The Second Marsh and adjacent areas have long been known as a rich and diverse wildlife community. One of the largest of the few remaining wetlands on the north shore, it boasts almost 400 plant species, 305 bird species (106 known to breed) as well as numerous species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, invertebrates and fish. These rich resources have contributed to Second Marsh being designated by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources as a Provincially Significant Wetland and an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest.

Fish in Second Marsh

Many Great Lakes fish species use wetlands for feeding, cover, spawning, and nursery habitat. Some fish stay in marshes for most of the year, but seasonal visits are more common.

Those fish that spawn in the early spring after the ice melts leave immediately after depositing their eggs. These fish, which include Northern Pike, take advantage of the warm shallow water temperatures and high dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which is required for egg respiration.

Other fish spawn in late spring to early summer, and the male stays with the eggs, fanning them to provide the needed oxygen, and guard the eggs from predators. An example of these fish includes the Largemouth Bass.

Second Marsh once sustained large populations of game fish such as Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass. Due in part to water level changes and an increase in sediment loading, these species have been much reduced in numbers. Steps are being taken under the new Management Plan to rectify this.  The Common Carp is present in Second Marsh. This species has greatly increased in numbers and is becoming destructive, by disturbing sediments and destroying the vegetation. The marsh restoration project is designed to create a more balanced fish population and manage nuisance plant species.


The official list of species in Ontario according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Oct. 1997) stands at 158 species.  Of these, 57 species have been recorded for the Second Marsh, Harmony, Farewell and Black Creeks and the immediate offshore waters.

American Brook Lamprey
Sea Lamprey
American Eel
Gizzard Shad
Common Carp
Brassy Minnow
Common Shiner
Golden Shiner
Emerald Shiner
Blacknose Shiner
Spottail Shiner
Rosyface Shiner
Sand Shiner
Pearl Dace
Northern Redbelly Dace
Finescale Dace
Bluntnose Minnow
Fathead Minnow
Blacknose Dace
Longnose Dace
Creek Chub
Longnose Sucker
White Sucker
Brown Bullhead
Channel Catfish

Tadpole Madtom
Northern Pike
Central Mudminnow
Rainbow Smelt
Coho Salmon
Rainbow Trout
Chinook Salmon
Brown Trout
Brook Trout
Banded Killifish
Brook Stickleback
Mottled Sculpin
Slimy Sculpin
White Perch
White Bass
Rock Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Largemouth Bass
Black Crappie
Rainbow Darter
Iowa Darter
Least Darter
Johnny Darter
Yellow Perch

Mammals Residing in Second Marsh

The diversity of mammals at Second Marsh is relatively high for an urban wetland. However, increased urbanization has impacted on habitat corridors and connections to the wetland for many species.

Second Marsh, the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve and Darlington Provincial Park ensure that the eastern movement corridor persists and continues to link the wetland to other natural areas. Do not be surprised to encounter White-tailed Deer or Coyotes when strolling down one of the paths that meander through the area.

The official list of Ontario mammals as determined by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR, Oct. 1997) stands at 87 species. Of these, only 32 species have been documented in the vicinity of Second Marsh and McLaughlin Bay. This does not include Nutria, an escapee not native to the region.

Preliminary List

Pygmy Shrew
Northern Short-tailed Shrew
Common Masked Shrew
Hairy-tailed Mole
Star-nosed Mole
Silver-haired Bat
Big Brown Bat
Eastern Red Bat
Eastern Cottontail
European Hare
Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Gray Squirrel
Red Squirrel
American Beaver

Deer Mouse
White-footed Mouse
Meadow Vole
Norway Rat
Meadow Jumping Mouse
Woodland Jumping Mouse
Red Fox
River Otter
Striped Skunk
White-tailed Deer

Amphibians and Reptiles of Second Marsh

The Great Lakes wetlands are an essential habitat for frogs and toads. These amphibians depend on the perfect mix of land and water that wetlands provide.

Many fish rely on tadpoles as a source of food, while larger wading birds rely on frogs as their source of nutrition. Frogs in return rely on insects for their food supply.

A total of 8 species of reptiles (turtles and snakes) have been recorded in and around Second Marsh Wildlife Area.  In the province of Ontario, there are about 30 documented species (OMNR, Nov., 1997 data).  Species like the common Snapping Turtle, Midland Painted Turtle and Eastern Garter Snake are frequently encountered here, while others on the list as not always present, or seldom seen.

We have recorded a total of 10 species of amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders) within the study area.  In Ontario 26 species are encountered (OMNR, Nov., 1997 data).  The American Toad, Northern Leopard Frog and Green Frog are the species most often seen here, while others such as the Northern Spring Peeper and Wood Frog are somewhat less frequently seen.  Others on the following list are considered to be very uncommon here.

While little is known about why amphibians and reptiles are declining worldwide, biologists do know enough to be concerned about organisms that have survived on this planet for over 200 million years. Friends of Second Marsh have been involved in the Great Lakes Wetlands Amphibian Monitoring Program in an effort to understand the changes and implement initiatives, which will restore and enhance existing habitat.

If you wish to become involved in our Amphibian Monitoring Program please visit our Get Involved Page.

Preliminary List


Common Snapping Turtle
Midland Painted Turtle
Red-eared Slider
Blanding’s Turtle
Spotted Turtle
Northern Red-bellied Snake
Brown Snake
Eastern Garter Snake


American Toad
Northern Spring Peeper
Striped Chorus Frog
Gray Treefrog
Wood Frog
Northern Leopard Frog
Pickerel Frog
Green Frog

Invertebrates Living in Second Marsh

As a lower link on the food chain, invertebrates (animals without a backbone) of all types are a necessary source of nutrition for many different species.

They range from tiny plankton to crayfish and snails to dragonflies. Many invertebrates are herbivores and feed on decaying plant material.

These species are considered the link between wetland plants and larger animals.

However, poor water quality at Second Marsh, sediment resuspension by carp, and high nutrient and sediment loading have all contributed to a significant decrease in aquatic invertebrate diversity. The Ducks Unlimited restoration and rehabilitation project will have a positive impact on the variety of these invertebrates to produce a more diverse wildlife community.

Plants in and Around Second Marsh

More than 360 species of vascular plants have been recorded at Second Marsh and upwards of 500 species are found in the general area. Two species found at the Marsh, Wild Rye (Elymus riparius) and Bushy Cinquefoil (Potentilla paradoxa) are classified as provincially rare. Several other species are regarded as regionally rare or uncommon.

Friends of Second Marsh has established several effective community-based planting programs for Second Marsh and the entire Watershed that have successfully contributed to the improvement of diversity in vegetation and the overall health of the ecosystem.


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