Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Owl Outing to Amherst Island 2012

Owl Outing to Amherst Island

Join our outing to Amherst Island, west of Kingston, to tour the island and especially Owl Woods, to find at least four different owl species including snowy owls plus several different hawks which ply this rural island property.

Date: Saturday, March 3, 2012

Car pooling: Canadian Tire parking lot, Carleton Place,  for departure by 7:30 a.m. to make the 9:30 ferry crossing. We should be home by 5:30 p.m. Sub-carpooling can happen at Almonte Esso or Union Hall (call Cliff), to connect at Carleton Place.

Bring: binoculars, bird book, lunch. Dress warmly; it’s cold by the lake.

Cost: ferry crossing per car

Leader: Cliff Bennett

Please register with Cliff beforehand at  or 613-256-5013.  Note: This event will be cancelled in the event of unfavourable weather. If in doubt, please call Cliff Friday evening.

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Field Naturalists Brave Wild Winter Winds on Owl and Hawk Trek to Amherst Island 2011

Press Story

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

February 22, 2011

Field Naturalists Brave Wild Winter Winds on Owl and Hawk Trek to Amherst Island

By Cliff Bennett

Blizzard white-outs and blistering Arctic winds didn’t deter over twenty members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and friends from their quest for hawks and owls on Amherst Island, west of Kingston, on Saturday Feb. 20. After car-pooling at Carleton Place, six vehicles arrived at the Amherst ferry moments before the craft left the terminal to punch its way through the ice to get to the island.

Led by MVFN member Cliff Bennett, the convoy of vehicles slowly circumnavigated the island. The first interesting find was well over one hundred mourning doves flying over the roadway from a scrubby area to visit a couple of bird feeders. Soon the group discovered its first flying raptor, a rough-legged hawk. Soon after, a light-phased red-tailed hawk stirred up into the wind to hover over a farm house.

A search for a single snowy owl, reported previously on the east end of the island, yielded nothing other than nearly frost-bitten cheeks and fingers. However, once the group drove to the south side of the island, conditions improved somewhat. Tipped off by another birder, we drove on in search of a rarity, a northern hawk owl (photo above). We found it easily, perched in a tree near a house, about twelve metres away from us. Everyone got a great view of the owl and dozens of photos were taken.

Hundreds of ducks, mostly golden eyes, were noted in the rolling, ice-filled waters along the shoreline. One single bufflehead duck and a pair of mallards were also recorded. A small flock of common mergansers flew over the ferry dock earlier in the day.

Our next exciting find was a male northern harrier, in field stubble eating a rodent, again only about twelve metres away from us. Harriers are migrants and this is a few weeks early for this beauty to be here. The group also logged a single juvenile trumpeter swan, preening itself in the midst of the small ice floes. Our final exceptional discovery was a pair of American kestrels, also an early arrival.

During the day’s adventure, the group logged twenty-one species of birds on the island including cardinal and snow buntings. The youngest member of the group, nine year old Jacob Cook of Perth, proved to have the sharpest eyes of all when he spotted a pair of adult bald eagles perched in the trees alongside the Indian River on Clayton Road while on the way home.

For further MVFN adventures and lectures, visit mvfn.ca.

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Amherst Island – Owls & Hawks 2011

To all MVFN Members and friends,

Hawks and Owls of Amherst Island

Join me for a trip to Amherst Island, west of Kingston, to tour the island and especially Owl Woods, to find at least four different owl species including snowy owls plus several different hawks which ply this island rural property.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 19

Car pooling: Canadian Tire parking lot, Carleton Place for departure by 7:30 am to make the 9:30 ferry crossing. We should be home by 5:30 pm.

Bring: binoculars, bird book, lunch.

Cost: Ferry crossing per car

Please register with me beforehand,  or 613-256-5013.

Note: This event will be cancelled if there is unfavourable weather. If in doubt, call me Friday evening.

Cliff Bennett

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Amherst Island Adventure 2005

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
February 26, 2005

Amherst Island Adventure 2005

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On Saturday, Feb. 5th, twenty-six MVFN members and friends descended upon Amherst Island ferry early in the morning to sail to the island for hopefully, some quality bird watching. The expedition was led by Chris Grooms, Eastern Ontario Ontario Nature Coordinator.

The weather was bright and near perfect, until the car convoy passed by Elgin and into a solid fog bank. The fog stayed with us the whole day, making the spotting of white snowy owls in white fog and against white snow, virtually impossible. The fog might explain how one van load of participants ended up at the Wolfe Island ferry in downtown Kingston and thus missed the 10:30 sailing of the Amherst ferry. We doubled back to meet them getting off the 11:30 ferry on the island one hour later.

The group convoyed around the island, making several stops to catch a glimpse of hawks and owls. Parking on a main road, we trekked into the famous owl woods where most of the owls are usually logged. However, after a couple of hours, in which we took time for our lunch stop, we were only able to find a boreal owl and one great gray owl.

Back out in the open in the afternoon, we were able to find many short-eared owls flitting from tree to post in the fog. Back on the ferry and cutting through the pan ice, we found many ducks and a few gulls. All-in-all, the trip was very successful and, we finally got out of the fog on the way home just north of Smiths Falls.

MVFN members participating in the Amherst Island expedition were Jim and Yvonne Bendell, Rod Bhar and his mother Jill Bhar, Sheila Edwards, Chris Hume, Mary and Howard Robinson, Maida Lowe, Tine Kuiper, John and Sandra McManus and their son and Cliff Bennett. The rest of the group were friends and guests.

Below is the observation list from the day (30 species altogether):

Crow, Rock Pigeon, Chickadee, Blue Jay, Common Goldeneye, Herring Gull, Ring Billed Gull

Northern Harrier (female), Horned Lark, Mourning Dove,Starling, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow

Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, Boreal Owl

Great Gray Owl, Cardinal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Robin, Brown Thrasher, Goldfinch

Horned Lark, White-breasted Nuthatch, Short-eared Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-breasted

Merganser, Rough-legged Hawk.

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