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 Bagley 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.
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.
Always outdoors and exploring the natural world from an early age, Troy has been an avid birder since high school. Raised in rural south-central Pennsylvania, he moved to Arizona in 1980 to pursue higher education and new adventures. For several years, he conducted bird, reptile and amphibian inventories on the upper San Pedro River for the Bureau of Land Management. He has worked for the Arizona Game and Fish Department since 1990. As the Department’s Avian Monitoring Coordinator, he conducts surveys, assists with annual survey training for T&E species, and coordinates statewide bird projects. Troy was the coordinator of the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas Project (1993-2000) and was the co-author of the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas (2005). He also co-authored the recently published 3rd edition of Birds of Phoenix and Maricopa County. Established in 2005, he was one of the original founders of Arizona Field Ornithologists and served as its first president until 2013. Troy enjoys traveling and sharing his knowledge and passion for birds and other creatures. He also loves exploring new and seldom visited areas, and observing and documenting the changing seasonal status and distribution of birds.
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.
Kristi Dranginis is the founder of Bird Mentor, a resource for live and online courses helping people worldwide build confidence learning about birds and the natural world. Through her courses, students are immersed in the principles of instinctive birding, deep nature connection, bird language, and her innovative model for advanced bird identification.
In addition to her 8-month long masters course, Advanced Skills for Beginning Birders, and her bird song identification course, Learning Bird Song, featured in the Audubon Magazine, Kristi is the author of the book, Identify Any Bird Anywhere, offering an innovative new approach to learning about birds in just 8 easy lessons.
Kristi also teaches birding at traditional skills events like Rabbit Stick, Winter Count, Saskatoon Circle, Buckeye, Sharpening Stone and for amazing organizations like the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, The Women’s Wilderness Institute, Crow Canyon Archeological Center, The Vermont Wilderness School, Flanders Nature Center, Eight Shields Institute and The Powerhouse Science Center.
In 2016 she helped to found the Dipper Project, a research study designed to look at the effects of the Gold King Mine spill on avian life in the Animas River in Colorado. She’s also leads tours for the Bosque del Apache Sandhill Crane Festival, Mesa Verde Bird Festival, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, the Durango Bird Club and The White Memorial Conservation Center.
During a real bird nerd phase, she helped to band birds on Great Gull Island, focusing on the Roseate & Common Terns, as well as migratory birds at Oxbow Preserve and hummingbirds at Mesa Verde National Park.
In addition to geeking out about birds, Kristi is also a Naturalist, Herbalist, Photographer and has contributed to the new Peterson’s Field Guide to Bird Nests and ABA’s Birder’s Guide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As owner/operator of Big Bend Birding & Photo Tours, Lee focuses his time on helping others enjoy the beauty of the Big Bend National Park Region. His main interest is in helping others find that special bird or teaching them to capture spectacular images while they are visiting Big Bend National Park or surrounding areas. He also serves as a photography workshop instructor for Wildside Nature Tours with destinations such as the Galapagos Islands National Park, Amazon Riverboat Cruise, Yellowstone National Park in winter, and more. His passion for birding began during his first visit to Big Bend National Park in August 1989 when a Canyon Towhee caught his eye in the Chisos Basin.
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.
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.
Adrian Lesak has been a birder since childhood and has studied forest songbird communities as a biologist for the US Forest Service in Washington, and during Master’s and PhD research in Alabama and Wisconsin. As the birding and nature observation manager at Vortex Optics, he has gained extensive knowledge and field experience with the latest the sport optics industry has to offer and enjoys the challenge and reward of pairing birders with the right optics.
Freya is the Birdability Coordinator and Occupational Therapist, and helped found Birdability as a nonprofit with Virginia Rose. As the only staff member, she is responsible for creating resources and programs for Birdability, and the day-to-day running of this brand-new nonprofit focused on sharing the joys of birding with people who have disabilities and other health concerns. Freya has been birding since childhood in Australia thanks to her birder parents, and moved to the US in 2015 after falling in love with an American soldier. As a military spouse, she has lived (and birded!) in Texas, Massachusetts and Kentucky, and is currently stationed with her husband in Alabama. She is hopeful the Army will station them in Southeast Arizona soon…! Her ‘dodgy’ knee (still undiagnosed after two+ years) often creates an accessibility challenge for her when she’s trying to go birding.
