Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Press Story

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

February 22, 2011

Field Naturalists Brave Wild Winter Winds on Owl and Hawk Trek to Amherst Island

By Cliff Bennett

Blizzard white-outs and blistering Arctic winds didn’t deter over twenty members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and friends from their quest for hawks and owls on Amherst Island, west of Kingston, on Saturday Feb. 20. After car-pooling at Carleton Place, six vehicles arrived at the Amherst ferry moments before the craft left the terminal to punch its way through the ice to get to the island.

Led by MVFN member Cliff Bennett, the convoy of vehicles slowly circumnavigated the island. The first interesting find was well over one hundred mourning doves flying over the roadway from a scrubby area to visit a couple of bird feeders. Soon the group discovered its first flying raptor, a rough-legged hawk. Soon after, a light-phased red-tailed hawk stirred up into the wind to hover over a farm house.

A search for a single snowy owl, reported previously on the east end of the island, yielded nothing other than nearly frost-bitten cheeks and fingers. However, once the group drove to the south side of the island, conditions improved somewhat. Tipped off by another birder, we drove on in search of a rarity, a northern hawk owl (photo above). We found it easily, perched in a tree near a house, about twelve metres away from us. Everyone got a great view of the owl and dozens of photos were taken.

Hundreds of ducks, mostly golden eyes, were noted in the rolling, ice-filled waters along the shoreline. One single bufflehead duck and a pair of mallards were also recorded. A small flock of common mergansers flew over the ferry dock earlier in the day.

Our next exciting find was a male northern harrier, in field stubble eating a rodent, again only about twelve metres away from us. Harriers are migrants and this is a few weeks early for this beauty to be here. The group also logged a single juvenile trumpeter swan, preening itself in the midst of the small ice floes. Our final exceptional discovery was a pair of American kestrels, also an early arrival.

During the day’s adventure, the group logged twenty-one species of birds on the island including cardinal and snow buntings. The youngest member of the group, nine year old Jacob Cook of Perth, proved to have the sharpest eyes of all when he spotted a pair of adult bald eagles perched in the trees alongside the Indian River on Clayton Road while on the way home.

For further MVFN adventures and lectures, visit mvfn.ca.

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Winter in Nature Workshop

Date: Feb 26-27, 2011

Presented by Queen’s University Biological Station

Leader: Mark Andrew Conboy (Queen’s University Biological Station)

Winter is a fascinating time to get out and explore nature. This is a general natural history workshop that will touch on a multitude of topics including animal tracking, winter birds, observing flying squirrels and a special night visit to Kemptville Creek where over 100 Mudpuppies (large aquatic salamanders) may be seen in one visit. The breadth of exciting activities will ensure that participants will hardly notice the winter cold. The workshop will be spread over two days.

Please visit our website for all the details: http://www.queensu.ca/qubs/events/workshops/natureinwinter.html or email us: There are still a few spaces left but register soon if you want to ensure your spot.

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To all MVFN Members and friends,

Hawks and Owls of Amherst Island

Join me for a trip to Amherst Island, west of Kingston, to tour the island and especially Owl Woods, to find at least four different owl species including snowy owls plus several different hawks which ply this island rural property.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 19

Car pooling: Canadian Tire parking lot, Carleton Place for departure by 7:30 am to make the 9:30 ferry crossing. We should be home by 5:30 pm.

Bring: binoculars, bird book, lunch.

Cost: Ferry crossing per car

Please register with me beforehand,  or 613-256-5013.

Note: This event will be cancelled if there is unfavourable weather. If in doubt, call me Friday evening.

Cliff Bennett

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Annaul Winter Nature Outing

Saturday, February 12, 2011.

This year, we will explore the Lanark County Community Forest, Lavant Block, west of the hamlet of Lavant on County Road 16. This event is being hosted by the County of Lanark Community Forest Working Group. Several members of that group will be in attendance, including our County Forest Manager Brian Anderson. Here’s a chance for us to learn more about this property, explore its natural attributes and enjoy nature in winter. We plan to have a noon cook-out.

Car Pooling: East Lanark and area, meet at Union Hall for departure by 9:00 A.M. West Lanark, meet at Hopetown General Store for departure by 9:20 A.M.

Bring: Dress well, in layers, for existing weather; snowshoes or X/C skiis (there should be many snowmobile trails to walk on for part way); food to cook over the fire (Hint for cooking: something sealed in aluminum foil) ; binoculars; magnifying glass; extra socks and mitts; hot thermos, sun glasses;  nature notebook.

Please register before hand for this event by calling or emailing Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or

In case of bad weather or heavy snowfall, this event will be cancelled. If in doubt, please call Cliff before 8:30 A.M. on the day of the event.

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A Geotour of Lanark County

Saturday, July 17, 2010 —— 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

 Accompany Dr. Allan Donaldson on a geoheritage tour of our region to learn about stratigraphy, fossils, and the Canadian Shield.

 Meet: at Metcalfe Park, in Almonte at 9:00 a.m. for outing introduction and to carpool. Metcalf Park is at the bottom of the lower falls on the Mississippi River near the new Hydro development site in Almonte,  From Hwy 29, turn toward Almonte at traffic lights (Almonte St.) and park is at the bottom of the hill on your left before you reach Mill St. in Almonte and before crossing over the first bridge.

 Tour itinerary:

1. Drive directly to one of the Cavanagh quarries – Stratigraphy and fossils

2. Parking area, east side of Pakenham Bridge – Fossils and stratigraphy

3. Lunch (at Pakenham or en route to next stop)

4. Smith’s Falls – Building stone and memorial cairn – recognition of rocks, primary and secondary structures, and evaluation of likely source

5. Civitan Court in front of Crystal Palace, Perth – Display of rocks from the Precambrian Shield (a potential geoheritage park, complementary to Metcalfe Geoheritage Park); nearby local building stone; possible visit to Matheson House Museum

6. Return to Metcalfe Geoheritage Park, Almonte, 4:30 p.m.

 Bring: lunch, boots with steel toes (or your most protective footwear if you don’t have such boots) and safety hat (if you have one) for the quarry, sun hat, sunscreen, hand lens, binoculars, camera, your natural history notebook, insect repellant, and lots to drink

For further information please contact Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089

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