Carden Nature Festival

June 2014

We can’t seem to get enough of these fantastic nature festivals. Another favourite of ours is the Carden Nature Festival hosted by the Couchiching Nature Conservancy which is held on the first Saturday & Sunday in June.  We arrived at Balsam Lake Provincial Park on the Thursday so we had time to set up camp and get a full day of photography before the festival.

The Carden Nature Festival is truly a wonderful event that attracts some very amazing and passionate workshop leaders with incredible knowledge of the flora and fauna.

We attended three workshops; they were all very successful in their objective and led by amazing guides. In our Reptiles & Amphibians Workshop, we found Garter Snakes, Brown (DeKay) Snake and a Milk Snake. A variety of turtles and frogs were also found along our travels.

The Insects of the Alvar hike showed us a variety of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Along with our expert leader we netted some for close examination, but mostly observed them with binoculars from a nearby distance.

Our last workshop was led by a truly legendary nature expert who literally blew us away with his knowledge and passion for nature. He could name all the species we came across, including the scientific name and always included a fascinating story with each find. We used our vision, hearing, smelling and touching senses as he led us to the close and intimate side of nature.

The Carden Plains were buzzing with birders, amateur naturalists and nature photographers from the festival and other organizations. There were traffic jams on the rough and narrow country roads. And for good reason as this area is an amazing place to see rare species of birds, bugs, reptiles and flora.

It was so nice to see some of the rare birds. Although most could only be viewed from the road and were too far away to photograph, seeing them clearly with binoculars was very satisfying. We saw Loggerhead Shrikes, Eastern Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpiper, Eastern Bluebirds, Virginia Rail, American Bittern and a Black Tern.  Sparrow sightings included Vesper, Swamp, Grasshopper, Field and Savanah.

Even though we enjoyed the birds and wildlife of the Carden Plains, we also had great species right on our campsite. Our site had as many as three Common Grackle nests and this little community entertained us all weekend with their antics and calls, as they foraged and teamed up to protect their area from intruders and predators. If you spend some time with Grackles, it’s easy to see that they are very intelligent and social birds. Other site visitors included Cedar Waxwings, Red-eyed Vireos, Redstarts, Common Loons and a Mallard family. There was also a huge Mayfly eruption as thousands of them were emerging from the lake and filling the sky.

The Carden Plains is an important place that needs to be protected. Events like the Carden Nature Festival helps inform people of the beauty and fascination in nature and promotes the protection of endangered spaces.  It’s a great festival and we highly recommend it as an affordable educational and fun event for all those interested in the natural world. You are guaranteed to learn something new and you will leave with a smile and many fond memories.

The 2015 festival will, no doubt, be another great year full of educational and entertaining events. Click the link below to visit their page:



Eastern Phoebe  photo by Tony deGroot

Common Yellowthroat (male)   photo by Kathy deGroot

Cedar Waxwing  photo by Tony deGroot

Red-winged Blackbird (female)  photo by Tony deGroot

Eastern Bluebird (male)  photo by Kathy deGroot

Killdeer  photo by Kathy deGroot