MEET YOUR GUIDES
When I was 14 years old, I spotted a tall, gray-blue bird standing in a creek with a wiggly crawfish in its mouth. I ran home to get the Texas Birds field guide. I searched until I found a picture of a Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Wow! Ever since then, I have been a birder, curious and excited to see all kinds of birds. Much later in life, I spotted my first Golden-cheeked Warbler singing in the sunlight on a Travis Audubon “Two Hour Tuesday.” I joined the Travis Audubon Society and now participate on various committees: Field Trip, Youth, and Blair Woods. I enjoy interacting with beginning birders of all ages, and I’m often outside leading groups and looking for birds.
Justin has been birding for over two decades after an intense interest had been sparked by birds such as the Baltimore Oriole with it's gaudy orange-and-black plumage and the Wood Thrush with it's rich and rolling song. Since then, he has become borderline obsessed in his passion for and pursuit of birds, both locally and abroad. For Justin, birding is much more than mere recreation but a pseudo-scientific endeavor, intently documenting and studying species' life histories including their identification, status and distribution, and ecology. Fortunately, he gets to spend a lot of time out in the field across a broad swath of Texas as part of his work in wildlife consulting. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University and a Geographic Information Science certificate from Texas Tech University and would like to complete a higher-education degree in the near future. However, in the meantime, he has been working towards becoming a Texas Master Naturalist with the Capital Area Chapter.
Coco Brennan is a Texas Master Naturalist as well as a Bexar Audubon member. Coco moved to the Hill Country in 2006 after spending the previous 10 years overseas with an international oil company. She started volunteering at the Refuge in 2007. Coco also works with Texas Parks and Wildlife as well as Audubon doing Golden-cheeked warbler surveys in Bexar and Comal counties. She performs bird surveys with Cibolo Nature Center in Kendall county. Coco is heavily involved in education and interpretation for Audubon and Bat Conservation International.
Martin Byhower leads field trips for The Williamson Audubon Group (WAG) and other organizations. A professional birding guide and award-winning science teacher from CA, he is reveling in the biodiversity in Central Texas. He is past president of the Palos Verdes/South Bay (CA) Audubon chapter and has been active with numerous conservation organizations in CA and now in Texas. He is a Texas Master Naturalist with the Good Water Chapter, and has his own native plant retail/garden business. Martin lives in Georgetown and is one of the area coordinators for the Georgetown Christmas Bird Count.
John Chenoweth & Bill Reiner
John Chenoweth and Bill Reiner have been birding together since they worked as a team on the refuge from 2001 to 2004. In those years, they mapped territories of the refuge’s two endangered bird species, though their primary task was monitoring and control of the oak wilt fungus, earning them the nickname The Oak Wilt Boys. Today they are both employed as biologists with the City of Austin, where they continue to monitor and protect Golden-cheeked Warblers and Black-capped Vireos on lands of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. They enjoy challenging each other’s bird and plant identification skills, and sharing with refuge visitors their passion for exploring the natural communities of the Texas Hill Country.
Jim is the Coordinator of the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (OPJV), for the American Bird Conservancy. Jim earned a BS in Biology Millersville University of Pennsylvania, an MS in Ecology from the Pennsylvania State University, and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Tennessee. His work focused on songbird productivity in forest and grassland settings. Species monitored included Ovenbirds and Wood Thrush in Pennsylvania, and Henslow’s Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Bachman’s Sparrows, Dickcissels, and Eastern Meadowlarks at Fort Campbell Army Base working in the drop zones used for training by the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Jim has also worked for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Audubon Pennsylvania, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Dr. Scott Hamlin
Scott is a research geologist recently retired from the University of Texas, Bureau of Economic Geology. He has lived in Austin for more than 35 years. His main areas of expertise are hydrogeology and petroleum geology. Scott has published numerous reports on Texas geology, including the hydrogeology of Cretaceous aquifers in the Texas Hill Country and North Texas.
Bryce is a high school student at Lago Vista High School. Since he was young, Bryce was always interested in nature; however a trip to Plum Island in Newburyport, MA hooked him on birding for good. Bryce has birded in the Central Texas area extensively since moving here in 2011. He has been to the mountains of West Texas, spring migration in Brazoria County, Port Aransas, South Padre Island and the Far South Texas area. He has also been a part of 5 Christmas Bird Counts. He went to 2 in Austin, 2 at Balcones Canyonlands NWR, and 1 at Granger Lake. During those CBC’s his group has found amazing birds such as Mountain Bluebird, Green-tailed Towhee, and American Woodcock. Bryce enjoys birding with his dad and travelling all over Texas to see new species. In his spare time he also plays basketball, baseball, and football and is a straight A student. Bryce will continue birding while trying to get a career in the life Department.
