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KFN Conservation Projects

There are many ways in which the KFN strives to achieve its objectives: through our general meetings, with speakers on a wide range of subjects; numerous field trips and rambles; ambitious programs for juniors and teens; acquisition and management of the Helen Quilliam Sanctuary and Martin Edwards Nature Reserve; environmental action and active support of conservation efforts; publication of the KFN Newsletter and our quarterly journal, the Blue Bill; and the maintenance and reporting of bird records. We also initiate special projects to meet specific needs, and encourage members to participate in environmental projects initiated by federal, provincial or other agencies.

Current Projects

Breeding Bird Atlas 3 (2021-2025)

Censuses and Surveys

KFN Spring and Fall Roundups

Starting in 1960 groups of members have taken part in competitions in May and November to find the most bird species within a 50 km radius of Kingston in a 24-hour period. At the end the participants would tally the results, and award the Art Bell trophy to the team with the most species and the dreaded “Purple Vulture” trophy to the runner-up.

These roundups were enjoyable as well as challenging, but over time the number of members interested in competitive birding started to diminish. In 2018 the decision was taken to change the format, and now the events are conducted more like a Christmas Bird Count. KFN members, working as individuals or in small groups, cover as much of the Kingston Circle as possible, recording all of their sightings. The numbers are the tallied on Sunday afternoon. For the Fall Roundup, the tally is followed by a pot-luck supper at a member’s house

The data gathered during the Roundups provide a snapshot of seasonal bird populations over a 40+-year period.

National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts

Throughout Canada, the United States, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and some Pacific islands, the Christmas Bird count obtains data on birds, providing valuable insights into the long-term health of avian populations and the environment. The first Ontario count commenced in 1900. KFN members organize and participate in five or six local National Audubon Society Christmas Counts, with results published in American Birds. Counts are held on one day within a three-week period around Christmas. Participants are organized into parties that count the number of each species seen within a 24-km diameter circle. The location of established count areas remains the same each year. Count data are used to measure long-term trends relating to winter bird distribution and abundance.

Mid-winter Waterfowl Inventories

Conducted for the Canadian Wildlife Service in early January, when waterfowl are most sedentary, throughout North America. Consult the Newsletter for the dates of the next count.

Breeding Bird Atlas 3 (2021-2025)

“The goal of the Atlas is to map the distribution and relative abundance of Ontario’s approximately 300 species of breeding birds – from as far south as Middle Island in Lake Erie, to Hudson Bay in the north.”

“The data collected over five years provides essential information for researchers, scientists, government officials and conservation professionals. It will guide environmental policies and conservation strategies for years to come.”

“Data collection for the two previous Ontario atlases ran from 1981-1985 and 2001-2005, followed by the publication of books summarizing the results. The two previous projects were enormous (and successful!). But we’re hoping Atlas-3 will be the best one yet – providing an unprecedented understanding of the status, distribution and abundance of the province’s birds and a huge database of information that can be used for bird conservation purposes well into the future.”

— Text from the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas

Past Projects

Below is a list of projects which the KFN, or its individual members, have undertaken.

Habitat Restoration for Loggerhead Shrikes

As previously, the Loggerhead Shrike is in danger of extirpation in our region, largely due to habitat loss and degradation. In October 1996, a field trip was organized by Chris Grooms, George Vance and Anne Robertson to improve the habitat in one of the known shrike nesting areas. KFN adult and teen members, armed with chain saws, hand saws, pruning shears, etc., braved wet weather to clear trees and pile brush to improve several acres of pasture land for the shrikes to hunt and breed. On 15 November, this year, a second work party organized by the same people, tore down an old page-wire fence and installed a new one to protect another pasture which is a known shrike nesting site. Funding to buy the fencing hardware and install the posts for that project was provided by LaFarge, Canada, but KFN members did most of the work! Shrike habitat maintenance and improvement is an ongoing, annual project.

KFN Fund for Queen’s University Biological Station Scholarship

The Kingston Field Naturalists’ Fund for Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) was established in spring 2007 in memory of Dr. Robert Stewart, former Head of Microbiology at Queen’s University, former KFN President and Honorary President, and former President of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. The award is intended to benefit and encourage undergraduate students whose studies at QUBS focus on conservation biology or natural history. Recognizing the valuable and unique educational opportunity QUBS provides at a critical stage of a student’s development, the KFN established the Fund in keeping with its mandate to stimulate public interest in nature and to acquire and provide knowledge of natural history. The Fund creates opportunities for students with good academic standing to gain essential and inspirational first-hand field experience.

