Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

CANCELLED MVFN Early Morning Bird Walks


COVID strikes again!


Sad to say the new lockdown announced last week means MVFN will once again have to cancel our Early Morning Bird Walks.

However, spring migration is still underway and everyone is encouraged to go out on these dates and see what you can find around your own place. And, you don’t even have to get out of bed. Just go to sleep with the window open and take note of all the birds you hear singing as the sun comes up.

So join other MVFN members each Wednesday morning in April at 6:30 a.m. for a virtual walk to see who has arrived. Take a few minutes afterwards and log your observations into iNaturalist. If you haven’t already joined our iNaturalist project, you can find directions on the website at

Wed.  April 7 – your backyard*

Wed.  April 14 – your front yard*

Wed.  April 21 – your porch*

Wed.  April 28 – under the covers*

* no mask required, no need to register.

To see the results for last year, check out this article on the MVFN website. Michel Gauthier and Ken Allison walked the routes to record what they saw and heard in 2020.

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Better Birding By Ear



This will be a fun, informal opportunity to refresh our memories of many of the local bird vocalizations ahead of the busy field work season for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. We will use the Dendroica app as a source.

These two nights will be targeted at those who already know most of the common bird songs but wish to have a review before heading out to Atlas this spring. If you are just beginning to learn bird songs, you’re still welcome but you might prefer to wait until May for the Bird Songs in your Backyard Zoom series as it will start at a more basic level.

These sessions will be informal and the coverage of species will largely depend on the needs expressed by the participants. So, come prepared with requests for birds or groups of birds that you struggle with.

To register for this event complete this form.

Location: ZOOM
Date: April 6 and 13 , 2021
Time: 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Leader: Ken Allison

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Spring Forward and JOIN MVFN Early Morning Bird Walks


Spring migration is underway. The harbinger of spring, Red-winged Black Birds,  can already be heard calling, birds of prey are pushing north and waterways are starting fill with water fowl. Join MVFN each Wednesday morning in April at 6:30 a.m. for a guided walk to see who has arrived.

Wed.  April 7 – 38 Carrs Street, Almonte

Wed.  April 14 – Wolf Grove Road and 12th Concession to Taylor Lake

Wed.  April 21 – 561 Wolf Grove Road

Wed.  April 28 – Mississippi River Walk, 73 Nedham Street, Carleton Place

This is a great opportunity to see and hear local species. Each walk will traverse a variety of habitats to ensure a good variety of birds. The walks are a nice introduction for beginning birders and a reunion with old friends for our experienced birders.

Everyone is welcome but registration is required so an individual email for each walk will be sent the week before providing a link to a registration form. All COVID protocols will be followed.

To see the results for last year, check out this article on the MVFN website. Michel Gauthier and Ken Allison walk the routes to record what they saw and heard.


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Happening in Mississippi Mills – Birdhouse Blowout




Two of our volunteer community leaders, Glenda Jones and Barbara Carroll, have resurrected a wonderful fundraising program, the Handmade Bird Houses Silent Auction.  Very fortunately for MVFN, it has been decided that the proceeds this year will go to the MVFN Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund.

Every year, the Bursary Committee awards one or more $1,000 bursaries to graduating high school students from our local area who are entering a nature-related program in college or university.  This Bursary fund relies totally on fundraising activities and tax-deductible donations.  Because of MVFN’s reduced in-person activities in the past year, we are in great need of a fresh infusion of funds for this 14-year old Bursary, which has assisted many local students with their college/university finances.  The more money the fund has, the more scholarships we can award!

We encourage you to help out in this fun winter activity in one or more of these ways:

  • build a bird house
  • find an existing birdhouse and decorate it
  • buy a birdhouse and decorate it
  • build a birdhouse and decorate it
  • cajole your children/grandchildren/neighbours/friends to participate in creating a decorated birdhouse with you, or on their own
  • bid on your favourite birdhouse (or two!)

Please follow this link to MVFN’s website, where there are more detailed instructions on how to get involved. To see some of the birdhouses that have already been donated check out the auction site.

MVFN Board of Directors hope you will support this worthy cause in any way you can, or support the Bursary directly by making an on-line or mailed-in donation to the:  MVFN Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund


Tear Drop                                                                 Double the pleasure

Donated by  Gary Beaucaire                                           Donated by Neil McBride

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Results of Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count by Cliff Bennett





Photo by Lise Balthazar

The 18th Annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird count was highly successful this year. Held always on December 30 (except once due to icy conditions), the Count is centered on Watsons Corners and forms a circle within a 15 km radius. Sixty persons took part in the Count, 36 out in the field and 24 counting at their feeders. These 60 people counted 3 872 birds from 39 different species.

How does this compare with past results over 18 years? The record number of people counting totaled 62 in 2016; the record number of birds counted were 4 276 in 2010 and the record number of species listed was 42 in 2012. So, all in all, 2020 was a very good year.

One new species, a pied-billed grebe was listed for the first time. This bird was found in open water just up from the bridge at the foot of Dalhousie Lake. A record tying number of barred owls (6) and northern harriers(1) was tallied, tied with 2010 and 2009 respectively and this year the record number of trumpeter swans (16) was broken, up from (8) found in 2016. The Count leader this year was Jeff Mills, from Cedar Hill, and the feeder count leader was Lise Balthazar, Sheridan Rapids Road. Marcel Gauthier, Almonte, compiled and published the count figures. Congratulations to the participants of the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count for this valuable contribution to North American citizen science work.

It was a German scientist in 1855, followed by others, who suggested birds were capable of detecting the earth’s magnetic field and using geomagnetism to guide them on migration. An early experimenter placed a small magnet on a bird’s wing prior to migration. The bird became totally disoriented and, on another note, adding to my series about bird migration theories (in the Lanark Era):

In the 1960’s, experimenters enlarged on the magnet trial by placing non-magnetic bars on several groups of homing pigeons and magnetic bars on others. They were taken a few hundred miles from home and released under heavy clouds to cut out the influence of the sun. The pigeons without magnets came home to their roost five out of seven times while those with magnets failed miserably. These studies showed magnetism influences bird behaviour; but does it help with migration?

In the 1980’s, at Cornell University, under strict experimental rules, scientist were able to prove, using Indigo buntings and Swainson’s thrushes, that birds at least initially orient themselves to the magnetic field when embarking on migration. It seems then, that the jury is still out on this intriguing aspect of how birds migrate. Next column, I’ll tell about migration theories using stars, sun and moon.


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