Obituary: Anthony John Tree 1937–2018

Obituary: Anthony John Tree 1937–2018

  • Talk of the Town
  • 31 Jan 2019

Tony Tree was born in London on June 26 1937. At the age of three he moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and always considered himself an Ulsterman.

He took an interest in birds at an early age after watching a pair of blue tits attempting to peck through the tops of the milk bottles on his kitchen window sill, trying to get at the cream inside. With other like-minded youngsters he was out every weekend visiting birding sites in Northern Ireland and in 1956, while on holiday at Saltee Island Bird Observatory in the south-east of Ireland, Tree was introduced to bird-ringing and was immediately hooked, obtaining his ringing permit by the end of 1957.

He left Ireland in 1958 for Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, initially working for an insurance company, but the lure of the African bush led him to become a technical assistant with Chartered Exploration (the Northern Rhodesian exploration unit of Anglo-American). This presented Tree with the opportunity to live in bush camps in various parts of Zambia and to combine work with his growing passion of birding.

Tree qualified with a BSc in Geology and Geography from Rhodes University in 1971 and was employed by as a geologist with Anglo-Vaal between 1969 and 1971 in Namibia and Botswana before returning to Zimbabwe where he continued his geological work with Messina Development Corporation and he obtained a MSc in Tropical Resource Ecology from the University of Rhodesia in Harare in 1974.

Tree’s geological career was cut short by the “bush war” so he changed direction and for the next seven years taught geography at Marlborough High School, Harare, obtaining a Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Rhodesia in 1979. He also served a term as president and chairman of the Rhodesian Ornithological Society (ROS) as it transformed into the Ornithological Association of Zimbabwe (OAZ).

After a brief spell in Bathurst, Tree returned to Zimbabwe and began a very different career as a cattle rancher on a farm in Darwendale. Over the next eight years he continued with his ornithological interests carrying out a considerable amount of bird ringing and was a prolific contributor to the OAZ journal Honeyguide.

Tree retired to Bathurst in 1994 moving to Port Alfred in 2007, but continued with his ornithological pursuits. In 1998, he began long terms studies of the South African population of the Roseate Tern and the non-breeding Antarctic Tern, mostly at Bird Island, Algoa Bay, but also in the Western Cape. He was a member of overseas expeditions ringing and studying waders in Australia and Siberia.

His many publications included 122 species texts in The Complete Book of Southern African Birds compiled by PJ Ginn, WG McIlleron and P le S Milstein (1989), he was one of the editors of the Atlas of Southern African Birds (1997), and he contributed 70 species texts to the 7th edition of Roberts Birds of Southern Africa (2005).


Last Modified: Tue, 12 Feb 2019 12:33:32 SAST