Queen’s University Biological Station is a major research and teaching facility providing accommodation, laboratory space and equipment in a setting of several thousand acres of diverse habitat types. It is located near Lake Opinicon on the Rideau Canal just north of Kingston. Students from Queen’s and other universities enjoy an environment for learning like no other. Exposed to a wide range of research, courses, lectures and seminars, students also gain an environmental education not lacking in hands-on contact with nature. For more information on QUBS visit https://qubs.ca/.

The Fund, approved by the University senate in May 2007, was established with an initial donation by the KFN and its members of $15,000. The size of the endowment in 2008 is $33,547, which will allow an annual award of over $1,000 in perpetuity. The first award was given for the 2008 field season.

How to Apply for the Scholarship

Instructions on how students can apply to receive the scholarship are available at https://qubs.ca/undergraduate.

How to support the fund

To donate directly to the KFN, please mail a cheque, payable to Kingston Field Naturalists and earmarked for “Scholarship Fund” to Kingston Field Naturalists, PO Box 831, Kingston ON K7L 4X6. Charitable receipts will be issued for donations over $10.

Property Monitoring

The Owl Woods of Amherst Island

Amherst Island has, for many years, been noted for its wintering hawks and owls, and this area in particular, became well known for its concentration of northern owl species, particularly in those years when food supplies (small mammals) in the north were scarce, while there was an abundance here. The success of the meadow vole population and the types of trees available for hunting and roosting perches, particularly red and white cedar and jack pines, are the main attraction for the owls, and many remain for several days or even weeks during the winter, providing a wonderful opportunity for people to view and learn about these rare northern visitors.

Access to the Owl Woods is entirely dependent on the generosity of the private landowners. In November 2000, the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA) purchased 92 acres of adjacent land with funds donated by Loyalist Township, the Kingston Field Naturalists, and the previous landowner. The majority of the Owl Woods is owned by Gwen and Paul Lauret of Amherst Island, and the Barr family of St. Catharines. The Kingston Field Naturalists act as stewards of the property. A code of ethics is displayed in the kiosk to encourage visitors to minimize damage to the habitat and harassment of the roosting owls.

Owl Species

The most common owl species to be found here during the winter are the Northern Saw-whet Owl and the Long-eared and Short-eared Owls, with smaller numbers of Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls. Boreal and Great Gray Owls also appear in small numbers and in irregular cycles of four or more years. Elsewhere, throughout the island, Snowy Owls, as well as Short-eared Owls and sometimes, Northern Hawk Owls, are found in trees and on fence posts or hydro poles near open fields, where they hunt for voles or other small prey.


The entrance to the Owl Woods is located at the double bend near the centre of the Marshall 40-Foot road on the east end of the island. The road may be accessed from either the North Shore or the South Shore Roads, but it is not maintained and is sometimes inaccessible by car in winter due to heavy snow drifts. At such times, it is approximately a 1.4 km walk to the entrance, but can be well worth the effort.

Owl Woods Management Strategy

Out of growing concern over the impact people are having on Amherst Island’s Owl Woods, working with the various landowners and stakeholders, the Kingston Field Naturalists began a project to find ways to minimize this impact. The KFN, in cooperation with the landowners and a professional biologist, produced a management strategy for the property. The document we produced is considered as a guide and a springboard for ideas rather than a rule book. Implementation of the recommendations began with the formation of the Friends Of the Owl Woods in Summer 2011. Following the strategy the Friends have now completed work on new interior signage, the fencing off of an owls only zone within the woods and a new welcome Kiosk at the entrance on the CRCA property. This kiosk displays the rules and provides a map as a reminder that the majority of the Woods is privately owned. Please respect this privately owned wildlife sanctuary, respect the owls and follow the posted rules.

The KFN would like to thank the following funders for their generous support of this project: HIVA Environmental Fund, L&A Stewardship Council, The Community Foundation for Kingston and Area (https://cfka.org/) and the Cataraqui Conservation Authority.

Conservation Agreement to Monitor Evan’s Woods

Under provincial legislation, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has entered into a conservation agreement with Mr. Monte Hummel of Tottenham, Ontario concerning the conservation of 255 acres of his property known as “Evan’s Woods” near Verona, Ontario. This is a legal agreement by which Mr. Hummel voluntarily restricts or limits the type and amount of development that may take place on his land to conserve its natural features. The agreement’s restrictions are tailored to fit the particular property, the interests of the landowner and the natural features to be protected. It also provides for control over the future use and development of the property.

