Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

Education news

Young Naturalists Registration Open

MVFN’s Young Naturalists program (YN) is a nature-oriented program for nature loving young naturalists aged 6-11 years. YN meets one Saturday a month at beautiful Mill of Kintail Conservation Area to explore a different nature-themed topic each month. The young naturalists are provided with a nature journal, which we add pages to each month.

Each session includes an outdoor component and a take home craft/activity.

The dates and topics for the fall 2017 Saturday sessions are as follows:

September 16: Nature Exploration Day. A day to discover more about each other and the awesome habitats around the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area.

October 14: Fall and Leaves

November 4: Owls and, our favorite activity, Owl Pellet Dissection

December 2: Hibernation and Migration ​​

For each session there are two time slots to choose from. Participants attend one or the other time slot:

Early: 9 am – 10:45 am OR

Later: 11 am – 12:45 pm

REGISTRATION: Each session is limited to 15 participants. Cost is $60 per child and includes all four sessions.

If you are interested please email the Patty McLaughlin asap at to reserve your space.

Patty will then send you registration forms and answer questions etc.

Further information about the Young Naturalists program can be found at this link.

Tree study

Young Naturalists

 

Young Naturalists a

 

Calling all Naturalists to share

with the young (& young at heart) a sense of wonder

MMLT

Festival of the Wild Child

High Lonesome Nature Reserve

July 29th and 30th

Open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 29 & 30, the “Wild Child” festival is offered by the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) to give children and their families an opportunity to use all their senses to explore and experience nature.

MMLT is seeking volunteers passionate about nature to interact with the visitors at one of the “stations”: exploring life in the pond, finding and identifying rocks and fossils, wandering through the enchanting Stone Wall Arboretum, investigating the secrets of the soil under your feet, creating at the creativity station, or learning bush craft.  The volunteers need not be experts, only eager to help the lead of the station open windows into the many wonders of Nature, with interesting relevant information and tidbits provided as background for each station.

The Soundscaping station provides a special opportunity for anyone interested in the technology for audio interpretation of the natural world.  In addition to assisting and explaining the technology, Chad Clifford would train volunteers to operate the soundscaping equipment.

There are 4 volunteer time slots for each station:

10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Saturday, July 29

1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Saturday, July 29

10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Sunday, July 30

1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Sunday, July 30

If you wish to sign up for both time periods one day, please bring a lunch. We are seeking more than one volunteer at each site to support the lead.

To volunteer, please contact Mary Vandenhoff at or 1-613-278-2939. For further details, or to discuss station activities, the contact information for the lead person at each station is provided below.

Activity Stations at the MMLT “Festival of the Wild Child” July 29th and 30th

Welcome Centre:  Registration, explanation of festival program (morning time slot for this station starts at 9:30 AM)  ()

Beaver Pond, adjacent meadow:  Creativity Station, activities such as leaf and bark rubbings, etc.  Help Jacquie Christiani () with these or suggest other fun nature activities for little hands.

Tranquility Pond:  pond life; learn about beaver (they have just moved in to this pond).  Help Chris Baburek () catch and examine frogs, salamanders, leeches; some info on pond life and on the beaver (look at stumps where trees were recently chewed down by beavers).  At least two volunteers needed for each time slot.

Rockery at Spooky Marsh:  Assist Moses Goldenberg () and Deb Shea, looking for and identifying rocks; explanation of geology of area (granite/marble).  Scope for also discussing trees.

Stone Wall Arboretum:  Assist Anne Cameron ( ) with the identification of trees & shrubs; interesting tidbits about each.  Some explanation of the stone wall and why the settlers made it.

Joel’s Pond:  Soundscaping and tree identification; opportunity to be trained to work with soundscaping expert Chad Clifford (-md cf=k>Cr\"/",mi="7:CD6:;;FKA:<6?>@6<3GKC8J4EFKA:<6?>2I8:B95<6B4J34;;180?8A;=D>AKCHI8:B95<6B4J34;;180?8A;=D>A7L:H",o="";for(var j=0,l=mi.length;j )

Read about the event and directions to High Lonesome in the Pakenham Hills on the MMLT website at https://mmlt.ca/event/festival-of-the-wild-child-june-29-30/

 

MVFN Young Naturalist Registration NOW OPEN for 2017 Winter/Spring Sessions

Happy New Year Young Naturalists and Families of Young Naturalists!!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are enjoying all the snow we are getting this year! It is looking promising for our snowshoeing session in February.

Registration for the Winter/Spring 2017 Young Naturalist program for Young Naturalists age 6-11  is now open! 

