Archive - Member of the Year

The club started choosing a Member of the Year in 1995. The following are extracts from the Newsletters for the various years.

Jim and Petra Grass 2017

At this year's Annual General Meeting (March), TOC was happy to announce that Jim and Petra Grass were named Members-of-the-Year for 2017. Jim and Petra have been members of our club since 2008. During the past decade, Jim sat on Council where he oversaw Outings. This important role not only serves our members, but also the greater community by providing opportunity and guidance for Torontonians to learn about our local birds and where to find them. During the decade, Jim and Petra also took on the responsibility of running our annual Silent Book Auction. Although Jim has stepped down from Council, Jim and Petra have continued to take care of this important fundraiser for TOC. Over the past four years, they have raised over $3000 for the club. Their continuing contributions to the club are much appreciated and their recognition as 2017 Members-of-the-Year is well deserved.

Marg and John Catto 2016

The Toronto Ornithological Club is a relatively small club with a large and diverse number of programs, including newsletters, outings, education, citizen science, and conservation. None of this would be possible without the members who volunteer their time and expertise to make this happen. In honour of these volunteers, TOC is pleased to announce that Marg and John Catto have been named the 2016 Members of the Year. Marg and John have been longtime members of the club and over the past 20 years, they have made significant contributions to the club. The hard work of Marg, as Councillor of Conservation, earned her the 2005 Member of the Year. Since then, both Marg and John have continued to volunteer their time, skills, and expertise to the club. Marg has been indispensable in her role in membership renewal and her work on past Nomination Committees has shaped the TOC council over the many years. It was one such phone call from Marg that convinced me to join council. For over a decade, John?s role as Financial Reviewer has contributed to the firm and secure financial status or our club and we are sad that he will be stepping down from that role this coming year. Together, Marg and John have given their time and support to many additional activities and projects of our busy club and this award is a small token of our appreciation in recognition for their efforts. Our heartfelt congratulations to Marg and John.

Tim McCarthy 2015

Tim McCarthy coordinates two of TOC's citizen science projects. He plays a vital role in the Hawkwatch at High Park and the Whimbrel Watch at Colonel Sam Smith Park. Previously organized by Don Barnett, both watches provide important data to international agencies monitoring hawks and Whimbrels, so Tim has "big shoes to fill". Tim assumed responsibility for the Whimbrel Watch in 2014. This involves arriving at Colonel Sam Smith Park around 5:30 a.m. from 19 May to early June and remaining on watch well into the afternoon and evening on many days to record northbound Whimbrels migrating to their Arctic breeding grounds. Tim?s personal touch is on the project with a Whimbrel Watch sign at Whimbrel Point and a plush Whimbrel on his scope or his hat. He warmly greets the public and informs them about Whimbrel migration. His humour makes people feel comfortable and as such he is a good ambassador for the TOC. Tim also cares about the welfare of the Whimbrel and other shorebirds on days when large flocks put down to rest in this busy Toronto park. He swings into action, gently asking dog walkers and joggers alike if they would take another path and allow the birds space. It has always worked and people are keen to look through scopes at the resting shorebirds, marveling at their large size and long curved billls. Starting in 2014, Tim now coordinates the High Park Hawkwatch for three months every fall. This is a big commitment of time. In addition to recording hawk numbers, Tim explains about hawk migration to the public, including school groups, passing by Hawk Hill. The mysteries of fall hawk migration intrigue Tim, so in an attempt to solve some, he set up a trial linear Hawkwatch in fall 2015. Tim brings energy and enthusiasm to everything he does. TOC members appreciate his efforts on behalf of the club. In recognition of Tim's significant contributions, Tim will receive the Member of the Year Award at the March meeting on 14 March 2016. Congratulations Tim - very deserving.

Ivor Williams 2014

Emily Rondel made the following remarks in presenting Ivor with the TOC 2014 Member of the Year Award:

When Ivor was told about this award nomination he said (and I quote) "You've really got your work cut out for you if you're trying to find something impressive or interesting to say about me. Honestly, it's not too late to change your mind!". Though this humble reaction does him credit, we have in fact managed to prove him wrong! In the five years since Ivor joined the TOC, he has been an incredible resource to our Club. A computer and technical wizard by love and profession, he has used these skills to help the relative Luddites of the TOC both bird and communicate more effectively. To the unfamiliar, Ivor is responsible in large part for the iONTBIRDS application most of us have on our phones. Ivor became part of the Records Committee in March 2011, where he quickly became responsible for many of the technical aspects of the committee's work. In 2014 however, he truly outdid himself with a number of extra projects; he created online maps and web resources for the Summer Bird Count, wrote computer code to ensure that the TOC could compile all our CBC data through eBird, and wrote even more code to ensure that we could compare current CBC data with historical information quickly and effectively. Ivor is also a participant in the projects he helps organize, taking on sectors for both the Summer and Christmas bird counts.

Although he does so in an unofficial capacity, Ivor also works tirelessly on all the crucial aspects of the TOC website that most users don't completely understand, and subsequently, totally take for granted. Two examples among dozens are the "Recent eBird Sightings" feature, and the mechanism that allows copies of the newsletter to be uploaded every month. We all benefit from the products of Ivor's efforts, but also from his positive attitude and humility. Ivor spends hours upon hours of his personal time to help the Club behind the scenes, but he never seeks praise or credit. As TOC's recipient of the 2014 Member of the Year award we celebrate Ivor's wonderful contributions to the website, the Records Committee and the Club. Congratulations Ivor.

Kevin Seymour 2013

Margaret Kelch made the following remarks in presenting Kevin with the TOC 2013 Member of the Year Award:

The Council of your club has made a decision as to the most worthy recipient of the Club?s Member of the Year Award and I am honoured to have been asked to present it this evening.

The award this year goes to Kevin Seymour, a very worthy recipient indeed. Kevin has in the past year met the criteria for this award which reads, ?the award should go to someone for excellence in the performance of Club duties and/or for showing initiative in making improvements to the Club, or Club matters.?

As you all know Kevin was the President of the Club for five years and during that time his determined leadership style moved the Club through some important issues. He made many personal time sacrifices during that time, having to miss many commitments playing his bassoon (at which he is extremely accomplished). He was very successful in attracting many new members to the Club, making TOC more inclusive. After announcing that he had come to the end of that role, however, he did not abandon the rest of Council.

Kevin does not shy away from challenges and through the past year he stayed on to assist in Council as they worked through the transition to finding new leadership. Kevin is extremely knowledgeable not only about birds, but natural history in its widest sense and shows that enthusiasm regularly for all who have been lucky enough to be in the field with him.

Kevin, it is my pleasure to present to you the 2013 TOC Member of the Year Award.

Sarah Box 2012

Kevin Seymour made the following remarks in presenting Sarah with the TOC 2012 Member of the Year Award:

In my five years as President, I have endeavored to follow the criteria laid out in the bylaws, which state among other things, that this award should go to someone for excellence in the performance of Club duties and/or for showing initiative in making improvements to the Club or Club matters.

Following on this tradition, I have decided to give the 2012 Member of the Year award to Sarah Box. Sarah has only been a member since May 2007, but by the summer of 2008 was already ably handling the Outings for the club. Since then, the Outings program has expanded to 15 outings per year. She has attended approximately 2/3 of all these outings during her five year tenure and throughout has sought to promote both the love of birds and the great opportunities presented by TOC membership whenever possible. She has been a fixture at these outings, welcoming people and handing out checklists. In addition she quickly became a clear-sighted and welcome voice on Council, often finding solutions to difficult issues, with insight and clarity. And she always puts her hand up before speaking!

The certificate presented to Sarah reads:

The Toronto Ornithological Club is pleased to award Sarah Box MEMBER OF THE YEAR FOR 2012 Thank you for your efficiency in organizing the club's outings and for your many contributions to the smooth running of Council.

Don Barnett 2011

Kevin Seymour made the following remarks in presenting Don with the TOC 2011 Member of the Year Award:

It is my great pleasure to award the Member of the Year for 2011 to Don Barnett. Don has been a quiet yet consistent force at the TOC for many years now, and this has not gone unnoticed, for he was awarded Member of the Year back in 2001, just 5 years after he first joined the TOC. Since that time he has continued to be a "fixture" at the High Park Hawk watch and also the Whimbrel count in May, and his dedication to these citizen science projects has been exemplary. Another role that he has quietly played is as an ambassador for the TOC. A number of present TOC members have mentioned to me that their first exposure to the TOC was via Don at the Hawk watch. He has played other official roles for the TOC, such as Conservation Councillor. For me, and no doubt for many others, he was the person for many years who ran the OFO Manitoulin trips to see the Sharp-tailed Grouse leks, which was where I first met Don.

And there is more. As if all these things were not enough, when I called on Don last spring to ask if he would stand for the TOC Records Councillor position, much to my surprise he agreed. For this past year, he has been the pillar of strength around which the TOC managed to stay the course and make the major changes in the way the TOC maintains its bird records. As many of you may know, these changes were not the easiest to make, and were not without controversy. Don understood that these changes were a positive thing for our club in the long-term and were the way of the future. He has brought a number of tech-savvy members onto the Records Committee, and I feel confident that the TOC Records are now in good hands.

The certificate presented to Don reads:

The Toronto Ornithological Club is pleased to award Don Barnett MEMBER OF THE YEAR FOR 2011 Thank you for your many years of contributions to various citizen science programs, and for steering the Records Committee through its challenging transition to eBird.

John Carley 2010

Kevin Seymour made the following remarks in presenting John with the TOC 2010 Member of the Year Award:

It is my pleasure to give the TOC Member of the Year award to John Carley. John has been a member of the TOC for 25 years, and in that time has served the club in a variety of roles, including Conservation Councillor from 1994 to 1999 and Member of the Rarities Committee from 2007 to present. John has been a model of the citizen scientist for the TOC, annually participating in the Christmas Bird Count, the mid-winter waterfowl inventory, Fall Field Day and occasionally leading Baillie bird walks. He also participated in both Ontario Breeding Bird Atlases.

The non-TOC role for which he is best known is as co-chair of the Friends of the Spit (again for the last 25 years!), and since he regularly attends TOC meetings, he has been the voice informing us about the latest happenings at the Spit. For the Ontario Field Ornithologists he leads an annual walk to the Spit, and he and his wife Victoria were the OFO celebrity birders for the Baillie Bird-a-thon fundraising effort in 2009. Their hosting skills are well known, as they have hosted many an after-count CBC party at their home.

John has been a volunteer member of the Bird-Friendly Development Working Group, which received the City Initiatives Urban Leadership Award, 2008, from the Canadian Urban Institute for the creation of the Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines, which were legislated as mandatory by the City of Toronto in January 2010. In addition he was co-editor with Verna Higgins and Herb Elliot (both also long-time TOC members) of the Checklist of Birds of the Leslie Street Spit, first edition, and co-editor of the second and third editions as well.

Last but certainly not least (and maybe foremost), he has many a time been a voice of wise council for me in my role as President; I have relied on his long memory and balanced approach whenever a contentious issue has arisen. Ever selfless, he even refused to receive this award last year, but I am pleased to say he gave in this year.

The certificate presented to John reads:

The Toronto Ornithological Club is pleased to award John Carley MEMBER OF THE YEAR FOR 2010 Thank you for your many years of contributions in countless different roles and for being one of the Club's most visible advocates for citizen science.

Margaret Kelch 2009

Kevin Seymour made the following remarks in presenting Margaret with the TOC 2009 Member of the Year Award:

Margaret Kelch joined the TOC in October of 2005 on the nomination of Don Barnett. She became aware of the TOC through the High Park Hawk Watch and the Saturday bird course run at the ROM by Glenn Coady and Mark Peck, which she had taken for the three previous years.

She took on the position of Conservation Councillor in May of 2006. She was involved as TOC's member on the Carden and Tommy Thompson Park Advisory Committees keeping the TOC interests at the fore.

Bob Carswell stepped down as President during July of 2007 and he proposed to Council that Margaret fill in as interim President until a permanent replacement could be found. She accepted. For a club that historically didn't even allow women to be members, this was a significant move, as Margaret was the first women to serve as president of the TOC; we are sure she will not be the last! She served for almost a full year until I took over as President in March 2008.

She was the facilitator at the TOC Strategic Retreat in July of 2008. She has carried on as Conservation Councillor, working with a dedicated team. Together, the team has developed the very important TOC Conservation Strategy proposed to the membership for consideration this spring. The alignment between TOC and her becoming Chair of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Ontario Board in the spring of 2009 has lead to some important synergies for habitat protection.

Last but not at all least, she has aided me immeasurably with wise council in moments of need. It is my great pleasure to award Margaret Kelch the 2009 TOC Member of the Year.

Margaret received an Open Air Books gift certificate and a framed award that says:

The Toronto Ornithological Club is pleased to award Margaret Kelch MEMBER OF THE YEAR FOR 2009 Thank you for your sterling efforts as Chair of the Conservation Committee and for your groundbreaking year guiding the club as its President.

Doug Woods 2008

Kevin Seymour made the following remarks in presenting Doug Woods with the TOC 2008 Member of the Year Award:

Doug joined the TOC with his wife Valerie Jacobs in 2006. Early on, he was asked by then President, Bob Carswell, to take on the Warbler Survey.

Warbler Survey Doug updated the entry sheets, thereby controlling the organization of the Survey. He created an ACCESS database to record sightings and generate tabular reports. He wrote a C language program to process the observers' Excel spreadsheets so that the data could be loaded easily into the database, and then uploaded all 34 previous years of data. He created an extensive collection of Excel spreadsheets to create graphics from the tabular summaries produced by the database. Finally, he revamped the annual report to make it more graphics- and results-oriented.

TOC Website Also at Bob Carswell's request, Doug took over the TOC website when it was no longer feasible for Marcel Gahbauer to continue in that role. Doug did a complete redesign and changed the site to use cascading style sheets for ease of maintenance. The site is now far more readable than it was and is easier to use and maintain. Doug added the Photo section, using the same freeware technology as the OFO website as well as Google Maps technology to implement the map section of the hotspots pages. He added many pages to the site, including the Council, Bylaws, Member of the Year, Checklist of Toronto Birds, What You Can Do to Help Save Birds and a FAQ page as well as all section introduction pages.

Greater Toronto Raptor Watch As a result of seeing the new Warbler Survey report, Don Barnett asked Doug to take over the GTRW website from Andy Hampton. Doug completely re-did the computer collection of data. The data for the reports are handled in the same way as the Warbler Survey data, with an ACCESS database for producing tabular summaries and a second C program to process input Excel spreadsheets. The reports make extensive use of graphics and tabular information that is also produced from the database and spreadsheets. The new website is completely redesigned and follows the same technical guidelines used by the TOC site. The new spreadsheets automatically produce properly formatted input pages for HMANA data input and Doug is currently involved in updating HMANA with all prior year's data from the three hawk watch sites.

Other While Doug was creating these resources for the TOC, he also worked on a database for the OBRC and completely re-did the OFO website with Valerie Jacobs. As Doug is fond of saying, only people who have actually worked on one have any idea of how much work goes into creating and maintaining a website. And he was involved in creating and maintaining three.

Kevin presented Doug with an Open Air Books gift certificate and a framed award that says:

The Toronto Ornithological Club is pleased to award Doug Woods MEMBER OF THE YEAR FOR 2008 Thank you for your special efforts in modernizing the Club website and organizing the warbler count and raptor watch records.

Naish McHugh 2007

Naish McHugh fulfilled the duties of both Membership Secretary AND Outings Councilor for almost 9 years. The work was a challenge because, without a computer and with just an old word?processor, it took a great deal of time to prepare lists, send out mailings and make numerous phone calls. Having worked for City Politicians for almost 35 years, however, he was used to challenges!

Naish's first contact with the TOC was by attending outings over thirty years ago, led by TOC stalwarts Herb Elliott, Bob Yukich and Hugh Currie. Being Outings Councilor has enabled Naish to contact and encourage new birders, as he himself was encouraged. In addition to new birders, Naish has managed to persuade many experienced birders to join the TOC.

Also, Naish introduced the system of members' name?tags that all of you are wearing, which as you know, facilitates communication at meetings and helps us all put names to faces. He welcomed guests and prospective members, and acted as a general liaison for the Club for public enquiries. For many, he was the warm and welcoming face of the club.

Naish was presented with a certificate that says:

The Toronto Ornithological Club is pleased to award Naish McHugh MEMBER OF THE YEAR FOR 2007 Thank you for your tireless efforts in organizing the Club outings and reaching out to new members.

He also received a gift certificate for Open Air books.

Carth Riley 2006

Garth has been a member of the TOC for many years. He joined the TOC Council as Outings Councillor in 1996. In 1998 he took over the position of Publications Councillor from George Fairfield. Since then he has produced our monthly Newsletter, the most important means of communication with our members. You can imagine the amount of time and effort it takes to organize, edit and distribute up to 18 pages of ornithological information and reports on club activities every month.

He was also, in recent years, instrumental in creating our checklist and the Club brochure. Apart from his duties regarding publications he has been an invaluable member of our Council, and has regularly led field trips. He has always been available to help the Council and the Club with wise and helpful advice.

All this in addition to holding a senior job, managing eleven regional Health Public Laboratories in Ontario.

Marg Catto 2005

I am delighted to name Marg Catto as the member of the year for 2006. She has been an invaluable member of our Council as Conservation Councillor. I can?t tell you how many hours she has devoted to making our voice heard in connection with the proposed cull of Double-crested Cormorants at Tommy Thompson Park. She has been one of the key members of the committee providing guidance on the management of the Carden Alvar. She and her committee have been our voices in the Lights Out Toronto project. She has ably represented us in opposition to a number of efforts to diminish or destroy bird habitat or access to bird habitat, including attempts to decommission a sewage lagoon in Grimsby, attempts to block access to the lake at Grays Road, attempts to install a skateboard facility at Colonel Sam Smith Park, and attempts to construct new facilities in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. We have not always succeeded in these efforts, but we could not have had a better voice than Marg?s. She has also provided advice and guidance on provincial issues such as the proposals to extend hunting on Sundays and to permit motorized vehicles in wilderness parks. Apart from her work as Conservation Councillor Marg has always been available to help the Council and the Club with wise and helpful advice.

Glenn Coady 2004

Don Burton announced that Glenn Coady is the TOC?s Member of the year for 2004. Don presented Glenn with a $50 gift certificate from Open Air Books.

Brian Henshaw 2003

Brian Henshaw is the TOC?s Member of the Year. President Don Burton thanked Brian and his wife, Karen, for supporting and hosting the TOC?s annual Fall Field Day each September. Brian received a cheque from the TOC in appreciation for his efforts. Brian thanked everyone for the kind gesture and graciously credited his wife for her efforts since he is away birding during much of Field Day.

George Fairfield 2002

Don Burton announced that George Fairfield is the TOC Member of the Year. George initiated the Spring Warbler Migration Study in 1970 and organised and published the results for 30 years. He also started the TOC Newsletter in 1990 and edited it until 1998. George edited the anthology about Ashbridge's Bay which was published by the TOC in 1998. He was business Secretary from 1998 until 1992 and was made an Honourary member in 2002. Don will make certain that George receives a $50 gift certificate from Open Air Books.

Don Barnett 2001

Marcel Gahbauer announced that Don Barnett was to be the TOC Member of the Year for his tireless work as a "fixture on Hawk Hill", an ambassador for the TOC to the general public, and a former TOC Conservation Councillor. Some of Don's conservation concerns involved windmills on the waterfront, development at Downsview Park and the lack of access at Nonquon. Don is also responsible for obtaining the meeting room at the HPTC as well as for opening, closing and arranging the furniture for TOC meetings. Marcel presented Don with a $50 gift certificate from Open Air Books.

John Barker 2000

President Marcel Gahbauer thanked John Barker, TOC's Member of the Year for 1. initiating the first systematic hawk count in High Park with its subsequent links to Cranberry Marsh and Iroquois Shores, 2. nurturing the annual Greater Toronto Raptor Watch Report so that it is now a substantial document, and 3. making Hawk Hill a popular place for birders and non-birders alike while presenting a great opportunity for educating the public. John was presented with a $50 gift certificate from Open Air Books.

Roy Smith 1999

Awarded for ten years´ continuous service to TOC in maintaining the Bird Records Database and producing, with others, the monthly bird reports in the TOC Newsletter over this period.

Bill Edmunds 1998

Bill Edmunds was chosen as TOC member of the Year for his excellent work in compiling the Annual Waterfowl Count. He was lauded for his efforts of organizing the count and the party at Diana?s Sweets afterwards and for his immaculately complete spreadsheets. Bill received a $50 gift certificate for Open Air Books. Bill thanked all those people who have helped with the count over the years.

Jean Iron 1997

Details unavailable.

Bob Yukich 1996

The TOC Jim Baillie Bird Walks have been well organized, expertly led and very well received by the participants. For his assumption of these tasks over many years, his contributions at the regular TOC meetings, and for also being a fine fellow, Council decided that the 1996 recipient of this recognition, accompanied by a gift from Open Air Books, would be Bob Yukich.

Elizabeth Kellogg 1995

Details unavailable.

Harry Kerr 1994

Harry was made the first TOC Member of the Year for his years of passing current bird sightings and their locations to TOC members. Harry was responsible for more life ticks on birders' lists than any other person according to Gerry Bennett!