Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Audubon Christmas Bird Count in Lanark Highlands

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

November 26, 2013

Join 114th Audubon Christmas Bird Counting tradition as part of  Carleton Place or Lanark Highlands count

Birders and nature enthusiasts in Carleton Place and Lanark Highlands areas will soon join citizen scientists throughout the Americas and participate in the Audubon Society’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The Carleton Place CBC will be held this year on Friday, December 27th. The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will once again sponsor this bird count. The count area is a 24 km circle centered on the bridge over the Mississippi River in Carleton Place, and includes Almonte, Appleton and Ashton. The Lanark Highlands count, also sponsored by MVFN, will take place a few days later on Monday, December 30th. Details for both counts will be posted on the website.

This year, over 2,000 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas and beyond between December 14, 2012 and January 5, 2013. “Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation,” says Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada’s Christmas Bird Count Coordinator. “Bird Studies Canada and our partners at the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations.” Last year, during the 2012 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count over 50 volunteers spent the day observing birds resulting in the recording of nearly 5000 birds and 56 different species. The first Audubon bird count in Carleton Place took place in 1944.

The CBC tradition began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the ‘side hunt,’ a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort.

Volunteers are essential to the success of the CBC. You don’t need to be an expert but it helps to be familiar with local bird species. In any case, participants in the field counts will be placed in a team led by an experienced birder and everyone is welcome. You will need a pair of binoculars. As well, residents with bird feeders within a count area can also help by listing all birds at your feeder or in your yard on the count day.

For more information or to register for the Carleton Place CBC on December 27th, please contact Iain Wilkes at 613-257-1126 or . If you are interested in helping out by counting birds at your feeder for the Carleton Place count, please register with Georgina Doe at 613- 257-2103. At the end of the Carleton Place count day, field participants will return to the Community Room upstairs at Steve’s Independent in Carleton Place on McNeely Avenue for the count-in as well as refreshments.

For more information or to register for the Lanark Highlands CBC please contact Marilyn Barnett at 613-259-2269 or .

Best of the Season to All!



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2010 Bird counts show record numbers of wild turkeys and plenty of others


Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

January 8, 2010

Carleton Place and Lanark Highlands Christmas bird counts sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists show record numbers of wild turkeys and plenty of others

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists sponsored two Christmas Bird counts (CBC) in Lanark County, the 59th Annual Carleton Place CBC and the 7th Annual Lanark Highlands count. Over two thousand such counts were held across North and South America, representing the largest citizen scientist activity anywhere in the world. All records are stored with the Audubon Society and used for research and conservation programmes.

These Lanark counts were both exceptional for the record number of wild turkeys seen. Common to both counts was the reduced number of winter finches (low or sharply reduced numbers of pine siskins, crossbills and pine grosbeaks). These northern boreal forest birds are likely finding adequate food further north this winter.

The 59th Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count took place on December 27, 2009 and was led by Iain Wilkes who was also the compiler. Georgina Doe led the feeder counts. Thirty-two field observers and 25 feeder counts took part during a day starting out with fog and clouds with temperatures hovering near zero after the freezing rain of Boxing Day. In all of 41 species were seen and 4562 individuals counted. This is down 7 species and approx. 500 individuals from the 2008 year. Many of the smaller rural roads were difficult to drive and significant surface ice on the road sides made it treacherous in places to pull over on the shoulder. The highlights were 2 Hooded Mergansers, 2 Grackles, 15 Red-winged Blackbirds and a record number of Turkeys at 285. There were a goodly number of Bohemians Waxwings at 159 and as well 500 Snow Buntings seen just outside Carleton Place. At the end of the day a count-in was held where the teams shared sandwiches and refreshments while compiling the results and trading stories of their days outing. Complete individual species recorded for the 2009 Carleton Place Count were:

Canada Goose (30), Mallard (9), Goldeneye (50), Hooded Merganser (2), Bald Eagle (2), Cooper’s Hawk (3), Red-tailed Hawk (5), Rough-legged Hawk (1), Ruffed Grouse (10), Turkey (285), Ring-billed Gull (3), Rock Pigeon (697), Mourning Dove (192), Downy Woodpecker (44), Hairy Woodpeckers (39), Pileated Woodpecker (8), Northern Shrike (3), Blue Jay (244), Crow (382), Raven (12), Chickadee (839), Red-breasted Nuthatch (9), White-breasted Nuthatch (76), Brown Creeper (4), Robin (7), Starling (417), Bohemian Waxwing (159), Tree Sparrow (46), White-throated Sparrow (3), Junco (43), Snow Bunting (515), Cardinal (28), Red-winged Blackbird (15), Rusty Blackbird (1), Grackle (3), Purple Finch (5), House Finch (8), Common Redpoll (10), Pine Siskin (30), Goldfinch (246), and House Sparrow (78).

