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FIELD TRIP GUIDES 

2024 Spring Fling

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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. 

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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), and he co-authored The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Arizona and Sonora (2015) with Doug Danforth and Sandy Upson. He has also written numerous popular and peer-reviewed journal articles over the years.

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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.

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Kristy Gallo

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 is currently the co-caretaker of Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary where she helps to continue the legacy of Mary Jo Ballator and she also guides for Redstart Birding Tours. Kristy competed in powerlifting for over twenty years and broke the world record in the bench press.

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Dan Hoobler

After retiring from a 40 year career in the water and agriculture sector Dan and his wife Angie decided Sierra Vista was where they wanted to spend our retirement. They looked at several other locations but none provided the number of birds and other wildlife options that Sierra Vista did. Dan began birding the northern Flint Hills of Kansas as a youngster, the Flint Hills being another remarkable birding area. Now in his retirement he will continue to do so here in Arizona where he is a docent at Ramsey Canyon Preserve.

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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. Jennie is also Vice-President of the Arizona Field Ornithologists. 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 Olmstead is a high school Spanish teacher who is always birding in the background. Over the last 20 years his love of birding and travel has taken him all over the United States and Latin America. Originally from Connecticut, Scott now lives in Tucson, and he has been leading field trips with Southwest Wings since 2010. Scott's birding-related side projects include sound recording, photography, eBird review, and studying the local Great Horned Owl population in Tucson.

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James Petersen

James grew up in New Jersey and started birding at a young age,  getting an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Maine. He has worked and birded extensively across the United States, including conducting point counts and banding ducks in Maine; identifying and counting waterfowl in Nebraska; counting migrating raptors in Texas, Arizona and Wyoming; and surveying for Northern Goshawks in northern California. He is a bird guide for Naturalist Journeys travelling both far afield and across the US, and he enjoys sharing his passion for birds with others.

David Simpson

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.  For the past four years, he has been guiding and birding in Arizona with Southeast Arizona Birding Festival.  You can find out more and read about his adventures at www.BirdingwithDavidSimpson.com

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Steve Tracey

At an early age Steve was drawn into birding by his father, who is still an avid birder.  As a young adult he drifted away from birding for a while but returned to birds through photography. For the past 25 years he has pursued birding and bird photography across North America from his home bases in South Carolina, then California, and now after retiring 3 years ago, in Southeast Arizona.  Steve is always up for a good challenge, having completed numerous big years and photo big years at the county, state, and ABA level.  In 2022 he completed a successful Cochise County big year, spending a lot of time learning the birds to look for at local birding hot spots.  Steve volunteers his time as a leader and docent for both the Sierra Vista EOP and San Pedro House bird walks.

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Robert Weissler

Robert is the President of the Friends of the San Pedro River and served on its Board of Directors for more than 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.

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