My lifelong interest in the natural world has surely been shaped by the former home of my grandparents.
Dr J Murray Speirs (1909 – 2001) was a well-known ornithologist and educator. He and my grandmother, who herself was an expert in birds, bought a former chicken ranch in Pickering in the 1940’s.
They left many of the original buildings such as this former small barn.
Other outbuildings later served as residences and even as an art gallery.
As children one of our particular favourites was this small building.
In early days it was filled with children’s furniture, books and tea sets.
We kids were also fascinated to find an outhouse on the property.
At the back of the property is a large forest.
Upon Dr. Speirs’ death, a large part of the forest was given to the Toronto Region Conservation Authority.
Now, 17 years later, the rest of the property will be given to the TRCA.
Recently, I had a final chance to visit the grounds and the house before changes are made. Here are some views of Cobble Hill.
As a child, I sat transfixed for hours at the inside of this kitchen window as many bird species fed from trays on the window sill.
Here is a look at the driveway and garage area.
And some photos of the yard.
The biographical notes for one of Dr. Speirs’ books states this:
As a curious six-year old, J. Murray Speirs spotted a small bird which he was able to identify as Ruby-crowned Kinglet. This early fascination with birds has remained throughout a lifetime of activity as an Ornithologist and Naturalist.
As I walked about in the wooded areas, I noticed one little bird which landed close to me right out in the open: A Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
J. Murray Speirs
Following completion of undergraduate work in Mathematics and Physics, Murray Speirs obtained two graduate degrees in Zoology specializing in Ornithology. He taught for many years in the Zoology Department at the University of Toronto.
For over fifty years, Murray and his ornithologist wife, Doris H. Speirs, were constant field companions, mutually supportive of such publications as articles on the Evening Grosbeaks and Lincoln Sparrow in A. C. Bent’s Life Histories of American Birds.