Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

May 13, 2017

Ken Allison

Five brave souls met at 7 AM at the Allison property on Wolf Grove Road.  There had been some rain during the night, but when we headed out the clouds were broken by small patches of blue sky. By about 9:30 it had started to rain so we went inside to warm up with a cup of tea while watching birds at the feeders.

There had been some bird migration overnight, but the number of spring migrants was still not up to normal levels. Most of the warblers were either very high up or singing in hemlock trees which made getting good views challenging. Seven species or warblers were eventually recorded, although we had good views of only Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green and Orange-crowned. The last species was probably the highlight of the trip, although we did have great looks at Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. A Sharp-shinned Hawk flew over carrying its breakfast in its talons and Spotted Sandpiper, Red-eyed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler and Northern Oriole were new for the year at our location. In the past 5 years, 102 species have been recorded at the Allison property and we found almost half of those during our walk this morning.

Early spring wildflowers were at their peak, but many were not fully open due to the damp weather.  We did see many white and red trilliums, spring beauties and trout lilies and were able to compare Dutchman’s-breeches and Squirrel Corn with adjacent clumps.

Photos and a complete bird list for the outing are included below.

Canada Goose
Mallard
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Spotted Sandpiper
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Ovenbird
Black-and-White Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch

 

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by Mary Robinson

Even though the forecast was bleak and calling for weather “good for ducks”, nine avid MVFN birders set out early Saturday morning, March 25, 2017 to Presqu’ile Provincial Park for the annual Waterfowl Weekend.  Fortunately, the late forecast changed, and except for a brief drizzle the weather cooperated wonderfully.

Migrating ducks and geese need time to rest and feed in the sheltered areas of the Park before they move on to more northern and western nesting grounds, while Mute Swans tend to breed in the Presqu’ile area.  Since most of the ice is now gone from Lake Ontario, the birds were sometimes far from shore and the four spotting scopes on the trip were very much in use.  Howard Robinson, our group leader, ensured that we had sufficient time in each of the nine favourite viewing stations, including time for a lunch break at the Lighthouse on Presqu’ile Point.

Approximately 1,300 Redheads were the most prevalent duck of the day, with about 260 Ring-necked Ducks and 200 Greater Scaup being the next most common duck sightings.  Aptly-named Gull Island, off Owen Point, was home to approximately 400 Ring-billed Gulls and 150 Herring Gulls.   A Downy Woodpecker, frozen in place for well over a minute on the side of a bird-feeder was an unusual sight for most of us, but it is known behaviour for this species when there is a predator about.  Excellent views of a mature Bald Eagle hunting low over the water at the Calf Pasture impressed us all.  Sure signs of spring were the song of a Song Sparrow, and the sighting of a Turkey Vulture soaring low over the town of Brighton.  Other highlights included Green-winged Teals, Long-tailed Ducks, one Great Black-backed Gull, and a raft of mixed ducks “escorting” a single Mute Swan, although in total we saw 32 Mute Swans.

At the end of the day, the total number of species seen collectively by the group was forty-seven, as listed below.  Some of us spotted birds on the car trip to and from Presqu’ile, but only those species exceptional to the Park are noted separately.  All in all, it was an excellent outing and well worth the trip, especially if one wants to hone  identification skills and knowledge of waterfowl.  Special thanks to Peter Blancher and Michel Gauthier for their expertise and advice with the species list.

