Trip Leaders/Educators

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.

Gabriel Willow

[b]Gabriel Willow © Gerry McGee[/b]Gabriel Willow © Gerry McGee

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. 

Joe Giunta

[b]Joe Giunta[/b]Joe Giunta

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.

Nadir Souirgi

Nadir SouirgiNadir SouirgiBorn to a Haitian mother and a Moroccan father in New York City - where else? - Nadir learned at an early age that nature is where you see it. This was due in large part to the influence and generosity of Oscar Ruiz, a close family friend, who was an avid birder and amateur naturalist himself. When Nadir was five years old, Oscar started taking him to the local hotspots: Jones Beach, Jamaica Bay, Van Cortlandt Park - and even a three-day trip to the Florida Everglades. Oscar was also responsible for giving Nadir his first set of binoculars and field guide. According to Nadir, “That’s probably why I became a teacher - because of Oscar - he didn’t just teach me about the natural world, he taught me to love it… that also has to be taught.”

And so he teaches… as an elementary school art teacher in East Harlem, through the birding and nature study program he created at his school - The Harlem County Bird Club - and now with NYC Audubon.  “The natural world needs allies, and childhood education is one of the surest ways to create them. I, along with a growing number of birders, am actively seeking to bring greater diversity to the birding and science communities. Again, early intervention is key.” Nadir continues to observe, teach, draw, and learn about birds and science as much as possible, which he does in the field, and as a volunteer in the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History.

Don Riepe

[b]Don Riepe[/b]Don Riepe

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. 

Tod Winston

Tod grew to love birds as a child in rural Pennsylvania, in the company of his nature-loving father. He particularly enjoys bringing new people to the joy of birds via NYC Audubon's Beginning Birding course, and helping birders of all levels improve their ability to "bird by ear": A lover of foreign languages and music, Tod is constantly working to improve his own understanding of the musical language of birds. He is a proponent of "slow birding"—pausing to appreciate the mysterious activity and beauty of even the most common species—and also enjoys focusing on flowers, trees, and related issues of evolution and ecology.

In addition to working as an NYC Audubon birding guide, Tod leads the organization's Harbor Herons Nesting Survey and assists with waterbird banding and other fieldwork. He began his relationship with NYC Audubon in 2007 as a volunteer, writing for The Urban Audubon, and since then has served the organization in a number of roles including program manager, communications manager, and managing editor of The Urban Audubon

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