Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Implications for the conservation of a declining aerial insectivore

Dr. Greg Mitchell,  research scientist with the Wildlife Research Division of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Canada, and adjunct research professor (Carleton University) will be guest speaker as our “When Things go Bump in the Night” series continues.


Our guest speaker is studying the habitat requirements of migratory species in human-dominated or working landscapes throughout southern Canada using field surveys, weather radar detection of biological entities, and citizen science data such as breeding bird surveys.

Dr. Mitchell will share his work on Bank Swallows (Riparia riparia), a threatened species in Ontario. His research team recently discovered, among other things, the “cryptic and broad-scale movements of bank swallows . . . in the early evening during the breeding season.”

The results of this fascinating research have revealed interesting insights into the effects of sunset and sunrise on movements of these aerial insectivores, as well as the importance of wetland roosting habitats during breeding season. Join us for Dr. Mitchell’s presentation: “Where Do Bank Swallows Go During Breeding When the Sun Sets?  Implications for conservation of a declining aerial insectivore.”




Dr. Mitchell’s presentation details:

Thursday November 16 /  7:30 PM / Almonte United Church 106 Elgin St. Almonte, ON

Doors to the social hall at Almonte United Church will open at 7 PM and the program gets underway at 7:30 PM. Refreshments are available throughout the evening and a discussion will follow the presentation. As always, the event is free for MVFN members and youth under 18; non-members fee at the door is $5; all are welcome. For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Gretta Bradley at

Press Release pdf: The Flight of the Bank Swallow

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Thursday October 19 / 7:30  PM / Almonte United Church Social Hall / Doors open 7 PM

On Thursday, October 19, 2017 we will host the second presentation of our 2017-18 series “When Things Go Bump in The Night.”

We will be treated to the expert environmental storytelling and insights of our special guest speaker, along with her photographic/videographic tour of two incredible “lands of the midnight sun”.  “Unforgettable Places: A Biologist’s Explorations of the Arctic and Antarctic” will be presented by biologist Dr. Shelley Ball.

photo Dr. Shelley Ball

Ball, an ecologist and population geneticist, photographer and passionate environmental communicator (including as a university professor of Biology and a September 2017 TEDx Ottawa speaker)  is the founder and president of Biosphere Environmental Education. The organization strives to make a positive impact by connecting people with nature, by “show[ing] them the earth’s incredible places, and [inspiring] them to protect these amazing places.”At the core of the approach is experiential learning and teaching the tools of environmental observation and communication, including photography and videography, writing and public speaking. The Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program sees youth undertake significant expeditions, to learn “in-place” in challenging places such as the arctic, thus being inspired to “care for the environment through travel, discovery, photography and video”.

“In December 2016, Shelley was one of 76 women from around the world selected to be part of the inaugural Homeward Bound Women in Science Leadership Expedition to Antarctica – the largest all-women’s expedition to the frozen continent.”

We hope you will decide to join us for what promises to be an excellent and very interesting presentation by Dr. Ball. Doors to the social hall at Almonte United Church (106 Elgin St., Almonte) will open at 7 PM and the program gets underway at 7:30 PM.  Refreshments are available throughout the evening and a discussion will follow the presentation. As always, the event is free for MVFN members and youth under 18; non-members fee at the door is $5; all are welcome.

For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at

Click here to open the October event press story pdf:  The Call of the Midnight Sun by Cheryl Morris-Putman

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Join MVFN as we begin our NEW Natural History series for 2017-2018. The theme for this year’s series is “When Things Go Bump in the Night

On September 21st at 7:30 PM we will host the first of these natural history presentations: “Chimney Swifts: The Threatened Species Sleeping in our Chimneys” with guest speaker educator and biologist Melanie Farquhar.

Our presenter has worked on research projects studying Ancient Murrelet populations in the Queen Charlotte Islands, recording Common Loon vocalizations in eastern Ontario, and recently Chimney Swifts and their roosting behaviour in Renfrew County.

Chimney Swifts are a delight to witness on a warm summer night at dusk as they return home in a swirling rapidly flying group and plummet one by one in “cigar-shaped” dives into their roost for the night. This species is currently in decline. How can citizen scientists help with the conservation of these birds? Melanie will share with us the natural history of this fascinating bird including new insights into their roosting behaviour and factors which may help mitigate their decline.

