Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Advance tickets for MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2016 will be available starting tomorrow night, April 21st at our Annual General Meeting/Member’s Night and as outlined below.

MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2016 will take place Thursday May 19, 2016 at Almonte Civitan Community Hall. The evening will feature a reception, banquet dinner, silent auction fundraiser for our Environmental Education Program, and a keynote presentation. Meet Jennifer Kingsley, an award-winning naturalist and journalist who will be our Spring Gathering 2016 guest speaker sharing her experiences from visits with people around the top of the world. After dinner, sit back and enjoy the stories and spectacular images of her presentation: “Meet the North: Life in the Arctic, One Introduction at a Time.”  Tickets ($40) will be available at the AGM/Member’s Night tomorrow night. Tickets will also be available in Almonte at Gilligallou Bird Store, in Carleton Place at The Blossom Shop, and in Perth at The Office. Or, to reserve your ticket/s for pick up at the venue on May 19, please contact MVFN’s Brenda Boyd at  or 613-256-2706All tickets must be purchased or reserved in advance by Friday, May 13.

REMINDER: Following the brief AGM tomorrow night, we have a wonderful pair of Wildlife Journals presentations planned, highlighting intriguing owls and then loons. Also, if you have not already renewed your MVFN membership for the April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 membership year, you may do so tomorrow night prior to the AGM. Elizabeth Veninga of the Membership Committee will be at the Membership table to answer your questions.

Thank you and we hope to see you there!

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A monarch of the insect variety ruled at the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) 2015 Spring Gathering at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall on May 21st. Over 130 people gathered for the 6th annual dinner, awards ceremony and presentation, Mysteries of the Monarch Butterfly.

The Almonte Civitan was a flourish of butterflies, spring wildflowers and brilliant ‘butterfly & spring’ colors of green, orange and yellow sprouting from sparkling glasses, thanks to the design inspiration of MVFN members Lucy and Neil Carleton. An interesting educational display on butterflies was created by Neil Carleton. The large group mingled and met with friends as much interest and excitement was generated by the Burnt Lands Alvar Silent Auction fundraiser, organized by Bob and Cheryl Smith and the Alvar Campaign committee. Amongst the items:  a basket loaded with everything needed to create a monarch butterfly garden with a young child! Thanks to the generosity of club members and local community gardeners, birders, artists, business owners, and of course successful bidders, the Burnt Lands Alvar fundraiser was a resounding success!


Following a delicious dinner by Civitan volunteers, awards presentations began with MVFN Past President Ken Allison as Master of Ceremonies. Friend and Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) co-board member, Mary Vandenhoff, presented an MVFN Champion for Nature award to Howard Clifford, MMLT President and co-steward of the ‘Cliffland’ nature preserve and Blueberry Mountain.  Almonte and District High School student Ruth Tamas was awarded the 2015 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Award, presented by Bursary Chair Mike Macpherson. Dedicated to a sustainable future, Tamas plans to study Environmental Engineering. An exciting announcement also took place when Barbara Chouinard of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club presented a $5000 cheque for MVFN’s Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign.

Guest speaker Jean Lauriault (Canadian Museum of Nature Associate) was enthusiastically introduced by Mary and Howard Robinson who were part of MVFN’s first ever international outing, led by Jean, to the overwintering grounds of the Monarch butterfly in Mexico.

In an inspired presentation, Jean told the story of the Monarch, the only butterfly to migrate; with the eastern North American ones migrating to Mexico and back each year. Now they are on their way back —the ‘great grandbutterfly’ descendants of the ones that left here last fall. Almost here now— out of Mexico they follow spring weather and healthy milkweeds through the Southern U.S. (where native milkweeds grow in early spring but then die off),   progressing northwards to our area. Once here several generations lasting only a few weeks are born, but in August those born will live for ~9 months. During that time the same individuals seen here will fly to the mountains of Mexico using staging grounds such as Point Pelee to cross large lakes, live the winter in Mexico along with millions of others in very dense clusters in trees, and finally travel north out of Mexico, then breed and die. Still a mystery: how they manage the journey; is it an inherited behavior triggered by circadian clock, or is navigation via the sun, magnetic fields, etc.? Originally a tropical species, it is thought that 10,000 years ago the species came north as glaciers melted and they now must migrate. Also a mystery: why one location in Mexico, El Rosaria, is the choice overwintering ground, chosen first over others.

