Meet Your Guides

Joe Beach

Joe birded with his family from before he started school then assisted with Puerto Rican Parrot field work as a teenager. Joe surveyed Golden-cheeked's and Black-capped's with Travis County and city of Austin and now surveys for Golden-Cheeked's at Bright Leaf Preserve. After earning his BA from Williams College, he did his graduate work at Tulane University. Joe moved to Austin in 1994 and works for the Texas Railroad Commission.

Martin Byhower

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.

Eric Carpenter

Eric Carpenter grew up in Houston where he started his birding obsession at the age of 10 alongside his dad and brother, eventually moving to Austin by way of San Antonio in 1994. Eric has served on the Texas Bird Records Committee since 2004 (Secretary since 2011) and also volunteers his time as a co-author of the Texas section for _North American Birds_ and as a reviewer of eBird records for the state. He was the first to see over 500 species (505) in the a single year in Texas during his Texas Big Year in 2003. He has been involved with Texas pelagic trips since the early 1990s and has been helping co-lead or organize them for the past 10+ years. Locally, his home away from home is Hornsby Bend where he did a Big Year in 2005 (249 species) and where he has lead the Monthly Survey for the past 12 years - you can often find him there scoping out shorebirds on the aromatic "sludge" ponds. He is very fortunate to have a loving wife, Maggie, who not only tolerates his obsession but encourages it as she is an avid birder herself.. A sign that it was "meant to be" came on their first trip together to Big Bend where they found the first (and still only) Fan-tailed Warbler found in the state.  Eric & Maggie are retired and live in southwest Austin. When they aren't there...they are almost certainly birding.

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.

Ed Fair

Ed has been actively and obsessively birding since 2001. He regularly leads field trips for Travis Audubon Society primarily at Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park and Westcave Preserve. He conducts numerous USGS Breeding Bird Surveys throughout Texas and participates in a number of Christmas Bird Counts. He has also participated in Golden-cheeked Warbler surveys for Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. He is founder of the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization ( which has been actively involved in efforts to improve bird habitat at Commons Ford Ranch Metro Park through the implementation of a native prairie restoration project. When Ed is not birding or irritating his grandchildren, he is practicing music law or teaching music business courses at the University of Texas.

Jim Giocomo

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.

Shelia Hargis

Shelia has been birding for 17 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, regularly leads birding field trips, is on the Travis Audubon Habitat Conservation Committee, and teaches the Travis Audubon Introduction to Birds & Birding class. Her goal for the class is to get every participant hooked on birds.  Ms. Hargis is the current President of the Texas Ornithological Society.

John Harrington

John has been an active volunteer and member of the Friends of Balcones Canyonlands since 2002. His love of the outdoors naturally blossomed to an obsession for birding. He is also a member of the Travis Audubon Society (TAS) and the American Birding Association. John frequently leads field trips at the Refuge for TAS and Friends of Balcones  and is actively involved in the USFWS Golden-cheeked Warbler surveys and assists the banding programs. John puts many hours into the Balcones Songbird Festival, the Balcones Christmas Bird Count and SparrowFest (where his other talent is cooking!). John is retired from AT&T where he was a Lab Manager. All the years at his desk, he dreamed of the great outdoors and visited it to hunt, hike or play whenever he had the chance. Since his retirement, he’s had time to take in all those dreams living in the Texas Hill Country with his wife, Cathy.

Rich Kostecke

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.

Jeffery Jackson

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.

Dennis Palafox

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.

Jeff Patterson

Raised in a Texas birding family, Jeff Patterson has been birding almost as long as he can remember; over 40 years and counting. He is employed as a technical specialist at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and continues to explore and bird natural areas throughout the state. Jeff became curious about the sounds that birds make during the mid-1980's. But with today’s digital resources he has become fascinated with all aspects of bird sounds, including: the reasons birds sing, bird vocal anatomy, sound spectrograms and birding by ear. Over the past few years Jeff has developed and taught a popular class for the Travis Audubon Society on the bird vocalizations of central Texas.

Randy Pinkston

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.

Byron Stone

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

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.

Jane Tillman

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.

Deb Wallace

Birding and being outdoors are my favorite things. I am a member of both Friends of Balcones and Travis Audubon, where I use my 20+ years of birding experience to coordinate and lead field trips. I enjoy showing folks the birds and places of Central Texas.

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