Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Press Release

April 19, 2013

MVFN Spring Banquet: Celebrating 25 years!

NOTE: MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2013 tickets ($30), must be purchased in advance by Friday, May 10, 2013. Tickets may be purchased in Almonte at Gilligallou Bird (Heritage Court, Mill St.), in Carleton Place at Read’s Book Shop (Lansdowne Ave.), in Lanark at Lanark Living Realty (George St.) and in Perth at The Office (Wilson St. E.). Please contact MVFN’s Brenda Boyd (; 613.256. 2706 for further information or to reserve tickets.

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), founded in the spring of 1988, will celebrate their 25th anniversary at a banquet—their fourth annual Spring Gathering 2013. The evening will include a keynote presentation entitled, “Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Nurturing Our National Nature,” which will be given by Éric Hébert-Daly, National Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Clara Hughes, a glorious camp on GSL

The stunning landscape of proposed Thaydene Nene National Park—over 33,000 km2 of boreal and tundra landscape located around and beyond the shores of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. Photo Clara Hughes

Regardless of the nature of our passion, it seems we often fail to fully appreciate one accomplishment before moving on to the next task, and often we do not reflect sufficiently upon the path of past successes. MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2013 evening and talk by Hebert-Daly will be an opportunity to celebrate our spectacular national, provincial and territorial parks, and to reflect upon the protection of these natural treasures.

Looking back…who were the people, what were the events, and which places stand out in the history of Canada’s natural heritage conservation? Take our national parks, for example. Our first national park, Banff, was created in 1885 when tourism and commercialization were its key mandates. It was not until the National Parks Act of 1930 that our parks became places of preservation. Further, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of ecological integrity as the guiding principle for managing our national parks. These are but a few of the many milestones in Canada’s 128-year national park history. What other landmark events can you recall?

Looking ahead to 2038—the next 25 years—how should we proceed to nurture our national nature? Which elements of our natural heritage most need our attention and what have we learned about nurturing nature over the last quarter-century? There has been a major shift in our understanding of best practices for shaping our natural legacy as Éric will describe. How do we fit into this picture?

MVFN invites you to Spring Gathering 2013, to look back and look ahead along the path of nature conservation while enjoying a showcase of gorgeous examples of Canada’s natural beauty—including places many of us know only through photographs.

MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2013 will take place Thursday May 16, 2013 at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall, 500 Almonte St. (just west of Highway 29), Almonte. The reception will begin at 6:00 pm, and at 6:45 the banquet, followed by the presentation, will take place. Tickets ($30), must be purchased or reserved in advance by Friday, May 10. Tickets may be purchased in Almonte at Gilligallou Bird (Heritage Court, Mill St.), in Carleton Place at Read’s Book Shop (Lansdowne Ave.), in Lanark at Lanark Living Realty (George St.) and in Perth at The Office (Wilson St. E.). Please contact MVFN’s Brenda Boyd (; 613.256. 2706 for further information or to reserve tickets.

 

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Bluebirds Feature Award at MVFN’s Annual Spring Gathering

by Cliff Bennett

Every MVFN bluebird box you see in Lanark County has Al Potvin’s prints on it. Al was honoured at the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ annual Spring Gathering banquet, held Thursday, May 17 at the Civitan Club in Almonte. The 128 participants stood in applause as then MVFN President Joyce Clinton presented the Almonte native with the prestigious MVFN Champion for Nature Award. Al has been instrumental in organizing the construction of over 300 Peterson oval bluebird boxes, which are sold as a fundraiser for the club. He was also active over the years with several other MVFN environmentally- related activities and continues as an avid supporter of the club’s habitat creation projects.

In the photo below Al Potvin of Almonte receives a Champion for Nature Award from Joyce Clinton, President of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, at MVFN’s 2012 Spring Gathering banquet.

