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FIELD TRIP GUIDES 

2023 Summer Festival

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Sandy Anderson

Sandy Anderson 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 experiential outdoor learning opportunities for thousands of students of all ages 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. Sandy was the first president of the Southwest Wings Festival and has been actively involved in conservation activities since moving to Arizona in 1991.

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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. 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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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 is the owner and lead guide for East West Birding Tours and is a self-admitted "ear-birding addict," who 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.

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Matt Brown

Matt is a life-long outdoors-man, 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, and local birding and butterfly festivals.

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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 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.

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Homer Hansen

Homer Hansen, the author of the G.I.S.S. Series bird identification guides, has been bird watching in the southwest since 1995. He especially enjoys the challenges and learning posed by the difficult groups of birds and continues to learn about the secrets to bird identification. Homer is a native of Willcox, Arizona and is chairman of the annual Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival (www.wingsoverwillcox.com). He feels fortunate to have grown up surrounded by Sandhill Cranes in winter and Cassin's Sparrows in summer. Homer has presented numerous workshops on sparrows, raptors, flycatchers, warblers, and bird ecology and is the course instructor for the Tucson Audubon Society's Moving to Mastery birding workshops. He is also a regular presenter and trip leader for other Arizona birding festivals. Homer earned his B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and is now the president and owner of Aplomado Environmental LLC (www.aplomado.com) providing services to characterize and remove contaminants from soil and groundwater.

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Greg Homel

Greg Homel is an ornithologist, award-winning international nature photojournalist, documentary film producer, birding tour leader and lecturer. He lives and works from his home in California, USA and from his second homes in the north tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. A birder-naturalist since childhood, Greg founded Natural Elements Productions in 1986 and Natural Encounters Birding Tours shortly thereafter. Now he travels the globe on a full-time basis in search of rare and little-known birds and other wildlife.   

Throughout his life, but especially since the early 1990s, Greg has guided, educated, and inspired travelers in over 80 countries throughout the world. He has contributed to many books and magazines, and since the "digital revolution," he has moved into television, video production for conservation groups such as American Bird Conservancy, field guide writing and lecturing aboard expedition. His photographic guides include Birds of Southeastern Arizona, Southern California and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. His new book Bad Roads, Good Birds, a guide to birding in Mexico will be published soon.

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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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Eric Hough

Eric was fortunate to have nature lovers as parents and started birding at a young age. An Arizona native, he became fascinated by the tremendous biodiversity the state contains and has always been drawn to exploring seldom-visited areas to see what’s there. He is particularly interested in the distribution of vegetation types and their associated ecosystems. Several years of field work as a biologist, further honed his interests and expertise in the natural world to include plants, reptiles and amphibians, dragonflies, and more recently, butterflies. Eric has traveled through much of the U.S. and since 2013, has made several trips deep into Sonora, Mexico. He has served on the Arizona Bird Committee, as a board member for Arizona Field Ornithologists, and is an eBird reviewer for Navajo and Apache Counties in Arizona. Eric works as a guide for Arizona Birding Tours.

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Karen Krebbs

Karen Krebbs worked at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for more than 26 years, and now works on her own as an independent contractor. She has extensive knowledge of birds, mammals, deserts, and animal adaptations and behavior. Karen has carried out research for bats in the United States and Mexico for more than 30 years. She trains biologists on the proper protocol for handling and studying bats. Karen regularly carries out workshops and presentations on bats and birds to groups, schools, festivals, and organizations in the southwest and Mexico. Her long-term inventory and monitoring program for bats in the Chiricahua Mountains continues in its 20th year of study. She has written articles, books, and manuals for bats and birds. She has collaborated with other researchers on many bat research projects with local government agencies, universities, Mexico partners, and non-profit organizations. Karen has participated in natural history learning trips in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Mexico, Baja, Costa Rica, Africa, Galapagos, and Ecuador. Karen’s passion for bats is contagious! Her animal lectures and presentations are exciting and fun! Karen has a B. Sc. Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from the University of Arizona. Karen’s latest books include Desert Life: A Guide to the Southwest’s Iconic Animals and Plants & How They Survive; Desert Life of the Southwest Activity BookExplore Tucson Outdoors; Bat Basics: Bat Basics: How to Understand and Help These Amazing Flying Mammals.

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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. 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.

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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

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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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Jake Thompson

Jake has lived in Arizona his entire life and has had the benefit of multiple generations of his family sharing their love for the state's natural beauty - in particular, the White Mountains. Since finding himself in the grips of birding, he has locked down over 400 species in Arizona in a single year, and is always working to grow his state list.

Jake loves Arizona’s high elevation mixed conifer forests and is passionate about wildlife conservation and outreach, always looking to bring that appreciation to others through birding with a chance to turn novice naturalists into full blown birders. Jake is also a board member for Desert Rivers Audubon Society and has contributed to AZ’s Breeding Bird Surveys. He works as a guide for Arizona Birding Tours.

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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 three 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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Rick Wright

Rick Wright leads Birds and Art tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. Rick attended the University of Nebraska and Harvard Law School, and holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University. He and his wife, the medievalist Alison Beringer, used to live in Tucson before Alison's work took them to northern New Jersey. Rick's numerous scholarly publications include two books on the Latin animal literature of the later Middle Ages. He is the author of the ABA Field Guide to Birds of New Jersey and the ABA Field Guide to Birds of Arizona; his most recent book is the Peterson Reference Guide to American Sparrows.

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