Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A passion for waterfowling

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NO one can say 76-year-old Dr. Frank Baldwin hasn't led an eventful and productive life.

Biologist, renowned medical researcher, ardent waterfowl conservationist, passionate duck hunter, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) emeritus director, boat builder, ace decoy carver and witness to the Second World War -- and with what he has on his plate, decades of accomplishments await this remarkable Manitoban.

Baldwin was raised in rural England on an East Anglia farm just 50 kilometres from the coast.

"Our farming practices were quite traditional," said Baldwin. "There was lots of wildlife habitat, so hunting and shooting just came naturally. And it was on this farm that I learned the great lessons of sportsmanship, marksmanship, stewardship and conservation. My father saw to that!

"Our farm was on the flight path of the German bombers," he continued, "So for a while during World War Two, until we were evacuated to a safer area in the U.K., crashing planes, dogfights and jettisoned bombs are some of my most vivid childhood memories."

After the war, and after experiencing the London Blitz, Baldwin's family returned to the farm. Baldwin became increasingly fascinated with ecology and wildlife biology and started conducting his own creative style of research.

"When I was 14, I did a paper on the biology of bomb craters," he explained. "There were hundreds of them in our area and, after the craters filled with water, all manner of plants and animals soon colonized them. I remember my 'study crater' quite vividly since the tail of a 'doodlebug' bomb was sticking out of the middle of it!"

After taking degrees in botany, zoology and comparative anatomy, Baldwin diverged into the fields of neurology and cell biology, where he earned his doctorate. His research took him to London, Australia, New Zealand, Saskatchewan and finally Manitoba. He always found time to experience local waterfowling and to date has hunted on all continents except South America. And all the while he has maintained a hunting journal that describes each and every hunt he has been on over those 64 years.

In 1981, and in the spirit of "giving back" to the ducks, Baldwin spearheaded the formation of the Winnipeg committee of DUC. Not content with that, he became the founding chairman of the Selkirk DUC committee and was soon a senior volunteer with DUC, helping to establish committees all across the Interlake. Baldwin was on the board of DUC for 16 years and returned to the board three years ago as an emeritus director with a special interest in youth education.

"I feel strongly that hunters must be involved in wildlife conservation and pass that ethic on to future generations of waterfowl hunters," he explained. "We must also pressure governments at every level to make habitat conservation, especially wetlands, a top priority."

Baldwin is a waterfowl traditionalist who loves to hunt diving ducks on "big water" using well-trained and hardy Labrador retrievers. He makes his own duck-hunting boats and carves his own decoys. He says he's carved "hundreds of decoys" for himself and friends.

Baldwin has also bred a fine line of waterfowl dogs known as Barclay Labradors. These fine British Labs are world-renowned and in great demand.

And if that isn't enough, Baldwin's son, Frank Jr., is currently Manitoba's provincial waterfowl biologist. So with the Baldwin family "on the case," Manitoba's waterfowling and conservation traditions are in good hands indeed.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2010 D9

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