It’s with a heavy heart I share the news that Jim Haw passed away on January 9, 2017. Jim began birding in high school and was already an accomplished birder when he moved to Fort Wayne in the early 1970s. He birded the state with the likes of Ken Brock and other skilled birders – a relatively small group in the 1970s – and he birded extensively in northeast Indiana. Ever since I met him in 1994, I’ve considered him the Dean of Northeast Indiana Birding/Birders. He knew his birds and where to find them. Importantly, he kept records. If you wanted to know about northeast Indiana bird records from the early 1970s onward Jim Haw was the source of the information.
The best thing about Jim was that he graciously shared his time and knowledge. He was field trip leader for Stockbridge Audubon for many years, gave many bird programs, served on the Indiana Bird Records Committee, compiled the Ft. Wayne Christmas Count for decades, and patiently and willingly tutored new birders. Two of those new birders he mentored were Jeff McCoy and myself. Of course, there were scores more besides the two of us who learned a lot from Jim. In the days before email and the internet, it was always exciting for a new birder like me to call Jim to tell him about an uncommon/rare bird that I had found and for Jim to activate the rare bird alert phone tree. I vividly recall the printed phones tree diagram that was in two parts: one section for people who wanted to know about all “good” birds and another for those who just wanted to know about the real rarities only. Of course, Jim was the top of the tree and all good finds were reported to him first.
Although I have participated in numerous Christmas Bird Counts over the years none have been like the Fort Wayne count. During the day I got to bird with Ted Heemstra, my other birding mentor who passed in May 2016, and Jeff McCoy. At the end of the day we assembled at Franke Park for a chili supper and to learn what species had been seen by the various teams. Jim made the compiling of the list suspenseful and fun. When I moved from Fort Wayne to Indy in 1998, I still participated in the Ft. Wayne Christmas Count a few more years because it was fun and I greatly enjoyed Jim’s performance at the end of the day.
Jim was a quiet, soft-spoken man with a funny G-rated sense of humor. He was an excellent birder who unfortunately slowed down after his retirement due to health problems. In recent years his outings were shorter duration and more by car but he was still finding King Rails and other good birds. I speak for many others when I say that Jim will be greatly missed as a birder and as a friend.
Limberlost and Jim Haw
My brother, Don Gorney, did a wonderful tribute to Jim Haw that expresses the way many feel about him. I would just like to add what he meant to Limberlost where he was a frequent visitor.
You knew it was going to be a good day when Jim came into the Limberlost Visitor Center and was excited to share what birds he had seen around Geneva. Jim would bring his lunch and talk with (now retired) Limberlost Site Manager Randy Lehman and Naturalist Curt Burnette. He was always eager to share his information on the birds that he had seen and the location that he saw them. With the wetland restoration, Jim was anxious to explore “new territory” close to home.
Because of his excellent record keeping, he had information on all the rare birds that had been seen with the date and the place. He was always ready to share information and was humble about his own accomplishments.
Jim was the first to discover King Rails at the Limberlost Swamp Wetland Preserve in 2014 and again on June 9, 2015.
When Barb Gorney and I saw Black-necked Stilts on May 3, 2013, both Jim and Don told me that was an Adams County record. When Randy Lehman and I saw them on April 25, 2015, Jim told me that was the first northeast Indiana record for April.
When Ben Hess found a Glossy Ibis on June 10, 2015, Jim told me that was only the second record of that species for northeast Indiana. Thankfully, the Ibis stayed for a few days and many birders got to see him.
As Dave Reichlinger stated, one of Jim’s best finds was the Black Vulture that Jim saw in Geneva. How many would look at vultures close enough to notice one was different. That Black Vulture was out of its range. Southern Indiana is usually as far north as they venture.
You will indeed be missed, Jim, by all your friends. With your wit and wisdom, you were one of a kind.