Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Mississippi Lake Invasive Plants Monitoring

On July 10th, 2016, members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists participated in an invasive aquatic plant  monitoring exercise on Mississippi Lake.  In the morning participants attended a short presentation, at the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority office, on invasive plant species possibly present in the lake. They were also briefed on sampling protocol and were provided with field kits.  Participants then split into groups and went to five different locations on Mississippi Lake (Kinch Bay, Kings Bay, McGibbons Bay, McEwen Bay and Innisville Rapids) to search for invasive species. Four species of invasive plants were found, including Curly-leaf pondweed, European frogbit, Purple loosestrife and Invasive Phragmites.  This should not be considered an exhaustive list of all invasive plants that occur in Mississippi Lake.  The purpose of this monitoring exercise was to increase awareness through community involvement and to hopefully inspire similar initiatives in the future.

Invasive Plants Found
Curly-Leaf Pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) Locations: McEwen Bay & Innisville Rapids Abundance: ScatteredCurly-leaf pondweed European Frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae)Locations: McGibbons Bay, McEwen Bay, Kings Bay, Kinch Bay Abundance: Scattered; Dense in Kinch BayFrogbit
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)Location: McGibbons Bay Abundance: Single PlantPurple loosestrife Invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis)Location: Innisville RapidsAbundance: Single PlantInvasive Phragmites

Volunteers also returned with samples of native plants, including coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum), sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), common waterweed (Elodea canadensis), common duckweed (Lemna minor), star duckweed (Lemna trisulca), flat-stemmed pondweed (Potamogeton zosteriformis), water marigold (Bidens beckii), spotted joe-pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) and pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata).  In many instances, northern watermilfoil and coontail were mistaken for European watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), and common waterweed was mistaken for hydrilla.


Special thanks go, to Jim Tye of the Mississippi Lake Association for organizing the event and bringing all parties together; to Cliff Bennett and David Garcia of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, for promoting the initiative within their organization; and to the Mississippi Lake landowners who allowed volunteers to launch canoes from their properties.


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MVFN’s Climate Change Awareness Project

“A look at climate sensitive aspects of the natural environment, their variability and change through time in the Mississippi Valley area”

Introduction to climate change awareness at MVFN

TulipsNot so long ago we spoke of climate change in the context of geological time scales i.e. thousands of years. However, today it is apparent that climate is changing in Canada and around the world, at rates that are detectable within decades. A graph of national long-term temperature averages since 1948 is shown at the bottom of this page.

Although there is much to be learned about climate change, increasing evidence suggests that in the past 50 years or so, increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, due in part to human activity, is a major contributor to climate change If the trend toward global warming continues, there will be a significant impact on our natural environment and the infrastructure of our communities.

Environment Canada - Summaer Temperature Trends 1948-2005Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and the Kyoto Accord, and has a national climate change program in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare the country to adapt to future climate changes. The province of Ontario is also involved in emission reduction activities and is also a signatory to the National Adaptation Framework. However, there is little specific information on possible impacts of future climate change in our own local area of the Mississippi Valley and Eastern Ontario. This information is useful if we are to understand consequences of climate change for our area and to begin discussion and planning for adaptation to change.

The natural environment which we enjoy and which fills us with such wonder, faces amazing challenges. By examining features of our natural world which might be climate sensitive and which might be undergoing changes here “in our own back yard”, MVFN hopes to create an interesting learning experience which should help us understand and adapt to the future climate changes.

To get the ball rolling, MVFN started exploration of climate change during the 2005-06 speaker series which focused on the theme “Change in our Natural World” . This series presented important background information on changes in climate, nature, and the environment.We also began collecting data on aspects of the local and natural environment that may be climate sensitive. We hope to continue to involve members as well as the public and groups in the community in observing changes in local phenomena, and in recording and sharing the information.

