Meet our 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.
Jacob is 16 years old and a Sophomore at Shadow Mountain High School. At school, Jacob takes Honors classes and is involved in the DAAPS program, Veterans Heritage Project, and the National Honors Society. He began birding in April of 2020, and what started as a quarantine hobby quickly became his number one passion. Jacob enjoys both the listing and casual aspects of birding and enjoys chasing a rarity just as much as birding his patch or local park. Birding has enabled Jacob to establish many great friendships, expand his network, and explore the natural beauty of Arizona and every other place that birding takes him. Southeast Arizona is one of Jacob’s favorite birding regions, and he is so excited to be able to lead his first birding tours at some of Tucson’s best birding hotspots!
Originally from Michigan, Ethan Beasley first developed a love for birding in that state. Experiencing a warbler fallout in Southwestern Michigan in May and participating in a Spring Migration banding program along Lake Superior, near Whitefish Point, contributed to his passion for wild birds. He moved to Tucson 19 years ago to take advantage of the excellent birding in Southeastern Arizona, and he has avidly birded the area ever since. He has participated in numerous bird surveys in Arizona, and Sonora Mexico, and led Field Trips for Tucson Audubon, and served as a private guide. Ethan loves introducing people to birding in the wild, scenic canyons of Southeastern Arizona.
Alyce (pronounced A-lease) Bender, is an outgoing, outdoorsy adventuress who specializes in solo explorations much of the time. A U.S. Air Force veteran, she fell in love with travel while in the service and has not stopped traveling since. Her love of photography goes back even further, back to her childhood where she used the camera to explore the natural world around her. Alyce is a Tamron Ambassador and Wildside Nature Tours Photography Leader. You can check out her work here at A Bender Photography LLC.
Tom grew up in south-eastern Oregon, where his love of birds started early, and has continued thru his extensive photography. Starting out with a hand-me-down Leica camera at age 14, his photos can now be found in magazines, websites and calendars in several countries. At some point it became quite obvious that a deeper knowledge of all things bird was not only great fun, but helped with some much improved photos. This in turn has lead to many years of getting to know as much about the behavior of our avian friends as possible, and he is still learning to this day. Living in Baja Sur Mexico for nearly 8 years, Tom is the owner and operator of Focus On Feathers, Photography and Guided Bird Tours, based in La Paz, Mexico. He has presented bird seminars, photo exhibitions, as well as bird tours for groups and individuals for many years. For the last three years, Tom has written a weekly article for the bird website 10000Birds.com, and used that format to share his photos from around the world, visiting 10 different countries in 2018.
Phil grew up on the eternally birdy shores of Lake Erie. After a Northern Parula ruined his life at age 12 he dove headlong into an endless pursuit of birds across the globe. After a few years studying Wildlife Biology and Botany among the majestic redwoods of Northern California, Phil spent the next decade as a field technician.
After banding, point-counting, and nest searching birds on 5 continents he turned to work as a professional guide, specializing in Southeast Asia and Australasia. He currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he spends his free time writing, gardening, playing trivia and searching for rare birds on the Eastern Plains.
Cameron is the owner and operator of Avocet Birding Courses (www.birdingABC.com), a company that offers workshops and tours that reexamine the standard narrative of how birders identify birds and offers an alternative approach. This approach aims to make learning birds faster and more fun, reducing frustration in the bargain. Cameron is the coauthor of The Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching and an upcoming guide to the Terns of North America, as well as articles on shorebird and waterfowl identification. He lives with his wife and small herd of dogs and cats in coastal Maine.
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.
Arjan is a professional bird guide, writer, and lecturer, holds the current Guinness Book World Record for observing the largest number of bird species in a single year. In 2016, he launched his global “Big Year” and ultimately observed 6,852 of the world’s roughly 10,700 bird species, setting a record that stands to this day. His yearlong adventure raised nearly $50,000 for the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Program. Arjan also starred in the award-winning documentary Arjan’s Big Year and appears regularly on radio, television, and podcast programs in the Netherlands and beyond. He is a columnist for several magazines about nature, and as the ambassador for the IUCN NL Land Acquisition Fund, he is committed to the protection of birds across the globe.
