The Leslie Street Spit is North America’s most remarkable public urban wilderness. It is a 5-kilometre long peninsula, built by lakefilling, that juts into Lake Ontario close to downtown Toronto. Started well over 40 years ago, it was intended to be a breakwater for harbour expansion, which was not needed due to a decrease in lake shipping. Now, the Spit – as it is lovingly called by the people of Toronto – has been transformed by nature into an extraordinary wildlife reserve, where humans can find a car-free refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a quiet time amid unmanicured vegetation.
Plants (Plant Checklist)
Close to 400 plant species have been identified on the Spit, many of which are nationally and provincially rare. They include Prickly Pear Cactus, Ladies’ Tresses, Bog Twayblade, Asters, and numerous species of grasses.
Plant Communities of the Leslie Street Spit: A Beginners Guide (Click here)
Published in 1992 as a joint effort of Friends of the Spit and the Botany Conservation Group, Department of Botany, University of Toronto, this book, authored by Verna J. Higgins, Susan Denzel, and Nancy Fazari, established Friends of the Spit as a steward of the Public Urban Wilderness known as The Spit. We have included it with these checklists as so much of the book is still relevant and valuable. In addition, it documents what is now a historical record of the plant communities of the Leslie Street Spit. Enjoy!
Birds (Bird Checklist)
As of September, 2016, 320 species of birds, migratory and resident, have been sighted on the Spit. Since the publication of the 4th edition checklist (described below) in 2014, four new species – Swainson’s Warbler, Fish Crow, Ross’s Goose, and Common Ringed Plover have been sighted!
The 4th edition, 2014, Bird Checklist for Tommy Thompson Park/Leslie Street Spit was prepared by volunteers, and coordinated with and published by the TRCA, with financial support from Friends of the Spit and other groups and individuals. This checklist contains Seasonal Abundance codes for each species.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Many kinds of herpetiles reside on the Spit. They include the Melanistic (black) Garter Snake, a rare mutation of the common garter snake, turtles and several species of frogs.
In addition to small creatures such as voles and mice, larger animals, including beavers, muskrat, red foxes, and coyotes have been seen on the Spit.
Butterflies (Butterfly Checklist)
The Spit is a terrific place to view butterflies in season. Over fifty species have been spotted on The Spit and Baselands alone. From the very common cabbage white, orange sulphur, and clouded sulphur through to very rare species, a late spring, summer, or early fall day will reward an observer with many sightings. In particular, in late August and early September, the Spit is used as a staging area for thousands of Monarch butterflies. Depending on the year and the weather conditions, these Monarchs mass through the low shrubbery on the Spit, turning trees into brightly decorated plantings!
Some of the rarer sightings on the Spit have been Wild Indigo Duskywing, Sachem, Pipevine Swallowtail, Orange-barred Sulphur, Checkered White, Little Yellow, Harvester, White M Hairstreak and Variegated Fritillary.
All exceptional sightings should be reported to the Conservation Authority, or to Friends of the Spit through this website.