The Leslie Street Spit, a man-made peninsula that is home to Tommy Thompson Park, has been colonized by a remarkable variety of plants and animals, including more than 300 bird species. The Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station, a monitoring and education initiative, is located on Peninsula D.
The park is one of my favorite places to go birding because the mosaic of landscapes provides habitat for a wide variety of species year-round. Activity is highest during spring and fall when migrating songbirds and shorebirds pass through. I often stop in the Wet Woods, south-southwest of the parking lot, in search of warblers, flycatchers, orioles, and other songbirds during migration.
Summer breeding season attracts more than 50 species to nest, including large colonies of Double-crested Cormorants and Black-crowned Night-Herons. Winter is only slightly calmer as ducks and owls (including Boreal Owl and Northern Hawk Owl in 2008) find refuge here. To me, the most amazing aspect of Tommy Thompson Park is that all of this diversity is found within a major urban center. — Tom Flinn
Tom Flinn is a volunteer during migration monitoring at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Coastal wetlands, cottonwood forest, open meadows, diverse shorelines.
Flat. Over 14 miles (23 km) of hiking trails. Wheelchair-accessible; rough roads and trails.
Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Common Tern, Great Egret, Long-tailed Duck, scoters, scaup, Common Goldeneye. Migrating songbirds: more than 30 species of warblers (including Worm-eating in 2009), flycatchers, kinglets, sparrows, thrushes, and wrens. Breeding songbirds: American Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, Bank and Tree Swallows, Warbling Vireo, Belted Kingfisher, Willow Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Migrating shorebirds: Dunlin, sandpipers, yellowlegs and plovers. Breeding shorebirds: Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, American Woodcock.
When to go
Bird and mammal checklists and trail maps available for download. Butterfly and plant checklists at Friends of the Spit. Portable restrooms. Informational signage.
Municipal construction site. Open to the public on weekends and holidays only. Summer hours: 9-6. Winter hours: 9-4:30. Free parking in the lot just inside the front gate or on surrounding streets. Vehicles and pets not allowed in the park. Shuttle service on weekends spring through fall.
Spotting scope useful. Poison ivy is common. Be familiar with its shape and avoid it. Biting red ants are resident; watch for anthills.
For more info
Tommy Thompson Park, (416) 661-6600 ext. 5770
Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station
Toronto Ornithological Club
Toronto Field Naturalists
Ashbridges Bay Park
Three minutes east of Tommy Thompson Park at Coxwell Ave. Migrating songbirds in spring and fall. Glaucous and Iceland Gulls just off the parking lot in winter.
West of Tommy Thompson Park along Lake Shore Blvd; accessible by ferry. Recently: Hooded Warbler, Sedge Wren, Nelson’s Sparrow.