Birding and Nature Festival in Sierra Vista, Arizona
Greatest Little Birding Festival in the United States - since 1991
Our mission is to promote nature-based tourism and environmental awareness in southeastern Arizona
FIELD TRIP GUIDES
2020 Spring Festival
Sandy has had a lifelong passion for all things natural, especially birds. A self-educated naturalist she has taught birding classes, coordinated and led birding and natural history tours and guided professionally for over 35 years. In 2000 she founded Gray Hawk Nature Center, a non-profit environmental education facility located on the San Pedro River. She currently serves as director and educator-naturalist for the center which provides outdoor learning opportunities for thousands of students each year. The center also maintains a collection of native reptiles which serve as ambassadors at the center and also at festivals and outreach presentations throughout Arizona.
Jeff Babson developed an interest in birds and native animals early in life and attended Arizona State University in pursuit of a degree in marine biology – but decided to foreswear the classroom in favor of “independent” field studies. He moved to Andros where he became fascinated by community ecology – the effects of weather, topography, and habitat on familiar and exotic bird species. While working on Andros he took an extended vacation to do an internship at the Southwestern Research Station in the Chiricahuas. He was introduced to another natural paradise. While there he made the acquaintance of Painted Redstarts, Mexican Jays, Blue-throated Hummingbirds, Javelinas, Black-tailed Rattlesnakes, and many other species. He then realized he had to move to southern Arizona as soon as possible. Fortunately, a few years later the opportunity to move presented itself and he and his wife leapt at it.
When he moved to Arizona he worked at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) in the Department of Mammalogy and Ornithology. That enabled him to teach courses at the University of Arizona (U of A) and Pima Community College. He led field trips for ASDM, the U of A, the Tucson Audubon Society, Tucson Botanical Gardens, and others. He has also conducted fieldwork in Arizona on the importance of the saguaro cactus to the avian community. In Mexico, he assisted on hummingbird migration studies, concentrating on the Rufous Hummingbird. Jeff is proud to have met many other fantastic animals since then. He feels as though he lives in the Holy Land of U.S. natural history: Madera Canyon, the Huachucas, the Chiricahuas, the San Pedro River, the list goes on. Jeff feels extremely fortunate to live near places that he had read about for decades, places renowned for the biological wealth that they harbor. Jeff looks forward to sharing these places, and the treasures they contain, with you.
Rich Bailowitz was born and raised in New York and was smart enough to move to Arizona in 1974, already a seasoned birder and entomologist. He finished his MS in Entomology from the University of Arizona in 1985. His publications, of which he is senior author, include Butterflies of Southeastern Arizona (1991), 70 Common Butterflies of the Southwest (1997), and Finding Butterflies in Arizona (2007). He has also written numerous popular and peer-reviewed journal articles over the years. His most recent project is The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Arizona and Sonora, co-authored with Doug Danforth and Sandy Upson.
Matt is a life-long outdoorsman, having grown up hiking, canoeing, and camping in the Adirondacks of New York State. he has been an avid bird watcher since the age of five. As a teen, he was a Boy Scout camp counselor, instructing groups of scouts in bird and mammal study, environmental science, soil and water conservation, and fish and wildlife management. Matt has extensive outdoor experience in all but a few states, with particular knowledge of the High Rockies of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Since arriving in Arizona, he has led tours for The Nature Conservancy, Arizona State Parks, Tucson Audubon Society, Elderhostel of Nogales, local birding and butterfly festivals, and the Circle-Z Guest Ranch in Patagonia.
Born in England, and encouraged by a wildlife-mad household, Richard has been birding since he was big enough to hold binoculars. He moved to SE Arizona in 2002 and has since formed Fun Birding Tours (www.funbirdingtours.com), a birding guide and tour service. Birding has taken Richard around Britain, Europe and Asia, and more recently North, South and Central America. A dedicated conservationist, Richard has served as a volunteer and board member for various organizations in the U.K. and U.S.A., including Tucson Audubon Society. He’s a keen amateur photographer whose works have appeared in both U.S. and British birding journals.
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 state. She has led several guided bird walks through Michigan Audubon and local nature centers, and 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 competed in powerlifting for over twenty years and broke the world record in the bench press.
