Directors and Committee Chairs:
Ralph Baker - Field Trip Chair (Joined board in 2011)
Richard Brown (Joined board in 2019)
Jim Gain - Webmaster, Listserve Owner, eBird Reviewer, SBRC Member(Joined board in 1988)
John Harris - eBird Reviewer, SBRC Secretary (Joined board in 2007)
Ann Kohlhaas (joined board in 2020)
Christine Magaña - Events Chair (Joined board in 2014)
Tom Myers (Joined board in 2019)
Kathy Rasmussen (Joined board in 2016)
Harold Reeve - CBC Coordinator, eBird Reviewer, SBRC Member (Joined board in 1986)
Xavier Sandoval (Joined board in 2016)
Jodi Smith - Newsletter Coordinator (Joined board in 2018)
ABOUT OUR CURRENT BOARD
Ralph Baker has been a member of the Board of Directors of Stanislaus Audubon Society (SAS) since 2011. He is currently the Field Trip Chair for SAS, the administrator of the SAS Field Trip Email List and a member of the SAS Events Committee. He is also actively involved with San Joaquin Audubon Society and has led over 100 field trips, combined, for the two groups. He has also led several field trips for the Central Valley Birding Symposium, participated in many bird surveys for Audubon California and other conservation organizations, as well as several Christmas Bird Counts. He has worked in the auto parts industry for several years, he is currently a driver for AutoZone, and has also worked as a courier and in security.
Ralph grew up in San Jose, CA and has been watching birds “for as long as I can remember”. He has always been interested in birds and remembers seeing Great Egrets feeding in a field across Capitol Exp. from Eastridge Mall, which opened on Ralph’s 6th birthday in 1971, and thinking “those are wading birds, they shouldn’t be in a field”, and then going home to research egrets and herons to learn that they often DO feed away from water.
THE SPARK BIRD
The bird that turned Ralph from an avid “bird watcher” to a slightly obsessed, some might say “completely fixated” “birder” was an Eared Grebe. Ralph used to be an avid angler, often spending 8 hours or more sitting on the bank of some reservoir or other and not getting a single bite, yet refusing to leave because, as he often told coworkers who did not understand him, “I was out in nature and nature is AWESOME!”
Ralph always kept a mental list of the birds that he saw while fishing but there were always a few that he never identified to species, the gulls that almost all look pretty similar, swallows that go zipping by and are hard for the novice to ID because they are so fast, those sparrows and others that birders refer to as LBJs or Little Brown Jobs because they all require a bit of close scrutiny to separate to species. His mental list always ended with “a few unidentified gulls, a couple of unidentified swallows and some sparrows”.
So one day he decided to take a pair of binoculars, or bins as birders call them, and a field guide on his next fishing trip to ID some of those birds that had always “gotten away”. His next trip was to Lake Don Pedro in September of 2009, he took his Stokes Guide to Birds, Western Region and stopped at Big 5 to pick up a pair of bins.
He was sitting on the bank fishing and saw a bird swim around the point and into the cove where he was. He knew from the shape that it had to be a grebe but his distance from the bird made it appear completely black and he had never seen a black grebe before. He grabbed his new bins and raised them to his eyes, and the bird dove. When he spotted the bird again he raised his bins and the bird dove, again. And so it went for the next half-hour. Every time he spotted the bird and grabbed his bins the bird would dive. He didn’t see the bird for a while and decided that it must have moved back out to the main lake. Then, right there in front of him, not five feet away, a beautiful breeding plumaged Eared Grebe popped up!
Ralph spent the rest of that trip trying to ID the rest of the birds that came into view, mainly swallows. That day Ralph IDed Tree, Cliff, Violet-green and Barn Swallows. He had IDed Barn Swallows before due to their “swallow tails” but the rest were all new to him.
The following spring, March 13, 2010, to be exact, Ralph went on his first SAS field trip and he was hooked. He went out and bought himself a better pair of bins and has never looked back. Ralph IDed 96 species of birds before becoming a “birder” and in just 10 years has birded in 31 of California’s counties and has amassed a life list of over 400 species.
