TOUR GUIDES AND PRESENTERS

2019 Spring Fling

Sandy Anderson

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

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

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.

Richard Bansberg

Richard has been birding in Arizona for over 25 years. While living in Phoenix he would frequently travel to southeast Arizona in search of the many specialty birds that occur in the area. He moved to Hereford 3 years ago and volunteers as a docent for the Friends of the San Pedro River. As a docent for the Friends he leads approximately 40 birding walks along the San Pedro River each year. Other interests include hiking the local mountain ranges and international travel, both with a heavy focus on birdwatching.

Ken Blankenship

Ken has been birding across the southern tier of the United States for over a decade, from New Mexico to SoCal, south Texas around the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys. Like many North American birders, for years Ken has been fascinated by the unique birds and habitats of Southeastern Arizona. In 2015, he decided to pursue a dream of living full-time among the “Sky Island” mountains of Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Pima counties. Ken has spent countless hours in the field in all seasons, learning the ebb and flow of our special migrants, breeding birds, and wintering species of the deserts, high elevation canyons, grasslands, and riparian corridors. Ken’s other greatest area of expertise is the status and distribution of the birds of the Southeast – particularly Georgia, his native state – where he works for the Department of Natural Resources in early summer performing various types of breeding bird surveys. Ken is a self-admitted "ear-birding addict," and has obsessively studied bird vocalizations for years, both in the field and using CDs; this includes anything from songs, to chips, to flight calls, to scolds, and every "seet " and "tsip" in between.

Matt Brown

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.

Chris Chappell

Chris Chappell has been birding and leading birding field trips for over 40 years. He has a particular gift in the realm of ‘birding by ear’, a skill which he continuously works to hone. His birding and field adventures have taken him all over the western U.S., Latin America, and beyond. Since 2015, he has been intensively exploring the amazing avifauna and biodiversity of the ‘Sky Islands’ region of SE Arizona. Chris studied ornithology in college and has worked on a variety of field ornithological research projects for several universities and agencies. He has a Masters degree in Forest Ecology, worked for many years as a vegetation ecologist doing conservation work, and integrates his knowledge and interests in bird behavior, bird habitats, and vegetation into his guiding. He has taught Birding by Ear, college-level field ornithology, and bird identification. He loves to bird with other people: sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for birds and nature, savoring the beauty and wonder of birds together, and sharing the thrill of the chase and the adventure of new discoveries. He volunteers by leading bird and nature walks for The Nature Conservancy at Ramsey Canyon and for Friends of the San Pedro River. Chris started Take Flight Birding and Nature Adventures to provide guiding services in Southeast Arizona.

Richard Fray

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.

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.

Chris Harbard

Chris Harbard has traveled the world in search of birds, from his first trip abroad to Austria to far flung places like Antarctica, Greenland, Saudi Arabia (to monitor the effects of the Gulf War on birds) and South Africa (to help penguins following the Treasure oil spill).

He has traveled widely in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama and visited many Caribbean islands. His travels have also taken him to Peru, Chile and Argentina, Japan and far-eastern Russia (many times), Borneo, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, many South Pacific islands, Jordan, Oman, The Gambia and North Africa.

Chris is a well-known British ornithologist and conservationist and now lives in SE Arizona. After 24 years working with the world’s largest bird conservation organisation, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, he moved to the Austrian optics company Swarovski and managed their birdwatching website for several years.

He is now a freelance author, editor, broadcaster and lecturer. Chris writes for Birdwatch magazine and is also an occasional contributor to the BBC’s natural history radio output. He was editor of the Birdwatchers' Guides series of books and has served twice on the council of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East. His own books include Birdwatch, Songbirds, A Birdwatcher's Quizbook, A First Guide to Birdwatching.

Chris has also been working as a naturalist lecturer on board expedition cruise ships for the last twelve years in remote areas of the Arctic, Antarctic, Atlantic and Pacific, and has also led bird watching trips to France and Spain. Although his main area of interest is birds, especially seabirds, Chris also enjoys a range of other wildlife such as butterflies, dragonflies and plants.

Jennie MacFarland

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.

Scott Olmstead

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.

Vincent Pinto

Vincent has blazed a unique career path, combining formal academic work in Wildlife Biology, Ethnobotany, and Environmental Studies with outside-the-box Birding & Biodiversity Tours, Nature Adventures, Astronomy, and Earth Stewardship. He is a passionate hands-on Conservationist, Naturalist, local bird expert and researcher, as well as a committed protector of the Sky Islands region in southeast Arizona and its unique Biodiversity.

Vincent is the founder and co-owner with his wife Claudia of RAVENS-WAY WILD JOURNEYS LLC- their Nature Adventure and Conservation organization based by Patagonia Lake and Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. RWWJ owns and practices active ecosystem management in two southeast Arizona Nature and Wildlife Sanctuaries: 50+ acre Raven’s Mountain in the Chiricahua's, and 42-acre Raven’s Nest by Patagonia Lake & Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. Raven’s Nest offers a luxury Safari Camp for birders, Nature Lovers, and those craving the peace and solitude afforded by a truly wild setting. Based at Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary Vincent fulfills his mission to educate and inspire people of all ages about the wonders of our natural world. His Naturalist Saunters, Nature Adventures, Birding & Biodiversity Tours reflect his passion for education, conservation, and protection of Arizona’s beautiful Sky Islands.

As a Wildlife Biologist Vincent has participated in and led a wide range of wildlife studies throughout the U.S. As a Foreign Fishing Vessel Observer he studied Fish and other marine resources in the Bering Sea. Vincent led a population study of Mexican Wild Turkeys in the Peloncillo Mountains of New Mexico and Arizona. His other field research includes: Spotted Owls in Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon, Southwestern Willow Flycatchers and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Arizona, Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri, the effects of the I-97 highway on Mammals in Maryland, and habitat quantification for a broad spectrum of wildlife in northern Utah.

Vincent has taught a wide range of individuals and organizations including: The University of Arizona, Biosphere 2, National Outdoor Leadership School, Cochise College, Prescott College, Tucson Audubon Society, Desert Botanical Gardens, Pueblo Grande Museum, Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival, Wings over Willcox Birding Festival, Circle Z Guest Ranch, Miraval, and many others.

Luke Safford

Luke Safford

Luke Safford 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 backyard near Tacoma, WA. After moving to Yakima, WA, Luke became involved in the Yakima Valley Audubon Society 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 began leading Tucson Audubon’s weekly field trip to Sweetwater Wetlands shortly afterwards. Luke is now the Volunteer & Field Trip Coordinator for Tucson Audubon and is often seen birding with his son, Brock.

Rick Taylor

Richard Cachor Taylor, founder and Director of Borderland Tours, is the author of location checklists for the birds of both the Chiricahua Mountains--revised in 2010--and the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona, as well as Trogons of the Arizona Borderlands. In 1995 his A Birder’s Guide to Southeastern Arizona was published by the American Birding Association, and he has since revised it for a second edition published in 2005. Rick's most recent project, Birds of Southeastern Arizona, a photo field guide targeted specifically to this unique corner of the U.S., was published by the R. W. Morse Company in August 2010. Rick set a “Big Year” record for the most birds seen in Mexico in 1988 with 717 species. 

Robert Weissler

Robert is the Executive Director of the Friends of the San Pedro River.  Robert served on its Board of Directors for over ten years prior to that.  He is a passionate advocate for protecting the natural and cultural resources of our local public lands.  For most of his career, Robert has been a software engineer working for the RAND Corporation for over 25 years and later for a local defense contractor.  His personal interests include outdoor pursuits like birding, bicycling, hiking, gardening, and foreign travel.

Rob Woodward

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.

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Donors: Dutch Nagle, Angel Rutherford, John and Marty Hirth, Catherine and Todd Newell

Contact Us

Gordon Lewis can be contacted at admin@swwings.org
Phone: 520-two six six-0149

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