(This 839th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on April 22, 2007.)
Tim Horst, center facing camera, and friends at the Cayuga Pool
It is good to hear that the observer platform at the Cayuga Pool overlook of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge will be reconstructed, with assistance from Iroquois Job Corps Center youngsters, and dedicated to Tim Horst.
I only met Tim once but I knew of his many contributions from colleagues like Garner Light. Tim was one of those low-key people who do the work and ask for no recognition.
Horst was born in Buffalo and attended Alden schools. He had been the Clarence schools buildings and grounds supervisor, having worked for them for 28 years, when he died in February at the age of 51.
One of this area's finest young birders is Jim Pawlicki, now a University at Buffalo freshman. A protege of Horst's, Jim wrote this about his mentor: "If I could describe Tim in one word, it would be 'kind'. He was a kind person who was open and friendly to anybody. He always kept his composure no matter what the circumstances. Not once, ever, did I see him angry.
"Tim's knowledge of local wildlife and plants was amazing. He could identify trees at a distance the way the rest of us can birds, and he knew all the wildflowers, shrubs and grasses as well. Whenever I asked him about trees or plants, he always had an answer. For example, one morning he described the ginko beloba and dawn redwood that grew near my home -- trees with wonderful history and beauty that I never knew existed.
"Tim shared some of his fondest personal experiences with me: While fishing along Cattaraugus Creek seeing two Black-necked Stilts calling 'yhat yhat yhat yhat' and displaying their bright pink legs in flight. Finding a pair of Northern parulas raising a family in a tiny, oriole-like hanging nest in a hawthorne tree near his Clarence home.
"And we had great experiences together. One time Tim and I went to Dunkirk to look for the rare Ross's goose that had been seen there. While we were searching the harbor, we met a hunter who, when we told him about the goose, responded, "Yeah, I was the one who shot it." We could only shake our heads: so much for the first Chautauqua County Ross's goose.
"Later that day we headed south to the Stockton area to look for a snowy owl that had been reported there. We found it and were able to get views with our scopes. Even though it was about 100 yards away, when Tim squeaked like a mouse it would turn to look at us. As we were enjoying this sight, the sheriff pulled up behind us and asked what we were doing. We pointed out the owl and let him peer at it through a telescope. He said, 'Wow,' returned to his patrol car and drove off."
Jim concludes: "I am honored to have known and learned from Tim Horst. I think of him each time I step up on that Cayuga Pool platform he was so instrumental in having built."
The Iroquois Observations program to which Tim made so many contributions is already underway. Here are some of the future planned activities. Most meet at the Cayuga Pool overlook on Route 77. A map is at wildeyes.com/iroquois/maps.htm
Scope watches: 1 to 5 pm on April 28, May 5 and 12.
· April 28: 10 am - 5 pm: "Spring Into Nature": a number of nature related kid's activities and exhibits including Nature Walks, Pond Life, Face Painting, Bird Mobiles, Critter Creations and Track Casting.
· May 5: 9 - 10 am: Warbler Walk at the Swallow Hollow Trail; 1 - 2 pm: "Creating Backyard Habitat"; 6 - 8 pm: Secretive Birds of the Marsh Walk: 8 - 10 pm: Owl Prowl at Kanyoo Trail.
· May 6: 9 am - 1 pm: Canoe Trip from the Knowlesville Road Bridge. Life jackets required, bring your own canoe. Direct questions to Rick Allen at 716-445-9685.
· May 12: 8 - 10 am: Warbler Walk at Kanyoo Trail; 10 - 11 am: Bird Banding Demonstration at Kanyoo Trail; 11 am - 12:30 pm: Nature Walk at Kanyoo Trail; 1 - 2:30 pm: "Blue Birds" at Refuge Headquarters.
· June 16: 9 - 10 pm: "Creatures of the Night" at Kanyoo Trail.-- Gerry Rising