Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
March 25, 2002
Submitted by Susan Fisher

Ed Lawrence is for the Birds

SunflowerEd Lawrence is for the Birds Gardening guru, Ed Lawrence, drew a crowd of nature lovers March 21, to hear details of how to grow a garden with birds in mind. The evening was organized by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists as part of its popular on-going series of nature presentations and field trips.

With the help of slides and a detailed handout, Mr. Lawrence offered a bonanza of tips on the best species of trees, shrubs and flowers guaranteed to appeal to our feathered friends. Pines are high on the list of bird havens. Their rough, dense foliage offers good nesting, protection from weather and predators, while the cones and seeds are good to eat. Sweet, sticky maple buds attract bugs in the spring, and bugs will bring the birds.

The horticultural expert also spoke of the importance of leaving dead trees to rot, if at all possible. As the wood disintegrates, it becomes home for many tasty insects, fungi and other organisms that are important to the functioning of an ecosystem. Imperfect foliage is a good sign! It means that insects and bugs are helping themselves because the leaves have not been sprayed with toxic pesticides.

How you arrange your garden can be important, too. Birds are more likely to visit a garden that is broken into curves and a diversity of heights, colours and species, rather than a straight hedgerow. Water is important. Just a simple birdbath will do. Even better­hang a 2-litre bottle with a pin-hole in the bottom over the birdbath. The slow drip-drip will be irrestible to many bird species.

Mr. Lawrence is perhaps best known as CBC radio’s popular gardening expert. He is well respected for his down-to-earth advice and his environmentally friendly solutions to gardening problems. From 1997 until last year, he oversaw the grounds and greenhouses for the six official residences in the National Capital Region, including that of the Prime Minister. He is now the horticultural specialist for the N.C.C.

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Feb. 22, 2002

Famous Birder Hoots on Owls to MVFN

OwlFamous Canadian and International birder Bruce Di Labio brought owls into the lives of over one hundred Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist members, friends and general public who attended the MVFN monthly meeting at the Almonte United Church, Thursday, Feb. 21. Bruce lives in Carp.

Di Labio’s presentation with slides took the audience through habitat descriptions, preferred locations for specific owl species and then the owls themselves, their description and nuances. Using tape recordings and verbal sounds, Bruce introduced each species’ various calls, from the wee sawhet to the large great horned owl. He pointed out the various seasonal times one is most likely to hear these raucous rodent retrievers.

Introduced by MVFN host Joel Byrne, Mr. Di Labio immediately showed that owling is not as easy as it seems. Being largely nocturnal, he noted owls have an uncanny habit of blending into any habitat during the day sleep period, making sighting very difficult and calling for much patience. In several slides used, finding the owl was a real challenge for the viewers even though it was right in front of them.

Looking first around trees for signs of “whitewash” and then for regurgitated owl pellets is the best indicator of an owl’s roosting tree. Bruce extolled the advantages of visiting Amhurst Island west of Kingston to get one of the best views of owls in Eastern Ontario. After numerous questions from the audience members, Di Labio was thanked by the host and presented with a basket of local maple syrup products.

A special presentation was made during the evening to the two main winners of last summer’s MVFN Annual Field Sketch Contest. MVFN Chair of Publications, Publicity and Public Relations Eileen Hennemann presented a nature book and a gift certificate to Mary Beth Lalonde, daughter of Margaret and James Lalonde, for her sketches of a wren family habitat and a common loon and, to Sonja Koster, daughter of Ken and Michaela Koster, for her display of a dragonfly and a painted turtle.

The summer field sketch contest requires children to take their sketch pads into the field, forest and stream to illustrate natural observations. The contest is open to all children in various age categories and is best shared with parents or adult friends.

Ms. Hennemann also announced during the evening, the launching of MVFN’s own Web site. On the site, one can find all news and information about MVFN plus a message board for posting nature news, observations and enquiry’s. The site can be gained by calling up mvfn.ca.

The next MVFN evening programme will be held on Thursday, March 21, at the Almonte United Church. The keynote speaker will be MVFN member and famous broadcaster Ed Lawrence. His topic will be on planting your garden with birds in mind. For more information, contact MVFN Programme Chair Sarah Coulber

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
April 21, 2004
Submitted by: MVFN member Rod Bhar

Peregrine Falcon Release Topic at MVFN Meeting

Peregrine FalconThe Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project in Leeds County, Ontario was the subject of the April 15 meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) at the Almonte United Church. Gary Nielsen, the coordinator of the Leeds County Stewardship Council, gave an inspiring talk and slide show to a very enthusiastic audience, describing the recovery project now in its fourth and final year.

Gary explained how the Peregrine project was a cooperative effort between landowners, volunteers, and local businesses. Ideal nesting sites are rare. Peregrines require a southeast-facing cliff at least 80 feet high and moderately clear of vegetation. When the group chose a cliff on the edge of Charleston Lake as a release site, the consent of the private landowner to place a “hack box” atop the cliff was crucial. Volunteers provided hours of labour, building the hack box, fixing it atop the cliff, and monitoring the progress of the Peregrine chicks that were placed within the box. Local businesses contributed free equipment and labour to the project. All money for the project was raised within the local community, including $52,000 in start-up costs and $15,000 in annual on-going costs.

In the first three years of the project eight peregrine falcons have been successfully raised and released from the cliff. Gary emphasized that releasing birds from natural cliff faces is important because the young Peregrines need to imprint on natural nesting sites if they are to breed in the wild. Nesting pairs of Peregrines have been established in cities across the country, but these birds do not nest outside of cities.

As of yet, none of the released Peregrines has been seen breeding in Leeds County. Gary noted that the best time to expect a breeding pair will be in two years after the released birds have had a chance to mature. Where exactly they choose to nest is unpredictable. Gary explained that they could find a cliff site many miles away from the release area in Leeds County.

Gary concluded his presentation by asking for the cooperation of naturalists across eastern Ontario to report any Peregrine sightings that may confirm a new wild nesting pair. Currently there are estimated to be 57 breeding pairs of Peregrines in Ontario.

The speaker was introduced and thanked by MVFN member Rod Bhar, who also presented him with a gift of local honey products. The next MVFN event will be the May 16th visit to Queens University Biological Station at Chaffey’s Locks. Also, the Annual General Meeting, will be held at Union Hall on Thursday, May 20 and an exciting gala evening with Algonquin Park specialist Dan Strickland, will be held May 29, at the Carleton Place Canoe Club. Check out the MVFN website, mvfn.ca for more information.