Thirty-one birders took to the roads and fields for the 7th Annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count, held on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009 to register every bird seen or heard within the fifteen kilometre radius circle centered on Watsons Corners. The Lanark Highlands count was led by Cliff Bennett, with Bruce LeGallais, Bobby Clarke, Ted Mosquin, and Gloria Opzoomer heading up the sections. Marj Montgomery organized and compiled reports from over sixteen feeder counters, to add to the total. At the end of the count day, participants convened to Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark for the count-in and hot beverages.
The previous record of 188 turkeys, set in last year’s count easily surpassed this year’s 288. The continued build-up of wild turkeys in the area is now evident as each year of the count produces greater numbers. Total count for the circle was 3154 birds, lowest only to the first Lanark Highlands count of 2829 in 2003. A few dozen (76) evening grosbeaks were found, mostly in the Poland area, two dozen purple finches and only four redpolls showed up and no pine siskins, crossbills or pine grosbeaks were found. In spite of the low numbers, records were set for downy woodpeckers (77), Cooper’s hawk (4) and white-breasted nuthatches (101). New to the count was a brown thrasher, which was hanging around a feeder because of an injured wing and one northern harrier. Last year set a record at 4130 birds. Number of species found this year remained high at 38, two down from last year’s record listing of 40 species. Complete individual species recorded for the Lanark Highlands count were:

mallard duck (1), common merganser (10), ruffed grouse (4), wild turkey (288), bald eagle (3), sharp-shinned hawk (1), northern harrier (1), Cooper’s hawk (4), red-tailed hawk , rough-legged hawk (1), rock pigeon (210), mourning dove (98), barred owl (1), downy woodpecker (77), hairy woodpecker (89), pileated woodpecker (7), northern shrike (2), blue jay (224), crow (97), raven (30), black-capped chickadee (897), red-breasted nuthatch (25), white-breasted nuthatch (101), brown creeper (3), golden-crowned kinglet (1), brown thrasher (1), starling (97), Bohemian waxwing (93), tree-sparrows, (87), dark-eyed junco (55), snow bunting (166), cardinal (7), purple finch (26), house finch (6), common redpoll (4), goldfinch (334), evening grosbeak (76), house sparrow (13).


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Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count

MVFN sponsors two Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), the Carleton Place Count (December 27) and the Lanark Highlands Count (December 30).

We need helpers for both of these counts.

Here’s an opportunity to shake off the excesses from Christmas and, become a citizen scientist by helping to record our bird population in these two areas. If you have counted before, please consider coming out again this year. If you are a novice, come out anyway as the extra pairs of eyes are invaluable. In both cases, we will place you with a team leader, one who knows birds.

Dress warmly, bring a hot thermos, and a lunch (unless joining a group lunch in a local pub). Don’t forget your binoculars.
There is a cost of $5 per person to help defray cost of compiling results.

If you can’t come out, will you agree to count all of the birds that come to your feeders that day?

For the Carleton Place Count (includes Almonte), Saturday, Dec. 27, contact organizer Iain Wilkes at 613-257-1126 or

For Carleton Place feeder counting (includes Almonte), contact Georgina Doe at 613-.57-2103 or .

For the Lanark Highlands Count on Tuesday, Dec. 30, contact organizer
Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or .

For Lanark Highlands feeder counting, contact Marj Montgomery at 613-259-3078.

At the end of the day, Carleton Place count teams return to the Community Room upstairs at Steve’s Independent in Carleton Place for the count-in as well as refreshments and the Lanark Highlands count teams return to the Nature Lovers Book Store.

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Many Records Broken In Recent Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Census

Press Story
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
December 31, 2007
by Cliff Bennett

Many Records Broken In Recent Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Census

The fifth Annual Audubon Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, Dec. 30, under ideal winter conditions. Compared to last year when there was only a smattering of snow on the ground, this year’s deep snow made traveling off road somewhat difficult. In spite of this challenge, some surprising results occurred, including a record number of birds counted and the number of species listed increasing by one. Seven new records were broken and three completely ‘new-to-the-Lanark Highlands count’ species were listed.

Although there was some open water on the Mississippi River and into Dalhousie Lake, there were no water birds to be found this year, unlike last year where over 300 geese and a few ducks were registered. However, the twenty-three field observers and fourteen feeder counters persevered and managed to break the record for number of birds counted and species recorded. 4,005 individual birds counted this year surpassed 2004’s 3,717 and thirty-seven species beat 2005’s thirty-six species by one.

