Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley



Again, this season, thousands will take part in Audubon Christmas Bird counts (CBC’s) across the Americas. This sociable citizen science tradition began Christmas Day in 1900. Organized by conservation minded ornithologist Frank Chapman, people at 25 locations, including Toronto, Ontario took part in a “Christmas Bird Census” (instead of a hunt) to identify and record, as many birds as possible for the day. Thus, was founded one of the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation efforts. Bird Studies Canada and partners at the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on the data to monitor populations and guide conservation efforts.

Volunteers are needed for all three counts sponsored by MVFN in our local area. You can help by counting birds at your feeder or out and about by joining a field team. You do not need to be an expert but it helps to be familiar with local species. Field counters are placed in a field team led by an experienced birder. You will need a pair of binoculars. Also, residents with bird feeders within a count area can participate from home by recording visiting birds on count day. At the end of the day field and feeder counters gather to socialize at the “count-in” and share stories and refreshments. Registration information for a few local counts sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists is listed below.

For further information about Audubon Christmas Bird Counts visit

Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count

Saturday December 17. The count is centered on Rideau Ferry and includes Perth, most of Smith’s Falls, Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, and several conservation areas. Register with Alison Bentley at or 613-273-4428. Feeder counters contact Judy Buehler at or 613-264-8856. Full details of this count can be found in this press release by Alison Bentley.

Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count

Tuesday, December 27. 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. Contact Iain Wilkes at .  Feeder counters register with Georgina Doe at 613-257-2103. Further details can be found in the CP count press release here.

 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count

Wednesday, December 30. The count circle is centered on Watson’s Corners and includes Brightside to the north, Middleville to the east, most of Dalhousie Lake to the west, and south to within a km of Balderson. To register contact Marilyn Barnett at  or  613-259-2269. Feeder Counters register with Marj Montgomery before Christmas at  or 613-259-3078. Further details can be found in the Lanark Highlands CBC press release here.









Continue reading...

December 30, 2016

Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) have been around in the Western Hemisphere since the year 1900. Three count circles (7 1/2 mile radius) have been operating for decades in Lanark County and area including Carleton Place, Rideau Ferry and Pakenham.

A fourth circle, the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC), has been around for 12 years, since 2003. This year will be the thirteenth count. Designed to fill a large gap in Lanark County, the LHCBC, sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), is centred on Watson’s Corners. This count circle takes in Brightside to the north, most of Dalhousie Lake to the west, south to within a km of Balderson and east to include Middleville.  The Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count is always on December 30th and this year it falls on a Friday.

The Christmas Bird Count is conducted by interested birders who are formed into teams each with a group leader.  These avid birders comb the roads, trails and woodlots during the count day to record every bird seen or heard. The results are sent to Bird Studies Canada. This annual event produces a definitive census of our bird population across the entire Western Hemisphere and is used for many research and conservation programs designed to encourage the continuing health of our avian friends.

All persons interested in gathering data on our local bird population are invited to join in the count. Teams will be formed, each team having a knowledgeable birder. Each team will be assigned a count area and will spend the daylight hours from 8 a.m. counting every bird they see or hear. Many of us meet at the Lanark Landing for lunch on George Street in Lanark at noon to warm up and share stories before heading out for a few more hours of counting. At 3:30 or so, the birders gather at the Lanark Civitan Hall just outside Lanark Village along Pine Grove Road (called South Street in Lanark Village)to record their findings and enjoy hot refreshments and some tasty goodies and watch the final count numbers as they come in. This is a fun and important day as we keep track of and record our local bird populations for research purposes.

Residents in the count circle area who have active bird feeders may like to take part in the count as a feeder counter by spending a few hours documenting birds at their feeders. Feeder Counters must register with Feeder Coordinator, Marj Montgomery, before Christmas by email at or leave a message for her at 613-259-3078.  On December 30, the feeder watchers will count every bird coming in to their feeders or appearing in their yard and, by 2 p.m., preferably email your results to Marj or leave her a message.  These numbers will be totalled and added to the main count from the field observations.

Count coordinator is Marilyn Barnett. Howard Robinson enters all the data into our central data base. Complier of the data is Cliff Bennett. If you have not participated before and would like to register for the field count, please contact Marilyn preferably by e-mail at or call her at 613-259-2269.

Continue reading...

Our iconic common loons are now gathering upon our larger lakes in large rafts all across Canada, ready for take-off to the warmer south for the winter. Groups of up to sixty should be found now on the Big Mississippi Lake.