Tyler found his passion for birding when his 4th grade teacher incorporated bird identification into the science curriculum. Tyler completed his undergraduate degree in the School of Environmental and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. He as president of The Ornithology Club at Ohio State for two years. Tyler is a founding member of Lights Out Buckeyes—part of Ohio Lights Out, a network of programs aimed at making urban landscapes (in this case, the Ohio State campus) safer for migratory birds. He is an award-winning presenter at environmental, wildlife, and birding conferences. He also worked as a field technician for the Ohio Division of Wildlife surveying grassland species.
Tony is Tucson Audubon’s Invasive Plant Manager, and a Tucson native, born and raised. He has lived on the east side of town for the majority of his life and fell in love with nature while adventuring through Mt. Lemmon and Redington on his days off. He was always fascinated by plants, animals and rocks, but didn’t realize that he could find a full time job working in nature until later in life. He and his wife traveled around the country on month-long summer road trips, and it was during these trips that he would keep on ending up in National Parks, monuments and forests, and had the realization that there are people working in these amazing places, so he said to himself “why don’t I figure out how to get a job that lets me work at these places?” Tony went back to school after being a pharmacy technician for 13 years, to get a degree in Natural Resources with an emphasis on Wildlife conservation and management. After graduating in May 2018, Tony landed an internship at Saguaro National Park as a member of the invasive plant management crew. Starting this role in the middle of summer in Tucson was only further affirmation that he made the right decision, because even when it’s over 100 degrees out, you’re drenched in sweat and it’s not even noon, and he was having the time of his life and didn’t miss being under fluorescent light bulbs one second, even if it had air conditioning. After that Tony worked at the Grand Canyon as an invasive plant management bio-tech, during the 2019 summer season. Now he’s happy to be back in the place he loves, Tucson, working for a great organization. Not many things in life are easy, but chasing your dreams can pay off with hard work and dedication. When you are working in places that are spectacular and overflowing with natural beauty, it makes you excited to go to work everyday.
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 in 2010. He is a current member of the board of directors of Tucson Audubon Society, serving on the development and membership committees.
As a Michigan native, Kristy grew up in a family with a passion for nature and birds, spending countless hours camping, canoeing, hiking, and birding throughout the country. She is currently the co-caretaker of Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary where she helps to continue the legacy of Mary Jo Ballator and enjoys sharing it with visitors. She also runs her own guiding company, Redstart Birding Tours. She competed in powerlifting for over twenty years and broke the world record in the bench press.
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.
Sharon became an avid birder and naturalist while she was a student at UC-Santa Cruz. She worked as a field biologist for several years, then moved to Tucson for graduate school in ecology where she studied song mimicry by Lesser Goldfinches. In 1987, she routed her career into education, bringing her love of science to thousands of middle school students. Since retiring from the classroom in 2020, she has renewed her birding passion and currently leads birding tours with Road Scholar in SE Arizona.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Western Washington native, Gerry has been a “rain-chicken” in Tucson for 10 years. He spent 20 years sailing, then 15 years sea-kayaking in Puget Sound and British Columbia where he led over 300 kayak trips. His close proximity to sea birds drew him to his current passion. Gerry and his wife Terry, have chased birds in 15 countries (Iceland is his favorite) and enjoy getting out in nature wherever they may be. He retired in 2003 after teaching math and science in grades 6-12 for 26 years in the State of Washington. When not birding, Gerry does astronomy outreach events for Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. If we spot a Tufted Puffin, Cassiopeia, or Harlequin Duck, Gerry will be able to identify it immediately.
