Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Birds in Your Backyard

Do you know your backyard birds? Do you want to attract and nurture birds in your backyard? Join us at 7:30 pmThursday, November 17, 2016  at the Almonte United Church Social Hall (106 Elgin St., Almonte) for the next presentation in MVFN’s Natural History presentation series “Wild Creature Close-Ups”  . . .

“Birds in Your Backyard” will be presented by Cliff Bennett.

Cliff is MVFN’s best known naturalist and birder and he is also one of several founding members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists,  founded nearly 30 years ago. Well-known locally –  a retired teacher and former Municipal Councillor – Cliff is an MVFN Champion for Nature, and currently sits on the MVFN Board of Directors and writes a birding column for the Lanark Era. Cliff has won many awards locally and provincially for the great many conservation and education initiatives he has headed up, including MVFN Christmas Bird Counts and other birding surveys contributing to bird conservation in Ontario, writing and publishing MVFN paddling and birding guides for exploring Lanark County, local “bioblitz” projects, and many other initiatives.

Do you know your backyard birds? Take a quiz during Cliff’s presentation on November 17th.

The presentation begins at 7:30 pm and discussion and refreshments follow the presentation. As always the natural history presentation event is FREE for MVFN members and FREE for youth 18 years and younger; others entrance fee of $5.

All are welcome. Hope to see you there!

Press Release: A Glimpse of Colour


Cliff at presquile



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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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Environmental Threats to Avian Species: with Michael Runtz

A Springtime of Silence?

Will we one day experience a springtime of silence? On Thursday, February 19, 2015, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) present the fifth lecture in their current series.  Award-winning Carleton University educator Michael Runtz will be guest speaker for this presentation entitled “Environmental Threats to Avian Species”.

Yellow Warbler


What are the current threats to birds such as this yellow warbler photographed in the Spring of 2014?  Photo by Susan Wilkes.

Runtz is a well-known biologist and naturalist and author of many scientific articles and award-winning books about nature, such as Wild Wings: The Hidden World of Birds, which features, as do several of Runtz’s books, his own spectacular photographic record of the natural world. A passionate and insightful observer of birds (and many wild creatures) since childhood, in addition to his work in the Carleton Biology department, Runtz educates and inspires the public to learn about the natural world; for example in his role as coordinator of the annual Pakenham-Arnprior Christmas Bird Count and his long-standing volunteer involvement, currently as President, with the Macnamara Field Naturalists Club.

Runtz states: “Rachel Carson was instrumental in preventing deadly insecticides from killing millions of birds. But today many other threats exist, some equally as insidious as DDT. This highly visual presentation will examine a few of the challenges that currently face our bird populations.” Runtz refers of course to Rachel Carson, author of the 1962 book Silent Spring which first brought to the world’s attention, the startling facts about environmental damage (particularly to birds) caused by pesticides. Birds continue to be threatened, but which threats would Michael Runtz consider the most important for birds today?: environmental toxins both new and old? . . .  habitat loss? . . .  introduced predators? . . .  or other threats?

Join MVFN for what promises to be an interesting and informative presentation. The presentation “Environmental Threats to Avian Species” will be held at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON at 7:30 pm. Come with your questions about your favourite local species. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley, at . For MVFN events, membership and other club information anytime visit

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A Bird in Hand

Press Release, April 5, 2012

A Bird in Hand

 by Cathy Keddy, MVFN Program Chair

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) public lecture series, Trends in Fauna and Flora, continues April 19 with the final presentation, ‘A Bird in the Hand.’ You do not need to be an expert to enjoy the presentations—just possess a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature. Cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists and seasoned field naturalists alike will find something to interest them as we explore what lives in Lanark County and how best to protect it for future generations.


Above left: an identification band being attached to the leg of a Yellow Warbler;  Right: a  Scarlet Tanager is examined during the banding process (photos by Lesley Howes).

For Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, Lesley Howes—speaker at MVFN’s April lecture, a bird in the hand is worth many in the bush for when the bird is in your hand, you can band it. Banding involves affixing a plastic or metal identification tag to either the wing or leg of the bird. Appropriate, standard banding techniques have been established to protect the health of both birds and the banders. Leslie will share her knowledge of this art based on more than 20 years of experience banding humming birds to seabirds to raptors.

Banding birds is one of the most useful techniques in the research and monitoring of migratory bird populations. Bird banding and subsequent re-finding of banded individuals enables ornithologists to study many aspects of a bird’s life including migration, longevity, mortality, territoriality, and feeding behaviour. Information from banding studies also contributes to population studies, the establishment of waterfowl hunting regulations, protection of endangered species, and assessment of the effects of environmental contaminants.

