The Early Days
The Club started in January, 1933 when a group meeting was called by Major L. S. Dear and Colonel S. C. Young to determine the interest in forming a naturalist organization. Apparently this was something that had been lacking at the Lakehead, because the interest was immediate. As a result of this and other meetings that followed, the club became quite active, with an executive and over thirty members who paid a small fee for membership. The first President was then Colonel Dear, with C. E. King as Secretary. Young was made Honorary President. Shortly the group joined the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, and have remained a member ever since. Birdwatching and botany were the main focus of these early years, along with the collection of plants, eggs, and other specimens for reference collections.
The club survived the hungry thirties, but succumbed to the decimation of its membership during WWII. Claude Garton took over the leadership in 1937 with a membership of 50 persons. Dr. Albert Allin was President from 1943 to 1946. In 1946 Dr. Howard Quackenbush became President and the club again resumed operation and has grown steadily since. Allin again assumed leadership from 1951 to 1953. He was succeeded by Keith Denis in 1954. In January, 1947 a quarterly newsletter was established that has been published ever since. All surviving copies of this and much other historical material are safely housed in the Lakehead University Archives.
Seventies and Eighties
As the ideas of conservation and ecology were advanced it became clear that financial assistance was required to conduct the activities considered necessary to advance these concerns. In 1972 the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists acquired "charitable donation" status which allowed the club to access improved funding. In 1978, the group incorporated as the "Thunder Bay Field Naturalists Club" under the Corporations Act of Ontario as a not-for-profit company in order to offer additional protection for members and activities.
Birding and botany continued to be strong interests of the club in the latter half of the century. In the early 1980s TBFN members were active participants in Ontario's 1st Breeding Bird Atlas In 1989, TBFN, with support from the OMNR, launched Project Peregrine, which helped reintroduce this species to Superior's north shore. Woodland caribou and other mammals were not overlooked, with many contributing during the early 1990s to Ontario Mammal Atlas, published in 1994.
Into the New Millenium
In 1991, the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory was established as a joint project by TBFN, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and what is now Bird Studies Canada, working in partnership with Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and the Canadian Coast Guard. TCBO continues to band and provide records of migrating songbirds, raptors, owls, and other species to a global monitoring network.
The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists acquired their first Nature Reserve at the Nipigon River Mouth in 1993 and now owns over 20 pieces of ecologically significant property. This assemblage makes the Club one of the largest land owners among like organizations in Ontario.
Thunder Bay Field Naturalists continues to engage in long-standing continental efforts such as the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and Baillie Birdathon as well as provincial initiatives like the 2nd Breeding Bird Atlas. As always and equally important, we actively promote the study and appreciation of the natural environment and advocate for its wise use. With over 75 years of history, TBFN has become a well recognized and respected voice for the natural world in the Thunder Bay area.