Thursday, February 25, 2010

Great Lakes Ornithological Club

Perhaps one of the more obscure chapters in the ornithological history of the Great Lakes revolves around the formation and activities of the Great Lakes Ornithological Club. Formed in about 1900, the Club had an exclusive membership of just six individuals, all of whom shared an interest in bird migration Members were:
  • James H. Fleming (Toronto, Ontario)
  • A. Brooker Klugh (Guelph, Ontario)
  • Willam E. Saunders (London, Ontario)
  • Bradshaw H. Swales (Detroit and Grosse Isle, Michigan)
  • Percy A. Taverner (Detroit, Michigan)
  • J. S. Wallace (Toronto, Ontario)
  • As described by Fleming (1939), the group devised a unique way of corresponding:
    We soon found the need of a journal of some sort in which problems of bird life could be discussed. The result was a manuscript bulletin, Saunders acting as secretary. The procedure was simple—any member with an idea relating to birds wrote it ut on a sheet of eight by ten inch paper, and posted it to the secretary in an especially printed envelope marked "Printer’s Mss." The secretary, if so inclined, added comments on a separate sheet of paper and forwarded the bulletin to the next member and so on in rotation, till it reached the original sender who removed his contribution and forwarded the remaining manuscript to the secretary who also removed his from the file and added any new matter that had come to hand with his comments but always on a fresh sheet of paper, thus the bulletin passed in rotation to the six members but never grew too bulky. The private character of the bulletin allowed for freedom of expression and a certain amount of sarcasm, if thought necessary. Some of the subject with were migration routes, injurious species, the mild winter of 1905—06, and even subspecies. The bulletin ran along fairly well from 1905 to 1909 with occasional revivals and proved a useful means of communication.
    According to Fleming, "The Club soon felt the need of a suitable place to meet, preferably a place where migration could be studied and Saunders suggested Point Pelee." The other members of the Club readily agreed to this suggestion, and the Club’s first visit to Point Pelee was in September 1905. "A permanent camp was established in October 1908 and was occupied at intervals to the end of 1927."

    The frequent visits to Point Pelee by Club members resulted in the publication of "The birds of Point Pelee," a five-part series by Taverner and Swales (1907a-c, 1908a-b) that documents the occurrence of 209 species there. This work warranted a brief review in the Auk by J. A. Allen (1909).


    A[llen], J. A. 1909. Taverner and Swales on the birds of Point Pelee, Ontario. Auk 26: 98-99. [.PDF]

    Fleming, J. H. 1939. The Great Lakes Ornithological Club. Wilson Bulletin 51: 42-43. [.PDF]

    Taverner, P. A., and B. H. Swales. 1907a. The birds of Point Pelee [Part 1 of 5]. Wilson Bulletin 19[59]: 37-54. [.PDF]

    _____. 1907b The birds of Point Pelee [Part 2 of 5]. Wilson Bulletin 19[60]: 82-99. [.PDF]

    _____. 1907c. The birds of Point Pelee [Part 3 of 5]. Wilson Bulletin 19[61]: 133-153. [.PDF]

    _____. 1908a. The birds of Point Pelee [Part 4 of 5]. Wilson Bulletin 20[63]: 78-96. [.PDF]

    _____. 1908b. The birds of Point Pelee [Part 5 of 5]. Wilson Bulletin 20[64]: 107-129. [.PDF]


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