Carden Challenge

In a 24 hour period, almost 90 people from all across Ontario were out looking for species while raising funds to help protect the alvar. This year was different – everyone was searching in their own neighbourhoods and not necessarily together with their team members. Many of the participants struggled with the weather – a cold, windy and rainy day does not make for good sightings.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who participated in the 16th annual Carden Challenge and helped to raise over $38,000 for alvar conservation. We are blown away!

Read the full summary of sightings, by Ron Reid.

Review the Excel list of Species counted (just those who counted in Carden are included here)

Competitive : Green Snakes on the Plain, 136 bird species
Recreational : The Trill Seekers, 111 bird species
Biodiversity : Green Snakes on the Plain, 167 species

Teeter Ass Trophy: Kristyn Ferguson

Top Fundraising Team: Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (David and Juliana Hawke, Jamie and Anne Ross, Gord and Jane Ball) raised over $11,000
Top Fundraising Individual: David Hawke raised over $9,000

Total raised for alvar conservation: over $38,000. Over 400 donations were made!

Please save the date for the 17th annual Carden Challenge:
Friday, May 28 - Saturday, May 29, 2021


The goal of the Carden Challenge is simple

Raise funds to support the stewardship of Carden’s alvar and habitats by counting as many species as possible during a 24-hour period. All teams participate in birding and biodiversity - the level of competitiveness is up to them.
  • Competitive: count as many species as possible
  • Recreation: count as many species as possible

Green, Leopard, Mink or Toad? Study your frogs before you hit the road!

What is an Alvar?

In an area east of Orillia and northwest of Lindsay, a flat limestone landscape called the Carden Plain harbours rare habitats known as alvars. Alvars occur only on limestone bedrock with little or no soil, where spring floods and summer droughts create harsh conditions. Many of the wildflowers, native grasses and invertebrate species found on alvars normally occur in the western provinces, and many are rare. These habitats are globally imperiled, occurring only in the south of Sweden and scattered around the Great Lakes Basin. Carden Township’s alvars are thought to be among the richest in the province, with a great diversity of alvar species.

Details from the 2020 event below - This will be updated when we start planning for 2021!

Event details and how things are different:

  • When: Friday, May 29 at 6:00pm to Saturday, May 30 at 6:00pm. You choose your schedule!
  • What are we counting: We will still use the Carden Checklist, available in an Excel file here. We recommend printing the list off for the event and then moving your list to Excel afterwards. Please count everything you you and hear – beavers, birds, butterflies…everything!;
  • Where: Stay in your own backyard and neighbourhood. Stay within a 8 km radius (5 miles) of your home (known as 5MR Birding to some)
  • Who: Form teams of 4 – 5 people to keep up the team spirit! You can go it alone as well. You do not need to be an expert, but should connect with others to confirm species if you aren’t confident;
  • How: connect remotely with teammates throughout the Challenge to confirm species and help each other out. If you live within each other’s radius, it is up to you on if you bird and blitz together at a safe physical distance;
  • How: you can bike, paddle, walk, drive…whatever you like;
  • Fundraising: Raising funds to protect the alvar is still an important part of this event! Over the years the Conservancy and partners have protected well over 8,000 acres of alvar. These are critical safe havens for species like the endangered Eastern Loggerhead Shrike. To keep things simple, participants can use this fundraising page through Canada Helps.
  • Submit your list: your team leader can compile your lists and send the Excel file to Ron Reid. We would also like to know which team member counted the most species and how many they did.

Questions? Want to register? Send an email to Tanya Clark (

Resources for Participants

Rules and Studying:

If you would like to sponsor a team and/or participant, everyone is listed below. You can also encourage our young budding birders by sponsoring them!


Bella has taken part in the Carden Challenge for five years! She is a navigation expert, accidental rare-bird spotter, very comfy outside with the birds and fun to be with.

Reid has done three of the past Challenges. Her best skills are mimicking Barred Owl hoots, cycling around big puddles and osprey-inspired dives. She’s fun to be with too!

Stella is a six year old big city birder from Toronto. She loves all things nature and science and wants to be a gardener when she grows up. Stella’s favourite bird is the robin, hence her birding nickname “Rockin’ Robin”. She’s looking forward to turning 7 at the end of June.

Sophie likes to paint and draw and make anime characters she also loves to play with her brother and sister and hang out with her cat Shadow  and take Auston her nanas puppy for long, long walks.

Sponsor Our Bidding Birders here

Who is taking part this year?
There are 17 teams and 69 participants to date!

