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Records fall at Carden Challenge


A new record was set at the 2011 Carden Challenge, a 24-hour birdwatching competition held outside Dalrymple this past weekend.

Team Ammodramus -- made up of Christopher Escott, Sandy Dobbyn, Burke Korol and Michael Runtz -- spotted 135 different species of birds at this year's competition and fundraiser held on behalf of the Couchiching Conservancy.

The out-of-town team set the bar significantly higher than the previous record of 126 sightings, set in 2009.

The event also raised more than $21,000 for the Couchiching Conservancy, another all-time high.

"Obviously we are delighted," said Ron Reid, event organizer. "This has definitely been a successful year for everyone involved."

Half of the money raised will go towards the Couchiching Conservancy, with the other half being used to purchase land for Bluebird Ranch -- a conservation area meant to protect the colourful thrush species whose numbers have been on the decline because of habitat destruction.

Taking place in the Carden Plain -- one of Canada's recognized Important Bird Areas -- the challenge saw teams of four compete to spot the most birds.

Working on the honour system -- "Birders are the honourable type," insisted Mark Bisset, executive director at Couchiching Conservancy -- teams identify species either by sight or by sounds, with at least individual members confirming the sighting for it to count.

First-time birder team The Dodo Birds, took home the Teeter- Ass Trophy for most enthusiastic participation.

"I think it is a great way to look at things you see everyday in a new light," said Kristie Virgoe, Dodo Birds member. "If you like the outdoors it's a nice way to spend the day."

Virgo and her team ended the day with 66 confirmed sightings and a new awareness of birds in the area.

"We spent a lot of the day with our nose in that book," she said, referring to the bird-species field guide they used. "But yeah, we'll definitely be back."

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