Events & Adventures
New York City Audubon employs a talented group of professional and volunteer naturalists and photography educators. Whatever the program, you can be sure that your leader will be knowledgable and entertaining. Learn about our principal trip leaders, below.
Hailing from the borough of Queens, Andrew Baksh credits his growth as a naturalist to his early childhood experiences with nature and to the kindness of the photographers, naturalists, and birders he has had the pleasure of meeting on his journeys. An avid birder, Andrew lives by the mantra that life should be as simple as “Eat, bird and sleep… then do it all again (in any order)." Not a day goes by when Andrew is not in the field exploring old and new habitats and studying the species he encounters.
Andrew first worked with NYC Audubon as a volunteer, participating in many conservation efforts as well as serving as field assistant on many trips with NYC Audubon leaders like Joe Giunta and Don Riepe. Andrew spends a lot of his time birding at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, and has also taken part in many volunteer efforts there including beach cleanups, invasive plant removal, and NYC Audubon’s shorebird monitoring study. As a result of Andrew’s volunteer work with NYC Audubon, he was recognized by TogetherGreen, an alliance between Audubon and Toyota. (Click here to read his profile.)
Andrew now leads his own Saturday morning walks (excepting first Saturdays) on behalf of NYC Audubon at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. He has built a loyal following and documents the Van Cortlandt Bird Walks as well as other nature adventures via his blog at www.birdingdude.blogspot.com.
Joe Giunta, a native New Yorker, has been birding the New York City region for over 20 years. A former math teacher and Program Chairman at Fort Hamilton High School, Joe is the birding instructor for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He has led bird walks for New York City Audubon, the Nature Conservancy, and Brooklyn Bird Club, and regularly gives lectures on birding and leads bird walks for the South Fork Natural History Society (SOFO). Joe is the Bluebird Trail coordinator for SOFO on the South Fork of Long Island, and a captain in the Brooklyn and South Nassau Christmas Counts. He has also participated in breeding bird surveys for New York State.
In addition to his popular spring and fall series of morning migration walks in Central Park, Joe leads many birding trips for NYC Audubon to popular birding destinations in the New York City area and beyond, and also teaches classes on bird song and identification. An enthusiastic traveler, Joe has birded extensively in Central and South America. Joe is the owner of Happy Warblers LLC, a birding and educational travel company.
Peter Rhoades Mott, past president of NYC Audubon, has been a volunteer for the organization since he moved to New York City in 1984. In previous years, he served as president of the Florida Audubon Society and also conducted field research for Massachusetts Audubon, focusing on problems created by herring gulls and other birds at Logan Airport. Professionally, Peter worked at Phillips Academy, Middlesex School, Moses Brown School, and Saint Luke’s School as a biology teacher and school head before moving to New York City. From that time till his retirement in 2007, Peter taught at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, where he initiated the Annual Founders’ Day walk in Central Park for Fieldston students and faculty. He also developed records for spring and fall migration at the school’s Riverdale campus.
Mr. Mott grew up with “bird hikes” in central New Jersey and continued his passion for birding with organized trips to special sites in Florida as well as to spectacular locations in France, Kenya, and Nebraska. He now leads several walks each year to favorite birding spots in New York City, where his many years of teaching are apparent as he engages birders with his deep knowledge of our birds and their environment.
Having devoted over 30 years to conserving the Jamaica Bay ecosystem where he grew up, Don Riepe has lived a life steeped in nature--and understands how important it is to both enjoy, and actively protect, its wonders. Don worked many years for the National Park Service as a naturalist and manager of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. He now holds the position of Jamaica Bay Guardian, and serves on JFK Airport's Bird Hazard Task Force, the board of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, and as Northeast Chapter Director of the Littoral Society. He has extensive hands-on knowledge of all the diverse flora and fauna of working ecosystems: from butterflies, to orchids, to (of course!) birds. Dons leads regular bird walks and educational programs at Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and also has longtime experience leading tours outside of New York City.
Don has written many articles on natural history subjects and his photographs have been published in many journals including Scientific American, National Wildlife, Audubon, Defenders, Underwater Naturalist, Parade and The New York Times. He has an M.S. in Natural Resources Management from the University of New Hampshire and has taught Wildlife Management at St. John’s University. A long-time member of NYC Audubon, he currently serves on our board as Vice-President of Conservation.
David Speiser has been a birder and photographer for over 15 years, and in that time has traveled all over the world and seen more than 4,000 species. When the first of his two daughters was born five years ago, however, he decided to stay closer to home and concentrate on photography. His career as a management consultant along with fatherhood and being an avid birder and photographer keep him busy. David’s images have been featured at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Ontario, and many national parks, as well as in Audubon, Birder’s World, Birdwatching, and many other publications.
David is co-leader of the NYC Audubon Photography Club as well as an instructor and guide for many photography workshops and birding trips. He serves on the Board of Directors of New York City Audubon and Save the Frogs! His work can be viewed at www.lilibirds.com.
Lloyd Spitalnik, a well known birder and accomplished photographer, lives and works in New York City and the surrounding area. His photographs have appeared in Audubon, Natural History, Birder's World, Wildbird, and Birding (ABA) magazines, as well as in The New York Times and New York Daily News. He has also had images published in World Wildlife Fund songbird calendars and various Audubon trail guides. Lloyd recently published his first book with co-authors Kevin Karlson and Scott Elowitz, Visions: Earth's Element in Bird and Nature Photography.
Along with Don Riepe and Kevin Karlson, Lloyd organizes and conducts the popular Jamaica Bay Shorebird Festival every August. Lloyd is co-leader of the NYC Audubon Photography Club as well as an instructor and guide for many photography workshops and birding trips. His photography work can be viewed at www.lloydspitalnikphotos.com.
Gabriel Willow has been a nature enthusiast and birder since he was a small child in rural Maine, roaming the woods and fields in search of frogs and woodcocks. In his teens he traveled to Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to study birds, learning how to use mist nets and band birds. He went on to study ecology in college, his studies taking him to the mountains of Vermont and to southern Mexico, where he traveled, studying and painting the endemic avifauna off and on for five years. In 2003 he moved to New York, hoping to pursue an art school dream, but instead was drawn once again to nature and birds, becoming a teacher-naturalist with the Prospect Park Audubon Center and leading tours for Wave Hill, New York City Audubon, and others.
Gabriel is probably best known for leading NYC Audubon's summer and winter eco-cruise program. He's led the program since its inception in 2004. Working with the Prospect Park Audubon Center, Gabriel developed the eco-cruise program to blend social and natural history with wildlife sightings. He also leads migration walks in Bryant Park, in collaboration with the Bryant Park Corporation. These walks have become a regular fixture in the park, and draw a dependable crowd. Visitors are often surprised by the interesting birds that show up in this tiny park in the middle of Manhattan: Recent sightings have included American woodcock, yellow-breasted chat, ovenbird, and Lincoln’s sparrow. In addition to frequent bird walks throughout the city, Gabriel also leads various canoeing and “biking & birding” tours each year.