Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Where do breeding bank swallows go at sunset?

Implications for the conservation of a declining aerial insectivore

Dr. Greg Mitchell,  research scientist with the Wildlife Research Division of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Canada, and adjunct research professor (Carleton University) will be guest speaker as our “When Things go Bump in the Night” series continues.

Bank Swallows photo Dr. Greg Mitchell


Our guest speaker is studying the habitat requirements of migratory species in human-dominated or working landscapes throughout southern Canada using field surveys, weather radar detection of biological entities, and citizen science data such as breeding bird surveys.

Dr. Mitchell will share his work on Bank Swallows (Riparia riparia), a threatened species in Ontario. His research team recently discovered, among other things, the “cryptic and broad-scale movements of bank swallows . . . in the early evening during the breeding season.”

The results of this fascinating research have revealed interesting insights into the effects of sunset and sunrise on movements of these aerial insectivores, as well as the importance of wetland roosting habitats during breeding season. Join us for Dr. Mitchell’s presentation: “Where Do Bank Swallows Go During Breeding When the Sun Sets?  Implications for conservation of a declining aerial insectivore.”


photo courtesy Greg Mitchell

photo courtesy Greg Mitchell

photo courtesy Greg Mitchell

photo courtesy Greg Mitchell



Bank Swallow photo courtesy Greg Mitchell

Bank Swallow photo courtesy Greg Mitchell

Dr. Mitchell’s presentation details:

Thursday November 16 /  7:30 PM / Almonte United Church 106 Elgin St. Almonte, ON

Doors to the social hall at Almonte United Church will open at 7 PM and the program gets underway at 7:30 PM. Refreshments are available throughout the evening and a discussion will follow the presentation. As always, the event is free for MVFN members and youth under 18; non-members fee at the door is $5; all are welcome. For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Gretta Bradley at

Press Release pdf: The Flight of the Bank Swallow

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Cerulean Warbler in Maberly

Cerulean Warbler sighting sent to MVFN Nature Notebook

Alison Bentley sent in a report June 3, 2016 of a  male Cerulean Warbler singing consistently in Maberly, ON.  First noted May 29th and every day since.

Cerulean Warbler


The image is from Note that the Cerulean Warbler is a Species at Risk in Ontario – Status Threatened. “In Ontario and the United States, the main threat to this warbler is habitat loss from degrading and fragmenting forests, since it requires relatively large tracts of forest.”

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Rapids Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus quadricolor)

NOTE: Recently a Facebook page has been established by Mississippi Mills community members: Find Rapids Clubtails of Mississippi Mills on Facebook

A rare and endangered species in the province, the Rapids Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus quadricolor), was observed in the Mississippi River at Almonte falls June 15, 2015  and this and sightings of the species at Blakeney by a group of 4 MVFN members on June 13, 2015 were reported today to the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre which tracks species at risk such as this endangered species. This species had been reported in these locations historically in the past, but there were no recent ones until these reports from yesterday in Almonte and Saturday in Blakeney.  Reminder: it is illegal to net, catch or otherwise harass these endangered species.

A more detailed account of this endangered species locally will be posted soon.

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Rapids Clubtail dragonfly at Almonte falls, 2015

Pauline Donaldson


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Lanark’s Leaping Lizards

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

January 10, 2010

Lanark’s Leaping Lizards at MVFN’s January Lecture 


In the photo above (left) a female five-lined skink tends her nest and nine eggs. Can you spot the charismatic five-lined skink in the photo above (right)? These seldom-seen lizards share Lanark County with us. Photos courtesy Briar Howes

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) public lecture series, Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People, continues January 20 with the fourth presentation, “Lanark’s Leaping Lizards.” You do not need to be an expert to enjoy these lectures—just bring your curiosity and appreciation for wild nature.

Did you know we share Lanark County with lizards? In this upcoming lecture, the biodiversity spotlight will shine on Ontario’s only lizard, the five-lined skink. From its orange chin to its electric-blue tail, this 20 cm long lizard is our most charismatic reptile. Even Little Orphan Annie would be excited to learn about this leaping lizard from Dr. Briar Howes. Skink ecologist Briar Howes completed her thesis work on the five-lined skink at Queens’ University and is currently ‘Species-at-Risk’ Biologist with Parks Canada.

In Canada, skinks are found only in Ontario. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population is distributed from Georgian Bay to the St. Lawrence River, along the band of Canadian Shield that connects Algonquin Park to the Adirondacks. Skinks are very active predators, well-adapted for darting quickly from place to place looking for insects, worms or other invertebrates. So though you may know they are amongst us, you may not have caught sight of their smooth and shiny bodies. You must know where to look! In our area, their preferred habitat is rocky outcrops in mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, where they seek refuge from the elements and predators in rock crevices and fissures.

Curious to learn more about this secretive species-at-risk in our midst—one that takes almost two years to mature, lays eggs which are carefully tended by the female, and which may autotomize its tail to escape predators? Dr. Howes will answer your questions at MVFN’s next lecture, “Lanark’s Leaping Lizards,” Thursday, January 20 at 7:30 p.m., Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.


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Bringing Species Back from the Brink—Some Good News

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

April 9, 2010

By Cathy Keddy

Good News—Bringing Species Back From the Brink

As the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) Big Picture Conservation lecture series continues, the focus will be on some environmental good news—species once considered at risk and how they can be brought back from the brink. For this lecture MVFN is pleased to welcome Paula Norlock, Lanark County native and Species at Risk Biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Kemptville office.

We realize the best approach for species at risk is preventing species from falling into this category in the first place, through being good land stewards and caring about the natural world around us. However, species may become at risk due to a variety of underlying causes and combinations of factors such as peculiarities of their biology and habitat requirements, disease, habitat loss, pollution, land cover change, competition or hybridization with alien species, as well as our lack of awareness. Population trends for species at risk are often indicators of the condition of other species and reveal the health of our ecosystems as Bill Crins explained to MVFN in his February lecture “A Stitch in Time: Monitoring Indicator Species to Diagnose Ecosystem Vitality.”

But what can we do if we miss the prevention boat? We can take action to recover these species at risk— to arrest or reverse their decline by removing or reducing the underlying threats and thus improving the likelihood that they will persist in the wild.

The good news is that currently, about 80 recovery teams are reviewing biology, habitat requirements and threats to livelihood in an effort to improve the status of endangered and threatened species in the province. Recovery strategies have now been prepared for protection and restoration of the populations of 13 species including mammals (American Badger), birds (Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl), fish (Redside Dace), turtles (Wood Turtle), salamanders (Jefferson Salamander) and plants (Deerberry, Eastern Flowering Dogwood, Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid, Engelmann’s Quillwort, Few-flowered Club-rush, Ogden’s Pondweed, Spotted Wintergreen). The good news continues. Some species such as the Red-shouldered Hawk and Southern Flying squirrel, formerly considered at risk, now seem to have more secure populations.

Ms. Norlock will lead us through the fortunes, misfortunes and prospects of a selection of species at risk. Arrive ready to learn about achievements and plans to recover more species from Paula’s presentation “Bringing Species Back from the Brink—Some Good News!”, and leave inspired. Attend this upcoming MVFN lecture Thursday April 15, at 7:30 p.m., Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome; $5 charge for non members. For further details, please contact Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089, or visit

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