Our Field Trip Leaders
Learn a little more about the dynamic people that volunteer their valuable time to lead the varied field trips that Tucson Audubon has to offer.
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 15 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, Southeast Arizona Birding 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 and Tucson Audubon Societies. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.
Bob and Prudy Bowers
Prudy and Bob have been nature nuts for decades, backpacking the Sierra and scuba diving the globe. In 2002, they retired from Oregon and moved to Tucson for the desert, the birding and easy access to Mexico, their favorite out-of-state destination for the past 45 years together. Their volunteer work includes Catalina State Park, Christmas Bird Counts, and two Tucson Bird Count parks. They love to share these interests with others, and especially enjoy introducing the joy of birding to beginners and those with mobility issues. When leading field trips, they focus on anecdotal information about birds, and they would rather have all participants see fewer birds than record a checklist seen only by a few. As participants know, home baked goodies are always provided. Their articles and photographs can be found at birdingthebrookeandbeyond.com.
Scott has been interested in birds from infancy, but it was a university course which got him started in birding in 1972. A career in the Navy had him cutting his birding teeth on pelagic species, and expanded his range around the country: the Carolinas, California, Connecticut, Texas, the Aleutian Islands, and the mid-Atlantic. He has: been on the board of directors for the San Antonio (TX) Audubon Society and the Baltimore Bird Club; conducted Breeding Bird Survey routes on the Aleutian Island of Adak; contributed to both additions of the Maryland Breeding Bird Atlas. Scott’s migratory days are over and is a full-time resident of Tucson.
A Brooklyn native, Ray Deeney began birding seriously about 1990 in New Jersey where he spent most of his adult life prior to moving to Tucson in 2011. At that time he retired as an attorney specializing in law and mental disability issues. Previously he had been a special education teacher, a social worker and a teacher at Seton Hall Law School for twelve years. In New Jersey he was also very active with New Jersey Audubon including field trips, Christmas bird counts and various citizen science projects. Currently, Ray regularly leads bird walks at Tohono Chul Park and seasonally at Arthur Pack Park and the Mason Center. In these roles connecting with out of state visitors looking to understand and appreciate Southern Arizona birds are a special source of fun and satisfaction for Ray.
Mary Ellen Flynn
Mary Ellen belongs to the species “homo sapiens migratorious”. Since 2005, she has been lucky enough to divide her time between the Sonoran Desert of Tucson and the rocky coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Having caught the birding bug about 15 years ago, she has suffered increasingly strong symptoms in recent years. She confesses to enjoying not only birds but also birders of any species. She leads birding programs for Catalina State Park and Pima County. Born and raised north of Boston, Mary Ellen earned a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from Boston University. She volunteers at Massachusetts Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center and at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (aka “ Plum Island”), both located in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
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.
Linda, a Bronx native and 2007 transplant to Tucson, has been an avid birder for more than 15 years. She spent more than 20 years criss-crossing the country as a U.S. Olympic Team Trials slalom whitewater kayak competitor and instructor. She’s led both groups and individuals down wilderness rivers. Linda is also an accomplished artist, having studied figure and portrait art and is now focusing on bird anatomy and nature journaling. Having developed a deep love of nature from an early age enjoying summer camps, she loves introducing people to birding and believes that truly enjoying the moment and having fun in nature is the best way to experience and appreciate birds.
Jean and Mark Hengesbaugh
Jean and Mark live near Sabino Canyon and consider the creek their back yard. In addition to leading birding field trips in the recreation area for Tucson Audubon, they also survey three Important Bird Areas along lower Sabino Creek. They are Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists for the U.S. Forest Service and volunteer at Saguaro National Park in the Weed Free Trails Program.
Tim started paying attention to birds as a graduate student in the early 70’s in Utah, have since birded most extensively in the West but also on trips to Alaska, Hawaii, C. & S. America, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya. More of a biologist than a lister, I enjoy questions about bird behavior and occurrence, particularly the status of pioneering Mexican species in Arizona, as well as discovering new areas in Arizona that are under-birded. I also spend a lot of my time working on surveys of potential and existing IBA’s in AZ. Enthusiastic eBirder as I see the value of all of these data, given my previous career in science as a biologist.
John Higgins thinks wandering outside all morning looking at birds with some other sociable people is a great way to spend his time. He has been lucky enough to have birded from the Amazon to Alaska to Austria. He has been taking out field trips for Tucson Audubon for twenty years. John especially likes easy-going trips with beginner birders looking for easy-to-see birds, such as driving around looking at thousands of big Sandhill Cranes or sitting on a shady bench looking at close-up hummingbird feeders. John’s trips almost always end with eating apple pie or ice cream.
