Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Paddle Clayton/Taylor Lake

Car Pooling: Meet at Union Hall for departure by 9 A.M.

Bring: Binoculars, lunch, bug juice, life jackets (mandatory). We have been invited to lunch at the home of MVFN member Dale Penstone, on Clayton Lake.

Pre-registration: You must pre-register for this event. For registration and further information, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or .

If you have a canoe and need a partner, or don’t have a canoe and would like to partner, please call Cliff and he will try to match you up.


Continue reading...

Exploring nature from the water on Clayton Lake & Indian River

Exploring nature from the water on Clayton Lake & Indian River

By Cliff Bennett

On an excellent Sunday morning, June 14, 2015, twenty members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) took to the waters of Clayton Lake and the upper section of the Indian River in canoes and kayaks to explore nature on MVFN’s annual Spring Paddle.  Led by MVFN President Cliff Bennett, the flotilla of thirteen craft, seven canoes and six kayaks, meandered along the west side of the lake to Command Bridge on Galbraith Road in Lanark Highlands. Squeezing under the bridge, the group paddled easily up the Indian River, almost to the bridge at Halls Mills, but was stopped by a beaver dam.

Spring Paddle 1

Val Wilkinson and Cliff Bennett lead the way on Clayton Lake/Indian River MVFN paddle. Photo by Howard Robinson

Spring Paddle 2

The  flotilla winds its way along the Indian River. Photo Howard Robinson

After exploring the beaver dam and its construction, the paddlers returned to Clayton Lake, where they discovered a mature bald eagle, perched on a low bit of scrub on a minute island. The eagle watched cautiously as the flotilla passed by at a respectful distance and decided it wasn’t worth the bother to take off. Other birds of interest recorded by compiler Mary Robinson included two American bitterns in flight, an osprey scanning the surface looking for a fish, an Eastern wood-pewee and a winter wren in melodious rhapsody. In the distance a loon called mournfully, probably looking for its partner. Thirty-four species were counted in all. The list of birds seen is posted on MVFN’s website.

Spring Paddle 3
On Clayton Lake paddlers spot a mature bald eagle, perched in the distance on a low bit of scrub on a tiny island. Photo Howard Robinson

A brace of four painted turtles were found sunning on a log and a few dragonflies were picking off mosquitoes along the marsh plants. Freshly emerging wild rice was plentiful and several clumps of Northern blue flags were spotted along the marshy shore. Yellow pond lilies and fragrant white lilies were just beginning to burst forth.

After a lengthy paddle across Clayton Lake, all craft were beached at Howard and Mary Robinson’s lake front home for enjoyment of lunch and refreshments.

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists have organized canoe/kayak trips throughout the County and area for many years, with the theme being “Seeing Nature from the Water’s Edge”. The program consists of a series of day trips such as this spring paddle, as well as a four-day canoe camp in September.  The next day trip is scheduled for Sunday, July 12. For more information, please contact trip leader Sheldon Scrivens at ) or visit for program and membership details.

Spring Paddle 4

Turtles sunning on a log, dragonflies picking off mosquitoes, freshly emerging wild rice, clumps of Northern blue flags and yellow pond lilies all seen from the water. Photo Howard Robinson.

Continue reading...

MVFN Spring Paddle

MVFN Spring Paddle

Get your canoes, kayaks and paddles ready for Clayton and Taylor Lake and MVFN’s annual Spring Paddle!

Date: Sunday, June 14, 9:00 am.

Meeting place:  meet at 9 am at the Clayton Lake launch site by the dam in Clayton Village.

Bring: lunch, hat, bug juice, binoculars etc. Also you must ensure you have proper equipment including floatation gear, bailing bucket, heaving line etc.

Please note that you must pre-register for this event and your MVFN membership should be up-to-date. You may bring a friend or two.

For registration and information, please contact trip leader Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or .

NOTE: In case of foul weather, this event will be cancelled. If in doubt on the morning of the event, call Cliff before 8:00 am to confirm.

Continue reading...

Clayton Lake Canoe/Kayak Outing

Clayton Lake Canoe/Kayak Outing

August 12, 2012

The adventure begins in the village of Clayton along the northwest side of Clayton Lake to the site of the floating bridge and back to Clayton. This trip is a variation of #16 on the MVFN’s Canoe/Kayak Brochure. The trip begins at the dam in the village of Clayton and follows the northwest shore towards the Galbraith bridge where the Indian River feeds into Clayton Lake, then continues following the NW shore to Thompson’s Black Rock Park and on to site of the former 12th Concession floating bridge and back to the Clayton dam. Lunch will either be at Thompson’s or at 12th Concession near Lloyd. We will watch for large wild rice beds, white & yellow lilies, ducks and marsh birds along north shore and east end of lake. Over a dozen Loons were spotted about the lake on July 28, 2012.

