Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

MVFN Fall Open House at the Almonte Lagoons Report 2020

MVFN conducted Open Houses at the Almonte Lagoons this fall.  A report of the species and numbers of individuals observed  during the open houses has been compiled and posted on the website.  The link to the report is on the Almonte Lagoons page which can be accessed through the Birding Page.  Thanks to Michel Gauthier for compiling the report and to all who participated.

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Share the Migration – Birdwatching with MVFN at the Almonte Lagoons

Wednesdays in September       3-5 p.m. 


During every fall migration, thousands of waterfowl stop to rest and feed at the Almonte Lagoons located behind the wastewater treatment plant on Wolf Grove Road. Birdwatchers eagerly visit this prime location in September and October, making it a regional hotspot. To enhance the viewing experience, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) maintain a woodland trail leading to an observation tower and a bird-viewing shelter overlooking the lagoon.

On four consecutive Wednesdays in September, MVFN invites you to walk in and witness this spectacle. Expert birders will be at the viewing shelter to talk about the birds and to provide the opportunity to learn the identity of the different birds’ species.

The first open house will take place on Wednesday, Sept 2 between 3 and 5 pm. Visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars (and a spotting scope if you have one). The next three open houses will take place on the following three WednesdaysSept 9, 16, and 23, all between 3 and 5 pm.

Directions to the viewing shelter: from Almonte, take Wolf Grove Road (County Rd. 16) towards Middleville. Drive 2 km and turn north onto Ramsay Conc. 8 at the Auld Kirk church. Drive approximately 100 m to the trailhead. The trail entrance is on Ramsay Conc.  8 across the road from the cemetery. A small yellow sign marks the entrance.


The following social distancing measures will apply:

  • Physical distances will be maintained at all times.
  • Facemasks covering mouth and nose will be worn inside the shelter. Outside the shelter, masks should be worn if physical distancing cannot be adequately maintained.
  • The Al Potvin Tower will be closed for this year’s session because there is not enough room to permit social distancing.

A maximum of 4 birdwatchers at a time will be allowed inside the Mike McPhail Viewing Shelter. If more than 4 birdwatchers are present, the extras watchers should view the birds from the area near the entrance of the shelter.


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The Third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (2021-2025)




In the February 2020 edition of OFO News, the newsletter of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, Mike Cadman wrote an article announcing that the third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas would be starting in January 2021. For those who have participated in either or both of the two previous Atlas projects, this will be exciting news. If you haven’t been involved in a Breeding Bird Atlas before, you might be wondering what’s involved. A five-year project might sound a little scary but it’s necessary to give Ontario naturalists time to cover the very large province in which we live. In Southern Ontario alone there are about 2000 ten-kilometer squares to be covered. In Lanark County we have all or parts of about 50 squares.

You can get involved at many levels; you don’t have to commit to covering a square. In the past there have always been “casual observations” to report even if you weren’t in one of “your” squares. This time around, such reporting will be even easier because technology has come a long way since field work for the last atlas ended in 2005. For those of you who use eBird to report your bird sightings, reporting for the atlas will be similarly based on submitting checklists. For the atlas, though, you will be looking for, and reporting, breeding evidence, not just “presence”. However, almost any bird observation during the breeding season is potentially evidence of breeding at some level, ranging from “Possible”, through “Probable” to “Confirmed” breeding.

Another vital component of the atlas is point counts. The goal is to conduct in each square 25 five-minute point counts of all species heard or seen. I wasn’t too excited about point counts before the second atlas started, but it quickly became my favourite atlas activity. I even found bird species I would otherwise have missed!

I encourage all Lanark birders to get involved in this incredible citizen science opportunity. It will get you into new areas, greatly increase your birding skills, especially song recognition, and will be a lot of fun. You don’t have to be an expert birder to make meaningful contributions – you can report the birds you know in the area where you live. Conducting point counts does require a fairly high level of expertise in recognizing bird songs, but you can start working to improve your skills now. This year’s breeding season is already underway, with much more to come.

If anyone has general questions about what it takes to help out with a breeding bird atlas, I’d be happy to try to answer them.

