When is a Raven not a Raven? Learn from Field Naturalists’ next lecture

When is a Raven not a Raven? Learn from Field Naturalists’ next lecture

By Cathy Keddy

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) 2013-2014 public lecture series, Knowing and Caring Connect Us with Nature, continues April 17 with its final presentation, “When is a Raven not a Raven?”. Anyone who possesses a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature will enjoy these lectures. Parents, teachers, cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists, and seasoned field naturalists alike will find something to interest them as we explore Lanark County’s natural heritage and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.

The speaker at MVFN’s next meeting will be Dr. Jeff Skevington, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and an adjunct professor at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. Jeff is a taxonomist—someone who describes and classifies new species. Taxonomists classify and organize species in an orderly way which helps us to understand how they are related to one another. They also inform us about the key features of each species that help us identify them.

araripe Manakin photo Knudsen

An Araripe Manakin—a spectacular new bird species discovered in NE Brazil and described in 1998. We have described 1.2 million species of living things, but millions more await discovery and description, many even in our back yards (photo courtesy Ketil Knudsen)

Jeff will take us into his world to explore just what is involved with discovering and describing new species. From field work to microscopes to DNA sequencing, the study of taxonomy (the science of naming organisms) and its related discipline, phylogenetics (the science of reconstructing the events that have led to the distribution and diversity of species), have changed a lot since the days of Darwin or Linnaeus. Despite hundreds of years of history, there remains a lot to be discovered and sorted out.

Did you know that over 1500 species of new birds have been added to the world list in just the last 20 years. That is not all. The number of discoveries in other groups such as insects is several orders of magnitude larger!

Consider the local scale—our own gardens or acreage. Believe it or not, even here there are still new species to discover. All observers of nature are well-positioned to contribute as citizen-scientists to the study of systematics (the general science of working out the relationships among organisms).

Find out how you can get involved and perhaps even name a species yourself, or better yet, have one named after you! Come to MVFN’s next lecture, “When is a Raven not a Raven?”, where Dr. Skevington will divulge this secret, Thursday April 17, 7:30pm at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.





2014 Annual MVFN Early-Morning Birding

2014 Wednesday-morning 6 AM birding walks


photo by Howard Robinson on ’08 Fall Canoe 

Join MVFN birders to capture the first songs of spring!

PLEASE NOTE: the information below reflects changes made for the locations for the April 9 and April 23rd walks. These changes were announced by Cliff Bennett April 2 and were made because of persisting ice and snow conditions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Riverside Trail, Carleton Place (meet in front of arena).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lanark Conc. 12 to Taylor Lake (Meet at Union Hall)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Al Potvin’s trail, Carss Street, Almonte, by the river.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Howard and Mary Robinson’s property (meet at head of laneway, 2645 Tatlock Road, just before the village of Clayton)

All walks begin at 6:00 A.M. You do not need to register beforehand; just show up. 

For more information, please contact Cliff Bennett, 613-256-5013 or



Baillie Birdathon 2014

Time for the Baillie Birdathon 2014

March 20, 2014

Dear MVFN Members,

The annual Baillie Birdathon is organized by Bird Studies Canada (BSC) to support bird conservation programmes and also local nature clubs. The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist club is a participant in the Baillie Birdathon, with a portion of the funds raised coming back to our club. On behalf of Cliff and Lynda Bennett who will be going out to count birds, MVFN member Peggy McPhail will be coordinating this years’ 2014 BAILLIE BIRDATHON.

Baillie birdathon image

As many of you know, for the past 8 years Cliff and Lynda have gone out for a 24-hour period in May and identified as many bird species as possible. This year, they will count birds on May 23rd and 24th. You may choose to sponsor Cliff and Lynda for a set amount, or, for so much per species. They usually register 100 species in the 24 hour period.

Proceeds from the event go to Bird Studies Canada. Last year’s combined Baillie Birdathon proceeds from across Canada totalled over $221,000, and more than 88 conservation clubs received a portion of those proceeds, including the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ club. Our portion of the proceeds from this event is used to help support the MVFN Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund. Through this fund, MVFN awards bursaries every year to students who are continuing their post-secondary education in Environmental Studies. Your sponsorship would be most appreciated.

Sponsorship donations can be made several ways, as follows:

1. Quick and easy is on-line at the Bird Studies Canada site at the following link:


Just add your information and pledge amount. This will direct your pledge to Cliff and Lynda Bennett’s MVFN count.

2. Alternatively you may sign a pledge sheet at an MVFN function and pay in cash or by cheque.

3. If pledging by species, you may pay after the event has taken place (Peggy will contact you).

4. Alternatively, e-mail your pledge information to: and then Peggy will contact you.

Donations over $10 will receive an electronic receipt by email. For further information, please contact Peggy at the email address noted above.

Thank you in advance for your commitment to birding in support of bird research and conservation work and to our own MVFN Nature Bursary Award programme – your contribution makes a difference!

Peggy McPhail