Tuesday, June 3, 2014


While the this year’s Spring Bird Festival was taking place, Whimbrel watchers out on “Whimbrel Point” were in the midst of their special mission for that day - the dedication of a brand new park bench to naturalist, journalist and author Fred Bodsworth.

Fred,who died in 2012, is remembered for his work with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and for numerous other bird related endeavours, including taking part in the annual Whimbrel watch through the Toronto Ornithological Club at Sam Smith Park.

But he is remembered most for his landmark 1954 novel “Last of the Curlews”.  The Eskimo curlew, which once made its migration from Patagonia to the Arctic in flocks so dense that they darkened the sky, was brought to the verge of extinction by the wanton slaughter of game-hunters.

Following the doomed search of a solitary curlew for a female of its kind, Fred Bodsworth's novel is a haunting indictment of man's destruction of the natural world.

"The male called wildly for her to follow," Bodsworth writes at the sad climax of the tale. "But the female didn't move. He circled and re-circled above and his plaintive cries must have reached her, but she didn't call back."

Nearly a decade would pass after the publication of “Last of the
Curlews” before the last known curlew drew the Caribbean hunter's deadly fire in 1963.

Since then, there have been sporadic reports of Eskimo Curlew sightings throughout North America, but most have been dismissed as mistaken glimpses of a look-alike bird - the slightly larger Whimbrel.

Fred’s writing of “Last of the Curlews” may well have helped prevent other species from following the bird's path to oblivion.
Afforded protection by the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1917, the Whimbrel population rebounded from intense market hunting in the 19th century. However, the population has undergone a 50% reduction over the past 20 years.

Hence the importance of the annual Whimbrel Watch at Sam Smith Park and the absolute rightness of a bench dedicated to Fred at “Whimbrel Point”.

Friends of Sam Smith Park member Bruce Wilkinson recently installed a sign and image on the pole next to the bench to mark the event.


Liana Franciosi said...

Beautiful sign.... A great way to educate the community.

Unknown said...

Lovely Memorial. This piece jogged my memory. I remember this book now, however, was unaware of the local significance . Very special

Unknown said...

Can I ask who had the sign made, and where? It's nice. I'd like one like it. Thanks.

Friends of Sam Smith Park said...

That bench came from the TOC.
They should be able to help you.