Tucson Audubon Field Trip Leaders
Learn a little more about the dynamic people that volunteer their valuable time to lead the varied field trips that Tucson Audubon has to offer.
See our current birding field trips led by these great leaders.
Kathe is an avid birder, leading bird walks, teaching classes, and counting birds for several bird surveys to help real scientists with data collection. For over 10 years, she’s led hundreds of walks for individuals, conservation organizations, private groups, and life-long learning programs, and taught dozens of hands-on birding-related classes for organizations such as the Verde Valley Nature and Birding Festival, Southwest Wings Nature Festival, Mesa Community College, ASU’s Osher Life-long Learning Program, Arizona State Parks, The Nature Conservancy, the Desert Botanical Garden and others. She loves sharing her passion with others. She’s an active member of the Phoenix area Audubon Societies. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.
Ken has been birding across the southern tier of the United States for over a decade, from New Mexico to SoCal, south Texas around the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys. Like many North American birders, for years Ken has been fascinated by the unique birds and habitats of Southeastern Arizona. In 2015, he decided to pursue a dream of living full-time among the “Sky Island” mountains of Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Pima counties. Ken has spent countless hours in the field in all seasons, learning the ebb and flow of our special migrants, breeding birds, and wintering species of the deserts, high elevation canyons, grasslands, and riparian corridors. Ken’s other greatest area of expertise is the status and distribution of the birds of the Southeast – particularly Georgia, his native state – where he works for the Department of Natural Resources in early summer performing various types of breeding bird surveys. Ken is a self-admitted “ear-birding addict,” and has obsessively studied bird vocalizations for years, both in the field and using CDs; this includes anything from songs, to chips, to flight calls, to scolds, and every “seet ” and “tsip” in between.
Richard started birding as a child in Minnesota 60 years ago. After a brief interlude at Harvard, where he majored in caving, mountain climbing, winter mountaineering and economics, he began birding again in Washington DC with the Maryland Ornithological Society. He was one of Chan Robbin’s volunteers in establishing the first Breeding Bird Surveys. Bribed by the Nixon administration to leave town with a fellowship to Stanford, he moved West in 1969. He worked at Stanford Research Institute, where he co-authored “Solar Energy in America’s Future” and led field trips for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. He became President of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory and expanded his birding to Latin America. He has birded throughout the Neotropics and in India, China and Europe. He hopes to ultimately see at least half the birds of the world. He and his wife Pat now migrate among homes in Tucson, Lake Tahoe and Seattle depending on where the birds are.
Clifford A. Cathers
Cliff grew up birding among the fields, farms and forests of southwest Ohio. He learned birding and census work while still a teenager under the watchful eye of Paul E. Knoop, Jr. director of the Aullwood Audubon Center. He graduated from college in 1985 with a B. S. Degree in Electrical Engineering from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. This degree landed him in the power industry and a job opportunity eventually led west to Tucson, Arizona in late 1992. Now in his 35th year of birding, half here and half in the east, Cliff enjoys leading Tucson Audubon field trips, playing with his young son and stalking rarities with a digital camera. Cliff hopes that you’ll join him on a Tucson Audubon field trip soon!
Mary Ellen Flynn
Mary Ellen belongs to the species “homo sapiens migratorious”. Since 2005, she has been lucky enough to divide her time between the Sonoran desert of Tucson and the rocky coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. After joining Tucson Audubon, she started volunteering at the University Ave. Nature Shop where you can still find her on many Wednesday afternoons from December to May. Having caught the birding bug about 15 years ago, she has suffered increasingly strong symptoms in recent years. She confesses to enjoying not only birds but birders of any species. She also leads birding programs for Catalina State Park and Pima County. Born and raised north of Boston, Mary Ellen earned a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from Boston University. She spent her legal career in San Francisco and Boston and is now retired. She is a member of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Brookline Bird Club. She volunteers at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center and at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (aka “ Plum Island”), both located in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Richard grew up in Leicester, England, and encouraged by a father who ran the local youth birding club and an older brother who was twice named Britain’s Young Ornithologist of the Year, he was birding as soon as he was big enough to lift a pair of binoculars. As well as birds, he is interested in all aspects of the natural world, especially butterflies, dragonflies and reptiles. He was the youngest ever member of the Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society’s committee and founded the Leicestershire & Rutland Dragonfly Group before moving to SE Arizona in 2002. He now can’t imagine living anywhere else! Richard’s birding has taken him around Europe and Asia as well as North, Central and South America, and he started a new company, Fun Birding Tours (www.funbirdingtours.com) in 2010. He is a current member of the board of directors of Tucson Audubon Society, serving on the development and membership committees.
Jim Gessaman, an ornithologist, ecologist, and physiologist at Utah State University from 1968-2003, has authored more than 50 publications on bird migration; energetics of flight; physiological adaptations of mammals and birds (with emphasis on hawks, eagles and owls) to inclement environments; and validations of new methodologies for studying animal energetics and metabolism. Since moving to Tucson in 2006, Jim has volunteered at Tucson Audubon for several years with leading bird walks at the Mason Center and now at Arthur Pack Regional Park during the winter months, and helping survey birds in several Important Bird Areas.
Jim has been leading Tucson Audubon field trips for ten years and helped to coordinate the Tuesday trips for five years. The Huachuca Mountain area is a special favorite of his. He has also been a Board member of Tucson Audubon. A former professor of geology at Harvard University , Jim enjoys sharing his love of the outdoors with others. Before moving to Tucson he led birding trips for the Brookline Bird Club in Massachusetts and the Northern Virginia Bird Club and Fauquier Bird Club in Virginia . He has birded in most of the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, and South America, but especially enjoys the birds of Mexico and the American Southwest.
Jean and Mark Hengesbaugh
Jean and Mark live near Sabino Canyon and consider the creek their back yard. In addition to leading birding field trips in the recreation area for Tucson Audubon, they also survey three Important Bird Areas along lower Sabino Creek. They are Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists for the U.S. Forest Service and volunteer at Saguaro National Park in the Weed Free Trails Program.
Tim started paying attention to birds in the early 70’s in Utah, have since birded most extensively in the West but also on trips to C. & S. America, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya. More of a biologist than a lister, I enjoy questions about bird behavior and occurrence while looking for areas in Arizona that are under-birded. Spend a lot of my time working on surveys of potential and existing IBA’s in AZ. Enthusiastic eBirder as I see the value of all of these data, given my previous career in science as a biologist.
John Higgins thinks wandering outside all morning looking at birds with some other sociable people is a great way to spend his time. He has been lucky enough to have birded from the Amazon to Alaska to Austria. He has been taking out field trips for Tucson Audubon for twenty years. John especially likes easy-going trips with beginner birders looking for easy-to-see birds, such as driving around looking at thousands of big Sandhill Cranes or sitting on a shady bench looking at close-up hummingbird feeders. John’s trips almost always end with eating apple pie or ice cream.
Karen worked at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for more than 26 years and has extensive knowledge of birds, mammals, deserts, and animal adaptations and behavior. Her passion for hummingbirds has resulted in a book, book chapters, scientific papers, and also a husbandry manual for captive hummingbirds for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She is writing a second book on hummingbirds and her experiences with these flying jewels. Her research on hummingbirds includes migration, nesting biology, behavior, song development, and longevity. Karen regularly advises zoological institutions and aviaries on the proper care and husbandry of captive hummingbirds. She has conducted educational workshops and seminars on birds for various organizations, schools, yearly bird festivals, and local bird groups. Karen has also studied bats for more than 30 years and carries out lectures and workshops for bats. She has led and co-led natural history trips in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico, Baja, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Galapagos, and Africa. Karen has a B.Sc. degree in Wildlife & Fisheries Science from the University of Arizona and has lived in Arizona for more than 50 years. Her two latest books are Desert Life: A Guide to the Southwest’s Iconic Animals & Plants & How They Survive and Desert Life of the Southwest Activity Book.
Kendall is Tucson Audubon’s past field trip coordinator and he works with landowners, neighborhoods and the city government to increase sustainability, improve habitat for birds and restore urban streams and washes. He also works to raise awareness of birds that inhabit the Tucson metro area. Most of Kendall’s field trips feature Tucson urban hotspots and places where Tucson Audubon is working to improve habitat. His interest in these issues arose growing up in Orange County, California, and observing vast losses of habitat as Southern California developed in the 1970s and 1980s. Kendall took up birding in earnest after helping with a sea turtle conservation project in Mexico. He gradually improved his skills during archaeological field projects in California, graduate school in San Diego, cultural anthropology field work in central Mexico, and post-doctoral work in Los Angeles. Kendall moved to Tucson in 1998 and has been birding southeast Arizona since then. He started volunteering for Tucson Audubon in 2000 and was part of our staff for 15 years. He has a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego.
Joe became interested in birding while taking an ornithology class at the University of Nevada-Reno, where he earned a degree in Wildlife Biology in 1970; he also has a Master’s degree from Virginia Tech. Joe has lived in Olympia, Washington for 41 years, where he worked for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in a number of administrative positions, including endangered species manager and legislative director. He spent another 20+ years working as a wildlife consultant and-or legislative advocate for various wildlife organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and the Pacific Coast Joint Venture, a public-private partnership focused on migratory bird habitat conservation. Joe and his wife Kathy have made birding trips all over the world and bought a house in Tucson in 2010, partly because of the great local and regional birding opportunities. Joe is an active volunteer for Tucson Audubon and he and Kathy led their first birding walk this winter; they are looking forward to leading more walks in the fall when they return from the summer in the Northwest.
Larry came by his love for the outdoors at an early age. Raised in Vermont, he spent much of this youth backpacking and hiking along the Appalachian, Long and other trails. After migrating to Arizona, Larry fell under the spell of birding and now makes regular forays into Mexico to discover birding hotspots there. Retiring early from an engineering career in power electronics, for some time Larry was very active in the Tucson Audubon chapter, serving as a member of their Board and Chairman of both the Education and International Trips Committees. Besides leading close to one hundred of their field trips, Larry wrote the What’s In A Name column for the Vermilion Flycatcher. He also wrote a long-standing monthly column on the challenges of bird identification (Dastardly Duos), followed by another series on habitat. All of this led naturally to a second career leading birdwatching and natural history trips to Mexico and other Central American countries, which keeps him quite busy much of the year (though he still likes birding here in Southeast Arizona!). Larry’s excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. He loves sharing his passion for birds with people of all levels, and particularly likes how in birding there are always new avenues of interest to explore.
Jennie has been interested in nature from a very young age and in birds in particular since elementary school. When she put on her first pair of glasses in second grade and looked out the window and for the first time saw the individual leaves on a tree and then a bird sitting within the tree, that was it! Jennie has been hooked on birds ever since. Through high school in Tucson, Jennie was involved in many nerdy activities such as Envirothon and Science Olympiad (and still enjoys many “nerdy” activities). In both competitions, Jennie’s team won at the state level and advanced to the national competition (three times in Envirothon!). One year Jennie’s Envirothon team came in 6th at the national competition and the next year Jennie won first place at the national Science Olympiad competition in the “For the Birds” event about birds of North America. As a senior in high school, Jennie entered the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF) with a project about Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owls and was a winner in the “environmental” category. The prize was a tuition waiver to the University of Arizona. While in college, Jennie volunteered for 2 years as a hummingbird trapper in a banding project in Sabino Canyon with the Hummingbird Monitoring Network. In the last year of college, she began volunteering with the Important Bird Area program as a surveyor and had a great time learning how to survey for birds (and how to camp!) In 2010 Jennie graduated from the University of Arizona with a BS in Wildlife Conservation and Management from the School of Natural Resources. That same month she was hired by Tucson Audubon Society to work in the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program and is absolutely thrilled to be working here!