Another exciting event at the banquet was the unveiling of the Mike McPhail Memorial Bench. Commissioned by MVFN to honour the late Mr. McPhail, the bench will be installed at the Mill of Kintail where Mike contributed to various programs. Mr. McPhail was MVFN President for three years, during which time the club grew immensely in stature and importance.

Also on display during the evening was a table of activities of the newly-formed MVFN Young Naturalists program. A function of the MVFN Environmental Education Program, chaired by Brenda Boyd, the Young Naturalists are in their first full year of activities, lead by Patti Summers of the Wild Bird Care Center in Nepean. The group meets monthly at the Mill of Kintail. MC for the evening, Cliff Bennett, auctioned off a donated spotting scope with funds raised to be dedicated to the Young Naturalist program.

The main feature of this very successful evening was a presentation on the World of Woodpeckers by guest speaker Dan Schneider. Dan, a senior interpreter with the Grand River Conservation Authority, entertained the crowd with anecdotes and tales on the life of woodpeckers, backed up by an excellent slide show. Mr. Schneider was thanked by the new president, Ken Allison, and presented with a signed copy of Dr. Paul Keddy’s book, Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County.

Prior to the banquet festivities, the Annual General Meeting of the club was held. President Joyce Clinton outlined the highlights of the past year, noting substantial growth in MVFN membership. The election of officers resulted in the following Board of Directors for the coming year: President, Ken Allison; Vice President, Stephen Collie; Past President, Joyce Clinton; Secretary, Janet Fytche; Treasurer, Bob McCook; Publicity and Public Relations, Bob Volks; Program Chair, Cathy Keddy; Environmental Issues Chair, Theresa Pelusa; Environmental Education Program, Brenda Boyd.

Stay tuned for MVFN’s 2012-13 lecture series, Nature Beneath Our Feet, beginning in September. Summer activities can be found at www.mvfn.ca.

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MVFN Spring Banquet Celebrates the ‘World of Woodpeckers’

By Cathy Keddy, MVFN Program Chair

NOTE: Tickets for ‘World of Woodpeckers’ at MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2012 banquet evening must be purchased in advance by Friday, May 11. Tickets are $30 and will be available at the following locations:

Almonte: Gilligallou Bird (Heritage Court, Mill St.) 
Carleton Place: Read’s Book Shop (Lansdowne Ave.)
Lanark: Lanark Living Realty (George St.)
Pakenham: Don’s Meat Market (Main St.)
Perth: The Office (Wilson St. E.)

Tickets may also be reserved through MVFN’s Brenda Boyd (613) 256-2706,  and  picked up and paid for at the door. We ask that all those reserving tickets please commit to picking them up as MVFN must pay banquet costs for all reserved tickets!

 Above: This painting by John James Audubon, 1785-1851) shows a family
 of pileated woodpeckers. These are the largest woodpeckers in the forests of Lanark County.

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will hold their third annual Spring Gathering banquet May 17. The evening will feature a keynote presentation—World of Woodpeckers—by Dan Schneider, biologist, writer and senior interpreter with the Grand River Conservation Authority.

The world of woodpeckers is indeed large. But, as Woody Woodpecker would say, “ah-ha-ha—ha—ha!” MVFN’s Spring Gathering presentation will be limited to avian creatures with bills for tree drilling and drumming, and long sticky tongues for extracting food, but will not cover the British rugby team, or Woodpeckers from Space!

There are over 200 species in the woodpecker family, the Picidae. Spread around the globe, they include four main groups: piculets, wrynecks, sapsuckers, and true woodpeckers. Interestingly, though, none is found in Australia, New Zealand, or Madagascar. Why? Woodpeckers are uniquely specialized for their wood hammering habits. They hammer on trees at a rate of 15 to 20 times per second—a rate of fire nearly twice as fast as a sub-machine gun. Not only that, their brains are subjected to deceleration impact forces of up to 1500 g (g = force of gravity) with each blow. Consider that a football player would receive concussion injuries from a force only 1/100 as strong, survivable car crashes rarely exceed 100 g, and airplane black boxes are designed to survive only about 1,000 g! The design of woodpecker’s heads is inspiring the development of new shock-absorbing systems for electronics and humans.

