Welcome to the May e- Newsletter! As you will soon see, it will focus on the Annual Carden Challenge, a major fundraiser for stewardship in Carden.

I remember the first Carden Challenge. It was initially, a great disappointment for me, unable to participate, as I was just recovering from major surgery and could not handle the rigors of the 24 hour marathon! As I was bemoaning the fact, it occurred to me that maybe I could play a role in it from home. After discussion with my wife Bonnie, we invited each of the teams to come to our property during the day. It was a great success, as each team was able to add 4-5 species which they had not been able to acquire anywhere else. That invitation continued right up until last year when Covid 19 upset the tradition. We have been able to meet and enjoy the time with celebrity birders and Carden supporters. Many thousands of dollars have been raised over these past 15 years, thanks to the initiative of creating and organizing the annual event by Ron Reid and Janet Grand, and the entire Conservancy team! Hopefully next year we can make our property available again to all the teams.

As a very young boy, I had two pictures on my bedroom wall. On the left, a wonderful colour image of an Eastern Meadowlark, on the right a framed picture of one of my heroes, Captain Syl Apps' of the Toronto Maple Leafs, holding the Stanley cup. The pictures have long gone!

The picture of the Meadowlark has been replaced with a carving I did some years ago (pictured above).

There is still time to support a team in this year's Carden Challenge, if you haven't already done so- read on. And I am quite sure another team, the Maple Leafs, would appreciate your support too. Just maybe, this is the year! Leaf fans and Birders never give up hope of The Big Year!
David A. Homer
Board Member
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Protecting Nature for Future Generations
The land on which we operate is the territory of the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Wendat and Metis Peoples with whom we share the Upper Canada Treaties in the Orillia area. 
Photo: Non-breeding male Indigo Bunting by T. Clark
Striking a Balance
The fact that nature is imperative to our physical, emotional and mental health is nothing new. Add on the stress of the pandemic, and the loss of regular activities, and it’s clear just how critical wild natural places are to our communities. Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in the number of people visiting the Reserves.

Along with that increase come challenges. These are wild places first. The species who call these areas home are the priority. The Conservancy provides strategic trail and footpath access on over 10 Reserves as a secondary priority. We know people need nature. But what about the impact?

Over the course of the year, there have been thousands of people visiting the Reserves, especially Grant’s Woods Nature Reserve just outside of Orillia. For the most part, these nature lovers have a very low impact on the forest and species who live here.

But as the number of visitors increase, so does garbage on the trail, vandalism, people walking off the path (and crushing plants), and off leash dogs running through the forest. We even had someone notify us of an ATV that went through the trails! Compounded by the number of people – we have a problem. All of that is just at Grant’s Woods, which is one of over 50 Reserves that we help protect with supporters.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Most people who visit the Reserves have a deep respect for nature, and if you are new to the outdoors, Grant’s Woods is a great place to start. That’s why there are over 10 signs at the trailhead of Grant’s Woods and through the forest, at least seven of which ask people to keep their dog on a leash, respect the forest and support the Conservancy.

So where does that leave us? What do we do? Especially during a pandemic.

Protect Your Land Through Caring Stewardship
In 2020, we introduced the Landowner Stewardship Program. By working with trained staff, landowners are able to preserve the environmental values of their property through long-term stewardship projects, tailored to their environmental goals. We provide training on how to monitor species, resources, and best management practices that give landowners the skills and knowledge to protect their land's habitats and the species it supports. 

Photo: Evelyn Frantzke & Robert Williamson installing salamander boards on their property. Photo by T. Rowland
Welcome Claire & Ryan!
Claire and Ryan pulling garlic mustard at The Church Woods on their first day. Photo: D. Hangaard
Claire Buchanan and Ryan Lamoureux are both part of the Canadian Conservation Corps program and will be working with us for the spring and summer. They will be joining the stewardship team and helping with trail maintenance, invasive species removal, setting up the Monarch Monitoring program and more.

They have had quite the adventures so far and spent their first day pulling garlic mustard in the pouring rain at The Church Woods. Despite the hot afternoons, swarms of mosquitoes, and ticks, they have been learning lots about stewardship and the unique species in the region. Some of their favourite sightings have been three Northern Map Turtles and a Barred Owl (a first for Claire!).

We are excited to have these two dedicated nature enthusiasts on our team this season!
Spring Notes from the Field

A little bit of wind doesn’t stop volunteers from getting out to monitor! One day at the beginning of April, Mary and Omer Mick headed out to Sweetwater Farm Nature Reserve to monitor for frogs. It got quite windy, and no frogs were heard. Mary and Omer have been dedicated volunteers since the very beginning. If you look closely, you can see that Omer is wearing one of the original Conservancy volunteer hats! Photo: A. Aggarwal
There is so much life in a vernal pool. In early April, the ice had finally melted off vernal pools, making them the perfect breeding spots for amphibians. Sue Deadman and Aiesha Aggarwal completed the first daytime frog monitoring survey at the Deadman Easement. They saw 1 Leopard Frog and found caddisfly larvae lumbering across the submerged sticks. They all had similar casings, made of pieces of woody debris and other organic matter “glued” together by the silk they create. Photo: A. Aggarwal
The Carden Challenge is happening this Friday & Saturday!

We are less than one day away from the Carden Challenge. 20 teams and 71 participants are taking part in this event and will soon be heading out to their neighbourhoods in search of as many species as possible for 24 hours.

Thank you to everyone who has made donations so far. We are just over halfway to hitting our $30,000 goal to drive local conservation efforts on the Carden Alvar. Can you help teams reach this goal? There is still time to make a donation!

Did you know the Carden Alvar...
  • Provides $10 million in ecosystem goods including carbon storage, the removal of air pollution and flood water storage (stat from NCC)
  • Is a buffer against sever weather events
  • Is home to hundreds of species, including the Loggerhead Shrike and Eastern Meadowlark (species at risk)
Who sings "Spring-of-the-Year"?
If you guessed Eastern Meadowlark, you are correct! The Eastern Meadowlark is a species at risk and local populations rely on the Carden Alvar for habitat. Did you know this species requires 6 acres of land for nesting?

When you support conservation efforts on the Carden Alvar, you are helping to protect critical habitat for this species!

Graphic: Janey Tuite
Events You'll Want to Add to Your Calendar
Virtual Book Clubs
In partnership with Manticore Books
Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder by Julia Zarankin
June 3rd at 7:00pm

Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee
June 18th at 2:00pm

Manticore Books will donate $5 of each $25 book purchase to the Conservancy.

Admission to the online event is free with the purchase of the book through Manticore Books.
Passport to Nature: Cycling Sundial Creek
Learn about Sundial Creek and its important watershed role as you cycle along its nearby trails.

Ride 1
Saturday, July 3rd at 10:00am

Ride 2
Saturday, July 3rd at 1:00pm

Photo: T. Clark
Outdoor Art Show
Kerslake Pottery
June 19th-20th at 10:00am-4:30pm rain or shine
3270 Line 10 N Oro-medonte L0L 1T0

Kerslake Pottery will be donating 40% of all sales this year to the Couchiching Conservancy to support the valuable work that they do.
Phone: 705-326-1620
Mail: Box 704, Orillia, ON L3V 6K7
Office: 1485 Division Rd W, Orillia, ON L3V OX6
Charitable Registration #: 13972 5030 RR0001