Kevin began leading tours for VENT while he was still
finishing his PhD program at New Mexico State University. His doctoral research
emphasis was in avian evolutionary ecology and population biology, and his
dissertation focused on spatial and temporal variation in the breeding biology
and foraging ecology of Black-throated Sparrows (a.k.a. “The World’s Greatest
Bird”). He maintains an active interest in ornithological research to this day
and is a regular contributor to the scientific literature, but his research
interests have shifted to species-level taxonomy, distribution and ecology of
Neotropical suboscine passerines, particularly the “ant-things” (antbirds,
antpittas, and antthrushes), tyrant flycatchers, and furnariids. Kevin
considers himself very fortunate to have “jump-started” his Neotropical bird
obsession by having worked with, and learned from, such giants of Neotropical
ornithology as Steve Hilty, Bob Ridgely, and the late Ted Parker, all friends
and colleagues with whom he co-led VENT tours throughout Central and South
Thirty-eight years of leading tours for VENT have taken Kevin to all seven continents, but his emphasis has been on Alaska, the American southwest, the Neotropics (particularly Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Panama/Costa Rica), and, increasingly, to Africa. He is particularly proud of having conceived and designed the first “Colorado Grouse Tour” (centered around seeing all of the prairie grouse species on their display grounds, or leks) back in 1986, a concept that became wildly popular, and was subsequently copied by virtually every birding tour company in the country (and by many outside of the US as well), and which has been responsible for pumping millions of dollars into Colorado’s economy over the ensuing decades, while also highlighting the importance of grouse and prairie-chicken conservation, and that of native grasslands, to that economy. Discovering a nest-building pair of Bluethroats at Nome, Alaska in 1987 (at a time when the presence of breeding Bluethroats at road-accessible locations in Alaska was unknown to the birding community) and showing it to everyone in both VENT groups; and finding a Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Barrow (only the 5th and, sadly, the last documented North American record ever) in 1993 while birding on his own at 1:30 a.m., and subsequently spending the rest of the night shuttling all 21 tour participants out to see it, rank at the top of his list of “most exciting finds” while leading tours. He lists as his top three non-birding natural history tour experiences: 1) Tiger watching in India; 2) spending time with Mountain Gorillas in Uganda; and 3) watching two big male Jaguars slugging it out in the Brazilian Pantanal.
Kevin is an avid photographer, and his photographs of birds and other wildlife have appeared in numerous books and articles beyond those that he has authored. When not engaged in ornithological pursuits, he frequently turns his attention to reptiles and amphibians in general, and lizards, in particular, a revived fascination that dates back to early childhood, and one that has earned him the nickname of “Lizard Man” on more than one tour in the American Southwest. He still indulges his lifelong interest in professional sports by keeping up with his favorite teams in the NBA (Golden State Warriors & Phoenix Suns), MLB (Minnesota Twins & San Francisco Giants), and the NFL (Minnesota Vikings) between tours. A kickboxing instructor in his college days, he now devotes much of his time between tours to the increasingly difficult (with age!) task of maintaining physical fitness by lifting weights, running on a treadmill, and swimming.
Kevin notes that his globetrotting career would not have been possible without the love and support of his wife, Susan, who retired in 2019 after a distinguished career as a speech pathologist and audiologist. She began her career in private practice, working largely with recovering stroke patients, but for the past 20+ years has worked in the public school system, where her primary workload has been providing bilingual (English/Spanish) speech therapy in a dual immersion elementary school where English is a second language for many of the students. Susan accompanied Kevin on VENT’s inaugural Palace on Wheels (India) Tour in 2001, the only time she has been on an actual tour, but she and Kevin have enjoyed family vacations to many of the same places where Kevin has led tours, including Alaska, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Mexico, and Kenya. In 2011, Susan and Kevin celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary with a trip to Brazil, which included a visit to Iguaçu Falls, Jaguar-watching in the Pantanal, and the sights, culture, and beaches of Rio. Although she doesn’t consider herself a birder, Susan loves the outdoors and enjoys hiking, so much so that while she and Kevin were on vacation in Big Bend National Park (Texas) a few years ago, she even made the entire 10-mile roundtrip hike to Boot Springs and back, and saw a Colima Warbler in the process! Kevin also notes that Susan has been religiously keeping a daily log of the birds that she sees in their yard, although he doesn’t expect her to attempt a “Big Year” anytime soon.
Kevin and Susan are immensely proud grandparents to a seven-year-old granddaughter (Brinn) and a three-year-old grandson (Clayton). Their daughter, Marina, received her Master’s Degree in Psychology and Counseling from Dominican University and is a licensed MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist). She and her husband, Ryan, and their two children live in Napa, California, along with two frisky “grandpups,” Buster and Greta.