As an Occupational Therapist with a background in blindness and low vision services, she modifies the physical and cultural environments, adapts tasks and equipment, and teaches new skills to enable participation. She also works part time as the Outreach Coordinator for Talkin’ Birds — a popular radio show and podcast about birds and conservation — where she seeks diverse guests to uplift through interviews, and sends in ‘audio postcards’ from her birding adventures.
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!
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.
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.
Brian has been birding for over 30 years and has led weekly trips to Historic Canoa Ranch for the past few years. He also leads TAS trips, surveys numerous local IBA survey transects as well as a park count for the Tucson Bird Count. He has explored almost every area of Pima County on his quests for the ultimate big year. In 2020 he saw and heard 356 county birds in one year, a personal best, thanks to the many sightings by fellow birders and some nice “finds,” of his own. He loves to explore some of the species diverse yet unbirded hotspots such as Arivaca Lake, which boasted 216 species recorded last year. Brian saw or heard 199 of these including the continuing Green Kingfisher, a county megararity. In 2022 he hopes to reach 200 species for the year within his 5 mile radius home circle.
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.
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 Community Science Coordinator and is eager to continue her journey here.
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.
From a young age Jacob has been fascinated with the outdoors and the creatures that inhabit it. First it was insects, and he spent a large amount of time in his backyard and at local parks “bug hunting.” He quickly grew to appreciate and love all animals, researching everything he could. This love of animals drove him to attend Kent State University in northeastern Ohio, where he earned his B.S. in Zoology. It was during his time in college when Jacob discovered his love for birds and birding. As soon as he saw his first bird through binoculars he was hooked for life and he hasn’t looked back since. His passion for birds quickly escalated into an obsession as he was spending much more time studying field guides rather than textbooks. Jacob is now a tour leader and USA Office Manager for Birding Ecotours.
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.
Virginia fell off a horse at the age of 14 which resulted in a spinal cord injury. A wheelchair user ever since, she began birding 17 years ago and discovered her best self in nature. She has led bird outings for Travis Audubon in Texas for seven years, and leads the accessible outings for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival each year.
As a retired high school English teacher, she is passionate about bringing the same joy, empowerment and community she found in birding and nature to others who have mobility or other accessibility challenges. She works closely with Birdability Coordinator Freya McGregor on this mission, and her infectious positive attitude is the force behind Birdability.
You can read more about Virginia and the story of Birdability through numerous articles in birding, nature and disability magazines, and through recent appearances on CNN and NPR, linked under Press and Publicity on the Birdability website: birdability.org
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.
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
Hanna has been a reptile and amphibian enthusiast since she was old enough to pick up a frog. Her career in Herpetology evolved while living in Southern California. There, she participated in projects centered on population studies of various species with the US Geological Survey, Department of Defense, and California Dept. Of Fish and Wildlife. She currently works as a Mojave Desert Tortoise Environmental Monitor for construction projects based in the Mojave Desert. Hanna is currently a member of the Tucson Herpetologicl Society , has been a member of Southwest Partners in Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and the Southwestern Herpetologists Society, and participated in wild bird rescue for the Tucson Wildlife Center. She also has a keen interest in birds as an aviculturalist and has published articles on the husbandry and breeding of Mousebirds.
Originally from London, England, Luke transplanted to the United States in 2003. As a professional hawkwatcher he has traveled the world to witness raptor migration and has experience counting raptors in North America, Europe and the Middle East. He has written about birds and birding for publications here in the US and in Europe including Audubon Magazine, Birdwatch Magazine and ABA’s Birding Magazine. Since 2012 Luke has sat on the Hawk Migration Association of North America Board and chaired their Tours Committee. Luke is currently based in Altadena California and employed as a professional tour guide by High Lonesome BirdTours and Wildside Nature Tours. You will find him at most birding festivals working on the ZEISS Sports Optics booth.
Simon Tolzmann is a 17 year old photographer and naturalist in Chicago, Illinois. He has been interested in all things nature for the last 15 years, whether that be cephalopods, dinosaurs, birds, plants or snakes. In 2015, he began to dedicate every second of available time to searching for and documenting all living things that comes across his sight. Since then, he’s documented over 4,300 species and seen over 4,500 species, and has an ultimate goal of documenting 50,000 species. He also likes cross-country trail running in the mountains, where he can’t help but stopping to take pics of nature along the way.
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.
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.