In the fall of 2005 we began the Alberts Gardens project by planting tulip bulbs across several hardiness zones to compare emergence dates in the spring. Read about Alberts Tulip Gardens. The Alberts Gardens project was conducted in collaboration with several Eastern Ontario horticultural societies and the National Capital Commission who generously supplied bulbs. In the spring of 2006 Alberts Gardens began to bloom and we posted emergence and bloom dates on our tulip indicator map .

MVFN’s Plant Watch – wildflowers

In the spring of 2006 MVFN began recording the first bloom date for area wildflowers at a variety of locations. Results will be tabulated and posted later in the summer or when available. These can be used to compare with results in the coming years, as part of our climate change awareness project.

A group of MVFN members took the first step by selecting the wildflower species to watch. These include plants representing a variety of preferred habitats. Read more about MVFN’s Plant Watch and details for participants.

Lake and River water-temperature survey of the Mississippi Watershed

Held on the August holiday weekend August 5-7, 2006, this project was the first ever volunteer-driven water-temperature survey of the entire watershed. Read about the project and print out guidelines for participants and reporting forms.

Background information on the climate change awareness project

Brought forward to the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists in the summer of 2005, the Climate Change Awareness project began shortly thereafter through the efforts of members of a dedicated Climate Change Awareness Committee, including Paul Egginton as Chair of the newly formed Committee, Cliff Bennett, Michael Macpherson, and Lorri McKay, and subsequently other members have served on the committee.

An overview of national and international perspective on climate change was the first topic of the 2005-06 speaker series “Change in our Natural World”. This was presented on September 22, 2005 by Paul Egginton, who introduced the scientific, environmental, social, economic, issues associated with climate change. New to the Board of Directors of MVFN, Egginton also introduced for the first time his concept for a Climate Change Awareness project at MVFN. Then MVFN president, Mike Macpherson, invited members and others to consider participating by sharing locally collected data and/or observing and reporting information on various features of the natural world which are likely to show change in response to climate change.

A number of features or `indicators’ could be subjects for observation under this project. Examples include dates of first and last frost, ice-on and ice-off water bodies, birds over wintering and arrival dates; emergence and bloom dates of wildflowers. Other data such as water flow regime in rivers and streams, ice thickness on lakes, depth of frost penetration are also possible features which could be studied to give us a better picture as to whether climate change is having an impact here.

The intention is to look at a number of familiar ‘indicators’ from the natural environment, make observations using simple protocols, and report and share the results. Contextual information could be drawn from government data bases; supplemented, we hope, by personal records by MVFN members and others in the community over the years. Thus, current local observations could be placed into a broader chronological, topical, and geographical framework.

MVFN’s goal for this outreach project is to raise awareness of the climate sensitive nature of our natural environment and to help develop a better understanding of whether change is currently taking place. We hope the project will be of interest not only to field naturalists but to other individuals and groups.

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Citizen Science Networks: Linking Nature Observation with Conservation

“Citizen Science Networks: Linking Nature Observation with Conservation” presented by Marlene Doyle, Environment Canada

Becoming a citizen scientist . . . or how to help monitor ‘what’s up world?’: A report  written by Dr. Jim Bendell

When most of us stop and ask ourselves what we value most in life, we likely admit it is not a thing or things at all, but ourselves and other people. Next would be the natural environment, which, after all, we depend upon for at least food, water, clothing, and shelter. What can we do to understand more about our natural environment and how to protect and sustain it? Marlene Doyle of Environment Canada told us what we can do during her presentation: “Citizen Science Networks: Linking Nature Observation with Conservation”.

At her lecture to the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) in Almonte, Ms. Doyle invited the audience to “Join the ranks of Darwin and the Compte de Buffon” . . . that is to become citizen scientists!!! Ms. Doyle has worked for many years in enlisting people of all ages to monitor plants and animals and their habitats as coordinator of our national Nature Watch program. Ms. Doyle holds a Master’s degree from the University of Waterloo and is currently Canadian representative on the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program’s Terrestrial Export Monitoring Group, or, “What’s Up? in the lands of the North?” Monitoring means observing and noting, something we do every day. Ms. Doyle gave us lots of ideas for what we can do to find out “what’s up world?” by monitoring the health and diversity of our natural world as citizen scientists.