There are many things about woodpeckers that bear further investigation beyond why they don’t end up with extreme headaches from hitting their heads against trees or blindness from the flying wood chips. For example, since woodpeckers’ bills are not very long, how do they fit their much longer tongues inside them? And what about their their zygodactyl feet?

MVFN invites you to Spring Gathering 2012 to expand your appreciation for this novel ornithological assembly beyond downy, hairy and pileated and to celebrate spring with a delicious banquet at a gathering with others who care about nature. Dan will share his love for these magnificent avian creatures and tell us more about their distinctive features, ecology, and conservation. He will give us a global tour, a continental perspectve, and tell us about species that live around us.

MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2012 will take place Thursday May 17, 2012 at Almonte Civitan Community Hall, 500 Almonte St. (just west of Highway 29), Almonte. The reception will begin at 6:00 pm, and at 6:45 the banquet followed by the presentation will take place. Tickets ($30), which must be purchased in advance by Friday, May 11, will be available in Almonte at Gilligallou Bird (Heritage Court, Mill St.), in Carleton Place at Read’s Book Shop (Lansdowne Ave.), in Lanark at Lanark Living Realty (George St.), in Pakenham at Don’s Meat Market (Main St.) and in Perth at The Office (Wilson St. E.). Please contact MVFN’s Brenda Boyd at (613) 256- 2706 for further information.

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by Pauline Donaldson

Press story pdf with photos

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) held their Spring Gathering 2011 and AGM May 19th at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall. The evening was a celebration of wild nature and a tribute to those who help champion it including keynote speaker Paul Keddy, and Mike McPhail (MVFN Champion for Nature for 2011). The over one hundred members of MVFN and the public in attendance were treated to a delicious banquet served by Civitan volunteers.

MVFN President Joyce Clinton presided over a short business meeting during which MVFN’s officers for the 2011-2012 year were elected. Returning to MVFN’s board of directors are Joyce Clinton, President; Janet McGinnis, Vice President; Mike McPhail, Past President; Janet Fytche, Secretary; Cathy Keddy, Program Chair; Brenda Boyd, Chair of Environmental Education; Bill Slade, Chair Environmental Issues; and Janet Snyder, Social Committee. Newly elected to the board of directors are Elisabeth DeSnaijer, MVFN Treasurer; Ken Allison, MVFN Chair Publicity; and Bob McCook, MVFN Director at Large.

Clinton reported on the year’s highlights, including a recent significant change to MVFN’s status. “I am pleased to announce that through the efforts of the board of directors and in particular Cathy Keddy and Howard Robinson, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists is now officially a charitable organization. To help the board gain a clearer focus for the future, we held a visioning meeting in August last year. Our financial pulse is strong and healthy. Our treasurer Howard Robinson will be stepping down this year. I want to thank Howard for all his hard work over the last 3 years. Referring to other highlights with implications for children and youth Clinton stated, “The Environmental Education committee (Chaired by Brenda Boyd) has also begun the process of developing a plan for an MVFN Young Naturalists Program. The project is still in the pilot project stage, but it is a very exciting step for our group.”

Christine and Peggy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A special part of the evening was presentation of the 2011 MVFN Champion for Nature Award, given to individuals or groups who make outstanding contributions to the natural world in the Mississippi Valley. “This year we are awarding the MVFN Champion for Nature Award to Mike McPhail” said Clinton. “Mike was born and raised in Almonte . . . a geologist by training and has many passions in the field of nature. As MVFN’s vice president for three years, then president for three, Mike continues to serve on MVFN’s board.” Without a doubt, many MVFN projects would not have taken place without the driving force of Mike McPhail, a quintessential organizer, natural public speaker and leader, and a man with a passion and curiosity for our natural world. To mention a few such projects: Mike researched and organized MVFN’s first bioblitz which was held on the Bell property in Mississippi Mills in September 2009. This bioblitz quickly become a model for other clubs. Another project close to Mike’s heart is MVFN’s Habitat Creation which has resulted in hundreds and hundreds of blue-bird houses for our feathered friends as well as duck nesting platforms and other habitat projects still in the works.