In North America tagging birds for scientific study began in 1803 when John James Audubon tied silver threads onto the legs of young Eastern Phoebes. In Canada, Ernest Thompson Seton studied Snow Buntings in Manitoba in 1882 by marking them with ink. Today, bird banding programs have been established around the world and co-operation among sponsoring agencies provides a wealth of information about global geographic bird patterns and population trends. More than 66 million birds have been banded in North America since 1908. Approximately 900 banders place bands and markers on over 300,000 migratory birds each year in Canada. Mallards are the most commonly marked bird with over 7 million marked in North America since 1908.

Can you believe it? Banding studies of Arctic Terns and Manx Shearwater (a medium-sized seabird) have shown incredible migration feats. A three-month-old Arctic Tern chick banded in Britain in the summer of 1982, reached Australia that October— a sea journey of over 22,000 km in just a few months. Through banding, it has been found that Manx Shearwaters migrate between the nothern Europe and South America, a distance of over 10,000km. Given that they can live to be at least 50 yrs, this means they travel more than one million km during migration over their lifetime in addition to their day-to-day flights. One banded bird, in particular, was calculated to have flown over 8 million during its life time, outliving its ornithological tracker. Without banding, we would not have known.

Founded in 1982 by the Ottawa Banding Group, our nearest bird banding station is the Innis Point Bird Observatory located on Department of National Defense property along the Ottawa River, near Shirley’s Bay. Migration monitoring and other research projects here include Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS), Breeding Bird Census, Tree Swallow, Eastern Bluebird and Purple Martin research, and Snow Bunting banding in winter. There are on-site facilities for long-term volunteers. Interested? Ask Lesley about opportunities.

Refresh your identification skills and try your hand at aging and sexing birds with the study skins that Lesley brings to her MVFN presentation, ‘A Bird in the Hand,’ at 7:30 pm on Thursday April 19 at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome. Non-members $5. Refreshments provided. For more information, contact MVFN Program Chair, Cathy Keddy (613-257-3089).


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Birds In My Garden

Almonte United Church’s ‘Spirit of the Garden’ event (Apr 2009) featured many speakers. In honour of Poetry Month, the Lanark County Live Poet Society was invited to perform poems as an introduction for each speaker. Tammy MacKenzie, who loves both gardening and birds, wrote and performed the following (posted here with Tammy’s permission) to introduce MVFN member Cliff Bennet’s ‘Birds in the Garden’ talk:

Birds In My Garden

Turning and digging and tilling the soil
I work the earth in loving toil
under the watchful eyes of robins in the dew-bejeweled grass,
their red breasts bright in the morning sun,
hopping ever nearer in hopes of snatching an easy breakfast revealed by my labour.

Having laid out line and row
I gather my seeds and begin to sow,
closely watched by hopeful sparrows
and soon joined by cheery chickadees
chatting their dee-dee-dee as they flit in bobbing flight to the tree
where higher up perches a blackbird adding his musical erk-a-lee.
After I’m done they come down to the ground for a good look around,
but the seeds are well covered and they soon leave, disappointed,
and tired of the brash bullying of brazen blue jays boldly hollering their raucous kwe-kwe.

Time passes and my garden grows green,
lush and full with occasional nibbles from critters unseen.
Hummingbirds visit to sip from each flower
and sometimes when I water, indulge in a shower.
The robins still visit, and the occasional small bird,
in search of worms in the dirt and other juicy morsels on the leaves of the plants,
leaving the aphids to the ladybugs and ants.
It’s nice to see these birds in my garden, tilling the soil and tending the plants.

I smile as I watch them flitting around, now in the air and then on the ground.
their bright colours and energetic antics cheer my day,
their cheeping chatter and sweet song lift my heart.
But I must admit the misleading mimicry of the catbird’s eow brings a frown to my brow
when I hear it coming from my strawberry patch!
I really don’t mind sharing a berry or two, but their wanton pilfering simply won’t do!
They and the waxwings search out the best, always finding the biggest and brightest,
eat about half and just leave the rest!
If you heard me speak then I’d have to beg your pardon,
‘cause I really get vexed by those birds in my garden!

But I know in the end, when all’s said and done,
the garden harvested and earth bare to the sun,
when summer is passed and fall almost ended, the birds will move south or grow quiet.
I’ll feel sad and a little lonely, and miss every one
of the birds in my garden.

Tammy MacKenzie April 2009

For more information on Tammy’s work, or the Live Poets Society (LiPS), contact  or visit the LiPS website at

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