Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

COSEWIC discusses “status” of Monarch Butterfly; it is ENDANGERED

 A report yesterday from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife (COSEWIC) in Canada shows that the “status” of the Monarch butterfly needs to be changed to ENDANGERED. In the report: “We need to continue to support the conservation of milkweed caterpillar habitat both here in Canada and along the Monarch’s migratory journey, and we need to support continued conservation of critical overwintering areas. Otherwise, Monarch migration may disappear, and Canada may lose this iconic species.”

Read the December 5, 2016 COSEWIC report

Monarch butterfly. photo Ken Allison

Monarch butterfly. photo Ken Allison

Monarch butterfly caterpillar. photo Pauline Donaldson

Monarch butterfly caterpillar. photo Pauline Donaldson

 

 

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Almonte Lagoons and Nature Trail Receives Rare Visitor

 August 19, 2016

The Almonte Lagoon and Nature trail, across from Auld Kirk cemetery on Ramsay Concession 8, has been the recipient of several rare birds over the past few years. The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) Potvin Observation Tower provides  views across the lagoons.

On Saturday morning, August 13th, a Western bird, a juvenile male yellow-headed blackbird was spotted by noted Ottawa birder Mark Gawn, feeding on the exposed mudflats and hiding in the cattails. Immediately the signal went out over the birding networks and area birders began pouring in to get a glimpse of this rarity. At one point in the morning, a peregrine falcon zoomed in over the lagoon like a marauding spitfire and scared all of the shorebirds and the blackbird away, but within half an hour, the rare visitor returned, much to the delight of those who came to observe the bird and log the sighting in their records.

The yellow-headed blackbird has a range across the west from Lake Michigan, with a few coming into the Point Pelee area around Windsor. An inch larger than our most familiar red-winged blackbird, the adult male is all black with a brilliant yellow head and chest. Most distinctive is a white wing patch. The adult female has a more mottled yellow head and chest and does not show a wing patch.

The Almonte lagoon and Nature Trail sports an observation tower overlooking the fence and berm. The tower, named for its donor Al Potvin, was erected by MVFN several years ago and the nature trail leading to the tower is maintained regularly by MVFN members.

Having this excellent site and access trail in our area is of great value to local birders and others, and also has value for the local economy. In an economic study of the facility done in 2015 by MVFN member Cliff Bennett, a questionnaire was sent out all across Ontario through the ONTBIRDS network to gauge the dollar value of this magnetic draw of rare shorebirds and other birds coming in to rest and feed during migration. The results showed that during the year, 88 people had visited the lagoon, making a total of 265 visits. While in town, they spent over $4000 on gasoline, food and other shopping.  Today, the Lagoon and nature trail is regularly visited and reported on by the Ottawa birding network as well as local birders.

If you have not yet visited this facility, watch for MVFN’s series of September Open Houses at the Potvin Observation Tower. These will be held on four Wednesdays in September/October, details tba. From 3 to 5 P.M. on each of these days, an expert birder will be on site with a spotting scope to help you identify the lagoon’s visitors.

Submitted by Cliff Bennett, MVFN Past-President

 A female Yellow-headed blackbird. Photo source: Akiroqu Brust on free stock photo site: https://pixabay.com/en/female-yellow-headed-blackbird-1427772/

A female Yellow-headed blackbird. Photo source: Akiroqu Brust on free stock photo site: https://pixabay.com/en/female-yellow-headed-blackbird-1427772/

Photographed August 13th on the mudflats in the distance, a positive ID was later made of a rare Yellow-headed blackbird, a male juvenile. Photo by Mark Gawn.

A juvenile male yellow-headed blackbird photographed August 13th from the observation tower. The bird was in the distance on the mudflats; a positive ID was later made. Photo by Mark Gawn.

 

Now (August 19), a week later rain has flooded the area; but last week the exposed mudflats were teeming with birds, including the rare yellow-headed blackbird. Photo Pauline Donaldson

Nearly a week later (August 19), rain has flooded the area, but on August 13, 2016 the exposed mudflats of the Almonte lagoons were teeming with birds, including the rare yellow-headed blackbird. Photo Pauline Donaldson

At the lagoons a platform provides views across the berm, and a place to set up a tripod or spotting scope. Photo Pauline Donaldson

At the lagoons a platform provides views across the berm, and a place to set up a tripod or spotting scope.

 

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On Ramsay Concession 8, across the road from and just past Auld Kirk cemetery, a yellow sign marks the entrance to a short, easy nature trail out to the lagoons and the Potvin Observation Tower. Photos by Pauline Donaldson

On Ramsay Concession 8, across the road from and just past Auld Kirk cemetery, a yellow sign marks the entrance to a short, easy nature trail out to the lagoons and the Potvin Observation Tower. Photos by Pauline Donaldson

 

 

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Mississippi Lake Invasive Plants Monitoring

On July 10th, 2016, members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists participated in an invasive aquatic plant  monitoring exercise on Mississippi Lake.  In the morning participants attended a short presentation, at the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority office, on invasive plant species possibly present in the lake. They were also briefed on sampling protocol and were provided with field kits.  Participants then split into groups and went to five different locations on Mississippi Lake (Kinch Bay, Kings Bay, McGibbons Bay, McEwen Bay and Innisville Rapids) to search for invasive species. Four species of invasive plants were found, including Curly-leaf pondweed, European frogbit, Purple loosestrife and Invasive Phragmites.  This should not be considered an exhaustive list of all invasive plants that occur in Mississippi Lake.  The purpose of this monitoring exercise was to increase awareness through community involvement and to hopefully inspire similar initiatives in the future.

