Monday 3 June 2013

Carden Alvar - the birds

The Prairie Warblers which I talked about in the last post were certainly the main highlight, though Jeremy and I saw a lot of other interesting things throughout the day. I have a few insect and herp highlights as well, which I will cram into a 3rd post. One old blogging trick is to not waste all your good content in one post and have nothing else to talk about for the rest of the week. So I'm spreading out the material a little bit ;)

I arrived at Carden a bit later than anticipated, since my greatest skill is my ability to turn off 3 separate alarm clocks in my sleep. However, by 6:50 AM I rolled up to Carden and began my birding. Right away, the sounds of the prairie beckoned - a Grasshopper Sparrow buzzing over here, Eastern Bluebirds feeding young over there, and an Upland Sandpiper calling away off in the distance. It was good to be back!

Eastern Bluebird - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

Eastern Bluebird - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

Making my way to the Sedge Wren Marsh, I noted the distinct absence of Sedge Wrens. However a lot of the surrounding fields had a few inches of standing water, creating perfect habitat. With all of this abundant, suitable habitat around, it is probable that the Sedge Wrens are more scattered throughout the alvar, as opposed to being concentrated in the marsh. Making up for the lack of the wrens was a very vocal Virginia Rail, strutting his stuff out in the open.

Virginia Rail - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

Virginia Rail - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

Virginia Rails are secretive little marsh birds that spend their days expertly navigating the maze of dense grasses, sedges and cattails in wetlands. Often the only indication of their presence is the persistent "kiddick, kiddick, kiddick" call or the loud series of grunts coming from the depths of a marsh. These were certainly the best views I had ever had of one!

Virginia Rail - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

I would imagine that they are called rails because they can stand up straight as a rail with their tail flicked up in the air. You can kind of get a sense of that with these next two photos!

Virginia Rail - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

Virginia Rail - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

Eventually I left the sounds of Virginia Rails, Marsh Wrens, and Swamp Sparrows behind and headed down a side trail leading off from the marsh. Birders aren't exactly welcomed by many of the landowners at Carden, and until recently the only access to the area was via roadside. Fortunately the Nature Conservancy and many private individuals have purchased some of the properties and more of the alvar is now accesible.

These famous signs are attached every 50 meters or so to every fence in the area. I can't help but laugh at them - they are absolutely hilarious! To me, it says something along the lines of "It is illegal for hawks to steal your circa-1960's binoculars here".

After exploring some coniferous areas behind the marsh (with a drumming Ruffed Grouse and a few Winter Wrens being my reward), I headed back to the road. Eventually this Upland Sandpiper came and landed on a fence post right beside me. It was on the "wrong" side of the road, so I made the best of the situation and went for a silhouette photo instead.

Upland Sandpiper - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

I had more highlights as the morning wore on, but neglected to take any more photos. Clay-colored Sparrows and Golden-winged Warblers were quite common on the north half of Wylie Road and I had about a half dozen of each. Several singing Canada Warblers were nice to hear before the heat of the day shut up most of the birds, and I had scope views of a Loggerhead Shrike behind Bluebird Box #7. I actually have very poor, distant photos of the shrike, but I'll spare you!

Before meeting up with Jeremy I did a quick check of some areas further south and came up with Common and Caspian Terns, Sora, and a calling Least Bittern; the latter at Prospect Road marsh.

Red-winged Blackbird - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

Jeremy and I birded Wylie Road again, this time in the heat of the day. We still had many of the same species and added other ones to the day list such as Northern Harrier, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Indigo Bunting. We had our encounter with the Prairie Warblers, found Jeremy's lifer Common Ravens, and zipped back down to Prospect Road marsh to hear the Least Bittern (another lifer for Jeremy) just before the impending storm.

It was a great day on the alvar, with great company. I finished the day with just over 100 species after adding a few on the drive home.

Mr. Prairie - Carden Alvar (May 31, 2013)

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