SOUTHEAST ARIZONA BIRDING FESTIVAL
Field Trip 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.
Jeff Babson got his start in birding when his grandfather gave him a copy of The Golden Guide to the Birds of North America when he was 6. That was the beginning of a wonderful obsession, not only for birds, but the entire natural world. Jeff currently works for the Pima County Department of Natural Resources, Parks, and Recreation, as the county’s Wildlife Viewing Program Specialist. He also owns Sky Island Tours, an environmental education and eco-tour company, offering programs and tours for birds, butterflies, and dragonflies, among other things
After earning a degree in zoology from UC Santa Barbara in 1987, Chris moved to Austin to join the Field Guides staff. Chris takes an interest in nearly anything that flies, and you might catch him sneaking a peek at a passing aircraft or stopping to examine a butterfly or odonate. Chris serves on the Arizona Bird Commitee, and additionally his passion for education has led to his ongoing work on a photoguide to North American flycatchers (can you say “glacial pace”?), as well as the occasional workshop or birding convention presentation.
Andy has been professionally involved with the study and protection of birds, plants, and other creatures for over fifteen years. He has extensive field biology experience, including the study of nesting success of northern goshawks in Colorado, grassland sparrows in Oregon, and yellow-eyed juncos on Mt. Lemmon, AZ. Andy has worked for Tucson Audubon since 2008 conducting ecological restoration, youth education, and survey work.
Gavin developed an early interest in birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles and has steadily pursued these interests. Gavin graduated from the University of Victoria with a degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. While still in university, he taught bird identification classes and lead birding field trips. Since graduating, Gavin has worked as a field assistant on a variety of ornithological research projects. Gavin now serves as a board member for Tucson Audubon.
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 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.
Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in his local creeks and parks. Birds are now his primary interest, but all things wild continue to captivate him. For many years, Brian’s field research has involved banding. His most amazing recoveries were a female Wilson’s Warbler that had been banded in Alaska and was captured by Brian in Colorado, and a Sooty Tern that perished after a hurricane on the Texas coast; it had plied the Gulf of Mexico and the oceans of the world for 24 years. Brian’s recreational birdseeking has taken him to Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Wall in China, and the Himalayas in Nepal. Brian leads tours for VENT in Mexico and the United States.
Starting at Tucson Audubon in 2004 as a habitat restoration field tech, Matt is currently webmaster, coordinator of the Vermilion Flycatcher magazine, and social media manager. He also participates in many Arizona Important Bird Areas surveys all over southeastern Arizona, has two Tucson Bird Count routes, and tries out a new Christmas Bird Count every year. His interest in birds reached new levels during a season of surveying for Southwestern Willow Flycatchers in the Grand Canyon. Now he can imagine nothing better than listening to Whip-poor-will and Canyon Wren song in one of his favorite Sky Islands! He considers the Loggerhead Shrike to be the coolest local bird.
Laurens Halsey has been passionate about (or maybe even obsessed with!) birds and birding for practically his entire life. His interest in birding was inspired by his parents, whom he delighted with his identification of an Indigo Bunting at the age of four (pronounced “Indian Bunny”). But birding has always meant more than just identifying the bird and moving on. Even as a young teenager, he sought a deeper connection with the birds. He wanted to get to know the birds, observe & study their plumages, behaviors, habits, and habitats. Once familiar with birds in his home state, he wanted to see more of the birds, and has birded throughout the United States from Washington to Florida, Maine to California, Texas, Alaska, and off three coasts. Laurens began visiting the premier birding destination of Southeast Arizona in the early eighties and became a resident of the area in 1999. Though he is most captivated by birds, Laurens is also enthusiastic about all creatures in the wild, whether they are covered with feathers, fur, scales, or some sort of exoskeleton. Today Laurens is a birding guide and wildlife photographer. He formed Desert Harrier Guiding Services in 2007 and conducts day guiding & private tours for individuals & small groups throughout southeast Arizona and beyond. Guiding and sharing his photographs is Laurens’ way of helping others connect with nature. Laurens is a voting member of the Arizona Bird Committee, volunteers for Tucson Audubon and the Friends of Madera Canyon, and is an avid eBirder and regional eBird reviewer. He lives just outside of Madera Canyon near Green Valley with his very tolerant wife and the most precious cat in the world.
Homer is a native of Willcox, AZ and while growing up, had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the Sandhill Cranes in winter and the Cassin’s Sparrow in summer. Homer earned his B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and now works as an environmental scientist with Aplomado Environmental assessing contaminants in soil and groundwater. Homer has presented many workshops on sparrows, raptors, flycatchers, and bird ecology over the past 13 years and has led many birding tours in southeastern Arizona. He especially enjoys the challenges of complex identifications and loves to learn about the nature of birds.
As a Midwestern transplant to the West ~40 years ago for graduate study, I was stunned by the scenery out here, never having been west of Ohio before then. Since that awakening, I have spent much of my free time out-of-doors intrigued by questions of natural history. It also spurred my interest in birding, where I focus primarily on bird behavior and biology. Now retired, I get my science kick by volunteering with the IBA program and by contributing to eBird as often as I am out in the field. Having spent a career creating and contributing to databases, I get the purpose of these programs and enjoy being a part of them, thinking about questions as to bird distribution. It’s been amazing to see the changes here in Arizona since the 80’s! I also regularly volunteer in the shop, enjoying my interaction with visitors and helping them to find the birds here they came out to look for. I try to lead a few field trips per year, usually to under-birded areas, as well as help with special projects, lately installing the streaming webcam at the Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds.