Presqu’ile Provincial Park/nearby viewing stations

1    American Black Duck
2    American Crow
3    American Robin
4    American Wigeon
5    Bald Eagle
6    Black-capped Chickadee
7    Blue Jay
8    Bufflehead
9    Canada Goose
10  Canvasback
11  Common Goldeneye
12  Common Grackle
13  Common Merganser
14  Downy Woodpecker
15  Great Black-backed Gull
16  Great Blue Heron
17  Greater Scaup
18  Green-winged Teal
19  Hairy Woodpecker
20  Herring Gull
21  Hooded Merganser
22  House Sparrow
23  Lesser Scaup
24  Long-tailed duck
25  Mallard
26  Mourning Dove
27  Mute Swan
28  Northern Cardinal
29  Red-breasted Merganser
30  Red-breasted Nuthatch
31  Redhead
32  Red-winged Blackbird
33  Ring-billed Gull
34  Ring-necked Duck
35  Song Sparrow
36  White-breasted Nuthatch
37  White-winged Scoter
38  Wood Duck

En-route (to and from Brighton, ON)

39  American Kestrel

40  American Goldfinch

41  Common Raven

42  European Starling

43  Red-tailed Hawk

44  Rock pigeon

45  Rough-legged Hawk

46  Turkey Vulture

47  Wild Turkey

 

 

 

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Experience thousands of waterfowl plus many land birds which gather in Presqu’ile Bay and off the lighthouse point around the Park, getting ready to move inland to breed. There are usually over 20 different species of birds in and around the water.  Our expedition coincides with the 41st Annual Presqu’ile Waterfowl Weekend sponsored by the Friends of Presqui’ile Provincial Park.  

Date:  Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time/Car-pooling: Almonte and area, meet at Union Hall for departure by 7:30 a.m.; Perth area meet at Glen Tay Public School for departure by 8:00 a.m.

Bring: Lunch, hot beverage, binoculars, and spotting scope if you have one. Have extra clothes ready for cool, windy weather.

There is a $10.00/vehicle park entrance feePark passes will be honoured for entry.  We should be back home by about 6 p.m.

You must pre-register for this event.

For further information and to register for this outing, please contact Howard & Mary Robinson, 613-256-0817, or email

In case of severe weather, the trip will be cancelled. If in doubt, please call Howard or Mary before 7 a.m. to confirm.

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Explore the Owls of Amherst Island

Join our outing to Amherst Island, west of Kingston;  tour the island and look for several species of owl, including Barred owl, Northern Saw-whet, Boreal owl and Snowy owls, and some hawks and water birds.

When: Saturday, February 25, 2017

Destination: Amherst Island Ferry dock, for 9:30 A.M. sailing. Return sailing 3:00 P.M.

Bring: Binoculars, spotting scope (if you have one), lunch and hot thermos. Dress warmly for Lake Ontario winds are cold.

NOTE: Pre-registration is required.

For further information and to pre-register, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or

In case of unsuitable weather, this event will be cancelled.

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Birding Open Houses at Almonte Lagoons Observation Tower

Each autumn, tens of thousands of shorebirds migrate through our area from their nesting grounds in the high Arctic. Hundreds stop off to feed and refuel at the Almonte Lagoons behind the waste water treatment plant on Wolf Grove Road near Almonte.

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) have built and maintained an observation tower overlooking the lagoon, and a trail into the tower. For fifteen years, birders from all over the Province and beyond have made this prime location, for shorebirds and other species, one of their important viewing spots. The 200 m trail in to the tower also holds many fall warbler and sparrow species.

On four consecutive Wednesdays, September 7, 14, 21, and 28, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s Birding Committee invites you to walk in between 3 P.M. and 5 P.M and view the multitude of shore birds .

On each of these occasions, you will be greeted at the trail start by an MVFN member, who will point out directions to the tower. An expert birder with a spotting scope will be on the tower and will give all who attend an opportunity to learn the identity of the different birds and tell a bit about them. Birding experts will include Mike Jaques, Sept. 7; Ken Allison, Sept. 14 and 21; and Ray Holland, Sept. 28.

Directions to the trail and tower: from Almonte, take Wolf Grove Road (County Rd. 16) towards Middleville, 2 km. Turn north onto Ramsay Concession 8 at the Auld Kirk church and cemetery, and travel approximately 100 m to the trail head. The trail entrance is on Ramsay Concession  8, across the road from, and just past, the cemetery. A small yellow sign marks the entrance.

For further information contact Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or

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