A board member since 2019 and serves on the events committee. Rich recently retired from 50 years in the California Fruit and Vegetable processing industry. Rich just began birding (And bird photography) about five years ago and has been busy trying to get up to speed:-) He took a number of beginning birding classes from current Stanislaus Audubon Board Members at Modesto Junior College. Rich also took advantage of the learning opportunities provided by excellent field trips from the Stanislaus, Altacal and Central Sierra Audubon Societies. He joined the Central Valley Birding Club, attended birding festivals and participated in Christmas Bird Counts.
Two years ago Rich attended the University of California's Certified California Naturalist Course at UC Merced. Since course competition he has volunteered at the University of California Natural Reserve System, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Rich says the most important use of his naturalist training is a twice a month email on native California flora and fuana to 160 former business associates and friends. Rich says that for many of these recipients, this mailing is the first of it's kind to reach their inbox:-)
About six years ago Rich became "Senior Team Member" (Consultant:-) of a company he had been General manger of for 25 years. This new responsibility level gave him more time to open his eyes and look around:-) The plant site is located on a 525 acre environmentally well managed home ranch with a large fresh water fire retention pond. Rich would walk each morning by this pond and began noticing "the birds". He bought a Sibley Field Guide of Western Birds and was hooked! The Black-necked Stilt was his "Spark Bird". Rich witnessed mating, nesting and raising fledgling behaviors of six families of Black-necked Stilts.
The most unusual Stilt behavior Rich observed was the parental action taken to protect their chicks when swimming in open water when a hawk would flyover. The adult Stilts would fly down use their long bill to flick the ping-pong ball sized chicks into the reeds and out of harms way! By the time Rich retired he had a work life list of 67 birds. Highlights were; Osprey, Ferruginous Hawk, Belting Kingfisher, Peregrine Falcon, Cassin's Kingbird and Sage Thrasher.
A board member since 1995, he has served as president and field trip chair, and is currently treasurer. He has also assisted the board on some legal issues over the years. He was in private law practice in Modesto from 1977 through 2007. In retirement, he has been a very active member of MICL (Modesto Institue of Continued Learning) and teaches a birding class there twice a year. He produced a full length movie on how to bird watch in the local area which was shown at the State Theatre. https://youtu.be/YaBaLS0NgM4
Dave began birding in 1985 as a way of balancing the stress of a busy law practice. He went to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge to see the elk (which he did not see). Instead, he saw a number of interesting birds. When he came home he bought a pair of binoculars and a bird book and has been birding ever since. The particular species that first attracted his attention was the Cedar Waxwing. He was captivated by their magnificent colors and interesting behavior as they flew from a privet tree to bushes in his backyard.
Board Member since 1988, serves as Webmaster, StanislausBirds Administrator, eBird Reviewer, & Stanislaus Bird Records Committee member. Jim was until recently, a teacher and administrator with Modesto City Schools. He taught Biology, Earth Science and Spanish for 20 years before serving as the District's Instructional Technology Supervisor for the past 14 years. His expertise was in Digital Instructional Practices and Online Learning. Jim has served as past President, Vice-president, Secretary and Treasurer for Stanislaus Audubon Society as well as Program Chair and Field Trip Chair. He was also one of the early founding Board Members of the Central Valley Bird Club, participating in every Bird Symposium since its inception.
Jim admits that he is as much a Bird Photographer as he is a Birder. Birding came first, but his passion for seeing birds was soon equaled by a passion to capture their beauty. His photography mentor, Bob Corey, introduced him to the Modesto Camera Club where he participated in their monthly slide competitions in their beginners group. He currently has over 5,000 images on his https://jimgain.smugmug.com/ site. His images have been featured on Audubon Field Guide, Birds of the World, All About Birds, Merlin Bird App and numerous websites.