The dates and topics for the sessions are:

Feb 4th: Snowshoeing while we learn about how insects survive winter. (snowshoes will be provided)

March 4th: Solar and Wind Power

April 1st: Water

May 6th: Flowers

June 3rd: We will conduct our own mini Bio Blitz!

The cost for all five sessions is $75.

Please let me know your interest through email to and which session you prefer, i.e. 9 am -10:45am or 11am- 12:45 pm and I will send you a registration form and waiver.

​​​​Payment and registration forms will be collected at the first session on Feb 4th. If you cannot attend the first session, please send payment and forms in advance to secure your spot.

The Young Naturalist program continues to be very popular, so if you know a Young Naturalist who would like to participate, please contact me as soon as possible to reserve a space. For further information about the program, send me an email or visit MVFN Young Naturalist Program.

We are looking forward to seeing many familiar and new faces in a few weeks!

Patty McLaughlin

 

 

Survivor: Winter Wildlife Edition—Outwit, Outlast, Outplay 

NOTE: This story was originally published in 2013; a report by Elizabeth Wiles & Pauline Donaldson of the February 2013 MVFN lecture presentation by Patty McLaughlin (nee Summers), Wild Bird Care Centre.

A delightful, clearly delivered talk to the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists by Patty Summers from the Wild Bird Centre, February 2013 described the varied and intriguing ways wildlife prepare to survive winter. How do they do it? Summers divides wildlife winter-survivor strategies into three categories – outwit, outlast and outplay, with outwit being by far the most widely employed strategy.

Outwitting winter, Summers explained, involves turning the tables, knowing the science of cold and of snow and cold water to find the secret, hidden warmth. Fresh snow can be up to 90-95% air and is a good insulator. In the ‘subnivean’ space 15 cm under the snow, small mammals such as mice and voles inhabit a relatively cozy 0 degrees C space between snow and ground. They are not alone there; in fact an entire foodchain inhabits the subnivean space: bacteria, fungus, springtails, spiders, shrews, weasels etc. Likewise aquatic ‘outwitters’ seek out the relative warmth of deep water zones way below the ice. Cooler water sinks and stabilizes at 4̊ C with no circulation and there it has a higher concentration of dissolved oxygen than surrounding layers. Fish here eat less, move less or, like carp, bury themselves in mud. Some aquatic plants have turions which survive in the 4 degrees C water at the bottom of ponds. These turions, or overwintering ‘buds’, sink, but will outwit winter to rise again in spring, and grow new plants. Dragon flies stay in the water in the nymph stage. Another outwit strategy is ‘Build a four season home’. Bees do this. They consume honey for energy and form tight shivering clusters which are 32 degrees C in the middle. Individual bees regularly rotate position, with bees near the centre trading places with bees on the periphery so there is a better chance for survival. Waste is excreted outside the cluster.

Not surprisingly there are challenges faced by the ‘outwitters’, and some will not survive. Life in the subnivean space is risky. The insulating capability of snow depends on its density. Freeze-thaw cycles compact snow, reducing its insulating ability and allowing dangerous levels of carbon dioxide to accumulate. There is also the threat of hunters of the subnivean space. Foxes can hear prey under the snow and can leap and pounce through. Grey owls can locate prey 2 feet under the snow and plunge through a snow crust that can hold 175 pounds!

While outwit involves taking advantage of subnivean and deep water spaces, or building a four-season home during freezing weather, outlast involves becoming dormant and conserving energy. Or, as Summers described it, “dig deep and stay there”. This is the way of the frog, toad, ant and worm. Earthworms survive 6 feet underground in a slimy membrane. Ants burrow into the soil or under tree bark. Others such as groundhogs, chipmunks, and woodland jumping mice hibernate below the frost. Frogs and salamanders, who can absorb oxygen (O2) and emit carbon dioxide (CO2) through their skin, go deep underwater, as do turtles, who can survive but must dig very deep. Another slogan of the outlast survivors is “It’s better with friends”. Snakes can’t dig but they gather by the hundreds in tree stumps, holes, or in cracks or caves among rocks and share their warmth. Ladybugs do the same under bark and rocks or the south side of a house.

Dormancy or hibernation is another key ‘outlaster’ strategy. In an extreme example, some frogs cryopreserve themselves. As ‘frogcsicles’ their heart is stopped but their organs stay ‘alive’ with no oxygen or nutrients. They survive fatal freezing damage by eliminating water from inside their cells; no ice is formed inside their cells because, instead of water, cells are high in glucose which does not freeze easily. Box turtles and many insects use a freeze-tolerant mechanism; the arctic woolly bear caterpillar may freeze and thaw seven times before finding conditions right for it to pupate, often a matter of years. Some animals have a unique super cooling ability; using high sugars or sugar alcohols and excreting waste, they can lower their body temperature below freezing without becoming a solid. Mourning cloaks, slugs, snails, gall wasp larvae do this but it is risky if they touch ice or if it gets too cold. Perennial plants outlast winter as well, storing nutrients in roots below the frost line. Trees reabsorb valuable nutrients from leaves before the leaves are shed and form buds before winter. Conifers form protects them from snow load and as their roots go past the frost line for water, valves can shut off if ice is present.

