NATURE CONSERVANCY OF CANADA STAKES A CLAIM please click here for an area map.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is a national land trust with 25,000 members. They have targeted the Carden Plain for protection due to its globally rare alvar communities. Starting with 200 acres donated by the MacDonald bothers twenty years ago, they have purchased the Cameron Ranch (2850 acres), then the adjacent Windmill Ranch (1500 acres), the Prairie Smoke Reserve (675 acres), the Little Blue Stem Alvar Reserve (710 acres), in 2008 McGee Creek Reserve ( 500 acres) was donated, then they purchased North Bear Alvar (800 acres). The Couchiching Conservancy working in partnership Bought Wolf Run Alvar (200 acres) and Blue Bird Ranch (200 acres). All together summing to over 7000 acres. In addition the Couchchiching Conservancy hold Conservation Easements on three properties totaling 600 acres. The expectation for 2012 is to add acquisitions and easements totaling another 600 acres. In 2005 Ric Symmes the regional director presented NCC’s grand ten-year plan for the Carden Plain. As shown on the map, NCC has defined a “project area” of 25,000 acres that includes all the quality alvar and borders Queen Elizabeth II Park (3,000 Sq. Km.) on the Canadian Shield. Their announced goal is, by 2015,to directly protect 12,000 acres, either alone or with partners such as Ontario Parks and Couchiching Conservancy, and indirectly protect the balance by deflecting aggregate development elsewhere. As of 2012 they will be two-thirds of the way there.

Much of this success is due to a Environment Canada grant to the Nature Conservancy of $225 million of matching funds over five years called the Natural Areas Conservation Program with the goal of acquiring and protecting 500,000 acres across Canada. Fortunately Carden is one of those target areas.


In 2007 the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Couchiching Conservancy, the Carden Plain IBA and Wildlife Preservation Canada began an initiative to expand the 25,000 acre alvar focused project to include the IBA boundaries into an area of 50.000 acres focused on species at risk as well as alvar. The goal is to develop a program that protects species and alvar within the target area while at the same time creating benefits to local landowners. The initiative is named the Integrated Carden Conservation Strategy (ICCS). Initial public meetings revealed that landowners fear that the designation of their property as environmentally significant will reduce its economic value. They fear if a Loggerhead Shrike is spotted on their land they will lose control. Bird watchers present another landowner irritant sometimes slowing or blocking traffic and occasionally trespassing. Landowners question why bird watchers can’t be directed onto conservation lands and away from private property.

Taking advantage of several new sources of funding (Species at Risk and Lake Simcoe Restoration) to address some of these issues. A “Birder’s Code of Conduct” was published in 2008 addressing many birder behavioural concerns. In addition some parking pull-off areas were built on Wylie Road and Prospect Road to facilitate traffic flow. A viewing blind was constructed at Box #10 on Wylie Road to focus attention toward conservation lands. A parking area and a 3.5 km nature trail was built on the Cameron Ranch to provide access while keeping birders and cattle separated.

A grazing seminar was sponsored and well attended. It offered suggestions to improve grazing productivity. Prompted by the seminar, a number of landowners have become partners in property improvement programs such as fencing, water supply and hawthorn thinning partly paid for by government programs accessed by the Couchiching Conservancy. In an enterprising initiative, landowners that host breeding shrike were offered $10.00 rent for each acre they owned within a 600 metre radius of the nest. Of the thirteen landowners qualified in 2011 five took advantage of the offer resulting in onw pay-out of $1000 The plan is to repeat the proggram in 2012. .


The City of Kawartha Lakes Council protested to the Ministry of the Environment that the current and potential cluster of quarries in the area could threaten the source water supply to municipal wells and that before any more licenses were approved a “Cumulative Ground Water Impact Analysis” (CIA) was required. The Minister wrote back agreeing and pledging to conduct the CIA and make the results available. The CIA has begun by the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Operators Association (OSSGA) under the supervision of MOE. The CIA is not expected to be completed until May 2012. In the meantime external events changed the conditions. The recession that began in 2008 has significantly reduced demand for gravel with the result that Dufferin Quarry ceased operations in mid summer, Beamish Quarry stopped preparations to initiate operations and Moyer's Quarry although approved has not even begun preparations. The result, instead of six quarry operations culstered together only two are in operation.


In September of 2005, the Carden Plain IBA together with Couchiching Conservancy, the Carden Field Naturalists and the Victoria Land and Water Stewardship Council, hosted the Carden Plain Natural Heritage Conference. Among the ninety attendees were naturalist, local landowners and quarry representatives. A wide range of expert speakers expressed why the Carden Plain was special to them. The objective was to kick off a dialogue between the quarry industry, conservation interests and local landowners based on mutual respect and factual inputs. At the end of the conference the audience was asked to recommend future action. The overwhelming consensus was to form a multi stakeholder task force to seek a more harmonious future.

In October of 2005 the first task force meeting occurred with representatives of two major quarries, Lafarge and Dufferin (Tomlinson joined latter), plus the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA), the Couchiching Conservancy, Carden Plain IBA, Nature Conservancy of Canada plus one cattle rancher (later two local landowners were added). On March 25, 2006 The Task force hosted Workshop #1 “A Dialogue on the Future of the Carden Plain”. Attendance was by invitation only in order to ensure a broad representation of views. Approximately 65 people attended. The purpose was to identify the key issues of concern to local landowners. Five key issues emerged; security of water supply, quarry operations especially blasting, the Official Planning process and zoning, land valuation resulting from zoning, quarry truck haul routes.

On July 9, 2006, the Taskforce hosted Workshop #2 “Quality and Quantity of Ground Water”. This time invitations were open to anyone interested. Approximately 50 attended. Expert speakers presented material on; Hydro geology on the Carden Plain, the Role of the Conservation Authority and the Role of Ministry of the Environment. An extensive panel discussion followed guided by questions from the floor.

On November 1, 2006, the Taskforce hosted a bus tour of three local quarries, Lafarge, Dufferin and Miller, to demonstrate the operations process including a blast. Invitations were open to all and about 50 attended. In each case the site manager led the tour and questions were encouraged.

In March 2007, another Workshop was held directed at Official Plan process. The intent was to provide attendees with a factual understanding of what Official Plans are intended to accomplish and how they are created. The timing anticipated that the City of Kawartha Lakes would publish their revised new Official Plan in the spring of 2007. This hasn’t occurred to date but the City did conduct a Haul Route workshop negating any need for the Taskforce to address that subject. Attendance at the Official Plan Workshop was down substantially from earlier events and it was decided to end the workshop program.

Discussions are proceeding with Miller Paving to construct an interpretive sign on their property on Kirkfield Road welcome visitors to the Carden Alvar. Both Dufferin and Miller quarries have contributed gavel and equipment to make the parking areas and laybys mentioned earlier. The OSSGA is trying to lead the industry into a friendlier, less intrusive, code of conduct.


The environmental theme is being challenged politically by a significant group of landowners, both local and away, who call themselves alternatively the Rural Revolution or the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) They reject any government planned use of their private land (i.e. zoning) especially if it interferes with what they can do on it and who they can sell it to. They have posted signs throughout the City reading “THIS IS OUR LAND, GOVERNMENT BACK OFF!”. Seven local landowners, on the Carden Plain, went further in the summer of 2006 and posted signs prohibiting birders from looking for birds in their fields from the road. One local landowner even began stopping birders, walking on public roads, telling them to stop bird watching. He ceased this activity after being confronted by the police.

In the spring and early summer of 2007 tensions between OLA and birders appeared to have abated. Most of the anti-birder signs were not reposted and no confrontations with birders were reported. This calm was deceiving. In September the OLA hosted a rally on a member’s property on the east side of Wylie Road opposite box #10. They announced that they intended to clear all the hawthorn trees from 13,000 acres to prevent Loggerhead Shrikes from nesting. About 70 people attended the rally most of whom came from outside of Carden. There were numerous speeches and loud cheers before the rally broke for lunch. In all, about 100 hawthorn trees were cut down in a 100-acre site. While the threats proved empty, the rally did attract a good deal of local publicity and sparked the initiative to create an Integrated Carden Conservation Strategy mentioned above.


From Herb Furniss, IBA Steering Committee.

April and May were cool months as well as wet. Without food the Eastern Bluebirds didn’t nest. As a result they were at least three weeks late starting. However they made up for lost time with many second nestings resulting in 135 fledgings for 2011. this is about average and Don Parkes and I are well pleased with our results.

This is our 26th season on the Carden alvar. To date we have fledged 2905 Eastern Bluebirds. As always we look forward to the next year.

