Feral Carts Return

It’s been a while since I’ve posted observations on the natural history of feral carts that I’ve found and photographed here on Vancouver Island—I moved my cart related posts over to a separate blog but it’s now time to bring them back home. No real reason to keep them separate and it’s just too time consuming to keep multiple blogs running.

For those interested in the growing phenomena of observing and photographing abandoned shopping carts that have gone feral you can head over to my Tumblr blog Feral Carts of North America for a quick fix—I typically just post photos of my latest sightings and a bit of brief text on that blog. Look for links to other cart enthusiasts over there as well.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve picked up a couple of new species in the Comox Valley, but I’ve also re-sighted a couple of the more common species that I’m readily familiar with and feel confident approaching close enough to photograph. The art of cart photography is challenging as they are unpredictable and may turn on you at any moment. Some species are aggressive, while others are much more docile. Caution is advised.

Crimson Wanderer

This species is in decline throughout Vancouver Island and the rest of Canada as southern species of cart push northward, displacing these “native” species from their traditional feeding grounds. Normally quite shy and timid, this is an excellent species for the beginning cart watcher to observe. Be a little more wary as the season moves into spring as the males become more aggressive during the breeding months of March and April.

Crimson Wanderer
A typical Crimson Wanderer – easily confused and often stymied when its forward path is blocked.

The overall bright red colouration and docile behaviour make this feral cart an easy one to identify. Look for solitary individuals or small herds, especially after breeding season when the males will gather in thoughtful groups, leaving the raising of the crimson wanderer nymphs to the females.  Typical habitat includes semi-industrial areas and strip malls.

Read more about this delightful species:

Green-throated Gray Wobbler

A second non-aggressive species, the Green-throated Gray Wobbler has already begun its preparation for the spring breeding season (typically in early April). At this time of year, solitary males can often be found gathering shiny objects that they use to build an elaborate nest in an attempt to win the favour of a female wobbler.

Green-throated Gray Wobbler
A male Green-throated Gray Wobbler preparing for an elaborate breeding display.

Once the structure is completed, male Green-throated Gray Wobblers roll their way down back alleys and lanes searching for females and creating a melodious warble as they go. Females attracted by the warble inspect the nest and, if it proves satisfactory, join the male in a complex and beautiful mating dance. But that is several months away.

Green-throated Gray Wobblers are fairly easy to identify, although there are some similar species. The overall gray colouration with green highlights and the distinctive green throat patch are diagnostic. The warble is also like no other cart, a melodic rising and falling of squeaks and rattles. Compare with the Black-throated Gray Wobbler which is much more elusive and difficult to find.

Further reading:

Keep an eye open for these two species of feral shopping cart where you live—they’re both fascinating creatures and worth the time and effort to find.

Julian Montague at The Stray Shopping Cart Project has developed a method of classifying stray carts that might be of interest to those wanting to learn more about species of carts in their own area called the The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Researchers should also consult Rock, Paper, Lizard for detailed species accounts of Lower Mainland/Vancouver carts. There are also a number of inspiring blogs on Tumblr devoted to shopping carts including: