Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Birds report, MVFN Canonto Lake Paddle

NOTE: Watch the website and MVFN’s Facebook page for details of our next MVFN paddle, July 28, 2019.

Submitted by Howard Robinson, MVFN Birding Committee

On June 23, 2019 we canoed/kayaked Canonto Lake and birded by sight and sound from the water on a Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ outing, led by Cliff Bennett. There were 8 vessels, and 12 people in the party, but not all our time was spent birding.

Below is a list of bird species, and respective counts, that were seen or heard. The list has been submitted to eBird and shared with our MVFN birding account as an historical record.


Canonto Lake Paddle, June 23, 2019 photo H. Robinson

A faulty/deadly loon platform, Canonto Lake, observed on June 23 paddle. photo H. Robinson

eBird Checklist – 23 Jun 2019 – Canonto Lake, – 23 Species

8 Wood Duck

6 Mallard (4 of the 6 mallards were ducklings)

2 Sandhill Crane  (seen flying over the lake)

3 Ring-billed Gull

4 Common Loon

7 Great Blue Heron

4 Turkey Vulture

2 Belted Kingfisher

1 Northern Flicker

4 Red-eyed Vireo

3 Tree Swallow

3 Barn Swallow

2 Black-capped Chickadee

2 White-breasted Nuthatch

2 Hermit Thrush

3 American Robin

2 Chipping Sparrow

6 Song Sparrow

40 Red-winged Blackbird

6 Common Grackle

4 Ovenbird

1 Yellow Warbler

2 Scarlet Tanager

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Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count: the more the merrier, counting birds!

Thursday December 27, 2018

NOTE:  In addition to the December 27th Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count, several other counts are taking place in the local community. The 16th Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count takes place Sunday, December 30 and is centered on Watson’s Corners, with the circle taking in Brightside to the north, most of Dalhousie Lake to the west, south to within a kilometer of Balderson and east to include Middleville. Count organizer is Marilyn Barnett:    or 613-259-2269. Follow this link to the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club for further details of the Pakenham-Arnprior Christmas Bird Count which will take place December 26th.

Birders and nature enthusiasts in Carleton Place and surrounding areas can join citizen scientists throughout the Americas and participate in the Audubon Society’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the 119th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The Carleton Place CBC will be held this year on Thursday, December 27th and it is sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) and coordinated in Canada by Bird Studies Canada.  The count area is a 24 km circle centered on the bridge over the Mississippi River in Carleton Place, and includes Almonte, Appleton and Ashton.  Details for Christmas Bird Counts can be found on the Audubon website.

Thousands of individuals participate in counts throughout the Americas and beyond between December 14, 2018 and January 5, 2019. “Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation. Bird Studies Canada and its partner at the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations. Last year, during the 2017 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count, 60 volunteers spent the day observing birds resulting in the recording of over 5700 birds and 42 different species.

Cardinal. photo Susan Wilkes

The CBC tradition began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history.

On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the ‘side hunt,’ a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort.

The first Audubon bird count in Carleton Place took place in 1944!

Great Horned Owl. photo Howard Robinson

Join a team or count at your feeder

Volunteers are essential to the success of the CBC. You don’t need to be an expert but it helps to be familiar with local bird species.  In any case, participants in the field counts will be placed in a team led by an experienced birder and everyone is welcome. You will need a pair of binoculars.  As well residents with bird feeders within a count area can also help by listing all birds at your feeder or in your yard on the count day.

For more information or to register for the Carleton Place CBC on December 27th, please contact Iain Wilkes at 613-250-0722 or   If you are interested in helping out by counting birds at your feeder/yard, please register with Georgina Doe at 613- 257-2103.  At the end of the Carleton Place count day, field participants return to the Carleton Place Library, 101 Beckwith St., for the count-in as well as refreshments and snacks.

Best of the Season to All,

Iain Wilkes

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Records set for Pileated Woodpeckers, Barred Owls and others on cold Christmas Bird Count day

2018 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count

On December 27th, 38 hearty field and 20 feeder observers participated in the 68th Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count.  It was a cold day with sun in the morning and cloud in the afternoon.


Wild Turkeys on Rae Side Road, photo Howard Robinson


This years count is very close to our 10 year average with over 5400 individuals and 45 species.  Despite this we had a number of records set and/or tied for:

Mallards at 68

Wild Turkeys at 498 – keep setting a new record every year

Coopers Hawk 3 – tying the old record.  One lived in my backyard on count day enjoying the Starlings for snacks

Snowy Owls 3 – tied the old record, all close to Hwy 7

Barred Owls 3 – a new record

Pileated Woodpecker 18 – a new record

Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 – tied the old record

White-breasted Nuthatch 176 – a new record

Complete list at

Evening Grosbeak, photo Ken Allison

Kestrel, photo Michel Gauthier

We also had a hand full of Rough-Legged and Red-tailed Hawks, as well as 1 Kestral.  After several years of Juncos being at record levels their numbers collapsed.  Handfuls of Pine and Evening Grosbeaks as well as Redpolls and Siskins were seen.  Waxwings were back in abundance after few to none for several years, with 630 Bohemians and 188 Cedars seen.  As always the Bohemians maintained their coolness by wearing berets, smoking Gaulois and discussing Proust.

Bohemian Waxwings, photo Howard Robinson

Barred Owl, photo Ken Allison


At the end of the day the count in was conducted at the CP Library with refreshments and snacks provided by the MVFN social committee.

Happy Year’s End to all and best wishes for 2019.


