Birding on the Carden Alvar

Sleeping in always sounds so good as I anticipate a day off… but there is one thing that will make me eagerly jump out of bed at the crack of dawn on a weekend morning: birds.

On the gorgeous Saturday morning of the May long weekend, we struck out for the Carden Alvar, just north of Kirkfield, Ontario.  An alvar is an area of little to no soil on limestone bedrock, often flooded in the spring and facing drought conditions in the summer.  This rare habitat supports distinctive grassland species of plants which typically occur in the western prairies.  The Carden Alvar is an Important Bird Area, and one of my particular favourite places to visit.  I hope that you might get a sense of why from my photos below.

The Carden Alvar

First sighting of the morning – a Wilson’s Snipe.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Prairie-smoke, a wildflower so named for its fluffy seed heads, creating swaths of hazy pink where the plants are numerous

Brown Thrasher

Grasshopper Sparrow, named for its buzzy, insect-like call

Savannah Sparrow


Upland Sandpiper – I love this beautiful, big-eyed bird!

Upland Sandpiper

It was a great morning (we also saw Eastern Bluebirds, Meadowlarks, and Bobolinks), and the best trip yet for seeing the Upland Sandpiper.  In the space of five minutes we saw spotted three (and who knows how many more we passed, hidden in the long grass!).  You can read more about this bird on my own blog here

‘Til next month, happy birding!


About Rachel Lancashire, ON

Rachel Lancashire lives and birds in Ennismore, ON. Groundcovers nursery worker by day, she is a freelance writer and artist in her spare time. She has had articles about birds and wildlife published in Nature Friend, GreenPrints and The Banner. Her art, inspired by birds, can be found on her blog, MyWildMuses, and in her Etsy shop, Miss Sitta's Nest.
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4 Responses to Birding on the Carden Alvar

  1. Angie says:

    We haven’t been to Carden in a few years, your blog has made me “twitchy” to go back.

  2. It really is a great place to bird – my backyard is one of my favourite places to bird watch, in fact.
    I also write a monthly column on birds in a local newspaper called the Lakefield Herald; the second week of each month I do a species profile of a bird that is found in the area.

    Happy birding 🙂

  3. patricia f. morris says:

    Hi Rachel – I appreciated meeting the magnificent Upland Sandpiper! I live in Toronto and love to find, and perhaps (with help) identify some of the variety of birds near the edge of the lake.
    My son David and his partner recently became homeowners in Ennismore and I visit occasionally. David is becoming a keen birder in the new location.
    I am happy to hear that birding yields many viewings in your area. My binoculars are ready!
    Pat Morris

  4. Becky Racaniello (kittez) says:

    Lovely – – birds I’ve never seen before. Thanks for sharing~