Jim's birding spark came while pursuing his BA in Life Science at CSU Stanislaus. Due to scheduling complications, he had to take Ornithology lab at the exact same time as his Organic Chemistry lab. To make up missed hours in the Ornithology lab he attended a local field trip led by Stockton Audubon Society member, David Yee, at Caswell Memorial State Park. As they were walking into the park, David drew everyone's attention to the bird on a wire that was calling, "Hic three beers", followed shortly thereafter by another bird calling chur-bit. The chur-bit bird, when seen, was a Western Tanager with brilliant yellow belly and A flaming orange head. David introduced him to "Birding by Ear" which sparked his life-consuming passion.
Daniel has been a member of Stanislaus Audubon Board since 2010. He currently is the secretary for SAS and also a member of the Stanislaus Bird Record Committee. Daniel is a retired High School Biology teacher. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Occidental College in 1978 and his Master’s from UCLA in 1984. Most of his life he has been active in theology/Biblical studies, fishing, instrumental music, calligraphy, drawing/painting and some poetry.
Daniel was born with an insatiable fascination for all things biological. His first books were Golden Guides on birds but as there was nobody he knew to help with finding and identifying birds he turned to things that he could capture, at first insects and reptiles. In high school Daniel became incredibly fascinated with spiders. Finally, in college he took an ornithology class from Dr. Luis Baptista. His spark bird was the American Kestrel which was seen on a campus field trip. He knew he must have seen these amazing and beautiful birds many times before but had not distinguished them from doves. He began casually birdwatching, still spending the bulk of his energy on finding and collecting cool spiders. He kept a life list but it is difficult to see very many birds when one is always looking down. In 1996 Daniel got married and moved to Modesto. His wife (who did not share his passion for arachnids?) subtly encouraged him to broaden his interests by taking field courses and going on field trips in the area. Within two years he went from being a casual birdwatcher to a very active birder. A few of the events which led to this transformation were: meeting up with Luis Baptista again after 20 years on a field course at Point Reyes, stumbling onto and reading “Kingbird Highway” by Kevin Kaufman, and running into a couple of wildly enthusiastic young birders at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts who were looking for a Red-Necked Stint. Daniel still has an insatiable fascination for all things biological. On occasion he still fishes and even hunts for spiders now and then, but always, he has his “bins” with him and is looking and listening for birds.
Jody has been a Board member since 2011. She has been Conservation Chair for several years, and has been Vice President since 2019. Jody still works full-time as an equine veterinarian. She received a B.S. in Biology (Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution) from U.C.L.A. in 1995, and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from UC Davis in 2000. Her interests (other than birds) include riding her own horses, hiking, photography, and travel. She has been lucky enough to go birding in several other countries, including Costa Rica, Ecuador/Galapagos, Colombia, Egypt, South Africa, Dubai, Australia, and Scandinavia.
While she always enjoyed nature and the outdoors, her interest in birds was solidified in college during a field biology quarter spent in Costa Rica. This was where she first heard about keeping a life list from one of the professors. Her research project while there was on Long-tailed Hermit (since renamed Long-billed Hermit) lek behavior. Her favorite part of bird-watching continues to be the interaction of birds in their habitats, and how each species has its own niche.
Board member since 2007, membership coordinator, eBird Reviewer, & Stanislaus Bird Records Committee member. John also serves on the boards of Central Valley Bird Club and Western Field Ornithologists. He retired in 2013 from Mills College in Oakland, California, where he was a Professor of Biology and taught courses in ecology, evolution, natural history and vertebrate zoology from 1986-2013. He earned his Ph.D. in Ecology at UC Davis in 1983 and his B.S. in Biology at Stanford in 1976. His research included studies of desert rodents at Mono Lake, Willow Flycatchers at the Nature Conservancy (now Audubon) Kern River Preserve, San Joaquin antelope squirrels and Mojave ground squirrels. John’s other interests include early music.
