We use leaders experienced with local pelagic trips and conditions. Our leaders are chosen not only for their pelagic experience, but also for their abilities to help you with spotting and identifying the life forms that are found. All of our leaders are very approachable, rarely bite (unless food is involved), and place an emphasis on making the trip enjoyable for the participants. Below is a gallery and short bios for our regular cast of characters.
Paul Guris: Paul is the founder of See Life Paulagics (and a hell of a guy if I do say so myself). Paul’s first experience on salt water was during his mother’s third trimester, so he comes by his obsession honestly. He has been birding since he was 12 years old and was the Team Captain of the Nikon/DVOC Lagerhead Shrikes World Series of Birding team for many years. He has been going on pelagics since the late-70s, began running his own trips in the mid-80s, and has also led many trips for others since the mid-90s. Other interests include fishing (salt-water, of course), beer, travel, beer, other life forms (non-UFO related), and beer. Paul has taken up the hobby of photographing Odes lately (2 years) and is getting darn good at it. He has also been seen fishing in FRESH WATER too! Ah HA! He continues to amaze his wife Anita with his obsession with bird and odonate photography.
Be sure to check out his web site at … hey, wait a minute! You’re already at his web site!
Mike Fritz: We consider Mike our 2nd in Command! Mike lives near the coast in New Jersey and birds the Cape May area quite a bit. He was a member of the Nikon/DVOC Lagerhead Shrikes World Series of Birding team, and regularly leads walks for the Cape May Bird Observatory. In real life he is a pharmacist, so feel free to ask him why your seasickness medicine isn’t working. Mike has recently acquired a 25′ boat named “Tropicbird”, and plans on running trips to Baltimore Canyon for the suicidal. Other interests include fishing (naturally, salt-water), skiing, surfing, scuba diving, travel, brewing his own beer, drinking beer, Paul’s beer, and occasionally (but only occasionally) sleeping. Mike can lead any trip out of any port!
Doug Gochfeld: Doug is our second in command in NY! Doug Gochfeld is a rarity magnet from the great and powerful sovereign nation of Brooklyn. When he is not working his local patches searching for Pileated Woodpeckers in Brooklyn or pixel-blasting vagrants with his camera at seldom-birded sites along the Atlantic coast (think Grace’s Warbler and Eastern Blurry Ephemeral Wagtail from New York), Doug can be found discovering and documenting mega-rare Asian birds as a guide on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea (2013’s Common Redstart comes to mind). With an undergraduate background in economics derived from his party/ study days at Binghamton University, Doug frequently capitalizes on his academic pedigree in passerine summits focusing on black oil metabolism and its interaction with free trade. Due to his status as a ruling member of the NYPD (New York Pishing Dragnet)/ Bird Police, please be careful that you bribe Doug appropriately with snack foods and beer during pelagic trips, or your New York vagrant records might be torpedoed with a “not accepted” stamp as they pass through the committee.
Tom Johnson: Thomas “Thor” Johnson, the man, the myth, the legend (but mostly legend), the giant blonde bombshell himself, photoslayer of mega seabirds, and golden headed tower of rarity redemption, joins us whenever he can if his schedule permits.
We are always thrilled when we get the opportunity to have Tom help lead a pelagic trip for us and our participants get a great treat! Tom is a graduate of the Cornell Lab or Ornithology and has a vast knowledge of birds. He is a great trip leader and always can be heard. His booming radio announcer voice is hard to miss. When he isn’t on a NOAA ship doing marine surveys, he is often traveling around the country doing surveys for various projects.
Sean Sime: Another product of Brooklyn’s magical subway pipeline of leaders, Sean Sime has been referred to (mostly by himself) as “the best birder you’ve never heard of.”A photographer by trade, he cut his avian teeth on Great Gull Island banding Common Terns while the terns cut their “teeth” on his head. He’d tell you about his trips with the GGI researchers to Brazil and Argentina, but what happens in South America stays in South America, and his wife might be reading this.
Angus Wilson: Angus is one of our Famous or Infamous New York connections. He is a member of the New York Avian Records Committee, and is currently involved in resolving the New York / New Jersey pelagic border dispute without violence … yet. In real life, he is Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at New York University School of Medicine. (He has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, not an M.D., so if he offers to check your entire body for carcinomas, you should turn down the offer.) Turn-ons are life birds, state birds, cetaceans, traveling, and long romantic walks on the beach (uh, so I’ve been told). Being a Brit, beer is not considered an interest, but rather a necessity one very small step below air, and a full step above food and water. Be sure to check out his web site at http://www.oceanwanderers.com/
Scott Barnes: Scott Barnes is a lifelong resident of the north jersey shore and has birded there for over twenty years, from the time he was just a kid. If he’d shave that fuzzy stuff off his face that he calls a beard, he’d still look like a kid … just taller. His first pelagic was in 1986 with the Urner Club and DVOC and has been hooked ever since. He is the current chair of the New Jersey Bird Records Committee (which means that whatever your gripe with the committee, HE’S TO BLAME!), compiles and records the Voice of New Jersey Audubon (State RBA), regional editor for NJ Birds, New Jersey Audubon Travel Program Tour Leader, and the Sandy Hook CBC compiler. He is the Senior Naturalist at New Jersey Audubon’s Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. Although he’d be instantly carded without the beard, we allow him to partake of Paul’s beer.
