Library Blog

Nature in the City

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No law or legal research this week. Instead, let's enjoy this post by the Great Library’s chief birder, Steve Wallace....  

Although its central downtown location might suggest otherwise, Osgoode Hall is one of the best places in Toronto to see birds. The common ones are on constant display, of course – starlings and robins, squadrons of the best-fed pigeons in the city, and flocks of sparrows, or, as birders like to call them, LBJs – “little brown jobs”. But the plentiful trees and shrubs on the sprawling grounds play host to an amazing variety of birds one would only expect to see in a quieter, more rural setting.

To begin with, woodpeckers. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, hairy and downy woodpeckers can be seen and heard regularly in the ash and maple trees, but best of all is the annual April thrill of seeing a shy yellow-shafted flicker poking about for ants on the east lawn, then scurrying back to the safety of a bush. Even more than robins, the flicker’s arrival is a sure sign of spring. Another is the flock of slate-coloured juncos which visit for a week or so every April before moving on.

The ample hedges provide cover for such skulkers as gray catbirds, brown thrashers, towhees, hermit thrushes and tiny winter wrens. Speaking of tiny, just yesterday I saw a brown creeper obsessively spiraling its way around the bark of a maple. Recently one of the gardeners asked me about a little bird she’d seen, describing it as greenish-gray and sporting a bright red cap with two black stripes along it. I told her it had to be a ruby-crowned kinglet, adding it to the list of birds they’ve told me about seeing. Two summers ago they reported spotting an indigo bunting – bright royal blue all over – on the west grounds. Having never seen one, this filled me with no small envy. Of course I went looking, but to no avail: the best way to see birds here is to have them drop in on you, rather than the other way around.

  Red-Tailed Hawk in the Sculpture Garden by Osgoode Hall, 2016
 Photo: Anne Law


Last year’s long, hot summer produced a bird bonanza: in mid-May, Baltimore orioles came for the nectar when the crab apple trees were in blossom and by July the grounds were alive with the sights and sounds of blue jays (attracted by the big oaks), cardinals, grackles, flycatchers and goldfinches. Among the most elusive songbirds are the warblers. I’ve only seen two kinds in my entire “career” as a birder, but just after my birthday passed last August I saw two more within a week. A black and white warbler flitting about in the shrubs, and then a Canada warbler, which landed three feet in front of me and stayed just long enough to be identified – small, plump, blue-gray wings, yellow breast with a black “necklace”. I was astonished and took it as a sign of something good, without being quite sure what.

A few weeks later in September, a lady from the Smithsonian Institute arrived, decked out in the trappings of the expert birdwatcher – sensible shoes, Tilley hat, pad and pencil, binoculars. I spoke to her briefly and she told me that Osgoode Hall has for years been a major stopping-off point for birds on their annual fall migrations, and that she’d noted sixty-six species on the grounds in the past few days. That far exceeded even my expectations; she was clearly more than a match for me.

Even winter provides bird watching opportunities here, such as when a splendid juvenile red-tailed hawk turned up and ruled the roost the past two years, perched up in a bare tree as gawkers pointed and snapped photos of it. And if you think the red plumage of a cardinal is brilliant in summer, you should see it against a white backdrop of snow, as I did a couple of years ago. This past January, a number of us saw something for the first time ever: a flock of at least twenty robins cavorting about on a very cold, snowless and sunny day, as if it were April. Robins, as a sure sign of winter? Very strange indeed.

Among other things, all this avian life serves to remind us of that no matter how much progress we may make, the best things in life are still free.

-- Steve Wallace

Spring Training

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Here’s a selection of instructional videos to help you build winning legal research skills:

  •  Law Society of Saskatchewan Library – Tutorials 
    • CanLII Series
      -    5 quick refreshers on searching CanLII from keyword searching to finding legislation.

-- Jeanette Bosschart

Yankees catcher Wally Schang slides safely into 3rd base in second game. Senators 3rd baseman is Ossie Bluege and pitcher backing up play is Firpo Marberry. Senators won 2nd game 7-2. [1924 July 5]. Source: Library Of Congress


The Lawyers Weekly

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The Lawyers Weekly

Publisher LexisNexis recently announced that it’s discontinuing The Lawyers Weekly on March 31, 2017. The tabloid for the legal community began publishing in 1983, under the name The Ontario Lawyers’ Weekly. It changed its name in 1985, dropping “Ontario”, to reflect its expanded national scope.

The Law Times, The Lawyers’ Weekly’s competitor since 1990, has so far not announced plans to discontinue its print edition.

Where to find issues of the Lawyers Weekly

You’ll find the complete archive of the print issues of The Lawyers’ Weekly in our Periodicals Collection. Online access to issues from November 23, 1990 to 2017 remains available through LexisNexis Quicklaw (“Classic Quicklaw”). The Lawyers Weekly content has not yet been carried over to Lexis Advance Quicklaw. (Both the new and old Quicklaw platforms are accessible in the Great Library.)

The Lawyer's Daily

The Lawyers Weekly has been replaced by a daily digital news source, not surprisingly called The Lawyer's Daily. The new publication offers current coverage of legal developments, news about the profession, and digests of recent cases. The digital-only format will also allow subscribers to set customized alerts and receive practice specific newsletters.

-- Jeanette Bosschart

Canada 150, Part I

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In honour of this year's 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, we are highlighting some of the interesting titles found in the Great Library’s collection of pre-Confederation and Confederation-era materials.

The first book purchase for what would become the Great Library happened in 1827, when Upper Canada’s Solicitor General Boulton “spent nearly £300 on books for the society” while in London (Christopher Moore, The Law Society of Upper Canada and Ontario’s Lawyers 1797-1997, p.68). Since then, the collection has grown through purchases and donations, such as the large donation from William Renwick Riddell. [For more about the Riddell Collection, see: The Riddell Collection: It’s not the Riddle Collection.]


From the shelves of our Riddell Rare Book Collection comes the Canadian Settlers’ Guide, 10th ed., dating from 1860. This book provides an introduction for settlers to their new home, the colony of Canada.

As noted in the preface to this edition, the first portion of the book was written by Mrs. Traill “after a residence of twenty-five years in the Colony, a considerable portion of which has been in those ‘Backwoods of Canada’”. Indeed, Catherine Parr Strickland (Traill) is recorded in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography as a settler, teacher, and naturalist, who lived nearly 70 years in Canada, having emigrated from England. She is noted as the author of The Backwoods of Canada: being letters from the wife of an emigrant officer, illustrative of the domestic economy of British America (London, 1836) and The Female Emigrant’s Guide, and Hints on Canadian Housekeeping, which would reappear as The Canadian Settler’s Guide (Toronto, 1855).

The second part of the book consists of official documents, while the third part includes letters shared “from one friend in Canada and to another in England”.

Very much a “how-to” guide, this book provides hints on Canadian housekeeping and living, ranging from “Christmas-day in the backwoods” and “Dress, advice about” to “Sugar making” and “Wild land, clearing of”. One of my favourite sections describes the “Months in Canada” and provides the following for our current month, March:

The rising of the sap is felt in the forest trees; frosty nights and sunny days call forth the activity of the settlers in the woods; sugar-making is now at hand, and all is bustle and life in the shanty. (p.52)

The full text of the book is available online from the Internet Archive

-- Stefan Jürgens & Chris Kycinsky