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Tool Toting Naturalists Repair Potvin Observation Tower

By Neil Carleton

October 28, 2012

As nine, nimble naturalists hiked back to the 8th line before noon yesterday, it brought to mind the opening words of a nursery rhyme our children liked years ago for its alliteration. “One misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather …”. Although the forecast called for rain, it was a fine, cool morning for working out in the open. Not until we were all heading home for lunch did the precipitation start in any significant way.

The team of volunteers, all members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), assembled about 8:30 a.m. just a few hundred meters or so from the Auld Kirk Church, across from the cemetery. This is where you’ll find the entrance to the MVFN’S trail that goes along a cultivated field, and through an abandoned pioneer farm yard. It leads to a unique observation tower overlooking Almonte’s western sanitation lagoon, also known locally as ‘Lake Almonte’.

Bird enthusiasts from close to home and across the region have been visiting the lagoon site for years to catch a glimpse of many avian species on and around the water. A rare western sandpiper was spotted in 1974. Yesterday, the voices of hundreds and hundreds of landing and rising Canada geese echoed across the landscape.

With the generous donation of material from Al and the late Barbara Potvin, owners of Hilan Creative Playstructures, the three-level observation tower was erected by the MVFN in 1996.

MVFN volunteers Michael Macpherson and John Grierson have a low corner of the Potvin Observation Tower jacked up with a Simplex 19

The volunteer team arrived well prepared with wheelbarrows and a cart, shovels and a post hole digger, drills, rope, lumber, and a come-along to complete a variety of repairs. Put into service right away was a 1914 Simplex 15 ton railroad jack, model 19. With mechanical simplicity, a low corner that had slowly subsided over the years was easily raised, stabilized, and leveled. In the meantime, the other group was strengthening the structure’s bracing. New balusters were also added to the tower railings. It was indeed a case of many hands making light work.

MVFN volunteers l-r Tim Pullen, Gary Hanes, and Al Potvin prepare a come-along to level the observation tower for bracing

With the additional bracing installed, and new balusters added, MVFN volunteers posed for a group photo. (l-r) Michael Macpherson, Sheldon Scrivens, Gary Hanes, Bernhard Gesicki, Al Potvin, Tim Pullen, John Grierson. Cliff Bennett had to leave before the photo was taken to deliver meals on wheels.

During the year, Lanark County is home to some 200 different kinds of birds. About 130 migratory birds nest in the county, 32 more are permanent residents, and 35 species migrate through the area to nest in the north. With binoculars or a spotting scope, the MVFN’s Potvin Observation Tower is a good place to look for shorebirds, geese, ducks, herons, and grebes. If you visit, please leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos.

For a listing of another 31 good locations around Lanark County to look for birds, visit the website of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists  http://mvfn.ca/?p=621  ‘Bird Watching Locations in Lanark County’. The Al Potvin tower is listed as number 5. As Cliff Bennett notes in his introduction, birding has become a very popular activity for individuals and families alike. Whether driving slowly or walking along county roads, hiking on trails, exploring the forests, or peering across marshes, creeks, and rivers, there’s so much to see and hear.

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Our natural history talks are at 7:30 pm on the third Thursday in January, February, March, April,  September, October and November at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. in Almonte, Ontario. All are welcome to attend! Non-members $5. 

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