Mike was unable to attend the evening due to illness, however the award was accepted on Mike’s behalf by his wife Peggy McPhail and daughter Christine (photo above).

Following the banquet and business meeting, the audience settled in for local ecologist Dr. Paul Keddy’s presentation “Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places.” “These [wild] species don’t come to meetings and don’t vote, so it is easy for them to be overlooked. One of my tasks at this spring celebration is to talk on their behalf.” Keddy’s virtual tour gave the audience an opportunity to reconsider a few of Lanark County’s special natural places, or to learn about them for the first time. In Lanark County we live in the great northern deciduous forest region which also includes some relatively rare (globally) areas of deciduous forest over marble. In the county, as farm land returns to forest, we are seeing good signs, such as the return of fishers, natural predators of porcupines. We share the northern deciduous forest with Ontario’s only lizard species (the five-lined skink), but few of us realize just how many salamanders we share it with. ‘Salamander Central’, the forest is teeming with these seldom seem amphibians. In addition to the return of favorite birds, spring in the deciduous forest means that spring ephemerals are about. These include often fragile and beautiful perennial woodland plants, such as wild columbine. These plants must quickly sprout from the forest floor, grow and flower while the sun can still reach them through the leafless trees. Attached to the seeds of ephemeral species such as Trillium, Hepatica, and Dutchman’s breeches is a little oil-rich snack for ants. Attracted to this food, the ants spread the seeds, but colonization of new areas occurs only very slowly. When plants are lost from an area, re-colonization is very slow and not guaranteed, since, as Keddy pointed out, ants do not travel far and are not good at crossing highways. As soon as the leaves bud out on the trees the tree frogs arrive and summer begins again in the forest.

A second special place featured was the Innisville Wetland Complex, an area officially designated as an ANSI (Area of Natural or Scientific Interest) by the provincial government. It is a huge, significant wetland area and yet it is relatively unknown and unseen by visitors and locals alike. Why aren’t there interpretive signs and perhaps an access point to the Innisville Wetland Complex, and a boardwalk to allow people to safely enter and experience this important natural area?

A third local area discussed was the ‘Lanark Highlands Glacial Spillway Forest’, an area so named by Paul Keddy. This glacial spillway, near White Lake, is a remarkable area which was carved in the past by tremendous volumes of glacial meltwater which flowed past carrying and depositing loads of sand and gravel. Surprisingly, one corner of the spillway ‘valley’ actually overlaps part of Blueberry Mountain, but this is possible. As is often the case for unique areas such as this, a variety of interesting things are aggregated there. For example a rare southern tree species, the shagbark hickory has been found there, and in shady areas, walking fern (found in forests over marble) which spreads by producing new plants where the leaf tips touch the ground.

Keddy’s lecture was an excellent conclusion to MVFN’s 2010-2011 lecture series Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora and People. People connected with the presentation, the local natural areas featured and were educated and inspired. MVFN’s lecture program is on break now until September but the canoe and summer outing season is just getting started. The next MVFN summer walk takes place June 19th at the Purdon Fen and the next canoe outing is scheduled for July 10th. Please watch the MVFN member email network or consult mvfn.ca for further details on these outings.

 

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 Press Release April 24, 2011

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places

Take a walk on the wild side with the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) at MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2011 which will take place on Thursday, May 19 at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall. All are invited to enjoy a delicious banquet and keynote presentation “Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places” by internationally recognized ecologist and Lanark County resident Dr. Paul Keddy.

