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Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

2015 Leaders & Presenters N - Z

The leader and presenter list is partial. We invite all leaders to send us a photo and short bio.  
 Cara O'Brien CARA O'BRIEN

Cara O'Brien has had the pleasure of working in the field of interpretation for over 20 years.  She has connected visitors to the resources for both the National Park Service and California State Parks.  Throughout her career she has enjoyed working with, and training interpreters of all classifications.  Her greatest interest has always been interpreting marine resources.  While either at work, or exploring with family, she is fascinated with natural and cultural history, and committed to lifelong learning.  Currently she is working on the Seabird Protection Network- Pt. Sur to Pt. Mugu Chapter, where she shares the extraordinary adaptions and behaviors of seabirds to decrease human disturbance to nesting and roosting sites.


Rosemary (on the left in blue), formally a consultant, Environment, Safety and Emergency Management with a major international oil company, designed this walk in 2002. She is also a back desk docent at the Morro Bay Natural History Museum and a member of the Exhibit Enhancement Committee.

Charlene (on the right in blue), formally a teacher and docent at the Santa Barbara Zoo, joined Rosemary as co-walk leader in 2005. She is also a back desk docent and a member of the Exhibit Enhancement Committee.



After earning a BS in Natural Resources Management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Regena began working for California State Parks in 1995.  As an Environmental Scientist, she currently manages the Western Snowy Plover program for State Parks in the Morro Bay area, which has the largest breeding population of snowy plovers in the State Park System.  Regena has also been banding birds since 1998.  The two banding projects she is currently involved with are a Monitoring Avian Population and Survivorship (MAPS) station at the Powell properties within Morro Bay State Park and a study looking for Large-billed Savannah Sparrows near the Morro Bay State Park Marina.
Kaaren Perry

Kaaren Perry has been interested in birds and nature since childhood. She is an avid birder and has birded throughout the United States, Canada, Alaska, France, England, Greece and the Czech Republic.  For the past 20 years, Kaaren has enjoyed leading local field trips and conducting yearly field classes in the study of gulls, seabirds and birds of the rocky coast.   Kaaren recently lead a birding trip to Alaska for the Sierra Club.  She has also been selected as field trip leader for the Salton Sea and San Diego Birding Festivals and the Western Field Ornithologists conference. She enthusiastically shares her love for watching and learning about birds. 

Lucien Plauzoles  LUCIEN (LU) PLAUZOLES

Lu is a member and former president of Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society. He has been involved with the Snowy Plover recovery program for 15 years.  His other interests include calligraphy, native plant gardening, and backpacking.  He recently retired from a career in bookselling.  (Je parle francais!)

Donald Quintana is a Central California Nature and Wildlife Photographer whose family was an early settler in Morro Bay. He finds comfort and renewal by spending time amidst the wonders of the local natural world. His greatest enjoyment comes from capturing fleeting moments in nature that are often missed by the casual observer and sharing them with others. He has published photos in magazines, calendars and online articles, and has won awards for his photography in contests as well as from the North American Nature Photographers Association. Bird photography is one of the areas of nature photography that he is very passionate about. You can see his photos at as well as his flickr site at




Manager, Morro Bay Museum of Natural History since 2005, State Park Interpreter since 1989.  Bird Festival program committee member or co-chair since 2006.  Morro Coast Audubon Society program co-chair since 2006.  Birding informally since childhood, he began leading beginning bird walks for California State Parks in the early 1990s.  He particularly enjoy shorebirds, seabirds, raptors, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and calling birds with whistled and vocal sounds.  Rouvaishyana also works as a naturalist on local whale-watching boats, where he has numerous opportunities to observe seabirds.

 Jim Royer


Jim got the bug for birding in the mid 70's from his brother Allen, and has led field trips for various Audubon Chapters, the WFO, the ABA, and other groups since the late 70's (including trips to Veracruz, Mexico, to see the world's largest raptor migration). Jim has an interest in "green birding" and in 2010 he found 318 species while on cycling, walking, and kayaking trips starting from his home, without using any gas. He also has organized the local "Elfin Forest Big Sit" for over 10 years. He has been a board member on several Audubon chapters, and helped establish the original Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. He is an attorney, lives in Los Osos, and likes to bird with his wife Celeste, his two grown children Alisa and Dylan, and his dog Nike.


