Distinguished Ornithologist - Recipients

The Distinguished Ornithologist Award has been awarded most years since 1997 by the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) to individuals who have made outstanding and authoritative contributions to the scientific study of birds in Ontario and Canada, who have been a resource to OFO and the Ontario birding community and whose research on birds has resulted in new ornithological knowledge.

The recipients are:

Margaret Bain (2019)
Alan Wormington (2018)
Dan Strickland (2017)
Jean Iron (2016)
D.V. (Chip) Weseloh (2015)
Clive Goodwin (2014)
John McCracken (2013)
Jim Richards (2012)
David Brewer (2011)
Erica Dunn and David Hussell (2010)
Ron Tozer (2009)
Harry Lumsden (2008)
Mike Cadman (2007)
Ken Abraham (2006)
Ron Pittaway (2005)
Jim Rising (2004)
Bob Curry (2003)
Bruce Falls (2002)
George Peck (2001)
Murray Speirs (2000)
Ross James (1998)
Earl Godfrey (1997)

Margaret Bain (2019) Top

Margaret Jean Christine Bain came to what was seen around the world as a very desirable Canada, flush with promise and optimism in the immediate aftermath of hosting the world at the very successful Expo ’67, and one still freshly caught up in the excitement of ‘Trudeau-mania’. She was part of the tail end of the great post-war British ‘brain drain’ that was to see many highly educated and adventurous ex-patriots seek out opportunities spanning across the globe.

As with Charles Fothergill, William Pope, Thomas McIlwraith, William Loane and William Brodie in previous eras of immigration in the 19th century, the loss to the British Isles was to prove to be a source of great benefit to ornithology in Ontario.

From an early age, Margaret was clearly set on a course of achievement and pushing through established ‘glass ceilings’. Between 1956 and 1961 she studied medicine on scholarship at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and after residency in London hospitals she specialized in obstetrics. By the end of the decade she had emigrated to Canada, where she initially worked in Toronto in the country’s two busiest obstetrical departments at Women’s College Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital. In 1971, she moved to Durham Region to raise her family and begin a private practice in obstetrics and accepted a staff position in the obstetrical department at Oshawa General Hospital, where over the next two-and-a-half decades she would rise through the ranks to become Chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and eventually Vice-Chair of the hospital’s entire Department of Surgery.

One day in the early 1970s, an initial lifelong casual interest in birds was to provide one of those pivotal ‘spark moments’ that most birders can instantly relate to, and it was to transform the remainder of Margaret’s life. During the peak of spring migration, she went out into her garden at 210 Byron Street North in Whitby to find a very heavy grounding of warblers and other passerines literally filling every tree and bush with a blaze of colour and activity. She was stricken with awe at the wonder and joy of bird migration and soon joined the local natural history club, the Oshawa Naturalists (later the Durham Region Field Naturalists), where she met many fine early mentors like Murray and Doris Speirs, Edge and Betty Pegg, George Scott, Naomi Le Vay, Ron Tozer, Jim Richards, Dennis Barry and Dave Calvert. She soon learned all the wonderful birding hotspots available in Durham and dove into learning and mastering Ontario’s birds and in no time at all there was no stopping her. Despite a very demanding career and a young family, she seemed to effortlessly be everywhere and always in tune with where the birding was the most productive. It was not very long before she was regularly turning up rare birds and she was soon considered one of the leading local birders in Durham, and inevitably in Ontario as a whole.

This brings me to the dilemma I first considered when I proposed Margaret for the Distinguished Ornithologist Award. I knew that all of the longtime OFO members and birders in Ontario were well acquainted with Margaret, but I was trying to figure out a way make her relatable to the young generation of new birders, many of whom would not be familiar with her history. After thinking about it for some time, I think I found the perfect way to make her experience relatable to this new generation. It was crystallized in a simple analogy — Margaret Bain was Jean Iron before Jean Iron was Jean Iron! Judging by the response that line got at the OFO banquet where I presented Margaret with the Distinguished Ornithologist Award, I believe it achieved the desired effect.

Much like Clarence Decatur Howe, the war-time Liberal government Cabinet minister who worked on so many important files that he was nicknamed the ‘Minister of Everything’, Margaret soon had her finger in so many pies that in retrospect it is very hard to believe it left much time for either birding or delivering babies!

In 1980, she took over summarizing the monthly notable bird sightings in the newsletter of the Durham Region Field Naturalists, a task which she continued to perform for more than two decades. One of the most interesting records for which she had uncovered the details and found material evidence was the sighting by two non-birders of Ontario’s first ever Black Skimmer at Whitby Harbour in the fall of 1977. She also served on the Durham Region Field Naturalists’ executive for many years, culminating in service as its President and past President.

During the first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas from 1981 to 1985, she stepped in to serve as Regional Coordinator for Durham Region and recruited and organized atlassers and a series of square bashes to ensure that all of the region’s squares achieved the desired coverage targets. During the second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, from 2001 to 2005, she served as Regional Coordinator for Northumberland County.

One of the most celebrated parts of her legacy involved a conservation initiative forced on her by events. In the inaugural issue of OFO’s journal, Ontario Birds, Margaret wrote the first OFO birding site guide to one of her most cherished Durham Region birding sites, Whitby’s Thickson’s Woods, which she brought to the popular consciousness of the entire Ontario birding community as one of the finest bird migration traps on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Many did not realize, however, how close this site had recently come to being lost forever.

In 1982, the developer who owned the woods, frustrated by an inability to obtain permits to develop the site for lucrative condominiums, decided to sell the logging rights to the two hundred year-old eastern white pines. Work crews came in and felled 66 of the old growth pines from the woods before much could be done to stop them. Local birders and the residents of the Thickson Point community were dismayed with the pace of the destruction of this vital migratory bird stopover, and receiving little help in effectively thwarting this via government agencies, had to spring into action and come up with their own solution.

Into the breach stepped Margaret Bain and a group of other influential birders and local residents. After literally standing in the way of the chainsaws in protest and employing cheque-book bribes to send work crews away without felling any trees, they bought the time to organize that solution. In addition to frustrating the developer, Margaret had the time to organize the Thickson’s Woods Heritage Trust, a land trust which would serve as the model by which she and a few key supporters could make a serious effort to outright negotiate an offer to purchase the woods from the developer. In dipping into her children’s education funds and convincing other friends to make similar large donations to the cause, they were able to come up with a down payment on that purchase and to secure a mortgage for the balance of the funding. Disaster was averted and by 1984 it was clear that the woods had been saved. Margaret went on to become the long-time Chair of the Thickson’s Woods Land Trust and served on its Board of Directors for more than twenty-five years, during which time countless successful donor campaigns, bake sales, wildlife art auctions and fall fairs were organized to see to it that the mortgages on the woods, as well as the addition of the adjacent meadow and a couple of privately held woodlots, were all duly paid off, thus saving the resultant Thickson’s Wood Nature Reserve in perpetuity.

On 13 April 1985, Margaret discovered a new bird species for Ontario a little north of the woods on Thickson Road South when she found a Eurasian Jackdaw on a hydro pole near the railway line. This record was accepted by the Ontario Bird Records Committee and she documented the occurrence in a paper in Ontario Birds.

Perhaps Margaret’s greatest contribution to ornithology in Ontario has been her trailblazing ways and her stellar example as a role model for other women in birding and ornithology. In 1982, she became only the fourth female member of the formerly all-male Toronto Ornithological Club (after Phyllis MacKay, Joy Goodwin and Linda Weseloh were accepted as members in 1980). In 1988, she became the first female President of the Ontario Field Ornithologists. The rapid succession of successful and effective female presidents in Margaret Bain, Gerry Shemilt and Jean Iron, during OFO’s greatest period of growth, definitely had a transformative effect on the role of women in field ornithology in Ontario. Talented female birders like Mary Gartshore, Sarah Rupert, Barbara Charlton, Cheryl Edgecombe, Seabrooke Leckie, Sarah Lamond and Amanda Guercio now garner a respect from their male counterparts that was reflexively denied to an earlier generation like Margaret Mitchell, Doris Speirs, Naomi Le Vay and Phyllis MacKay.

Continuing on the same theme, Margaret was elected as the first female voting member of the Ontario Bird Records Committee and served as both Secretary and Chair in her time on the committee. She has also served OFO as an editorial assistant for Ontario Birds in the past.

Between 1990 and 1994, she teamed with Brian Henshaw to produce a series of excellent annual Durham Region Bird Reports summarizing the years 1989 through 1993 in the region.

Between 1991 and 2004, she teamed with Phill Holder as the co-founder and co-editor of the magazine Birders Journal, a highly respected print journal that had many exceptional articles on identification and status of birds, and she co-wrote a Cross-Canada Roundup each issue, first with Matt Holder and then with Don Shanahan. In November 2000, Birders Journal sponsored and organized a hugely successful North American Gull Conference at Niagara Falls that was attended by birders from all across North America.

As if this wasn’t enough to fill her time, Margaret also served terms as Chair of the Board of the Long Point Bird Observatory and as a board member of the American Birding Association. For many years beginning in 2000, she wrote the fall seasonal summary for the Ontario Region in the journal North American Birds.

In starting a draft manuscript on the Birds of the Greater Toronto Area, it quickly became obvious to me that Margaret was involved in so many of the significant bird records in Durham Region over the past 45 years, that an important consideration in staving off carpal tunnel syndrome for me, was to create a hot-key shortcut on the keyboard, so as not to have to type out her name so frequently!

Durham Region has been blessed over the years with an abundance of excellent leaders in ornithology: Charles Fothergill, George Gwynne Bird, Earl Calvert, Albert Ellis Allin, Doris and Murray Speirs, Betty and Edge Pegg, Naomi and Bert Le Vay, George Scott, Alf Bunker, Ron Tozer, Jim Richards, Dennis Barry, Ross James, Rob Nisbet, Jim Mountjoy and James Kamstra, to name but a few. All of them have one thing in common — none are any more distinguished than Margaret.

Although she has moved to Cobourg and now shares her brand of magic in Northumberland County, rest assured that many of us will always view her as the ‘Grand Dame’ of Durham birding.

