Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Birding (or birdwatching) is one of the fastest-growing hobbies in North America, with 1 in 5 adults participating. It is both a science and a hobby that gives participants an excuse to travel and when they travel they add money to local economies.  Because birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing pastimes in North America, maintaining birdwatching facilities in Mississippi Mills makes perfect economic sense.

A dispute at the Almonte Lagoons (Brent Eades photo)

Michel Gauthier, a member of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, estimates that birders visiting the Almonte Lagoons contributed almost $24,000 to Almonte’s economy in 2019. He used the visitor log from the bird viewing shelters at the Almonte Lagoons to calculate the number of visitors who drove 40-kilometres or more to the shelter.  This estimate combined with a Government of Ontario Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model was the basis of his study.

Birdwatchers come to Mississippi Mills in all seasons. In early winter, bird watchers observe waterfowl in the ice-free patches of the river in Almonte, Blakeney, and Pakenham. In January and February, they look for snowy owls and other raptors along Appleton Sideroad, a seasonal hotspot for birds of prey. In spring and fall, they search for migrating warblers at the Mill of Kintail, on the Almonte River Trail, and just about anywhere else they can safely park their cars.

One of their most cherished destinations is the Almonte Lagoons. This complex includes a trail through a small woodlot into the Al Potvin observation tower that overlooks the north end of the lagoon. From there a trail runs 150 m east to the Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter that overlooks the east side of the lagoon. This complex is all on Municipal property opposite the Auld Kirk Cemetery.

When anyone spots a rare bird, birdwatchers drive hundreds of miles to see it. This kind of stampede has happened at the Almonte Lagoons on two occasions in recent memory: one for a cave swallow and another for a yellow-headed blackbird. There were no rarities spotted during the period of this study so the results reflect normal levels of traffic at the site.

This study clearly links birdwatching and an appreciation of nature to the economic life of Mississippi Mills. Going forward, the Al Potvin Tower, the woodland trail leading to it, and the Mike McPhail Bird Viewing Shelter will not only provide benefits to birdwatchers and nature lovers, but also generate economic returns in Mississippi Mills, in Lanark County, and in Ontario.

The full report is available on the MVFN website.

Events in March

March 19, 2020
Nature Talk: “From Source to Tap: Thinking Differently About Water”

Doors open at 7:00 pm, Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte

March 21, 2020
Day trip to Presqu’ile Provincial Park
for the annual waterfowl migration with Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists