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Carden Alvar Inspires Photography

After retiring six years ago, I decided to pursue a hobby that I didn’t seem to have time for while I was working – photography.  Coincidentally, I acquired my first digital camera around the same time that I discovered the Carden Alvar.  We have lived in Orillia for 20 years and to this day, I still find it astonishing how this natural jewel waited at my doorstep for 14 years to be discovered.  Since then, I travel to Carden several times a year as one of my favourite photographic haunts.  Each time I visit, I discover new natural sights and sounds and reacquaint myself with old ones.  As a wildlife or nature photographer, the Carden Alvar is a virtual cornucopia of opportunity and all it takes is a short drive.

There are several access roads to the Carden Alvar with the most popular being Wylie Road just off City of Kawartha Lakes County Rd. #6, just north of Kirkfield Lift Locks.  Much of the alvar is private property but one can easily find subjects to photograph alongside the access roads.  I make sure that I am always respecting the privacy of the landowners and share the road so that others may pass in safety.  Since the roads are lightly travelled, it is quite easy to drive slowly, constantly watching and listening.  At this time of the year, many songbirds will have already started migration for more southern climes but there will be those that will leave later or stay all fall and winter.  Look for Sparrows or Swallows that will often sit on fences watching for their next meal.  I usually stay in the car and use it as a blind.  There are some easy tricks to help to balance your camera, such as using a bean bag balanced on the door.  When the birds are close and you are in your car, you will find that you can capture quality images using a small telephoto lens.

If you prefer to go for a walk, there are a number of trails that are easily accessible such as The Prairie Smoke Nature Reserve on Lake Dalrymple Road, the Little Blue Stem Alvar, behind the Carden Recreation Centre, the Cameron Ranch Trail on Cty. Rd #6, and the newest trail at Sedge Wren Marsh, on Wylie Road.  Each of these trails presents different ecosystems and will provide additional opportunities for birds, flowers, insects and finally landscapes.

At this time of the year, there are a number of colourful flowers blooming and insects are busily gathering nectar and pollen.  Several species of aster are in bloom, each dressed in a different shade of purple.  Jewelweed or Touch-Me-Not is sporting a vibrant orange flower and is a favourite of bumblebees as well as late departing Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  Several species of butterflies, including Monarchs, Viceroys and Black Admirals are still in the area gathering nectar to prepare for the journey south.

While we can usually predict where to find birds, plants or insects, it is not so easy with mammals.  With the investment of time and plenty of patience, we are sometimes rewarded with a herd of deer or an unwary Cottontail Rabbit.  There are often reports of bear and moose, so remember to have your camera at the ready!

Landscape images perhaps present the greatest of all photographic opportunities.  Try and visit Carden during the ‘golden hours’, which are the 2 hours after sunrise and 2 hours before sunset.  The sun is still low in the sky and the light is softer and warmer creating a more pleasurable scene.

The Couchiching Conservancy is presently running a photo contest, which is intended to accumulate images for the promotion of the Carden area and the work of the Couchiching Conservancy.  There are prizes in the categories of Flora, Fauna, Birds, Reptiles/Amphibians and Landscape as well as a grand prize. To enter your photographs, see contest rules and procedures on the Conservancy website.

While you explore the Carden area, take a moment to pause, find the artist within and submit your ‘kodak’ moment.  Don’t wait 14 years like I did!

Arni Stinnissen is a volunteer and supporter of the Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust which protects ecologically sensitive land in the Orillia region for future generations.