Ron Ruppert is chair of the biology department at Cuesta College. He also teaches courses in Human Anatomy, Natural History, Life Science and Desert Biology. Ron was first introduced to Osteology (bones) at Chaffey College in Southern California. Transferring to CSU Fullerton he earned a Bachelor's and Master's in biology specializing in herpetology (reptiles). He has prepared dozens of articulated skeletons including Ostrich, Great Blue Heron and Brown Pelican. He has a life-long interest in lizards and skeletons

 John Sayers


Environmental Scientist, California State Parks, San Luis Obispo Coast District since 2005.  First started birding in earnest in 2005 while monitoring snowy plover populations along the beaches of San Luis Obispo County.  He grew up in southern California amidst all the development and habitat destruction, but also near its open space and wild elements.  An interest in ecology and gardening got him involved with native plant propagation and restoration techniques.  John has been involved with the Winter Bird Festival since 2006.


Since the age of 5, Ross Schaefer has had a distinct interest in birds.  After moving to the Central Coast and learning from local birder Jim Royer, Ross began leading trips for festivals and other organizations.  Now 17, Ross has birded in 5 continents, and hopes to study Biology in college.  Recently he has had the opportunity to help his Uncle with DNA and pollination studies involving Anna's Hummingbird for Santa Clara University.  With his latest trip to Uganda, his life list is at just under 2000 species.

Brad Schram


Brad started birding in the 1940s as a child in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.  After retiring early from the business world he has served since 1997 as a part-time birding tour leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and as a naturalist aboard adventure cruise ships.  His tours have extended north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle as well as across the South Pacific through Polynesia and Melanesia.  Brad has birded on all continents and has led birding tours on five of them.  He and his wife Dianne have seven grandchildren.

Steve Schubert


Steve is an active member of the Morro Coast Audubon Society: President 2000-2001; past Program Chairman; author "The Peregrine Falcons of Morro Rock: A 40-Year History"  (; Volunteer Coordinator (1996-present) for the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project (  Steve teaches at a residential environmental education program attended by more than 3,000 students each school year and teaches natural history courses for Community Programs at Cuesta College. He has been a speaker and field trip leader for the Winter Bird Festival each year since its inception. His wildlife and landscape photography can be found at

 Dennis Sheridan


Dennis Sheridan is a native Californian who grew up in Arcadia.  He graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in biology, specialty entomology.  He moved to Morro Bay in 1974 and began a career in photography, concentrating on birds of prey and native wildlife, as well as fungi, lichens, insects, wildflowers and California scenery.  Dennis has traveled worldwide photographing nature. Dennis has published many photographs in magazines, books, and calendars including Audubon field guides.  He contributes his photography and naturalist services to the California Native Plant Society, Audubon Society, Small Wilderness Area Preservation, and Morro Estuary Greenbelt Alliance.


An avid surfer and extreme rock climber for more than 30 years, Tom only recently "discovered" birding in October 2011. A self-starter (inspired by the book and movie "The Big Year"), he bought a Sibley's guide and some binoculars and then scoured the Central Coast with his 7 year-old son Owen in search of anything with feathers. He has seen and enjoyed over 270 county species. Tom has been mentored by Maggie Smith and others in the SLOCO community. What he lacks in experience he makes up for with enthusiasm. He has led trips with Lifelong Learners of the Central Coast to Oso Flaco Lake and Oceano Lagoon, and he enjoys passing on his newfound joy for birds to anyone who will bird with him. He welcomes entire families to join, as he will be birding with his son Owen during this year's festival. When he isn't birding, he is teaching English at Mesa Middle School in Arroyo Grande.

 Greg Smith


Greg Smith has birded and searched out nature's wonders on all seven continents and has led natural history and birding tours in California, Alaska, Argentina, Chile, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica. He is recently retired after a 27-year career with the California State Park System. Formerly a park ecologist, Greg was a superintendent of eight park units, focusing on education on the importance of preserving natural and cultural resources. An accomplished wildlife photographer, he also maintains a U.S. Master Bird Banding permit. Greg plays an integral part in planning and administration of Naturalist Journeys. As the WEST COAST REPRESENTATIVE for Naturalist Journeys Natural History & Birding Tours ( www.Naturalist ); he has designed a number of itineraries in California, Baja, Oregon and Washington.

 Maggie SMith


Maggie began noticing and identifying birds in 2004.  She has led field trips for Morro Coast Audubon Society, Winter Bird Festival and Western Field Ornithologists since 2005.  As a volunteer, she's helped with a series of Sea Bird surveys for Cal Poly and two Tricolored blackbird surveys in San Luis Obispo County.  Though she prefers being outside, she has organized the yearly Morro Coast Audubon pelagic trip and served as a Christmas Bird Count sector leader for the past four years.  Her bird and nature photos can be seen at

 Bob Stafford and bear


Robert Stafford has a worked on a wide array of wildlife species in central California for over 25 years.   Research subjects have ranged from black bears, tule elk, and San Joaquin kit foxes to desert tortoises, blunt-nosed leopard lizards, and western pond turtles.  His primary expertise is the vertebrate ecology of the Carrizo Plains region where he is working with colleagues to refine aerial monitoring techniques for detecting large scale population trends in giant kangaroo rats.   He is currently employed as an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and is the reserve manager for a number of CDFG properties including the Chimineas Unit of the Carrizo Plain Ecological Reserve.