Invasive Plants Found
Curly-Leaf Pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) Locations: McEwen Bay & Innisville Rapids Abundance: ScatteredCurly-leaf pondweed European Frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae)Locations: McGibbons Bay, McEwen Bay, Kings Bay, Kinch Bay Abundance: Scattered; Dense in Kinch BayFrogbit
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)Location: McGibbons Bay Abundance: Single PlantPurple loosestrife Invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis)Location: Innisville RapidsAbundance: Single PlantInvasive Phragmites

Volunteers also returned with samples of native plants, including coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum), sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), common waterweed (Elodea canadensis), common duckweed (Lemna minor), star duckweed (Lemna trisulca), flat-stemmed pondweed (Potamogeton zosteriformis), water marigold (Bidens beckii), spotted joe-pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) and pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata).  In many instances, northern watermilfoil and coontail were mistaken for European watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), and common waterweed was mistaken for hydrilla.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks go, to Jim Tye of the Mississippi Lake Association for organizing the event and bringing all parties together; to Cliff Bennett and David Garcia of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, for promoting the initiative within their organization; and to the Mississippi Lake landowners who allowed volunteers to launch canoes from their properties.

 

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Cerulean Warbler in Maberly

Cerulean Warbler sighting sent to MVFN Nature Notebook

Alison Bentley sent in a report June 3, 2016 of a  male Cerulean Warbler singing consistently in Maberly, ON.  First noted May 29th and every day since.

Cerulean Warbler

 

The image is from https://www.ontario.ca/page/cerulean-warbler. Note that the Cerulean Warbler is a Species at Risk in Ontario – Status Threatened. “In Ontario and the United States, the main threat to this warbler is habitat loss from degrading and fragmenting forests, since it requires relatively large tracts of forest.”

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MVFN Concludes Campaign to Influence Proposed Development on Burnt Lands Alvar

The almost year-long efforts of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) to oppose a proposed small development at the southern edge of Burnt Lands Alvar on Golden Line Road in Ramsay Ward, came to a conclusion with an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on December 7, 2015. The MVFN alvar team fought for changes to the development right up to about a week before the hearing, when they withdrew from the hearing after exhausting all of their options.

Allison Alvar walk 2015, photo by Pauline Donaldson

Allison walk ram's head (1280x960)The County of  Lanark and the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Official Plans allow cluster-lot developments within the alvar  (even though it is a sensitive area and a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) if an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is conducted and steps are taken to mitigate environmental damage to the footprint of the development. As these steps had been shown in the original application, the proposed development project had been approved conditionally and could proceed. It was on these grounds that MVFN felt it could make an impact by opposing the project as planned. The MVFN alvar team strove to force many improvements to the EIS for the proposed development.

By opposing the development, MVFN has raised awareness of the public as to the existence of the Burnt Lands Alvar, its location, what an alvar is, and the unique and fragile ecosystems which make Burnt Lands Alvar an ecological treasure.  Also, MVFN’s opposition to this particular development has arguably influenced the local municipality to begin processes to change its Community Official Plan and accompanying Zoning By-Laws to ensure future similar development schemes cannot occur on regulated lands in Mississippi Mills.

A significant impact of MVFN’s alvar appeal was to have three additional on-site visits by ecologists and other experts take place, in late spring, summer and early autumn. These field studies added significantly to the developer’s previous EIS study, which had included only one cursory assessment of the Alvar ecology. Two other important concessions were achieved by the MVFN team, to place the roadway in the least damaging location, and the other to change the location of the turning circle, also to minimize impact. Other positive influences from the MVFN team can be seen throughout the final EIS report.

The Alvar OMB team, led by MVFN member Tineke Kuiper, included several qualified specialists and other supporting persons. Key to the effort was a team of lawyers from the Canadian Environment Law Association, which was provided free of costs to MVFN.

The other significant component of MVFN’s appeal effort was the MVFN fund-raising team, led by MVFN Chair of the Environmental Issues Committee Theresa Peluso. They conducted an amazing fund-raising campaign which allowed the MVFN Alvar team to hire a planner and two ecologists and pay other related costs. When final invoices are in, the MVFN Finance Committee will publish a financial statement.

Although MVFN had withdrawn their appeal prior to the hearing, MVFN President Cliff Bennett and a member of the lawyer team, attended the short OMB hearing as a professional courtesy. The final judgments of the OMB will be handed down by mid-January and a final MVFN report will be issued at that time. For any enquiries on MVFN’s involvement in this project, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613 256-5013 or .

Photos by Pauline Donaldson were taken during a 2015 walk on Burnt Lands Alvar led by Ken Allison .

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