GUEST LEADER – Julian Hough: Julian came to this country under suspicious circumstances back in the 1980s and landed in Cape May where he worked as a waiter and birded like a man possessed. Despite our repeated requests, he decided to stay in America. A talented individual indeed, he is the artist responsible for our logos and has written and illustrated multiple articles in various prestigious birding journals such as Birding, British Birds, Birding World, and Penthouse Letters. His strong emphasis on mating habits is a bit disturbing, though. In real life, he works as a graphic (without a 2-syllable prefix starting with ‘p’ and ending in ‘o’) artist. He speaks even funnier than Angus, and of course requires beer. Since Julian lives in Connecticut, it is usually a New York based pelagic that you’ll see him on – if our timing is right and we can pull him onboard. We would like to extend a special thanks to Julian Hough for creating our logos. Julian is a graphic designer and we appreciate his talents enormously. You can reach Julian through his website at: http://naturescapeimages.wordpress.com/about/
Be sure to check out his web site at http://www.naturescapeimages.net
Linda Mack: Linda is a long-time resident of Monmouth Beach who feels she is forever tied to her home due to a great yard list which includes Tufted Duck and Barrow’s Goldeneye. (Hmmmm. What do you put in your tube feeder to attract diving ducks?) She’s a past President and program chair of Monmouth County Audubon Society, on the NJAS Board of Directors, a member of the Conservation Committee. Linda often displays her angst over Paul’s tasteless jokes, but laughs anyway. That’s why she can often be spotted on the Belmar, and Cape May, NJ trips. And, she does like Paul’s beer, just not on a pelagic trip!
GUEST LEADER – Nikolas Haass: Nikolas was born and raised in Mannheim, Germany. (Man! I gottta’ stop using so many foreigners!) He started birding at age 6. The advantage to birding that young is when you see something so incredible that you wet yourself, nobody thinks it’s too out of the ordinary. Nik is still a fanatical birder, but wets himself less often these days. He is a former member of the Rarities Committees of two German states; Hessen and Schlewig-Holstein. In real life, he is a Dermatological Oncologist … or Oncological Dermatologist. He came to the U.S. in 2003 and studies malignant melanoma at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. So unlike Angus, he is actually a medical doctor, but I still wouldn’t trust him if he offers to check your entire body for carcinomas. Being German, beer to him is less a beverage and more a way of life. (I think he started drinking beer at age 6 too.) Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if Nikolas has any outside interests other than birds and beer! Actually, now happily married and residing in Sydney, Austrailia, Nik and his lovely wife Raja bird down under!!
Andy Guthrie: All we really know about Andy is that he birds New York … a LOT. The clock is currently ticking for him to supply us with bio information. If he doesn’t reply soon, we’ll just make something up (as compared to all other leader bio information, which is 100% true). One day we hope to have a bio and a photo of Andy!
Tom Reed:Tom Reed was born and raised in Cape May County, where he started birding at the age of ten. He is a 2011 graduate of Rutgers University and holds a B.S. in Environmental Policy, Institutions & Behavior. A longtime naturalist with the Cape May Bird Observatory, Tom also serves on the New Jersey Bird Records Committee and is a Regional Editor for North American Birds. Seabirds have always ranked among TR’s favorites, and he has conducted waterbird migration counts at Avalon, NJ and Whitefish Point, MI.
Mark Hoffman: Mark is a Maryland birding machine. His other-worldly attention to record keeping is, well, other-worldly. His obsession with Worcester County has made him a recognized figure in local birding there and a target of investigation by the Department of Homeland Defense. He is one of Maryland’s top listers. To secure him as a leader, we had to promise not to interfere if he tosses Jim Stasz overboard at the approach of a Maryland first state record. Despite his all-consuming passion for MD birds, he will take time to sample Paul’s beer, although he prefers scotch or bourbon. We hope he’ll continue to lead with us for many years to come.
Matt Hafner: Matt still looks like a kid. Wait a minute! Compared to everybody else, Matt still IS a kid! Matt has been birding Maryland for nearly as many years as it has been possible for him to do so … about twelve, I think. He has been on the winning team at the Texas Birding Classic, where I think he was old enough to drive. Of course, being Texas, he WAS old enough to carry a gun (being out of diapers, and all). Now that he is married and changing diapers for his little one, I think we can safely allow him to partake of Paul’s beer.
