A lot has happened since the Club was formed back in 1982. Below is a short history of how we got our start along with some memories of the early days as recalled by long-time member Cyril Fry. A list of Past Presidents is included, as well.
IN THE BEGINNING: A SHORT HISTORY OF MUSKOKA FIELD NATURALISTS
by Cyril Fry
About 1980, Bob Bowles and Al Sinclair, two Muskoka naturalists, inaugurated an Audubon Christmas Bird Count for Muskoka, with the assistance of a number of friends and acquaintances. Sometime between then and 1982, Sylvia Purdon urged the formation of a Field Naturalists Club. A Huntsville Nature Club had already existed for about 25 years. They spoke to other prospects and an organization meeting in the spring attracted enough people to justify continuing.
An executive was chosen in April, 1982, with Bob Bowles, President, Allan Sinclair, Vice President, and other officers. The plan was to have, each month, one outing and one meeting, with half of the latter in Gravenhurst, half in Bracebridge. Recruitment would concentrate on south Muskoka, and the name would be Muskoka Field Naturalists.
Tom Goodwin of Gravenhurst was the featured speaker at the first meeting. A student in marine biology, his passion was whales, and still is.
The outings leaned heavily on Bob, Al and other club members in the early days. Their self-taught knowledge of nature was encyclopedic, starting with birds, but ranging through plants, amphibians, mushrooms, reptiles, butterflies, the whole gamut. Spring meant a trip to Point Pelee or Rondeau. There was a canoe-camping weekend in the late summer or early fall, trips to the Bruce Peninsula, Algonquin Park, sometimes whirlwind go-arounds to a variety of sites in a single day. The Bracebridge sewage lagoons became a treasure of waterfowl, swallows and warblers. There were owl prowls, fungi forays, wildflower walks. Shivering in a Matchedash spring gale, one could stand behind a telescope beside a barely thawing bay, trying to identify ducks far out in the water. In autumn the Niagara River offered a plethora of gulls.
This of course, was 25 years ago. Many of the members were already in their fifties or sixties, and canoe trips now feature a largely new generation of paddlers, while many tents have given way to motel rooms. However, the dedication to seeing good habitat, and identifying a variety of creatures remains much the same, while even the aging can find rewarding activities on the list..
A newsletter began to be published every two months. The red trillium provided its name, The Wakerobin, which sought to report the doings of MFN, written by members, with their sightings, and local lore. Although every effort was made to honor scientific nomenclature and corroboration, the emphasis aimed at a lighter touch.
Membership grew fairly well, mostly involving couples, sometimes younger family members, so the total number of individuals represented over 150 people. Bob Bowles was President for only one year, but since then, the custom has become a two year stint at the reins for the President and VP, while the Secretary and Treasurer are thought to have their jobs for life.
Bluebird boxes, trail guides, representation re lagoons, road re-alignments, utility corridors, newpaper articles, FON Camp, rattlesnakes, Carden Plain, Breeding Bird Atlas, the white car that got away, tern colony, butterfly count, Louloo Trophy, tent caterpillar campaigns, Christmas and Baillie counts, world travellers in search of nature they're all part of the fabric. Come and meet those who were there, and challenge their memories.