Wes Homoya was born and raised in Indiana, and as such is a firm believer in practicing Hoosier hospitality- living graciously with each other on this planet we all call home. This ethic was instilled in him by his parents: Barb, a nature-loving nurse who taught him compassion for little things like salamanders, and Michael, a botanist and author who exemplified not only why it’s important to know the names of the flora and fauna around you, but why we must share this knowledge with others. Eventually this desire to learn led to studying ecology and ornithology at Purdue under Dr. Barny Dunning. Various employments since have allowed him to live, work, and bird in places as varied as Australia, Maui, Brazil, the Galapagos, Hungary, Hong Kong, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, and Ecuador. Currently, Wes resides in Indy and spends his days conducting avian surveys in Colorado, foraging wild ingredients for his brother’s libations at Ash & Elm Cider, and being an ambassador for birds and conservation in any way he can, whether via the Lights Out Indy project for the local Audubon chapter or getting folks pumped up about birds n booze at his popular event series Feathers & Fermentation.
Karen spent the last 30 years living in Portland, OR with frequent visits to her parents in Tucson. She held program management and business operations roles for IT, energy efficiency and environmental organizations and spent the last few years on habitat protection and restoration. Now retired, Karen volunteers at Mt Rainier National Park, Tucson Audubon, Tucson’s Mission Garden and Citizens’ Climate Lobby. She’s an obsessive gardener, intrepid hiker, enthusiastic bird watcher and budding writer.
Keith got an early start as a birder when, in middle school, he had a section in science class focused on birding. He discovered he could have birding adventures year round and was hooked. Keith grew up in Michigan and attended Grand Valley State University where he majored in Sociology and worked as a social worker. He moved to Tucson in June of 2003 where he currently is a devoted caregiver, when he’s not birding. Keith is an expert birder, leading private tours and groups locally as well as in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. He is also co-founder of the group, Arizona Field Ornithologists; served the group as vice president and has written articles for its publication, Arizona Birds.
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.
Ethan hails from Ohio and began birding at the age of 10 when he literally woke up one morning and decided that he wanted to become a birder. Since then he’s worked field jobs from Ohio to Alaska, traveled to over 40 countries, and led birding trips throughout North America, Europe and Africa (where he lived for 7 years). When not leading tours for WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, he’s chasing rarities, off on spontaneous birding jaunts, and reviewing data as one of eBird’s data reviewers for much of the African continent. Previously the Education and Outreach Specialist for Black Swamp Bird Observatory and currently a director-at-large for the Ohio Ornithological Society, Ethan’s main focus now is guiding and filling in gaps between tours with ornithology-related field work. Ethan has recently written the ABA’s Field Guide to Birds of Ohio, published in 2019.
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.
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.
Alex has been an avid birder and naturalist his entire life. The ubiquitous Red-tailed Hawk was his spark bird and continues to be his favorite bird today! Alex has been a nomadic biologist, working in multiple countries and in dozens of US states for over 15 years before settling into full time bird-guiding as a senior leader and North America specialist for Wildside Nature Tours. Alex’s love for nature shines through in his ever-enthusiastic approach to guiding, and he strives to bring the birding community together to conserve and protect wildlife.
Barry’s passion for the outdoors and birding has its roots in his childhood in southern California. During his teenage years, he attended several VENT/ABA youth birding camps, which ultimately led to his future involvement with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. He holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona at Tucson where he studied history and political science, with an emphasis on environment and development politics. Barry joined the VENT team as a tour leader in 1995 and embarked on a travel-based career that has taken him to an array of worldwide destinations. He has lived in Austin, Texas since 2004 when he joined the VENT staff as an assistant to company president Victor Emanuel. In 2014 he was named Chief Operating Officer (COO), reflecting his increased experience and responsibilities. These days, his work is geared primarily toward the company’s business side and management, although he continues to lead a few tours annually. Barry’s background and his knowledge of natural history have provided him with a strong interest in conservation. He is a former board member and past president of Travis Audubon Society, which emphasizes conservation through birding and outdoor education for children. Barry resides in South Austin with his wife, Brooke Smith.