James Duncan, Property Donations Coordinator for Nature Conservancy Canada, requested the KFN’s help in the annual monitoring of Evan’s Woods by checking over the site to ensure that restrictions that Nature Conservancy has placed on it are not being breached. The KFN agreed to this request, and the first monitoring visit was conducted 27 May, 1997 by: Anne Robertson, Mike Evans, Vera Soudek and Bud Rowe of the KFN, James Duncan of Nature Conservancy Canada and Monte Hummel, the property owner. A Property Conservation Agreement Monitoring Report Form was completed by Anne Robertson after the visit and submitted to Nature Conservancy Canada.

Lost Bay Nature Reserve

The Lost Bay Nature Reserve was created in 1999 through the purchase by local cottagers and landowners of 108 acres of undeveloped land on the east side of Lost Bay on Gananoque Lake. The Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON, now Ontario Nature) accepted title to the land and, on 15 Sept 2000 undertook a Conservation Agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, establishing an easement for access to the Reserve for the purpose of creating a sanctuary for native flora and fauna and keeping the Reserve forever wild. In Feb 2001 the KFN entered into a Stewardship Agreement with the FON in which the KFN was tasked to: compile basic natural history information, conduct site visits to note any human use, patrol and protect the Reserve and answer any local inquiries about the Reserve.

The Reserve is located on the Algonquin-to-Adirondack corridor, on the Frontenac Axis and within the new Frontenac Arch–Thousand Islands Biosphere Reserve. It is made up of Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Islands forest types and has provincially significant wetlands, providing an opportunity for a good selection of species. The KFN held a BioBlitz at the Lost Bay Nature Reserve in June, 2005. Despite wet, cool weather, sixty-eight participants tallied a grand total of 465 species, a new record for the event at that time.

Mitchell Creek

The Mitchell Creek property is owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It is on the northwest side of Frontenac Provincial Park on the Canadian Shield. This 131-acre tract has about 5000 feet fronting onto the north shore of Mitchell Creek east of Snug Harbour. It is almost all forested, with a series of ridges and valleys and a talus slope. This property is monitored annually by the KFN.

Greenwood Wildlife Sanctuary

The Ontario Heritage Trust was given almost 100 acres of land by Mary Greenwood, a former Kingston resident. The property, approximately 1 km west of a sign erected in the Helen Quilliam Sanctuary, can be reached along the Greenwood Track. The property was named the John Edward (Ted) Greenwood Wildlife Sanctuary at a ceremony held in August 2007. The KFN acts as the custodian of the property.

Roziland Island

Information pending.

Monitoring Programs

Forest Breeding Birds Monitoring Program

Began in Ontario in 1987 to provide information on population trends and habitat associations of birds that breed in the forest interior. Sites consist of three to five stations in small to large woodlands. Volunteers perform 10 minute point counts at each station twice in June, at which time all birds are identified by song or sight. Volunteers can cover pre-selected sites or set up their own.

Marsh Monitoring Program:

See Blue Bill, Volume 43, No.4, December, 1996, page 172 for information on this project.

Project FeederWatch:

FeederWatch participants record the maximum number of individuals for each species seen at their feeder on count days (any two consecutive days in each two week period from November through March). The amount of time spent watching your feeder on your count days is up to you. A special Project FeederWatch Goes to School package is available for teachers.

Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2001-2005)

The second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas was carried out from 2001-2005, covered the same areas as Atlas 1 and involved over 3,000 birders across the province. The comparison with Atlas 1 data provided detailed information on changes in abundance and distribution of Ontario’s breeding birds. The results of both Atlas 1 and Atlas 2 are available in digital format on the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas webpage.

The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario provides an up-to-date picture of the distribution of the province’s nesting birds, at a level of detail that has never before been feasible. The Atlas is filled with maps and information about the birds of Ontario. The maps and data show where the birds occur and indicate whether or not a species is widespread or local, common or rare. As such, the Atlas is a useful tool for seeing which birds nest in your area or near your favourite bird watching, hiking or camping spots. The informative text accompanying each map tells you more about the bird, including an explanation of why it occurs where it does, why it is absent in some areas, or perhaps why it is rare or common in the province. The Atlas is a useful tool for conservationists. By showing the current pattern of bird distributions in Ontario, the Atlas makes it possible to assess which species are declining or spreading, which are the rarest birds and which are likely to be threatened by human activity.

Breeding Bird Atlas 1 (1981-1985)

“The first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas was carried out from 1981-1985, and involved the efforts of over 1,300 volunteers who collectively carried out more than 120,000 hours of field work. This resulted in a data base of over 400,000 bird-locality records, giving unprecedented information on the breeding distribution of birds in Ontario.” — Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas

Ontario Tree Atlas

See Blue Bill Volume 43, No.2, June 1996, page 98 for information on this project.

