Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

MVFN Nature Notebook Sightings 2018

Pine Grosbeak (More information.)

December 11, 2018

Lise Balthazar of Sheridan Rapids has had Evening Grosbeaks at her feeder since October. She reports that this morning “a few Pine Grosbeaks showed up”.

Evening Grosbeaks photo Lise Balthazar


Male Pine Grosbeak photo Lise Balthazar


Fall Migration


As the fall migration continues, some birds are still easily seen, while others still require careful observation and patience to catch sight of and to identify.

These beautiful mallards,  female and male birds, were in the Mississippi River, at a site easily seen from the Mississippi Riverwalk Trail in Almonte, and photographed by Michel Gauthier. More information.

Female (L) and male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in the Mississippi River at Almonte. photo Michel Gauthier


A Lincoln’s Sparrow noticed in a thicket; Michel Gauthier: “. . .  on the 1st of October, along the fence at the bird viewing shelter. It shows how birds can easily become invisible.” More information.

Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza linolnii) hides near the MVFN Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter, Mississippi Mills, ON photo M. Gauthier


Later in October even flocks of small birds, such as these Redpolls (Acanthis flammea), can be easily overlooked in leafy trees, but become obvious and easier to examine more closely as they settle in large groups on bare branches alongside the open field behind the MVFNs Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter near Almonte, ON. More information.

Redpolls, Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter, Almonte ON photo P. Donaldson, October 23, 2018


Sometimes a spotting scope or camera zoom helps when trying to identify birds, such as this Long-tailed Duck (More information.) and a Lesser Scaup (More information.) seen at the Almonte Lagoons and photographed from the Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter. Michel Gauthier: “The long-tailed duck is a rare sighting at the lagoon, although plentiful on the Ottawa River. This one is a stray. It hangs around with the 20 or so lesser scaups that are currently at the lagoon.”

Long-distance view of water birds at Almonte Lagoons,  Long-tailed duck (L) and Lesser Scaup (R), October 23, 2018, photo P. Donaldson from the MVFN Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter.


Trumpeter Swan

October 31, 2018

“This afternoon we heard the familiar old car horn calls from Clayton Lake . . .  we had a good sighting of a Trumpeter Swan family with three cygnets.  Looking further along the far shore we saw several groupings of Trumpeter Swans for a total of seventeen.  Maybe they will stick around for a few days.” More information.

Howard was able to snap these “long distance” photos of the swans.

Trumpeter Swans, Clayton Lake Oct 2018 photo H. Robinson


Trumpeter Family. Clayton Lake. photo H. Robinson


Evening Grosbeaks

October 23, 2018

“We’ve been very fortunate in the last couple of days to have a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks at our feeders. It is such a wonderful treat to see these magnificent birds and hear their soft calls!! I can only hope they stay for a while. The last time we saw them on our property was in June 2017. When I lived in Quebec, in the 80’s, I used to get about 100 of these beautiful birds in my backyard. Their noise would wake me up in the morning. Unfortunately, now, when we see a few of them, it’s a rare event.” More information.

Lise Balthazar, Sheridan Rapids, October 23, 2018

Female Evening Grosbeak photo Nat Capitanio


Male Evening Grosbeak photo Lise Balthazar


July 2018

Lise Balthazar (Sheridan Rapids) reports “I have a multitude of juveniles in my backyard: Grackles, Sapsuckers, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, and a family of Crows which has been very entertaining to watch, even though they wake me up every morning at 5 a.m. “

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. More information.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. photo Nat Capitanio


Crow More information.

Juvenile crows at bird bath. photo Nat Capitanio


Also, a Bobolink. Lise writes “I know that the Bobolink population is declining and it’s always a treat when we can spot one”. More information.

Bobolink. July 2018. photo Nat Capitanio


Green Heron

July 19, 2018

While out on a loon watch, Howard and Mary Robinson observed two separate Green Heron families doing “flight and tree climbing schools” with their young ones on an island in Clayton Lake.

Green Heron. photo Howard Robinson


Green Heron family. photo Howard Robinson



May 8, 2018

Lise Balthazar is seeing many spring birds near her home in Sheridan Rapids and in the area, including these swans. She sent in these beautiful pictures of the swans on a pond near Watsons Corners.

All photos by Nat Capitanio



Ruby-throated Hummingbird (More information.)

May 6, 2018

“. . . my first hummer [of the season] showed up this morning” – Lise Balthazar, Sheridan Rapids

Ruby-throated hummingbird. photo Lise Balthazar


Wild Turkey (More information.)

April 25, 2018

“The Tom Turkeys were strutting in their regalia while the hens seem more focused on feeding. See attached original photos taken through the window Wednesday morning, April 25, 2018.” Howard Robinson

Wild turkeys, Clayton ON. photo Howard Robinson


Hooded Mergansers

April 18, 2018

“Today, we spotted a Loon (our very first one!) on the Mississippi River, near the Iron Mine Road bridge. We also spotted a pair of Hooded Mergansers.” More information.

~Lise Balthazar, Sheridan Rapids

Male Hooded Merganser


Male and female Hooded Mergansers, Mississippi River, April 18, 2018. photos N. Capitanio

A loon was also seen. More information.



“Every year the Trumpeter Swans return to Lanark County and often some stop in Carleton Place.  This year was no exception when 2 Trumpeters arrived on the river at Centennial Park on Feb 23rd.  Michel Gauthier emailed me and I arrived with two new birders to Carleton Place, Miles and Riley.  For these 6 year-old birders it was their first views of a Trumpeter Swan.

We were joined by Michel as well as Mike Jaques for excellent views.  There could be more arrivals in March as they enjoy stopping along the river at this time of year.  They can also often be found at Lake Christie, on Rideau River near Smiths Falls and on McGowan Lake past Perth.”

Iain Wilkes, Carleton Place

Young Birders first viewing of Trumpeter Swans. photo S. Wilkes

Trumpeter Swans, Carleton Place 2018, photo M. Gauthier

Howard Robinson: “Mary and I were surprised and pleased to see a Pileated woodpecker feeding on Staghorn Sumac flowers on our property, Feb 23 2018.” More information.



Snowy Owl (More information.)

January 10, 2018

photo Nat Capitanio

photo Nat Capitanio


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Time to Renew Your Membership for 2019/20

The MVFN Membership Year is coming to a close on March 31, and it is time to renew or join for the 2019/2020 Membership Year which begins April 1.

Please find a Membership Form on the website under “MEMBERSHIP”. From there you may print, fill out, and send along with your membership dues as directed, or you could fill out the auto-fill membership form on-line and submit membership fees and/or donations using PayPal. (Unfortunately, we cannot accept e-transfer of funds at this time.)

Membership Application forms are available and payment accepted at monthly natural history talks which take place in Almonte in January, February, March, April, May and September, October and November.

If you have any questions about your membership status, please contact Membership Committee Chair Sylvia Miller at .

And please continue to visit our website, join us on Facebook, pick up a brochure at one of our events. General inquiries can be made by email to to learn more about what the Club is offering, or how to volunteer your time, knowledge, and ideas.

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Wild species to identify in this “first day of summer” MVFN Nature Note

MVFN NatureNotebook Sighting

Below are photos of some species to test your identification skills. They are photos of recent sightings, sent in by Lise Balthazar June 21, 2017: three moths, a snake, and an amphibian. Photos are by Nat Capitanio.

To record your identification of one or more, or to see what others say, check out our MVFN Facebook page for a link to this post. We hope you enjoy a summer of observing nature!

Moth #1; photo Nat Capitanio

Moth #1; photo Nat Capitanio

Moth #2; photo Nat Capitanio

Moth #2; photo Nat Capitanio

Moth #3; photo Nat Capitanio

Moth #3; photo Nat Capitanio

photo Nat Capitanio

photo Nat Capitanio

photo Nat Capitanio

photo Nat Capitanio


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Flooded fields of Lanark bring water birds

MVFN Nature Notebook Sighting

Extra Spring flooding is bringing reports of lots of interesting water birds on flooded fields in Lanark County.

This report and photos were sent in on May 10, 2017:

“Our back field is flooded, as it’s usually the case in the Spring, but this year it’s a bit more extensive.  It’s attracting several Mallards, Wood Ducks, Canada Geese, a Great Blue Heron and even 4 Greater Yellowlegs.”

Lise Balthazar

Sheridan Rapids

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

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Birding Costa Rica 2016: Irazu Volcano

Birding Costa Rica 2016: Irazu Volcano

PART VI: Rick’s and Iain’s excellent adventure!

NOTE: All photos by Rick Muise

Today is a big day. We are off to bird Irazu Volcano from the bottom to the top.  The volcanos in Costa Rica provide different environments and hence different species as you go up in elevation with the top providing home for several endemics found nowhere else.

We start very early with Lynette and Otto joining us and both local guides, Harry and Rene.  We drive through a lot of the best agricultural land around and no wonder given the beautiful volcanic soils.  Cabbages, coffee, corn and potatoes everywhere.   We see what are called “shade grown” coffee plantations, which just means the shade trees are there but are kept at maybe 3 feet taller than the coffee with no spreading branches so they don’t obstruct the sun.  Hmmm, makes you wonder about some of the brands we buy in Canada that advertise they are “shade grown”.

The first stop was a small bridge over a gorge of fragmented forest.  While dodging the occasional car, we see lots of Wilson’s Warblers, Mountain Elaenias and Acorn Woodpecker.  Next stop was another piece of roadside forest with Collared Redstart, Flame throated Warbler and Yellow Winged Vireo; all beautiful birds.  The Redstart works its way along a fence closer and closer to Rick while he watches a completely different bird.  We chased Wood Partridges through the forest but only heard them and had to move on.     Next was a farm with surrounding forests, at 9000 feet up.  There were lots of workers hand-hoeing the soil and using oxen pulled plows looking exactly like it is centuries ago.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker


Collard Redstart. Photo Rick Muise

Collard Redstart. Photo Rick Muise

Farming at 9000 feet

Farming at 9000 feet


We stop here for Quetzals with permission of the owner.  Around the field edges we find several Nightingale Thrushes singing their beautiful songs, two types of Silky Flycatchers and the Slaty Flowerpiercer.  Eventually patience pays off and the Quetzals are located in amongst tall trees; 2 Males, 1 Female and 1 juvenile.  Terrific looks.  We are at 9500 feet by this point and all of us were feeling the altitude but we take it easy.

Birding Irazu

Birding Irazu



Quetzal. photo Rick Muise

Quetzal. photo Rick Muise

Finally, to the top of the Irazu, 11,200 feet, where it was misty and cool.  Some people were forming a ring in the crater by holding up a long sheet of white cloth that had a diameter of maybe 250 feet.  Not sure what was the point but from the behavior it might have been a team building session or a new age ritual.  We ate at a picnic table while a scrawny cat begs for food as we watch the Volcano Juncos and Volcano Hummingbirds, two of the endemics we came for.   We walked the crater rim listening to Timberline Wrens but never seeing them; overhead were Chestnut-collared Swifts and again there are lots of Wilson’s Warblers.    The longer we are over 11,000 feet the quieter the 6 of us get, except for Harry who is still a non-stop stream of identifications.   Later we discover all of us are suffering bad headaches from the altitude.  Eventually a thunderstorm arrives and rain starts so we head back down.

At the top!

At the top!



Volcano Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird



Volcano Junco

Volcano Junco

The ride down the volcano is much faster, but the scary thing is the people who pass on blind curves.  On the way back to the lodge we stop at a large pond to see Bank, Cliff, Northern Rough-winged and Blue and White Swallows.  Lots of Spotted, and one Solitary Sandpiper.  Got back to the lodge exhausted after an 11-hour day but the numbers were great.

Species     233


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