Dr. Keddy is well qualified to speak about the “wilder” features of our area that make it a unique and special place to live. He will speak on behalf of a natural world he is very passionate about: “Wild places are essential for the survival of other living beings, as well as for us. I will give you a tour of some of our wild places in Lanark County, and introduce a few of the special, wild species that live there. Driving along the highway, it is easy to forget that a forest or wetland over the next hill may have wild species that are every bit as amazing as those found in Africa or South America. The wilder parts of our county still harbour important wildlife species. Since these species don’t speak English, and don’t come to meetings, and don’t vote, it is easy for them to be overlooked. One of my tasks at this spring celebration is to talk on their behalf. I will have to be their representative.”

“The most important thing we can do for these species is to protect their homes, or speaking more precisely, their habitats. Cities, subdivisions, farmland and clear cuts are not places where most wild species can live. Among the remarkable species of Lanark County, a few of my personal favorites are the gray ratsnake, Blanding’s turtle, black-throated blue warbler, fishers, and gray tree frog. And let’s not forget the plants—some of these special plants include hackberry, walking fern, ginseng and Ram’s-head Lady-slipper. None of these will survive for future generations without the wild places in which they live. Although I will be emphasizing the importance of wild places for wild species, we should remember that it is not only wild species that need wild places. People do too. We have a deep need for wildness. We too need wild places, even if we sometimes have difficulty explaining why.”

When Dr. Keddy was younger he spent many hours canoeing on the Mississippi River and hiking in the surrounding forests. He is probably best known locally for his book Earth, Water Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County. Now in its second printing as a revised edition, this book is an easy-to-digest, delightful and informative sail through the surprising natural history and recent geological history of this area. “In my lifetime many of the places I once loved have been turned into subdivisions or carelessly logged. Species that I used to see are missing, or there are only a few individuals remaining where they were once abundant. We forget so soon. For example, people have already forgotten that Passenger Pigeons, now extinct, are recorded as having nested in Beckwith Township. Today species including chorus frogs, musk turtles, and Blanding’s turtles and even eels are in decline. Even populations of bull frogs and snapping turtles, which were once abundant along the Mississippi are far less common. Our challenge is to identify the causes of the declines and reverse them. The key in nearly all cases is to maintain the habitat that the species need.”

“It is not all bad news though. The county now has a scientifically justifiable and officially recognized list of significant wetlands and natural areas. The latter are called Areas of Natural Scientific Interest (ANSIs). I will show where these areas are in Lanark County and talk about a few of the biggest, including the Innisville Wetland Complex at the west end of Mississippi Lake and the Lanark Highlands Spillway Forest in the north part of the county. Some species are also recovering from past harm inflicted on them. Ospreys and bald eagles, for example, are now more common, since we took the step of banning DDT. Fishers and wolves, which are important wild predators, are recovering from near extermination. Areas like the Burnt Lands Alvar and the Purdon Orchid Bog are now officially protected.”

Several years ago Dr. Keddy returned to live in Lanark County but continues to do restoration related work for wild places elsewhere. In this talk though, he does not want to talk about alligators in the Everglades, or salmon in San Francisco. These sorts of species get lots of attention from residents of Florida and California. He wants to talk about our own wild species, the ones in our own county in particular, and the Ottawa Valley in general. These wild species are ambassadors for the wild habitats in which they live.

MVFN invites you to take a walk on the wild side and celebrate spring with others who care about wild places. Come to Spring Gathering 2011, Thursday May 19 at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall, 500 Almonte St. (just west of Highway 29), Almonte. A reception beginning at 6:00 pm will be followed by a banquet and Dr. Keddy’s presentation “Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places.” Tickets ($30) are available at Read’s Book Shop (130 Lansdowne Ave.) in Carleton Place, Nature Lover’s Bookshop (62 George St.) in Lanark and Mill Street Books  (52 Mill St.) in Almonte or by contacting MVFN’s Brenda Boyd (613-256-2706). For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at (613) 257-3089.

NOTE: Tickets must be purchased in advance by Friday May 13.

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