Birding in Ontario

Upping the Odds for Success

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February may have been a dismal month for birds, but it has been a great month for raising funds!  And it has brought a new opportunity for you to help!
We'll get to that in a moment, but first the birds - a grand total of 2 new species for the month, leaving us stuck at 99.  A trip to Petroglyphs  and Presqu'ile provincial parks brought us Evening Grosbeaks and a Barred Owl, but otherwise our efforts have been a series of near-misses.  March will change our luck - at least the first surge of spring migrants will bring some new targets for our quest. [Actually it already has before we got this sent out - see the end of this update]
But the BIG news is on the funding front.  You know those hospital mega-lotteries that promise all sorts of great prizes for your $100 ticket?  This month, a local Carden resident (who prefers to remain anonymous) actually won a $1 million prize!  As the ads say, what would you do with a million dollars?  For this dedicated conservationist, the answer was easy - devote a substantial portion of his win to helping buy natural areas.
But there's a twist.  Rather than simply handing over cash, this individual has issued a challenge - from this point forward, he will MATCH dollar-for-dollar every NEW pledge for our Big Year campaign to purchase Wolf Run Alvar.  That offer includes increases to pledges already made - if you have already pledged 50 cents a species and choose to raise that to $1, he will DOUBLE your added donation!
So if you look for a great return on your charitable donations, take a close look at the numbers here - your pledge is matched immediately by this generous donor, and that total is matched again by the federal acquisition grant we already have confirmed.  By any standard, that's a pretty good return!
Of course, the REAL return is setting aside forever the 303 acres within the Wolf Run Alvar property.  We wanted to share a bit more information about why it is so important, and why otherwise normal people like ourselves (well, at least relatively normal!) are willing to volunteer so much of our time and energy  to see it saved.
First, it's important to understand that the Carden limestone plain has become a major target area for the quarry industry.  As environmental regulations have tightened the supply of stone and gravel from the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine, areas such as Carden become new priorities for the industry.  While we certainly accept that some parts of the Carden Plain are destined to become quarries to meet future demand, that reality adds a great urgency to securing the best-quality natural areas that we want to see protected.
And there is no question that Wolf Run Alvar is one of those top-ranked natural properties.  In its core, an extensive wetland recharges precious groundwater through the fractured bedrock - in places, you can actually sit and watch small streams disappear down cracks and crevices in the rock.  We have lots to learn about the ecology of this wetland, but we do know that its sedge meadows host hundreds of Showy Ladies' Slipper orchids and undoubtedly other uncommon species.
Around the wetland, drier ground supports a series of alvar communities, with an assemblage of plants and insects that are adapted to harsh dry conditions.  Many of these species are uncommon.  While some are inconspicuous, others are colourful and striking with names to match - Hairy Beardtongue, Wood Lily, Prairie Smoke, Fragrant Sumac and Indian Paintbrush.  Alvar communities are classed as Globally Imperilled, so the acres of Little Bluestem, Tufted Hairgrass, and Juniper shrubland on the Wolf Run Alvar site are top of the class for conservation priority.
Add to that some Spruce and hardwood forests on the fringes, and this ends up as a very diverse and important property.  Its location is important too - as our first acquisition north of Alvar Road, it creates the first component of a natural corridor that we hope will eventually link to Queen Elizabeth provincial park to the north.
So that's why we are so keen on this property, and we hope you will share our excitement.  Please consider taking advantage of this great opportunity to double your donation by adding to your current pledge, or joining in with a new pledge.  We already have over 75% of the funds we need pledged.  With your generous support, we can raise the rest of the cash needed to ensure that Wolf Run Alvar is protected FOREVER.  To pledge, just e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and don't forget to add your guess on how many species we will find.  Thanks!
Our special March 3 update: Tonite we both managed to finally spot one of our nemesis species - Great Gray Owl!  Back in February, we drove to the other side of Fenelon Falls to chase a report of one of these rarities, got embarrassingly stuck in a snowy ditch (don't ask who was driving), and of course found no trace.  Great_Gray_Owl_by_David_HomerFor the past three weeks, several people have seen a Great Gray around Carden, but on three tries, sometimes within a half-hour of a sighting, nothing.  Today, Ron took advantage of a beautiful sunny late afternoon to try once more, and suddenly there it was, right on the side of the road!  But by this time, sunlight was fading into a lovely rose-and-peach sunset, and Janet was a half-hour away - could she make it in time?  The owl was hunting, and kept moving; once lost, then found again.  Janet arrived in deep dusk, but we found a place where the owl was silhouetted against a distant yardlight, and briefly found it in the beam of our own flashlight as well.  Success!  What a great species for #100!  Thanks to David A. Homer for this great shot of "our" Great Gray.  And thanks, Biz, Harry, David, and Karen for your sighting tips - I think we have turned a corner.