The Toronto Field Naturalist’s own four nature reserves which are largely located in “provincially significant” wetlands northeast of Toronto.
Here is a look at the Jim Baillie Nature Reserve as it looked in May, 2019. I intersperse some biographical information on Jim Baillie.
James L. Baillie was born in Toronto in 1904.
When he was 15 he went on his first bird-watching expedition in Moore Park Ravine with his Sunday School teacher. In 2 hours they identified 21 species on a late March day, including Eastern Bluebirds. Bluebirds were common in Toronto until the advent of the Starling.
After that he found time almost every day to visit his favourite locations which were High Park, Ashbridge’s Bay and the Moore Park Ravine.
In his first year of birding he made 151 trips often rising at 5 am.
After high school he worked as a messenger, an office assistant and an office clerk for various companies.
During this time he met Lester Snyder during outings with the Toronto Naturalist Club. Snyder had started working at the museum as a janitor and worked his way up step by step into the mammal department as a taxidermist and finally into the ornithology department where he was curator from the early 1920’s to the mid 60’s.
In 1922 Snyder hired Baillie and also paid for him to take evening courses at Harbord Collegiate. He taught Jim the skills of collecting, cataloguing and mounting specimens.
Through Jim’s skill as a writer he was hired by the Toronto Telegram (defunct in 1971) to produce a nature column every Saturday. The column called “Birdland” began in June of 1931 and ended in May 1970. This was a principal reason for Jim’s fame and popularity. My grandmother had every one of his columns pasted into scrapbooks.
Jim was a member of every nature club in Toronto between 1930 and 1970 including the TFN and its Junior and Intermediate divisions. The TFN had come into existence in 1923 and in 1936 Jim began leading the Wednesday walks from 7 to 8 am. In 1937 he took on the Sunday walks which often attracted crowds of 100 or more. In 1949 he installed and manned an exhibit by the TFN at the Royal Winter Fair which kept him on his feet all day long answering questions.
Jim was in failing health for the last 10 years of his life and the University’s reluctance to promote technicians to full curator status somewhat embittered his end. He died in 1970.
Many public honours followed his death including the naming of this place: 36 hectares of land acquired by the TFN as the Jim Baillie Nature Reserve.
Group on May 26, 2019