Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Thursday December 27, 2018

NOTE:  In addition to the December 27th Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count, several other counts are taking place in the local community. The 16th Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count takes place Sunday, December 30 and is centered on Watson’s Corners, with the circle taking in Brightside to the north, most of Dalhousie Lake to the west, south to within a kilometer of Balderson and east to include Middleville. Count organizer is Marilyn Barnett:    or 613-259-2269. Follow this link to the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club for further details of the Pakenham-Arnprior Christmas Bird Count which will take place December 26th.

Birders and nature enthusiasts in Carleton Place and surrounding areas can join citizen scientists throughout the Americas and participate in the Audubon Society’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the 119th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The Carleton Place CBC will be held this year on Thursday, December 27th and it is sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) and coordinated in Canada by Bird Studies Canada.  The count area is a 24 km circle centered on the bridge over the Mississippi River in Carleton Place, and includes Almonte, Appleton and Ashton.  Details for Christmas Bird Counts can be found on the Audubon website.

Thousands of individuals participate in counts throughout the Americas and beyond between December 14, 2018 and January 5, 2019. “Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation. Bird Studies Canada and its partner at the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations. Last year, during the 2017 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count, 60 volunteers spent the day observing birds resulting in the recording of over 5700 birds and 42 different species.

Cardinal. photo Susan Wilkes

The CBC tradition began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history.

On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the ‘side hunt,’ a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort.

The first Audubon bird count in Carleton Place took place in 1944!

Great Horned Owl. photo Howard Robinson

Join a team or count at your feeder

Volunteers are essential to the success of the CBC. You don’t need to be an expert but it helps to be familiar with local bird species.  In any case, participants in the field counts will be placed in a team led by an experienced birder and everyone is welcome. You will need a pair of binoculars.  As well residents with bird feeders within a count area can also help by listing all birds at your feeder or in your yard on the count day.

For more information or to register for the Carleton Place CBC on December 27th, please contact Iain Wilkes at 613-250-0722 or   If you are interested in helping out by counting birds at your feeder/yard, please register with Georgina Doe at 613- 257-2103.  At the end of the Carleton Place count day, field participants return to the Carleton Place Library, 101 Beckwith St., for the count-in as well as refreshments and snacks.

Best of the Season to All,

Iain Wilkes

MVFN Nature Notebook Sighting

Click here for information about MVFN Nature Notebook and sending in recent local sightings  Or post your sighting to MVFN’s Facebook page.

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”.

December 11, 2018

Evening Grosbeaks photo Lise Balthazar


Male Pine Grosbeak photo Lise Balthazar

Male Pine Grosbeak photo Lise Balthazar

Male Pine Grosbeak photo Lise Balthazar


To help pass the long winter, MVFN presents “Arm Chair Travellers: Viewing Nature Vicariously”

When: Friday, January 11, 2019 from 1:30 – 3 PM 

Where: Almonte Branch, Mississippi Mills Public Library, 155 High Street, Almonte, ON

Enjoy two short presentations by people who have travelled to the southern hemisphere recently.

MVFN members Sherryl and Bob Smith will show a selection of photographs from their recent trip to South Africa. They will focus on features of the landscape and environment at different elevations. And yes, there will be pictures of flora and fauna.

Our second presenter is Lauren Bazley, a recent graduate of Trent University who spent two field seasons at the Tambopata Research Center, Peru, working on the Tambopata Macaw Project. This is a long-term multidisciplinary study of natural history, conservation and management of large macaws and parrots. For more information see

2018 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count

On December 27th, 38 hearty field and 20 feeder observers participated in the 68th Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count.  It was a cold day with sun in the morning and cloud in the afternoon.


Wild Turkeys on Rae Side Road, photo Howard Robinson


This years count is very close to our 10 year average with over 5400 individuals and 45 species.  Despite this we had a number of records set and/or tied for:

Mallards at 68

Wild Turkeys at 498 – keep setting a new record every year

Coopers Hawk 3 – tying the old record.  One lived in my backyard on count day enjoying the Starlings for snacks

Snowy Owls 3 – tied the old record, all close to Hwy 7

Barred Owls 3 – a new record

Pileated Woodpecker 18 – a new record

Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 – tied the old record

White-breasted Nuthatch 176 – a new record

Complete list at

Evening Grosbeak, photo Ken Allison

Kestrel, photo Michel Gauthier

We also had a hand full of Rough-Legged and Red-tailed Hawks, as well as 1 Kestral.  After several years of Juncos being at record levels their numbers collapsed.  Handfuls of Pine and Evening Grosbeaks as well as Redpolls and Siskins were seen.  Waxwings were back in abundance after few to none for several years, with 630 Bohemians and 188 Cedars seen.  As always the Bohemians maintained their coolness by wearing berets, smoking Gaulois and discussing Proust.

Bohemian Waxwings, photo Howard Robinson

Barred Owl, photo Ken Allison


At the end of the day the count in was conducted at the CP Library with refreshments and snacks provided by the MVFN social committee.

Happy Year’s End to all and best wishes for 2019.


Iain Wilkes

2018 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Award Winners

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2018: Information and 2019 Application Forms for high school students currently in their final year of high school and considering college or university programs for 2019-2020 can find 2019 CLIFF BENNET NATURE BURSARY APPLICATIONS FORMS posted here.

In May 2018, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Committee awarded bursaries of $1000 to three graduating high school students, Sophie Anderson, Kaitlyn Johnson, and Shaily Walker. In addition, as part of a pilot project, continued bursaries of $500 were awarded to the two bursary award winners from 2017, Makayla Giles, and Andrew Van Campen.

“I am very pleased to learn about the interests and ambitions of these fine students, and hope that this award may help and encourage young people today to become environmental leaders tomorrow” said Cliff Bennett. “I consider it an investment in our environmental future.”

The successful applicants this year intend to pursue studies in Biology at Ottawa University, Architectural Conservation and Sustainability Engineering at Carleton University, and Ecosystem Management at Fleming College.

Congratulations to all our 2018 winners!

Winners of the 2018 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Awards (L-R): Kaitlyn Johnson, Shaily Walker and Sophie Anderson, were presented with their awards by Cliff Bennett at MVFN’s May 2018 meeting in Almonte, ON. photo by Brenda Boyd

About the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund

The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary fund, which supports the award program, was established in 2007 by Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ members and friends of retired educator Cliff Bennett, for his 75th birthday. Since 2007, more than $16,000 has been awarded to 21 deserving students from high schools in our area.

Previous award winners have continued their education after high school in diverse fields including zoology, ecosystem management, marine biology, environmental sciences and engineering and technology, at both the university and community college level.

For further information about the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Awards, please visit the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary page on MVFN’s website, or contact Michael Macpherson, Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Committee Chair, at 613-256-3043 or by email at

MVFN encourages interested high school students to visit their school student services offices soon for application forms,  or to seek out more information at our website or by contacting Michael Macpherson, Chairperson for the awards program!