John’s interest in birds was an outgrowth of a general interest in natural history fostered by his grandparents. He still has some of his collection of Golden Guides from his days as a child in eastern Nebraska. When his family moved to a suburb of Chicago, he became active in the Boy Scouts and had opportunities to learn more about birds while on scout trips in the Chicago area and eastern Wisconsin. While on one such trip, the bus stopped for a long-awaited restroom break. John, viewing the long line at the restroom, stumbled into the nearby woods, where he encountered an American Redstart, the first bird he remembers identifying with a field guide, flipping through the pages from start to finish until seeing the distinctive tail pattern. After a hiatus from birding due to a family move, he had the good fortune to have a roommate in college who was an excellent birder; this led to meeting other birders and to the opportunity to spend a summer at Mono Lake working as an assistant on a study of chipmunks. Living in a field camp there among the many great birds to be found on the east side of the Sierra Nevada was the beginning of a more sustained interest in birding.
Ann joined the Board in 2020. She moved to Turlock in 1993 to teach at the Department of Biological Sciences at California State University, Stanislaus. Ann officially retired in 2017 and is now Professor Emerita. She still teaches courses part-time including Ornithology, Biogeography, and Conservation Biology. She has a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M University, M.S. in Biology from Texas A&I University, and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Colorado. She studied colonial waterbirds for her M.S. and Sulawesi macaques for her Ph.D. She has done research on rodents and corvids locally. Besides birding, Ann likes a variety of other outdoor activities, as well as, travel and music.
Ann has always been fascinated by wildlife. Her start in birding was much aided by a birding brother-in-law when she was a teenager. It also helped to be living in the birding hotspot of coastal south Texas. Her favorite birds in the beginning were the many herons and egrets along the gulf coast. A plethora of classes, professors, students, and colleagues at various universities have all added to the joy of wildlife study. Being able to see the diversity of birds and other wildlife in a variety of locations and habitats is infinitely interesting!
A board member since 2014 and Events Chair, Chris is an RN and started her career at Memorial in Modesto in 1987. For the last 20 years she has worked in the Recovery Room for the Interventional Radiology and the Cath Lab. She enjoys all of the Audubon events we attend every year. At the events we educate and inform the public about our local chapter and all of the opportunities we offer. She loves scrapbooking all the pictures she takes every time she birds. Her daughter complains that she takes more pictures of birds than her children.
Chris grew up camping in the Sierra Nevada and she has always loved the Western Tanager. She cross stitched one for her mother one year, who shares her love of birds. In 2011 Chris signed herself and her mother up for the MJC Early Birders class as a Mother’s Day present and has been birding with the Stanislaus Audubon ever since.
Tom is the new kid on the board. He joined in 2019 and serves on the Events Committee. Tom taught elementary school in Modesto for 31 years before retiring in 2007. He currently volunteers on two other boards: Modesto Neighborhoods Inc.
(an umbrella group for Modesto neighborhood alliances) and the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center. He has published 4 chapbooks and much of his poetry features nature.
Tom enjoys the quiet and solitude of wild places and has spent time camping, hiking and backpacking. He graduated with a B.A. in history from U.C. Berkeley in 1969 followed by a stint in Teacher Corps.
Each summer for the past 30 years, we visited my wife’s parents near Portal, AZ.
For a week we worked hard on home projects but also had time to bird the area.
We also observed a great variety of desert animals and birds drinking from the small pond behind the house. The spark that turned me into a birder was on one of my first visits to Portal. We were having a picnic at South Fork and an Elegant Trogon landed in a tree right above me. That did it!
Kathy joined the board in 2017 and serves on the Events Committee. Kathy is a geropsychologist with a research background in suicide risk and prevention. Her clinical practice serves homebound older veterans with chronic medical conditions, with emphases on suicide risk assessment and prevention, neurocognitive assessment, dementia care and behavioral interventions for managing challenging behaviors in dementia, strategies for coping with the limitations of chronic medical conditions, end of life care, and caregiver support.
Kathy had been an active birder for several years when she returned to school to pursue her degrees in psychology. Kathy’s graduate education and postdoctoral training took her from her lifelong home of southern California, first to Oklahoma, and later to the Finger Lakes region of New York. She was able to take some time away from her studies to add many local specialties from each area to her life list before returning to California, this time to the Central Valley.
