Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Monday, June 13, 2011

Triple Crown at Carden

I’m still swooning from three amazing trips to Carden Alvar over the past twelve days, each visit totally different from the last, although the expected species were seen each and every time.

Carden Alvar is a designated Important Bird Area ( IBA), characterized by a large limestone plain mixed with wetlands and woodlands, and is the breeding home of the Loggerhead Shrike that I was fortunate enough to see again this year on all three visits, despite its endangered status. 
Ross, Jim, John and I made our first trip of the year there at the end of May, and my final tally for the day was fifty-eight species:

Wilson’s Snipe, Alder, Willow, Least and Great-crested Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Phoebes and Bluebirds, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, House and Marsh Wrens, and Brown Thrashers were all seen and/or heard, along with this Upland Sandpiper that took a water bath to cool off as I watched him re-arrange his damp feathers:

I had no idea how gorgeous their feathers were until that day!

On the sparrow front, we saw and/or heard the expected Chipping, Field, Savannah, Song, and Grasshopper species, and warblers included Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Black-and-white, and Common Yellowthroat. Oh, right: and about that almost-Lifer for me, the Golden-winged Warbler, NOT. Despite clearly hearing its “bees-buzz-buzz-buzz” song, as I only saw the top of its head through a leafy shrub, I didn’t feel justified in counting it as a full “tick” on my Life List, but vowed to return to this territory for another try later.

I tried to console myself  with a Black Swallowtail butterfly instead. Didn’t work.

Less than a week later, Dan invited me to join him and another John for a return trip to Carden, which I gladly accepted on the condition of him finding me that $%#& Golden-winged Warbler. Feeling quite sure of himself, Dan picked up the gauntlet as I armed myself with bribes  baking and we met the next morning to head off to Carden together.  We took a scenic route through Warbler Alley, the highlights of which were a Canada Warbler (record shot alert!)...

...and a Blue-winged Warbler:

THUMPER was seen at the roadside, and I initially didn’t pay much attention to him as I have rabbits in my back yard, but when Dan pointed out that it was a Snowshoe Hare, a closer look through my binos revealed killer feet on him, wow, and I thought that I had big feet!!!

The best part of the day (besides Dan and John's company, of course!) was a pair of Barred Owls that we heard calling back and forth to each other in the forest, and eventually they made their way out to the road and were flying back and forth over our heads, it was insane!!! This was my first time actually hearing their “who-cooks-for-you-who-cooks-for-you-all” call, it was phenomenal! Ron Tozer does an abfab job of it in Algonquin, but hearing the real deal sent shivers up my spine, an unbelievable experience! Here are some photos of the pair, in varying degrees of quality, I was shaking with excitement as I watched them, trying to anticipate their next move:

We continued on to Carden, where we saw the usual suspects once again, including a Grasshopper Sparrow (yes, I know it's tame by comparison to the owl pics!): 

Dan and John search in vain for a Loggerhead Shrike at Cameron Ranch…

… so our final stop was at Shrike Road and it was worth the effort, as eventually one lone Loggerhead Shrike made an appearance for John after almost half an hour of patiently searching for one.  A trip to Carden for John all the way from Saint Catharines is quite the haul, so we were all pleased for him to see one.
However, I wasn’t as fortunate, as my Golden-winged Warbler Lifer continued to elude me, I just knew that I should have withheld that baking from Dan, grrrrrr!

Saturday found me at Cameron Ranch at 6 a.m. for the annual Carden Birding Blitz facilitated by the Couchiching Conservancy, OFO, and TOC:

Remember when I agreed to Dan’s insane request wonderful opportunity back in January??? He left out a few minor details at the time, but I was desperate for that Great Gray Owl Lifer.

Details such as a start time of 6 a.m., which meant a wake-up call at 4 a.m. Here we all are, like lambs to the slaughter at 6.a.m.:

And now the adventure begins beyond the gate (that's the roof of the white truck at the bottom of the photo)…

Details such as a fifteen minute truck ride to our count site destination, with fourteen of us crammed into the back as we not-so-merrily bounced our way along the boulders. A great discussion ensued as to the body count how many we lost along the way…

Details such as possible exposure to bears, stampeding cattle, and lightning  strikes (okfine, I would have been thrilled for a photo opp of a bear ;-)) , my first clue should have been that death sentence waiver we had to sign before hauling our sorry butts into the back of that truck…

Details such as constant exposure to poison ivy that was  so bad that I stopped calling out warnings five minutes into our hike…

Seriously, though, it was a wonderful  opportunity to bird in parts of Cameron Ranch that normally no public access is permitted, as well as contribute to the gathering of information on the breeding birds of Carden.

Carden at dawn is a wondrous sight:

Dan, Hannah and I head off for the first of our four point count stations (I would have kissed the ground after surviving that truck ride but the poison ivy made it impossible):


We were definitely in sparrow land, as both Grasshopper and Clay-coloured Sparrows quickly became our trash birds as they were everywhere around us. Here are the first views ever I’ve had of a Clay-coloured Sparrow:


Field Sparrows were also present, and  I finally enjoyed a decent look at one versus merely hearing their bouncing ping-pong ball impression:

At least one Black-billed Cuckoo tortured us ad nauseum as we tried in vain for a visual on it, grrrrrr.  

Dan checks out the underside of a rock to see why bears frequently flip them over (the answer is ants, yum!):

Here’s a sampling of the smooth terrain that the truck had to traverse, now do you understand what we were up against?

We made our way back to the corral for the final round-up to the back of the truck, oh joy (Note to self: next year pack your back brace):

 The final tally with all participants (that survived the truck ride, that is) was completed at Windmill Ranch, where  I scored a Lifer as we were gathered around a picnic table, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, yay!!!!

We said our farewells for the day, but I decided to try once again for that elusive Golden-winged Warbler by the marsh parking lot. Thanks to Luke, Dan, and Susan, I finally got some excellent views of this pretty little bird, too bad my photos weren’t that great, though, but I was thrilled just to see him:

His golden head and wings were in stark contrast to the overcast day:

A Tree Swallow checked me out as I left Carden…

…as did an Eastern Meadowlark…

…and a female Red-winged Blackbird with a striking pinkish wash on her chin and throat:

Upon my return to the cottage, I was initially pleased to see that our three-day power outage was over, but my joy was short-lived when I discovered that we only had 50% power, so another call was made to Hydro One, and three hours later I was 100% back in the land of the living- or living dead, actually, as the early start time to the day finally caught up with me as I fell off my perch.

Will I do the Carden Point Count again next year? You betcha! Thanks to Dan for the invite, even if he did leave out all those minor details, his strategy to bombard us in advance with dozens of e-mails worked as I really should have read them more thoroughly, but next year I’ll know better! 

P.S. I apologize in advance for any formatting consistency issues with this post-from-hell, as it's taken me twelve hours to complete and it's still not right, internet access from the cottage will be the death of me, still marginally better than that truck ride at Carden, though:-(  

1 comment:

Stuart Immonen said...

Amazing trip report and great photos! I'd love to take a stab at a Carden big day... maybe next year.