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Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

2015 Leaders & Presenters A - M

The leader list on this site is partial. We invite all leaders to supply photo and small bio.
Louise Abbott  LOUISE ABBOTT


Louise Abbott is a self-proclaimed Silicon Valley escapee. She spent most of her career in the high-tech world, retiring as a program manager for Cisco Systems.  Since moving to the Central Coast she has become very active as a State Park Docent, and is a past Chair of the Docent Council.  Born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, she fully appreciates the beauty and -- especially -- the moderate climate here.  One of her favorite places is the heron rookery. 

Phil & Carol Adams  PHIL and CAROLE ADAMS

Phil and Carole Adams have been leading Adventure With Nature Walks for California State Parks for over 10 years. They also volunteer with Friends of the Elephant Seal, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Piedras Blancas Light Station. They enjoy sharing their passion and knowledge about wildlife and the environment.


 Rick Austin


Rick is an 8th grade math teacher.  He cautiously began birding 40 years ago and has since birded six of the seven continents in search of avian colors, vocalizations, and novel behaviors.  He has led tours in Alaska and California, and recently spent three weeks "twitching" in Ecuador.  He thoroughly enjoys helping beginning birdwatchers discover the joys of birding.  Rick's current approach to birding reminds him of a Storm Petrel, as he/it erratically pursues sightings that move through the Central Coast.
 Mike Baird


Mike has been a State Park Docent since 2001 and leads Digital Photowalks ( He is a PhD Computer Scientist with an MBA, retired from, and author of Engineering Your Start-up ( Mike is editor of, a prolific local photographer, publishes at,, and, where his images have been viewed 2 million times.  He is also an active social network leader. 
  Lexie Bell of MBNEP 


Lexie Bell is the Assistant Director for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. Lexie's central role is to facilitate the valuable science and conservation work of the organization by helping to establish priorities for the organization, managing administrative operations, leading educational efforts, and staffing the committees and the boards of the Estuary Program. Lexie has a Master's degree in Environmental Science and Management from UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, with a specialization in coastal marine resources management.

 Bill Bouton


A retired college biology teacher, Bill has led nature trips to many locations in the USA, and foreign destinations such as Costa Rica, Peru and Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands.  Bill began birding at 11 years of age.  He is now heavily involved in many aspects of nature, including photography, particularly of butterflies.  Bill leads trips and uses his photographs when presenting programs at various local groups' meetings.  His images are widely used by web sites, nature centers, universities, museums and environmental groups, and many can be viewed at



Jay is a marine biologist who has worked as an environmental consultant on the Central Coast for over 35 years. His interest in birds began with shorebird censuses in Elkhorn Slough in the 1970s and later expanded during trips to southeast Alaska, the Galapagos Islands and Australia. With Morro Bay as his "backyard", he has enjoyed the opportunity to pursue his interest in birding while he and his wife Ellen have raised their family here.

Karen Clarke 


Karen has been birding since the early 1990s.  Besides the birds of the Central Coast, she loves to observe them in exotic places like Borneo, the Philippines, Namibia, and various parts of Alaska. She and her husband live in Cambria, where they have a seafood restaurant.

Peter Dullea 


Peter Dullea is a retired Deputy Public Defender who has been birding seriously for about 18 years.  Peter is a docent at the Sedgwick Ranch Nature Reserve (a University of California research facility), and a docent/volunteer for the Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake and also for the Nature Track Foundation, all in Santa Barbara County.  Peter leads field trips, primarily for grade school children, for these non-profits.  He especially enjoys introducing young city kids to the mysteries and the joys of nature.  

Peter is also a volunteer for the Hi Mountain Lookout Condor Tracking Station in San Luis Obispo County, and he has led and co-led field trips for the MBWBF for about five years.

Kathy Duncan


Kathy is the Education/Outreach Chair of the Pacific Wildlife Care Center.  She has worked with PWC for 8 years as a wildlife rehabilitator and wildlife educator.  PWC holds permits from the Department of Fish & Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to possess and rehabilitate wildlife.  Last year the Center, which is located in Morro Bay, took in over 1,600 animals.  Kathy also conducts wildlife educational presentations throughout the county at schools, service groups, and community events.  She believes passionately in teaching people to appreciate and protect the wild creatures that share our planet.