Congratulations on a long overdue honour Margaret!


Margaret Bain at the Point Pelee National Park Visitor Centre on 14 May 2007. Photo: Jean Iron

Alan Wormington (2018) Top


It was my great honour to present the 2018 Distinguished Ornithologist Award (DOA) posthumously to Alan Wormington at the Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) in Leamington on 29 September 2018. Although I dearly wished he could have been there to accept it in person, I am sure almost all of you know that he died a little over two years ago of cancer at the age of 62.

Alan was, simply put, one of the finest birders in Ontario and for that matter all of North America (Figure 1). He combined skilled field identification of birds with research and writing as few birders have ever done. Upon Alan’s death, Jim Richards of Orono, Ontario, himself a Distinguished Ornithologist Award recipient, remarked that Ontario ornithology had lost its single most important figure since James L. Baillie died in 1970. I could not have said it better. Alan’s birding skills were renowned across the continent. As an example, I remember one amusing anecdote from about 20 years ago when a visiting American birder, obviously a novice and obviously mis-hearing the name “Worm-eating Warbler”, was impressed that Alan had a warbler named after him. I also remember Alan saying to me several years ago that he was better than anyone else in Ontario at spotting and identifying birds (Figure 2). This sounds like boasting but Alan was matter of fact about his skills; he was simply making an assessment. He also stated his hearing was second to none in the province for bird identification — although he did mention a couple of other birders who could keep up with him in this regard.

Normally in these DOA articles for Ontario Birds, a detailed account of that person’s accomplishments follows. However, for Alan this was essentially done shortly after his death on 3 September 2016. There was a tribute piece to Alan in Ontario Birds (Lamond 2016a), another one in Ontario Insects (Lamond 2016b), two tribute articles in the Wood Duck (Curry 2016, Lamond 2016c), an extended article on Alan in the Windsor Star (Sacheli 2016), a lengthy obituary in The Globe and Mail (MacKay 2016) and another obituary in the National Post and the Hamilton Spectator (Anonymous 2016). Nonetheless, I will highlight some of Alan’s most noted accomplishments below.

The Early Years

Alan Wormington was born in west Hamilton, Ontario, on 20 June 1954. His first love was butterflies and he amassed quite a collection at a tender age. Of course, those were different times from today and Alan remembered his mother dropping him off in the “wilds” of rural Ancaster to pursue butterflies when he was only 12 years old. A friend of Alan’s sister remembers that his bedroom was an absolute disaster, covered in butterfly boards and books. Alan wrote his first article when he was 16, entitled “Butterflies of the Hamilton area and other interesting areas” (Wormington 1970) which was published in the Wood Duck, the journal of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club.

It was soon after this that he got into birds. Alan, as a young teenager, was able to explore the nearby Cootes Paradise daily. In fact, he birded so much that it was interfering with his schooling and by Grade 10 he was a major-league truant. Alan and his parents were summoned to the principal’s office at Westdale High School where he was told in no uncertain terms that if he did not shape up he would be expelled. Alan vividly remembers how upset his parents were when he exclaimed, “I can live with that.” Well, it was not long after that that his wish came true as he never did complete Grade 10.

Even at the age of 15, Alan was a formidable bird finder. For example, on 6 May 1970 at Cootes Paradise, Alan showed several long-time birders their first Hamilton area Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). Alan was largely self-taught although he did go birding quite a bit with very talented birders in his early years such as Alf Epp and then later with George North and Bob Curry. According to Bob, “Alan was a wunderkind who almost immediately could find more birds and better birds than any of us.” As an example, he found Hamilton’s second record of Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) on 1 September 1969 at Cootes Paradise. At the time, no one believed Alan about this incredible sighting and dismissed it. Alan went back to the same location the next day and saw the bird again. But still, no one believed him until later when people realized how talented he was, and although it sounds like a hyperbole, his talent became legendary in Ontario. For example, most of us would consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to add one new bird species to the Ontario checklist. Alan added seven: Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) (James 1983), Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus) (James 1984), Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva) (Wormington and Curry 1990), Plumbeous Vireo (Vireo plumbeus) (Dobos 1998), Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis) (Roy 2002), Sooty/ Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus griseus/ tenuirostris) (Wormington and Cranford 2011) and Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) (Burrell and Charlton 2016). Of course, he also found so many other rare birds, as designated by the Ontario Bird Records Committee.

Documenting and Publishing

You do not get the Distinguished Ornithologist Award by just being a birder, even an exceptionally gifted one. There was much more to Alan than just watching birds. He was a well-published author with dozens of notes and articles on birds, this despite not finishing Grade 10! His first ornithological publication was entitled “The big May day” (Wormington 1976). More articles followed such as “Nesting of Acadian Flycatcher in Hamilton” (Wormington 1977), “Concentrations of migrant diving ducks at Point Pelee National Park, Ontario in response to invasion of Zebra Mussels” (Wormington and Leach 1992), “The status and distribution of Mississippi Kite in Ontario” (Wormington 1993), “Point Pelee Little Gull banded in Finland!” (Wormington 2001a); “Brown Pelicans on the Great Lakes” (Wormington 2003), and “Historical overview, seasonal timing and abundance of Bonaparte’s Gull at Point Pelee” (Wormington 2013). For several years, Alan was also the compiler for the Ontario spring seasonal summary in North American Birds (e.g., Wormington 2010) and he was tireless in his desire to get this as comprehensive and correct as it could be.

In the “In Memoriam” article in Ontario Birds (Lamond 2016a), I listed 48 publications in the selected bibliography that he authored or co-authored; the majority of these he wrote as the sole author.

The most important of Alan’s traits was, I think, his hunger to meticulously record all bird records, be that at Hamilton, Point Pelee or anywhere in Ontario. When Alan was documenting a record it had to be complete and correct. He had to know who found the bird, the exact location, the first date and the last date and the observers had to be listed accurately. For example, it would not be correct to list me as Bill Lamond, it had to be William G. Lamond, or it had to be Robert Z. Dobos or Robert H. Curry or Kevin A. McLaughlin, which was ironic as Alan never used his own full name. He used just “Alan Wormington” but the name on his birth certificate is “Laurie Alan Wormington.” Alan completely ignored the Laurie part of his name for his whole adult life.

A Legacy of Initiatives

Alan also started things; he initiated significant projects, many of which still operate. For instance, at the age of 20, in 1974, he started the Hamilton Fall Bird Count, a count which is going stronger than it has ever been with upwards of 140 participants annually. This bird census, which was renamed the Alan Wormington Fall Bird Count in his honour following his death, has amassed an incredible amount of data on the migration of birds through the Hamilton area in the first week of November. These data were of great importance for many species accounts in Bob Curry’s Birds of Hamilton (Curry and the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club 2006).

Alan started the Point Pelee Annual Spring Migration report (Wormington 1978a) which was published by the Park until 1987; he continued producing the report privately until 2015 (G. Coady pers. comm.). Another contribution was that in 1978, Alan began a sixteen month stint of writing a weekly birding column in The Globe and Mail newspaper (e.g., Wormington 1978b, 1979) which Peter Whelan had initiated the year prior and which Alan assumed until Peter resumed writing it in late 1979. The column ran until shortly before Peter’s death in August 1999.

Alan also got people birding into new areas of the province. He was a pioneer in the pursuit of migrants along the north shore of Lake Superior and the south end of James Bay. He understood that these areas concentrated migrants, including vagrants. One only needs to look at some of his publications to see how successful this search for vagrants was: “Fall Vagrancy of the Indigo Bunting in Northern Ontario” (Wormington 1986); “White-eyed Vireo: New to Northern Ontario” (Wormington 1987a); “Orchard Oriole: New to Northern Ontario” (Wormington and Lamond 1987); and “Inca Dove: New to Ontario and Canada” (Graham and Wormington 1993). Alan promoted the Moosonee area on southern James Bay as a great place to bird and he also repeatedly visited Netitishi Point (Figure 3) in southern James Bay beginning in the 1980s. Many vagrants have been recorded at Netitishi by Alan and others such as Sooty/ Short-tailed Shearwater (Wormington and Cranford 2011), Dovekie (Alle alle) (Wormington and Cranford 2011), Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) (Cranford 2013) and Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) (Burrell and Charlton 2016), to name but a few. Alan, along with a few other keen birders, started the Ontario Bird Records Committee in 1982. He served on this committee for 19 years and for six years he wrote or coauthored the OBRC annual report (e.g., Wormington 1987b). I remember that Alan was so meticulous with having the report correct, that before sending it out for review, he would introduce six errors into the report and exhort the reviewers to find the six errors. In this manner, he assumed they would also find errors that he had overlooked, all in an intense desire to produce a flawless report. Alan also started a natural history publication about Point Pelee entitled Point Pelee Natural History News (e.g., Wormington 2001b). This was an excellent publication that was packed full of pure natural history articles. Alas, the publication only lasted three years and Alan gave it upasitwasjusttoomuchworktodoby himself.

Point Pelee: Alan’s Special Place

Despite these many contributions to the ornithology of Ontario, Alan will be known by most as Mr. Point Pelee. He would have hated this term but Alan was synonymous with Point Pelee. He moved there permanently in 1979 and lived in the same residence just north of the park for over 35 years. During that period, no one spent the amount of time birding at the park that Alan did; not even close. He was a fixture at the “Tip” on good migration days whether it be the spring, summer, fall or winter. Alan amassed an incredible amount of data on the birdlife in the park beginning with the aforementioned seasonal summaries. He maintained the park checklists for several years and he had files for every species that had occurred at Point Pelee. He added to these files whenever a notable record came to light. Of course, this was all in preparation for his eventual book, Birds of Point Pelee. Alan wrote accounts for every species that had ever occurred at Point Pelee. The knowledge of ornithology in Ontario is diminished in that he did not finish this book after he became ill as I am convinced it would have been an excellent book—as good as or better than any regional bird book that has been published and on such an important birding area in North America. No one knows why he did not get it finished. I have to assume that he thought he had more time to live after his initial cancer diagnosis. When we tried to encourage him to work on the book, he always demurred— “there’s lots of time for that” he would say.

