By: Eric Andrew-Gee Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Aug 28 2014
Leslie St. Spit is a bird nerd’s paradise. The man-made peninsula curling out from the foot of the Port Lands has become internationally famous for its ornithological riches, home — or at least hotel — to both migratory beauties like the Cedar Waxwing and threatened Ontario birds like the Least Bittern, a kind of heron.
But that claim to fame is under threat, not by foresters or skyscraper windowpanes, but by an invasive plant with a menacing name. For the last few years, Phragmites australishas been gnawing away at the native vegetation of Tommy Thompson Park, located on the Spit. That’s hurting a handful of important bird species who rely on the local mud flats and bulrushes for food and shelter.
For now, Tommy Thompson park authorities have all but given up on fighting phrag, as it’s known. According to Karen McDonald, a project manager with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), which operates Tommy Thompson Park, “We aren’t taking any action to control it, simply because it’s so difficult to control.”
The phrag invasion is not limited to the Spit — it’s been spreading throughout Ontario for decades. Feasting on moisture, the plant proliferates in wetlands and marshes, along lakeshores, and in the disturbed soil bordering highways. Stands have been reported as far north as Sudbury in the east and Fort Frances in the west.