Minutes from the hub of the city of Toronto, is a park that is well-known for its proliferation of bird species. Tommy Thompson Park started with the humble name of the “Leslie Street Spit”. Over time, this piece of land has stretched out, into Lake Ontario, a distance of 5 kilometers.
The Evolution of a Park
Most of the park is managed by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. It is still being used as a place to dump clean landfill during weekday hours. This means that the park is closed to the public during the week. It is open on weekends, and holidays. However, many people do venture to the park after hours.
The park has become a haven for wildlife, being over 2500 acres in size. It has trees, meadows, wetlands, and rocky beaches. Some of the mammals that live in the park are beaver, muskrat, coyotes, foxes, and rabbits.
Tommy Thompson Park is a popular place to go cycling, jogging, walking, and bird watching. Dogs are not allowed into the park, as it considered a sensitive wildlife area. The driving of cars is also forbidden, although boat owners of the neighboring marina do have access to the park by car.
During the warmer months, the Shuttle Van runs approximately every 15 minutes, starting at 9:15 am, and ending at 5:30 p.m. The service is free, and it covers about half the length of the park. The drop off area is just before a footbridge. Passengers have to walk from this point. This service starts its operation in May, and runs until the second weekend in October.
Bird Watching at Tommy Thompson Park
Tommy Thompson Park has a bird research station which conducts bird banding sessions in the spring. Banding counts are posted online each week. The research station site is a good starting point for locating spring migrants. However, it is a long walk to get there when the Shuttle Van is not running.
To the right of the park entrance is a large tract of land commonly known as “Warbler Woods”, and sometimes known, as “Wet Woods”. There are no marked paths in this area; but it is well-trodden by determined bird lovers, as it is a great place to find many warbler and flycatcher species.
There are several large bird colonies in the park. Six percent of the world’s population of Ring-billed Gulls nest at Tommy Thompson Park. The park also has large nesting colonies of Black-crowned Night Herons, and Double-breasted Cormorants.
The best time to visit the park is in the spring. Many warbler, flycatcher, and oriole species are found here. Bird watching in the fall will yield some warblers, finches, thrushes, robins, sparrows, and duck species. The winter months are a great time to see owls such as the Great Horned Owl, and the Snowy Owl.
Boreal species such as Common or Hoary Redpolls, Snow Buntings, and Northern Shrikes will also spend the winter months at Tommy Thompson Park. Getting around the park can be challenging, as the Shuttle Van does not run in the winter, and the park is not ploughed beyond the footbridge.
Directions to Tommy Thompson Park
To get to the park by car, go east along Lakeshore Boulevard until Leslie Street. Turn right if coming from the north or west, and left if coming from the east. Drive to the end of Leslie Street. There is free parking just outside the park, as well as free parking spaces inside the front gates. However, the gates will be locked when the park is closed. To reach the park by public transit, take the 83 Jones South bus from Donlands Subway Station, and get off at Commissioners Street. Continue waliking on Leslie Street for about 5 minutes.