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.
Chris Chappell has been birding and leading birding field trips for over 40 years: he began with Tahoma Audubon Society in Washington state at age 12. He has a particular gift in the realm of ‘birding by ear’, a skill which he continuously works to hone. His birding and field adventures have taken him all over the western U.S., Latin America, and beyond. Chris studied ornithology in college and has worked on a variety of field ornithological research projects for several universities and agencies. He has a Master’s degree in Ecosystems Analysis, worked for many years as a vegetation ecologist doing conservation work, and integrates his knowledge and interests in bird behavior, bird habitats, and vegetation into his guiding. He has taught Birding by Ear (Audubon Master Birders), university-level field ornithology, and bird identification. He loves to bird with other people: sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for birds and nature, savoring the beauty and wonder of birds together, and sharing the thrill of the chase and the adventure of new discoveries. Chris started Take Flight Birding and Nature Adventures to provide guiding services in Southeast Arizona and New Mexico (az-birding.com/guides/chris-chappell/ and fb.me@takeflightbirding).
Scott has been interested in birds from infancy, but it was a university course which got him started in birding in 1972. A career in the Navy had him cutting his birding teeth on pelagic species, and expanded his range around the country: the Carolinas, California, Connecticut, Texas, the Aleutian Islands, and the mid-Atlantic. He has: been on the board of directors for the San Antonio (TX) Audubon Society and the Baltimore Bird Club; conducted Breeding Bird Survey routes on the Aleutian Island of Adak; contributed to both additions of the Maryland Breeding Bird Atlas. Scott’s migratory days are over and is a full-time resident of Tucson.
A Brooklyn native, Ray Deeney began birding seriously about 1990 in New Jersey where he spent most of his adult life prior to moving to Tucson in 2011. At that time he retired as an attorney specializing in law and mental disability issues. Previously he had been a special education teacher, a social worker and a teacher at Seton Hall Law School for twelve years. In New Jersey he was also very active with New Jersey Audubon including field trips, Christmas bird counts and various citizen science projects. Currently, Ray regularly leads bird walks at Tohono Chul Park and seasonally at Arthur Pack Park and the Mason Center. In these roles connecting with out of state visitors looking to understand and appreciate Southern Arizona birds are a special source of fun and satisfaction for Ray.
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.
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.
Gordon Karre is an avid birder from Mesa, AZ, and is very familiar with the many specialty birds to be found in and around the Phoenix area and Maricopa County. Growing up in rural southwestern Nebraska, he has always had a keen interest in our fine avian friends. This area of Nebraska is a key cross-over where many species cohabitate. Since relocating to Arizona 12 years ago the birding interest has grown. He has led field trips for Maricopa Audubon and Tucson Audubon and has participated in many Christmas Bird Counts, Global Big Days, the annual Greater Phoenix Waterbird Count, and also assisted with the latest Rosy-faced Lovebird Census in the Phoenix metro area. Several trips to Sonora, Mexico, has enhanced his knowledge of many of the Mexican species that frequently appear in Arizona. He is now retired and still enjoying the birds and thoroughly enjoys sharing his knowledge of the many species that can be found in Maricopa County and the Phoenix area and beyond.
Holly is retired from the US Forest Service where she had a fulfilling career as a wildland firefighter and fire manager. Coming from a family of birders and nature enthusiasts, she is a lifelong backyard birder, and outdoor recreationist. Upon inheriting her mother’s quality binoculars in 2012, Holly took up birding in earnest. Most every morning she is out walking and birding to increase her County Year and Life Lists, and her knowledge of local birds. She also birds wherever travels take her which is often to the Caribbean for scuba diving with her husband, George, where they “list” fish as well. Besides leading birding field trips for various organizations, she participates in IBA and other bird surveys including Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. Holly is a great fan of the eBird database, the eBird app, and other mobile birding applications. She is always willing to share how the use of these technologies has enhanced her birding experience.
Kendall up in Orange County, California, and experienced the vast losses of habitat in Southern California as it developed in the 1970s and 1980s. He gradually improved his birding skills during archaeological field projects in California, a sea turtle conservation project in Mexico, graduate school in San Diego, cultural anthropology field work in central Mexico, and post-doctoral work in Los Angeles. 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. Kendall moved to Tucson in 1998 and started volunteering for Tucson Audubon in 2000. Tucson Audubon hired him in 2002 and he was part of our staff for 15 years. Kendall worked in communications, habitat restoration, and urban habitat and was a past field trip coordinator. He worked to raise awareness of birds that inhabit the Tucson metro area and about how to provide them habitat in our yards. Many of Kendall’s field trips feature Tucson urban hotspots and places where Tucson Audubon and other organizations have worked to improve habitat. He currently works as the Community Outreach Coordinator at Mission Garden, a reconstruction of the 18th-century garden associated with the Mission San Agustin at the base of “A” Mountain, which is considered “Tucson’s Birthplace.”
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.
