Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Nature photographer Bill Pratt captivates audience

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Tine Kuiper
June 9, 2005

Nature photographer Bill Pratt captivates audience

Tine Kuiper and Bill PrattAt its recent Annual General Meeting held in May at the Union Hall the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) were fortunate to have renowned local nature photographer Bill Pratt present two series of photographs. In the first slide-show “Ontario Wild” Bill took us to several “secret places” in Algonquin Park where he photographed a variety of wild life such as the interactions of a family of Moose in their natural habitat.

In the second series Bill’s photographs showed the mystery of the landscape of the Northern tundra, which he explored while visiting the headwaters of the Thelon river in the Yukon. He showed that not only is this area great for experiencing wolves, caribou, muskox and other wildlife, but it is also wonderful to experience the vastness and fabulous scenery of this unspoiled area as well as the Northern lights.

Bills photographs were an excellent way of completing the current MVFN lecture series of talks on biodiversity, as he focused on the total landscape such as we can still find it in its pristine condition in many of the Northern regions. Underlying Bill’s work is a strong sense of the beauty of Canada and the need to keep this country together. He indicated that he also finds spiritual peace and emotional relevance while capturing images such as these, and he was able to share and evoke these same emotions in his audience who were truly captivated by the experience.

Bill is an engineer at Parks Canada who devotes most of his spare time to photography. He is an active member of the local photography group “Photography Matters.” Bill is currently featured on the Culture Canada web site, together with several other outstanding individuals such as outstanding architect Douglas Cardinal.

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New Field Naturalists Theme: Gaining a Better Understanding of Biodiversity

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Tine Kuiper, Program Chair, MVFN
Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004

New Field Naturalists Theme: Gaining a Better Understanding of Biodiversity  

GeeseBiodiversity will be the theme of the upcoming Fall and Winter program of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). Biodiversity is a relatively new term, which refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources, including land based and aquatic ecosystems, and the ecosystems or communities in which they occur.

The concept of biodiversity represents the ways that life is organized and interacts on our planet. These interactions can take place on scales ranging from the smallest, at the level of genes, to organisms, ecosystems, and even to entire landscapes. Biodiversity is the key to ensuring the continuance of life on earth. It is also a fundamental requirement for adaptation and survival and continued evolution of species. As each of us gain a better understanding of biodiversity, we will be able to make better decisions, starting in our own backyards.

The first speaker in the series, on September 16, 2004, is Dr Charles M. Francis, Chief Migratory Birds, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada. In his talk “Biodiversity and Conservation”, Dr Francis will introduce the topic of biodiversity, considering its meaning and patterns at all scales, from local to global, from individuals within species to populations. He will then explore the implications of biodiversity from a conservation perspective, as well as the challenges related to protecting biodiversity in a world of increasing human populations and human activities. The talk will focus particularly on the speaker’s experience in working with birds in Canada and throughout the world, as well as with mammals in south-east Asia. The talk will be liberally illustrated with photographs, many drawn from the speaker’s own field work in Canada and south-east Asia.

Later in the series, on October 21, Mike Yee of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority will speak on Biodiversity of the Mississippi Watershed., and on November 18, Dr Brian Naylor, Ministery of Natural Resources, will talk about the Biodiversity of the Ontario Forest. The topic of biodiversity will be further explored in the new year, where we hope to discuss the role of factors, such as climate change, that may have an impact on biodiversity. Andrea Howard, of the Eastern Ontario Museum of Biodiversity will speak on Communicating the Issues of Biodiversity, and Dr. Bruce Falls, University of Toronto, will speak on Bird Song and Biodiversity. The last speaker in the series, Linda Pim of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, will speak on Planning for Biodiversity.

Mark your calendars for the third Thursday of each month, except December. If you are not yet a member of the MVFN, this may be a good time to join. Meetings take place at the Almonte United Church, at 7:30 pm. Non-members’ will be charged a $5.00 fee. For further information, please contact Cliff Bennett at 256-5013, or consult our web site:

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Field trip to White Lake Fen was highlight of MVFN Spring season

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Tine Kuiper, Programme Director
27th June 2003

Field trip to White Lake Fen was highlight of MVFN Spring season

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On Sunday June 22, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) ended their Spring season with a bang with a wonderful field trip to the White Lake Fen. Under the guidance of well-known field naturalists Monty and Grace Wood, participants learned all about the many natural attributes found in this rare environment, which is located on private property.

To get into the fen proper, the participants proceeded through a forested bog/fen area, where they viewed manymosses, irises and orchids, as well as liverworts.

The White Lake Fen is a quaking fen, with a mat of vegetation over water that probably connects to White Lake proper. It bounces like being on a water bed. Fens are a form of wetland, different from bogs, marshes and
swamps, and more rare.

