Tom Murray was awarded a Life Membership in the Owen Sound Field Naturalists club in 1995. The award was made in recognition of his contributions to the knowledge of birds in the Grey – Bruce area.
Tom was born in Owen Sound in 1916, but due to the untimely death of his father, his mother and he moved to Toronto where he grew up. He was to return to Owen Sound, to live and work, following university studies at the University of Toronto and Oxford University, in England. At his home on the shoreline at Leith, he was able to enjoy the birdlife in the garden, which he lovingly designed, and on the waters of the lake beyond.
The lifelong interest in birds which gripped Tom, was started when he undertook a school assignment to identify and observe thirty local species. Knowing little about birds at the time, he explored the area of High Park and the Humber Marshes. He fondly recounted those sessions and the discovery of his first ever warbler. A blue-grey back and striking black necklace were set off against a bright yellow breast that shone in the early morning light. The date was May 20, 1930. The bird was a Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia). The die was cast and Tom was hooked.
Over the next seven decades, Tom’s experiences and observations were legion. His life list totalled 2,788 species. His main goal had been to observe a representative of each of the avian families. Of the 195 families described, he managed to observe members in all but 18. He had plans for those too. His travels in search of birds were worldwide.
Two of his outstanding memories were from 1932, when as a student at University of Toronto, he accompanied Richard M. Saunders to South Carolina. On that trip they observed Bachman’s Warbler, without much comment, as it was still not uncommon at the time. They also were privileged to track down and observe a pair of magnificent Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the bottomlands of the Santee River. At the end of the millenium he was among a very select group of people who could recount seeing these two, now-vanished, North American species and he treasured the memories.
Locally Tom was well-known and respected birder. He was a founding member of the Grey-Bruce Bird Records Committee which oversaw the publishing of the first checklist of the birds of Grey and Bruce counties. For fifteen years, he was the organizer and compiler of the Owen Sound Christmas Bird Count, and with his wife Katrina, host of the always popular post count get-together and wrap-up. Tom was an active contributor to the Breeding Bird Survey, for over a quarter century, monitoring two local routes annually. He was the Regional Co-ordinator for the first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (1987). A founding, and life member, of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, Tom led several trips for them locally. To all these endeavours, Tom brought a wealth of knowledge and experience which he shared openly, but humbly. For his contributions to the knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of birds in Grey and Bruce counties, Tom was awarded a life membership in the Owen Sound Filed Naturalists in 1995.
TOM MURRAY 1916 – 2003
OSFN Life Member 1995