Monday, October 15, 2007

A New Overlook for Tim

I still remember the morning, two Februarys ago. The email subject said simply, "Tim". Coming from my friend Garner, I knew it was referring to our fellow birder and Iroquois Observations volunteer, Tim Horst. Since coming to school, I had disappointingly little contact with the friends I had made at Iroquois NWR since I first discovered Buffalo Audubon in 2000. Given this, my overactive mind took the simple title of this unexpected email and feared the worst. A click and a paragraph later, my fears were confirmed in the worst possible way. Tim was gone, suddenly and much unexpectedly by many of his friends.

Gone far too soon.

Less than two months before, I had been birding with Tim and my good friend Jim Pawlicki, chasing a rare Northern Hawk-Owl. It was a lot of good fun, but I learned later even then that Tim was sick.

A success! N. Hawk-Owls should always be this easy.

I met Tim during a period of my life that still resonates with me to this day. Over a period of three years, I turned from an introverted birder that had hardly ever considered the fact that there were others out there doing what I do, to a dedicated volunteer teaching others birding skills and increasing my own knowledge by leaps and bounds. I made a lot of friends in a short time, and what I learned from them was very influential - not just about birds but about natural history and even people skills in volunteering, leading, and teaching at the Iroquois Observations program.

A typical birdwalk at Iroquois NWR

Driving the refuge, looking for more birds.

Tim's involvement in the IO program, and most of my interactions with him, occurred most memorably at the Scope Watch at Cayuga Pool Overlook, the day-long home base for IO's programs.

Scoping birds at the Cayuga Pool Overlook

Tim ready to show people more birds

Tim's loss was a blow to everybody: me, my friends, the IO program, and all of the other people in Tim's life. This only truly became apparent during Tim's memorial gathering, where coworkers, friends, family, and fellow birders all came together.

One of Tim's paintings

What came out of that gathering was a memorial fund in Tim's name to do something he would be proud of: rebuild the Cayuga Pool Overlook to better serve the birding crowds Iroquois Observations gathers. This past Saturday, those plans finally came to fruition. I returned home to the dedication ceremony for the revamped overlook, dedicated to Timothy D. Horst. The platform is now bigger, more accessible, with scope mounts, and even a roof for those days of inclement weather when IO begins each spring in March.

Gathering to see Tim's Overlook

During the ceremony, several of Tim's friends and family offered their words in his memory to a packed overlook. They touched on all of the aspects of Tim that made him great, better than I can ever put into words. Jim read the essay he wrote after Tim's passing. In a touching finish, one of the refuge's Bald Eagle residents flew in low directly over the platform, with the whole crowd turning to watch. It was a perfect ending and a new beginning.

(A photo of a photo of the plaque that will soon be in place on Tim's Overlook)

No comments:

Post a Comment