When his illness progressed markedly in the summer of 2016, he finally took action. He formed a publications committee committee of Bob Curry, Glenn Coady and Phil Holder; he and they were to have their first meeting in October 2016. Of course, that first meeting never happened. After Alan’s death the publication committee endeavoured to see his project through to the book stage. However, although there is a manuscript, it cannot be published in its current form. It is hoped that funding can be made available such that a suitable person can bring this book, this life’s work, to fruition.


Some readers may wonder why Alan had not been offered the Distinguished Ornithologist Award before he died. Truth be told, it was, twice, but Alan refused it both times. I would not say it was modesty that prevented Alan from accepting this award. Not at all. Alan was actually a rather shy person. He was not an introvert but he was not outgoing and he shunned crowds to a large degree. I think he likely refused because he just was not a fan of this type of award. Perhaps he thought they were frivolous and he would not take part. It is hard to know for certain. One could ask if it is proper to bestow this award on him in death when he refused to accept it in life. I can never know for sure, but I think he would be fine with getting this award now. I can more or less hear him say, “Yeah, go ahead. Now’s a good time.”

At the OFO meeting, Sarah Rupert, a fellow OFO birder, and a good friend of Alan’s and an employee of Parks Canada at Point Pelee National Park, accepted the Distinguished Ornithologist Award on Alan’s behalf. Alan is survived by his sister Janne Hackl and nephew Jonathan. Although it would have been proper for Janne to accept the award, she realized that its proper place to be displayed was at Point Pelee and she agreed that Parks Canada should be the keeper of the award on Alan’s behalf. The Distinguished Ornithologist Award plaque is to be mounted in the Point Pelee Visitor Centre, which will include an interpretive panel reflecting Alan Wormington’s place in Ontario ornithology and his contributions to Point Pelee National Park with the likes of Jack Miner, William Saunders and Percy Taverner. A fitting tribute indeed.


Alan at the Tip of Point Pelee on 12 May 2016. Photo: Jean Iron

Dan Strickland (2017) Top

Dan Strickland received the Ontario Field Ornithologists’ (OFO) Distinguished Ornithologist Award for 2017. It was my honour and pleasure to present this award to Dan, my long-time friend and Algonquin Provincial Park colleague, during the OFO Convention at Long Point in September. His outstanding record of scientific research on the Gray Jay (Perisorius canadensis) and his long and accomplished career in communicating Algonquin Park’s natural history make him a very worthy recipient of this award.

Dan was born in Toronto in 1942 and moved to Burlington when he was four years old. His birding skills developed as a member of the Juniors in the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club during the late 1950s. Dan recalls finding a Razorbill (Alca torda) with Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisigrena) off Brant Street in Burlington on 31 May 1957 when he was just fifteen years old. He also remembers his relief and satisfaction when George North, the Dean of Hamilton birders, later came to view the bird through his old telescope and pronounced that it was indeed a Razorbill.

He first worked as a seasonal park naturalist in 1960, in Quetico Provincial Park. Dan became a summer naturalist in Algonquin Provincial Park in 1965. He was the Chief Park Naturalist in Algonquin by 1970, a post which he held for thirty years until his retirement in 2000. Dan mentored many seasonal naturalists over the years who went on to distinguished careers involving the environment. In one of his greatest accomplishments, Dan was responsible for the overall concept, site, story line, exhibit planning and writing for the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre, a 26,000-square foot, diorama-based natural and human history museum opened in 1993 to celebrate Algonquin Park’s centenary.

Dan has been recognized for his park naturalist work through the presentation of a number of awards. In 1976, he received the Richards Education Award from the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (now Ontario Nature) for work in Algonquin Park promoting greater public understanding and appreciation of Ontario’s natural history and resources. Dan was given the Amethyst Award (for “outstanding achievement by Ontario Public Servants”) “in recognition of (his) professional work to make Algonquin Park an educational natural attraction and a model for other parks in Canada.”

In 1999, the Shan Walshe Award was presented to him for “excellence in interpretation in Ontario’s Provincial Parks.” In that same year, he was given the MNR Excellence in Leadership Award for “outstanding dedication and commitment to the ongoing recovery of Ontario’s Peregrine Falcon population” in recognition of his contributions to the reintroduction program in Algonquin from 1977 to 1986. Dan received the Federal Provincial Parks Council Merit Award for “Meritorious Service to Canadian Parks” in 2000.

Seasonal naturalist Russ Rutter began colour-banding Gray Jays in Algonquin Park during 1964, starting one of the world’s longest-running studies of an individually marked bird population (54 years, from 1964 to 2017, and counting). Rutter’s research inspired Dan to undertake his own Gray Jay study in Quebec during the late 1960s, for which he earned a Master’s Degree in 1969 from the University of Montreal. After Russ’s death in 1976, Dan took over and expanded the Algonquin Park Gray Jay study. More than 1500 birds have been colour-banded and over 950 nests have been found during this research. Dan’s Gray Jay study has revealed significant features of its life history. For example, partial dispersal of juveniles occurs in June. The dominant juvenile (usually a male) drives its siblings away from the parental territory. This behaviour reflects the limitation of a territory to support Gray Jays through the long winter. Adults actively prevent the surviving juvenile on their territory from helping feed nestlings, but allow the juvenile to feed the young after they leave the nest. This behaviour probably helps reduce the attraction of land-based predators (such as Red Squirrels) to the nest. Finally, Gray Jays survive up to six months of boreal winter by living off food they have stored during late summer and fall. Climate change (especially winter thaws) is apparently causing the rotting of stored food and a decline in the Gray Jay population at the southern edge of its Ontario range, including along the Highway 60 Corridor of Algonquin Park. As of 2014, only 19 (44%) of 43 Gray Jay territories occupied in 1970 were still active in the Corridor. Occupied territories had extensive conifers, especially black spruce. Formerly occupied mixed conifer-hardwood forest territories were vacant by 2014. Dan’s research showed that stored food survived longer and retained more food value when placed against the bark of black spruce and other conifers, indicating the anti-bacterial effect of exposure to the resin of these trees.

Dan Strickland is the recognized world authority on the Gray Jay. He wrote the Gray Jay species accounts in both of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlases and in the Quebec atlas. In 1993, Dan and coauthor Henri Ouellet wrote the Gray Jay account in The Birds of North America, and Dan updated and revised the account in the online version in 2011. Based on his study of the Gray Jay, he has authored or coauthored 22 peer-reviewed research papers. From 1974 to 2009 (36 years), Dan wrote 34 popular books and 368 articles in The Raven (Park newsletter) about Algonquin’s natural and cultural heritage, including birds. He has authored five articles in Ontario Birds. The most recent was a detailed account of why there was no valid taxonomic or nomenclatural reason for the American Ornithologists’ Union to have changed the name Canada Jay to Gray Jay.

Dan has studied jays far beyond Algonquin Park since his retirement. In 2001, he was invited to assist in field work on the rare Sichuan Jay (Perisoreus internigrans), sponsored by the Chinese Government. Dan conducted research during the fall of 2001 and the spring and fall of 2002 on Anticosti Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to assess Gray Jay nesting behaviour there in the absence of Red Squirrels. At 75 years of age, Dan has now launched a new Gray Jay research project in Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, involving Perisoreus canadensis obscurus/griseus subspecies. These Gray Jays have notably different appearance, genetics, behaviour and social organization than the boreal/eastern subspecies (P. c. canadensis) which occurs here in Ontario. Dan believes there may be sufficient evidence to support these western jays being restored to their former status as a distinct species, P. obscurus, separate from P. canadensis.

After reading this brief overview concerning some of Dan Strickland’s accomplishments, I am confident you will agree that he is indeed an outstanding recipient of the Distinguished Ornithologist Award.


Ron Tozer (left) presents OFO’s Distinguished Ornithologist Award for 2017 to Dan Strickland. Photo: Jean Iron

Jean Iron (2016) Top

The Ontario Field Ornithologists’ (OFO) 2016 Distinguished Ornithologist Award was presented to Jean Iron. Jean has been a constant presence and leading figure in OFO for almost 25 years. She’s been at the head of the line when something needed doing and she seems to always have been present when things were happening. From her service on the OFO Board and her presidency, to her role on OFO’s publications, to representing OFO on provincial committees, to being among the first to acknowledge and thanking our partners and patrons, Jean is someone we have come to depend upon. Although Jean needs little introduction to OFO, her life and her contributions to OFO, ornithology in Ontario and beyond deserve elaboration here.

Jean was born in Wales into a family who loved nature and the countryside, giving her a foundation for her life to come. She emigrated to Canada in 1967 where she obtained a Masters of Education at the University of Toronto. She put her education to work as a teacher, consultant and school principal for the Toronto Catholic School Board from 1967 to 1999 when she retired from the teaching profession. Despite her family’s love of the outdoors, Jean’s interest in birds did not begin until the latter stages of her teaching career. In about 1989, she met Dave Milsom and Jim Coey, who owned Flora and Fauna Field Tours. They took Jean on birding excursions in Ontario and to Churchill, Manitoba, which were then followed by trips to Costa Rica and Argentina. Jim and Dave also introduced Jean to the Ontario Field Ornithologists. She became a member in 1991 and quite quickly became a part of OFO activities, taking part in the publication project that culminated in “Ornithology in Ontario” in 1994 and was elected President immediately thereafter.

During Jean’s presidency of OFO (1995-2004), the organization developed substantially and her roles in annual conventions set a benchmark for that task. She also excelled as the “unofficial” OFO convention photographer. During and after Jean’s presidency, she served OFO in numerous external capacities as well, including representing our interests on many birding and conservation committees. Jean represented OFO on the Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan committee from 2000-2003, on the Ontario Landbird Conservation Plan team in 2008 and as a member of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas Management Committee from 2000 to 2007. Following her departure from the President’s position, Jean stepped directly into a position serving on the Ontario Bird Records Committee (OBRC) as a voting member from 2005 to 2009 and chaired the OBRC in 2008. Here she applied her extensive expertise in identification of and knowledge about shorebirds, gulls, geese and other bird groups.