Between Monarchs and milkweeds, a delicate relationship exists. Eggs must be laid on only certain milkweed species; the only plants the caterpillar can eat. The adult chooses plants with enough, but not too much, toxic cardenolides (which is sequestered to make the Monarch toxic to prey); plants are evaluated carefully using receptors on the legs and antennae. Loss of wildflower habitat (nectar species for the adults) in the U.S. where millions of hectares are planted with corn and soybean for biofuels, pesticides such as the neonicotinoids,  loss of the critical milkweed hosts, threats to the integrity of overwintering grounds,  and climate change all threaten the Monarch. Efforts in the Southern U.S. to plant certain milkweed species are now known to backfire because unlike native milkweeds, some species do not die off and the population’s movement north and its subsequent migration (which keeps the population healthy and lowers diseases) may not take place. Protecting milkweed and preserving pesticide-free wildlife space here helps the butterfly.

Jean was thanked by former MVFN President Joyce Clinton and the evening wrapped up with door prizes and hidden chair-prizes of mixed milkweed seeds to be planted as food to help out the larvae of our favorite butterfly!

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This weeks’ featured item in the Burnt Lands Alvar Silent Auction Fundraiser is live music for your event:  by The Jimmy Tri-Tone Band.

The Burnt Lands Alvar Silent Auction will take place at MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2015, May 21, 2015 at the Almonte Civitan Hall. All proceeds will go to the Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign. Get ready to bid on this item if you have your ticket for this event. A recent list of other silent auction items which will be part of the auction is posted here. If you do not already have a ticket, unfortunately tickets are no longer available for this sold out  annual dinner, silent auction and keynote presentation. However, if you would like to make a donation to MVFN’s efforts to preserve the Burnt Lands Alvar from development, visit our donate now page for more information about the alvar.



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Details of silent auction fine art work items are below. Reserve bids apply for all. Bidding on these and other silent auction items will continue until close at MVFN’s May 21st Spring Gathering.

Jennifer Noxon

Bits and Pieces I

Acrylic on Canvas


Reserve Bid- $225.00

Mary Pal

Silent Secret, Cast in Stone


Reserve Bid- $100.00

Amelia Ah You

Memories of Summer II

Acrylic/Oil Pastel


Reserve Bid- $125.00

Stephen Brathwaite

Etched and Painted Glass Portrait

Customized piece done from your photography

Reserve Bid- $250.00

NOTE: Ticket deadline to reserve or purchase tickets for the May 21st Spring Gathering is Thursday, May 14, 2015.

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NOTE: check back here for an updated listing of all silent auction items and the featured silent auction item of the week.

Now that spring is FINALLY here, and summer’s just around the corner, you’ll want to make the most of the warm weather and the cool breezes, and all that our community has to offer.  How about doing that – as well as enjoying great food and company – and at the same time contributing to the preservation of a natural treasure, the Burnt Lands Alvar?

All you need to do is participate in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ 2015 Spring Gathering on Thursday, May 21 at the Almonte Civitan Hall, where you can enjoy a great meal, a fascinating talk by the evening’s keynote speaker, Jean Lauriault, an expert on the mysteries of Monarch butterflies, and – a silent auction.  All funds raised from this silent auction will go towards supporting MVFN’s efforts to preserve the Burnt Lands Alvar. Remember to purchase or reserve your tickets by Thursday, May 14!

Poppies photo Donaldson

What is on offer at this silent auction?  Paintings and art work galore – by Amelia Ah You, Jennifer Noxon, and Mary Pal, as well as a variety of other fine art creations with a nature theme.

What if you’re keen to explore the outdoors and learn about nature?  Well, you can bid on several amazing experiences – crewing on a sailboat, a nature tour, a day of birding in Prince Edward County, or a geological Alvar tour.  For other experiences closer to home, why not bid on a night of musical entertainment, a garden tour and lunch for six people, Spanish lessons, or bilingual home tutoring?

Perhaps there’s a special person in your life in need of some rest and relaxation?  What better treat than a biodynamic massage, a Reiki treatment, a massage treatment certificate, a special package from Soul Scents, or a sailboat excursion followed by a scrumptious lunch?

If you’re looking for ways to spruce up your abode, there will be something for that too in our silent auction!  A home-styling session, a garden consultation, a cubic yard of compost delivered to your home, or a monthly bouquet of fresh flowers are all sure to provide that extra oomph.

Although you can bid on a few pieces of silent auction fine art while they are displayed at Mill Street Books in Almonte (from May 12 to 20), bidding on these will continue on until the close of bidding during the May 21st Spring Gathering event. All other auction items are available for bidding at the MVFN Spring Gathering only. Watch the MVFN website and Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign FB page for an updated listing of all silent auction items, as well as our weekly featured silent auction item. Tickets ($40) for the 2015 Spring Gathering Dinner, Keynote Presentation and Silent Auction are available from Gilligallou Bird Store (Almonte); Reads Book Shop (CP) and The Office, Perth; or contact Brenda Boyd: or 613-256-2706 to reserve.

We hope to see you at our Spring Gathering, and out and about this summer, enjoying the fruits of your hard-earned bidding!


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