Shelia has been birding for 20+ years and thinks that birds are the coolest! She spends most of her free time birding or thinking about birds and her passion and enthusiasm for birds and birding is infectious. Shelia has given presentations and classes on numerous bird topics and regularly leads birding field trips. She taught the Travis Audubon Introduction to Birds & Birding class for several years. Ms. Hargis is the current President of the Texas Ornithological Society. TOS promotes the discovery, knowledge, observation and conservation of birds in Texas.
Rich Kostecke & Veena Mohan
Rich Kostecke has spent the last 17 years birding and conducting ornithological research in Texas. He earned his PhD in Wildlife Science from Texas Tech University in 2002 where his research focused on wetland management and migratory waterbirds. Rich’s first job after completing his PhD was with The Nature Conservancy’s Fort Hood Program, a cooperative effort with the Army to monitor and manage endangered species (Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers) and their habitats. In 2011, Rich assumed his current state-wide role as Associate Director of Conservation – Research & Planning for The Nature Conservancy in Texas. His recent research projects include assessing the status of Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers on Nature Conservancy preserves, assessing the impacts of large-scale wildfires on the bird life of the Davis Mountains, and the winter ecology of Sprague’s Pipits on the Texas Gulf Coast. Rich is often accompanied by his wife, Veena Mohan, on his birding adventures. She developed a great love of the outdoors on her many trips with her intrepid husband, traveling through the neotropics and South India.
Jeffrey Jackson has been birding ever since picking up a pair of binoculars on a family vacation to Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012. He now enjoys spending his free time traveling all over in search of birds. Jeffrey works for Travis County Parks, where he leads monthly bird walks at Milton Reimers Ranch Park.
Cheryl McGrath has lived in Austin since 1982, and has been actively birding Central Texas for the past ten years. Growing up in Central New York, her mother was an avid birder, who in 1975 spotted a Snowy Owl hanging out in nearby fields. It was a good bird to launch a life list, and a life-long fascination with birds great and small!
Jean is a native West Texan, living in Austin and the Hill Country since 1971. She is a long-time avid birder and nature-lover, and a trained naturalist, with a special interest in the plants and animals of the Hill Country, including the historical uses of native plants. She has volunteered for organizations such as Travis Audubon Society, Native Plant Society, Texas Master Naturalist chapters, and other groups, in addition to volunteer work for BCNWR.
Dennis Palafox is a native Texan and first moved to Austin in 1975. He has B.S. and M.S in Biology. He has close to 40 years of experience in the natural resources field. Dennis developed his interest in birds as part of job duties. He says he “officially” became a birder about 14 years ago after taking Byron Stone’s Sparrow Class. He has expanded his knowledge about birds by taking classes, attending workshops, and by participating in Breeding Bird Surveys and Christmas Bird Counts. He has birded throughout Texas and the U.S. as well as Central America and Europe.
Dennis has been leading field trips for the Travis Audubon Society (TAS) for about three years. Recently, he became the TAS Field Trip Committee Chair. Dennis believes that birding should be a fun learning experience. He particularly enjoys leading field trips for new birders because he enjoys seeing their enthusiasm as they become more familiar with birds. His philosophy in leading field trips is that it’s a collaborative effort whereby the leader participates as a facilitator and works with participants to locate, identify, and become more familiar with birds. He also enjoys the social aspects of birding because he gets to make new friends with a shared common interest. More recently, like other birders, he has developed an interest in photographing and digiscoping birds. His goal is to take a picture of every species he sees.
Randy life has been defined by birds & birding since 1972. His focus is Texas and North American birds although he enjoys neotropical birding and has traveled widely in Mexico and Central America. Pinkston has a wildlife science degree from Aggieland and at one time hoped to make some sort of living in birds. Instead, he took the easy way out and became a surgeon so that he could afford to live a comfortable life while birding. He has led numerous birding tours in Texas & Arizona over the past 30+ years, including several central Texas winter sparrow workshops for Texas Ornithological Society. As a Life Member of TOS he has done Pineywoods breeding warbler trips and has served on its Bird Records Committee. He co-authored the Texas column for North American Birds magazine since 2004. Recently Randy has taken an interest in birding with a digital camera and telephoto lens.