Jean proudly lists her special interest in a number of bird families, but those which draw the greatest amount of her attention are gulls, shorebirds, geese, finches and grassland birds. Her love of gulls is apparent to all who know her. One of her notable contributions was the documentation of Ontario’s first Heermann’s Gull and an article about its molts and plumages, co-authored with Ron Pittaway. She has introduced countless people to the joys (and pitfalls!) of gull watching and plumage cycle identification, and shared her knowledge about gulls in other ways, one of the most significant being her leadership of annual Niagara Gull Watch field trips which she has co-led from 2000 to 2016. She also organized and presented pre-field trip gull identification workshops in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Jean’s special interest in shorebirds is also well known and it has kept her busy in both southern and northern Ontario. One of her most impressive and well-used publications is her “Shorebirds of Southern Ontario” photographic identification guide. Her expertise in photography as well as on molts and plumages shines through in the images throughout the book. During spring migration season, she gives identification workshops at the Point Pelee National Park Visitor Centre timed to coordinate with the OFO shorebirds trips at Hillman Marsh. In northern Ontario, she has volunteered on a variety of research and monitoring projects since 2002, many specifically aimed at gaining better information and knowledge about shorebird migration ecology. She assisted with during Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) shorebird monitoring and climate changes studies at Shegogau, northwest of Moosonee, in 2005, with shorebird surveys in spring and late summer at Akimiski Island in 2008, and with shorebird surveys and climate change at Burntpoint Creek in Polar Bear Provincial Park in 2012. She’s been in the field in all eight years of the Southern James Bay Shorebird project (2009-2016) at one or sometimes two month-long sessions, contributing substantially to data gathered for this, a multi-organization program whose aim is to document the critical importance of James Bay to migrating shorebirds which may eventually lead to habitat protection. A highly valued spinoff of this annual participation has been her weekly postings to OntBirds via remote communications methods in partnership with Ron Pittaway. These postings have allowed Ontario birders and those beyond its borders to experience in near-real-time the phenomenal migration of shorebirds in James Bay. Participating in OMNR goose research at Burntpoint in 2002, 2003 and 2006 caused Jean fall in love with the Hudson Bay Lowlands. One of Jean’s most enduring and significant accomplishments for bird conservation in Ontario has been her work on the initiative to protect the Carden Alvar for its value to this rare habitat and the grasslands and wetlands bird communities it supports. She served on the committee with Nature Conservancy of Canada, Toronto Ornithological Club and Couchiching Conservancy to plan land purchases and raise funds which eventually led to the establishment of Carden Alvar Provincial Park in 2014. Jean continues to advocate for protection of the Carden Alvar’s grassland bird habitat, including that of the endangered Loggerhead Shrike.. She took a hands-on approach to the task in 2012 serving as the Celebrity Birder for the Couchiching Conservancy’s Carden Challenge fund-raising effort for Carden Alvar. In 2016 she accepted a position on the Advisory Council of the Couchiching Conservancy, a land trust in the Lake Simcoe and Carden area. .Jean is an author or co-author of over 50 articles and notes about birds and bird conservation (See Selected References). She is a regular (almost annual) contributor to OFO’s two publication outlets, OFO News and Ontario Birds. She was editor of OFO News from 1994-2007 and continues to serve as an editorial assistant. In addition, she has published many articles in the Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter and Toronto Birds and was a co-author of the Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan.

Jean seems never to be idle and that energy is often directed at things to do with birds. In addition to all of the above-noted projects, she also participated in field work for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (2001-2005), was a surveyor of Red Knots and other shorebirds on the Mingan Archipelago, Quebec, for the Royal Ontario Museum in 2007, has been a Lake Ontario Winter Waterfowl Survey participant every January for over 20 years, a Whimbrel Watch participant at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto annually since 2007, a Cranberry Marsh Hawkwatch participant from September to November since 1999 (including as official counter one day per week), a Plover Guardian for the Piping Plovers nesting on Toronto Islands in June 2015 and sometimes she even gets paid (e.g., she had contract bird survey positions with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority from 2001 to 2004). She is also an active member of the Toronto Ornithological Club, the American Birding Association, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Brodie Club. Jean has introduced or influenced the birding habits of hundreds of people through her workshops and annual OFO trips and as a mentor throughout her eight years of volunteering on the James Bay shorebird project, particularly to young Moose Cree First Nations participants. She has informed and delighted thousands through her superb photography by sharing it on her website which is wonderfully informational and educational. Prominently featured are her annual trip photo essays which have recently been enhanced with videos. The content she provides on research and monitoring programs is worth its weight in helicopter fuel; I have personally highlighted this unique contribution to a succession of Ontario government senior managers and communications officers. It is an innovative means of communicating what OMNR does with taxpayers’ money in support of the conservation of migratory bird populations and habitats through research and monitoring.

She is also a regular presenter at birding and nature clubs and other organizations throughout Ontario. She has been invited to be keynote speakers at several festivals of birds, including Point Pelee Festival of Birds (2009), Ruthven Park National Historic Park Festival (2010), Huron Fringe Festival of Birds (2011), Rondeau Provincial Park Festival of Birds (2011) and has traveled to give similar presentations in Buffalo, New York, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York. Her presentation topics include Arctic Wildlife of Canada, Iceland and Greenland, gull watching in Ontario, shorebird migration, Hudson Bay and James Bay shorebirds and wetlands, Akimiski Island natural history, the Carden Alvar, the Northwest Passage, High Arctic expeditions from Greenland to Nunavut, and the birds and natural history of Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and the Galapagos. Another way Jean has contributed to the public’s awareness and knowledge has been as a naturalist tour leader. She has led tours since 1999 to locations in Ontario including: Point Pelee and Georgian Bay (a cruise) as well as beyond Ontario’s borders to Cuba, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Svalbard (in the Norwegian Arctic), Japan, French Polynesia, Iceland, Ecuador and Peru. It is safe to assume that Jean’s list of special interest birds will only grow longer as she is introduced to new groups through her travels, because it is characteristic of Jean to dive deeply into subjects that pique her interest, and we all benefit from that inner drive. She is an integral part of the success story of Ontario Field Ornithologists and is greatly deserving of this award. She is now a life member of OFO and for many of us, “OFO” and “Jean Iron” have become nearly synonymous.

Selected Publications:

Iron, J. 1994. Towhees tumble. OFO News 12(3):1.

Iron, J. and R. Pittaway. 1995. Pileated Woodpecker eating dogwood berries. Ontario Birds 13:28-29.

Iron, J. 1995. Cosmopolitan Caspians. OFO News 13(1):7.

Iron, J. 1996. Double-scratchers. OFO News 14(3):8.

Iron, J. 1997.Grackles catching fish. Ontario Birds 15:79-80.

Iron, J. 1997. Hawk herbalists. OFO News 15(1):10.

Iron, J. 1998. Kestrels and Green Darners. OFO News 16(1):12.

Iron, J. 1998. Brewer’s Blackbirds: On Hold?. OFO News 16(3):10.

Iron, J. and N. Murr. 1999. Thieving wigeons. OFO News 17(1):9.

Iron, J. 2000. Caspian Tern night roost on roof. Ontario Birds 18:130-133.

Iron, J. and R. Pittaway. 2001.Molts and plumages of Ontario’s Heermann’s Gull. Ontario Birds 19:65-78.

Iron, J. 2002. Kinglet killer. OFO News 20(2):8-9.

Ross, R. K., K.F. Abraham, J. Iron, D. McLachlin, R.D. James and B. Collins. 2003. Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario.48 pp.

Pittaway, R. and J. Iron. 2005. Ageing and Variation of Great Gray Owls. Ontario Birds 23:138-146.

Pittaway, R. and J. Iron. 2006. Erythristic Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Ontario Birds 24:2-5.

Iron, J. 2009. Snyder’s and Labrador Great Horned Owls in Toronto. Toronto Birds 3(1):18-22.

Iron, J. 2009. Book Review: Shorebirds of North America, Europe and Asia. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 200:11-12.

Iron, J. 2010. The launch of Niagara Birds. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 209:5-6.

Iron, J. 2010. Tagged Whimbrel. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 207:9.

Iron, J. 2010. Volunteering for bird conservation on James Bay. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 209:3-4.

Iron, J. and R. Pittaway. 2010. Who was Mrs. Gordon Mills? The life of artist and ornithologist Doris Huestis Speirs. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 201:2-3.

Iron, J. and R. Pittaway. 2011. Willow Ptarmigan at Darlington Nuclear. OFO News 29(2):6-7.

Iron, J. 2011. Rosetta McClain Gardens Raptor Watch. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 219:7.

Iron, J. 2011. Leucistic Trumpeter Swan at Bluffer’s Park in Toronto. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 213:5-6.

Iron, J. 2011. Greater Snow Geese on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 214:3-5.

Iron, J. and R. Pittaway. 2011. Mystery disappearance of House Sparrows. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 215:3-4.

Iron, J. 2011. Volunteering for bird conservation on James Bay. OFO News 29(1):1-3.

Iron, J. and R. Pittaway 2012. Loggerhead Shrike from Carden Alvar in Virginia. OFO News 30(1): 5.

Iron, J. 2012. Dark morph Red-tailed Hawks: calurus or abieticola? Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 222:4-6.

Iron, J. 2012. Smew and North America Big Year. Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter 221:3-4.

Iron, J. 2013. Shorebirds and climate change. OFO News 31(2):1-5.

Iron, J. and R. Pittaway. 2014. Spring shorebirds at Hillman Marsh. OFO News 32(1):1-4.

Iron, J. 2015. Shorebirds of Southern Ontario: Photographic guide to ID shorebirds. Hawk Owl Publishing. Bowmanville, Ontario. 38 pp.

Iron, J. 2016. Common Loons flying with open bills. OFO News 34(2):6-7.



Ken Abraham presenting the 2016 Distinguished Ornithologist Award to Jean Iron. Photo: Ron Pittaway

D.V. (Chip) Weseloh (2015) Top

This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Ornithologist Award is D.V. (Chip) Weseloh. Chip is well known to many Ontario birders but some highlights of his background will be important to those who may not know him or know why he was given this award. His contributions include: outstanding scientific research, long-term service to Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO), his ability to communicate science, and his passion for birds, especially colonial waterbirds.