Robert recently retired as an ornithologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He spent his professional career working to protect, conserve, and recover threatened and endangered North American bird populations. His area of expertise is the recovery of endangered birds of prey. He directed national and international-level programs to recover the California Condor, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and the Masked Bobwhite quail. Robert coordinated the California Condor Recovery Program from 1990 to 2000. In 1992, he directed the first reintroduction of captive-bred condors back to the wild in southern California and in 1996 he led the successful reintroduction of condors into the Grant Canyon. In the 1980s Robert established the highly successful Arizona Bald Eagle Nest-watch Program and was a member o fthe National Bald Eagle Recovery Team that down-listed the Bald Eagle from endangered to threatened in 1995. As leader of the National Peregrine Falcon Recovery Team, he wrote the rule that removed the Peregrine Falcon from the Endangered Species List after its successful recovery. From 1999 to 2015 he coordinated the Sonoran Join Venture, a bi-national bird conservation program between the United States and Mexico. As leader of the Masked Bobwhite quail recovery team, Robert worked to establish a captive breeding and release program in Mexico to re-establish this endangered sub-species to its historical range in Sonora, Mexico.
Ken grew up on a farm in northern California near San Francisco, consequently he has had a passion for nature and wildlife all his life and started birding around 1990. An extensive birder of the lower 48, his birding interests later on expanded to include neotropical birds as well as photography. He was a prior Field Trip Coordinator with Tucson Audubon and volunteers on bird surveys with the Arizona IBA program. An Arizona resident since 2000, he has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and is a scientist at a clinical toxicology laboratory near the Tucson Medical Center.
A high school Spanish teacher during most of the year and part-time birding tour leader during the summer, Scott gets a real thrill out of sharing birding and nature experiences with others. In addition to leading field trips, he has volunteered with Tucson Audubon on IBA surveys and the Tucson Audubon Youth Birding Committee. Scott is completely obsessed with birding in Central and South America and he led the Tucson Audubon birding tour to Ecuador in 2012. His bird-related pursuits include sound recording and photography.
Luke grew up in a family that loved the outdoors and quickly blossomed into a birder after his grandparents gave him his first bird book when he was seven. He was enamored with the idea of making bird species lists and keeping track of the day to day bird life in his suburban back yard near Tacoma, WA. He tried to hide his birding disease from his future wife but was found out early on. Thankfully, she was able to bear the inevitable side trips to sewage treatment plants and constant carrying of binoculars, and still married him. After moving to Yakima, WA, Luke became involved in Yakima Valley Audubon and served on the board, as field trip coordinator, CBC compiler, and field trip leader. His favorite birding in Yakima was along the Yakima River on the Poppoff Trail, where he led a weekly bird walk for three years. He loves to bird specific patches and watch the comings and goings of bird life throughout the seasons. At the end of 2014 Luke and his family moved to Tucson and he quickly began attending, then leading, the Sweetwater Wetlands bird walk. The Sweetwater trip is one of Luke’s favorite moments of the week as it is a time of catching up with the “Tucson regulars,” meeting new people from all over the world, helping new birders learn basics and, of course, soaking in the bird life.
Laurel has been birding since 1973 when she would accompany her grandmother on local birding trips in the suburbs of Chicago. Now a retired computer engineer , she splits her time between Tucson and Wheaton (a suburb of Chicago) and leads birding trips both for Tucson Audubon and the DuPage Birding Club, in addition volunteering as a bird monitor for the DuPage County Forest Preserve. An advocate of “team birding”, she encourages everyone to get involved on one of her field trips. Also an avid cyclist and hiker, she divides her outdoor time between biking, hiking and birding.
Mike grew up in Idaho, spent 38 years in Maryland as a chemist for the Federal Government, and now is enjoying retirement in Oro Valley with his wife, Donna. He’s been in all 50 states and 30 foreign countries, always looking for birds. Western Tanagers are to blame for his obsession with birds. On a family camping trip to the Island Park area of Idaho, he found numerous Western Tanagers around the campground and he had to go to the local library to figure out what they were. He enjoys the incredibly varied habitats in southern Arizona and particularly loves the Sonoran Desert around Honey Bee Canyon and Catalina State Park, where he leads bird walks for the park. He has lead bird walks for Tucson Audubon at Sweetwater Wetlands and Paton’s. Leading bird walks is a great way to meet new people, learn new things, and enjoy the environment.
- Weekly walk - Sweetwater Wetlands
- Weekly walk - Agua Caliente Park
- Weekly walk - Arivaca Cienega
- Trip Details
- Additional bird walks & locations
- Carpool Locations
Wednesday Mornings at Sweetwater Wetlands
No registration needed!