Plant Inventories

The Fowler Herbarium of the Department of Biology, Queen’s University, recently published Plants of the Kingston Region: 1996 by Adele Crowder, Karen Topping and John Topping. The book is a checklist designed for field use in the Kingston area and is intended for use by botanists, naturalists, ecologists and others. The sources of information for the book were: labels from specimens in the Fowler Herbarium; checklists, theses, reports and publications; and comments from field botanists. Several KFN members contributed to this major project by proof-reading the text or assisting with the collection and identification of specimens for the herbarium.

Nest Boxes & Platforms

Wood Duck Nest Boxes:

Wood Duck nest boxes have been installed in the Helen Quilliam Sanctuary and are cleaned out by the KFN teen members every two years. Ducks Unlimited plans to install wood duck boxes in the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area and the KFN have agreed to help with installation and monitoring of the boxes.

Bluebird Nest Boxes:

The KFN monitors and maintains a trail of about 50 nest boxes and would like to expand this bluebird project. There is great potential in the area, especially on the Napanee Limestone Plain, to help bluebirds with nest sites. Dedicated volunteers willing to be trained and properly run their own trails are sought.

Osprey Nesting Platforms:

The KFN has built and erected two osprey nesting platforms on the KFN property on Amherst Island and one platform in the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation area. The KFN has been approached by a regional Girl Guide leader through the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority to suggest a possible osprey nesting platform at Parrott’s Bay. Due to the limestone structure close to the surface at Parrot Bay, funding would be required to rent machinery to dig a hole. A projected $1,000.00 could be raised for the project through “penny guides” collections by the Girl Guides. Watch for further developments in your newsletter.

Peregrine Falcon Nesting Boxes:

The KFN built and installed a Peregrine Falcon nesting box at the OHIP building in 1996, using funds provided by the Environmental Trust of the Ministry of Natural Resources. A second Peregrine nesting box was built and installed at the LaFarge Plant on Highway 33. Responsibility for maintaining these boxes now rests with the MNR, however, KFN members are requested to keep an eye on them and report any sign of falcon interest in them.

Saw-whet Owl and Flicker Nest Boxes:

Two Saw-whet Owl nest boxes and one Flicker nest box were installed in the Helen Quilliam Sanctuary, some time ago. These require periodic maintenance and cleaning.

Censuses and Surveys

  • Short-eared Owl Monitoring
  • Red-shouldered Hawk/Spring Woodpecker
  • Amphibian Call Counts
  • Black Tern
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Henslow’s Sparrow
  • Cerulean Warbler

International Survey of Wintering Bald Eagles

St. Lawrence river from Wolfe Island to Brockville, including the Thousand Islands bridge area. Bald Eagles were found to be wintering in the Thousand Islands in the early eighties by Gerry Smith from Derby Hill, N.Y. He organized the government agencies in the United States and Canada to take an interest and invited the KFN to help out. In cooperation with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada, the Ministry of Natural Resources and several U.S. agencies, the club has been conducting ground surveys during January-February for the birds and their roosts since 1984. The number of birds has increased from one or two individuals to as many as thirty wintering in the area.

Canadian Lakes Loon Survey

Initiated by the Long Point Bird Observatory in the early 1900s, is a long-term project designed to monitor the abundance and breeding success of Common Loons across Canada. Bird Studies Canada now manages this project.

Canadian Wildlife Service Breeding Bird Survey

(BBS) is a major information source for population changes of terrestrial birds along roadsides in North America. In Ontario, the BBS began with three routes in 1967 and expanded to about 95 routes in 1995. Volunteers cover routes by car on one morning in June every year. Birds are identified by song or sight at 50 three-minute stops placed every 0.8 km. The BBS is coordinated by the Canadian Wildlife Service, and in Ontario by the Long Point Bird Observatory.

Seasonal Migration Summary

Four of these summaries per year, one for each season, are prepared by the KFN Bird Records Chair and published in National Audubon Field Notes. More detailed seasonal summaries are published quarterly in the Blue Bill. Much of the information used to compile these summaries comes from the results of various field trips, our semi-annual roundups, Christmas counts and some of the surveys listed in this article. The seasonal migration picture would be incomplete, however, without the input of observations from KFN birders from their individual or group birding efforts. These observations are recorded on bird record card files which have been maintained for over 40 years by the Bird Records Committee. The file is the database for writing books, briefs, special submissions to wildlife/environmental agencies and articles such as the Seasonal Migration Summary. It is extremely important, therefore, that members send in their sightings to the contact member listed below. See Blue Bill Vol. 44, No. 2, June, 1997, page 68 for more details.