Dr. Sexton has been active in environmental issues for over 25 years in Austin and around Texas. He grew up in southern California and migrated to Austin in the mid-1970's to attend graduate school at the University of Texas. Dr. Sexton received his doctorate in 1987 studying the impacts of urbanization on birds. Chuck is an acknowledged expert on the biology of both the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. He came to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as the staff biologist for the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in December 1994. Chuck is an accomplished botanist and butterfly enthusiast and has presented programs on Texas natural history to a wide range of groups. He writes extensively about Texas birds, most notably with his friend and co-author Greg Lasley in American Birds/Field Notes/North American Birds for the past 17 years.
Dr. Stone is an Austin physician and naturalist with a lifelong love of the outdoors. He has been an avid birder for over three decades, and has traveled all parts of Texas to observe birds and wildlife. Recently, his sparrow identification talents were touted in the Wall Street Journal (Birdwatchers Find Sparrows Often Are A Tough Nut to Crack, dtd Feb. 23, 2006). Dr Stone is the Past President of the Texas Ornithological Society.
Amy Sugeno is a former wildlife biologist who spent much of her career working with bats, songbirds and waterfowl, and rare species in Texas and Tennessee as well as New Mexico, Colorado, and Mexico for over 16 years. She mostly worked for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, but she also worked at The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. She has also assisted with small mammal surveys, herpetological research, and plant community surveys, including wetland and rare plant surveys. Throughout her career, she greatly enjoyed teaching people about the natural world, particularly birds and bats, and was involved in many different classes and programs through TPWD as well as Travis Audubon Society. Amy now works as a mental health therapist, where she continues to help people connect with and learn about nature.
Mary Taylor has always loved nature and photography. She traveled the US for many years as a professional dancer enjoying the outdoors along the way, but didn’t discover a more focused interest in birds until moving to the Texas Hill Country in 2007. After repeated trips to Port Aransas, she met up with a guided tour at Turnbull Birding Center that sparked a deep fascination and specialized love for birds. She is currently a member of Travis Audubon Society and helped establish and lead trips for Travis Audubon’s Young Birders Club, including the Bird-a-thon. She has volunteered with the Balcones Canyonlands NWR, including assisting during the Balcones Songbird Festival and participating in the last 6 Christmas Bird Counts. She is currently taking The Cornell Lab’s online Ornithology course to further her understanding of bird biology. In her spare time, besides constantly trying to add to her life list, she also cross-stitches pictures of birds.
Jane Tillman is the current co-chair of the Travis Audubon Society Speaker's Bureau and Program Committee, and a member of the Education Committee. She is a past president of the Native Plant Society of Texas, Austin chapter. Jane is also the field trip coordinator for the Texas Ornithological Society and leads field trips for Travis Audubon. She gives talks and teaches classes about Central Texas birds and gardening for birds to garden clubs, neighborhood associations, lifelong learning groups, bird festivals, and libraries. She writes a monthly bird forecast blog post for a local TV station. Seize the outreach opportunity is her motto. Jane loves to get others excited about our Texas birds.
Celeste Treadway is a veterinarian, and has had a lifelong interest in birds, wildlife, and conservation. She birded casually for most of her adult life, but became much more active in birding in 2015, when she hosted her first Birdathon event to raise funds for Travis Audubon Society. Since retiring from her veterinary practice in 2017, she’s enjoyed having time to take some fabulous TAS courses, including Jeff Patterson’s Birdsong class, Byron Stone’s Sparrow Identification class, and the TAS Master Birder series. She serves on the TAS Field Trip Committee, hosts a Birdathon fundraiser every spring, helps with Golden-cheeked warbler surveys, and absolutely loves to bring birding friends out in the spring to see and hear the GCWA’s that nest on her 25-acre property in the Hill Country. Her very favorite birds are the Eastern phoebes that have called her front porch home for over a decade. When she’s not birding, she enjoys boating on Lake Travis with her husband, taking her Golden Retriever on walks through the woods around her home, and playing with her grandchildren. This is her first year to volunteer with the Songbird Festival.