Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Ontario Nature’s Battle for the Endangered Species Act

NOTE: featured photo by Joe Crowley: a Blanding’s Turtle, is THREATENED in Lanark County.  Another prominent at-risk species in Lanark County, is Rapids Clubtail dragonfly, ENDANGERED in Lanark County and found on the  Mississippi River in Mississippi Mills.  

submitted by Cheryl Morris for the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

On Thursday, November 19, 2015, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host the third presentation of this season’s lecture series, reflective of the theme “Naturally Special Places”. This event will be held in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario at 7:30 pm.

The guest speaker for the evening will be Dr. Anne Bell, Ph.D., Director of Conservation and Education for Ontario Nature. She has entitled her talk “On Guard For Nature—Ontario Nature’s Fight To Uphold our Endangered Species Act”. “Ontario’s naturally special places provide habitat for over 200 species at risk. These plants and animals and the places they rely on for survival are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA)”, states Dr. Bell. At-risk species include the Blanding’s Turtle, Gray Ratsnake, Eastern Meadowlark, Whip-poor-will, Rapids Clubtail dragonfly, and the iconic Woodland Caribou.

When it was introduced by the Ontario government in 2007, the Endangered Species Act was considered the gold standard law for species protection in North America. However, in 2013, the province introduced a “regulation” which exempts major industries from the law’s protective requirements. “Major industries” include forestry, pits and quarries, mining, and hydro and residential development. In many cases, industries were given a free pass to kill endangered or threatened species and destroy their habitat, as long as the harm was “minimized”. “This is a disappointing decision for Ontario’s endangered and threatened wildlife”, stated Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro. “The Endangered Species Act is intended to put species first—not to let their survival be balanced against competing industrial interests. That would tip the scale towards extinction.”

In an article submitted by Dr. Bell for Ontario Nature, she writes “Environmental protection is the key to a sustainable, prosperous future…MNR is proceeding with a “transformation” plan premised on weaker environmental standards and a dramatic reduction in government oversight of activities affecting our lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife…The government tells us we can’t afford to implement the ESA in the way it was intended. Yet what we really can’t afford is to sacrifice long-term economic, social and environmental health with short-term cost-cutting measures that undo important environmental protections.” The cost-cutting measures described by the MNR were preceded by severe budget cuts to MNR and Ministry of Environment. Since 1993, the ministries most responsible for managing and protecting ecosystem services—MNR and Ministry of Environment—had seen their budgets drop by 64%. They are the two most poorly funded ministries in Ontario.

In September 2015, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted Ontario Nature and Wildlands League the right to appeal the government regulation which would limit species protection by the ESA. The appeal will be argued by lawyers from Ecojustice, including Lara Tessaro, who states “The Court has signaled that our clients’ legal challenge to this regulation, which deprives endangered species of the law’s protection, is important to Ontarians”. During her presentation on November 19, Dr. Bell will explain the ins and outs of this legal challenge and provide an update on the case.

Please join MVFN for this very important presentation. Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at .

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A ‘Naturally Special Place’

Press Story, October 1, 2015

By Gretta Bradley, Program Chair, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Most of us can identify with what the Wild Bird Care Centre in Ottawa does. As children, however misguided, we followed a powerful need to help a defenseless creature. Running into the house, we offered up the small life to our parents, carefully cradling it in our cupped hands. We marveled at it as it lay under a lamp in a bed of tissues. We would hope beyond hope that this time the bald pink bird would still be alive in the morning. The outcome was always the same. Without proper care, the tiny thing would not survive the night.

Fortunately, treatment is much more sophisticated than that which can be found in a Kleenex box and the prognosis for injured birds is much brighter. The Wild Bird Centre was the obvious choice for the inaugural talk of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 2015-2016 speaker series, “Naturally Special Places”. Patty McLaughlin is one of those fortunate individuals who has taken a passion and made it her life’s work. She is well known to the younger members of the Field Naturalists as the guiding force behind the Young Naturalists. This evening she would speak about her work rehabilitating and releasing wild birds. The audience responded to Patty’s sense of humour as she introduced us to the unique cast of characters that inhabit the enclosures at the centre.

