Carden Alvar Nature Board by Bob BowlesCarden Alvar OFO Trip

Forty-five OFO members and guests found many of Carden's specialty birds on today's annual field trip. Most target species such as the Loggerhead Shrike and Sedge Wren were seen.

Loggerhead Shrike: We saw a distant Loggerhead Shrike in the morning on the east side of Wylie Road between bluebird boxes 3 and 7 a little north of the large White Birch. This year shrikes are not being seen west of bluebird box 10. After a picnic lunch at the Kirkfield Lift Lock, we had much better views of a Loggerhead Shrike on south side of McNamee Road opposite the gated unnamed road running north, two concessions east of Wylie Road. Recently a shrike was seen on the Cameron Ranch from the parking lot. Scan the tops of hawthorns and dead branches for shrikes in areas grazed by cattle. A scope is a big help.

Wrens: Several Sedge Wrens were singing at Sedge Wren Marsh and we had excellent views of two birds. Best area is the northeast corner along the road where grasses and sedges predominate. Caution: There was a Marsh Wren singing from the cattails just west of the marsh bridge. Later we saw and heard many Marsh Wrens at the Prospect Road Marsh. House Wrens were singing at several spots along Wylie Road.

Upland Sandpiper: We saw and heard several along Wylie and McNamee Roads. Watch for its flickering wing beats and listen for its curlew-like song and calls.

Wilson's Snipe: A few snipe were winnowing in flight and calling at wet areas along Wylie Road.

Rails: Both Sora and Virginia Rail are more common this year. The group heard both at the Sedge Wren Marsh and both at Prospect Marsh where we had close views of a Virginia Rail. We haven't heard Yellow Rails at the Sedge Wren Marsh this May. They may not like the slightly higher water level in the marsh this year caused by a beaver dam, but the wetter conditions seem to be favouring Soras and Virginias.

American Bittern: Two were seen briefly in flight at the Sedge Wren Marsh.

Osprey: Three nests with adults on them were observed at Canal Lake.

Black-billed Cuckoo: At least two birds were seen and heard. Cuckoos and Baltimore Oriole numbers are up this year associated with a moderate outbreak of Eastern Tent Caterpillars. Cuckoos and orioles are among the few birds that eat the hairy larvae. Just how cuckoos and orioles know that there are abundant caterpillars and move into Carden is unknown.

Flycatchers: One singing Alder Flycatcher was observed at the Sedge Wren Marsh. Least Flycatchers were singing at many spots and are more common this year. No Willow Flycatchers were heard. We also saw Eastern Kingbirds, but numbers seem down. We had a close view of a Great Crested Flycatcher and heard others.

Golden-winged Warbler: The group had great views of a singing male at the top of a dead tree along Wylie Road south of the Sedge Wren Marsh.

Grasshopper Sparrow: We saw several singing birds perched on rocks and shrubs along Wylie Road. A scope is helpful.

Clay-colored Sparrow: We heard and eventually saw a singing bird on the west side of Prospect Road about 2 km south of Eldon Station Road.

Other good sightings today included two close Common Loons in breeding plumage on Canal Lake; calling Common Ravens lent a northern flavour to the alvar; Eastern Bluebirds; several singing Brown Thrashers; two singing Field Sparrows; a close Eastern Towhee sang and called beside Wylie Road, but it stayed out of sight in the thickets; and many Eastern Meadowlarks were seen and heard among the group's 70 bird species.

Non-bird sightings included a large basking Blanding's Turtle and a Bullfrog at the Great Blue Heron colony pond east of Shrike Road and south of McNamee Road. Large areas of Prairie Smoke, Carden's signature wildflower, and Balsam Ragwort brightened the alvar meadows.

Many of the group remarked that most birds were seen very well today.

DIRECTIONS: A Carden Alvar birding site guide is on the OFO Website. Print guide and map for use in the field.

Birder's World magazine lists the Carden Alvar as a North American birding hotspot.

It was a pleasure having Sean Smith, Visitor Experience Manager of Trent Severn Waterway, Parks Canada, on the outing. I thank Ron Pittaway, Ron Tozer, Eleanor Beagan, and Rick and Kim Brown for ensuring that the group had great views of birds.

Jean Iron
Carden Alvar Trip Leader
Ontario Field Ornithologits
Toronto ON

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