Ken Allison


If you want to see some of the maps based on the first two atlases, you can check them out at:

If you want to practice bird song and call identification, I recommend starting out with the Dendroica tool at:

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April Morning Bird Walks/COVID-9 Year

by Michel Gauthier

Every year in April, MVFN (Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists) organize four Early Morning Bird Walks. Typically, this means inviting the community to participate in guided walks at four different locations, on four consecutive Wednesday. The aim of those walks is to familiarize club members and the community with various aspects of birdwatching.

For the last twelve years, the club has dutifully recorded the number of species obtained during those walks. As of 2017, the club began recording not only the number of species but also the number of birds for each species. From then on, this data has been shared with eBird – Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This year, because of the social distancing measures required to combat COVID 19, the Morning Walks were cancelled. The club, however, found a way to maintain the string of data while strictly adhering to the social distancing measures.

On each of the assigned Wednesday, one of our experienced birdwatchers (or two if they were part of the same family unit) took his/her daily walk at the place where the Morning Walk was supposed to take place. Luckily, the coronavirus closures did not affect any of the designated locations, so our volunteers were able to record the birds and species while doing no more than their prescribed daily walk.

One would think that reducing the number of birdwatchers to such an extent would have dramatically affected the count, but surprisingly, the numbers of birds and bird species did not deviate significantly from previous years. Maybe the lack of human conversation enabled our birdwatchers to hear and locate more birds. Or maybe only one or two humans wandering through the bird’s environment spooked fewer birds. Whatever the reason, the charts below this article show the results.

Sadly, maintaining the Morning Walks data streak is a small consolation when compared to the hurt inflicted on our community by COVID 19, but in these trying times, one must endeavour to find a sense of normalcy wherever one can. We hope with all our hearts that by next year, we at MVFN will again be able to invite the community in joining us for the Early Morning Bird Walks.

But until then, we encourage everyone to go out birding on their own. MVFN has a Guide to birdwatching in Lanark County that suggests a number of good birding routes. Some of the routes are on federal land or provincial parks that are currently closed to the public but the majority are open and easily allow for social distancing. Just check before you go.

Those new to bird watching will find it helpful to have a field guide to aid in identification. There are a number of apps available for smart phones that will help but Merlin – a free app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – is highly recommended. See how many of the 46 species found on the early morning bird walks you can spot.






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MVFN Presqu’ile Day Trip



Wood Duck, Common Merganser, Canada Goose
Photo by Simon Lunn



Once again MVFN will join the Friends of Presqu’ile Provincial Park to celebrate the return of thousands of ducks, geese and swans to Presqu’ile Bay – one of the greatest natural areas for birders on the north shore of Lake Ontario. This is a great opportunity to brush up on water fowl identification with many species swimming close to shore.

Join us on Saturday March 21, 2020 to experience the thrilling sight of thousands of waterfowl which stop on their migration north and west to their summer breeding grounds.

There are also many species of land birds in the Park. Our expedition coincides with the 44th Annual Presqu’ile Waterfowl Weekend, put on by the Park staff and Friends of Presqu’ile Provincial Park volunteers.

DATE: Saturday, March 21, or in case of adverse weather, Sunday, March 22.


Civitan Hall Parking Lot, 7:15 a.m.
Union Hall (Wolf Grove & Tatlock Road), 7:30 a.m.
Glen Tay Public School (just past Perth just north of Hwy #7), 8:00 a.m.
3-hour total travel time each way (with one pit stop)
Arrive back home ~ 6:00 p.m.

There is a $11.20 per vehicle park entrance fee ($9.00 Senior rate). Provincial Park passes are honoured.

BRING: Lunch, hot beverage, binoculars, and spotting scope if you have one. Have extra warm clothes ready for cool, windy weather.

The “Friends” volunteers have an outside BBQ lunch, hot drinks and snacks available for purchase outside the Nature Centre, which has indoor, warm washrooms and a Gift Shop.

YOU MUST PRE-REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT. To register, complete the form at this link. For more information, contact Cliff Bennett at , or 798-6295.

Cliff will email before 7:00 a.m. if the trip is postponed until Sunday because of the weather.

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