The Eastern Screech Owl, prominently displayed on our promotional literature, belied its ‘owly’ cuteness. Described as the Houdini of the avian crowd, it is known among those who work with our cagy friends, for pulling maddeningly, puzzling escapes. Although clever escape artists, fortunately for staff their destination is usually predictable. My romantic notion of tenderly, nurturing a baby bird back to health, veered dramatically off script as Patty played video of springtime at the Wild Bird Care Centre. Images of hungry, demanding chicks are expected, but the noise! Nails being dragged down a blackboard at high velocity and maximum volume doesn’t quite capture it. It struck me that they were not particularly grateful creatures, clambering to be fed every 20 minutes. The average number of times an American Robin has to be hand fed until it is released is 1,350 times. Patty joked as she shared her release-day video ‘fails’ with the audience. She apologized as, instead of birds soaring into the treetops looking back only briefly as they took to the sky once again after months of confinement, they flopped to the ground not quite knowing what to do with their newfound freedom.

Photo 1 Wild Bird Care Cntre

The Wild Bird Care Centre, a ‘naturally special’ place.

Bird rehabilitation is not a DIY project. It is, in fact, illegal without proper authorization. The Wild Bird Care Centre operates under permits from both the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Canadian Wildlife Service. If you should find a distressed bird, visit the centre’s website There is information there specific to nestlings and fledglings, ducklings and goslings and adult birds. Check the website for the centre’s hours of operations and directions to the facility before you bring in a bird for care (if in doubt, check the ‘birds in distress’ information under the ‘HELP’ link, or call the centre). Finally, the Wild Bird Care Centre does it all without funds from governments or corporations. Memberships and donations fund the return of thousands of birds a year to their natural habitats. Should you wish to donate go to their website and click on the “SUPPORT US” button. Their “peeps” will thank you!

Photo 2 Barred Owl by Barbara AdamsA Barred Owl recovers at the WBCC. Photo Barbara Adams. Photo 3 red tailed hawk P. McLaughlin

A red-tailed hawk, another patient at the WBCC. Photo Patty McLaughlin





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View from the pasture – pesticides and pollinators

Submitted by Cheryl Morris for Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

On Thursday, October 15, 2015, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host the second presentation of their 2015-16 natural history series: “Naturally Special Places”. This event will be held in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario at 7:30 pm.

Guest speaker for the evening will be Dr. James Coupland, Director of FarmForest Research, a research and development company based out of Almonte that serves the agricultural community across Canada, North America, and around the world, including research work in developing countries with very challenging climates. The presentation is entitled “What’s Happening Down In the Pasture? Pesticides and Pollinators”. Dr. Coupland graduated from Almonte District High School before studying at Queens University. He completed his PhD in Zoology at University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Coupland worked for 10 years as an invasive species biologist with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) based in southern France. FarmForest Research was established by Dr. Coupland in 1991 in Montpellier, France, and combines a broad technical and practical understanding of agriculture, biology, ecology, and entomology (the study of insects). The core area of the company’s expertise lies in solutions for invasive species of insects and as such, it is a leading authority on Integrated Pest Management including the use of biological control systems (biopesticides).

Many of our naturally special places are being degraded by pollutants, including pesticides. Our waterways and water pastures, especially, are increasingly threatened by runoff from towns and farms, with pesticides delivering a ‘knock-out blow’ in some of these areas. In Dr. Coupland’s words “Our Naturally Special Places are under threat and the inhabitants therein are especially under threat”. The talk will focus on the threats to pollinators living within these ‘special places’. Pollinators are components which are vital to maintaining the integrity of nature’s landscape for future generations. “Pollinators along with many other species worldwide are under threat for many reasons such as loss of habitat, changing weather patterns and environmental pollutants. In this talk, I will discuss the importance of pollinators to both the ecology of natural habitats and to crop production in Canada. The recent decline in native pollinators and the potential economic impact due to the reduction of both wild and domesticated bees has been the driving force for research into the causes of their decline”, states Dr. Coupland.