The White Lake Fen, in Renfrew County just north of Lanark County, is a very special place, and has Area ofNatural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) designation. Most of its trees are white cedar and tamarack and blackspruce, found in the (supposedly) acidic patches.

Monty Wood is a reknowned teacher and emeritus scientist (entomologist/taxonomist) at Agriculture
Canada. His field work has taken him all over the world. Grace Wood is a biologist/toxicologist and has joined her husband in many of his travels.

Monty explained there were several species of deer fly in the Fen at this time of the year. We also located black larvae of the rare Buck bean moth which occurs only in this Fen and in the Richmond Fen, and which feeds on Buck bean, a plant found in Fens. About 10 years ago this moth was threatened after the Fen had been sprayed against the gypsy moth, and we were glad to see that it had returned.

A few Marsh marigolds were still in flower, as was Labrador tea, yellow lady slipper orchids, and several otherorchids including the rare Dragons’s mouth, a small magenta orchid. Also observed were many native Irises and large red pitcher plants which were in full bloom. Pitcher plants are carnivorous and capture and digest insects in their leaves which have been modified into a pitcher to collect water for this purpose. Also found was the small bog rosemary, pyrola and twin flower, as well as two species of cotton grass in the untreed part of the Fen. Another unusual feature of this Fen were many very large ant hills, often more than three feet in diameter and several feet high. These hills at a later stage could support the growth of small tree seedlings.

The field trip ended with a picnic at a small Park at the edge of White Lake. During the summer there will be no formal outings by the MVFN. However, informal canoe trips will be organized throughout the summer. If you like to participate in these activities please consult our web site ( for information on upcoming canoe trips or contact Cliff Bennett at 256-5013, or at

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Wild turkeys observed in the Almonte area

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Photograph by:  Tine Kuiper
Taken:  Saturday March 29, 2003

Last weekend, Tine Kuiper was fortunate to notice a flock of about 10 wild turkeys that had come to her bird feeder to clean up a few scraps of seeds that had fallen to the ground. One Tom was in full display, strutting with tail fanned to attract and hold his harem; he did not have much time for feeding, but nudged the others on. After becoming concerned about some geese overhead, the birds marched single file back into the woods.

The National Audubon Society writes ” Although the Wild Turkey was well known to American Indians and widely used by them as food, certain tribes considered them stupid, and did not eat them for fear of acquiring these characteristics.” By the end of the 19th century, the wild turkey had largely disappeared from Ontario, generally attributed to the destruction of their natural hardwood breeding grounds and to over-hunting. From 1984 to 1986, 253 wild-caught turkeys from the US were introduced into the local areas and seem to be expanding slowly.

Their preferred habitat is a pine-oak forest near water. They forage on seeds, nuts, acorns, but in the Summer also enjoy grass hoppers and other insects, frogs, toads,salamanders, lizards and snakes. The gobbling sound of the male turkey is similar to that of the domestic turkey.

The toms have a one inch-wide “beard” that increases in length with age; the beard visible in the photograph indicates that this tom is fairly young.

Wild turkeys nest on the ground, near the edge of wooded areas. The nest is shallow, sparsely lined with dead vegetation or leaves. The males are polygamous and take no part in nesting activities.

Single brooded, the hen lays from eight to twenty eggs. Incubation takes twenty-eight days and after the chicks hatch, they can fly into trees within two weeks. Broods stay together until wintertime, at which time they are fully grown and move off singly to mate in the Spring.

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MVFN Annual XC-Ski and Snowshoe Event

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Tine Kuiper, Programme Director 2003
February 4th, 2003

Field Naturalists Take to the Woods of Wolf Grove

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On Sunday February 4, some of the hardiest MVFN members enjoyed a wonderful winter outdoor event, which started at 10 am with an exploration of several ponds on the interior of the Wolf Grove area by ski or snow shoe. The group then proceeded along the Mississippi Ski Cub to the Rae Rd and back.

The trail was varied, winding through snow covered trees and open fields and across frozen ponds. The weather was typically winter-like but mild. The snow was fresh and somewhat sticky, but all had fun anyway.

As expected, there were many deer tracks, as well as a Fisher. The snowshoers observed, for the first time this winter, snow fleas, which apparently are an indication that Spring will not be long away. The event concluded with lunch was around an open fire which also included some well appreciated mulled apple cider and apple pie.

This event was open to members only. Members of the public who wish to be included in similar events, should consider joining the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. The next event for MVFN is a rescheduled talk by Bruce and Janet Duncan on Organic Farming, to be held at the United Church in Almonte, Feb. 20, 7:30 P.M.

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