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A Challenge to Support Nature

Participants cycle in the Carden Challenge

The spring flowers of May are just around the corner.  May brings back the rush of migrating birds to their summering grounds in our area.  With the warming weather, turtles emerge to soak up the sunlight, and butterflies and dragonflies once more dance their way across their aerial kingdoms.  May bursts forth with life of all kinds, an annual reminder of how many creatures share this planet with us.

May is also the month of the Couchiching Conservancy’s annual Carden Challenge, when teams of keen amateur naturalists compete to find as many species as possible over a 24-hour period.  Most participants take part because they enjoy the camaraderie and the friendly competition, and the chance to experience the Carden alvar at its best.

But there are other reasons why they devote a spring weekend to the Challenge, and why you should support them; let me touch on the top three.

First, the Challenge adds to our knowledge of the natural history of the alvar, especially since it expanded beyond birds a few years ago to include amphibians and reptiles, mammals, butterflies, and dragonflies and damselflies.  We keep a record of all the species seen.  Even though 2017 is the 13th Carden Challenge, each year brings a few new species, often pointing to trends in wildlife populations.  The Challenge has a history of turning up rarities, such as the Chuck-wills-Widow (a southerly cousin of the Whip-poor-will) found a few years ago. 

Third, the Carden Challenge provides a vital source of funding for the property stewardship activities of the Couchiching Conservancy, in recent years over $20,000 annually. 

Second, the Challenge is a great training ground for the next generation of naturalists; every year sees a scattering of young faces from high schools and colleges among the participants, who learn both field skills and enthusiasm from the old-timers.  In turn, those fresh faces give me hope for the future of this corner of the planet.

Third, the Carden Challenge provides a vital source of funding for the property stewardship activities of the Couchiching Conservancy, in recent years over $20,000 annually.  Every participant is asked to collect pledges to sponsor their participation; some do so with great enthusiasm; others are shy about asking.  But together, they collect hundreds of donations ranging from $1 to $100 and beyond, which adds up to a great boost to the Conservancy. 

Starting in 2016, we added a “Walk Wylie” component to the Challenge, for people who want to help but don’t feel they have the field skills to compete.  The walkers stroll up Wylie Road at their own pace, stopping to admire the Prairie Smoke in bloom or Bluebirds on a fencepost, again collecting pledges to support their efforts.  Registering as a WylieWalker is easy – just contact tanya@couchconservancy.ca and she will set you up.

The 2017 Carden Challenge takes place on May 26-27, so you have a whole month to pledge your support to one of these amazing volunteers.  We make giving easy – you can make a donation digitally through the Canada Helps website, pay directly to a volunteer participant (especially the shy ones – they need encouragement!), or drop off donations at the Conservancy office at Grant’s Woods or at the Bird House Nature Company downtown.  Just think of it as one more great way to celebrate the month of May!

To learn more about the Carden Challenge and Walk Wylie click here!

Ron Reid is the Carden Coordinator for The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protecting nature for future generations. Learn about how you can get involved on our website, www.couchichingconserv.ca.