Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

Michael Runtz

CPAWS Talks Forests with Michael Runtz and Dr. Jeff Wells

A CPAWS event which may be of interest to members:


Don’t miss this opportunity to hear two terrific conservation biologists share their insights into the importance of the Ottawa Valley for North America’s boreal songbirds.

Come and get inspired by these big-thinking speakers, see old friends and meet new ones!

This event will be followed by a free reception celebrating 45 years of conservation by CPAWS’ Ottawa-Valley chapter, including nibblies, cash bar and door prizes.

Location: Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa, 550 Cumberland St, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5
Paid parking, easy access by OC Transpo (Laurier Station)

Time: Doors open: 6:30 PM; Lecture: 7 PM
Tickets: $15 Seating is limited.

runtz cpaws talk


A Springtime of Silence?

Will we one day experience a springtime of silence? On Thursday, February 19, 2015, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) present the fifth lecture in their current series.  Award-winning Carleton University educator Michael Runtz will be guest speaker for this presentation entitled “Environmental Threats to Avian Species”.

Yellow Warbler


What are the current threats to birds such as this yellow warbler photographed in the Spring of 2014?  Photo by Susan Wilkes.

Runtz is a well-known biologist and naturalist and author of many scientific articles and award-winning books about nature, such as Wild Wings: The Hidden World of Birds, which features, as do several of Runtz’s books, his own spectacular photographic record of the natural world. A passionate and insightful observer of birds (and many wild creatures) since childhood, in addition to his work in the Carleton Biology department, Runtz educates and inspires the public to learn about the natural world; for example in his role as coordinator of the annual Pakenham-Arnprior Christmas Bird Count and his long-standing volunteer involvement, currently as President, with the Macnamara Field Naturalists Club.

Runtz states: “Rachel Carson was instrumental in preventing deadly insecticides from killing millions of birds. But today many other threats exist, some equally as insidious as DDT. This highly visual presentation will examine a few of the challenges that currently face our bird populations.” Runtz refers of course to Rachel Carson, author of the 1962 book Silent Spring which first brought to the world’s attention, the startling facts about environmental damage (particularly to birds) caused by pesticides. Birds continue to be threatened, but which threats would Michael Runtz consider the most important for birds today?: environmental toxins both new and old? . . .  habitat loss? . . .  introduced predators? . . .  or other threats?

Join MVFN for what promises to be an interesting and informative presentation. The presentation “Environmental Threats to Avian Species” will be held at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON at 7:30 pm. Come with your questions about your favourite local species. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley, at . For MVFN events, membership and other club information anytime visit

Enjoy an evening of discovery and sharpen your woodland detective skills with this presentation Seeing the Trees for the Forest: Holes for all Occasions by Michael Runtz

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

By Cathy Keddy

With this month’s March 19 lecture in the series From the Ground, Up-Celebrating the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) First 20 Years, we launch into the arboreal realm. Guided by prize-winning photographer, author and naturalist, Michael Runtz, we will peer at nature in the trees in the forest, from the roots to the top of the canopy. Birds, bears, bats, beetles, beavers and many of their companions (frogs, flying squirrels, finches and fungi) share our forest trees. Dead or alive, trees are wanted by more natural denizens than you might guess-for food, shelter, breeding, well…for all occasions! What can the fur, nibbled seeds, bark chips, tracks, feathers, or eggshells beneath a tree tell us about its citizens? Michael Runtz would know.

Michael is one of our natural world’s leading ambassadors. He has received numerous awards for his education and conservation efforts. These have included an Outstanding Service Award from the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and a Distinguished Science Education Award from the Canadian Council of University Chairs. Michael has worked as a professional naturalist in provincial and national parks and is a frequent guest on natural history television and radio programs. His many books from Algonquin Souvenir to Moose Country to Wild Flowers reflect his passion, knowledge and stunning photography. He is also on the faculty of Carleton University where he teaches courses in natural history and ornithology. His courses are podcast internationally and attended by close to 1000 students per term. We are most fortunate to have Michael Runtz as our guest!

 Enjoy an evening of discovery and sharpen your woodland detective skills. Let Michael bring the forest to you through his lens and his fountain of knowledge of the natural world. Join the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists for his presentation on Thursday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. For further information, contact Cathy Keddy, MVFN Program Chair, at 613-257-3089.


Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
September 21, 2006

by Sheila Edwards

Michael Runtz brings to life the work of one of nature’s great engineers in the watershed – the Beaver

BeaverA large crowd gathered on Thursday the 14th for Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) September lecture. Michael Runtz was the keynote speaker for the first of a series of talks exploring the “Mississippi Valley Watershed”.

One sign of a great educator is when an audience doesn’t realize how much they are learning. In his presentation “Beaver Ponds in the Watershed”, Michael Runtz showed he is one such educator. His enthusiastic delivery style brought to life information based on his astute observations of nature. A well respected naturalist, nature photographer, and author, Runtz captivated his audience with stories about beavers, the topic of his next natural history book. Based on the response Thursday, it should prove as popular as his other Canadian best-sellers such as Wild Wings, Algonquin Seasons and Moose Country .