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.
Rich Hoyer’s first guiding and teaching experience came when he was a senior in high school when he was asked to teach a birdwatching class to a group of 3rd and 4th graders. Five years later, after showing friends from Germany the amazing natural history of his home state of Oregon and after birding for three months all around Ecuador (on about $6 a day), he came to realize what he wanted to do for a living. After graduating with bachelors degrees in Zoology and German and working several seasonal jobs for bird studies in southeastern Arizona, California, Oregon, and Russia, he became a local guide during two summers on Saint Paul Island in Alaska’s Pribilofs, the perfect stepping stone for guiding birders further abroad. Rich has been a full-time leader for WINGS since September 1997 and lives in Tucson, Arizona where he maintains 16 hummingbird feeders in his urban yard.
Karen worked at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for more than 26 years and has extensive knowledge of birds and mammals. 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. 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. Her long-term monitoring and inventory research project for bats in the Chiricahua Mountains is in its 16th year. She also trains government employees on the proper protocol and handling techniques for studying 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. in Wildlife & Fisheries Science from the University of Arizona.
Jennie has lived in Tucson for most of her life and loves SE Arizona and its birds! In 2010 she 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 has a fantastic time at work! When not watching birds, Jennie enjoys many other “geek chic” activities!
Raised in rural northeast Pennsylvania, Jake is a lifelong birdwatcher and conservationist. He has worked for New York City’s Museum of Natural History and for Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Science and made significant contributions to the field work for the most recent edition of the Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas. Since then he has worked on projects involving Burrowing Owls at the Salton Sea and counted secretive marsh birds in the lower Colorado River basin. He also spent a summer leading tours on St. Paul Island and has worked on the identification and monitoring of endangered species in South Texas and various areas in the Mojave Desert of southern California. It was on St. Paul that Jake lived a birder’s dream, with the first Western Hemisphere record of Brown Hawk Owl, subject of a subsequent cover photo and article in North American Birds in 2007. Jake is always excited to return to sunny southeastern Arizona to live and bird as a co-owner of The Adventure Birding Company. He is also an associate leader for WINGS bird tours leading trips to Utah, Arizona and 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.
Scott Olmstead is a lifelong naturalist who is crazy about birding and passionate about sharing the excitement of bird observation with others. During most of the year he is a high school Spanish teacher in Tucson, but when not at school he may be found stalking trogons and Red-faced Warblers in the border ranges, promoting local youth birding, or traveling to the tropics. Formerly a birding tour leader by trade, Scott continues to lead trips to Costa Rica, Brazil, and Ecuador on a part-time basis for Tropical Birding. His bird-related hobbies include digiscoping and sound recording. Empire Gulch and Mount Lemmon are among his favorite local spots in SE Arizona.
Naturalist, Wildlife Biologist, and Outdoor Instructor Vince Pinto has been teaching people of all ages,interest, and backgrounds about the natural world since 1987. He has led individuals and groups throughout the country on trips of discovery on a myriad of topics: birdwatching, ethnobotany, tracking, Stone-age skills, wilderness survival skills, astronomy, wildlife habitat restoration, sustainable living practices, and more. Vincent and his wife, Claudia, run Ravens-Way Wild Journeys and own two Nature Sanctuaries — 42 acres at Raven’s Nest near Lake Patagonia and 50+ acres at Raven’s Mountain in the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains.
Jim 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. 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.
Hiking up to 500 miles each summer for eight years while conducting research on the Elegant Trogon, Rick Taylor developed an intimate knowledge of the birds and habitats of Southeastern Arizona. During the course of his research he reported the first Eared Quetzal ever seen in the United States! Rick is the founder Borderland Tours, and the author of location checklists for finding birds in Arizona’s Chiricahua and Huachuca Mountains, as well as Trogons of the Arizona Borderlands, and ABA’s A Birder’s Guide to Southeastern Arizona. His most recent book, Birds of Southeastern Arizona, a regional photo field guide covering all of the regularly-occurring birds in this area, as well as all of the Mexican specialties, was published in 2010.
Deb Vath has been an elementary and middle-school teacher/librarian for most of her professional career. Noting that children rarely engage in outdoor activities, Deb has made it her mission to mentor students and provide opportunities for them to enjoy and appreciate Southeastern Arizona’s great outdoors. With the support of Tucson Audubon, she has developed the Trekking Rattlers, a local middle school student group that offers monthly nature outings to underprivileged youth. Deb offers birding opportunities to various youth groups in the Tucson Valley.
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.
John humorously describes himself as a “recovering ornithologist.” In reality, his enthusiasm for bird behavior is contagious. John first fell in love with Arizona while at the Southwestern Research Station working with Painted Redstarts. In 2006, to learn the finer details of Arizona bird distribution and seasonal occurrence, John joined a team of local birders that broke 11 of the 12 monthly Arizona “Big Day” records. (He later became the main instigator for the Sky Islands Birding Cup!) John has served on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Field Ornithologists, the Arizona Bird Committee, and is one of the editors for Tucson Audubon’s “Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona.” He is now lucky enough to live in Portal, AZ with his wife, infant son, and their loyal dog, where he works as the Assistant Director of Borderland Tours and as co-owner of the Adventure Birding Company.