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Wrapping up the 2015 Carden Challenge

2015 Carden Challenge

For the 38 participants in the Carden Challenge, 2015 was the year of the big peel, as conditions changed from ice in the water bucket at dawn to warm and sunny in the afternoon. The early date and cool conditions, combined with high winds on Friday evening, provided fewer species than usual, especially for the biodiversity teams seeking butterflies and dragonflies. Even so, among the 143 bird species recorded, there were three new species in this 10th Challenge – Peregrine Falcon, three Red-necked Grebes off Avery Point in Lake Dalrymple, and a V-shaped flock of Whimbrel flying overhead.

In total, the three biodiversity teams recorded 14 species of mammals (although none of them saw the groundhogs at Ron’s cabin), 13 reptiles and amphibians, 16 types of butterflies, and 18 species of dragonflies and damselflies. The biodiversity category was won by “The Basketcases” team of Kristyn Ferguson, Ginny Moore, Bob Bowles, Kathy Parker, and Tricia Stinnessen.

Competition was fittingly tight in the competitive category, with the “To the Bittern End” team being narrowly edged out by “The Couch Potatoes” team of Ron Reid, Tanya Clark, Luke Hewitt, Julia Wolst Bellingham, and celebrity birder Monte Hummell, who recorded 112 species.

BBQ lunch provided by Fowler Construction

Many thanks to Fowler Construction for providing the great BBQ lunch!

In the recreational category, the combined team dubbed “The Wylie Cowhands” composed of Leslie Dyment, Dan Bone, Matthew Tobey, and Leanne Grieves cruised to victory with 122 species.

To date, the 2015 Challenge has raised just over $15,000 in donations and pledges, but with more contributions continuing to be received. These funds are used by the Couchiching Conservancy to support conservation and stewardship projects on the Carden Alvar.

2015 brought several firsts to the Carden Challenge, including two teams competing on bicycles, including one in the biodiversity category; the first corporate team, the Golder Wild Fowlers sponsored by Golder Associates and Fowler Construction; and a free lunch on Saturday generously provided by Fowler. But as always, the event wrapped up with a dinner and homemade pies produced by the Dalrymple United Church Women.

Perhaps the best summary of the Carden Challenge was provided by Monte Hummel, the President Emeritus of World Wildlife Fund Canada, who was experiencing Carden for the first time: “The alvar and surrounds are hauntingly beautiful, no matter what the weather, and I promise I’ll be back next year.”

Huge thanks to everyone who took part. We heard from many of you how much you enjoyed the Challenge, and we look forward to seeing you again next year.


Stories from our teams…what was their best/favourite sighting? what got away?

American Bittern

American Bittern

Recreational Birding

Pedalling for Nature (76 species)

Best Sighting: a flock of Whimbrels

The one that got away: Nuthatches


The CouCou-Caching

Best Sighting: Blackburian Warbler

The one that got away: Kestrels…they are nesting at the cabin and we never saw them!


The Wylie Cowhands (122 species)

Best Sighting: Wilson’s Warbler…in the same tree it was in three years ago

The one that got away: Pied-billed Grebe



Golder Wild Fowlers (158 points)

Best Sighting: Least Bittern

The one that got away: Black-throated Blue

Best Wildlife Sighting: Moose


The Green Snakes on The Plain (178 points) – did the Challenge by bike, foot and canoe!

Best Sighting: Smooth Green Snake

The one that got away: Savannah Sparrow

Carden sunset

The Basketcases (180 points)

Best Sighting: a pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers

The one that got away: Herring Gull


Competitive Birding

The Couch Potato Chips (102 species)

Best Sighting: Bears!

The one that got away: Northern Parula. Turns out it the dip at the end went down instead of up…so we didn’t get the species we wanted!


Til the Bittern End (111 species – also winners of the Teeter Ass Trophy)

Best Sighting: Merlin. An unexpected bird that we weren’t looking for.

The one that got away: Wanted to end the day with a Least Bittern and tried so hard but couldn’t get it! Also didn’t get a Raven.


The Couch Potatoes (112 species)

Best Sighting: Yellow-throated Vireo

The one that got away: Pileated Woodpecker