Iain Wilkes

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Severe cold during Lanark Highlands Bird Count sets interesting records

On December 30th, 2017 the 15th year of the annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count, the total number of birds counted was 3419, lower than the highest count of 4276 in 2010. The number of different species found was 31, the lowest in all 15 years of the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count.

All across the province, lower numbers of birds were recorded, probably due to frigid temperatures, although the number of different species seen has come in quite high, almost normal. The average numbers of birds recorded on the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird count day is 3520.  Over the fifteen years of conducting the count, a total of seventy-eight different species have been recorded. The Lanark Highlands count is one of three local counts sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (other MVFN counts are the Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count an the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count which includes Almonte).

The somewhat low number of species counted this year can generally be attributed to the absence of waterfowl in the area owing to the severe cold weather and freeze-up of most water areas.   Another factor compared to previous years may be the lower number of observers available on count day. At least one couple had to decline on short notice owing to illness. Also, there may have been less walking overall due to cold temperatures.

We had two new species this year to set two new records:  two Lapland longspurs were seen and photographed as well as a winter wren. While blue jays (565) were most plentiful they did not break the record of 641 in 2013.   Dark-eyed Juncos (456) did however set a record compared with the 276 seen in 2013.

Aside from the bald eagles, there were only three other raptors counted this year, an almost low number for this count. The usual high for raptors is around thirty.

So far the count-week birds are a lonely Canada goose (1) seen on Dec 29th 2017, plus a Northern shrike (1) and a red-tailed hawk (1).

The official listing for this year’s count is as follows;

ruffed grouse (23); wild turkeys (262); bald eagles (10); golden eagle (1); red-tailed hawk (2); rock pigeon (138); mourning doves (190); barred owl (1); downy woodpecker (55); hairy woodpecker (73); pileated woodpecker (6); blue jay (565); crow (122); ravens (53); black-backed chickadees (518); red-breasted nuthatches (21); white-breasted nuthatches (56); brown creepers (2); winter wren (1); robins (5); starlings (91); cedar waxwing (1); tree sparrows (140); juncos (456); Lapland longspurs (2); snow buntings (185); cardinals (15); purple finch (9); common redpoll (12); pine siskins (35); goldfinch (369).

click here for pdf of detailed results for 2017 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count

Sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, the annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) takes place every December 30th, no matter the weather.  The field counters take to the roads and fields to register every bird seen or heard within a fifteen-kilometer radius centered on Watson’s Corners. The circle is divided into four equal sections each with a Section leader.  Special thanks to Ian Paige, Jeff Mills, Ramsey Hart, Lise Balthazar and Pip Winters who served as Section Leaders, and to Marj Montgomery who organizes the Feeder Count.  All the volunteer leaders, counters and coordinators are to be commended.

Special thanks to Howard Robinson for setting up his laptop and screen at the Lanark Civitan Club and entering the data so that everyone could see the results as they came in, and to Cliff Bennett for doing the final compilation of the results and his contribution throughout the count, not to mention his encouragement to area birders.

The Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count is one of over two thousand counts held across North and South America and is the largest citizen-scientist activity anywhere in the world. All records are stored with Bird Studies Canada and the Audubon Society and used for research and conservation programs. For further information please contact compiler Cliff Bennett at or count coordinator Marilyn Barnett at   If you know birds by sight or sound and would like to participate in next year’s count, please contact Marilyn to be added to her list for the December 30th, 2018 LHCBC.

by Cliff Bennett and Marilyn Barnett


Lapland longspur

Lapland longspur photographs from count day by M. Gauthier

Winter wren hiding in blue spruce on count day. photo H. Robinson

Clear skies and severe cold on the by-ways during the Lanark Highlands count




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Short-eared owl and other highlights of the 2017 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count

On December 27th, 38 brave souls braved the ongoing frigid temperatures (-25 to -29) with just enough breeze to make it a challenge to be outside counting birds as part of a field team for the 118th Audubon Christmas Bird Count in the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circle.  As well, 22 feeder observers participated at their homes. The Carleton Place count was one of three Audubon Christmas Bird Counts sponsored by MVFN within the local area (including the 2017 Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count and the 2017 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count).

The count recorded 40 different species, and 5379 individual birds were recorded.  These numbers are a good 10% below the averages.  The main reason being the continuing lack of northern birds in the area; there were no Bohemian Waxwings, Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks or Evening Grosbeaks seen on count day or during the count week.  As well the low temperatures convinced the thousands of geese in the area in late November to head south.  Also, fewer hawks were seen throughout the area with no Roughies being seen at all.

Despite this it was a great day with 2 new records set and 2 past records tied. The highlight was a Short-eared Owl which Howard and Mary Robinson found north of Carleton Place sunning itself on a step in the middle of the day. This was a first-time bird for our CBC.  As well a record number of Juncos were recorded (310).  In the last few years people have observed more Juncos at feeders and they stay longer, so maybe the CBC count is confirming this trend. In addition, one Rusty Blackbird was found in a farm yard by Ken Alison and Sophie Roy as well as one Red-bellied Woodpecker found by Arnie and Martha Simpson.  Both these birds tied the past records.

The highlight of the count was a short-eared Owl found sunning itself on a step in the middle of the day. photo Howard Robinson

Short-eared owl. photo Howard Robinson


Red-bellied woodpecker. photo Arnie Simpson


The end of the day count in took place at the Carleton Place Arena and the MVFN Social Committee provided delicious snacks and refreshments.  Many thanks to all the volunteers who made this another successful and enjoyable Christmas Bird Count.

A PDF of the complete results are available here.

Wishing all of you the best in 2018!



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