Everyone can take part and the requirements are simply interest, time, and wanting to help. Along the way you will learn new things, including how top professionals think and work. You will also see for yourself what people are or are not saying and writing about important issues. You will connect to nature and the community. You will certainly make new friends, have fun, and perhaps begin a successful career. The major reward is caring for Canada and the world by recognizing real environmental problems and doing something about them. The concerns are many and the need for help is unlimited. An important issue is climate change, which is real but what can be done about it? We are losing species of animals and habitats, making the world a poorer place, at never so fast a rate. Locally, and in a life time; tree swallows, nighthawks, whip-poor-wills, little brown bats and other birds and mammals have been significantly reduced. Might this signal greater losses for the future and eventually impact negatively on our own way of life? But why the losses and is there anything that can be done about them?

A start in solving these problems is to monitor aspects of the environment by sight, sound, odour, or feel. As a citizen scientist, you will work with an experienced leader and follow set procedures. The more who are working together to the same end the more powerful will be the result. While amateurs are the main workforce, professionals in organizations, schools, universities and government typically provide information, participate, and publish the results. Observations and actions by citizen scientists may be out-of-doors, or in a laboratory or library. Work as much as you wish, alone or in a group. The longer observations can be made the better. Some monitoring projects extend over many years. For example, you might go out and tag a clump of wildflowers on your property, and then follow PlantWatch monitoring directions for information which should be collected in the spring, file a report and repeat this again with the same plants each year. Or, you might join an MVFN Christmas bird count. You might participate in a marsh monitoring program or a Lakes Loon Survey next summer at your home or cottage. Always there is help at hand for advice and direction.

Often people hesitate to participate in an activity because they think it is of little value or beyond their abilities. In fact, thousands of people are actively caring for our environment simply by reporting observations. And their findings have been used by many professionals and others to write reports on research and management in authoritative journals and books. Numerous tests show inexperienced volunteers, with training, make accurate observations and determinations to provide trustworthy results. In fact, says Ms. Doyle, the quality of data is more likely affected by survey design or quality of communication than by the expertise of the person or group who collected the data. Not only is citizen science data reliable but it complements professional monitoring, it is relevant, local, timely, unique, and it is relatively low-cost to collect. Remember, you are not alone and can easily join many other interesting and committed people. Contact local and global leaders in the care of our environment. A main doorway in joining a quest of interest is through the speaker; Marlene Doyle at 613-949-7754 (and more on how to reach her later). She welcomes your call.

There are at least 283 projects powered by ordinary citizens across Canada. A classic example is the Christmas Bird Count, started more than 100 years ago, which now includes 50,000 observers reporting from 2000 locations throughout the United States, Canada, and beyond. The findings, which are solely based on citizen scientist reports, have helped elucidate the requirements of birds and clearly show changes in the abundance and distribution of species. For example, the counts tracked the spread of an introduced European Starling over the northern states and Canada and the disappearance of the similar Japanese Starling introduced to British Columbia. The Japanese form apparently cannot hatch its eggs under as cool conditions as the European bird and the abundance of both may be linked to climate change. Other projects range from counting Monarch Butterflies (an at risk species) to searching old logs and journals for information on past environments.

MVFN Bioblitz

Data gathered by citizen scientists are credible, unique and useful for furthering our understanding of the natural world. In this photo, ‘citizen scientists’ join amateur naturalists and professional scientists taking a biological inventory of a Mississippi Mills property during MVFN’s 2009 Bioblitz. Photo Pauline Donaldson

Ms. Doyle, through Nature Watch Canada, coordinates the input of four large inventories. They are: Plant Watch, Frog Watch, Ice Watch, and Worm Watch. Observations on plants include invasive species and dates of flowering. The kinds and abundance of worms reveal the health of soil. Frogs and the formation of ice are sensitive indicators of many factors in aquatic ecosystems, including temperature.

