Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

February 5 – 2005 Owling trip to Amherst Island

Submitted by: Cliff Bennett,
Jan. 20, 2005

An outing with the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

For all members and families and friends.

Leader: Chris Grooms, Ontario Nature co-ordinator for Eastern Region.

(Rideau Valley Field Naturalists are also invited to join us but will make own arrangements to get there) .

When: Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005

Car pooling at Petro Can Station, Almonte,  for leaving 8:00 to catch the 10:30 ferry sailing.  

Return sailing, 4:00 P.M. for return home by 6:00 P.M.  

If Petro Can is not convenient, please call to make other arrangements.

Please register in advance by calling Cliff Bennett at 256-5013 or email

Amherst Island is west of Kingston and is a favourite spot for at least six species of owls plus many other bird species.

Bring a lunch and a hot thermos.

Cost: The price of the ferry trip ($5) and sharing with gas.

In case of poor weather, alternative date is Sat. Feb. 12. If in doubt, call Cliff before 7:40 A.M.

Call Cliff for any other details

Dress warmly as we will be away from cars for some of time.

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Watson’s Corners Christmas Bird Count yields surprising results

Press Release
Submitted by:  Cliff Bennett
January 2, 2005

The 2nd Annual Watson’s Corners Audubon Christmas Bird Count, held on Thursday, Dec. 30, yielded an unprecedented twelve great gray owls, indicating a major invasion of these large northern-breeding raptors. The local results mirror similar tallies all across Ontario, probably due to a collapse of the owls’ favourite rodent source of food in the northern boreal regions.

The Watson’s Corners count area includes a circle centred at Watson’s Corners and taking in every space within a fifteen mile circumference. Twenty-four participants in eleven different search parties, took to the field to count every bird they could hear or see. As well, the count included birds recorded by ten different feeder watchers.The results tallied showed 3716 individual birds included in 20 different species, a significant increase from the first year ‘s count of 2833 birds and 20 species.

Highlights of this year’s count, aside from the great grays, were one snowy owl in the Balderson area, one common loon on the Mississippi River and three gray partridge. High counts were registered for (brackets show 2003 numbers) rock pigeons 220 (72), blue jays 342 (76) and chickadees 1162 (572), while low counts showed crows 98 (143), starlings 61 (349), common redpoll 269 (698) and evening grosbeaks 80 (387). Species not seen this year included barred owls, hoary redpolls, rough-legged hawks, bald eagle, common mergansers, red-tailed hawks and golden-crowned kinglets. Aside from the owls, raptors were very scarce. Only two sharp-shinned hawks were reported but one goshawk and one bald eagle were reported during the count week.

The count area was divided into four sections, each with a team leader. Leaders included Bruce LeGallais, Hopetown section, Bobby Clarke, Lanark Village section, Claire Fisher, McDonald Corners section and Ted Mosquin, Poland Section. Marj Montgomery coordinated the feeder counts. Organizer and compiler was Cliff Bennett.

At the end of the day, observers gathered at the Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark to enter results on the master chart and enjoy refreshments, provided by members of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Foundation. On behalf of the Count sponsor, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, Cliff Bennett thanked all of the participants and announced the date of the 3rd Annual 2005 Watson’s Corners Christmas Bird Count, to be held on Friday, Dec. 30.

Bird counts:

Watson Corners Species Report

Watson Corners Section Report

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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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Christmas Bird Count 2003 Yields Bald Eagles

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by:  Cliff Bennett
Friday, January 2, 2004

Christmas Bird Count 2003 Yields Bald Eagles

Results Christmas Bird Count 2003 

Bald EagleFinding and listing two bald eagles on the 59th Annual Carleton Place Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was well overdue. The large raptor had been spotted several times during the past few years during the count week but never before on count day. One was listed by the Pip Winters team on the Mississippi Lake shore in the Scotch Corners area while the other appeared to the Lynda Bennett team near Upper Perth Road in Lanark Highlands.

The Carleton Place CBC, conducted in one of over two thousand count circles in North and Central America and the Caribbean, was held on Saturday, December 27 in Spring-like conditions with no snow on the ground except in the bush, streams running in full flood and the Mississippi Lake more open than usual. Thirty-four field observers and thirty-three feeder counters took part in the local exercise and listed forty-four different species (above average) and 5829 individual birds (below average).

In addition to the first registry of the bald eagles, record high counts were made for Canada Goose, 318 (previous high 101) and Cooper’s Hawk, three (previous high only one). Also found to tie previous records were one Merlin, first listed in 1999 and one Northern Hawk-Owl, first found on a count day in 1965. Birders looking for the Hawk-Owl on Old Union Hall Road in Ramsay the next day, found American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds and White-winged Crossbills, which were listed as found during the count week. Last year, 338 robins were found on count day, but none this year.

The complete list for the count is as follows:

Canada Goose, 318

Mallard, 1

Common Goldeneye, 30

Common Mergansers, 32

Bald Eagle, 2

Cooper’s Hawk, 3

Red-tailed Hawk, 14

Rough-legged Hawk, 10

Merlin, 1

Ruffed Grouse, 23

Wild Turkey, 34

Ring-billed Gull, 1

Herring Gulls, 29

Great Black-backed Gull, 1

Rock Pigeons, 512

Mourning Doves, 207

Northern Hawk-owl, 1

Downy Woodpecker, 55

Hairy Woodpecker, 62

Pileated Woodpecker, 11

Northern Shrike, 10

Blue Jays, 287

American Crow, 470

Common Raven, 14

Black-capped Chickadees, 1041

Red-breasted Nuthatch, 5

White-breasted Nuthatch 115,

Brown Creeper, 3

Starlings, 663

Bohemian Waxwings, 53

Cedar Waxwings, 2

American Tree Sparrows, 173

Dark-eyed Junco, 65

Snow Bunting, 326

Cardinals, 40

Brown-headed Cowbird, 1

Pine Grosbeak, 1

Purple Finch, 5

House Finch, 9

Common Redpoll, 732

Pine Siskin, 1

American Goldfinch, 233

Evening Grosbeaks, 66

House Sparrow, 169

Participants on the count gathered at the end of the day in Kelly’s Loft Restaurant and Pub, Highway 29, to watch the results being listed and to share experiences and refreshments. The CBC was sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and organized by Cliff Bennett. Georgina Doe, Carleton Place, assisted by Libby Goddard, Almonte, coordinated the feeder counts and results were compiled and forwarded to Bird Studies Canada by Mike Jaques, Beckwith.

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