 Glenn Stewart and Sophie GLENN STEWART (with Sophie)

Glenn R. Stewart is the director of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz which was founded to recover the Pacific States Peregrine Falcon population. The Group also helped foster recoveries for Harris' Hawks, Elf Owls, Bald Eagles, and Aplomado Falcons. Stewart was project leader for the Bald Eagle and Harris' Hawk release efforts and studies of Goshawks in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Today he teaches at UC Santa Cruz and leads volunteer citizen scientists in the collection of baseline population data on the San Francisco Bay Area Peregrine Falcon population, and bands nestling Peregrines as part of an on-going study. He is the author of the new eBook on Amazon, Eye to Eye with Eagles Hawks and Falcons.

 Mike Stiles


Mike is a local native and has been birding in the area since 1973. He has led trips for Morro Coast Audubon Society and the Winter Bird Festival. He has been a board member for the local Audubon Society for the last 7 years as Field Trip Chair, and as the Communications Chair, and is in charge of their website.

Jeanette Stone


Jeanette serves as the Center Operations Director for Pacific Wildlife Care in Morro Bay, CA.  She has volunteered with PWC for over 3 years in different capacities; as a center worker, website designer, board vice-president and president. As Center Director, Jeanette oversees the activities and operations of the rehab facility, conducts trainings/orientations and works closely with staff to provide the highest level of care. As a CA licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist, she uses her knowledge and skills to implement effective treatment plans for wildlife undergoing rehabilitation. PWC holds permits from the Department of Fish & Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to possess and rehabilitate wildlife and is a primary response group for wildlife in the event of oil spills or other environmental crises. The Center which opened in March of 2007 takes in over 1,500 animals annually.


Jan Surbey


Jan has been a Morro Coast Audubon Society Board member 2006 to present (Hospitality, chair, President, Past President).  A retired teacher from St. Louis, Missouri, Jan moved to the Central Coast in 1999 to enjoy year-round running.  Even after traveling to all seven continents, Jan's favorite places on this planet remain southern Utah and Santa Margarita Lake, where she birds and previously lived and worked.

 Dean Thompson  DEAN THOMPSON

Dean Thompson is a naturalist who also happens to enjoy birding.  Trained as a wildlife biologist, he has worked with a variety of raptors in California, Arizona and Wyoming for The Peregrine Fund and the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Group.  He traveled to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji before finally settling down here in SLO county.  Since then he has worked as an outdoor science school instructor in Montana de Oro State Park.  For the last 26 years he has led natural history tours along the central coast, conducted Least Tern surveys, raised 2 children, coached and managed to stay sane by spending as much time as possible outdoors .  Dean's skill as a professional storyteller makes his tours both entertaining and educational.
 Bert Townsend


Bert Townsend has been birding since age 11, including several area of North America; from Michigan to Florida and California to Texas.  He has also birded in Central America and Europe.  Bert has been anticipating in the MBWBF from the beginning.

 Scott Weidensaul SCOTT WEIDENSAUL

Scott Weidensaul is the author of more than two dozen books on natural history, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist "Living on the Wind," about bird migration, "Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul," and "Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding." His newest book, "The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America," was published in 2012.  Weidensaul is a contributing editor for Audubon magazine and writes for a variety of other publications; he lives in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, where he studies the migration of hawks, owls and hummingbirds.
 Karen Watts


Karen Watts has a bachelor's degree in Biology from UCSB and a master's degree in science education from Cal State East Bay.  She is a former molecular biologist and high school science teacher.  She has been a docent at the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History since 2007, where she works with education programs for students of all ages and leads nature walks. Karen helped to develop a plankton program that is regularly presented to school groups from grades 4 through college, and the general public.  She is also a bacteria monitoring volunteer for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program and a substitute naturalist at Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School.


Chuck is the resident park ranger at Santa Margarita Lake for the County of San Luis Obispo and has been birding the Central Coast since 1986, when he came to Cal Poly SLO and obtained a B.S. in Natural Resource Management. He has done waterfowl and shorebird research for the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and worked on the California Condor Recovery Program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He often leads interpretive outings at Santa Margarita Lake and Lopez Lake recreation areas and has been leading outings for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival for 7 years.
 Roger Zachary ROGER ZACHARY

Roger is a recently retired Biology teacher and former North Cuesta Audubon President and Field-trip Leader.  He has been a compiler of the Carrizo Plain CBC since 1983 and is presently an active field-trip leader for Morro Coast Audubon Society and  enjoying digital photography. (