Interested in more information? In Lanark Highlands, Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills talk to Cliff and Lynda Bennett at 613-256-5013, ; or Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089, . Then some relevant organizations, in no particular order, are: Environment Canada (NatureWatch,, Ms. Marlene Doyle, 613-949-7754, , see above); Natural Heritage Information Centre, Peterborough (705-755-2159, ); Toronto Zoo (361A Old Finch Ave., Scarborough, ON M1B 5K7,; Ontario Nature (336 Adelaide Street West, Suite 201, Toronto, ON, M5V 1R9, ; Royal Botanical Gardens (Ontario Plantwatch Coordinator, Natalie Iwanycki, ); Bird Studies Canada ( P.O. Box 160, Port Rowan, ON, N0E 1M0); Canadian Wildlife Service (Ontario Region, 49 Camelot Dr. Nepean, ON K1A 0H3); and Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network (Chairperson, Christine Bishop, 4553-46B Street, Delta, B.C. V4K 2N2, ). Cornell University also keeps a directory of projects undertaken by volunteers at

Christmas bird count (998x1280)

Another way to join the ranks of Darwin and become a citizen scientist is to participate in one of the many annual Audubon Christmas bird counts across North America. Two local counts include the Lanark Highlands and the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Counts (for further info visit Birder Cliff Bennett records data during the count-in held after local count-teams return from a 2006 MVFN CBC. Photo MVFN archive.


Palmerston_2 Aug 07 108

Citizen science in action in the Mississippi River watershed: from August 5-7, 2006, nearly one hundred citizen scientists (MVFN members and others), set out in canoes, row boats and motor boats to take the watersheds’ temperature. The goal was to collect data and engage citizens in considering local implications of future climate change Shown is Howard Robinson, water-sampler in hand, ready to survey Palmerston Lake. Photo Mary Robinson


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Bell Bushlot Bioblitz 2009 Report





The results are in, large or small we listed them all!

The Bell Bushlot Bioblitz 2009 Report with complete species lists and photographs as pdf

There was intrigue during the February lecture of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) which began with a contest to correctly identify the total number of species found on their first ever 24-h bioblitz carried out in a special local woodland. As Tineke Kuiper progressed through her presentation, A September to Remember: Bioblitz Secrets of the Bell Woodland Preserve, the audience listened attentively as the tally kept rising with additions from each group of species. Where would it stop? Just how many species had been found?

As Dr. Kuiper, ‘tally master extraordinaire’ for the Bioblitz and former MVFN board member explained, a bioblitz is a 24-h survey of the biodiversity of a property. It is part challenge, part social gathering and most importantly, an educational citizen science event. MVFN’s bioblitz started at 3 pm Saturday, Sept 19 and ended at 3 pm Sunday, Sept 20, 2009 at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Bell Woodland Preserve near Clayton. The property is deciduous forest on Canadian Shield dominated by Sugar Maple forest, with small areas of mixed hardwoods. While the stream crossing the north end of the property was flowing during the bioblitz, wetlands through which the property drains to the east had no standing water. The weather both days was sunny and cool.

100 participants took part in over 20 one-hour expert-led guided walks. During these walks, experienced and novice naturalists poured over the 95 acre property looking and listening for every living thing. On each walk a photographer was present to record the finds. Experts also searched on their own adding to the species seen. Once sightings were verified, sometimes after further examination, they were added to the tally board and bioblitz database. The final species tally and complete species list have just been published in a report posted on MVFN’s website. As Tineke illustrated in her virtual tour, you don’t need to go any farther than your own forested backyard in Lanark County to see spectacular natural beauty and diversity: the vivid greens of the snakeskin liverwort, the impressively large larvae of the imperial moth, incredible floral diversity, wild and wonderful fungi such as the chocolate tube slime and artists’ conk, the elusive but seemingly numerous red eft, and large mammals ever-present but seldom seen face-on.

