Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

MVFN Annual Autumn Walk & Dedication Ceremony for Michael McPhail Memorial at the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Have you ever taken the time to explore the natural features of the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area? This autumnal equinox, join our guided tour of its over 150 acres containing riparian habitats, woodlands, fields, and their ecotones. Not sure what an ecotone is? See you this coming Saturday!

The walk will conclude at the Mike McPhail Memorial Bench installed by MVFN this past summer to commemorate Mike’s service to nature conservation. A dedication ceremony will take place at this bench, located at the children’s playground near the Education Centre. After the ceremony you are invited to the Education Centre for a light snack.

Meet: At the Gatehouse parking lot, Mill of Kintail Conservation Area, 2854 Ramsay Concession 8, Mississippi Mills (north of Clayton Rd., west of Highway 29)

Time: Walk begins at 9:45 a.m.; ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m.

Bring: Binoculars, hat, camera, notebook, dress for the weather

Notes:  There may be a conservation area admission fee of $5 per car. If the weather is bad, only the dedication ceremony will take place, and it will be held at 11:30 a.m. Please call Cathy (613-257-3089) before 8:30 a.m. the day of the event to confirm the walk status if you are unsure.


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Mike McPhail is a quintessential organizer, natural public speaker and leader, and a man with a great passion and curiosity for our natural world. Born and raised in Almonte, a geologist by training, Mike served as both Chair of Environmental Issues and Vice President on MVFN’s board. For three years he led the club as President.

Mike McPhail

There are very many MVFN’s projects which, without a doubt, would not have taken place without Mike McPhail. Mike researched and organized the huge logistical and multi-team effort involved in MVFN’s first bioblitz held in September 2009 on the Bell property in Mississippi Mills. A great success, this bioblitz quickly become a model for other clubs. At Mark’s Lookout on Spring St. in Almonte, Mike organized a shoreline cleanup day and planting of native shoreline shrubs and plants. Mike had significant input into MVFN’s part in MVC’s Kintail Country Christmas and was the inspiration behind the Champion for Nature awards. He has donated time, enthusiasm and expertise (and sometimes his dissecting scope) for MVFN information booths at the Art of Being Green and many other events.

In 2007 Mike played a major role in the planning and running, the Weathering the Change Climate Change workshop held in Almonte, and acted as M/C throughout this 2-day long workshop. Another projects which is close to Mike’s heart and would not have happened without him is MVFN’s Habitat Creation program which has resulted in hundreds of blue-bird houses for our feathered friends as well as duck nesting platforms and other habitat projects still in the works.


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by Pauline Donaldson

Press story pdf with photos

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) held their Spring Gathering 2011 and AGM May 19th at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall. The evening was a celebration of wild nature and a tribute to those who help champion it including keynote speaker Paul Keddy, and Mike McPhail (MVFN Champion for Nature for 2011). The over one hundred members of MVFN and the public in attendance were treated to a delicious banquet served by Civitan volunteers.

MVFN President Joyce Clinton presided over a short business meeting during which MVFN’s officers for the 2011-2012 year were elected. Returning to MVFN’s board of directors are Joyce Clinton, President; Janet McGinnis, Vice President; Mike McPhail, Past President; Janet Fytche, Secretary; Cathy Keddy, Program Chair; Brenda Boyd, Chair of Environmental Education; Bill Slade, Chair Environmental Issues; and Janet Snyder, Social Committee. Newly elected to the board of directors are Elisabeth DeSnaijer, MVFN Treasurer; Ken Allison, MVFN Chair Publicity; and Bob McCook, MVFN Director at Large.

Clinton reported on the year’s highlights, including a recent significant change to MVFN’s status. “I am pleased to announce that through the efforts of the board of directors and in particular Cathy Keddy and Howard Robinson, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists is now officially a charitable organization. To help the board gain a clearer focus for the future, we held a visioning meeting in August last year. Our financial pulse is strong and healthy. Our treasurer Howard Robinson will be stepping down this year. I want to thank Howard for all his hard work over the last 3 years. Referring to other highlights with implications for children and youth Clinton stated, “The Environmental Education committee (Chaired by Brenda Boyd) has also begun the process of developing a plan for an MVFN Young Naturalists Program. The project is still in the pilot project stage, but it is a very exciting step for our group.”

