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Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

2016 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.


A naturalist from a very early age, Daniel's interest in birding really took off while working on a degree in Ecology from Cal Poly. Since then he has worked as an volunteer on the California Condor Recovery Program, as well as a bird guide for a local outdoor tour outfit.  Currently, Daniel is the Stewardship Manager for The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County and is working to preserve and protect San Luis Obispo County's unique and diverse landscape. 
 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
 Chris Cameron

Chris is the 2016 co-chair of the Winter Bird Festival. He is the Executive Director of Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, CA where he strives to pass along a passion for inquiry and a love of nature. He has been a pastor, a naturalist and a consultant, and has coached soccer, driven a bus, kept bees, caught snakes, made a fire with two sticks, and has a Master's degree in organizational leadership.


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.

 Claudia Duckworth CLAUDIA DUCKWORTH

Claudia has been involved in wildlife rehabilitation with Pacific Wildlife Care for 27 years, concentrating on birds. She houses and exhibits Corax, the PWC education raven, leads the creance team and is a member of the oiled bird wash team.  Although she finds all birds wonderful and fascinating, she has a particular fondness for corvids and seabirds.  Claudia is currently a member of the PWC Board of Directors and to pay for all of this, works at the Superior Court.
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.

 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.

   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.

Tom Graves audio calls  TOM GRAVES

I started birding while I was majoring in biology at Cal State, Northridge. I went on to become a Physical Therapist, but continued birding after graduation and, with a DIY spirit, I converted a wooden salad bowl into a dish microphone with a cheap tape recorder. I simply wanted to ID the songs by comparing my recordings to my Peterson's CD field guide. In 1995 I called the phone number in the booklet that came with the CDs. I spoke with Greg Budney who is now the Audio Curator of the Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University. I asked about proper field recorders, and on his advice, I looked up Stith Recording. I started with a Marantz PMD 222 cassette recorder, and an omnidirectional microphone with a 24-inch parabola. I switched to a Marantz PMD 661 digital recorder and added a short shotgun microphone in 2012. I've been uploading my recordings to xeno-Canto for several years now, and include links to my recordings to slocobirding: many people include links to their photos, why not audio recordings? 


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: 
 Steve Hendricks with Zoe STEVE HENDRICKS

Steve Hendricks was born and raised in San Luis Obispo County.  He achieved a A.S. Cuesta College, a B.S. in Fish Biology from Humboldt State University, and an M.S. in Fish Biology from Oregon State University.  He has worked as a fish biologist in California, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska for the past 12 years, and for 10 years as a Biology Professor at Cuesta and Hancock Colleges. He is married to wife Rachael for 15 years, and has one daughter, Zoe, who is 8 years old (and part bird fairy!). Steve is an avid fisherman and an amateur birder.

 Ken Hillers Cal Poly SLO


Ken is a professor in the Biological Sciences department at Cal Poly, and has been birding the central coast since 2004.

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.


Vicky Johnsen   


Vicky is an "Amateur naturalist and a professional volunteer. She is a Docent for the Small Wilderness Preservation Association (SWAP) at the Elfin Forest in Los Osos, CA.
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.
 John Lindsey PG&E meterorologist JOHN LINDSEY

John Lindsey is a media relations representative and marine meteorologist for Pacific Gas and Electric Company at Diablo Canyon Power Plant. He has worked for PG&E for more than 12 years. 

He has forecasted weather and oceanographic conditions along the Central Coast of California for over 25 years. His forecast can be heard every morning on 920 KVEC radio and weekly on Mondays in the San Luis Obispo Tribune. 

Before PG&E, he was a marine meteorologist and research scientist with Tenera Environmental. He served in the U.S. Navy for over 24 years and completed the U.S. Naval Aviation Meteorology and Oceanography Program. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

He is currently on the Board of Directors of the PG&E Veterans Employee Resource Group and the president of the board of directors of Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers. He was also named Los Osos citizen of the year. 

He currently lives in Los Osos, California and is married to Trisha. They have two children, Chloe 17 and Sean 11.

Ron Melcer  

Ron is a lifelong birder and naturalist.  He currently resides in Sacramento, and is working for the CA Department of Water Resources on river conservation and restoration within the Central Valley of California.  He is also completing his doctorate in geography at the University of California, Davis, where his research is focused on river meander and bird habitat dynamics within the flood management system of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. 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 many songbird species including Bank Swallow and Least Bell's Vireo. Outside of his school and work pursuits, he enjoys working with Rocky Point Bird Observatory on their migration monitoring efforts and banding workshops within the Partners in Flight Bird Conservation Region 5.