Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Observers are required for the 2017 Mississippi Lakes Loon Survey.  This year MVFN, in conjunction with the Mississippi Lakes Association, will again conduct a Bird Studies Canada Canadian Lakes Loon Survey” for Mississippi Lake.

As a volunteer observer, you would be part of a team surveying an assigned region of the lake three times during the summer, once in each of the months of June, July and August. This is a good opportunity to get involved as a volunteer in some interesting and worthwhile citizen science on a local project.

A motor boat and driver will be made available for each team. Each team will coordinate, with the boat driver, the preferred day, time, and location for launch.You will need binoculars and sun screen.

Surveys are done during the last week of each month and take about two hours to complete. A motor boat and driver are provided for each team.

ORIENTATION SESSION FOR VOLUNTEERS:  the orientation session for survey volunteers will take place Thursday, June 15, at 2:00 p.m. at the Mill of Kintail Gatehouse.

If you can help, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or

For results of last year’s Loon Survey of Mississippi Lake click here.

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ECHOES IN THE MIST

-submitted by Cheryl Morris-Putman for MVFN

On Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm., the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host a fascinating presentation, reflective of the theme “Wild Creature Close-Ups”. We will enter the mystical world of the Common Loon (Gavia immer), led by experienced naturalist and well-known educator from Lanark County, Cliff Bennett. His presentation is entitled “Loons and Human Interactions”. This event will take place in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, Ontario.

 How many of us have paused by the shore of a calm lake on a warm summer evening and had our hearts opened by the plaintive cry of a loon? We linger there, calmed by this sacred moment as the mist settles silently over the glassy surface of the moonlit water. We smile as that call is answered by the echoing laughter of another loon from somewhere across the dark lake. Such moments, poignant and inspiring, are gifts offered to us by our natural world . . .

The Common Loon is the official provincial bird of Ontario. The name derives from their rather awkward way of moving on land, resembling the gait of a bent-over penguin. The Icelandic word “lomr” and the Swedish word “lom”, from which the term “loon” derives, both refer to “a clumsy walk”. In water however, the loon is a powerful swimmer and diver, allowing this aquatic bird to chase down its main food source—small fish.

Cliff’s vast knowledge and insights will allow us to explore the world of loons, including their various habitats, their classic calls and habits. He will demonstrate how man’s intrusion into the natural world is threatening the existence of these beautiful birds.

In the second part of his presentation Cliff will outline the findings of the 2016 Mississippi Lake Loon Survey. In summary of this survey, Cliff writes: “Our iconic common loons are now gathering upon our larger lakes in large rafts all across Canada, ready for take-off to the warmer south for the winter. Groups of up to sixty should be found now on the Big Mississippi Lake. Many of these local loons were counted this summer, as breeding pairs and chicks were surveyed during the Mississippi Lake Loon Survey, conducted by members of the MVFN, in conjunction with the Mississippi Lakes Association (MLA). MVFN observers were divided into four teams of two, and each team was supplied with an MLA boat driver. The teams made three visits to the lakes during the months of June, July, and August. The local loon survey is part of the Canadian Lakes Loon Surveys conducted across our country by Bird Studies Canada”. Dr. Doug Tozer, Ontario Program Scientist at Bird Studies Canada describes the purpose of Canadian Loons Surveys in his own words: “Through the Bird Studies Canada-Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, hundreds of citizen scientists each year help track the number of chicks that Common Loons produce as an indicator of the extent of acid rain, mercury pollution, and the associated health of our lakes, one of the most prized components of our wild spaces.”

Cliff Bennett is one of the founding members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and is the past-president of this organization. He has been the recipient of several regional, provincial and national awards for his work in the area of conservation. The MVFN Champion for Nature Award is most special to him because it was presented to him by his peers, the people who, in his words, “inspire him to continue doing the activities for which he received the award”. Cliff is an avid birder and canoeist. He is also one of the people responsible for the development of MVFN’s flagship Environmental Education Program (EEP). The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund was created in 2007 by Cliff’s many friends who wished to honour his contributions to the community and nature.

Please join us for this interesting and informative evening. The doors will be open at 7 pm. for those wishing to socialize until the start of the presentation.  Refreshments are available then and during the evening. A discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. There is no charge for MVFN members or youth 18 and under. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at .

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MVFN Members:

Here is a good opportunity to get involved in some interesting and worthwhile citizen science this summer on a local project. MVFN, in conjunction with the Mississippi Lakes Association, has volunteered to conduct this year’s Bird Studies Canada Canadian Lakes Loon Survey” for Mississippi Lake.

The task involves pairs of volunteers making one, two or three visits to areas of Mississippi Lake, searching for loons and recording the findings. The visit times will be the last week in June, July and August. You can volunteer to do one, two or all three visits. Visits last up to two hrs. Maps and forms will be provided.

A motor boat and driver will be made available for each team. Each team will coordinate, with the boat driver, the preferred day, time, and location for launch.You will need binoculars and sun screen.

Please register with Rick Erskine at  or telephone 613-257-1397 and he will match you with a boat driver and lake location. For further instructions, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or   after June 15.

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Members and friends of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) are invited to attend the organization’s 2016 Annual General Meeting. The meeting will take place beginning at 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin Street, in Almonte. The meeting will be followed by discussion and refreshments, and two, sure to be engaging, “Wild Life Journals: Member’s Night” presentations! Full details at http://mvfn.ca/wild-life-journals/

For the presentation “Encounters with Intriguing Owls,” Simon Lunn, biologist and nature photographer, will introduce us to several very different owls that he has encountered in recent years, both in his wooded backyard and special places within an hours drive of his home just south of Smiths Falls. Each of the owls has a unique story to tell.

Members night 2016 great grey owl flying close up Simon Lunn


Photo: Great Gray Owl photo by Simon Lunn

The second presentation will be “Loons and Human Interaction” by MVFN President and well-known bird expert and local naturalist, Cliff Bennett.

Loon by Gloria Opzoomer

Photo of loon by Gloria Opzoomer.

The past year was a busy one for MVFN (a local member of the Ontario Nature Network serving Lanark County, West Carleton and areas), with significant growth in membership and interest. Highlights included a very successful Program schedule (led by committee Chair Gretta Bradley) – a speaker series and many nature related outings, including an ever popular canoeing program led by Linda McLaren and new birding events held by the Birding Committee, chaired by Tim Pullen. Other highlights were the vigorous fund raising and education effort supporting a campaign to protect Burntlands Alvar, led by Environmental Issues Committee (EIC) Chair, Theresa Peluso; and formation of a new committee, Conservation and Habitat Restoration, chaired by David Garcia. In an effort led by EIC member Tineke Kuiper, MVFN continues to work with the Municipality of Mississippi Mills (MM) on the recognition of Natural Heritage Areas and “wildlife corridors” in MM. The popular Young Naturalists program at Mill of Kintail, continued to thrive under the guidance of instructor Patty McLaughlin (of the Wild Bird Care Centre) and coordination by Ron Williamson of MVFN’s Environmental Education Committee chaired by Bob Smith. Also in 2015, the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary committee (chaired by Mike Macpherson) awarded a $1000 nature bursary to Almonte and District High School graduate Ruth Tamas. The meeting will feature reports on all of these activities plus a complete financial report and voting for election of directors for the coming year.

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