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE RESULTS For 2011 Prepared by Tara Imlay, Species Recovery Biologist, Wildlife Preservation Canada

Wild Population
After the encouraging increasing trend seen over the last several years, it was disappointing that
the number of wild pairs observed in 2011 remained at a similar level to 2010 (approximately a
third of 2009). Twenty-one pairs were confirmed in the province: 13 in Carden, 7 in Napanee
and 1 in Pembroke. There were no pairs confirmed in Fenellon Falls (Carden), Grey-Bruce,
Manitoulin or Smiths Falls this season. The harsh winter experienced by many south-eastern U.S.
states where ELOSH are suspected to winter is a potential factor in the decline seen – a reminder
of the susceptibility of this small population to stochastic events. Fourteen of these pairs fledged
a total of at least 48 young.

Interestingly, there was a large number of single birds reported in the province this year: 2 (1
confirmed) in Napanee, 4 (1 confirmed) in Carden, 3 (2 confirmed) in Manitoulin, 8 (3
confirmed) in Grey-Bruce and 5 (all unconfirmed) in Smiths Falls. Indicating that there are a
large number of birds in the province that remained unpaired again this year.

Survey effort this season was again greatly enhanced by dedicated volunteers from both the
Napanee Adopt-A-Site program and Ontario-wide Grassland Bird Survey (GBS). Participation in
the GBS increased substantially this year to 111 volunteers. There were 12 observations of
shrikes reported to the GBS coordinator, but despite follow-up visits by both the GBS coordinator
and WPC field staff these observation remain unconfirmed. For more information on either of
these programs please contact us.

This year saw the return to breeding grounds of 3 Ontario captive-bred birds previously released
from the field breeding program, including one 4-year old bird. This bird has returned to the
Dyer’s Bay release site in two consecutive years, but has remained unpaired in both years. The
juvenile return rate of Ontario release birds was up to 2.6% (2 of 76 released in 2010) this year;
within the range of return rates observed in previous years. Of particular note this season was the
confirmation of a 2010-release bird from Carden that was bred at the Toronto Zoo, returning to
Carden, breeding with a wild female and successfully fledgling at least 3 young. This type of
breeding and release program is known as “hacking” and we’ll be experimenting more with
hacking in future years as a way to increase the number of young for release.

The banding program continued this season, and all wild adults banded this year received white
over a silver ID band on the right leg as part of their unique 4-colour combination. Nestling
banding occurred in Carden this year, with young banded with a silver ID band at 9-11 days old a
few days prior to fledging. This will help us to track recruitment of wild young into the
population next year. As always we encourage birders to try and determine band combinations on
any shrikes spotted, and of course report any sightings to us!
(1-800-956-6608 or

Field Breeding and Release
In late April, birds were paired for breeding at our facilities: the Carden and Dyer’s Bay field
breeding and release sites, Toronto Zoo and African Lion Safari. Seventeen pairs successfully
bred this year, with 8 producing second clutches. Twenty-one young were released in 2011 to
supplement the wild population. This is a lower than previous years and is due to the need to
recruit a higher number of young to augment the captive population and a higher than normal
level of mortality among our captive young this year. We retained a large number of the young
(27) for our captive population as breeding stock for the future. Almost half our captive
population is composed of birds within a few years of the end of their reproductive years. The
retained young from 2011 will provide an infusion of young breeders that can produce large
numbers of young for the next 8-10 years and enhance the genetic integrity of our captive stock.
We are also working with veterinarians from the Toronto Zoo and Ontario Veterinary College to
determine the cause(s) of this high mortality rate among young produced this year. Fortunately,
the vets have indicated that the deaths do not appear to be due to an infectious disease.
All release birds received unique 4-colour band combinations, unless they were wearing a
geolocator (see below).

One of the returning captive-reared birds this year was released with a geolocator in 2010. He
was caught, the device was removed, but once again the device had malfunctioned and only the
initial, very early migratory movements in Ontario had been recorded. This is more data than was
retrieved in 2010, but still a disappointing result. Geolocators represent our best chance to learn
more about the migration routes and wintering grounds of this species – a big knowledge gap that
is currently hindering recovery efforts.

Sixteen birds were released with a geolocators this year. The birds were equipped with a silver
band over a red band on the left leg and no bands on the right. Please keep your eyes peeled next
spring and report all shrike sightings to us! (1-800-956-6608,

Habitat Stewardship and Outreach
Over the summer months our field biologists in Napanee, Carden and Grey-Bruce met with
landowners to investigate potential projects and several priority projects have been identified in
each area. In Carden, project planning has been in co-operation with the Couchiching
Conservancy through the Integrated Carden Conservation Strategy. Habitat stewardship project
development and implementation will occur over the fall/winter.

