Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

New Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas App

There is an urgent need for volunteer citizen scientists of all levels to submit sightings of all reptile and amphibian species, not just the rare ones.

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“The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas is a citizen-science project that tracks distributions and spatial trends of reptiles and amphibians across the province over time. The over-arching goal is to increase the collective knowledge base of reptiles and amphibians. Equally important, however, is the engagement of non-scientists of all ages and abilities, in all parts of the province, in nature study and conservation.

Reptiles and amphibians are experiencing global declines of 20 and 40 percent respectively. In Ontario, 75 percent of reptiles and 35 percent of amphibians are listed as nationally and provincially at-risk.”

It is very helpful to report sightings:

We need volunteer citizen scientists of all levels to submit sightings of all reptile and amphibian species, not just the rare ones. Just in time for spring, we’re proud to announce the launch of our updated Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas App!

The new App!

There are several new features, including a field guide for the 48 species of reptiles and amphibians found in Ontario with colour photos, descriptions and calls that can be used to help you identify your sightings. If you have the previous version of the app, make sure to download the updated version to access all the new features! This project is supported by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, and the Environment Canada Habitat Stewardship Program. All illustrations provided are courtesy of the Toronto Zoo. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.

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 August 19, 2016

The Almonte Lagoon and Nature trail, across from Auld Kirk cemetery on Ramsay Concession 8, has been the recipient of several rare birds over the past few years. The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) Potvin Observation Tower provides  views across the lagoons.

On Saturday morning, August 13th, a Western bird, a juvenile male yellow-headed blackbird was spotted by noted Ottawa birder Mark Gawn, feeding on the exposed mudflats and hiding in the cattails. Immediately the signal went out over the birding networks and area birders began pouring in to get a glimpse of this rarity. At one point in the morning, a peregrine falcon zoomed in over the lagoon like a marauding spitfire and scared all of the shorebirds and the blackbird away, but within half an hour, the rare visitor returned, much to the delight of those who came to observe the bird and log the sighting in their records.

The yellow-headed blackbird has a range across the west from Lake Michigan, with a few coming into the Point Pelee area around Windsor. An inch larger than our most familiar red-winged blackbird, the adult male is all black with a brilliant yellow head and chest. Most distinctive is a white wing patch. The adult female has a more mottled yellow head and chest and does not show a wing patch.

The Almonte lagoon and Nature Trail sports an observation tower overlooking the fence and berm. The tower, named for its donor Al Potvin, was erected by MVFN several years ago and the nature trail leading to the tower is maintained regularly by MVFN members.

Having this excellent site and access trail in our area is of great value to local birders and others, and also has value for the local economy. In an economic study of the facility done in 2015 by MVFN member Cliff Bennett, a questionnaire was sent out all across Ontario through the ONTBIRDS network to gauge the dollar value of this magnetic draw of rare shorebirds and other birds coming in to rest and feed during migration. The results showed that during the year, 88 people had visited the lagoon, making a total of 265 visits. While in town, they spent over $4000 on gasoline, food and other shopping.  Today, the Lagoon and nature trail is regularly visited and reported on by the Ottawa birding network as well as local birders.

If you have not yet visited this facility, watch for MVFN’s series of September Open Houses at the Potvin Observation Tower. These will be held on four Wednesdays in September/October, details tba. From 3 to 5 P.M. on each of these days, an expert birder will be on site with a spotting scope to help you identify the lagoon’s visitors.

Submitted by Cliff Bennett, MVFN Past-President

 

 

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Feature photo credit Diana Troya

NOTE: The following combines information just released by the government of Ontario and Ontario Nature:

Ontario has just released its draft Pollinator Health Action Plan for public review on the Environmental Registry. They are seeking public feedback on a draft action plan to improve pollinator health and reduce pollinator losses.

Public comments may be made on the Environmental Registry: Number:  012-6393 until March 7, 2016

Pollinators, including honey bees, are essential to Ontario’s agricultural sector and contribute approximately $992 million worth of economic activity annually to the economy. The province became the first jurisdiction in North America to protect bees and other pollinators through new rules introduced on July 1, 2015, to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent by 2017.

