Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley


The deadline for applications to the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary is May 1, 2020.

MVFN offers one or more bursaries of $1,000 to graduating high school students who will pursue post-secondary studies in a field related to the natural environment.

Application forms are available here ( or from student service offices at area high schools.

For further information, students may contact Patricia Larkin (), Chair of the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Awards Committee.

Impact of Roads on Animal Populations

Nature Talk

Thursday, February 20th


Dr. Trina Rytwinski

Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation and Carleton University



Can roads and/or traffic reduce or even eliminate a population, and how?

Thursday, February 20th, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists continues its 2019-2020 speaker series, “Over, Under and Through – A Closer Look at Nature” with Dr. Trina Rytwinski.

Dr. Rytwinski is a project manager with the Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation and also a Research Associate and Instructor in the Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences at Carleton University. She has carried out numerous theoretical and applied research projects on understanding how roads and more broadly, anthropogenic impacts, affect wildlife populations involving a wide range of organisms including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fishes and mussels. She has expertise in road and landscape ecology, and evidence synthesis.

There is growing evidence that roads and traffic reduce populations of many species and efforts to mitigate road effects are now common. To maximise understanding of road impacts and for conservation of particular species, we need to know how roads affect the viability of a group of individuals of the species (i.e., the population) rather than a single individual.

To address this question, Trina has been trying to understand the circumstances in which roads and traffic affect wildlife populations. In particular, her research has focused on looking at species traits and their behavioural responses to roads, to determine which species or species groups are most vulnerable to road impacts. Further to this, Trina and a group of international colleagues are also determining ways to best mitigate road effects.

Trina will present results from her graduate and post-doctoral research on this topic, including results from field surveys using foot print tracking for a wide range of mammal species in eastern Ontario, a quantitative review of population level effects of roads from studies across the globe and on multiple taxa (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles), and reviews of the effectiveness of current road mitigation measures in reducing road impacts.

Date: Thursday, February 20, 2020

Time: 7:00 p.m. for socializing & refreshments, 7:30 for program

Place: Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte

Admission is free for MVFN members (check your membership card). There is an admission fee of $5 for non-members. No charge for youth 18 and under. We always welcome new members.

We hope to see you there!

The 16th annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) took place on January 4th, 2020. The normal annual date of December 30th had to be changed due to freezing rain conditions.

The total number of birds counted and recorded this year was 3008 birds, lower than the highest count, in 2010, of 4276, but only 3 fewer than 2017. The total number of species recorded was 35, 4 more than last year. Over the sixteen years of conducting the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count, which started in 2003, a total of seventy-five species has been recorded. The lower number of species can generally be attributed to the absence of waterfowl in the area on count day owing to the severe cold weather and freeze-up of most water areas.   This year, although there was some open water on Mississippi River and Dalhousie Lake, there were no water birds reported.

By L. Balthazar

There was a good count of bald eagles (around 7) although not a record. The record was two years ago (2017) with a count of 17. All other raptors were absent except two red-tailed hawks, a Cooper’s hawk and five barred owls.

The feeder count had the same number of species as last year (23) but over 400 fewer birds. It was a good year for ruffed grouse (16). The record was in 2013 (38).  This year’s count was the third best for blue jays (586). The record was 641 in 2013.  This was only the third year that white-winged crossbills were spotted.  All other birds in the finch family were absent except goldfinches. They are still up north in the Boreal forest because of an excellent food source.

Sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) takes place every December 30th no matter the weather except this year. The field counters take to the roads and fields to register every bird seen or heard within a twelve kilometer radius centered on Watson’s Corners. The circle is divided into four equal sections each with a Section leader.  Special thanks to Ian Paige, Jeff Mills, Ramsey Hart, Rémy Poulin and Pip Winters who serve as Section Leaders, and to Lise Balthazar who organizes the Feeder Count.   Everyone did a great job especially when we had to suddenly change the date. All of the volunteer leaders, feeder counters, field counters and coordinators are to be commended for spending the entire day as citizen-scientists. 

Thank you to Michel Gauthier for setting up his laptop and screen at the Lanark Civitan Club and entering the data so that everyone is able to see the results as they come in, and to Cliff Bennett for doing the final audit of the results. His contribution throughout the count since the Lanark Highlands count began, including his inspiration and encouragement to area birders, is immeasurable. 

The Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count is one of over two thousand counts held across North and South America and is the largest citizen-scientist activity anywhere in the world. All records are stored with the Audubon Society and used for research and conservation programs. For further information or a complete list of the tally, please contact Cliff Bennett at or count coordinator Marilyn Barnett at .  If you know birds by sight or sound and would like to participate in next year’s count, please get in touch in early December 2020.

Submitted by Marilyn Barnett

Presented by Tobi Kiesewalter Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks


Thursday, January 16th, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists continues its 2019-2020 speaker series, “Over, Under and Through – A Closer Look at Nature” with Tobi Kieswater.

Anyone who has been to Murphys Point Provincial Park will probably recognize Tobi Kiesewalter. He has been delivering interpretive programs as a Discovery Ranger at Murphys Point Provincial Park for almost 25 years. Whether interpreting to families camping in the park, school children or adult groups, his objective is to inspire a lasting connection with the natural world and, specifically, with the unique features protected at Murphys Point. Gray Ratsnakes are one of his favourite park residents to talk about.

The Frontenac Axis population of Gray Ratsnakes is listed as threatened. Over the past 30-40 years, a number of government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals in academia have focused their research, monitoring and education efforts on this population. Tobi’s presentation will be focus on the Gray Ratsnake monitoring and education initiatives that have taken place at Murphys Point Provincial Park.
Our Nature Quiz will focus on the snakes found in Eastern Ontario

Date: Thursday, January 16, 2020
Time: 7:00 p.m. for socializing & refreshments, 7:30 for program
Place: Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte

Admission is free for MVFN members (check your membership card). There is an admission fee of $5 for non-members. No charge for youth 18 and under. We always welcome new members.

We hope to see you there!

The Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count took place on December 14, maintaining the tradition of having the count on the first available Saturday in the designated CBC period. The weather was quite appalling with overcast skies and persistent rain, however mercifully the promised freezing rain failed to appear. Some roads and trails were still quite icy so caution was in order.

Despite the less than wonderful conditions the count attracted 30 field observers split into 9 parties, while 15 people watched birds at their feeders. A total of 46 species were tallied, comprising some 5724 individuals. This was a far better total than I had originally forecasted when confronted with the weather forecast and experiencing the actual conditions in the field.

Two new species were observed for the count: Lesser Black-backed and Iceland Gulls, both single birds identified after close scrutiny of a huge flock of Herring Gulls heading over Rideau Ferry late in the day. Thanks to Mark Gawn and his team for their diligence and expertise. Many species were indeed represented by a single individual: Bufflehead, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Kestrel and Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Notable by their absence were the winter finches, presumably because of the bumper food supply further north. Four additional species were observed during the count week (3 days either side of the count date): Great Blue Heron, Great Horned Owl, Snow Bunting and Common Grackle.

The results were compiled during a potluck dinner at Sarah Anderson’s home on the outskirts of Perth where attendees enjoyed a lively social interaction (largely dominated by birding stories!) before heading out into the snowstorm that had blown up. Luckily all made it home safely.  The results can be seen at Rideau Ferry CBC Results or on the Audubon site.

Alison Bentley
ONRF CBC Compiler

Thumbnail Photo by Camilla Cerea/Audubon