Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Tine Kuiper, Program Chair, MVFN
Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004

New Field Naturalists Theme: Gaining a Better Understanding of Biodiversity  

GeeseBiodiversity will be the theme of the upcoming Fall and Winter program of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). Biodiversity is a relatively new term, which refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources, including land based and aquatic ecosystems, and the ecosystems or communities in which they occur.

The concept of biodiversity represents the ways that life is organized and interacts on our planet. These interactions can take place on scales ranging from the smallest, at the level of genes, to organisms, ecosystems, and even to entire landscapes. Biodiversity is the key to ensuring the continuance of life on earth. It is also a fundamental requirement for adaptation and survival and continued evolution of species. As each of us gain a better understanding of biodiversity, we will be able to make better decisions, starting in our own backyards.

The first speaker in the series, on September 16, 2004, is Dr Charles M. Francis, Chief Migratory Birds, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada. In his talk “Biodiversity and Conservation”, Dr Francis will introduce the topic of biodiversity, considering its meaning and patterns at all scales, from local to global, from individuals within species to populations. He will then explore the implications of biodiversity from a conservation perspective, as well as the challenges related to protecting biodiversity in a world of increasing human populations and human activities. The talk will focus particularly on the speaker’s experience in working with birds in Canada and throughout the world, as well as with mammals in south-east Asia. The talk will be liberally illustrated with photographs, many drawn from the speaker’s own field work in Canada and south-east Asia.

Later in the series, on October 21, Mike Yee of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority will speak on Biodiversity of the Mississippi Watershed., and on November 18, Dr Brian Naylor, Ministery of Natural Resources, will talk about the Biodiversity of the Ontario Forest. The topic of biodiversity will be further explored in the new year, where we hope to discuss the role of factors, such as climate change, that may have an impact on biodiversity. Andrea Howard, of the Eastern Ontario Museum of Biodiversity will speak on Communicating the Issues of Biodiversity, and Dr. Bruce Falls, University of Toronto, will speak on Bird Song and Biodiversity. The last speaker in the series, Linda Pim of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, will speak on Planning for Biodiversity.

Mark your calendars for the third Thursday of each month, except December. If you are not yet a member of the MVFN, this may be a good time to join. Meetings take place at the Almonte United Church, at 7:30 pm. Non-members’ will be charged a $5.00 fee. For further information, please contact Cliff Bennett at 256-5013, or consult our web site:

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Press Release
Mississippi Vallery Field Naturalists
Submitted: 30 May 2004
Cliff Bennett

Fascinating Gray Jay Presentation At MVFN Gala

Gray JayEverything you ever want to know and then some, about the gray jay (A.K.A. Whiskey jack) of Algonquin Park fame, was the feature of a presentation by renowned Algonquin Park researcher Dan Strickland, at the MVFN fundraising Gala on Saturday evening, May 29.Held at the Carleton Place Canoe Club, the large crowd in attendance was fascinated with the detail of the topic presented . In addition to a wide variety of activities Dan Strickland was responsible for in the development of the modern Algonquin Park, he still found time to conduct thirty-five years of studies on this impossibly impish feathered character of the deep boreal forests.

As part of Dan Strickland’s studies, he spent time in China, Siberia and Scandinavia researching similar jays of the same family. A hallmark achievement was finding the first ever nesting of the Szechwan jay in a remote spruce forest in China. Three main themes of all of Dan’s jay species studied centred around seeking answers to three puzzling points about the bird.

One point was why the gray jay always started nesting in early February in the midst of winter, another was the actions of one dominant male juvenile bird which always chased his siblings away from their parents and the third aspect was the relationship between the gray jay and spruce forests. Dan concluded his presentation by showing compelling evidence that the spruce forests of the world are shrinking, due to logging and possible global warming. And, with the shrinking of the spruce habitat for the gray jay, the bird’s populations are also shrinking.

The speaker was introduced by host Jim Bendell, who outlined to the audience some of Dan Strickland’s many outstanding achievements over the years spent in Algonquin Park, including the development of the logging museum and the new visitor centre. MVFN member Rod Bhar thanked the speaker and presented him with an honourarium and a gift basket of local products.

The other important part of the Gala evening was the holding of a silent auction to raise funds for MVFN’s Environmental Education Projects Programme (EEPP). Newly elected MVFN President Michael MacPherson welcomed the members and guests to the event and MC Cliff Bennett conducted the auction and other proceedings. Mississippi Mills resident Joyce Clinton was the winner of the evening’s 50/50 draw and five door prizes were awarded. The auction yielded $3000 for the club’s programmes. MVFN wishes to thank the over ninety commercial and private donors for their contributions of items for the auctin and door prizes.

Other than the canoeing programme, this event concludes MVFN activities for the summer. Watch for announcements on the new fall and winter programmes and check out the MVFN website at for more information.

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Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by: Ian Baker
March 20, 2004

Bats A Very Fascinating Topic at MVFN Meeting  

Bat ImageOn Thursday March 18, Perth resident and long-time bat enthusiast, Jim Ronson presented an interesting talk on Bats at the popular monthly meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.

The speaker was introduced by MVFN member Ian Baker.

Ronson, who is the President of the Rideau Valley Field Naturalists, started the evening by sorting out myths and facts about bat-lore. His vivid description of the bats’ ability to use Echolocation to “see” their surroundings in the dark stimulated a lively discussion. The speaker indicated bats use this sonar-like talent to detect size, shape and texture of their prey. Jim also shared highlights of the Bat Conservation International video “Secret World of Bats”. The audience was entertained and enlightened about the many bat species from Flying Foxes in Australia, Fruit Bats in Mexico to Vampire Bats of South and Central Americas. Ronson talked about the need for public education, stating that bats are at risk primarily because people don’t understand how valuable they are.