Chip is an emeritus wildlife biologist who worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), part of Environment Canada, in Burlington and Downsview for over 35 years. Prior to his CWS position, he completed graduate studies on colonial waterbirds, worked as a bird tour leader, a museum curator in Alberta and an environmental consultant.

Chip grew up in a small town in south-central Minnesota where his initial interest in birds developed during duck hunting trips with his father and younger brother. Driving country roads, scouting feeding areas and figuring out where the ducks would be the next morning, spurred his interests in birds and their behaviour.

During his undergraduate years at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, Chip’s ecology professor happened to mention that repeated defecation, from Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), over the edge of their arboreal nests, over time, changed the herbaceous vegetation growing beneath their nests. He undertook a class project on this topic and then continued the research for his M.Sc. degree from Michigan Technological University (Weseloh and Brown 1972). Intrigued by the roosting and feeding flights he had seen of the herons during that research, Chip went on to complete a Ph.D. at the University of Calgary on the local movements and urban ecology of Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis). He became hooked on colonial waterbirds and when asked why, he notes, “Usually when you find one or two of them nesting, you find hundreds. They’re easy to find, easy to count, easy to catch and easy to work with and they’re fun!” Starting employment with the CWS in 1978, Chip was the lead field biologist with the Great Lakes Herring Gull Annual Egg Monitoring Project where his duties involved collecting Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) eggs for contaminant analysis and monitoring reproductive success along with super normal clutches and skeletal deformities at select colonies in each of the Great Lakes. He also periodically investigated contaminant levels in other colonial waterbirds: Common Terns (Sterna hirundo), Caspian Terns (Hyropogne caspia), Black Terns (Childonis niger), Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) and Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax). This was all part of the Great Lakes Wildlife Toxic Chemical Surveillance Program. He maintained that position throughout his 35 years with CWS; the project is now the longest continuous annual wildlife toxicology sampling program in the world.

In 1998, with the retirement of Dr. Hans Blokpoel from CWS, Chip inherited the responsibility for the conservation of Great Lakes colonial waterbirds along with his usual role of monitoring contaminant levels and population effects in Herring Gulls and other waterbirds. With this new responsibility, his research field expanded to include the decadal censuses of colonial waterbirds on all of the Canadian Great Lakes (a three year undertaking every ten years), annual monitoring of the expanding population of the Double-crested Cormorants on the four Canadian Great Lakes, satellite tagging and tracking of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls on the upper Great Lakes and Lake Ontario. He also began monitoring numbers of Little Gulls (Larus minutus) at Oshawa Second Marsh (their most predictable and populous gathering site in North America) and developing the Little Gull Viewing Week-end (assisted by Tyler Hoar and Richard Joos). He was also able to start extensive colour-marking of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) at their colonies and recruit citizen scientists to assist in reporting re-sightings, as well as censusing their roosting sites during spring and fall (more than 70 sites have been identified so far). Chip, with his co-workers, have published over 200 peer reviewed journal articles, government reports, technical reports, book chapters and progress reports. Likewise, he has given dozens of presentations. His list of co-authors on these publications and presentations is impressive and speaks to Chip’s ability to collaborate effectively with a wide variety of scientists and citizen scientists, both within Ontario and Canada as well as internationally.

For his efforts, he received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003 for contributions to ornithological science and bird conservation. The value of his research was recognized in 2012 by his co-workers when they formally proposed to Geographic Naming Canada that a set of rocks (and the gull, night-heron, cormorant and egret colonies on them) in the rapids just above Niagara Falls be officially named “Weseloh Rocks”. In 2014, his research was also recognized when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Great Lakes Research.

Chip first became interested in birding as a hobby while attending graduate school at the University of Calgary. His supervisor, who was also president of the local naturalist club, required all his students to take part in club activities and lead field trips. Chip obliged and immersed himself in birds other than waterbirds. His interest drew him into the birding world in short order.

In the late 1970s, he and his wife, Linda, were two of the founding executive of OFO and he remembers the heady planning meetings of the day: “Those were exciting meetings. Figuring out who was going to do what, what we were going to call ourselves, how we were going to get started with a big bang and what our logo was to be”. He not only served as President in those early days (1986-87) but also, due to his interest in writing, he and Linda were the first editors of the new journal, Ontario Birds, from 1982 to 1984.

Chip and Linda live in Toronto but their favorite birding haunts are on the eastern edge of the city, so naturally they became active in the Pickering Field Naturalists and Chip served as its President from 1980 to 1982. Nationally and internationally, he is active in the Waterbird Society, acting as its President during 2010-2011 and, before that, organizing its meeting in Niagara Falls in 2001. He has also been a board member of the Long Point Bird Observatory and the Ontario Bird Banding Association. He spends his summers, with his family, on Garden Island, a 26 ha island in Kingston harbour.

Chip is always interested in field work and is known to remark, “A bad day in the field is better than a good day in the office”. One of his ongoing projects has been to band and wing-tag young Great Egrets at their nests and then track their post-fledging movements. His use of volunteer birders to report sightings is an excellent example of a “citizen science” research project that the public has bought into enthusiastically. He maintains a network of volunteers across the province and continent for reporting tagged egrets. He also enjoys watching, and documenting, egrets and other birds (e.g. American Crows, Corvus brachyrhynchos), going to roost, a time when most birders are winding down from their day, and has taken many birders for a dusk watch that is never forgotten.

Chip has been an enthusiastic mentor for numerous young scientists, technicians, students and volunteers. Always one to encourage and support others, Chip has this advice for those looking for a career in biology or conservation: “I can’t over-estimate the value of volunteerism. In this day and age, it seems like the competition for bird jobs is very high and there are fewer and fewer of them. Do whatever you have to do to get your foot in the door. Make yourself indispensable to whomever you can do volunteer work for. Several of the people I’ve hired over the years at CWS started out as volunteers for us.”

Chip is a recognized scientist, an active keen birder and an active supporter and contributor to OFO and Ontario Birds, who enjoys sharing his knowledge. He is well deserving of the OFO Distinguished Ornithologist Award.


D.V. (Chip) Weseloh receiving the Distinguished Ornithologist Award at the OFO 2015 Annual Convention at Leamington on 4 October. Presenting the award is Dave Moore, Environment Canada (right). Photo: Jean Iron

Clive Goodwin (2014) Top

We both take great pleasure in being able to nominate Clive Goodwin for the 2014 OFO Distinguished Ornithologist Award. Clive has been a leader in Ontario field ornithology and conservation for nearly our entire lifetime and his selection as a recipient of this award is certainly well deserved.

Clive was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, where his earliest recollection of watching birds dates back to the age of five. By his teenage years, he had already started a birdwatching society at Castleford Grammar School in the village of Garforth, for which he received the Rotary service prize for outstanding public service upon his graduation.

After a two year conscription period in the Royal Air Force, he emigrated with his family to Toronto in 1949. He worked from 1949 to 1965 at the Canadian General Electric Company, working his way up to Production Control Manager at its electronics factory. He also completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Toronto in 1962.

Clive’s involvement in leadership roles within the Ontario natural history community was swift and it certainly blossomed into a lifelong commitment. From 1965 until 1977, he was fortunate to find a job more in keeping with his personal interests when he was appointed Executive Director of the Conservation Council of Ontario, the umbrella organization of the province’s conservation groups. His work there included the preparation and presentation of briefs to various levels of government on a wide variety of resource issues, the organization of conferences and seminars, and the editing of all council proceedings. Topics he became involved with were as diverse as wildlife management, conservation education, soil erosion, extinction, air pollution, water pollution, roads issues, and issues involving solid waste and recycling. He also edited their quarterly publication, The Bulletin.

Clive has amassed quite a prodigious output of volunteer activities on behalf of a myriad of Ontario nature clubs: On behalf of the Toronto Field Biologist Club, he served as Associate Editor of their journal, the Ontario Field Biologist, from 1957 to 1959, and served as a member of their executive committee from 1957-1959 and 1961-1964. For the Toronto Ornithological Club, he served as Business Secretary from 1956-1958 and served on their executive council from 1978-1988. From 1968 to 1982, he took over the organization of the Lake Ontario Mid-Winter Waterfowl Inventory from Ott Devitt, and went on to expand that count to include the entire Canadian shoreline of Lake Ontario. This important data set now demonstrates trends in winter waterfowl numbers in the Greater Toronto Area for an unbroken series of 69 years and the entire Canadian shore of Lake Ontario for 25 years.

For the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON) (now Ontario Nature), Clive served as editor of The Young Naturalist from 1959-1961, edited their magazine The Ontario Naturalist (predecessor to Seasons, now ON Nature) from 1962-1965, and wrote their ‘Worth Noting’ bird column from 1962-1967 and 1975-1982. He served as an elective board member from 1962-1966 and as an executive committee member from 1964-1965. He led FON field trips to the Bruce Peninsula for many years as well as trips to England, France and Spain. It was through the FON that Clive met his wife Joy. He also contributed the Toronto section to their 1964 A Naturalist’s Guide to Ontario and the Northumberland County section to its 1997 follow-up A Nature Guide to Ontario. Between 1968 and 1972, he served the Toronto Field Naturalists, first as Chair of the Bird Studies Group, and later as Vice-President and President.

For a truly astounding 18 years (1965-1982), Clive served as the editor of the Ontario section of Audubon Field Notes (later American Birds, now North American Birds), the journal of record for notable field observations in North America. This involved producing a quarterly four-thousand word summary of noteworthy bird observations for the whole province from a network of up to 300 observers and several dozen sub-regional editors. Anyone who has ever edited a report for a single quarter will appreciate the enormity of this accomplishment. To this very day, he still serves as a subregional editor for Northumberland County. In 1970, frustrated by the often arbitrary nature of decisions forced upon his work in Audubon Field Notes (particularly in light of the recent passing of Jim Baillie, the Royal Ontario Museum’s Assistant Curator of Ornithology), Clive was instrumental in organizing the province’s first attempt at a system of peer review of rare bird sightings by overseeing the formation of the Ontario Ornithological Records Committee and acting as its Secretary until 1982. It was the precursor to the current Ontario Bird Records Committee, which was subsequently formed along with the establishment of the Ontario Field Ornithologists in 1982, and thus extends the era of peer review of rare birds in Ontario back to an impressive period of forty-five years.