Just as there are risks to outwitting winter, there are also risks when attempting to outlast winter. Turtles hibernating under the mud with their hearts beating only once every few minutes are totally vulnerable if they did not dig deep enough. They will be eaten if found because they will not wake up.

A third winter survivor strategy is ‘outplaying’ winter. Dress for winter, remain active and ‘play’ all winter despite the harsh conditions. Birds increase feathers and down layers, lose bright colours, eat more and spend nights in torpor, with lowered metabolic rates and body temperature. They keep their feet warm with extra feathers, and a heat-exchange blood circulation system. Some birds will tuck alternate legs up inside their feathers to keep them from freezing. “Who needs boots?” says Summers. One well-dressed ‘outplayer’ among the winter survivors is the ptarmigan with feathers around its toes and ankles and projections off its feet that look like mittens. Mammals will increase fur, change color to a dull white fur which has more air pockets for better insulation. They will fatten up with brown fat. Some small mammals like chipmunks and flying squirrels are active in their burrows and often emerge on sunny days. Squirrels are active all winter, as are deer, that ‘yard’ in an area of good browsing and shallow snow. They keep the snow beaten down with their trampling for ease of movement.

Another game of the outplayers says Summers is “Cache and Seek”. Birds, mammals, squirrels will hide (cache) extra food to use in winter. Many birds cache food in the fall and find it later by smell and in some cases by their amazing memory. ‘Bird brains?’ Beavers live in their houses with food stored nearby and muskrats make and live in mounds of vegetation called ‘push-ups’. They also establish food caches and bundle together for warmth. Others, such as weasels continue to hunt. Some owls have lopsided ears which allow them to locate prey through triangulation of sound. As mentioned, a grey owl can locate prey under deep snow and plunge through to catch prey. Another strategy is ‘form an alliance’. Crows roost together. Flying squirrels must nest in groups together. Large ungulates will follow group paths through the deep snow. In cities birds flock to roost near warm buildings or chimneys.

Which of these strategies is best? If there was an award for the best winter survivor amongst wildlife, which animal would it go to? At the conclusion of her presentation, Patty Summers, told us that for her, the star of ‘winter survivor wildlife’ is a bird, the golden crowned kinglet. This tiny bird does not enter torpor. It maintains a normal body temperature which is 3̊ C higher than other birds. This ultimate outplayer of winter also manages to find three times its weight in food daily, and may raise two broods per year – a marvel of activity!

 

GODDARD, Peter Gilling

“Pete”

Left us suddenly and too early with dignity and love, while walking the autumn trails of Shaw Woods with the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and his brother, Allan.

Third son of his late parents Elizabeth Anne Goddard (Macdonald) and Raymond Gilling Goddard of Smiths Falls. Survived by brothers John (Debbie), Allan, David (Nancy), sister Jennifer (Grant), Barbara (and husband) Kathy, nephews Graeme (Emily), Geoffrey, nieces Naomi (Andrew), Keenan Anne (Adam), friend Caroline and especially the twinkles in his eyes, Zoey Elizabeth and Winston Gilling.

Pete served with dedication the Boy Scouts of Canada for over 40 years in various capacities of teaching, instruction, leading and managing. He instructed and lead outdoor activities at the Bill Mason Center and recently retired from active outdoor field management and instructing with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. He was an active and caring member of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa.

Dear Peter, so fondly missed by his loving family and so many friends and especially by brother Allan, room-mate, friend, brother.

In memory of Pete, please plant a tree, save one, contribute to his beliefs. He cared so much about the world in which we live.

A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, November 26 at 4:30 PM in First Unitarian Congregation, 30 Cleary Ave., Ottawa. Dress casual.

Funeral arrangements are entrusted to the care of the C. R. GAMBLE FUNERAL HOME & CHAPEL 127 Church Street, Almonte, Ontario. (613)256-3313

Condolences & Tributes: www.crgamble.com

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FULL-SIZED  CALENDAR WITH DETAILS

MVFN natural history talks:  7:30 pm on third Thursdays of Jan, Feb, March, April,  Sept, Oct, and Nov at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. Almonte ON. All welcome! Non-members $5. 

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