 Tom Edell


Tom has lived on the Central Coast in Cayucos since 1975, when he came to Cal Poly State University where he obtained a B.S. in Natural Resource Management.  Always interested in birds, an ornithology class sparked a passion that continues today. He has been the San Luis Obispo County bird records compiler for North American Birds since 1983 and the Morro Bay Christmas Bird Count Compiler since 1988.  Tom and Curtis Marantz are currently working on a book covering the status and distribution of birds found in the county and he was involved in the original preparation and oversees the periodic updates of the Morro Coast Audubon booklet "The Birds of San Luis Obispo County, California." Tom is employed as a biologist for the California Department of Transportation and works throughout Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties.

Artist Shawneen Finnegan 


Shawneen's artistic parents taught her to draw and paint early in life.  As a young adult in the early 1980's she became obsessed with watching birds.  Since then she has worn many hats, including artist/illustrator, tour leader and tour manager for WINGS, and Range Data Editor for BirdArea software.  Shawneen has served on three different state bird records committees, and is a Nikon Birding ProStaffer.  She has traveled widely both at home and abroad.  Since leaving her native California she has also lived in the birding Meccas of Cape May, NJ and Tucson, AZ, and currently resides in Portland, OR.  She continues to meld her artistic talents and love of birds by producing watercolors and scratchboard.  Her illustrations have appeared in private collections, magazines, identification videos, and numerous books and magazine articles.  She also enjoys doing pastel pet portraiture. Shawneen recently graduated from Portland State University with a BS in Geography.
   John Flaherty


John is Central Coast Outdoors owner, 2003 to present, and an outdoor guide since 1991. He currently runs kayak eco-tours on Morro Bay and enthusiastically shares his wealth of knowledge about life in and on the bay, including shorebirds, migrating waterfowl, seabirds and many others.  John's wife Virginia works at Pacific Wildlife Care and specializes in sick and injured seabirds.  You can learn more about John and Central Coast Outdoors at

Karl is a Biology teacher in Los Angeles.  A friend showed him a Brown creeper and White-headed woodpecker in Sequoia's Giant Forest in 1993, and a life-long passion grew from there.   Karl has been bird watching in Israel, Sweden, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and around the US.  He studied Marine Biology at the University of Miami and worked as a naturalist for the National Park Service in Everglades, Denali, Joshua Tree and Sequoia National Parks before becoming a classroom teacher.   He writes a blog about bio-inspired ornithopters and the evolution of human flight called Great Blue Machine.



 Claudia Freitas is a retired Biology professor.  After teaching college Zoology, Wildlife Bio, Marine Bio and a variety of Natural History classes including Birding classes, for 33 years she moved back to the central coast where she had gone to college and became involved as a docent at the Morro Bay Natural History Museum.  Besides teaching courses at Long Beach City College she has also taught Elderhostels, taught and trained staff at the El Dorado Nature Center, taught for Parks and Recreation in Long Beach and at Long Beach State University.  She was also lucky enough to lead nature trips for a variety of agencies to many countries including: India, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Botswana.  Besides those things, she loves showing people how much fun birding is.  Hers is a light-hearted look at the world around us.


Jessica Griffiths has been working as a field ornithologist for over 10 years.  She grew up in Chicago, got her undergrad degree at Wellesley College outside of Boston, and spent the next few years traveling around the country working for non-profits and government agencies in 7 states with a focus on songbird ecology. She then worked as a Wildlife Biologist for Ventana Wildlife Society, running the Big Sur Ornithology Lab for 4 years.  She discovered a passion for public outreach and education, and has given presentations and bird banding demonstrations to thousands of people.  She is currently getting her Masters in Biology at Cal Poly, where she also TAs Ornithology.  

Kara Hagedorn with Sunshine   


Kara got turned on to birds camping as a kid in Colorado.  After completing her degree in Zoology, she worked as an Environmental Educator for NY State Parks. She volunteered at the Cornell Hawk Barn as a raptor rehabilitator and in 1997 adopted Sunshine, an unreleasable Red-tailed Hawk.  Together they have presented hundreds of programs focusing on the beauty, behavior and value of raptor species.  In 2010 Kara wrote, directed and produced "Sunshine's Surprise", a docu-drama-comedy about a hawk who hatched chickens.  Sunshine was such an excellent mother that she went on to foster two Red-shouldered Hawks.  Kara wrote a book about it called, "Sunshine's Mothering Miracle". Visit their website at

 Rich Hansen


Rich is a retired FDA Microbiologist.  He has been a Central Coast resident for the past 30 years, where he was an Audubon board member when Sweet Springs was acquired, and where he has served in several capacities with the BirdFest over the past 15 years. His photos have been published in most major "bird" and/or "nature magazines.
 Marlin Harms


Marlin has been birding for over 30 years, has lived in Morro Bay that entire time, and considers the bay his back yard.  He has been a leader in each of the previous winter bird festivals.  He has a degree in biology, assisted in research at Mono Lake and the Farallon Islands in the 1980s, and in the 1990s he coordinated numerous shorebird censuses in conjunction with PRBO.  In the past decade he has been more a photographer and has used his photos in numerous San Luis Obispo county land conservation projects.  Flickr photo site: 
Jodi Isaacs


Jodi has worked in the natural resource management field for over 17 years and currently works as an Environmental Scientist for California State Parks in Morro Bay where she dedicates much of her time to habitat conservation and restoration. Since 2005 she has operated a Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) station in coordination with the Institute for Bird Population at Morro Bay State Park. Jodi completed her graduate work in Australia studying bird movements in a fragmented rainforest landscape, has worked with endangered bird species in Maui, and worked at other banding operations in Africa, Ecuador, and around California.


Dave Keeling


Dave Keeling is a trained chemist who has taught at Cal Poly for 35 years.   He has been a serious amateur photographer since high school, with an initial emphasis on landscapes, but drifted and evolved to wildlife, and in the last 15 years to bird photography.   He has photos of well over 1,000 bird species, with nearly 300 in San Luis Obispo County.   He reports his best asset to be dogged persistence.

Paul Keller 


For the last 8 years, Paul has been living and birding in northern Santa Barbara County, where he leads field trips. For the previous 9 years, he served the Santa Barbara Audubon Society as Field Trip Chair.

 Jerry Kirkhart


Jerry is a State Park Docent for the CCNHA as well as a Pecho Trail Docent and is very active leading various AWN (Adventures With Nature) walks.  Those dealing with natural history and his passion for photography include local Flora and Fauna along with Digital Photo Instruction.  He teaches programs dealing with Digital Photo Walks, Birds, Estuary, Wild Flowers, Plankton, and Intertidal Hikes.  A retired bio/zoo instructor, he posts both common and scientific names on flickr.  He is a member of NAPP, the SLOCC, to name a few.  

Gail Kordowski 

Gale began to love birds in the mid-70's when she purchased her first Lovebird. Then, in the early 90's while on a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, she noticed birds on a rock in the ocean and wondered what they were.   This led Gale to buy her first bird book, a Peterson Guide, and ignited her passion for bird watching.  Gale attended the first Morro Bay Bird Festival as a participant, later as a representative for Morro Coast Audubon and the Snowy Plovers, and for the past several years as a Co-leader of the North Coast trip where she enjoys the birders as much as the birds. In addition to birding, Gale has found another passion in horses and is working towards a career in gentle horsemanship training.


Sally has lived on the Central Coast since 1972, when she came to Cal Poly to study Biological Sciences. A phycology class from Dr. Shirley Sparling introduced her to the enthralling marine life on our coastline and involved her in marine science research. She observed the impact that tide pool visitors have on the intertidal marine life and became involved in marine science education programs. Sally is employed as a biologist for Pacific Gas & Electric and works throughout San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, including Diablo Canyon, on environmental permitting.  She is also a member of Diablo Canyon's land stewardship program, and works closely with ranchers and fireman on managed access programs.  Sally is a board member of Central Coast State Parks Association.


Ken Levine is a retired veterinarian who practiced in Arroyo Grande for 35 years.  He is a charter member of San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, and has been a docent there for 16 years.  Two of his favorite things are plants and birds.  This has resulted in a particular interest in the role that birds play in the pollination of many of our plants. He enjoys sharing the many adaptive variations that can be seen in bird-pollinated flowers with other participants at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival.

Ron is a lifelong birder turned researcher.  He currently resides in Sacramento, and is working for the Department of Water Resources to develop a conservation strategy for the river systems of the CA Central Valley.  He is also completing graduate work at CalPoly San Luis Obispo, where his research has developed bird/habitat association models for many species of songbirds living in riparian habitats on the Central Coast.  Ron has worked with birds in wetland, riparian, and montane systems throughout California, Oregon, Washington, and southwestern British Columbia, specifically with species such as Black Rail, Least and Western Sandpiper, Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Sawwhet Owl, and various songbirds including Least Bell's Vireo.  Outside of his school and work pursuits, he is assisting Rocky Point Bird Observatory with analysis and publication of findings from their migration monitoring efforts in the Partners in Flight Bird Conservation Region 5.