Trip Leaders

RJ ADAMS A native Californian, RJ has lived and birded throughout the state for nearly 30 years. He has an MS in biology from the University of Utah where he focused on the co-evolutionary history of birds and their ectoparasites. He is also the author of A Field Guide to the Spiders of California and the Pacific Coast States, and will soon begin working on an inventory of the spiders of Pinnacles National Park. R.J. works as a special education teacher and greatly enjoys leading field trips for beginning birders. TIM AMARAL Tim is an educator by training and a professional guide who loves to teach folks about the natural history of his favorite patch – the Monterey Bay region. He has been a guide for local bird festivals, conferences, and community organizations since 1996. He has also worked as the tour coordinator and trip leader for Monterey Seabirds Tour Company and has served as the vice-president of the local Audubon Society. KUMARAN ARUL Kumaran has led trips for the Monterey Bay Birding Festival since its beginning and is a passionate observer of birds in the Monterey Bay area. He has conducted breeding bird surveys in the Santa Cruz Mountains, taught classes on birding-by-ear, and led regular trips for local bird groups. He enjoys sea watching on the rich coastal waters of the Monterey Bay, ruminating on the beauties of bird songs, and birding foreign lands with his wife and three children. When not birding, he teaches music at Stanford University. RICK BERG Rick’s background includes 25 years in the US Army as an intelligence expert, specializing in languages. He also taught at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. He started birding in 2010 with the Pacific Grove Adult Education birding class led by Brian Weed. Rick has done most of his birding in the Central Coast area, and he has participated in more than fifteen Christmas Bird Counts around Monterey. He currently leads a variety of events and classes for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District, such as birding, geocaching, map and compass navigation, and a variety of wildlife-orients hikes, both day and night. PHIL BROWN Phil turned a lifelong interest in birds into an obsession in 2004 when he joined the Santa Cruz Bird Club. He has led birding trips for the Santa Cruz Bird Club since 2006, coordinated field trip program from 2008 to 2014, and currently serves as club president. He participates in the bluebird birdbox program at Quail Hollow Ranch County Park, leads a section in the Santa Cruz and Moss Landing Christmas Bird Counts, and surveys bird populations for the Watsonville Wetlands Watch. RITA CARRATELLO Rita considers Monterey County her specialty patch. She participated in the county’s breeding bird atlas project, wrote species accounts, and designed the publication published in 1993. She was the voice for the Monterey rare bird alert before the automated BirdBox, and served on the Monterey Audubon Society’s board of directors as the newsletter editor. She and her husband, Don Roberson, also travel the world in search of bird families, and enjoy giving multimedia presentations of these adventures. See more at HUGO CEJA Hugo was first introduced to the world of birds during college. Since then, his passion for birds has been the primary factor that determines his excursions. Currently, he is an educator working for the non-profit, Watsonville Wetlands Watch, where he teaches youth about the importance of wetlands and the environment. When he is not working with kids, he is working with Black Oystercatchers along the southern end of Monterey Bay for Audubon California. He is “all about the outdoors” and has a strong appreciation for all biotic and abiotic things. Most of his birding is in Monterey County where he resides; however, he also enjoys birding the Central Valley wetlands near where he grew up. ERIC FEUSS Eric Feuss has been very actively birding since he was 16; he is now an empty nester. From 1992 to 1999, he worked for the Institute for Bird Populations' (IBP) MAPS Program, a long-term productivity and survivorship monitoring study. As a field biologist for the IBP, he worked in Oregon, Kansas, Missouri, and Yosemite National Park. He has birded in almost every part of the United States and, with the exception of his years with IBP, has led regular field trips for the Santa Cruz Bird Club since 1987. Because of his friendly, informative leading style, he is a much sought-after leader. LOIS and WALLY GOLDFRANK Lois and Wally have been actively birding in the Monterey Bay area since becoming empty nesters in 1991. Their birding adventures have taken them to 50 countries and to most of the states in the U.S. They have seen over 7,000 species including at least one member of every bird family in the world. Both professional educators, they particularly enjoy leading walks for beginners and sharing their enthusiasm for birding and their knowledge of the local area with residents and visitors alike. TOM HELMAN Tom was hooked on birding ten years ago when he saw his first Mountain Bluebird. Since then, he has gone on countless single and group bird walks. His birding activities increased with retirement three years ago, and his current goal is to improve his knowledge of bird songs and calls. A great joy for Tom is combining his love of travel and birding, now having taken his binoculars along on trips to Japan, France, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and, more locally, to Florida, Toronto, and Maine. He finds it remarkable that some of his best birds have been found in parks and other green spaces close to urban areas. His recent trip to South America resulted in 82 new life birds, and over 40 of them came from a nature preserve just a 20-minute walk from downtown Buenos Aires. BILL HILL Bill is a lifetime resident of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Since early childhood he has frequented the Carmel River area for fishing, birding, photographing, or just exploring. First introduced to birding in the sixth grade, he has seriously birded Monterey County for 20 years. Few spend more time birding the Carmel River mouth and the surrounding area. He is a wealth of information on the area and all of its avian inhabitants. A real “people person,” birders always have fun when they go into the field with Bill. DAVID JAFFE David has been an avid birder since the early 90s. He has a Master’s degree in Applied Ecology, with a focus on avian diversity as it relates to riparian functionality. He has worked in Yosemite National Park as a biologist, and he’s served as a natural history guide for many outfits. Most recently, David has presented his sparrow ID workshop at the Mono Lake Chautauqua. EARL LEBOW Earl has been birding and leading bird trips on the Central Coast of California since he moved here from the East Coast in 1986. Though he had been birding for many years in and around NYC, his skill and passion for birding increased exponentially when he moved to California. He has birded extensively throughout the United States, Central America, Africa, and Europe. He has led trips for the Santa Cruz Bird Club for many years and enjoys leading trips locally and sharing his love of birds and birding with others. NICHOLAS LEVENDOSKY Nick was first introduced to the idea of birding while taking a natural history and ecology course at Prescott College in 2001. Although he found this idea rather silly at first, the puzzle and game of identifying birds quickly peaked his interest and he was hooked. From that point on he has worked to transform from a casual birder to an intentional observer. Since moving back to Santa Cruz six years ago after obtaining a job with the San Jose Fire Department, Nicholas has devoted a significant amount of time getting into the field to ‘simply learn birds.’ He most appreciates the relationship between species and habitat—believing birding lends itself to building a sense of place and physical community around one’s home. JEFF MANKER Jeff started birding in the suburbs of Los Angeles where he grew up, escaping to a nearby field and marsh to watch the birds. While in high school, he used his birding skills to help get the 52-acre marsh saved as a park and educational center (Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance). In college, he participated in pelagic and desert field trips, his first Big Day, and eagle counts. He majored in Resource Planning and Interpretation at Humboldt State University. During that time, he found that he had a knack for teaching friends to bird, which led him to a career in education. After working as a naturalist for Santa Cruz County Outdoor Education, he got his credential in Life Sciences and has been teaching ever since. For the past 27 years he has variously taught Life Science, Earth Science, Biology, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, and Marine Science. Four years ago, he developed and has been teaching what he believes is the only year-long high school Ornithology class in the state at Gilroy High School. TODD NEWBERRY Todd Newberry, a lifelong birder, has taught biology for 40 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He leads frequent, popular bird walks throughout our region, including regular walks in the university’s arboretum and others along the coast, for the Santa Cruz Bird Club. He is the author of The Ardent Birder. MARK PAXTON Mark has been a docent at Elkhorn Slough since the 1980s. He leads local tours for area bird clubs, including the Santa Cruz Bird Club and regional Audubon Societies. He also assists avian research studies throughout Monterey County and is the land steward for a 2300-acre ranch at the center of one of Audubon California’s Important Bird Areas. Speaking about the Monterey Bay region, Mark says, “While I do travel to chase birds, there is such rich diversity here that several lifetimes wouldn’t do our home patch justice. For a birder, this is paradise.” ROY POUCHER Roy Poucher has been a Sea and Sage Audubon Society (Orange Co.) trip leader and field trip assistant in their introductory birding classes, including aural birding, for 24 years. He has led trips to Yosemite, the Eastern Sierra, Arizona, Texas, North Dakota (sparrows), the Great Lakes (warblers), and the eastern seaboard (shorebirds). Roy is also an international tour leader; with his company, Bird Odyssey Tours, he has led trips to Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Kenya, Thailand, and Cambodia. His passion is bird vocalization, and he has personally mentored aural birding with Dick Walton (author of the Peterson bird vocalization audio series), Luis Baptista (late of the California Academy of Sciences), Tom Hahn (UC Davis) and Sylvia Gallagher (renowned Southern California educator). BOB RAMER Bob has been birding in the Monterey Bay area for more than 30 years and has done volunteer work with the Nature Conservancy, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in monitoring the bird populations in this area. In 1976, he was one of the founders of the Moss Landing Audubon Christmas Bird Count; and he and his wife, Bernadette, continue as co-compilers of this count. ALEX RINKERT Alex Rinkert, a native of the Monterey Bay area, is an active member of the local birding scene. He recently finished a biology degree at UC Santa Cruz and now works as a biologist studying the region’s avifauna. He leads regular birding field trips on land and at sea, and is an avid contributor to eBird. While birds remain a focus, he has a great appreciation for all aspects of the natural world. STEVE ROVELL Steve is a lifelong resident of California. He escaped the hectic life of Southern California to pursue his studies at Humboldt State University where he graduated with a degree in Natural Resources and a teaching credential. He moved to Monterey County in 1990 where he now teaches high school biology and earth science. His other hobbies include native plant gardening and dragonflies. Steve lives in Marina with his wife of 20 years and two sons, Julian (17) and Marco (10). NELSON SAMUELS Nelson Samuels is a retired teacher and long-time San Benito County resident. He has enjoyed birding the county’s back roads for over thirty years. He has a good variety of staked-out bird species and can help birders find California specialties. RUSTY SCALF Rusty has been birding since his teenage years and has taught adult school bird ID for beginners since 1988. He has been involved in several California breeding bird atlas projects as cartographer and field surveyor and has been a regular field volunteer for organized population studies such as state wide burrowing owl and long-billed curlew surveys. Rusty lives in Berkeley and is active with the Golden Gate Audubon Society. SCOTT SMITHSON Scott began birding in hometown Pacifica, CA, after receiving a little blue Golden Guide from his kindergarten teacher. At the age of 9, he met famed birder Gil West on a Sequoia Audubon field trip, and thus began a birder-mentor-friendship that would continue until Gil passed away in 1994. Scott went on to receive his MS in biology from CSU Long Beach, studying the breeding biology of introduced orange bishops and nutmeg mannikins in southern CA. He is interested in finding creative ways to minimize carbon footprint of the birding subculture – see Scott currently teaches high school AP Biology & Environmental Science at The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale. MATTHEW STRUSIS-TIMMER Matthew has led trips for the Monterey Bay Birding Festival since its inception, and has been enjoying the avifauna of the Monterey Bay area since moving here in 2003. He enjoys natural history interpretation and has taught outdoor education in Santa Cruz County for three years. He has also volunteered for many different organizations and events over the years, including the Quail Hollow Nest Box Project, Santa Cruz County Forest Bird Monitoring Study, Santa Cruz Bird Club, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County Conservation Blueprint, and Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. When not birding for fun, Matthew is often watching birds in the San Francisco Bay area for his job as a wildlife ecologist for H.T. Harvey & Associates. DAVID and JANE STYER David and Jane have lived in the area since 2001 and have led field trips for the Monterey Bay Birding Festival almost since its inception. David became an avid birder in1950, and has birded over much of this country, as well as in other countries. Both he and Jane have served on the board of directors for the Monterey chapter of the Audubon Society, and have led many bird trips in the Monterey Bay area. In addition to birding, David is working on a flora (inventory) of the native plant life on the lands of the former Fort Ord. David also served on Ohio’s technical committee to determine the state’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs). His book, Birds of the Oxbow, chronicles the bird life at the mouth of the Great Miami River, on the Ohio/Indiana border. From their home, David and Jane take great pleasure in watching the sooty shearwaters streaming past in Monterey Bay. ROGER WOLFE Roger has been a popular field trip and pelagic birding leader for years. His focus is now on his prize-winning olive production. However, his passion for birds continues, as he creates a healthy avian environment. Even his tree pruning reveals bird productivity, as he discovers nest after nest.  
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