Wednesday, September 5th at 2:30 PM
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) are very pleased to announce the grand opening and dedication of the Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter, located just west of Almonte, behind the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Waste Water Treatment plant.
This special project to create a new local birding facility was conceived, developed and built by the MVFN Birding Committee and many other construction-minded MVFN volunteers. The viewing shelter is dedicated and named for the late Mike McPhail, a former President of MVFN and a tireless advocate for nature in our community. The Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter is located along the same path as the Al Potvin Observation Tower, which has been well used by birders from near and far for many years and overlooks the largest and westernmost of the decommissioned lagoons.
Bringing a big project from conception to completion involves a lot of planning and many steps. Starting in the spring of 2017, the investigation of several designs and sizes and shapes of bird viewing shelters was undertaken, and a preliminary structural plan was designed by Michel Gauthier. This was taken to Mississippi Mills municipal staff for review, and a request to build beside the lagoon on town property. The project was approved unanimously by Council in the fall, and the necessary building permits were obtained.
A call was sent out to MVFN members for help with construction, and the response was amazing – 22 people signed up! The first step was to level the ground, and spread gravel, which was done by Howard Robinson and his trusty tractor. Because of the early onset of winter in mid-November, the cement support posts had to be formed and dried in Al Potvin’s heated garage. Over the long winter months, volunteers calculated materials needed and arranged to purchase them from Home Hardware in Almonte.
Then the long wait for spring to arrive began, and the crew waited, and waited, then waited some more. Finally, we emerged from early spring to high summer weather, the ground was dry and firm, materials were ordered, and the eager volunteers finally began construction. There were many talented volunteer carpenters and apprentices, which kept the cost down significantly. However, the “commanders-in-chief” had a knack for organizing work crews on the very hottest days of June! In spite of the heat, however, the construction moved along quickly, and by early July, the shelter was complete.
And what a beautiful and sturdy shelter it is, with a perfect panoramic view of the lagoon and marsh areas. Constructed of beautiful pine with a green metal roof, it can be seen off in the distance from Wolf Grove Road. Future plans include permanent signage along the path to the shelter and at the shelter, educational material inside, and natural landscaping around the shelter, which hopefully will attract even more wildlife.
The MVFN Board of Directors and members are delighted with the results of the tireless efforts of the co-managers and construction crews over the past year. We are proud to offer the public birding community a unique place to visit, spring, summer and fall. MVFN is also very grateful to the Municipality of Mississippi Mills for allowing the shelter to be built, for the help and support they offered throughout, and to Home Hardware for their expert advice.
Besides migrating waterfowl and shore birds at the lagoon, there are woodland birds along the path, and field birds which can be seen out from each side of the path. To access the path, turn right off Wolf Grove Road to Concession #8. The path is located a few hundred meters up Concession #8, across the road from the far end of the Auld Kirk Cemetery. Parking is permitted on both shoulders of the road, except in front of the gate. The rather hard-to-see entrance to the pathway is marked with a small yellow sign on the right. Please respect the “Rules of Etiquette” on the path and in the shelter.
The Official Grand Opening and dedication of the MVFN Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter will take place Wednesday, September 5 at 2:30 PM at the shelter. All are welcome to attend the ceremony. This also marks the start of four September Birding Open Houses taking place every Wednesday in September from 3 to 5 PM, when you will have an opportunity to speak to an MVFN bird expert who will have a scope ready for very close-up and personal views of the birds! Bring your binoculars! All summer, spring and fall, the Observation Tower and the Bird Viewing Shelter are open at any time for the public to walk in and view birds.