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!
Patrick is a birder and nature photographer from Atlanta, Georgia. Patrick has been birding for as long as he can remember and carrying a camera with him for over a decade. While he is primarily a bird photographer, he also enjoys photographing nature and landscapes.
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.
Marcia has been a birder since 1984, when she identified a Red-eyed vireo that was singing from the top of a pine tree in Algonquin Provincial Park. She was born in Niagara Falls, NY, where she learned to bird with the Buffalo Audubon and Buffalo Ornithological Societies. Every New Year’s Day found her birding the length of the Niagara River, looking for gulls and winter water birds. After moving to AZ in 1997 she birded all around her adopted state, enjoying the amazing bird life. She recently retired after 48 years as an RN, and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime…a Big Year! 22,000 solo miles in an RV, visiting 25 states and having an amazing time! Marcia enjoys being outside and observing all sorts of wildlife, not just birds. Marcia birds every day and is currently attempting to bird and submit an eBird checklist every day for all of 2021.
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.
As a lifelong resident of Florida, Maresa recently moved to New Mexico with her husband of thirty years. Her interests in nature began as a birder as a young child, and her company now leads private photo tours specializing in bird photography for herself and others. Her travels include extraordinary places such as the Galapagos Islands, Cuba, Costa Rica, Norway, Puerto Rico, and Southern Africa. With over three decades of photo credits including: Audubon, Field & Stream, Living
Bird, Mother Earth News, National Geographic Kids, National Wildlife, Outdoor Photographer, Ranger Rick, Reuters America, Scholastic Library, Sierra Outings, Smithsonian, and is represented by Danita Delimont. Maresa has A.A. degree from Lake Sumter State College in Leesburg, Florida. She studied at Daytona State College in Photography.
Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has traveled and birded extensively throughout the Americas and taken pelagic trips into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Rob is currently the President of the Board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society (ABAS) in Indianapolis and is also on the board of directors for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the Field Trip Coordinator for the largest birding festival in the United States, BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding. Prior to joining the ABAS and BSBO boards, he served on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President. Rob is co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. He served as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Bloom’s Magazine from 2013-2017. And prior to establishing Sabrewing Nature Tours, Rob worked at Wild Birds Unlimited for seven years.
Rob loves working with new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect birds and their habitats. A graduate from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 with a degree in Marketing, Rob lives with his wife Stephanie in Carmel, Indiana.
Greetings! And thank you for joining Tucson Audubon’s Southeastern birding festival! My name is Chris Rohrer and I’ve loved birds since I’ve been a kid but didn’t turn into a birder until 2011. Now I am addicted to all things avian. I am a teacher by day and birder anytime I’m not working. In the birding world, I collect a lot of bird data and do quite a bit of study in Mexico and Guatemala. I’ve done extensive travel around the world, write for my blog Las Aventuras. I have also sold my photography and have contributed quite a bit of my work to various research papers. Some of my photography is also used in our bird ID guides/books both locally and nationally. I occasionally guide around Southern Arizona when I get the chance away from work. And finally, I’ve also published articles for various bird magazines around the country. In short, I love birds. I will do my best to help all of you learn about our amazing wildlife here in Southern Arizona. This will be my 3rd year guiding for the festival and I can’t wait to show you some of my favorite birding hotspots. See you soon or as we say in Spanish, hasta pronto! And welcome to the amazing birding world of Southern Arizona!
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 has 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.
Based in San Diego, CA, Krisztina Scheeff is an award-winning and professional nature photographer. Recognized for her photographic work in National Audubon Society as well as a finalist in the prestigious Wildlife Photograph of the Year competition, Krisztina’s photos have been published in magazines and articles around the world, including National Geographic, Wild Planet Photo Magazine, California 101, San Diego Audubon Society, American Wild Magazine, Birders Digest, Marine Conservation Magazine – UK, North American Nature Photography Association, and more. They have also been featured in Art Shows and Galleries around the country. Krisztina operates a successful business leading Photography Workshops and Tours to Scotland (Puffins), Ireland, Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hungary, and Bosque del Apache, NM. She also leads workshops for bird festivals around the country and presents at various events.
