Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Annual Duck Migration Presqu’ile Provincial Park

Annual Duck Migration Presqu’ile Provincial Park

Join us in viewing the annual huge duck migration staging area at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Brighton, on Lake Ontario. Tens of thousands of ducks of over twenty species, gather in the park bay prior to taking off north to their breeding grounds.

 Sunday, March 14, 2010

(NOTE NEW DATE: This event was originally scheduled for March 28 but the ice in the bay is melting sooner than expected. As the ice goes, so go the ducks)

 Car Pooling: East Lanark: Meet at Union Hall, corner of County Roads 16 and 9 for departure by 7:30 A.M. West Lanark: Meet at Balderson Cheese Outlet, Balderson, for departure for 8:00 A.M.

Bring: lunch, binoculars, spotting scopes if available. Dress warmly for lake winds are cool.

Wear:  good walking shoes for we will walk at least one trail.

 This event is go, rain or shine, sleet, hail or snow (unless we have a sudden great blizzard).

 Please pre-register with Cliff Bennett  at 613-256-5013 or .

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Birds In My Garden

Almonte United Church’s ‘Spirit of the Garden’ event (Apr 2009) featured many speakers. In honour of Poetry Month, the Lanark County Live Poet Society was invited to perform poems as an introduction for each speaker. Tammy MacKenzie, who loves both gardening and birds, wrote and performed the following (posted here with Tammy’s permission) to introduce MVFN member Cliff Bennet’s ‘Birds in the Garden’ talk:

Birds In My Garden

Turning and digging and tilling the soil
I work the earth in loving toil
under the watchful eyes of robins in the dew-bejeweled grass,
their red breasts bright in the morning sun,
hopping ever nearer in hopes of snatching an easy breakfast revealed by my labour.

Having laid out line and row
I gather my seeds and begin to sow,
closely watched by hopeful sparrows
and soon joined by cheery chickadees
chatting their dee-dee-dee as they flit in bobbing flight to the tree
where higher up perches a blackbird adding his musical erk-a-lee.
After I’m done they come down to the ground for a good look around,
but the seeds are well covered and they soon leave, disappointed,
and tired of the brash bullying of brazen blue jays boldly hollering their raucous kwe-kwe.

Time passes and my garden grows green,
lush and full with occasional nibbles from critters unseen.
Hummingbirds visit to sip from each flower
and sometimes when I water, indulge in a shower.
The robins still visit, and the occasional small bird,
in search of worms in the dirt and other juicy morsels on the leaves of the plants,
leaving the aphids to the ladybugs and ants.
It’s nice to see these birds in my garden, tilling the soil and tending the plants.

I smile as I watch them flitting around, now in the air and then on the ground.
their bright colours and energetic antics cheer my day,
their cheeping chatter and sweet song lift my heart.
But I must admit the misleading mimicry of the catbird’s eow brings a frown to my brow
when I hear it coming from my strawberry patch!
I really don’t mind sharing a berry or two, but their wanton pilfering simply won’t do!
They and the waxwings search out the best, always finding the biggest and brightest,
eat about half and just leave the rest!
If you heard me speak then I’d have to beg your pardon,
‘cause I really get vexed by those birds in my garden!

But I know in the end, when all’s said and done,
the garden harvested and earth bare to the sun,
when summer is passed and fall almost ended, the birds will move south or grow quiet.
I’ll feel sad and a little lonely, and miss every one
of the birds in my garden.

Tammy MacKenzie April 2009

For more information on Tammy’s work, or the Live Poets Society (LiPS), contact  or visit the LiPS website at

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Naturalists Learn the Science of Bird Song

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Cliff Bennett
April 29, 2005

Naturalists Learn the Science of Bird Song

Bluebird IllustrationBird song was the subject of the most recent monthly meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) held at the Almonte United Church on Thursday, April 21.

With the aid of slides and sound recordings, Dr. Bruce Falls, noted ornithologist and scientist, shared with his audience a scientist’s perspective on the world of bird song. “We enjoy hearing birds, but their songs are really directed at other birds”, he explained as he began his in-depth presentation. A retired professor, Dr. Falls spent his career teaching and performing research at the University of Toronto’s Department of Zoology, where he was involved in pioneering studies in bird behaviour.

Introduced by MVFN host for the evening Rod Bhar, Dr. Falls began his talk by explaining how birds produce their songs. He illustrated some of the unique physical adaptations that allow birds to produce sounds. He also reviewed some key experiments that led to our current understanding that bird song is both learned and inherited by the members of individual species.

In the last half of the presentation, Dr. Falls explained why birds sing. He explored some of the studies that he and others have been involved in that show how male birds use song to mark their territories, attract mates, and scare off intruders.