7:30 PM / Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. / Free for members. $5 for non-members / All welcome. Refreshments available / Doors open 7 PM

Read Press Release: Sunset Silhouettes by Cheryl Morris-Putman

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-submitted by Cheryl Morris-Putman for MVFN

On Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm., the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host a fascinating presentation, reflective of the theme “Wild Creature Close-Ups”. We will enter the mystical world of the Common Loon (Gavia immer), led by experienced naturalist and well-known educator from Lanark County, Cliff Bennett. His presentation is entitled “Loons and Human Interactions”. This event will take place in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, Ontario.

 How many of us have paused by the shore of a calm lake on a warm summer evening and had our hearts opened by the plaintive cry of a loon? We linger there, calmed by this sacred moment as the mist settles silently over the glassy surface of the moonlit water. We smile as that call is answered by the echoing laughter of another loon from somewhere across the dark lake. Such moments, poignant and inspiring, are gifts offered to us by our natural world . . .

The Common Loon is the official provincial bird of Ontario. The name derives from their rather awkward way of moving on land, resembling the gait of a bent-over penguin. The Icelandic word “lomr” and the Swedish word “lom”, from which the term “loon” derives, both refer to “a clumsy walk”. In water however, the loon is a powerful swimmer and diver, allowing this aquatic bird to chase down its main food source—small fish.

Cliff’s vast knowledge and insights will allow us to explore the world of loons, including their various habitats, their classic calls and habits. He will demonstrate how man’s intrusion into the natural world is threatening the existence of these beautiful birds.

In the second part of his presentation Cliff will outline the findings of the 2016 Mississippi Lake Loon Survey. In summary of this survey, Cliff writes: “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 MVFN, in conjunction with the Mississippi Lakes Association (MLA). MVFN observers were divided into four teams of two, and each team was supplied with an MLA boat driver. The teams made three visits to the lakes during the months of June, July, and August. The local loon survey is part of the Canadian Lakes Loon Surveys conducted across our country by Bird Studies Canada”. Dr. Doug Tozer, Ontario Program Scientist at Bird Studies Canada describes the purpose of Canadian Loons Surveys in his own words: “Through the Bird Studies Canada-Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, hundreds of citizen scientists each year help track the number of chicks that Common Loons produce as an indicator of the extent of acid rain, mercury pollution, and the associated health of our lakes, one of the most prized components of our wild spaces.”

Cliff Bennett is one of the founding members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and is the past-president of this organization. He has been the recipient of several regional, provincial and national awards for his work in the area of conservation. The MVFN Champion for Nature Award is most special to him because it was presented to him by his peers, the people who, in his words, “inspire him to continue doing the activities for which he received the award”. Cliff is an avid birder and canoeist. He is also one of the people responsible for the development of MVFN’s flagship Environmental Education Program (EEP). The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund was created in 2007 by Cliff’s many friends who wished to honour his contributions to the community and nature.

Please join us for this interesting and informative evening. The doors will be open at 7 pm. for those wishing to socialize until the start of the presentation.  Refreshments are available then and during the evening. A discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. There is no charge for MVFN members or youth 18 and under. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at .

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We are excited to announce our February natural history presentation by Peter B. Mills, B.Sc. B.Ed., biologist, writer, and artist/illustrator of a brand-new field guide Metamorphosis: Ontario’s Amphibians at all Stages of Development.

Peter Mills has worked professionally as a naturalist in Algonquin Park over the past nine years and is currently studying at-risk salamanders by using mapping technology to plot locations of different species and how they interact with one another. “Peter will be speaking about a two-year journey he undertook to write and illustrate a unique field guide dedicated to enhancing our knowledge of the critical, developmental first half of the lives of frogs, toads, and salamanders.”

Peter will be bringing copies of his book for sale at the meeting ($30 cash or cheque). Please see the event details below and at If you are interested in more information about the book by Mills, please visit the authors website at

Date: Thursday, February 16

Time: 7:30 pm (doors open 7 pm)

Place: Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte 

Admission is free for MVFN members. There is an admission fee of $5 for non-members. No charge for youth 18 and under. Refreshments are available from before and after the presentation. We always welcome new members.

We hope to see you there!

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