May 20 & 21 – Scouting for the Carden Challenge & Whip-poor-willing

This coming weekend I will be participating in another important fundraiser. The CARDEN CHALLENGE. I will be rejoining my team for another 24 hour attempt at winning the cup. We won a few years ago, but we have had to settle for a heart-breaking second or third place a few times. At the end of the day it is just a really fun way to bird in a very special habitat in Ontario, while also raising funds for the Couchiching Conservancy’s conservation work. There are a lot of rare, threatened and endangered species that call the Carden Plain home.

I’ve copied a link to our donation page below, should you feel the urge to sponsor our team!

May 20 – The Carden Plain

I did a little scouting on my way up to Kingston, in the hopes of locating some of the harder species for the weekend. I was not disappointed. By far the highlight was a singing PRAIRIE WARBLER on Alvar Road. Most of the local breeding birds seem to be back, including 3 GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLERS on Wylie Road. A RUFFED GROUSE that ran across Alvar Road was my 3rd year bird for the day. I can’t wait for Friday/Saturday, the birding should be great!

Queen’s University Biological Station

After my quick visit to the Carden I headed up to Q.U.B.S. where I will be helping with some Eastern Whip-poor-will research over the next few weeks.

The main goal is to try and recapture birds that have geologgers on them to determine where they spent their winters. For the males this involves returning to last years breeding territory and using playback to lure them into a mist net. For the females, it is a little trickier. They generally don’t respond to playback, so we have to return to their breeding territory from last year, hope they return, try and find their nest, and wait to catch them when they are at the proper breeding stage. A lot harder!

With perfect weather we headed out to one of the study sites and tried for a few birds. Some nights we don’t catch anything, and sometimes you catch a few (the record is 4 in one night). This particular evening we caught 1 bird, and it had a GEOLOGGER! It wasn’t even the bird we were hoping for, so it was a surprise capture.

Matt Whip

Photo: Me with a male Whip-poor-will. It was carrying a geologger!

With thunderstorms approaching, we had an early night (home before 1 am). On our way back down the trail we noticed a muskrat running in front of the jeep. I commented on how this little muskrat was totally going to get eaten by a Barred Owl (they are common up here, I heard several throughout the evening) if it didn’t get off the road. Literally 15 seconds later a BARRED OWL (# 277 for the year!) swooped out of nowhere and attempted to pick-off the muskrat. It flew about a foot over the little beasts head, but didn’t make contact. We continued to follow these two animals for about 1 km down the trail where the owl made continued swoops at the muskrat. We didn’t end up witnessing a predation event, but it was still amazing to watch these wild animals.



Photos: Top photo is of a Muskrat on the trail with a Barred Owl watching it in upper right corner. Bottom photo is of the Barred Owl. Photo credits: Philina English.


About canadabigyear2013

I'm a lifelong birder and naturalist who is undertaking a Canada Big Year in 2013.
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One Response to May 20 & 21 – Scouting for the Carden Challenge & Whip-poor-willing

  1. Angie & Rob says:

    Matt, you’re killing me! I just wanna hear a Whip-poor-will, and you get to hold one!!! We’re hoping to head up to the Carden Plain area the weekend of the June Full Moon, as we had no luck at Rondeau.

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