouth of the Desjardins Canal—the only channel that connects Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour—the Fishway is the Great Lakes’ first two-way fishway and carp barrier, and is one of the most visible indicators of the progress of Project Paradise.

learning fish facts

The Fishway began operating in 1997. It is designed to keep non-native carp out of Cootes while maintaining the flow of water and populations of native aquatic species.

RBG Fishway
Fishing at the RBG fishway

Before the installation of the Fishway, Cootes Paradise had an estimated carp population of about 70,000 adults. During the Fishway’s first year of operation, 95% of carp were excluded from the marsh, and since then this number has continued to drop, with monitoring in 2003 finding less than 1,000 adult carp in the marsh.

Graceful Mute Swan
Deciding to Summer south


Eliminating carp from Cootes Paradise is considered a vital first step in the marsh restoration process.

Readers of pics4twitts send images and I enjoy publishing, below is an american goldfinch

Male American Goldfinch

Doug Worrall Photographer

Elements Photo-blog Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Elements Photo-blog Celebrates One Year Anniversary






The Water






Friday May 17 2011

Recording a Year Hamilton Waterfront and surrounding area / Hyper-local-Journalism . “Picture’s really do tell a better story than the written word.”

Pen and signets


Doug Worrall Photography One Year Young






Yeh One Year Old






Last Year, after a ten year absence from Film photography, I made the leap into the digital age. The learng curve for myself, has been just that, A curve all the way through my grey matter,

down my skinny arms to my finger that releases the shutter to record a little piece of time. Owning a Computer for only four years also made this process  more demanding,  add more “Memory”,Hmmm, to me PC or the Brain.

Sunrise on the docks

The collection below is mostly from October of last year, after I began shooting in Camera Raw,  to the present.

Sharp Releif





deep from within

I counted the days I was able to travel around Harbourfront trail and park, Cootes Paradise, Grindstone Creek, The Royal Botanical Gardens, and the surrounding area.

Traveling approximately 95% was riding my ebike heading out the door at 5AM, hiking, biking, busing-it to each area. If I miss a day due to weather, image processing is the job that has to be done,

I have the whole year to divide into sections for people, boats, wildlife, Scenery, events etc……………………………………..

For a grand  total of Two Hundred and Ninety five days out of 365. . Having four seasons sure does help in the range of photography techniques available to use.

” If you wish to make an impact for ONE YEAR, plant corn; if you wish to make an impact for a Generation, plant a tree; if you wish to make an impact for Eternity, educate a child” Einstein


Happy One Year Pics4twitts and DW Photography





Great Blue Heron





Simply look with perceptive eyes at the world about you, and trust to your own reactions and convictions, Ask Yourself.

“Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream? Can I visualize a print-my own personal statment of what I feel and want to convey-from the subject before me.?