Car Pooling: East Lanark: Union Hall, for departure 9 am.

Bring: Lots of drinking water, binoculars, lunch, bug juice, life jackets (mandatory). Every vessel needs a safety kit (bailer, floating throw line, pea-less whistle & flashlight). An extra paddle is recommended per vessel.

To register, or for further information, please contact Sheldon at or call 613-836-0309. If you have a canoe and need a partner, or don’t have a canoe and would like to partner, please contact Sheldon. In case of severe weather, this event will be cancelled.

If in doubt, call Sheldon no later than 8 am, or call my cellphone @ 613-720-9506.

Please note: You must pre-register for this event. This is an MVFN members only event!



Continue reading...

Tales in the Snow on MVFN’s Winter Nature Walk 2007

Press Release
Mississppi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Pauline Donaldson, MVFN Public Relations Chair

By Joel Byrne

 Tales in the Snow on MVFN’s Winter Nature Walk

{wp-gallery-remote: gallery=0; rootalbum=2166; showalbumtitle=true; showimagesheader=false; clickalbumtitle=opennew;}

Joel Byrne is one of MVFN’s knowledgeable nature guides. Dr. Jim Bendell, another of MVFN’s nature guides, is a retired Biology Professor and co- author of an award-winning book “Blue Grouse: Their Biology and Natural History”

On a recent ideal Sunday afternoon, in late February (25th) an enthusiastic group, some twenty strong, from the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, assembled on the shore of Clayton Lake for MVFN’s 2007 Winter Walk. The group included two cross country skiers and Java the dog. But before setting out from the lovely lake-view home of Mary and Howard Robinson we had to check the safety of the ice. Paul Eggington, our climate change go-to-guy, directed our ice augering, and we soon drilled holes and measured 35 cm thick of the good black ice. Strong ice!

With Howard guiding, and Dr. Jim Bendell, respectfully nicknamed, “Professor Partridge”, because of his abiding passion for the grouse tribe, and yours truly, both acting as nature interpreters, we got under way. The first curious structures to get our attention were some low mounds made of reeds and grasses. Muskrat “push-ups” right in the middle of one of their favourite foods, cattails. These piles of vegetation, it was explained, were not the muskrats’ nests but feeding stations or platforms on the ice. Muskrats burrow into the bank placing their nests above the waterline.

As we crossed the expanse of snow-covered ice looking for tracks and scanning the shoreline we noticed that all the white cedars had been browsed up as high as a white-tailed deer can reach. Then we were into the trees. Deer hoof and dewclaw imprints, and toe drag marks were everywhere. Also using this dense cedar cover were red squirrels and snowshoe hares whose tracks were plentiful.

Where the trail passed through meadows and open hardwoods the tracks proliferated. Along with the above-mentioned tracks, tell-tale signs of white-footed mice and meadow voles dotted the surface and disappeared into tiny holes. Hot on their heels were the prints of ermine and long-tailed weasels, red foxes, coyotes, and the snow-filled tracks of a larger weasel, perhaps a fisher. Of course we had to stop at these tracks and graphically describe the fisher’s porcupine-killing technique. Then bark chewing of the’porky’ was spotted.

Coyote scat, conveniently deposited on the trail, was examined but wisely not handled. A faded red fox ‘valentine’ scat sprinkled with pheromone-laden urine had mating season written all over it.

But this trip wasn’t only about animals in winter, as intriguing as they are. The forests and the very tree species that make them up were not given short shrift. The importance of “cavity” trees for nesting and denning,”mast” trees for food production, “pioneer” species like the aspens and birches in forest establishment and succession were discussed as we passed through open hardwoods, mixed forests, and dense cedar stands.

Large and small we examined them all: huge, open-grown maples called ‘wolf’ trees, and sticks set into the ice as tip-ups. Some of nature’s bounty we ate: edible but bland basswood buds, and remnants of wild grapes. Some we sniffed, like the sulfur-yellow, spicy buds of bitternut hickory.

But the best “sighting” of all we saved for the last— a freshly-made roughed grouse trail, replete with jolting landing and frenzied take-off. “Professor Partridge” pounced on this evidence, and as he told the story laid out there in the snow, he beamed. As the shadows lengthened we headed back, passing a clump of white birches heavy with catkins. Spring was nigh. Then we spotted the Robinson’s ridge-top home.

Mary and Howard welcomed us in to as fine a “little late lunch” as I’ve ever seen: platters and tureens and slow cookers brimming with delicacies. What congenial hosts! What a field trip! For information on upcoming nature walks and other MVFN events visit or contact Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879 or

Continue reading...