Kathy’s spark came soon after she moved from suburbia to a rural area of coastal sage scrub habitat in the foothills overlooking Lake Mathews in southern California. She noticed that many a bird would stop to perch atop the small, lone tree that grew from a rocky outcropping on the property. One day, she saw a most striking and unusual looking bird perched there. The bird sported a red mustache, a black bib, and a spotted belly – a Northern Flicker (Red-shafted). This beautiful bird ignited her interest and soon thereafter, she saw a notice in the newspaper for an introductory birding walk at a local park and decided to attend. The walk was led by Gene Cardiff, who also taught a series of seasonal courses in Field Ornithology at University of California, Riverside Extension, in which students went on several field trips to different southern California hotspots. These field trips typically went from dawn to dusk (or later) with species counts of 100+, and after her first field trip, she was hooked.
Sal joined the Board of Directors in 2005 and was enlisted as secretary. He was elected as president in May of 2010 and continues to serve in that capacity. Sal’s background is in literature, not in life sciences. He retired in 2008 from teaching English and drama at Davis High School in Modesto. Since then, he has written ninety-nine essays and articles in Valley Habitat, collected in two volumes titled Of Birds, Birders, and Birding. He has also written and self-published poetry, short stories, and plays. Sal taught an Early Birders class at M.J.C. Continuing Education, as well as a similar class at the Central Valley Birding Symposium.
Sal had been hiking California’s trails and byways since the 1970’s, always with binoculars at hand. His early birdwatching years were purely recreational. Eventually, as he wrote nature poetry, he was curious to know exactly which birds he was seeing, in order to make his poems more vivid. He paid greater attention to bird species in his field guides.
One day while sitting by a river, Sal saw a plump bird, gray as the rock it was standing on, pump up and down, step into the roiling water, and disappear. Moments later, that American Dipper popped up and bobbed like a cork, hopped onto another rock, shook off the water, and began to sing. Sal was transformed from a birdwatcher into a birder on that summer day in the foothills of Fresno County.
After finishing his high school teaching career, Sal took numerous field “refresher courses” with Jim Gain, Harold Reeve, Eric Caine, and other veteran members of Stanislaus Audubon. His birding travels have taken him to twelve states and two Canadian provinces. Sal’s personal goal was reached on February 3, 2020, when he saw his #700 A.B.A. bird species, a Hawai’i Creeper at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, with his wife Barbara. Now he intends to focus on enjoying local birds, and the company of any birders he meets, along the trails and waysides of California.
Board member since 2016, Xavi is an active local birder and Christmas Bird Count participant. Xavi was born and raised in Modesto. After living in the Sierra for years, he moved back to the valley in 2010 and decided to take advantage of the beauty of the San Joaquin Valley by birding. He enjoys camping, reading about natural/cultural history and trying new foods.
Xavi's spark bird would be the Yellow-billed magpies that used to be abundant in his neighborhood growing up.
Jodi Smith Board Member since 2018 assists with the SAS Newsletter electronic distribution. For the past 20 years Jodi has worked for Applied Process Cooling Corporation as a mechanical engineer. She currently handles compliance for EPA, OSHA, and the California Accidental Release Program for hazardous materials. Prior to that she worked for The Boeing Airplane Company on the design of 747 and 767 commercial airplane interiors. Her other interests are gardening, quilting, fine art painting, knitting, and crocheting. Recently she has been knitted and crocheting animal and bird figures. She most recently a created a Tundra Swan, Flamingo, a Bald Eagle, and a Moose. One of her favorite books is titled “Field Guide to Knitted Birds.”
Jodi first became aware of bird watching on a family vacation to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National park when she was in high school. The spark bird was a beautiful Cinnamon Teal pointed out by some family friends who were into birding on that trip. After that she was sporadic bird watcher. Jodi’s interest in birding became focused in 2012 when her son took a biology class from Harold Reeve. He requires the students to go birding and find 75 bird species. She went on a few of the student trips and led one for another student and parent to the Merced Wild Life Refuge. The number of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes was amazing. Harold mentioned becoming an Audubon member so after joining she started going on the Stanislaus Audubon Field trips where she met many of the Stanislaus Audubon Members and became hooked on birding.
