Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count Results

On December 27th, 2019 local Mississippi Valley and area volunteers took part in the 120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The annual event is a worldwide citizen science project organized by Audubon, Birds Canada and supported by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. The event involves the surveying of bird populations within thousands of predefined areas, each roughly 450 square km. It was a foggy mild day when volunteers recorded the number and species type of each bird seen anywhere within a 12 km radius circle centered on the Carleton Place downtown bridge. The recorded sightings are valuable data provided to Audubon for their ongoing research into changes and distributions of bird populations.

Merlin – Photo by Remy Poulin

This year CBC was supported by 34 field and 27 feeder observers who recorded 5326 individual birds comprising 44 species. The results are very close to the 10-year average. Highlights were a first ever Winter Wren heard singing outside of Almonte as well as a record number of White-breasted Nuthatches (194) and Pileated Woodpeckers (21) seen. A wide range of raptors were observed including Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk as well as Barred Owl and Northern Hawk Owl. Due to abundant seeds this year in the northern boreal forest, many finches did not come south resulting in very few being seen in our area. The complete list of sightings can be found at CP CBC Results 2019  as well as on the Audubon site within their CBC pages for all areas including ours which is designated by Audubon as “ONCP”.

At the end of the day field observers gathered at the Carleton Place Library to share stories and pictures as well as submit their results to Iain Wilkes the local CBC Coordinator. Many thanks to the MVFN Social Committee volunteers, Suzanne and Jane, who provide much needed refreshment and snacks.

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Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owls are a boreal species which behaves like a hawk but looks like an owl.  The black outline around the face combined with the long tail and barring on the front distinguish this medium size owl.   The Owl in the picture appeared in mid December near Hwy 7 at the east end of Lanark County but unfortunately it was killed in a few days by a car.   Sometimes in winter this species moves south.  There has been a number of sightings across southern Ontario this year so far.  As Owls are a considered a “sensitive” species it is best not to disturb them.

Picture by Michel Gauthier

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120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count


Once again it is the Audubon Christmas Bird Count season! This is the 120th year of Christmas Bird Counts and there are three planned for our area; Rideau Ferry, Carleton Place, and Lanark Highlands.

Birders and nature enthusiasts in the three CBCs and surrounding areas can join citizen scientists throughout the Americas and participate in the Audubon Society’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

Volunteers are essential to the success of the CBC. You don’t need to be an expert but it helps to be familiar with local bird species. In any case, participants in the field counts will be placed in a team led by an experienced birder and everyone is welcome. You will need a pair of binoculars. As well residents with bird feeders within a count area can also help by listing all birds at their feeder or in their yard on count day.

This year we will be without the participation of Howard Robinson due to his sudden passing. He supported the area CBCs for many years and dedicated countless hours to MVFN activities which he led and/or participated in. His smile, enthusiasm and many excellent pictures of birds will be missed. I know all of us are remembering him fondly and he will be a constant presence looking through our binoculars during each count.

The highlight from a past CP CBC was a Short-eared Owl which Howard and Mary Robinson found north of Carleton Place sunning itself on a step in the middle of the day

Thousands of individuals participate in counts throughout the Americas and beyond between December 14 and January 5 each year. Every CBC volunteer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation. Birds Canada and its partner, the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations.

The CBC tradition began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group proposed an alternative to the ‘side hunt,’ a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, Chapman suggested that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort. The first Audubon bird count in Carleton Place took place in 1944.

Count                                   Date                                 CBC Coordinator                                           Contact

Rideau Ferry                     Dec 14th                             Alison Bentley                                 
Carleton Place                   Dec 27th                            Iain Wilkes                                       
Lanark Highlands            Dec 30th                            Marilyn Barnett                                


Best of the Season to All

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MVFN Fall Birding Open Houses Almonte Lagoons

4 Wednesdays: September 4, 11, 18 and 25, 2019

Each summer/autumn, tens of thousands of shorebirds & waterfowl migrate through our area from their breeding grounds in the Arctic.  Hundreds stop off to rest and feed at the Almonte Lagoons.

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) maintain the Potvin Observation Tower and the Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter, overlooking the lagoon, with trails for access. For many years, birders from all over Ontario have made this prime shorebird location an important viewing spot. The looped trail to the tower and shelter may also feature many fall warbler, sparrows, grassland birds and other species.

On four consecutive Wednesdays in September, MVFN invites you to walk in between 3 and 5 PM and view the multitude of waterfowl and other birds from the observation tower and the new MVFN Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter, opened in 2018.  Expert birders with spotting scopes will be in attendance to talk about the birds and to provide the opportunity to learn the identity of the different species present.

These MVFN birding open houses will take place on September 4, September 11, September 18, and September 25, 2019.

Visitors to the tower and shelter are encouraged to bring binoculars (and a spotting scope if you have one). Birders Michel Gauthier and/or Ken Allison will be present with a spotting scope, along with other birders to assist.

Directions to the trail and tower: from Almonte, take Wolf Grove Road (County Rd. 16) towards Middleville, 2 km. Turn north (right) onto Ramsay Concession 8 at the Auld Kirk church and cemetery, and travel approximately 100 m to the trailhead. The trail entrance is on Ramsay Concession 8 across the road from, and just past, the Auld Kirk cemetery. A small yellow sign marks the entrance.

Note that the trail, tower and shelter are always open to the public. Please respect the “rules of etiquette” posted at the trail entrance.

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Birds report, MVFN Canonto Lake Paddle

NOTE: Watch the website and MVFN’s Facebook page for details of our next MVFN paddle, July 28, 2019.

Submitted by Howard Robinson, MVFN Birding Committee

On June 23, 2019 we canoed/kayaked Canonto Lake and birded by sight and sound from the water on a Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ outing, led by Cliff Bennett. There were 8 vessels, and 12 people in the party, but not all our time was spent birding.

Below is a list of bird species, and respective counts, that were seen or heard. The list has been submitted to eBird and shared with our MVFN birding account as an historical record.


Canonto Lake Paddle, June 23, 2019 photo H. Robinson

A faulty/deadly loon platform, Canonto Lake, observed on June 23 paddle. photo H. Robinson

eBird Checklist – 23 Jun 2019 – Canonto Lake, – 23 Species

8 Wood Duck

6 Mallard (4 of the 6 mallards were ducklings)

2 Sandhill Crane  (seen flying over the lake)

3 Ring-billed Gull

4 Common Loon

7 Great Blue Heron

4 Turkey Vulture

2 Belted Kingfisher

1 Northern Flicker

4 Red-eyed Vireo

3 Tree Swallow

3 Barn Swallow

2 Black-capped Chickadee

2 White-breasted Nuthatch

2 Hermit Thrush

3 American Robin

2 Chipping Sparrow

6 Song Sparrow

40 Red-winged Blackbird

6 Common Grackle

4 Ovenbird

1 Yellow Warbler

2 Scarlet Tanager

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