Many of these local loons were counted this summer, as breeding pairs and chicks were surveyed during the Mississippi Lake Loon Survey conducted by members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), in conjunction with the Mississippi Lakes Association (MLA). The Canadian Lakes Loon Surveys are conducted all across Canada by Bird Studies Canada.


MVFN observers were divided into four teams of two, and each team was supplied with an MLA boat driver. The teams paid three visits to the lakes, one in June, one in July and once more in August.

Team 1 consisted of Chris Baburek, Clayton, Anne Cameron, Carp and local driver Glen Moulton and they covered the Lower Lake. In June, they found three mated pair with three young chicks. In July, the same three pairs still had three chicks but, in August, one pair was found without chicks. The other two pairs seem to have moved further up the lake.

Team 2, consisting of David Garcia, Almonte; Chris Barlow, Blakeney; and local driver Ron Pollock, covered the Middle Lake. In June they listed three pairs of mated loons. Two pairs had a total of three chicks and one pair had none. In July, four pairs were counted, still with only three chicks. In August, two members were exchanged for Gloria Opzoomer and Paul Sprague, from the Balderson area. They counted five pairs of loons but no chicks accompanied the pairs. The chicks were either off on their own, not seen, or had been predated.

Team 3 had MVFN members Lynda Bennett, Clayton and Pat Enright, Blakeney. They were chauffeured by local boat driver Gregg Robinson and they covered “The Narrows.” In June, they counted two pair of adults, each with one chick; in July they found the same two pair, one with a chick and the other with no chicks. August yielded three pairs, each with one chick.

The Big Lake, by far the largest, was covered by Team 4, consisting of Cliff Bennett (count compiler) and Brenda Boyd, MVFN President, both from Clayton. Boat Driver was Rick Erskine from Innisville. In June, they found five pairs of loons and three singles, spread out over the lake. Of the pairs, two had one chick each and another had two chicks. No chicks were seen with the other two pairs. July’s count produced seven pairs. Two had two chicks each, one had one and four had no chicks. No singles were found, but in August the picture changed dramatically. Only three adults were found, and five juveniles, most on their own.


In summary, the maximum number of loons counted seems to total thirty-five adults, formed into seventeen pairs, with a total of eleven chicks. This was in July. In August, only seven chicks (now young, almost fully grown, juveniles) were found. This survival rate seems very low and could be attributed to predators such as pike, raccoons and maybe the pair of bald eagles which nested on Greig Island in the Big Lake, or a result of harassment from thoughtless or careless boat drivers. As human habitation overtakes more and more of the shoreline, loon nesting opportunities will diminish. Loon nesting platforms should be considered in certain discreet locations. Loon populations are a great indicator of a healthy lake.

Submitted by Cliff Bennett

Continue reading...

Paddle the creeks and bays of Mississippi Lake and take part in a “first of this kind for this area” citizen-science project. Working in conjunction with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA), we will take part in an Invasive Aquatic Species Survey.

Our goal is to canoe all seven creeks which flow into the lake, collect samples of five known aquatic invasive species and report back to the MVCA offices by 12:30 pm. We will deliver the samples and information we have gathered, have lunch and hear an analysis of our work.

Date: Saturday, July 9, 2016

Time:  8:30 am

Meeting place: We will meet at the MVCA offices building on Highway 7, Carleton Place, for donuts and coffee, orientation and reporting kits. We will need at least eight canoe/kayak groups.

Bring: You will need the usual required canoe safety equipment, water, lunch, a pen or pencil, sunscreen etc.

You must pre-register for this event. For information and to register, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613-256 5013 or . In case of foul weather, the paddle will take place on Sunday, July 10.

If you have a canoe and need a partner or, if you would like to partner with someone who has a canoe, please contact Cliff.

Continue reading...


MVFN Members:

Here is a good opportunity to get involved in some interesting and worthwhile citizen science this summer on a local project. MVFN, in conjunction with the Mississippi Lakes Association, has volunteered to conduct this year’s Bird Studies Canada Canadian Lakes Loon Survey” for Mississippi Lake.

The task involves pairs of volunteers making one, two or three visits to areas of Mississippi Lake, searching for loons and recording the findings. The visit times will be the last week in June, July and August. You can volunteer to do one, two or all three visits. Visits last up to two hrs. Maps and forms will be provided.

A motor boat and driver will be made available for each team. Each team will coordinate, with the boat driver, the preferred day, time, and location for launch.You will need binoculars and sun screen.

Please register with Rick Erskine at  or telephone 613-257-1397 and he will match you with a boat driver and lake location. For further instructions, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or   after June 15.

Continue reading...