May-August starts at 6 a.m.
Trip rating: easy; Walking distance: 1 mile; Trip duration: 2 hr; Elevation gain: none; Ground condition: concrete and dirt trails. Restrooms at the trailhead.
Join Luke Safford for an easy walk through the Sweetwater wetlands to see waterfowl, regular and visiting warblers, and several exciting species hiding in the reeds. Birders of all experience levels welcome! The Wetlands are located at 2511 W Sweetwater Drive.
Contact Luke with questions, 520-576-6044, email@example.com .
Every Wednesday. Start times: November – Feb: 8 a.m.; March – April: 7 a.m.; May – August: 6 a.m.; September – Oct: 7 a.m.
Thursday Mornings at Birds at Agua Caliente Park – NOW $5 FEE
Pima County leads this walk–please register below on Pima County’s website
Pima County Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation offers this guided birding walk in the desert oasis of Agua Caliente Park to spot wetland birds, hummingbirds, songbirds, and raptors. Binoculars are available for use. Online registration required at Pima County’s website at www.pima.gov/nrpr. Location: Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park, 12325 E. Roger Road. Meet at the Visitor’s Center. Visit the Tucson Audubon Nature Shop at Agua Caliente Park after the walk.
Meeting times: Sept – Oct: 8:00 am, Nov – Feb: 8:30 am, Mar – Apr: 8:00 am, May – Aug: 7:30 am.
Online registration now required, $5 fee. Online registration: www.pima.gov/nrpr. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 520-615-7855. Further PCNRPR bird trips can be found here.
Saturday Mornings at Arivaca Cienega
No registration needed!
Resumes in November.
Trip rating: Easy. Walking distance: About 2 miles. Trip duration: 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours. Elevation gain: minimal. Ground condition: good dirt trails and sometimes boardwalks. Restrooms at the parking lot only.
Join Bob and one of several expert birder leaders for a walk through this great birding site consisting up upland desert, grassland and wetlands. You will likely see 30-55 species depending on the season, including potentially some southeast Arizona specialties. RSVP not required. From Tucson, go south on I-19 to Amado exit 42, exit right, the Arivaca road is across from the Longhorn Bar. It is not a high speed road. The Arivaca Cienega trailhead (plenty of parking) is located 1/4 mile before the town of Arivaca and is well-marked.
Contact Bob at 520-399-2873, email@example.com
Share your eBird checklists from our trips with our account: “tasfieldtrips“
Meet our fantastic field trip leaders!
Liability Waiver: All participants on Tucson Audubon field trips are required to sign a standard waiver. If you would like to read the waiver before the trip, view it here.
Departure Times: Please arrive before the departure time listed in the trip description. Trips will leave promptly at the time given.
Please dress appropriately for your field trip. Always wear sturdy shoes, a hat, and use sun protection. Bring plenty of snacks and water for yourself. Always bring your binoculars, your field guide, and for most trips a scope can be useful. Bring money to cover your share of the carpooling expenses and any required entry fees (i.e. state parks).
- The Tucson Birding Trail Map, on paper and at tucsonaudubon.org/tucsonbirdtrail, shows forty-five birding locations in and around Tucson. Pick up the FREE printed version at our Nature Shops or at any Tucson Parks and Rec center.
- Accessible Birding Locations in Tucson
- Additional southeast Arizona bird walks
- Local bird guides for hire
Tucson Audubon strongly encourages carpooling and the sharing of the driver’s fuel expenses. Drivers and trip leaders are not expected to contribute.
Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, Revised 8th Edition, 2015
Tucson Audubon’s updated edition brings together all the latest information on finding birds in southeast Arizona. This is your best source of detailed information that will help in planning bird watching adventures throughout southeast Arizona. New for the Revised Eighth Edition:
- New birding sites across Southeast Arizona
- New maps and updated older maps
- Updated contact information and web addresses
- Updated information on existing site locations
- Updated information on entering Mexico
- Updated IBA (Important Bird Areas) information, including sites
- Updated bar graphs and species accounts for all species