Misty morning





Quote by

Ansel Adams

angel eyes

Site Coordinator and Photographer Doug Worrall

Wild Ducks Need Wetlands Like Cootes Paradise

Wild Ducks Need Wetlands Like Cootes Paradise

Friday April 1st 2011

Wild ducks in wetlands

Almost all of the “Wild Ducks” native to North America fall naturally into two groups: (1) the “Surface-Feeding Ducks”, and, (2) the “Diving Ducks.” The principal species in the “Surface-Feeding Ducks” include the Common Mallard, Black Ducks, Pintail, Baldpate or American Widgeon, Gadwall, Blue-Winged, Green -Winged and Cinnamon Winged Teals, the Shoveller or Spoonbill and the beautifully feathered Wood Duck.  They scoop up food with their broad strainer-like bills that have fine comb-like fringes along the edges, or upend themselves, and with their tails in the air, dabble for it on the bottom.  Consequently they are commonly called “dipper ducks,” “dabblers” or “puddle ducks.”  This group includes many of the most brilliantly coloured ducks they are characterized by a distinctive colored and usually iridescent patch of feathers called the speculum in the middle of wing.  They are more palatable and sought by hunters because more than half their feed is vegetable matter.   In addition, in Wild Ducks, there are three species of Mergansers or “Fish Ducks.”  Carleton University Magazine Winter 2,011 issue outlines there are 34 million people that live along the Great Lakes Shorelines and their activities and industries.  Along this shoreline, south of Belleville, Ontario on Lake Ontario almost at the International Waterline between Canada and the U.S. side of Lake Ontario is  Main Duck Island.  What is interesting about this Island is its natural surprises.  This included a crèche of baby Mergansers.  One of the female Mergansers was followed by 100 ducklings paddling like mad to keep up.  A flock somehow assigns an adult female to take over all the Merganser fledglings while the other adults are absent –  “an ornithological mystery”,  says Roger Bird, in Nature Bulletin, Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois.  There is also the unique little Ruddy Duck, and, in Mexico, the two long-legged, long-necked kinds named “Tree Ducks.”  In Green Nature the American Orthinologists Union identifies approximately fifty different native North American Duck species. The International Association for Great Lakes Research informs us that as of the 1990s a 10-fold increase in the number of ducks wintering on Lake Ontario occurred due to exotic zebra and quagga mussels. This fact is emphasized at Prince Edward Point, an arm of the Long Point Peninsula that juts out into Lake Ontario south of Belleville, Ontario.  “The islands white shoreline, looked like sand in the hazy sun, but it was zebra mussels shells, piled one meter deep “, says Roger Bird.

Mallard duck
Mergenser ducks

There are 43 kinds of “Diving Ducks” and most of them occur regularly in North America. some are primarily “Sea Ducks” and several nest in Arctic regions. A Diving Duck has shorter legs, and larger feet distinguished by a big hind toe with a pronounced flap of lobe. These adaptations cause the diving ducks to be more awkward on land but increase their ability to dive and swim rapidly. Most of them patter along the surface of water for some distance, like an airplane on its take-off run, before becoming airborne. This is another reason Diving Ducks prefer large open bodies of water. Diving ducks selected locations along Lake Ontario shoreline where winter storms and lake current caused common duck food to collect in shallow water areas in a habitat study in Norhteastern Lake Ontario. Dr. Michael L. Schummer, Dept. of Biology, University of Western Ontario lead researcher stated ” what this indicates is that ducks that normally must dive in water greater than 5m can save precious energy by feeding in areas with large amounts of food that is 2m or less in depth. In an area of cold and icy as the Great Lakes conserving energy may allow some ducks to winter farther north than normal and partially explains the increase in diving ducks in Lake Ontario.” Likewise, the number of Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola), common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Long-Tailed Ducks (Clangula Hyemalto) over-wintering on Lake Ontario have increased substantially in the past two decades. Surveys showed Diving ducks congregated in mixed species flocks within areas of higher food abundance. The macroinvertebrate numbers likely affected habitat use by Diving Ducks, such as, zebra mussels.

Diving ducks
Three species

Three species of Diving Ducks that commonly migrate for the far north and winter in the shores of Lake Michigan and sometimes Lake Ontario: the American Goldeneye, the White-Winged Scoter, and the noisy Long-Tailed Duck or Old Squaw which has been caught in fisherman’s nets at amazing depths of 150 or 200 feet. the King Elder and American Elder “Sea Ducks” that are famous for their down used in the manufacturing of sleeping bags and arctic clothing, but they are less common. Diving Ducks are esteemed as games birds including the Ring-Necked Duck, the Scaup, and the Lesser Scaup or Little Bluebill. But the Red-headed Canvasback, being essentially vegetarians,are most highly regard by epicures. The Red-Head was once the commonest of all Diving Ducks, but unfortunately due to excessive hunting and drainage of the nesting areas , they and the Canvasback have become scarce. Diving Ducks present a challenge for nature photographers as they swim out if they see humans, so you almost need a blind to hide in order to get close-up shots, even with a zoom focus.

look ,What are those Birds called

Sources: American Ornithologist Union, Journal of Great Lakes Research, International Association for Great Lakes Research, Carleton University Magazine,


By Jacqueline


Doug Worrall Photographer