Clive has been very active in organized field work in Ontario. From 1953 to 1960 he conducted winter bird population studies that were published annually in Audubon Field Notes. Likewise, from 1955 to 1969 he conducted breeding bird population surveys that were also published in Audubon Field Notes.

Between 1950 and 2005, he had a 56 year unbroken series of participation in the annual Christmas Bird Count on either the Toronto or Cobourg counts. Similarly, he has participated in nearly every one of the 68 annual Lake Ontario Mid-Winter Waterfowl Inventory counts each January. Between 1980 and 1985, he was on the management committee for the first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and was a very active atlasser in several regions. From 2001 to 2005, he was a member of the local Northumberland County organizing committee for the second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and was an active atlasser once again.

In 1977, Clive left his position as Executive Director of the Conservation Council of Ontario to take a position as the Executive Director of Toronto’s Civic Garden Centre managing a public enterprise with 27 staff and 160 volunteers and a membership of 2600 people.

By 1981, Clive and Joy made the decision to work independently as freelance naturalists. As Clive puts it: “Very quickly we decided to offer nature courses and do nature interpretation, including leading trips. My role proved to be providing the ‘nature’ part, while Joy provided support and handled the more ‘people’ parts of the enterprise.” They began to teach bird identification courses through the Civic Garden Centre, Humber and Seneca community colleges, the Brentwood, Deer Park and Orchard-view public libraries, as well as from their home. They also hosted waterfowl viewing days for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources at sites like Toronto’s Humber Bay, Peel’s Rattray Marsh and Durham’s Corner Marsh. Demand dictated that they offer selected field trips to a wide variety of Ontario locations, including Point Pelee National Park, Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Long Point Provincial Park, Hilton Falls/Mountsberg Conservation Area, Niagara Falls, Tiny Marsh/ Minesing Swamp, the Durham Region marshes from Pickering to Oshawa, Dundas Marsh, Holland Marsh, Uxbridge forest and Luther Marsh, Prince Edward County and the Bruce Peninsula. They also went on to organize and conduct much longer trips to places such as Alberta, British Columbia, Churchill and southern Manitoba, Grand Manan, Newfoundland, southern Arizona, southern California, Florida, Texas, and farther afield to Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom (England and Scotland). Clive and Joy enriched the knowledge and birding skills of scores of Ontario naturalists in this period.

Clive is perhaps most widely known for his five major publications dealing with bird finding. Inspired by the very popular Toronto Birdfinding bulletins published in the 1960s by Peter Iden, Clive recognized the need for a standard reference to make the multitude of new birders familiar with the most productive birding sites in the Toronto area. In 1977, he began the field work, writing, editing and design of his 97 page Toronto Bird Finding Guide, published by the Toronto Field Naturalists in 1979. Even many long-time Toronto area birders learned a lot of new locations from this book. In 1982, University of Toronto Press published the first edition of Clive’s 248 page A Bird-Finding Guide to Ontario. This handy guide made birders familiar with many of the best birding locations throughout Ontario, how to get to them, and what to see there at particular times of the year. Although many of the veteran birders in Ontario were in the regular habit of covering their local sewage lagoons, sod farms and landfill sites, this guide was the first to introduce the next generation of birders to the very productive results of birding at such locations, and provided directions to almost all of these previously seldom sought out sites, and truly popularized this as a normal part of birding practice in Ontario.

In 1988, Clive and Joy independently published their expanded 153 page second edition of their A Birdfinding Guide to the Toronto Region. This new edition added sections on new sites, provided a newly-researched set of occurrence bar charts to demonstrate the abundance and seasonal status of all bird species, and provided a summary of the status of all the various rarities on the Toronto checklist. It has served as an excellent resource and starting point for those interested in birding throughout the Greater Toronto Area ever since. In 1995, University of Toronto Press published the greatly expanded and revised 477 page second edition of A Bird-Finding Guide to Ontario. At one time or another, most of the birders we know have had this volume either in their car or their library. Its proven utility and commercial viability no doubt encouraged the production of more detailed local bird finding guides, excellent examples of which are the Point Pelee guide written by Tom Hince and the Long Point and area guide by Ron Ridout.

In 1990, Clive and Joy moved from Toronto to Cobourg, where they eventually retired in 1996. Already familiar with Presqu’ile Provincial Park, they began to immerse themselves in a project to explore all of the roads of Northumberland County, an area with a rich ornithological history dating back to the early 18th century exploits of Charles Fothergill, the father of Ontario ornithology himself. Although the prevailing conventional wisdom of the scientific community had long tended to dismiss the potential value in birders’ observations, Clive always held to the position that, cumulatively, these could yield valuable information not otherwise easily available. With this aim in mind, he convinced the Willow Beach Field Naturalists to embark on a mission to computerize all of the available Northumberland County bird records into a relational database. Fast forward 25 years to the era of eBird, and one sees that the scientific community has come back to Clive’s line of thinking on such matters and Clive’s vision begins to look as clear as that of Nostradamus! In conjunction with Dr. Steve Furino of the University of Waterloo, Clive and the Willow Beach Field Naturalists have created a database approaching 400,000 bird records for Northumberland County. Since 2007, they have also worked diligently to see all of these data (in the form of 38,503 general club ‘checklists’ and 9,381 personal ‘checklists’ of Clive’s own records) exported into eBird, thus enabling access to the general public. However, not content to merely compile the data, Clive set to work on writing a monograph on the Birds of Northumberland County using the data. He has shared this monograph freely as an electronic document via a web site of the Willow Beach Field Naturalist at: http://www.willowbeachfieldnaturalists.org/assets/bird-assets/downloads/Birds.pdf

If Clive’s only accomplishments had been his editorial tenure at Audubon Field Notes/American Birds and his bird finding guides, he would easily still qualify for this award, but we think you can see that his vision and determination have blessed us all with a much more comprehensive body of work to benefit from for many years to come.

Clive has been the recipient of several other awards. In 1976, he was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. In 1977, he was awarded Honorary Life Membership in the Conservation Council of Ontario. In 2009, he was awarded the Doris Huestis Speirs Award for outstanding contributions to Canadian Ornithology by the Society of Canadian Ornithologists. In 2010, he was awarded Honorary Life Membership by the Willow Beach Field Naturalists. Congratulations on your award Clive — it is certainly richly deserved.


Clive Goodwin receiving the 2014 Ontario Field Ornithologists’ Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Gerard Binsfeld at his Cobourg home on 27 April 2014. Photo: Glenn Coady

John McCracken (2013) Top

Jon McCracken is a modest, low-key kind of person, who surely does not think of himself as a “Distinguished Ornithologist.” Yet, there is scarcely a person more immersed in learning about Ontario and Canada’s birds, or more deeply involved in working for their welfare. People who don’t know Jon personally are nonetheless very likely to know about the programs he has helped organize and the conservation issues he has brought to the forefront of the birding and ornithological world.

After graduating from the University of Western Ontario (UWO) in 1977, Jon took on what may be a record number of biology contract positions. Over a period of 12 years, he worked on encephalitis incidence in birds, ran the banding program at Long Point Bird Observatory, monitored paper mill effluent, studied lead-shot poisoning of waterfowl, evaluated wetland quality, examined the impact of logging on heronries and undertook a slew of floral, faunal and habitat surveys. Jon’s employers included non-governmental organizations (Norfolk Field Naturalists, Long Point Bird Observatory), business and academic institutions (Eurocan Pulp and Paper, LGL Ltd., Western University [WU]) and government (Canadian Wildlife Service, Transport Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Health, Grand River Conservation Authority).

While many biologists do contract work while looking for a ‘real’ job, they often bail out of biology altogether, or go back to school if one of those doesn”t come along. Jon did consider returning to university for a graduate degree, but he was a good biologist and other opportunities kept arising, and he loved what he was doing. Although he admits to having some regrets about not pursuing another degree, it’s not for the reason you might think – that it might have led him on a different career path. Rather, like a true scientist, he regrets the lost learning opportunities.

Indeed, life-long learning is one of Jon’s main satisfactions, and certainly one of his greatest assets. When he told me about his mentors, who included David Hussell and Michael Bradstreet at Long Point, Dave Ankney and Dave Scott at WU, and later on, Don Sutherland and Mary Gartshore, Jon noted that he learned ‘a ton’ from these people and from many others along the way.

When many of us think of mentors, we generally consider the ones that influence us as adults, but those people and incidents that fan the early spark are equally, if not more, important. Jon spent his early years in the Prairies, where he was fascinated by flight, both of birds and airplanes. There was a cage in his backyard where, as in many Prairie homes of the era, wild birds were sometimes kept. Jon remembers that cage at various times holding a Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia), a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus). An older brother who liked to draw birds introduced Jon to more formal ornithology. After the family moved to Ottawa, this brother took Jon, then in Grade 3, to look at bird skins at the Museum of Nature. Jon was awed at meeting real professionals – Earl Godfrey and Stu MacDonald – and was greatly impressed. (Indeed, he suspects he was also impressed by his brother surreptitiously whacking him to curb his enthusiasm.) Another seminal experience was receiving a gift of Fred Bodworth’s classic book The Last of the Curlews. Later, Jon was thrilled to meet and get to know the author. Many of us in the Ontario Field Ornithologists have opportunities to provide such experiences to a young person who is showing interest, and we sometimes need to remind ourselves how important a little encouragement can be.

Jon advanced steadily during his long period of contract work. Starting as an assistant, he rose to the person in charge of study design, training, project management and preparation of reports – all skills he has used daily in the full-time positions he has held at Bird Studies Canada since 1989: first as Manager for the Migration Monitoring Program, then Ontario Programs Manager, and now National Programs Manager.

