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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Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter


This special project to create a new local birding facility was conceived, developed and built by the MVFN Birding Committee and many other construction-minded MVFN volunteers.  The viewing shelter is dedicated and named for the late Mike McPhail, a former President of MVFN and a tireless advocate for nature in our community.  The Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter is located along the same path as the Al Potvin Observation Tower, which has been well used by birders from near and far for many years and overlooks the largest and westernmost of the decommissioned lagoons.


Bringing a big project from conception to completion involves a lot of planning and many steps.  Starting in the spring of 2017, the investigation of several designs and sizes and shapes of bird viewing shelters was undertaken, and a preliminary structural plan was designed by Michel Gauthier.  This was taken to Mississippi Mills municipal staff for review, and a request to build beside the lagoon on town property.  The project was approved unanimously by Council in the fall, and the necessary building permits were obtained.

A call was sent out to MVFN members for help with construction, and the response was amazing – 22 people signed up!  The first step was to level the ground, and spread gravel, which was done by Howard Robinson and his trusty tractor.  Because of the early onset of winter in mid-November, the cement support posts had to be formed and dried in Al Potvin’s heated garage.  Over the long winter months, volunteers calculated materials needed and arranged to purchase them from Home Hardware in Almonte.

Then the long wait for spring to arrive began, and the crew waited, and waited, then waited some more. Finally, we emerged from early spring to high summer weather, the ground was dry and firm, materials were ordered, and the eager volunteers finally began construction. There were many talented volunteer carpenters and apprentices, which kept the cost down significantly.  However, the “commanders-in-chief” had a knack for organizing work crews on the very hottest days of June!  In spite of the heat, however, the construction moved along quickly, and by early July, the shelter was complete.

And what a beautiful and sturdy shelter it is, with a perfect panoramic view of the lagoon and marsh areas.  Constructed of beautiful pine with a green metal roof, it can be seen off in the distance from Wolf Grove Road.



The MVFN Board of Directors and members are delighted with the results of the tireless efforts of the co-managers and construction crews.  We are proud to offer the public birding community a unique place to visit, spring, summer and fall.  MVFN is also very grateful to the Municipality of Mississippi Mills for allowing the shelter to be built, for the help and support they offered throughout, and to Home Hardware for their expert advice.

Besides migrating waterfowl and shore birds at the lagoon, there are woodland birds along the path, and field birds which can be seen out from each side of the path.  To access the path, turn right off Wolf Grove Road to Concession #8.  The path is located a few hundred meters up Concession #8, across the road from the far end of the Auld Kirk Cemetery.  Parking is permitted on both shoulders of the road, except in front of the gate.  The rather hard-to-see entrance to the pathway is marked with a small yellow sign on the right.  Please respect the “Rules of Etiquette” on the path and in the shelter.

E-bird checklist for this location

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