Laurens R. Halsey
Laurens R. Halsey is a bird watching guide and wildlife photographer based in Green Valley, Arizona. Laurens is a lifelong birdwatcher and all around naturalist. He grew up with a family that loved the outdoors and appreciated nature. Having visited southeast Arizona for bird watching since a teenager, he had dreamed of living here. This dream came true in 1999 when the company Laurens worked for closed their facility in north-central Texas and moved the operation to Tucson. Laurens was one of the first to volunteer for the transfer. Several years ago, Laurens left the corporate world and began professionally guiding birdwatchers in southeast Arizona. Southeast Arizona ranks as one of the top bird watching destinations in North America. There are birds here that cannot be found elsewhere north of the Mexican border. Guiding is a means for Laurens to share his wildlife experiences with others on a personal basis
Laurens has pursued wildlife (mostly birds) photography for much of his life. When not guiding, he can usually be found out in the field taking pictures of just about any creature he encounters. Though birds are the primary focus, other subjects include butterflies, lizards, snakes, spiders, bats, mammals, and an occasional flower. Just as guiding is a means for Laurens to share his wildlife experiences with others, photography provides another venue. Laurens’ images have appeared in “The Vermilion Flycatcher” (magazine of the Tucson Audubon Society), Desert Rivers Audubon Society magazine newsletter, the “Canyon Chatter” (Friends of Madera Canyon newsletter), the Arizona Field Ornithologist photo documentation website, two editions of the book “Birds of Southeastern Arizona” (by Richard Cachor Taylor), and on Laurens’ own website.
As an employee of the Tucson Audubon Society, Jennie coordinates the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program and coordinates the Tucson Bird Count. She leads many Tucson Audubon field trips and trips for various Arizona festivals. A resident of Tucson from a young age, she loves the birds and nature of Arizona and cannot believe her luck at living in such an excellent place for birding! Besides birding, Jennie enjoys reading and many other "geek chic" activities.
Julie grew up on both coasts of the US 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 geographyand 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 bepassionate 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.
Ted Mouras is a retired Army officer and former engineer for SAIC. He has lived in Cochise County off and on since 1976 and has a great interest in the natural history of the region. His hobbies include hiking, biking, painting, and writing. He is the past-president of the Friends of the San Pedro River, a docent at the Ramsey Canyon Preserve, and compiler for the Ramsey Canyon Christmas Bird Count. He and his wife Melanie enjoy travel and currently reside in Ash Canyon, just south of Sierra Vista.
Scott has been interested in birds and wildlife for as long as he can remember but he did not "get serious" about birding until about the age of 20, when he was studying at the University of Richmond in Virginia. After finishing a BA in Latin American Studies and Spanish in 2003 he took his first trip to the Neotropics, spending three months in Costa Rica, and becoming almost immediately hooked on Neotropical birds. A few years and a couple of trips later, Scott began his professional guiding career in 2006 as a naturalist guide at Rio Tigre Lodge in Costa Rica, and a short time later began leading tours for Tropical Birding. He has also spent two months in the volunteer guide program at Cristalino Jungle Lodge, in the Brazilian Amazon. Since becoming a full-time tour leader, Scott has become an avid digiscoper and in 2007 he began taking videos through his scope as well.
A lover of the natural world since early childhood, Brad cut his teeth stalking Colorado’s Front Range, looking for reptiles and mammals, as well as rocks, minerals, and fossils. An avid birder for over ten years, his birding started in southeast Georgia and followed him to Arizona in 2010. After three years trekking the mountains and mudflats of Korea, honing his craft, Brad moved back to Arizona in 2014. Since then, he’s led dozens of walks for several conservation organizations, taking locals and out-of-towners around many of southeastern Arizona’s birding “hotspots.” He became a Cochise Master Naturalist in 2014, as well. With a lifelong passion for the natural world, focusing on avifauna in southeastern Arizona, Brad looks forward to showing birders of all skill levels the special and unique bird life of the Sky Islands of Arizona.
Rob has been interested in birds since before he can remember. His third grade teacher regularly played a record of bird songs and he has been birding by ear ever since. He first visited southeast Arizona in 1996 to attend the Southwest Wings Birding Festival. In 2016, Rob retired from 30 years of the practice of law in New Hampshire, temporarily relocated to Panama, and then settled in Arizona, a birder’s paradise. He lead bird walks for NH Audubon for over 20 years and served 7 years on the NH Bird Records Committee, 3 as chairman. He also served as president of the Capital Chapter of NH Audubon for many years. The Common Nighthawk Migration Study Site he established in Concord in 2008 stands as the first and only project of its kind in the state, gathering data on migrating Common Nighthawks. His interest in honing field identification led him to self-publish a booklet called Birding by Genus: A Guide to the Flycatchers of North America. Among his projects that fulfills his interest in the systematic study of birds was his weekly Turkey Pond bird survey in Concord that he ran for 12 years. He now runs a weekly bird survey at the San Pedro House where he currently serves as a docent for the Friends of the San Pedro River leading weekly bird walks. His birding interests have taken him to 21 countries on 5 continents, with an emphasis on Latin America. Birders find Rob’s field trips to be equally fun and educational.