As Dr. Kuiper guided us through what the experts uncovered during the bioblitz, the species count on the ‘bioblitzometer’ continued to rise. Among the 30 birds, an early one recorded was the barred owl hooting in answer to Joel Byrne during his ‘Calling Creatures of the Night’ guided walk on Saturday night. Then the next day as walks led by Jeff Mills, Mike Runtz and Cliff Bennett began, the first bird to be seen was the hairy woodpecker, spotted by young bioblitz-naturalist Gillian Larkin. The bird population was much reduced except for a few stragglers which had yet to migrate. Some species such as the owls, woodpeckers, chickadees, blue jays, ravens and crows would remain during the winter, and it was too early for the winter finches to move in. Surprises for the fall were the scarlet tanager, three warbler species, vireos and flycatchers.

The greatest number of species tallied for a single group was 261 for vascular plants (bringing the blitzometer to 291), but this represented just a fraction of the year-round floral biodiversity. Fall species such as asters, goldenrods, daisies, and ferns were well-represented, while spring ephemerals (e.g. trout lily, dutchman’s breeches, spring beauty) which flower before the trees leaf out and shade them, were not seen. Eight of the species observed are considered rare in Lanark County.

Although fungi were very limited due to the bioblitz being held at the end of a warm dry period, there was no shortage. Where but in the fungal kingdom could you find such interesting names as dead man’s fingers, brick tops, witch’s hat, or chicken of the woods? The 58 fantastic fungi included basidomycetes, ascomycetes, a slime mold, and some fungi imperfecti.

Then there were the 50 marvelous mosses and 16 lovely liverworts which overall were indicative of a woodland in good ecological condition. Along with the fungi the count now soared to 415!

Insects were most abundant in the more open areas with asters and goldenrods. 63 species from 8 orders including beetles, bugs, grasshoppers & crickets, dragonflies & damselflies, butterflies & moths, scorpionflies, flies and bees were found. Due to the cold weather moth traps were not set up at night, so any moths recorded were from larval observations. With considerable adeptness, Chris Schmidt shook saplings and caught the ‘rain’ of Lepidopteran larvae (caterpillars) in a large four-cornered umbrella net for later identification.

Seventeen species of invertebrates without 6 legs, (i.e. excluding insects), were found including 4 millipedes, a clam, 4 snails, 2 slugs, an earthworm, a sowbug, 3 spiders and a mite.

Nine amphibian species were seen or heard including the blue-spotted salamander, northern two-lined salamander, red-spotted newt, American toad, gray treefrog, spring peeper, green frog, northern leopard frog and wood frog. Due to the lack of much permanent water, conditions were not suited to turtles and none was found. The two reptiles found were both snakes—a gorgeous smooth greensnake and an eastern gartersnake.

The mammals enumerated were seen, heard or identified by tracks and/or droppings. Combined with the insects, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles, the addition of 19 mammals brought the bioblitzometer to 525. One of the first mammals recorded was a coyote which called back in answer to the howls from participants on the Saturday night walk. To inventory small mammals such as mice, voles and shrews, two lines of live traps, bait and track tunnels (containing tracking paper smeared with black stove polish and oil to ‘capture’ foot prints) were set up the day before the bioblitz. The number of footprints showed that small mammals were present at a relatively high density.

Interestingly, despite the majority of the area being upland Sugar Maple forest, one fish species was found in the stream on the property—the Bluntnose Minnow.

At this point the tally reached 526—the total number of all species seen in the 24-hr period and it was time to identify the contest winner. Howard Robinson, who guessed 518 (just 8 species short) was closest to this number and won a copy of Earth, Water, Fire: An ecological profile of Lanark County by Paul Keddy.

The bioblitz was an ambitious undertaking and Tineke Kuiper thanked all those involved for their enthusiasm as well as the experts for their vital role in the event. To view a copy of the entire bioblitz report prepared by MVFN, listing all species identified and filled with gorgeous photographs, please visit MVFN’s website at

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MVFN BioBlitz 2009

nature walkKeddy Walk frog (photo Mike McPhail)Alvar walk 2009

MVFN BioBlitz 2009

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and with assistance from the Community Stewardship Council of Lanark County invite you to participate in the 2009 MVFN BioBlitz taking place on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Bell Property.

