Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

January 10, 2010

Lanark’s Leaping Lizards at MVFN’s January Lecture 

 

In the photo above (left) a female five-lined skink tends her nest and nine eggs. Can you spot the charismatic five-lined skink in the photo above (right)? These seldom-seen lizards share Lanark County with us. Photos courtesy Briar Howes

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) public lecture series, Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People, continues January 20 with the fourth presentation, “Lanark’s Leaping Lizards.” You do not need to be an expert to enjoy these lectures—just bring your curiosity and appreciation for wild nature.

Did you know we share Lanark County with lizards? In this upcoming lecture, the biodiversity spotlight will shine on Ontario’s only lizard, the five-lined skink. From its orange chin to its electric-blue tail, this 20 cm long lizard is our most charismatic reptile. Even Little Orphan Annie would be excited to learn about this leaping lizard from Dr. Briar Howes. Skink ecologist Briar Howes completed her thesis work on the five-lined skink at Queens’ University and is currently ‘Species-at-Risk’ Biologist with Parks Canada.

In Canada, skinks are found only in Ontario. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population is distributed from Georgian Bay to the St. Lawrence River, along the band of Canadian Shield that connects Algonquin Park to the Adirondacks. Skinks are very active predators, well-adapted for darting quickly from place to place looking for insects, worms or other invertebrates. So though you may know they are amongst us, you may not have caught sight of their smooth and shiny bodies. You must know where to look! In our area, their preferred habitat is rocky outcrops in mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, where they seek refuge from the elements and predators in rock crevices and fissures.

Curious to learn more about this secretive species-at-risk in our midst—one that takes almost two years to mature, lays eggs which are carefully tended by the female, and which may autotomize its tail to escape predators? Dr. Howes will answer your questions at MVFN’s next lecture, “Lanark’s Leaping Lizards,” Thursday, January 20 at 7:30 p.m., Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.

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Colourful alpine vegetation below the kilometre-high peaks of the Mealy Mountains, Labrador

Press Release

November 5, 2010

Labrador’s Mealy Mountains… Make it Your Virtual Destination

by Cathy Keddy

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) public lecture series, Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People, continues November 18 with the third lecture, “Labrador’s Mealy Mountains… Canada’s Next National Park?”. You do not need to be an expert to enjoy these presentations—just bring your curiosity or appreciation for wild nature.

In this upcoming lecture, our coverage of biodiversity will expand to Labrador and the rugged Mealy Mountains, Canada’s latest proposed national park reserve. This vast 10,700 kilometre square wilderness area rises up more than one kilometre above Lake Melville, east of Goose Bay, and encompasses a stunning array of pristine landscapes, vegetation, and wildlife. It transitions dramatically from mountain tundra to a lush forested landscape, which descends gently toward the coast to meet the frigid waters of the Labrador Sea. Here one also finds, the wunderstrand, a spectacular 50-kilometre stretch of unbroken sandy beach recorded in Viking sagas of exploration along the Atlantic Coast.

MVFN is pleased to welcome Doug Harvey, Chief of New Park Proposals, Park Establishment Branch, Parks Canada, as our tour guide for the Mealy Mountains. He will tell us how a national park is born, let us in on where Parks Canada is now working to make new national parks, and also reveal why the Mealy Mountains are so special and what may be in the cards for their future.

Explore the spectacular landscape, flora and fauna of the Mealy Mountains with Doug Harvey in his presentation “Labrador’s Mealy Mountains… Canada’s Next National Park?” Thursday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m., at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.

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Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

October 8, 2010

Wild turkeys ‘Talk’ at next MVFN lecture

Bring your appetite for wild turkeys to the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) October lecture “Talking Turkey—It’s Wild” to be presented by MVFN’s Program Chair and biologist Cathy Keddy. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy MVFN’s monthly lecture series on natural history and biology held Thursday evenings in Almonte —just a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature.

Wild turkeys are native to North America and although they were not native locally, they are certainly here now and these large game birds are well known not only to hunters. Wild turkey ‘rafters’ often made up of numerous individual birds can be seen at almost any time of the year in fields from the roadsides of Lanark County, from our forest homes, and even in urban areas of Almonte. In fact due to reintroductions, alterations in habitat, and warmer climate, wild turkeys are thriving in Ontario in areas from which they had been extirpated and in areas such as Lanark County that are outside the historic range for these birds.

What is there to learn about the wild turkey’s status, distribution and abundance in our area and unique aspects of their habitat, sensitivity to harsh winter, and behaviour? Bring all your turkey questions to the lecture.

Wild turkeys unlike their domestic relatives, are strong agile fliers and are said to be ‘wild and wary to the point of genius.’  These cautious creatures have good eyesight and feed during the day, thus being quite visible to people and prone to receiving erroneous accusations relating to crop damage.

Wild turkeys communicate with one another with yelps, purrs, cackles and gobbles, but what does this cacophony sound like? Find out at Cathy Keddy’s presentation. Enjoy an evening among friends, find out more about these interesting birds and meet Cathy’s mystery guest, a former resident of the Clayton area. The presentation “Talking Turkey—It’s Wild” takes place Thursday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m., at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.

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Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

September 1, 2010

Our Human Need for Wild Nature and Conserving its Incredible Diversity

by Cathy Keddy

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists public lecture series on natural history and biology is set to start again September 16th. There was record attendance at MVFN’s lecture series last year. Talks this year will once again be held at the Almonte United Church, and are open to the public as well as MVFN members. You do not need to be an expert to enjoy the presentations—just a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature. Cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists and seasoned field naturalists alike are invited to explore what lives in Lanark County and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.

The coming year marks the beginning of the United Nation’s ‘Decade of Biodiversity’, so the underlying theme of the series will be Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People. Lectures will include a wide range of topics from the psychological benefits of wild nature to the status of the wild turkey. We have species here that many people have never seen—such as red efts, whip-poor-wills, map turtles, lizards, and even egrets. Who knows what lurks in your favourite bit of local forest?

Our first lecture will be presented by Dr. Baylor Johnson, Professor of Philosophy and Director of outdoor studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Dr. Johnson has an interest in environmental philosophy and the causes and solutions to environmental problems and has written articles for journals such as Environmental Values and Rethinking Sustainability. The lecture will focus on how to amplify the benefits humans derive from time spent in wild lands, and ways to encourage everyone to similarly benefit. This is a very broad topic. Why do fall colours captivate us? Why do hunters take pleasure in the autumn deer and turkey hunts? Why do naturalists look forward to the autumn hawk migration? Why do artists so often find inspiration in our forests and lakes? Why did Jesus and the Buddha, among others, spend hours alone in the wilderness? What is clear is that while there are a great number of ways people appreciate nature, we all share a common interest in wild things and the need to experience a sense of wildness.

So enjoy an evening among friends, take in some spectacular photography, and prepare yourself for an autumn and winter of talks and field trips. Attend Dr. Johnson’s presentation “Our Human Need for Wild Nature and Conserving its Incredible Diversity” which kicks off MVFN’s new lecture series Thursday, September 16 at 7:30 p.m., at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.

Photo 1: MVFN member Edwin Rohr atop Blueberry Mountain, one of Lanark County’s spectacular wild lands. The first lecture in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ 2010-11 series will explore why we all share a common interest in wild things and a need to experience a sense of wildness. Photo courtesy Howard Robinson.

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