Jim Haw was in junior high when his best friend took a unit on birds in a science class. His friend was interested and wanted to check out the birds around their houses.
“One day he said, ‘Let's walk around the block and see what birds we can see.' It didn't sound very interesting to me, but he was my best friend, so I agreed,” Haw says. “I got hooked, but he gave it up after a few years. Funny how these things happen.”
Now in his 60s, Haw, who is retired from teaching U.S. history at IPFW, typically goes birding three or four times a week.
About 420 species have been seen in Indiana at least once, according to Haw, who is the director and field trip coordinator of the Stockbridge Audubon Society.
Jim Haw has been birding for several decades and joined Stockbridge in 1972. Then, it was a purely local club, but has since become a chapter of the National Audubon Society.
The chapter has meetings with programs and field trips and is involved in conservation and community outreach. The field trips take place most Saturdays and a few Sundays during the spring and fall (migration seasons). Stockbridge does the Christmas Bird Count, which is part of the Audubon Society's yearly count, as well as a May Day count to see how many birds are in the area for the summer months.
“There's always the chance of that unexpected rarity,” Haw says. “You never know what you might see, and each trip to the same location is at least somewhat different in what you find.”
Haw says members typically bird in areas they believe to be productive, noting which birds they see, and try to help everyone in the group see a bird.
“There are many approaches to birding; different people get different things out of it,” Haw says. “All, I think, enjoy making contact with nature and getting a better understanding of it through birds.”
Haw has seen 294 species of birds in Allen County.
“Many of us keep lists – a life list of all species we have ever seen anywhere, a state list for Indiana and perhaps other states, maybe a yard list of birds seen on our property, and an annual list,” Haw says.
He says he enjoys noting the changes in range and numbers of species over the years and asking himself why the changes are occurring.
“It's always fun to see an attractive bird or hear an attractive song, and bird behavior can be interesting,” Haw says.
He says participants don't have to be a chapter member to take part in field trips. A person just needs eyes, ears and an interest in birding.
“Beyond that, the bare necessities are a decent pair of binoculars and a guide to identification of the birds of this area,” Haw says. “Later, most of us invest in a telescope and perhaps a camera and other gear. There is no better way to learn than to go birding with experienced birders.”
If you're interested in getting involved in the Stockbridge Audubon Society, go to www.stockbridgeaudubon.org.