Carden Alvar Birding Trip

8:45 PM

On Monday May 9, 2011 we took a trip to the Carden Alvar, a designated Important Bird Area (IBA). The Carden Alvar is located 1.5 hours northeast of Toronto. Alvar habitats are globally rare and many support Species at Risk. The habitat is mostly flat and primarily made up of limestone bedrock. The bedrock is covered by a thin layer of soil and covered with lichens, mosses grasses and sparse vegetation including tree and shrubs. Much of the property which makes up the Carden Alvar is privately owned, but most of the bird species can be observed from the roads or lookouts.

Most birders travel to the Carden Alvar in search of several target species including the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus migrans) which is an endangered species in Ontario. We were fortunate enough to see 3 Eastern Loggerhead Shrikes which was incredibly exciting. In addition to the Shrikes, we also heard a Yellow Rail calling in a local marsh along with a Sora and American Bittern. We heard all three calling at 11:15 am a little unusually, but not unheard of...good timing on our behalf! Some other highlights included a displaying Uplands Sandpiper, Bobolinks, Eastern Bluebirds, Savannah Sparrows, a Bald Eagle, Sandhill Cranes, Eastern Meadowlarks and Black-and-White Warblers. In addition to these sightings the funniest sighting of the day was an American Bittern crossing the road in a style similar to John Cleese's 'Silly Walk'. A full list of all the 50 species we saw can be seen at the end of this post.

In addition to many birds we also spotted and heard 4 species of frogs: Green Frogs (Rana clamitans), Leopard Frogs (Rana pippiens), Midland Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata triseriata) and American Toads (Bufo americanus). We also observed 4 species of mammals: Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), a White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and a Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus).

We will be running another tour to the Carden Alvar on June 25, 2011. This tour will be led by Josh Vandermeulen and myself and will focus on the unique bird life in this area. For more information and to reserve your space on this tour please visit our website and follow the link on our homepage.

Here are some photos of our recent adventure to the Carden Alvar:

This blind allowed for some fantastic uninterrupted views of Eastern Loggerhead Shrikes, Eastern Meadowlarks and many other birds.

The marsh where we heard the Yellow Rail. Soras and American Bitterns were also calling.

This Savannah Sparrow is just one of several species of sparrow that can be found here.

Can you find the bird in this photo?

It's an American Bittern, trying to blend in with the grass
after crossing the road in front of our car.

Eastern Kingbirds are common throughout the Carden Alvar.

Eastern Bluebirds are another resident bird.
This one was far from the road making it difficult to photograph.

We were surprised to see this Porcupine up in the tops of the trees as we were driving past.

It was one of two porcupines we spotted!

Carden Alvar Birding List- May 9, 2011
  1. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
  2. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
  3. American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
  4. Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
  5. Coopers Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
  6. Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  7. Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
  8. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  9. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  10. Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
  11. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
  12. Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis)
  13. Sora (Porzana carolina)
  14. Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
  15. Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
  16. American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)
  17. Ring-Billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
  18. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
  19. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
  20. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
  21. Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
  22. Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
  23. Eastern Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus migrans)
  24. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
  25. Raven (Corvus corax)
  26. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  27. Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
  28. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  29. Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
  30. American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
  31. Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
  32. Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
  33. Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
  34. Black-and-White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
  35. Black-Throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens)
  36. Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus)
  37. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
  38. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
  39. Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
  40. Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)
  41. Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
  42. White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
  43. White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
  44. Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
  45. Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella militaris)
  46. Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
  47. Brown-Headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
  48. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
  49. American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
  50. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Good Birding and we hope you will join us on our next trip up to the Carden Alvar!

~ Kristen Martyn

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