ABOUT OUR BOARD: EMERITUS
In 1973, Bill and his wife Cari were founding members of the newly formed Stanislaus Audubon Society. With a brief hiatus to spend time as his son's Boy Scout Master, Bill was on the Board until 2015. Before then, he was field trip leader and event coordinator for many years. Bill especially enjoyed taking birders out to the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, his favorite place to bird locally.
Bill got introduced to birding in the mid-1960’s, when he transferred to Humboldt State University for the Wildlife Management program. One of his professors, Stanley Harris, was an expert birder. Through his classes and field outings, he developed his lifelong love of birding. Be it backyard birding, hiking in Yellowstone, meandering along the bluffs of Mendocino County, or wandering trails along the top edge of Grand Canyon, he always carried his binos and birder’s guide.
As time went on, he discovered the joy of pelagic trips, as well as day excursions around the San Joaquin Valley. Eventually, he was lucky enough to bird not only parts of Hawai’i, but also coastal and inland Alaska, the pacific Northwest, New Mexico, North Dakota, the states around lake Michigan, and then the High Desert area in Southeast Arizona—to name a few.
From 1983-2018, Eric served in many roles during his terms on the board. Always a proponent of conservation issues, Eric served as president of the chapter from 1985 through 1993. During his tenure on the Board, Stanislaus Audubon successfully championed a legal victory with the precedent setting Willms Ranch ruling, establishing that arguments against development didn't have to be conclusive but reasonable. This may sound ambiguous, but one can argue that suitable habitat for threatened species is reasonable to preserve without necessarily showing the species is present.
Stanislaus Audubon also successfully opposed establishment of a UC campus on the Mapes Ranch while leading the effort to establish the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. In both instances, Stanislaus Audubon was the chief local conservation group involved. Stanislaus Audubon also successfully opposed a huge residential development, Diablo Grande, in the Coast Range near Del Puerto Canyon.
In the 80s, when Harold Reeve and Eric added many birds to the county list, their knowledge of Valley birds was limited, and he states he “didn't expect to find much at all.” Early on, he was very excited to find a Chestnut-sided Warbler, especially in winter. Later, he came upon a Swamp Sparrow when there were very few Valley records. Years later, he found a Laughing Gull in the county. Though Eric had always looked for this species, he could scarce believe it when it showed up.
He and his best high school buddy have been friends for sixty years. Sometime in the early 70s they met in Sequoia National Park for a rendezvous. He had gotten interested in birds, which Eric thought degenerate; they had always spent much of their free time at sports like basketball and football. But he started pointing birds out, and when Eric viewed a Red-breasted Nuthatch through binoculars, he was hooked. The aesthetics were a big attraction. After that, the excitement of seeing new birds was a major stimulant. During the mid-80s, he became obsessed with the California Condor, which to this day is the most thrilling bird he can imagine in flight.
Board member from 1989 until his passing in 2001, Bob was an active local birder and photographer extraordinaire. Bob joined the chapter in 1973 when his friends Rene Blondeau and Jim Foster convinced him to join the newly formed Stanislaus Audubon Society. Bob was also a very dedicated nature photographer and member of the Modesto Camera Club.
As a child, Bob enjoyed spending time with his dad in the outdoors. They would take many days hikes together where his father would teach him about nature. As a high school graduation gift, his dad gave him his first Field Guide, a 1st edition Peterson Field Guide to the Birds.
Board member from 1983 until she moved to Twain Hart in 1991, Jean served as Board President from 1983-1985. Jean and her husband Bob were active conservationists and were responsible for substantial restoration projects along the Tuolumne River downstream from Basso Bridge.
Board member from 1983 until 2006. Paul served as Board Treasurer from 1983-1988. Paul was an avid photographer and naturalist that led many field trips for the chapter. He also spent countless hours monitoring falcons and eagles along both the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers.