Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Wild Life Journals

submitted by Cheryl Morris for MVFN

 On Thursday, April 21 at 7:30 pm., the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host Member’s Night, to be held in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario. At that time and place, we will enter the intriguing worlds of the loon and the owl, described by two well-known ambassadors for nature in our region, Cliff Bennett and Simon Lunn.

 Simon Lunn is an accomplished photographer and naturalist from Smiths Falls, Ontario who has enjoyed a 30-year career with Parks Canada. Simon entitles his presentation “Encounters With Intriguing Owls”. Through a series of  alluring photographic images, he will introduce us to several different owls encountered in recent years, both in the wooded backyard of his home in Smiths Falls and in other special places in nature that are within an hour’s drive from his home. These fascinating birds each have a story to tell…

Simon’s interest in the outdoors and passion for photography came early in life. When he was a young lad, Simon’s parents gave him a brownie camera and introduced him to a photographic darkroom. With his family, he explored the natural outdoor world throughout rural Ontario. Simon’s early career in photography included photographing landscapes, plants, and animals in their natural habitats; the images were then shared with park visitors through detailed slide presentations. More recently, he has shared his stunningly beautiful images of nature with various magazines and tourism agencies, and contributed his talents in the form of local photography workshops and community presentations.

 Cliff Bennett is a well-known naturalist and educator from Lanark County. In 1988, he was one of the founding members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and is currently serving a second term as president. Cliff has been the recipient of several regional, provincial and national awards for his work in the area of conservation but the MVFN Champion For Nature Award is most special to him because it was presented to him by his peers, the people who, in his words, “inspire him to continue doing the activities for which he received the award”. Cliff is an avid birder and canoeist, and until recently was the Eastern Regional Director with Ontario Nature. Cliff was also one of the people responsible for the development of MVFN’s flagship Environmental Education Program (EEP). The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund was created in 2007 by Cliff’s many friends who wished to honour his contributions to the community and nature.

Cliff’s presentation on April 21 is entitled “Loons And Human Interaction”. He will explore the world of loons in various habitats, explaining their classic calls and habits. He will demonstrate how man’s intrusion into the natural world is threatening the survival of the loons.

 Please join the MVFN for this interesting and informative evening of presentations. Refreshments will follow the talks. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley, at .


Continue reading...

AGM and Wildlife Journals: Member’s Night

Members and friends of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) are invited to attend the organization’s 2016 Annual General Meeting. The meeting will take place beginning at 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin Street, in Almonte. The meeting will be followed by discussion and refreshments, and two, sure to be engaging, “Wild Life Journals: Member’s Night” presentations! Full details at

For the presentation “Encounters with Intriguing Owls,” Simon Lunn, biologist and nature photographer, will introduce us to several very different owls that he has encountered in recent years, both in his wooded backyard and special places within an hours drive of his home just south of Smiths Falls. Each of the owls has a unique story to tell.

Members night 2016 great grey owl flying close up Simon Lunn

Photo: Great Gray Owl photo by Simon Lunn

The second presentation will be “Loons and Human Interaction” by MVFN President and well-known bird expert and local naturalist, Cliff Bennett.

Loon by Gloria Opzoomer

Photo of loon by Gloria Opzoomer.

The past year was a busy one for MVFN (a local member of the Ontario Nature Network serving Lanark County, West Carleton and areas), with significant growth in membership and interest. Highlights included a very successful Program schedule (led by committee Chair Gretta Bradley) – a speaker series and many nature related outings, including an ever popular canoeing program led by Linda McLaren and new birding events held by the Birding Committee, chaired by Tim Pullen. Other highlights were the vigorous fund raising and education effort supporting a campaign to protect Burntlands Alvar, led by Environmental Issues Committee (EIC) Chair, Theresa Peluso; and formation of a new committee, Conservation and Habitat Restoration, chaired by David Garcia. In an effort led by EIC member Tineke Kuiper, MVFN continues to work with the Municipality of Mississippi Mills (MM) on the recognition of Natural Heritage Areas and “wildlife corridors” in MM. The popular Young Naturalists program at Mill of Kintail, continued to thrive under the guidance of instructor Patty McLaughlin (of the Wild Bird Care Centre) and coordination by Ron Williamson of MVFN’s Environmental Education Committee chaired by Bob Smith. Also in 2015, the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary committee (chaired by Mike Macpherson) awarded a $1000 nature bursary to Almonte and District High School graduate Ruth Tamas. The meeting will feature reports on all of these activities plus a complete financial report and voting for election of directors for the coming year.

Continue reading...

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.


Continue reading...

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


Continue reading...

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

Continue reading...