Jon’s career at Bird Studies Canada, as with his earlier contract work, has been incredibly varied. He has been responsible for special surveys of loons, marsh birds, Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus), nocturnal owls, certain woodpeckers, and programs such as migration monitoring, the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, Great Backyard Bird Count, training of Latin American biologists, and a variety of species-at-risk assessment and recovery programs. While the job at Bird Studies Canada (BSC) is more than full time, it is far from everything that Jon does. He is also a valuable member of innumerable committees, boards and panels. His curriculum vitae lists 28 committees, including many species-at-risk recovery teams, the North American Banding Council and the North American Ornithological Atlas Committee. Jon is also a subject editor for the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology.

Not even included in this list of 28 is perhaps the most influential group with which Jon serves, the Bird Species Specialist Subcommittee of COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). As co-chair of this subcommittee, Jon shares the lead in identifying candidate species for assessment, tendering contracts for status reports of those candidates, evaluating subsequent reports and making appropriate recommendations for official COSEWIC status. The work involves many time-consuming administrative duties, and Jon gets the job done – but I suspect his most important contribution is clear-headed thinking about the kinds and quality of evidence needed to confidently assign an appropriate conservation status.

On top of his job at BSC and his committee service to the ornithological community, Jon is also a prolific writer. While he has relatively few research papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, his bibliography of about 160 articles is replete with technical reports, species status assessments, recovery plans, training manuals and data-rich articles that raise awareness of the informed public about bird study and avian conservation issues (including several in Ontario Birds). His publications not only reflect the great variety of programs and projects in which he has been involved (see sample below), but also demonstrate a most enviable facility for clear communication. One might think that Jon’s administrative responsibilities, committee work and writing would be sufficient to keep him busy, but he refuses to be cut off from doing field work. Jon is out nearly every morning during the field season, keeping in touch with the birds that his work is really about.

To summarize Jon’s contributions to ornithology in Ontario and Canada, then, I would say that he is a well-rounded birder and field man, a talented administrator and designer of field programs, an excellent writer and a hands-on conservation biologist – altogether a combination that makes him more than worthy of the title of “Distinguished Ornithologist.”


Rob Maciver, John McCracken and Erica Dunn Photo: Jean Iron

Jim Richards (2012) Top

Jim was born and raised in Oshawa, and he first took an interest in nature at age 7. At age 10, he took up the hobby of collecting birds’ eggs. By his early teens, Jim was hooked on birding and he was issued a collecting permit by the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1964 and a banding permit in 1968.

In 1974, Jim (together with his friend and fellow DOA recipient, Ron Tozer) co-authored Birds of the Oshawa-Lake Scugog Region, Ontario, considered to be one of the most well-respected regional bird monographs ever produced in Ontario. A dedicated conservationist, Jim founded the Second Marsh Defence Association (now the Friends of Second Marsh) and successfully advocated against development in the area over a period of 20 years. Later, Jim persuaded his employer at the time, General Motors of Canada, to convert a significant portion of the property acquired for its new corporate headquarters into wildlife habitat. This property is adjacent to the Oshawa Second Marsh which he has worked so passionately to preserve.

As well, Jim is an accomplished nature photographer whose photographs have appeared on the covers of numerous publications including A Nature Guide to Ontario, The Birds of Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Ontario Birds at Risk – Status and Conservation, Oak Ridges Moraine and Birds Worth Watching. His photographic documentation of the nesting Little Gulls in Durham Region in the early 1970s represents the best work on this species in North America. In addition, Jim documented the first Durham Region nest records of Ruddy Duck, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Northern Goshawk and Brewer’s Blackbird.

Jim is a devoted husband, father and grandfather who is eager to acknowledge his family for their support and understanding.


Jim Richards (L) receiving the Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Glenn Coady at the OFO Annual Convention in Cobourg, Ontario, on Sept. 15, 2012. Photo: Mike McEvoy

David Brewer (2011) Top

David Brewer began birding about the age of 12 in England. He obtained his first bird banding permit from the British Trust for Ornithology at age 17 and has held a Canadian banding permit since 1971. He became an authority on molts, plumages and identification.

David was a founding life member of OFO in 1982. He also was a founding member of the Ontario Bird Records Committee 1982 to 1985, served as Chair in 1985, and was a voting member again from 1996 to 1998. David has published many articles, letters and book reviews in Ontario Birds and OFO News. He presented a popular bird quiz at OFO Annual Conventions for several years.

He participated in both Breeding Bird Atlases and wrote the species accounts for House Wren, Winter Wren and Sedge Wren in the second atlas. David authored The Birds of Wellington County in 1976 and co-authored with artist Barry MacKay A Guide to the Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers of the World in 2001.

David retired recently as a research chemist in Guelph. He now spends his time birding and leading trips throughout the world.


David Brewer (right) receiving the 2011 Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Bob Curry at the OFO Annual Convention at Point Pelee on 17 September 2011. Photo: Jean Iron

Erica Dunn and David Hussell (2010) Top

David Hussell and Erica Dunn, husband and wife, began their academic careers in ornithology as graduate students at the University of Michigan in the 1960s.

David founded Long Point Bird Observatory in 1960 and Thunder Cape Bird Observatory in 1991. David’s study of breeding Tree Swallows is one of the longest running in North America. He organized the first North American Birdathon to raise money for bird research through the James L. Baillie Fund.

Erica started the Ontario Bird Feeder Project which developed into the very popular international Project FeederWatch. David pioneered the use of migration counts to monitor small bird and raptor populations, and both played key roles in establishing the Migration Monitoring Network and Raptor Population Index Program. They believe strongly in role of volunteers and developed standards and protocols for data collection.

Erica helped establish the Society of Canadian Ornithologists and served as its third president. That organization presented Erica and David with the Doris Huestis Speirs Award in 2001 for outstanding contributions in ornithology. Both are members of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU), and Erica was AOU president from 2006 to 2008. Between these two outstanding scientists, David and Erica have published 132 peer-reviewed publications, as well as numerous popular contributions.


Erica Dunn (left) and David Hussell, jointly, receiving the Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Erica Nol at the OFO Annual Convention Banquet in Port Dover on 25 September 2010. Photo: Jean Iron

Ron Tozer (2009) Top

Ron Tozer is a charter member of OFO and one of Ontario’s best known field ornithologists. Many of Canada’s prominent scientists and conservationists benefited from Ron’s mentoring when they were summer naturalists in Algonquin Park. OFO members appreciate Ron’s depth of ornithological knowledge and his willingness to impart it to others on field trips and in his articles in Ontario Birds and OFO News.

Ron’s impact on ornithology in Ontario is broad. Jon Dunn considers Ron’s 1974 book, co-authored with Jim Richards, Birds of the Oshawa-Lake Scugog Region, Ontario, as one of the finest regional bird books in North America. Ron is currently writing the Birds of Algonquin Park.

Ron was co-editor of Ontario Birds for 16 years from 1991 to 2006 as it evolved into one of North America’s leading ornithological journals. He currently serves on the Ontario Bird Records Committee and was Chair for five of his 14 years on the OBRC.

Ron participated in both Ontario Breeding Bird Atlases as Algonquin’s Regional Co-ordinator and was scientific editor of 26 species accounts in the second atlas. Birders eagerly await his Birds of Algonquin Park.


Ron Tozer (left) receiving the 2009 Distinguished Ornithologist Award from former president Margaret Bain at the OFO Annual Convention at Point Pelee on 3 October 2009. Photo: Jean Iron

Harry Lumsden (2008) Top

Harry Lumsden has been active for almost 60 years in the study and conservation of Ontario’s birds. He is respected worldwide as an authority on waterfowl and gallinaceous birds. He was one of the pioneers of ornithological research in northern Ontario. His research made very important additions to our knowledge on birds in that part of the province, as reflected in his numerous publications.

As a biologist and research scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), Harry conducted field work and made important contributions to the birdlife of Ontario. For example, he studied Sharp-tailed Grouse and Greater Prairie-Chickens on Manitoulin Island. He retired in 1988, but continued research projects such as his work on Trumpeter Swans.

Harry has been a member of OFO since 1983. He is a long time supporter of the organization, and has always responded enthusiastically to OFO members and editors seeking his advice. Harry has contributed articles to Ontario Birds, and for OFO’s special publication, Ornithology in Ontario. Harry Lumsden was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2004 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to wildlife management and conservation.


Harry Lumsden (right) receiving the 2008 Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Ken Abraham at the OFO Annual Convention in Hamilton on 4 October 2008. Photo: Eleanor Beagan

Mike Cadman (2007) Top

Mike Cadman has been a life-long student of birds. He received his Master of Science degree from the University of Toronto in 1980 based on studies of the American Oystercatcher.

He is a Songbird Biologist with Ontario Region of the Canadian Wildlife Service. He is best known as the driving force behind the first and now the second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, both monumental projects. The new atlas was published in fall 2007.

Mike Cadman takes a lead role in many important survey programs designed to monitor Ontario’s bird populations including the Forest Bird Monitoring program, 1992 to present. Mike is active on committees and organizations devoted to the conservation of birds and their habitats such as the Society of Canadian Ornithologists and Birds Studies Canada. He was chair of the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Team from 1992-1999.

Mike has been studying birds for over 35 years. He has authored and co-authored many publications in both peer-reviewed and popular publications. Mike has published many articles in Ontario Birds and OFO News.


Mike Cadman (right) receives the 2007 Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Mark Peck at the OFO Annual Convention at Point Pelee on 13 October 2007. Photo: Jean Iron

Ken Abraham (2006) Top

Ken Abraham is respected worldwide for his knowledge of waterbirds, particularly Canada Geese, Cackling Geese, Brant, Snow Geese, Black Scoters and Marbled Godwits. He is the Ontario government’s representative on international committees overseeing the management and conservation of waterfowl and shorebirds.

Ken obtained his doctorate in 1980 from Queen’s University on the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of the Snow Goose in northern Manitoba. This led to a job as District Biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) at Moosonee. Ken was responsible for an immense area of the Hudson Bay Lowland and northern coast. He is currently Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Scientist at the Ministry’s office at Trent University in Peterborough. Every summer Ken returns to the Hudson Bay Lowland to lead MNR’s studies of waterfowl, shorebirds, wetlands and climate change.