The Ravin’ Ravens, Competitive:

  1. Ron Reid, Washago
  2. Janet Grand, Washago
  3. Ginny Moore, Uphill
  4. Dale Leadbeater, Kirkfield

The Bruce and Spruce Moose, Competitive:

  1. Kristyn Ferguson, Guelph
  2. Julie Scott, Guelph
  3. Tricia Robin, Bruce Peninsula
  4. Justin Peter
  5. Bill McIntyre, Carden

Green Snakes on the Plain, Competitive (Biodiversity focus)
bike, foot, canoe and car

  1. Susan Blayney, Fenelon Falls
  2. Chris Evans, Midhurst
  3. Ian Cook, Barrie
  4. Mike Ferguson
  5. Alex Mills

Pink Flamingos, Recreational:

By bike, car and foot

  1. Tanya Clark, Orillia
  2. Meagan Coughlin, Orillia
  3. Philip Careless, Carden
  4. Joelle Burnie, Orillia
  5. David Giannunzio, Orillia

Pedaling and Paddling for Nature, Recreational:

By bike, kayak, & foot.  

  1. Dorthea Hangaard, L. Couchiching East
  2. Aiesha Aggarwal, L. Couchiching West
  3. Toby Rowland, L. Couchiching North

Did You Know...

Eastern Meadowlarks need about 6 acres of grassland to establish a territory.

Protect their habitat

Did You Know...

Loggerhead Shrikes sit on low, exposed perches and eat smaller prey right away, but they are famous for impaling larger items on thorns or barbed wire to be eaten later.

Protect their habitat

Couch Potatoes, Recreational:

By bike, foot

  1. Mark Bisset, Orillia
  2. Claire Milligan, Guelph
  3. Josh Milligan, Guelph
  4. Andrea Ward, Barrie
  5. Jeff Ward, Barrie

Cou-Cou-CaChings, Recreational:

  1. Kathy Callahan, Carden
  2. Nathalie Rockhill, Carden
  3. Philip Hamilton, Carden
  4. Adam Thomson, Orillia
  5. Jean Humphries

Let’s Wing It:

  1. Kyra Howes, Midland
  2. Sarah Hodgkiss, London
  3. Cameron Curran, Guelph
  4. Ali Gamble, Guelph
  5. Andrew MacDonald, Peterborough

The Bobolinkers:

  1. Tom Wilson, Brechin
  2. Judy Mitchell-Wilson, Brechin
  3. Barb Glass, Woodville
  4. Pam Fulford, Brechin
  5. John Fulford, Brechin

The Mcdonald Clan:

  1. Diane and family, Oakville

The Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers:

  1. David Hawke, Oro Medonte
  2. Juliana Hawke, Oro Medonte
  3. Jamie Ross, Oro Medonte
  4. Anne Ross, Oro Medonte
  5. Gordon Ball, Orillia
  6. Jane Ball, Orillia

Did You Know...

Prairies and meadows provide a number of ecological services such as: - Improving the quality of air, soil, and water - Providing nectar and warm sunny places for pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies to feed

Protect an acre of alvar

The Fantastic Fledgings, Recreational:

  1. Melissa Bulgutch
  2. Reid
  3. Simon Francis
  4. Bella Francis 

The Trill Seekers, Recreational:

  1. John Challis, Washago
  2. Janice House
  3. Cathy Massig

Orillia Lagerheads, Recreational:

  1. Robert Vella, Orillia
  2. Katie Paveley, Orillia

The Loon Rangers, Recreational:

  1. Mark Stevenson, Toronto
  2. Glen Hodgson, Parry Sound
  3. Jeramie Jenkins, Sebright 
  4. Jon French, Port McNichol


Warblers Inc., Competitive:

  1. Justin Keszei, Long Point
  2. Evan Sinclair, Long Point
  3. Nathan Earle, Algoma District
  4. Andrew Keaveney, Long Point (or Etobicoke)

Team Crow Hill Nature Observer, Recreational:

  1. Leslie Dyment

Team Crow Hill Nature Observer, Recreational:

  1. Leslie Dyment

Warblers Inc., Competitive:

  1. Justin Keszei, Long Point
  2. Evan Sinclair, Long Point
  3. Nathan Earle, Algoma District
  4. Andrew Keaveney, Long Point (or Etobicoke)

Did You Know...

This is the 16th annual event, which has helped power critical conservation efforts of the alvar.

Sponsor a team