Runtz showed us how beavers play the role of engineer when it comes to creating nutrient rich ponds, teeming with life. Water levels are raised, new species are attracted, and the forest gradually acquires a pond, marsh, and ribbon of grassland. The habitats thus created by this impressive rodent are vital to the health of our watershed.

As the seasons change, a beaver pond changes as well. In the spring, nutrients will be washed out, enriching the water downstream; frogs will be at their noisiest, many birds will be arriving to nest in the forest and on dead trees standing in the pond; and the beavers will be busy feeding and working on their dams and lodges. Beavers feed on tree bark, the soft layer under the bark, and also herbaceous plants like pond lilies. As fall approaches, the beaver becomes more visible during the day as it works on creating a food pile for the winter and does fall maintenance on its structures; the lodge’s insulation is upgraded by piling more mud on top and the dam must be high enough to ensure the pond does not completely freeze. The lodge’s exits are about 1.5 m below the water’s surface, at a depth which hopefully will remain unfrozen throughout the winter. The beaver swims underwater to the food pile, eating the branches that are weighed down by less edible wood like alder. Beavers keep the lodge’s upper chamber clean for sleeping by eating and defecating in the lower chamber. Like the rabbit, the beaver has a ‘two-pass’ digestive system to maximize the nutritional benefit of its high-roughage diet.

If you are interested in observing beavers, Runtz had some good suggestions. For the paddler, beaver can stay underwater for as long as 15 minutes, so if they startle and dive down, they could be gone a long time. For the XC-skier, if the hole at the top of the lodge is open, and surrounded by frost; the occupants are alive and well. When watching a beaver cutting wood, they may use their tail as a stool by leaning back on it; they will also use either their front teeth or side teeth depending on whether they are eating or cutting respectively.

On Thursday October 19th, MVFN welcomes guest speaker Aquatic Ecologist, Brian Potter (OMNR) who will discuss “Wetland Habitats in the Watershed” (7:30 p.m. Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin Street). For more information on the lecture series please contact Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879/email , or visit our website at . For those interested in an MVFN nature walk, the next one will be hosted and led by Joel Byrne at his property “Big Creek” near Watsons Corners, Sunday October 15th. If interested, and for more information, please contact Mike McPhail at 613-256-7211 or email

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
September 6, 2006

Submitted by Pauline Donaldson

Michael Runtz starts field naturalists’ lecture program with “Beaver Ponds in the Watershed”

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) proudly presents the first lecture in their 2006-2007 public lecture series on Thursday September 14th., entitled “Beaver Ponds in the Watershed”.

Keynote speaker for the first seminar, Michael Runtz, is a well-known naturalist, award winning author and photographer, and an accomplished educator who has taught natural history at Carleton University for many years. Audiences have often been regaled with “beaver tales” from the man who is presently writing a book on them. This book follows others by Runtz which all feature aspects of his understanding of the natural world, such as “The Howls of August: Encounters with Algonquin Wolves, Moose Country and Wild Wings”. Runtz came to know and respect the natural world during years as interpreter/ researcher in Algonquin and other provincial parks.

It is fitting that the beaver, a natural watershed engineer, is the VIP for the first of a lecture series exploring the topic of the “watershed”. There is much to be learned about habitats and workings of the watershed by studying this quintessential Canadian mammal, Castor canadensis. In creating its own unique homes it not only takes care of its own family but creates homes for other creatures. Runtz’s presentation will explore the fascinating biological features of the animal which equip it for the life it leads, the well-known structures it builds and how in many ways its transformation of the environment gives life to other living things in the watershed.

MVFN’s 2006/07 series of speakers and presentations will focus on the theme “The Mississippi Valley Watershed”. The clubs’ new program committee, chaired by Joyce Clinton, is very enthusiastic about this years’ program. The series will include seven presentations, each looking at a different aspect of the watershed, including “diversity of habitats present”,” managing forests to protect the watershed”, “the effects of agriculture”, “development issues in the watershed”, “rehabilitation of shorelines”, and “factors affecting water quality”. One goal of the lecture series this year is to emphasize actions and practices individuals, organizations and communities can engage in to protect and enhance watershed conservation. The natural environment of the watershed faces many challenges. This lecture series will help us develop a better local understanding of the workings of our own Mississippi watershed.

Michael Runtz will be introduced by Cliff Bennett, Eastern Regional Director for Ontario Nature, who, as a local resident, was recently recognized by the Town of Mississippi Mills for his nature conservation efforts. The presentation by Michael Runtz takes place Thursday, September 14th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church on Elgin St. All are welcome; following the presentation refreshments are available. MVFN members and children under 16 receive free admission to the lecture series. For others a non-member fee of $5 applies. MVFN memberships can also be purchased at the door. For more information on this lecture and others in the series, please contact MVFN Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879, or email  or check the MVFN website at

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MVFN natural history talks:  7:30 pm on third Thursdays of Jan, Feb, March, April,  Sept, Oct, and Nov at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. Almonte ON. All welcome! Non-members $5. 

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