Julie grew up on both coasts and has always been fascinated by the diversity of the natural world. As a Geography student at U of A, she interned at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum with their education department, learning ways to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for the environment with others. Since then, Julie has continued to explore nature through camping and hiking, discovering her love for birding in the process. She finds that her understanding of physical geography and varied habitats complements her birding skills. Recently retired, Julie now leads field trips for Tucson Audubon, interprets at the Paton Center for Hummingbirds, and is a volunteer naturalist at Sabino Canyon. She continues to be passionate about helping people make deeper connections with birds and nature. Whether guiding others or wandering alone, Julie looks at every birding outing as an adventure—-a never-ending treasure hunt.
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.
Jim Rorabaugh earned BS and MS degrees in Zoology and Animal Ecology, respectively, from U.C. Davis and then went on to a 30-year career as a wildlife biologist for various federal agencies, mostly in Arizona and California. He spent his last 20 years working on threatened and endangered species in southern Arizona while employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Phoenix and Tucson. Mostly known for his work in herpetology, Jim is the senior author of A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Sonora, Mexico, as well as many other published works in herpetology. He was worked extensively in Sonora as well as southern Arizona. Jim began birding in Arizona in 1979 and enjoys sharing with others what he has learned over the years about birds, other animals, and plants. Now retired, he lives off-the-grid in a remote area of Cochise County where the lizards are strong, all the snakes are good looking, and all the birds are way above average.
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.
Eric has been sharing his love for birds with other people for over 25 years. Early in his career as a biologist at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon he led people on tours of the refuge and surrounding area. Later, after earning a master’s degree in science education, he taught middle school science for five years and always looked for ways to incorporate natural history and ecology topics in his teaching. In 2014 he joined the staff of the Audubon Society of Portland and taught a variety of bird-related classes, in addition to leading birding trips, both locally and around the world. In early 2018 he moved to Tucson to work as an environmental educator for Pima County, and now as the Education Programs Manager at Tucson Audubon, he’s excited to continue to help people learn about and enjoy the rich bird life of southeastern Arizona.
Paul grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and enjoyed the outdoors from an early age. After going to graduate school in Utah, he moved to Alaska and ended up working in Anchorage for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game as a fisheries biologist. He later moved to Juneau where he caught the birding bug in earnest and after retiring began volunteering for bird surveys as well as taking more national and international birding trips. In 2012, Paul decided that he had endured the Juneau climate long enough and now spends winters in Tucson and summers in Minnesota. While in Tucson, he often helps out with local IBA surveys and other birding projects. An admitted eBird junkie, Paul tries to go birding every day and often explores less popular birding locales. Southeast Arizona has long been one of his favorite places, having first visited in 1977.
A lover of the natural world since early childhood, Brad Sulentic cut his teeth stalking Colorado’s Front Range, looking for reptiles and mammals, as well as rocks, minerals, and fossils. An avid birder for over ten years, his birding started in southeast Georgia and followed him to Arizona in 2010. After three years trekking the mountains and mudflats of Korea, honing his craft, Brad moved back to Arizona in 2014. Since then, he’s led dozens of walks for several conservation organizations, taking locals and out-of-towners around many of southeastern Arizona’s birding “hotspots.” He became a Cochise Master Naturalist in 2014, as well. With a lifelong passion for the natural world, focusing on avifauna in southeastern Arizona, Brad looks forward to showing birders of all skill levels the special and unique bird life of the Sky Islands of Arizona.
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
- Partner walk - Agua Caliente Park
- Partner walk - Canoa Ranch
- Trip Details
- Additional bird walks & locations
- Carpool Locations
Wednesday Mornings at Sweetwater Wetlands
No registration needed!
Start time: 8 am, November-February
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, 520-209-1811, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every Wednesday. Start times: Mar - Apr: 7 am, May - Aug: 6 am, Sep: 6:30 am, Oct: 7 am, Nov - Feb: 8 am.
Learn about Sweetwater Wetlands
There are no public programs scheduled while the pond restoration project is in progress. Current information on the pond restoration project can be found at www.pima.gov/nrpr
Birding Canoa Ranch
Pima County leads this walk -- online registration required at Pima County's website at www.pima.gov/nrpr.
Join longtime local birder Brian Nicholas to see a wide variety of sparrows, raptors, and the possibility of waterfowl on the newly restored pond at Historic Canoa Ranch. All ages welcome.
When: Every Saturday in January & February, 8:30-10:30 a.m.
Where: Historic Canoa Ranch, 5375 S. I-19 Frontage Road, Green Valley 85622
Cost: Free with PCNRPR Membership, Non-PCNRPR Member $5 fee. Online registration required: www.pima.gov/nrpr
For more information: www.pima.gov/canoaranch; email: CanoaRanch@pima.gov or call 520-724-5375
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: 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
- More walks with Pima County Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation (NRPR)
- 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.
A great interactive companion to our Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, our new app covers over 130 birding sites in six subregions in and around Tucson, all vetted by local experts. Search by nearest site, by bird, or by city and get exact directions! Keep track of your sightings and share with friends on Facebook.
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 in the region.
Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120 Tucson, AZ 85705
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742
Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742
Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624