Individual records broken this year included wild turkeys, 123 (100 in 2005); mourning doves, 207 (139 in 2004); blue jays, 401 (342 in 2004) and pine grosbeaks, 132 (31 in 2004). All three woodpecker records were surpassed including downy woodpecker, 74 (52 last year); hairy woodpecker, 115 (80 in 2004) and pileated woodpecker, 12 (10 in 2004). Records were tied for sharp-shinned hawks (2) and white-throated sparrows (2). New species listed for the very first time in the count were Cooper’s hawk, grackle and cedar waxwings.

The count circle is centered on Watson’s Corners and covers a 15 km radius. The circle is divided into four equal ‘pieces of the pie’ and each was assigned a team leader, all local residents. Team A led by Bruce LeGallais included Don Brown (Kanata), Don McInerney, Pip Winters, Paul Frigon and Phil Laflamme. Team B led by Roberta Clarke, assisted by John Clarke, included Louis Frenette (Carleton Place), Lynda Bennett, Paul Sprague and Gloria Opzoomer. Team C was led by Claire Fisher and team members were George Fisher, Neil and Lucy Carleton, Jeff Mills, Jim and Yvonne Bendell and Lise Balthazar. Team D, led by Ted Mosquin, included Linda Mosquin and Mark Garbutt. Marjorie Montgomery organized and compiled the feeder counts. Project organizer and compiler was Lanark ERA columnist Cliff Bennett and the event was sponsored by Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN).

The highlight of the day as usual, was the count-in reception. Hosted by Mary Vandenhoff and staff at the Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark, all members gathered to compare experiences, discuss the results compiled on a chart and enjoy excellent refreshments. In return for the hosting, MVFN will be making a financial contribution to the North Lanark Community Heath Centre.

MVFN wishes to thank and congratulate all participants. Complete results are as follows:

bald eagle 1; sharp-shinned hawk 2; Cooper’s hawk 2; red-tailed hawk 1; rough-legged hawk 2; ruffed grouse 3; wild turkey 123; rock pigeon 198; mourning dove 207; barred owl 2; downy woodpecker 74; hairy woodpecker 115; pileated woodpecker 12; northern shrike 1; blue jay 401; common crow 93; raven 45; chickadee 986; red-breasted nuthatch 20; white-breasted nuthatch 84; golden-crowned kinglet 3; starling 189; cedar waxwing 4′ Bohemian waxwing 90; tree sparrow 51; dark-eyed junco 41; white-throated sparrow 2; snow bunting 179; cardinal 14; common grackle 1; pine grosbeak 132; purple finch 10; house finch 6; common redpoll 466; goldfinch 132; evening grosbeak 288; house sparrow 37.

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MVFN Canoe Outing: A fine day for a paddle

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
July 11, 2007
by Sheila Edwards

“MVFN canoe outing: A fine day for a paddle”

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Most who witnessed the procession of canoe/kayak laden vehicles heading into the Lanark Highlands were probably questioning our sanity given the rainy weather. In fact the weather proved fine for the paddle organized by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) on Sunday, July 8. Fourteen of us took the risk and reaped the benefits of a great day spent on the water.

Our group, led by MVFN’s Cliff Bennett, was greeted by a family of loons as it left the shore to explore Park Lake. Another family was seen on Horne Lake, and there was much calling from unseen birds, indicating more in the area. Although these lakes are quite small, Park can reach a depth of over 13 meters, which is likely where the loons are feeding.

Other bird species recorded by the group included spotted sandpipers, Swainson’s thrush, Veery, ovenbird, rose-breasted grosbeaks, great blue heron, and a great crested flycatcher.

These lakes appeared quite pristine, with no signs of zebra mussels eradicating our local eastern elliptio mussel population*. This may also explain the muskrat population, as they use mussels as a source of protein. On two occasions, muskrats were watched swimming and diving down for food.

An island in the middle of Horn Lake was perfect for lunch, allowing for swimming, birding (small ones in the trees and loons flying overhead) and it’s resident snake. The

Northern Water Snake, which is often confused with the more southern venomous water moccasin, remained undisturbed by our visit Numerous marsh milkweeds dotted the shoreline, just out from the shore was the beautiful pink water smartweed, pickerel weed was spotted in shallow areas, and many other plants were photographed for later identification.

For details on our bi-weekly canoe trips and other MVFN activities, visit the MVFN website . All members and friends are welcome. The next canoe trip planned is Sunday July 22, Mississippi River, Appleton-Almonte, site 15 on Lanark County Canoe & Kayak Journeys.

Contrary to popular belief, the mussels in Park Lake were eastern elliptio, not eastern pondmussel. According to André Martel “when most of us see mussels in rivers and lakes, we’re likely looking at the more common eastern elliptio, eastern lampmussel, the plain pocketbook or perhaps the fatmucket, which is especially adept at that minnow disguise.” The eastern pondmussel is apparently a rather rare species, thus in the Mississippi Valley mussels seen would most likely be eastern elliptio.

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