Our speaker will discuss what has been revealed thus far by this research and what else needs to be studied and implemented to reduce and reverse this alarming trend.

Please join MVFN for this informative and important presentation. Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at .

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Naturally Special Places: theme for MVFN’s 2015-2016 series of nature talks

updated Jan 4, 2016

The theme for this season of MVFN nature talks/presentations is Naturally Special Places. We have a wonderful group of guest speakers for these presentations. All presentations take place at 7:30 pm at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte:

NOTE: featured image of gray tree frog on cardinal flower is by our March speaker, Grant Dobson, President of Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre, one of our featured Naturally Special Places.

September 17

Sparrows, Warblers and Hawks, OH MY! Taking a Peep at the Wild Bird Centre, Patty McLaughlin, Wild Bird Care Centre

October 15

What’s Happening Down in the Pasture?  Pesticides and Pollinators, Dr. James Coupland, FarmForest Research

November 19

On Guard for Nature: Ontario Nature’s Fight to Uphold the Endangered Species Act,  Dr. Anne Bell, Ontario Nature

January 21,  2016

Exploring the Soundscapes of Naturally Special Places, Chad Clifford, Wilderness Rhythms

February 18

Purdon: Uniquely Natural, Shannon Gutoskie, Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority

March  17

Shaw Woods: A Diverse Ecological Gem, Grant Dobson, President, Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre

April 21

Wild Life Journals, Members Night 

Grant Dobson (1280x899)

photo by Grant Dobson, Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre


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The wild bird care centre: A bird’s-eye view

by Cheryl Morris

On Thursday, September 17, 2015, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will begin a new season of lectures relating to the theme “Naturally Special Places”.  All talks will be held in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario beginning at 7:30 pm.

Photo 2 Eastern Screech owlEastern Screech Owl, avian patient at the Wild Bird Care Centre. Photo by Patty McLaughlin

Guest speaker for the evening will be Patty McLaughlin. Patty is well-known to many in the area as the Program Leader of the MVFN Young Naturalists. Patty holds a B.Sc. in Zoology as well as a Master of Science from Carleton University. In 2013, Patty received The Elizabeth Le Geyt Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to public awareness and care for wild birds.

Patty will introduce us to a very special place in nature, The Wild Bird Care Centre  located on Moody Drive in Nepean, just west of Ottawa. Patty is a full-time staff member of the Centre. She has entitled her talk “Sparrows, Warblers, and Hawks, OH MY! Taking a ‘Peep’ at the Wild Bird Care Centre”. The Wild Bird Care Centre was established in 1981 by the late Kathy Nihei. It was incorporated in 1991 as the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre and has operated as the Wild Bird Care Centre at the Stony Swamp Conservation Area location since 1992. It is the only place in the Ottawa Valley which is dedicated to the care, treatment, and release of sick, injured and orphaned wild birds. The staff of the centre care for over 2300 wild birds annually.

Throughout McLaughlin’s presentation, we will learn more about the Centre’s history, daily operations, and hear stories about the most common and also some unusual patients!  Patty will focus her talk around the most difficult, yet memorable birds, the Raptors. In Patty’s own words, “You may think its a thrill to spot one in the wild and catch a glimpse of their power and speed but I will tell you what it is like to work with them up close. I will describe their typical personalities, tricks we use to keep them comfortable while in captivity, some very neat facts about Raptors, as well as miraculous recoveries—I have lots to share!” Patty hopes to be accompanied for her presentation by “her usual stuffed suspects” as well as “Indy”, “the non-stuffed, defiantly living American Kestrel”.

Please join MVFN for this lively, informative, and inspiring presentation. Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at glbradley@icloud .com.

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