Christine and Peggy










A special part of the evening was presentation of the 2011 MVFN Champion for Nature Award, given to individuals or groups who make outstanding contributions to the natural world in the Mississippi Valley. “This year we are awarding the MVFN Champion for Nature Award to Mike McPhail” said Clinton. “Mike was born and raised in Almonte . . . a geologist by training and has many passions in the field of nature. As MVFN’s vice president for three years, then president for three, Mike continues to serve on MVFN’s board.” Without a doubt, many MVFN projects would not have taken place without the driving force of Mike McPhail, a quintessential organizer, natural public speaker and leader, and a man with a passion and curiosity for our natural world. To mention a few such projects: Mike researched and organized MVFN’s first bioblitz which was held on the Bell property in Mississippi Mills in September 2009. This bioblitz quickly become a model for other clubs. Another project close to Mike’s heart is MVFN’s Habitat Creation which has resulted in hundreds and hundreds of blue-bird houses for our feathered friends as well as duck nesting platforms and other habitat projects still in the works.

Mike was unable to attend the evening due to illness, however the award was accepted on Mike’s behalf by his wife Peggy McPhail and daughter Christine (photo above).

Following the banquet and business meeting, the audience settled in for local ecologist Dr. Paul Keddy’s presentation “Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places.” “These [wild] species don’t come to meetings and don’t vote, so it is easy for them to be overlooked. One of my tasks at this spring celebration is to talk on their behalf.” Keddy’s virtual tour gave the audience an opportunity to reconsider a few of Lanark County’s special natural places, or to learn about them for the first time. In Lanark County we live in the great northern deciduous forest region which also includes some relatively rare (globally) areas of deciduous forest over marble. In the county, as farm land returns to forest, we are seeing good signs, such as the return of fishers, natural predators of porcupines. We share the northern deciduous forest with Ontario’s only lizard species (the five-lined skink), but few of us realize just how many salamanders we share it with. ‘Salamander Central’, the forest is teeming with these seldom seem amphibians. In addition to the return of favorite birds, spring in the deciduous forest means that spring ephemerals are about. These include often fragile and beautiful perennial woodland plants, such as wild columbine. These plants must quickly sprout from the forest floor, grow and flower while the sun can still reach them through the leafless trees. Attached to the seeds of ephemeral species such as Trillium, Hepatica, and Dutchman’s breeches is a little oil-rich snack for ants. Attracted to this food, the ants spread the seeds, but colonization of new areas occurs only very slowly. When plants are lost from an area, re-colonization is very slow and not guaranteed, since, as Keddy pointed out, ants do not travel far and are not good at crossing highways. As soon as the leaves bud out on the trees the tree frogs arrive and summer begins again in the forest.

A second special place featured was the Innisville Wetland Complex, an area officially designated as an ANSI (Area of Natural or Scientific Interest) by the provincial government. It is a huge, significant wetland area and yet it is relatively unknown and unseen by visitors and locals alike. Why aren’t there interpretive signs and perhaps an access point to the Innisville Wetland Complex, and a boardwalk to allow people to safely enter and experience this important natural area?

A third local area discussed was the ‘Lanark Highlands Glacial Spillway Forest’, an area so named by Paul Keddy. This glacial spillway, near White Lake, is a remarkable area which was carved in the past by tremendous volumes of glacial meltwater which flowed past carrying and depositing loads of sand and gravel. Surprisingly, one corner of the spillway ‘valley’ actually overlaps part of Blueberry Mountain, but this is possible. As is often the case for unique areas such as this, a variety of interesting things are aggregated there. For example a rare southern tree species, the shagbark hickory has been found there, and in shady areas, walking fern (found in forests over marble) which spreads by producing new plants where the leaf tips touch the ground.

Keddy’s lecture was an excellent conclusion to MVFN’s 2010-2011 lecture series Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora and People. People connected with the presentation, the local natural areas featured and were educated and inspired. MVFN’s lecture program is on break now until September but the canoe and summer outing season is just getting started. The next MVFN summer walk takes place June 19th at the Purdon Fen and the next canoe outing is scheduled for July 10th. Please watch the MVFN member email network or consult for further details on these outings.


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Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Mike McPhail
February 20, 2005

Canada’s Next David Suzuki in Local School?

Andrea Howard with TarantulaAttendees at Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s 5th lecture on Biodiversity on Feb. 17, were awed by the shear magnitude and quality of educational material’s and teaching techniques that Andrea Howard, from the Eastern Ontario Biodiversity Museum in Kemptville and speaker for the evening, incorporates into the ” Museum in a Suitcase Program”. This exciting interactive, and hands on program brings environmental education into the classrooms of our local schools.

Introduced by MVFN host Janine deSalaberry, Andrea Howard explained many people believe that our relationship with nature is forged in childhood. This was certainly the case with David Suzuki, who developed a real love of nature through father-son camping and fishing trips. Programmes such as Andrea Howard’s bring that outdoor environmental experience right into the children’s world of the classroom.

Could one of our own local children become a leading environmentalist & educator like Canadian David Suzuki? That is certainly a dream and aspiration shared by both Andrea Howard and the MVFN who, through it’s granting programme, help to fund local environmental education initiatives like the “Museum in a Suitcase Program”.

Ms. Howard showed how the programme starts by presenting our children with the known natural world knowledge building blocks and then encouraging them to question the infinity of existing scientific knowledge. Equally important she pointed out is to convey to them that they can play an important role in the world and that each generation has a responsibility to aspire to do a better job than the previous one in our important role of stewards of the land.

Children have much to teach us about maintaining a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world, said Howard. “Listening to them may help us regain the perspective we often lose in the bustle and din of our artificial urban environment. Take the time to incorporate outdoor family recreation into your busy schedules because time spent in the outdoors forges lifelong relationships with nature.”

At the end of her talk, Andrea was joined by MVFN member Franziska von Rosen of Pinegrove productions and presented MVFN with a peak of selected footage of “Our Incredible World”; a dramatic and multimedia resource series on biodiversity based on the pan-Canadian Life Sciences curriculum.

Mark your calendars for MVFN’s 6th Biodiversity lecture entitled “Lichens: an overlooked and threatened aspect of biodiversity,” by Dr I. Brodo of the Canadian Museum of Nature, to be held on Thursday March 17th at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. at 7:30 pm. If you are not yet a member of the MVFN, this may be a good time to join. For further information, please contact MVFN Programme Chair Tine Kuiper, 256-8241 or consult our web site:

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Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by: Mike McPhail
Thursday Feb. 3, 2005

Naturalists learn of smallest backyard creatures

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It has been said that biodiversity is the key to ensuring the continuance of life on earth. During the Jan 20th lecture on Insect Biodiversity in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) Biodiversity series, research scientist Dr. Henri Goulet’s knowledgeable and passionate presentation highlighted an important issue, just how little we actually know about the living organisms in our own backyards. Insects and other arthropods are by far the most diverse of small life forms in Ontario, yet Dr Goulet estimates that we know less than 50% of the species.

Attendee’s, who braved the frigid temperatures of the night, were presented with absolutely dazzling slides of some of the 230 species of insects alone that frequent a few flowering heads of goldenrod. It truly is a jungle out there with insect species representation from herbivores, parasites, predators, and nectar & pollen feeders. To put this diversity in perspective, during this year’s Carleton Place Christmas bird count, 45 species of birds were recorded in a 15-mile diameter circle around the town of Carleton Place.

Biodiversity is considered a fundamental requirement for adaptation, survival and continued evolution of species and Dr Goulet’s microscopic insect world was alive with insects adapt at cryptic hiding, mimicking patterns that would make them less susceptible to or better at predation. As each of us gains a better understanding of biodiversity, we will be able to make better decisions about our environment, starting in our own backyards. Such as taking Dr Goulet’s lead, who, after noting their genocidal effects, declared his own backyard drug (pesticide) free. Dr Goulet was kind enough to share with the MVFN some of the presentation’s slides (such as a preying mantis mimicking a wasp), which will soon be posted on

Mark your calendars for MVFN’s 5th Biodiversity lecture (Communicating the Issues of Biodiversity), that will be given by Andrea Howard of the Eastern Ontario Museum of Biodiversity on Thur. Feb. 17th at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. at 7:30 pm. If you are not yet a member of the MVFN, this may be a good time to join. For further information, please contact MVFN Programme Chair Tine Kuiper, 256-8241 or consult our web site:

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