The talk was followed by a question and answer session. Members of the audience came away from the presentation with a new perspective on the complexities of bird song and how it forms an essential part of the survival and reproductive strategies of many bird species.

Mr. Bhar thanked the speaker and presented him with a gift basket of local herbal products.

Coming up in the near future is MVFN’s 17th Annual General Meeting, to be held at Union Hall on Thursday May 19th. The general public is welcome to attend. Feature of the evening will be a sound and slide presentation by noted local photographer Bill Pratt.

Other programme items include canoeing Contstance Creek, led by Rod Bhar on Sunday May 29 and a walk in the natural world of Mer Bleu, date to be announced. For more information on MVFN and events, go to the website

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Amherst Island Adventure 2005

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
February 26, 2005

Amherst Island Adventure 2005

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On Saturday, Feb. 5th, twenty-six MVFN members and friends descended upon Amherst Island ferry early in the morning to sail to the island for hopefully, some quality bird watching. The expedition was led by Chris Grooms, Eastern Ontario Ontario Nature Coordinator.

The weather was bright and near perfect, until the car convoy passed by Elgin and into a solid fog bank. The fog stayed with us the whole day, making the spotting of white snowy owls in white fog and against white snow, virtually impossible. The fog might explain how one van load of participants ended up at the Wolfe Island ferry in downtown Kingston and thus missed the 10:30 sailing of the Amherst ferry. We doubled back to meet them getting off the 11:30 ferry on the island one hour later.

The group convoyed around the island, making several stops to catch a glimpse of hawks and owls. Parking on a main road, we trekked into the famous owl woods where most of the owls are usually logged. However, after a couple of hours, in which we took time for our lunch stop, we were only able to find a boreal owl and one great gray owl.

Back out in the open in the afternoon, we were able to find many short-eared owls flitting from tree to post in the fog. Back on the ferry and cutting through the pan ice, we found many ducks and a few gulls. All-in-all, the trip was very successful and, we finally got out of the fog on the way home just north of Smiths Falls.

MVFN members participating in the Amherst Island expedition were Jim and Yvonne Bendell, Rod Bhar and his mother Jill Bhar, Sheila Edwards, Chris Hume, Mary and Howard Robinson, Maida Lowe, Tine Kuiper, John and Sandra McManus and their son and Cliff Bennett. The rest of the group were friends and guests.

Below is the observation list from the day (30 species altogether):

Crow, Rock Pigeon, Chickadee, Blue Jay, Common Goldeneye, Herring Gull, Ring Billed Gull

Northern Harrier (female), Horned Lark, Mourning Dove,Starling, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow

Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, Boreal Owl

Great Gray Owl, Cardinal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Robin, Brown Thrasher, Goldfinch

Horned Lark, White-breasted Nuthatch, Short-eared Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-breasted

Merganser, Rough-legged Hawk.

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Wild Turkey Session Spawns Controversy

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Cliff Bennett
January 18, 2004

Wild Turkey Session Spawns Controversy  

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(Photo by: Tine Kuiper)

Several key issues emerged during question period following a presentation on the re-introduction of wild turkeys in Eastern Ontario at the monthly meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, Thursday, Jan. 15 in Almonte. Guest presenter, videographer Franziska vonRosen, showed her noted Pinegrove Productions video entitled Reintroducing the Wild Turkey and MNR wild turkey specialist Scott Smithers followed up with a power-point presentation on the current status of the huge game bird in Lanark County and area.

Introduced by MVFN host for the evening Al Potvin, vonRosen told of the making of the video, indicating key features. She noted the drive to reintroduce wild turkeys to the area came from the Ontario Anglers and Hunters, supported by local fish and game clubs and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The initial purpose was to provide a game bird for hunting purposes.

Following the viewing of the video, Smithers presented copious statistics on the populations of wild turkeys in different areas leading up to the controversy related to the fact that, due to the success of the population growth, the birds have become a nuisance to farmers because of crop damage.

In the lively discussions following the presentations, a Rosetta farmer asked why farmers have to bear the brunt of the cost of damage to their crops all because some hunters want a new hunting experience. He indicated farmers are already suffering heavily from deer and Canada goose population explosions. In answer to another controversial question, Smithers indicated there was no historical evidence that wild turkeys existed in Lanark County prior to 1992 when the first ones were set loose, making the term re-introduction a misnomer.

After the quest speakers were thanked and presented with a gift of local honey products by Michael MacPherson and Jim Bendell, the discussions continued over refreshments. In the end, the protagonists agreed to disagree but all agreed there is a growing problem with wild turkeys and MNR has to act positively and soon, to remediate the situation.

The February 19 meeting of MVFN will feature a presentation on the black rat snake, which is on the endangered species list. Guest speaker will be MNR Biologist Shawn Thompson. For information about MVFN and its programmes, log on to

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