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. 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 Christmas Bird Counts. Holly is a great fan of eBird and other mobile birding applications. She is always willing to share how the use of these technologies has enhanced her birding experience.
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.
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.
Jennie has been interested in nature from a very young age and in birds in particular since elementary school. When she put on her first pair of glasses in second grade and looked out the window and for the first time saw a bird sitting in a tree, that was it! Jennie has been hooked on birds ever since. As a senior in high school, Jennie entered the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF) with a project about Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owls and was a winner in the “environmental” category. The prize was a tuition waiver to the University of Arizona. In her last year of college, she began volunteering for the Important Bird Areas program with Tucson Audubon. In 2010, Jennie graduated and that same month she found work at Tucson Audubon. She is absolutely thrilled to be working there!
Robert is a retired 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. He directed the first reintroduction of captive-bred California Condors in the wild in southern California in 1992 and in the Grand Canyon in 1996. In the 1980s, Robert established the highly successful Arizona Bald Eagle Nest-watch Program and was involved in the specie’s recovery. As leader of the National Peregrine Falcon Recovery Team, he wrote the rule that removed the species from the Endangered Species List. From 1999 to 2015 he coordinated the Sonoran Join Venture, a bi-national bird conservation program between the United States and Mexico. Robert also worked to establish a Masked Bobwhite quail captive breeding and release program in Mexico to re-establish this endangered sub-species.
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. 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.
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.
Jim had 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. Jim began birding in Arizona in 1979 and enjoys sharing 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, 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 keeping track of the day-to-day bird life in his back yard near Tacoma, 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 spot was along the Yakima River on the Poppoff Trail, where he led a weekly bird walk for three years. At the end of 2014 Luke and his family moved to Tucson and he quickly began attending, then leading, the Sweetwater Wetlands bird walk. This trip is one of Luke’s favorite moments of the week, catching up with the “regulars,” meeting new people from all over, helping new birders, and soaking in the bird life.
Laurel has been birding since 1973 when she would accompany her grandmother on local birding trips in the suburbs of Chicago. Now a retired computer engineer , she splits her time between Tucson and Wheaton (a suburb of Chicago) and leads birding trips both for Tucson Audubon and the DuPage Birding Club, in addition volunteering as a bird monitor for the DuPage County Forest Preserve. An advocate of “team birding”, she encourages everyone to get involved on one of her field trips. Also an avid cyclist and hiker, she divides her outdoor time between biking, hiking and birding.
Peggy is a certified Chopra Center Meditation instructor, award-winning artist, and has taught photography classes at Tohono Chul and Tucson Botanical Gardens. She is a contributing member of Tucson Audubon participating in Birdathon, Christmas Bird Counts, bird surveys, volunteering, and leading field trips. Peggy became an avid birder after retirement from her thirty-year career in education at Amphitheater School District. Her love of learning, teaching, and sharing never left her and she completely immersed herself in the world of ornithology. Capturing the beauty of nature in photography brings great joy to Peggy and birding has motivated her to capture and share the essence of birds with her photos. The thing she loves best about birding is being in nature; she brings mindfulness to her birding experience by being totally present when she is out in the field watching the antics and behaviors of birds.
Karen began birding in South America 20 years ago when she and her husband purchased a guest ranch in Uruguay—the visitors demanded to know the names of all the birds and she only knew a handful. She got busy. Since then, she has been a raptor bander for the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory; a trip leader for Marin Audubon and the Point Reyes National Seashore; and a waterbird docent at Alcatraz Island. She holds certifications as a California Master Naturalist; from the Master Birding program of Golden Gate Audubon; and a certified Public Interpretation Specialist with the National Park Service. After moving to Tucson in 2018, Karen completed the Pima County Master Naturalist program. She is also a volunteer naturalist at Sabino Canyon, and a docent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. She joined Tucson Audubon as a trip leader in 2020.
Karen and Matt Vandzura
Karen and Matt retired to Tucson in mid 2021 to enjoy the birds and birding hotspots of Southeast Arizona. Recent graduates of the Tucson Audubon field trip leader academy, they are excited to share their new “backyard” with other birders. While they don’t think of themselves as expert bird guides, they have been birding since 1992 when a friend gifted them their first field guide. After retiring from the National Park Service and the medical field, they are exploring birding locally and internationally.