 NOTE: click here for a printable version of this MVFN BioBlitz 2009 Information

Please see our full colour mvfn-bioblitz-2009-poster as a pdf file.

Our tentative schedule for the expert-led biological surveys is now also available. Follow the links from the home page or click on  mvfn-bioblitz-tentative-schedule1 for a printable pdf.

A BioBlitz is part contest, social gathering, educational event and citizen-science endeavour. The BioBlitz will bring together scientists, and expert and novice nature enthusiasts to see how many species they can find in a 24 hour biological survey.

The BioBlitz provides an opportunity for all participants to learn from experts how to identify the many plants, animals and birds that will be found during this 24 hour period. Specialists and experts from a diverse set of disciplines will be grouped with interested participants to explore the area under investigation.

The inventory and interaction of specialists with the public are integral goals of this event.

The event is both educational and fun. Individuals of all ages including children are welcome to attend. There is no charge for this event.

The BioBlitz takes place from:

3:00 pm on Saturday, 19 September
3:00 pm on Sunday, 20 September

The event will run, rain or shine.

The Bioblitz will take place on the Bell Property, owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. We are delighted to be able to hold this BioBlitz on this approximately 85 acre conservation property which has a variety of habitats including, hardwood and mixed wood forest, seasonal wetlands, and streams.

The property is located at the intersection of Clayton Road and Ramsay Concession 3B. Mississippi Mills, Ont. K0A 1A0 in Lanark County -near the town of Almonte (just west of Ottawa).

Coming from the town of Almonte
1) Turn right (north) onto County Rd. 29/Christian St
Continue to follow County Rd. 29 for 3.1 km
2) Turn left (west) onto Clayton Rd. and continue for 8.1 km
BioBlitz is on the left (south side) at 1633/1631 Clayton Rd.
Please park where indicated (not on the Clayton Road) and follow signs to the Base to register.

There will be limited free overnight camping near the Bell Property on Cliff & Lynda Bennett’s property 1772 Clayton Rd. (north side) just west of Ramsay Concession 3B and 1 km before County Rd. 9 (Tatlock Rd.). Please let us know if you are planning to camp.

Information on commercial accommodations in Mississippi Mills area can be found at

Participants must register at the BioBlitz Base site between 2:00 and 9:00 PM on Saturday, Sept. 19 or between 6:30 AM and 2:00 PM on Sunday, Sept. 20.

Upon registration, you will be provided with instructions, directions and a map of the property as well as tally sheets on which to list species observed.

Please return your final tally sheets and field notes to the Base site before departure. These will be copied and returned to you if you wish.

Please bring your own meals and snacks, but note the Sunday BBQ social (see below).

Please also bring sunscreen, insect repellant, hat, and a flashlight for night activities.
Good walking boots are advised and appropriate clothing including long pants.
You may like to bring your own binoculars, hand lens, clipboard, checklist and field guides.

Cameras and GPS units will be useful (but not required) to record rare species, and for recording species needing identification.

Potable water and a washroom will be available at the Base site and camp site. Please bring your own water bottle and travel mug and camping equipment if camping overnight.

A free barbeque will be held at the post count wrap up after 3:00pm.

PLEASE . . .
NO dogs at this event.
Please be sensitive to the fact that this is conservation property and we are there only at the invitation of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Try to keep the impact to a minimum and attempt to leave things as they were found.

We look forward to this event and hope you do too. Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested.

Volunteers are needed to run the BioBlitz. Please contact Cliff Bennett if you are willing to help (phone 613 256-5013 or email )

Contact me if you plan to participate or wish to have any questions answered
(phone 613-256-7211 or e-mail ).

Yours truly,
Mike McPhail

MVFN BioBlitz – Communication Lead


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