Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

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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Field Naturalists Form New Bird Count Area in Lanark Highlands

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Cliff Bennett
Friday, Nov.28, 2003

Field Naturalists Form New Bird Count Area in Lanark Highlands

Cardinal (Photo Credit:  Sandra Bauer)Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) have been around in the Western Hemisphere since the year 1900. Three count circles (71/2 mile radius) have been operating for decades in Lanark County and area including Carleton Place, Rideau Ferry and Pakenham.

A new count circle, designed to fill a large gap in Lanark County, is being established by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) in the Lanark Highlands area, centred on Watson’s Corners. This circle will take in Brightside to the north, most of Dalhousie Lake to the west, south to within a km. of Balderson and east to include Middleville. Activities in this new circle will be on a trial run basis for this year, with the first formal count being conducted in 2004.

A count is conducted by interested birders forming into teams and combing the roads, trails and woodlots during the count day to record every bird seen or heard. The results compiled for Canada are sent to Bird Studies Canada. CBCs take place all over North and Central America, the Caribbean and Hawaii. This annual event produces a definitive census of our bird population and is used for many research and conservation programmes designed to encourage the continuing health of our avian friends.

The date for the new Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count will be Tuesday, Dec. 30. All persons interested in the health of our local bird population, are invited to join in on the count. Teams will be formed, each team with a more knowledgeable birder. They will be assigned a count area and will spend the daylight hours counting every bird they see or hear. At the end of the day, all will gather at the Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark Village, to record their findings and enjoy hot refreshments.

Residents in the count circle who have active bird feeders can also take part in the final tally. To register for the feeder counts, contact the feeder coordinator Marj. Gilmour, 259-3078 before the tally date. Then, on Dec. 30, feeder watchers will count every bird coming in to their feeders or appearing in their yard and phone in their resulting tally to Marj. These numbers will be totalled and added to the main count from the field observations.

Count coordinator for this first count is MVFN Director Cliff Bennett, . To register for the field count, contact Cliff at 256-5013 or by e-mail

For further information, call Cliff.

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Rare Black-headed Grosbeak sighting in Pakenham

Rare bird alert!

Black Headed GrossBeak (photographed by Andrew Keaveney of Toronto)Nov. 28/03 A first winter male BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK has been seen coming to a feeder in the Pakenham area for approximately one week — a first for Eastern Ontario! It was seen November 28, at around 3:30 pm. This bird is coming to a feeder at the property of Bob and Iris Jurmain and it is requested that anyone interested in seeing this bird please call ahead to arrange a visit. The phone number is 613-256-0160.

Updates from Bob and Iris Jurmain

Dec. 11/03 Our friend has not arrived at the feeder for 2 full days. Prior to that he often came when Evening Grosbeaks were at the feeder so perhaps he is hanging out with his new friends. The modifications to the feeder were quite successful. The heating pad between the boards and the SM made for a warm base and the heat lamp heated up the felt covered perch and seeds. The last time we saw him he was actually standing with both feet even though it was quite cold outside. The weather is supposed to turn cold again soon (what else is new?) and perhaps he will return. Until then, I am not encouraging anyone to visit our house. I’ll report as soon as he returns, if he does. The consensus among birders is that he is staying here for the winter but perhaps he is continuing on his mistaken direction.

Dec. 6/03 We’ve received about 70 birders so far, most from southern Ontario. I’m continually canvasing for ideas as to what we can do to help him survive and many good suggestions have been made. We have a heat lamp on the seeds, SM insulation under the feeder and tomorrow I will put felt on the perch and a heating pad between the SM and the boards. The main concern at this time is his feet which Mike Runtz told me was not adapted to this kind of cold. He is continually standing on one or another of his feet while feeding. While perched we can see he crouches down and covers his feet with feathers so it may not be a problem when he is away from the feeder.

We also discovered an Indian Meal Worm (moth) in our sunflower seeds after being warned to freeze our seeds before bringing them inside. This is a very invasive critter that we didn’t know about before. We are experiencing a steep learning curve with all these visitor-experts.

We had a little excitement today with a visiting Sharp-shinned Hawk (juvenile). With the extra feeding and goodies, we have had a slight increase of bird activity and hence someone else looking for a meal of another sort. I didn’t think bringing my .22 rifle out would go over too well with 10 birders watching and photographing but that’s what I felt like doing. Our grosbeak did not come to the feeder until later than usual and did not stay as long each time. Perhaps the hawk had been around all day and he was being a little cautious. The extra seeds are also been enjoyed by at least one deer at night. So far, everyone has seen the bird save one who came on the one day he didn’t show up.

About the Black-Headed Grosbeak

The Black-headed Grosbeak is a resident of the American southwest and is a summer breeder in the lower interior and coastline of British Columbia. A bit larger than our summer rose-breasted grosbeak, the male’s head, back, neck and wings are black and the breast and around the neck is cinnamon brown. It has two white wing bars. The adult female looks like our female rose-breasted except the breast is buffy brown.The bird at the Jurmain’s feeder is a juvenile male, like the female but with a more cinnamon brown breast with fine streaking towards the belly. A key indicator is the beak, which is dark on the upper mandible and light on the lower.

The Jurmain bird is a record for this part of the continent.

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