Bats native to the Almonte area include the Little Brown bat, the Large Brown bat, the Red bat and the Eastern Pipistrell. While these little creatures are often difficult to differentiate due to their nocturnal habits and without close examination in the hand, Mr. Ronson pointed out some characteristics of flight pattern that can be helpful as well as tips on when and where to observe. Bats native to Ontario are largely insect eaters and will consume 1/2 their weight a day. They live 10 to 15 years, some to 30 years.

Jim Ronson concluded his presentation with a donation of a home-made Bat House. He described the simple and practical design and where best to locate. After the audience participated with many questions and personal experiences, the speaker was presented with a gift basket of local honey products, to the sounds of a hearty round of applause.

In other business, MVFN Director Cliff Bennett announced the upcoming Environmental Education Projects Programme fund-raiser in May. Look for Jim Ronson’s Bat-house at the Silent auction.

The next MVFN evening programme will be held Thursday, April 15 at the Almonte United Church on Elgin Street. The topic will be the Peregrine Falcon Release Program with guest speaker Gary Neilson of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

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Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by: Cliff Bennett
Feb. 20, 2004

Threatened Snake Topic at MVFN Meeting

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The largest snake in Canada, the Eastern black rat snake, is becoming scarce and is now on Ontario’s list of threatened species. This two metre long reptile was the topic of a presentation by Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) District Ecologist to the monthly meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), held in Almonte United Church, Thursday, Feb. 19. Mr. Thompson is Deputy Conservation Officer for the Kemptville District.

Introduced by MVFN host Patricia Matheson, Thompson thrilled the audience with tales of his life-long interest in snakes since he was two years old, running around the countryside chasing after his quarry in order to study their habits and habitat. Much of his adult life has been spent as a Provincial Park specialist enthralling children and adults on snakes, explaining facts and dispelling myths.

The Eastern black rat snake can still be found in this area, mostly in the Frontenac axis lands, west of Perth and south of highway 7. Programmes are currently underway to maintain and protect existing populations. A few small and diminishing colonies are still recorded in Southern Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie where recovery efforts are concentrating on maintaining and restoring lost habitat.

Shawn Thompson has spent the past twenty years of his life studying the Eastern black rat snake. His programme includes genetic studies and tagging with radio chips to follow their range of activities . Public education is key and working with land owners produces much assistance in protecting the population. Shawn asked those present to spread the word around to watch out for these critters on the roadways. “Break for snakes” is a constant slogan. After a vigorous question and answer period, he was thanked by Ms. Matheson and presented with a gift of local honey products.

Prior to the main speaker, MVFN Director Jim Bendell conducted an enthusiastic show and tell exercise in which members of the audience described their recent nature sightings and experiences. In other business, MVFN Director Cliff Bennett announced the awarding of a grant of $1000 from the Community Stewardship Council of Lanark County for the club’s Environmental Education Projects Programme. The next regular MVFN meeting will be held Thursday, March 18 and the topic will be all about bats.

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Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by MVFN member Jill McCubbin
October 17, 2003

Sharing the Earth with 200 million year old creatures

TurtleCo-existence (between people and turtles) was the subject of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ discussion at their monthly indoor event held at the Almonte United Church Hall on this past Thursday (Oct. 16). It was an excellent, informative and entertaining evening that included a presentation from turtle expert, Michele St. Cyr, from Turtle S.H.E.L.L. Tortue. Members of all ages were in attendance, listening attentively, and asking questions.

The event began with a National Film Board film presentation on video: Creatures of the Sun: a natural history of the painted turtle. This film, shot in Quebec, is an exploration of pond life that focuses on the life cycle of the painted turtle. It has a conservationist perspective and super footage of turtles-from hatchlings and reproduction, to life span and habitat. The Almonte library does not currently have this video in its collection, but perhaps with a little pressure…

Michele St. Cyr and the organization Turtle S.H.E.L.L. Tortue ( began a turtle crossing sign crusade back in 1999. The turtle crossing signs aim to educate motorists about where & when to look out for turtles crossing the road. The signs are yellow and diamond-shaped with a black turtle motif in the centre. Arrows show the direction of the crossing turtles, and the months they’re on the move are marked on the signs as well. These signs have been adopted by municipalities through the Ottawa region and are effectively aiding in the protection of turtles. Mississippi Mills supports this program and has a few signs within the municipality. The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists hope to co-ordinate an increase in the number of these signs in our local area. There are many unmarked areas where turtles regularly cross roadways near wetlands, swamps, and ponds in our county.

Ontario has populations of more species of turtles than any other province or territory. (According to St. Cyr: Newfoundland and PEI have none!). One small step toward increased turtle survival: Please avoid insecticides and pesticides used in commercial and household gardens. These cause deformities in turtles. We are lucky here in Lanark to provide the habitat for these turtles: common map, Blandings, common musk, painted, spotted, snapping, and wood. We need to act responsibly to protect our Triassic cousins.

Visit the Field Naturalists’ website at for more information about the club and about the exciting line-up of upcoming indoor and outdoor events. The next indoor event is Species at Risk on Thursday, November 20. Speaker: Michel G Vermette, from the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, at the Almonte United Church, 7:30 PM.

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