Several articles pertaining to the Recovery Program appeared this season:
o An article on the shrike program is featured in the Manitoulin Expositor Special Canada
Day Edition. “Islander urged to keep and eye out for endangered bird”. Grey-Bruce
Biologist Katherine Robbins and GBS Coordinator Erica Lagios were interviewed.
o An article written by Carden Biologist Janet Lapierre was submitted to Prairie Smoke
(newsletter for the Carden Field Naturalists) in June. “Summertime in Shrike Country”
Public Presentations and Site Tours

WPC’s Species Recovery Biologist, Tara Imlay, staffed display booths for International
Migratory Bird Day at the Toronto Zoo (May 14), Carden Nature Festival (June 3-4), and
Dufferin Carden Quarry Open House (June 25). A display booth was set up and staffed by
WPC’s Grey-Bruce Biologist, Katherine Robbins, at the Owen Sound Fall Fair on September 8
and 9.

Tours were held at the Carden Field Site as part of the Carden Nature Festival on June 3.
A talk was given at the Norland Public Library on June 2 (Carden core).
A presentation to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists was given by WPC’s Grey-Bruce Biologist
on September 8.

Landowner Appreciation Dinners
Again, this year, we hosted three ELOSH Landowner and Volunteer Appreciation dinners and
they were very successful this year. The Carden dinner was held Aug 24 at the Kirkfield Lions
Club. Nearly 80 people were in attendance this year, and sixteen people attended a tour of the
Carden field breeding site prior to dinner. The Grey-Bruce dinner was held Aug 28 at the Dyer’s
Bay field site and saw at least 40 people in attendance. A small group received a tour of the site.
At both events, staff gave short presentations on the season’s results and outreach materials were
made available. The Napanee dinner was held on Sept 26 at the local Lions Club following the
local Recovery Action Group meeting.

Program Funding
WPC is grateful for the funding support for this year’s shrike recovery activities from the
following sources: Canadian Wildlife Service, the Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, the
federal Habitat Stewardship Program, and International Association of Avian Trainers and
Educators. We are also grateful to Boisset Family Estates, makers of French Rabbit wines, for
providing the bridge funding necessary to launch the field season.
By Tara Imlay, Species Recovery Biologist, WPC


This fold out map and guide was first produced in 2005 and proved to be very popular It was repeated in 2007. Copies are still available from the Couchiching Conservancy office (705)326-1620 or picked-up at the City Service Center in Kirkfield. Copies can also be downloaded from two websites of interest and A new edition is planned for 2010.


June 2007 saw the launch of the inaugural Carden Nature Festival as a celebration of the natural wonders of the Carden Plain, a smörgåsbord of biodiversity in southern Ontario, close to the GTA, and formed by a distinctive geological history. In 2010, the fourth year, 325 people attended, compared to 280 in 2009, 280 in 2008, and 200 in 2007. Attendees came from from all across the province with about half from the GTA and another third from Simcoe County. Market research has revealed the Festival contributed $60,000 to the local economy 2009 Comments from participants were extremely positive.

to browse and register
(or call 705-326-1620 for a free brochure)



Bird Watching:

Grassland Birding

  Birding for Beginners
  Calling in Birds
  Birding by Ear
  Sparrows by Voice
  Lawn Chair Birding
  Birds of Prey

Alvar Plants
  Alvar Flowers

New Sites to Explore
  Cameron Ranch
  Windmill Ranch
  Little Blue Stem
  Prospect Marsh
  McGee Creek
  Wolf Run
  North Bear Alvar
  Blue Bird Ranch
  Reflections and Gratitude
  Spirituality of a Tree
  Watercolour Painting
Learning (continued)
  Aquatic Wildlife
  Nature Photography
  Loggerhead Shrike Captive Breeding
  lue Bird Box Care
  First Nations in Carden
  Pond Study


  15 vendor booths inside

  Dragonflies and Butterflies in the Field
  Butterflies and Dragonflies for Beginners
  Moths by UV Light
  Bike Tours
  Wilderness Hikes
  Boat Tours
  Cameron Ranch Tours
  Wilderness Hikes
  Cameron Ranch Tours
  Paddle Lakes and Wetlands
  Voices of the Night
  Fossil Hunt
  Carden Land Forms
  Kids Nature Safari

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