Participants at the Carden Alvar dragonfly count (Photo by NCC)

Participants at the Carden Alvar dragonfly count (Photo by NCC)

Chasing Butterflies on the Carden Alvar

Sometimes the dragonflies are easier to find than you would think! Brittany Hope with a dragonfly, ON, Carden Alvar (Photo by NCC)

Sometimes the dragonflies are easier to find than you would think! Brittany Hope with a dragonfly, ON, Carden Alvar (Photo by NCC)

This July, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) staff, along with almost 50 volunteers, came out to the Carden Alvar, near Orillia, Ontario, to count butterflies and dragonflies.

Participants teamed up with experts to learn about butterfly and dragonfly identification, biology and conservation, and help collect valuable data about the wide array of butterflies and dragonflies found on the Carden Alvar.

Cherry-faced meadowhawk, Carden Alvar, ON (Photo by NCC)

Cherry-faced meadowhawk, Carden Alvar, ON (Photo by NCC)


Over the space of two days, 43 different butterfly species and 40 dragonfly species were spotted. More than 2,500 individuals were counted. Some of the dragonfly highlights included Halloween pennants and white-faced meadowhawks, which turned out in the hundreds. Volunteers saw more than 100 monarch butterflies, along with lots of common wood nymphs, pearl crescents and black swallowtails. Baltimore checkerspots were also seen in a new area of the alvar.

Monarch, Carden Alvar, ON (Photo by NCC)

Monarch, Carden Alvar, ON (Photo by NCC)

“Butterfly and dragonfly counts are an essential part of the stewardship work that NCC is doing in the Carden Alvar Natural Area,” said Brittany Hope, coordinator, conservation biology – central Ontario – west. “Long-term data helps us determine the ebbs and flows of populations of important indicator species. Among the most interesting data collected this year is that of the monarch butterfly. We recorded 100 monarchs during our count this year. This is up from the 20 counted in 2015 and the 50 counted in 2016. We are happy to be contributing to data that is helping track the status of this species of special concern in Ontario.”

Butterfly expert and naturalist Bob Bowles co-led the event with NCC. Bowles is the founder of the Carden Field Naturalists and the eastern Canada coordinator for the North American Butterfly Association, with over 20 years of butterfly and dragonfly counts in this area under his belt.

The Carden Alvar is an outstanding example of globally threatened alvar habitat, which is characterized by thin soils over limestone bedrock. The area’s alvar grasslands, shrublands, forests and wetlands are home to several rare and at-risk species, including loggerhead shrike and monarch.

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