Ken is a great resource to OFO, authoring several articles in Ontario Birds and OFO News. His most popular article of international interest is “Cackling Goose, not new to Ontario” in the February 2005 issue of OFO News 23(1):2-6 and on the OFO website here. Ken has published over 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals such as the Auk, Condor and Wilson Bulletin.


Ken Abraham (right) receiving the 2006 Distinguished Ornithologist Award from past president Jean Iron at the OFO Annual Convention in Ottawa on 30 September 2006. Photo: Ron Pittaway

Ron Pittaway (2005) Top

Ron Pittaway’s passion for birds began during the 1950s in Ottawa, where his mentor was the late Earl Godfrey, then Curator of Ornithology at the National Museum. Godfrey influenced Ron’s interest in identification, taxonomy, subspecies, morphs, molts and plumages.

Ron is a founding life member of OFO, a co-editor of Ontario Birds from 1991 to 2006, and technical editor of OFO News from 1994 to 2007. He has authored over 130 articles on birds. He was a member of the Ontario Bird Records Committee for 12 years between 1984 and 2003, including three years as Chair and one as Secretary.

Ron strongly promotes conservation, having served five years as the Ontario government’s representative on the Loggerhead Shrike National Recovery Team. His Birding Guide to Carden Alvar here, plays an important role in public awareness of the alvar.

Ron brings an extraordinary breadth of knowledge to his articles and posts to Ontbirds and ID-Frontiers. He inspired many people to take up birding during 10 seasons as a park naturalist in Algonquin Park and 23 years teaching conservation and resource management science at the Leslie M. Frost Natural Resources Centre near Minden.


Ron Pittaway (right) receiving the 2005 Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Bob Curry at the OFO Annual Convention at Point Pelee on 10 September 2005. Photo: Jean Iron

Jim Rising (2004) Top

Jim Rising is an OFO member best known for his research and contributions to our knowledge of the taxonomy and identification of North American birds.

As professor of ornithology at the University of Toronto, Jim taught courses in field ornithology, evolutionary theory, freshwater and marine biology and subarctic ornithology. Many of his former students are prominent scientists.

Jim wrote 10 species accounts in the first Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. He co-authored six species accounts in The Birds of North America and wrote two chapters in the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior.

Jim is a member of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) and is the only Canadian on its Committee of Classification and Nomenclature. This committee decides the names and taxonomic order of North American birds.

Jim is an authority on sparrows and Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles. He has published over 62 peer-reviewed papers, contributed chapters in 20 books, and written several popular articles about birds. His identification guides to the sparrows, co-authored with David Beadle, are recognized for their thorough treatment. Jim regularly writes articles for OFO News, providing insights into changes to the AOU Check-list.


Jim Rising (right) receiving the Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Jean Iron and Bruce Falls at the OFO Annual Convention in Oakville on 2 October 2004. Photo: Ron Pittaway

Bob Curry (2003) Top

Bob Curry is well known in Ontario and North America as one of the continent’s finest field ornithologists. He began birding in Hamilton over 55 years ago under the guidance of the legendary George North. Bob has mentored many of Ontario’s top birders.

Bob is a founding life member of OFO and a strong supporter over the years. He was photo quiz editor of Ontario Birds from 1993 to 2002. He is also a founding member of the Ontario Bird Records Committee (OBRC). During 17 years on the OBRC, he served as Chair for eight years and Secretary for two.

Bob played an important role in both Ontario atlases, as an atlaser, member of the Data Review Committee for both atlases, species account author, reviewer, and Regional Coordinator for Halton Region in the first atlas. He is widely recognized as an authority on status, distribution and identification of birds in Ontario. His expertise in the field translates into many articles in Ontario Birds and OFO News and other publications.

Bob’s Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas is one of the most extensive and authoritative regional bird books published in Ontario.


Bob Curry (left) receiving the Distinguished Ornithologist Award from Bill Crins at the OFO Annual Convention at Point Pelee on 20 September 2003. Photo: Ron Pittaway

Bruce Falls (2002) Top

Bruce Falls had a long career as a professional ornithologist. He also is a mammalogist, having done his doctoral studies on the White-footed Mouse at Long Point on Lake Erie, which continues to be one of his favourite birding areas.

As professor of zoology at the University of Toronto, Bruce supervised many graduate students at the Wildlife Research Station in Algonquin Park. He and his students studied many bird species including rails, catbirds, Ovenbirds, sparrows, meadowlarks and blackbirds. He authored many papers in peer-reviewed journals and also co-authored the accounts of the White-throated Sparrow in Bent’s Life Histories and The Birds of North America.

Bruce is a member of the American Ornithologists’ Union, past president of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists, member of Bird Studies Canada, the Brodie Club, Toronto Ornithological Club and Ontario Field Ornithologists. He is very supportive of OFO and has written articles in OFO News.

Bruce, now retired, is an enthusiastic member of the Ontario birding community. He and his wife Ann make annual trips to Point Pelee, do Big Days in support of the Baillie Birdathon, and participated in the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and Forest Bird Monitoring Program.


Bruce Falls accepting the Distinguished Ornithologist Award at the OFO Annual Convention in Kingston on 28 September 2002. Photo: Rory MacKay

George Peck (2001) Top

George Peck has been a prominent ornithologist in Ontario for over 50 years. He is recognized for his work at the Royal Ontario Museum with the Ontario Nest Records Scheme, which he built into a major monitoring system of the breeding biology of Ontario birds.

George has contributed much to the scientific knowledge of Ontario birds through papers in North America’s leading ornithological journals. He authored eight species accounts in the first Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. George co-authored with Jim Richards a chapter on early Oologists in Ornithology in Ontario in 1987. He co-authored with Ross James volume 1 in 1983 of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, Nidiology and Distribution: Nonpasserines. The Passerines in volume 2 was published in 1987. Both volumes were updated in seven installments in Ontario Birds.

George was appointed a Research Associate in Ornithology at the Royal Ontario Museum in 1976. He is an active member of many international, national, provincial and local organizations, some since 1939.

George is a well known wildlife photographer with a penchant for birds. His images have been published in 88 books, magazines and journals. George’s quest is to photograph every North American bird species.


George Peck (right) receives the Distinguished Ornithologist Award at the OFO Annual Convention at Point Pelee on 29 September 2001. Left to right are Jim Richards (presenter), Jean Iron, Chris Escott and George Peck. Photo: Sam Barone

Murray Speirs (2000) Top

Murray Speirs was a leading ornithologist in Ontario for over 65 years. He is known for his meticulous recording of ornithological information. His primary interests were bird censusing and studies of American Robins, Black-capped Chickadees, Lincoln’s Sparrows and Evening Grosbeaks. Murray wrote the Lincoln’s Sparrow account in Bent’s Life Histories in 1968. He compiled Birds of Ontario County, 1973-1979, a five volume series on local bird populations. His two volume Birds of Ontario was published in 1985.

Murray’s contributions to conservation were considerable. He was a founding member of the Toronto Ornithological Club and Federation of Ontario Naturalists, and he co-founded the Pickering Naturalists in 1977. He donated part of his property in Pickering to preserve Altona Forest.

Murray, a quiet giant of Ontario ornithology, distinguished himself among peers with his amazing powers of sight and hearing. He always took time to encourage and assist young ornithologists to develop their interests and expertise.

Murray received the Distinguished Ornithologist Award at home in Pickering on 3 February 2000. He passed away on 2 September 2000. The award ceremony honoring Murray was held at the OFO Annual Convention at Kortright Centre in Kleinburg on 16 September 2000.


Murray Speirs in 1985. Photo: Phil Holder

Ross James (1998) Top

Ross James was Associate Curator of Ornithology at the Royal Ontario Museum before retiring in 1997. He continues to make significant contributions to the scientific study of birds and bird conservation in Ontario.

Ross is the author of numerous scientific and popular publications, including the Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Ontario (1991), which is the authoritative guide to the status of birds in Ontario. He co-authored with George Peck two volumes in 1983 and 1987 of the Breeding Birds of Ontario: Nidiology and Distribution. His fieldwork took him all over Ontario and to the United States and Central America.

Ross’s expertise is sought by federal and provincial committees dealing with threatened and endangered birds and their habitats.

Ross is a great resource to the Ontario Field Ornithologists. He regularly contributes articles to Ontario Birds and OFO News and is a principal referee of articles submitted to Ontario Birds. He is a charter member of the Ontario Bird Records Committee, having also served several years as Secretary. An authority on vireos, Ross authored the Yellow-throated Vireo account and co-authored the Blue-headed Vireo account in the Birds of North America series.


Ross James (left) receiving the Distinguished Ornithologist Award from presenter George Peck (right) and OFO President Jean Iron at the Annual Convention in Burlington on 17 October 1998.

Earl Godfrey (1997) Top

Earl Godfrey, dean of Canadian ornithologists, was the first recipient of OFO’s Distinguished Ornithologist Award in 1997.

In his early years, Earl studied under Robie Tufts in his home province of Nova Scotia and then with noted taxonomist Harry Oberholser in the United States. In 1947, he became Curator of Ornithology at the National Museum of Canada, later becoming Chief of the Division of Vertebrate Zoology.

Earl headed surveys across Canada that led to numerous National Museum publications. He published over 200 works during a career of more than 60 years, including papers on geographic variation, nomenclature, distribution, behaviour, plumages and molts. He served as ornithological editor for the Canadian Field-Naturalist. His classic book The Birds of Canada, published 1966 and updated in 1986, sold over 250,000 copies.

Earl’s enthusiastic encouragement of others, in particular young birders who visited him at the museum, played a large role in launching the careers of many natural science specialists throughout Canada. Earl retired in 1977 and remained active as Curator Emeritus. He was a valuable resource to the editors of Ontario Birds and OFO News. Earl passed away in Ottawa at the age of 92 on 8 June 2002.


Earl Godfrey was unable to attend the award ceremony at the OFO Annual Convention in Burlington on 18 October 1997. Bruce Di Labio presented the Distinguished Ornithologist Award to Earl (right) at his home in Ottawa on 20 October 1997. Photo: Dan Brunton