Now, Ontario is looking for the public’s feedback on a proposed plan to improve pollinator health that will address:

  • Habitat and nutrition
  • Diseases, pests and genetics
  • Climate change and weather
  • Pesticide exposure.

The proposed plan will be posted on the Environmental Registry until March 7, 2016. Additionally, the public can also provide input on protecting pollinator health by completing a public survey.

Supporting pollinator health is part of the government’s plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario is home to more than 400 bee species, which are the most common pollinators.
  • Honey bees and some bumble bees are bred specifically for pollinating plants for food. A foraging honey bee will travel up to 3 km from the colony (and up to 10 km if food is scarce).
  • The province recently introduced a new Bee Mortality Production Insurance plan under the Agricultural Products Insurance Act to promote best management practices and allow farmers to manage their risk more effectively.

Additional Resources

The plan proposes actions to address four stress sources: habitat loss, disease, exposure to pesticides and climate change.

Read the Ontario government news release here:
https://news.ontario.ca/…/province-seeking-public-input-on-…

Ontario Nature is working with partners to assess the plan and provide recommendations. Learn more and stay informed by joining Ontario Nature’s Alert updates: http://www.ontarionature.org/prot…/campaigns/pollinators.php

The public is invited to comment on the draft Pollinator Health Action Plan on the Environmental Registry: Number 012-6393 until March 7, 2016

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The almost year-long efforts of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) to oppose a proposed small development at the southern edge of Burnt Lands Alvar on Golden Line Road in Ramsay Ward, came to a conclusion with an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on December 7, 2015. The MVFN alvar team fought for changes to the development right up to about a week before the hearing, when they withdrew from the hearing after exhausting all of their options.

Allison Alvar walk 2015, photo by Pauline Donaldson

Allison walk ram's head (1280x960)The County of  Lanark and the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Official Plans allow cluster-lot developments within the alvar  (even though it is a sensitive area and a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) if an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is conducted and steps are taken to mitigate environmental damage to the footprint of the development. As these steps had been shown in the original application, the proposed development project had been approved conditionally and could proceed. It was on these grounds that MVFN felt it could make an impact by opposing the project as planned. The MVFN alvar team strove to force many improvements to the EIS for the proposed development.

By opposing the development, MVFN has raised awareness of the public as to the existence of the Burnt Lands Alvar, its location, what an alvar is, and the unique and fragile ecosystems which make Burnt Lands Alvar an ecological treasure.  Also, MVFN’s opposition to this particular development has arguably influenced the local municipality to begin processes to change its Community Official Plan and accompanying Zoning By-Laws to ensure future similar development schemes cannot occur on regulated lands in Mississippi Mills.

A significant impact of MVFN’s alvar appeal was to have three additional on-site visits by ecologists and other experts take place, in late spring, summer and early autumn. These field studies added significantly to the developer’s previous EIS study, which had included only one cursory assessment of the Alvar ecology. Two other important concessions were achieved by the MVFN team, to place the roadway in the least damaging location, and the other to change the location of the turning circle, also to minimize impact. Other positive influences from the MVFN team can be seen throughout the final EIS report.

The Alvar OMB team, led by MVFN member Tineke Kuiper, included several qualified specialists and other supporting persons. Key to the effort was a team of lawyers from the Canadian Environment Law Association, which was provided free of costs to MVFN.

The other significant component of MVFN’s appeal effort was the MVFN fund-raising team, led by MVFN Chair of the Environmental Issues Committee Theresa Peluso. They conducted an amazing fund-raising campaign which allowed the MVFN Alvar team to hire a planner and two ecologists and pay other related costs. When final invoices are in, the MVFN Finance Committee will publish a financial statement.

Although MVFN had withdrawn their appeal prior to the hearing, MVFN President Cliff Bennett and a member of the lawyer team, attended the short OMB hearing as a professional courtesy. The final judgments of the OMB will be handed down by mid-January and a final MVFN report will be issued at that time. For any enquiries on MVFN’s involvement in this project, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613 256-5013 or

Photos by Pauline Donaldson were taken during a 2015 walk on Burnt Lands Alvar led by Ken Allison .

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