Krisztina spent years studying and photographing the Rushing Grebes and guides her clients at Lake Hodges in San Diego to experience this amazing behavior and capture their own photos.
To see more photos, check out KS Nature Photography at www.KSNaturePhotography.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KSNaturePhotography or on Instagram @KSNaturePhotography.
David Simpson has been a birder and naturalist for the last 40 years and is a life-long resident of central Florida. He worked as a Park Service Specialist at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park for 12 years and has held several other similar jobs. He started leading tours almost 30 years ago and has his own company, Birding with David Simpson, which provides custom guided tours of Florida and educational classes. He has led tours at many festivals in Florida including the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Birds of a Feather Festival, Everglades Birding Festival, and many others. You can find out more and read about his adventures at www.BirdingwithDavidSimpson.com
I am a 16-year-old wildlife photographer based in Fresno, California. I have been photographing wildlife for 4 years, and over that time I’ve gained many skills in bird identification and taking creative bird images. I have provided multiple online presentations to camera clubs throughout the country, and led workshops in La Jolla Cove, San Diego, Bosque Del Apache NWR, and Magee Marsh at the Biggest Week.
Janice began her passion for nature at a young age with curious exploration of her Michigan backyard and nearby woodland. She always had a variety of field guides to study wildflowers, birds, reptiles, rocks and insects. Janice discovered her true passion for birding in an undergrad ornithology class at Eastern University in Pennsylvania; she went on to complete her master’s degree in Biology with concentration in ecology at University of North Florida. She married a United States Marine, which gave her the opportunity to live and bird across the United States. She has also taken advantage of every travel opportunity to bird new places like Japan and Belize. Janice is currently a bird and nature tour guide at King Ranch in Kingsville, TX.
Stephen Vaughan is a professional photographer and ornithologist. He has been photographing and studying natural history for more than 40 years. His photographs have been published in numerous books, magazines and calendars from publications including National Geographic, Audubon, and Arizona Highways.
Olya was born and raised in Ukraine where her geologist grandmother inspired her great interest in nature. Olya moved to Arizona at the age of 13, excited to eventually get an education in conservation. At University of Arizona she was one of the leading officers in the Fish and Wildlife Society Student Chapter strongly involved in student engagement in current conservation issues. In 2016 she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Resource Management with emphasis on Wildlife Conservation and Management with Summa Cum Laude and an Outstanding Senior Award. Starting as an intern at Tucson Audubon Society in 2015, Olya is now Tucson Audubon’s Applied Conservation Project Manager and is eager to continue her journey here.
Dan is a native Tucsonan whose career was in public education and his last school served the children of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Dan picked up photography when he retired 8 years ago and became more involved in birding at the same time. Dan has been a presenter for the Raptor Free Flight program at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum for the past 7 years.
John Yerger has been birding for nearly three decades. His interest in birds developed into more of an obsession by high school, and led him to pursue a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science at Penn State University. Along the way he participated in many research projects, on topics ranging from Painted Redstart foraging ecology in the Chiricahua Mountains to Tree Swallow behavior at Cornell University. While John enjoys every bird from the drabbest common sparrow to the brightest rare warbler, he is equally engaged by many other aspects of natural history. John has led trips from the boreal to the neotropics, but primarily enjoys living and birding in southeastern Arizona.
John leads tours for the Adventure Birding Company based from his home in Portal, AZ. In between seasons, he serves as a wildland firefighter and EMT. He has also served as a Board Member for the Arizona Field Ornithologists and the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon, as a member of the Arizona Bird Committee, and volunteers with the Tucson Audubon Society.