Ed Sigda: . If you have been on any of our Lewes trips, you’ll recognize Ed. He’s the guy glued to the front of the boat for nearly the entire trip. We don’t even think he takes a break to use the bathroom. (Hmmmm. And we always thought he got wet on every trip because of the spray at the bow.) Ed is a resident of “Slower Lower Delaware”, and his particular birding passion is Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge (“which is much better than that other Hook place”). No, Ed, you can’t count birds that are 50 miles offshore on the Prime Hook list. Ed also loves fishing (mostly saltwater), kayaking, biking, world travel, and beer … particularly if it resembles the oil that comes out of his pickup’s crankcase after 5,000 miles.
Be sure to check out his web site at http://www.primehookbirding.com
Anthony Gonzon: Either as a leader or a participant, if there’s a trip that might spend any time in Delaware waters then Anthony is usually there. He is a quick spotter. He has recently embarked on a new career path as an entomologist, specializing in planthoppers. I guess the thrill of being able to find new species to science right in Delaware certainly has an appeal, even if you are forced to trade your binoculars for a microscope. In addition to birding, Anthony loves fishing (naturally saltwater), just about anything outdoors, examining insect genitalia, and Paul’s beer … though much lower on the thickness scale than Ed enjoys.
Mikey Lutmerding: Mikey is a great asset, although we don’t have bio for him yet, you’ll just have to take our word for it for now! He is a new Daddy, again! which could be why we don’t have a bio for him yet. I stole this photo from his lovely wife JoAnna’s Facebook page! Hmmm, I wonder if they are getting any sleep yet!
Mary Gustafson: Mary was the other one of Paul’s major prodders when it came to starting See Life Paulagics. She has a special place in her heart for Delaware birding that borders on insanity. After setting the Delaware Big Year record, she decided she had to beat it (which she did). That means she’s either obsessed or obstinent … or both. I guess it’s like the classic line about beating your head against a wall; it feels so good when you stop. Mary supposedly owns a horse, but we think it’s actually the other way around. Other interests include fishing (yes, salt-water), horseback riding, and Paul’s beer.
Update on Mary – now in Mission, TX: When our friends and acquaintances go to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas they are often shown the birds they long for by Mary. If she can’t accompany them, she’ll gladly tell them where to find the birds if she knows where they have been seen most recently. She has been a leader for See Life Paulagics from its inception. While Mary does work hard, she plays hard too! She has 3 horses that she cares for and rides regularly and an aviary where she keeps and breeds finches and cockatiels. Mary is enjoying all that Texas has to offer, although she is missed up North. Whenever her travels bring her to our corner of the globe, she is welcome to lead for us and she does! Mary is well known onboard for her narration of bird sightings and calling out the identification marks on the birds as they fly near and around us. Her description of the birds has helped many of our participants to recognize and identify the birds and sea life that we encounter. Thanks Mary for doing such an awesome job along with our regular leaders. They are all stellar, which is why they all still get to partake of Paul’s beer.
George Armistead: George is a lifelong passionate birder who has decided that birding will be his career path. Translation … he’s always broke. He currently leads tours for Field Guides, and has been involved with a number of research projects (not all of which involved being a guinea pig at a university hospital). Despite his current hair and beard style causing a frightening similarity to Charles Manson, he has rarely killed anybody. George previously simultaneously sat on 3 rare bird committees, a feat of masochism rarely equaled in the Western world. Other interests include, well, beer … with Paul’s beer being particular desirable due to its selection, quality, care, and mostly the fact that it’s free.
Alec Humann: Alec is a long-time friend from Buffalo, NY. Despite living in an uncivilized backwater with no reasonable access to the ocean, he is a fine pelagic birder. Alec is also a hawkbander extraordinaire, banding in Cape May for many a fall since he was 17 years old. He is a master at his craft. He also teaches high school earth science in his spare time! He co-authored a section of the Sibley Guide to Birdlife & Behavior. Despite this, he has not gotten a Jennifer Lopez complex and will allow us mere mortals to address him. If you wish to see a human being (no pun intended) lose all control and quite possibly soil himself, simply yell “Eskimo Curlew!!!” at the top of your lungs in his presence. Due to his generous contributions to our wall of bird wines, he is always welcome to Paul’s beer … within limits, of course. He is also a great cook and we consider him our little brother!
Other Leaders: From time to time we need to use other leaders while our regular leaders are unavailable. We always use leaders that have come HIGHLY recommended by their peers, have experience with pelagic birding and identification, but most importantly, they are friendly, are able to help participants “get on” birds and sometimes help the leaders to spot oddities that could lead to identification of rare or unusual sightings. If you happen to be one of these “other” leaders, we thank you for your help in the past and future! Some other leaders we use: Shane Blodgett, Michael O’Brien, and Todd McGrath!
LEADERS PAY – Our leaders are awesome. They love pelagic birding, and Paul’s beer. Since we don’t pay them with money, we give them each two beers on the ride back into the dock after a hard long day at sea, and all the chum they can eat. Sometimes you’ll hear them talking about birds, but most of the time they are paying close attention to what is flying by, and we’ll raise a bottle to that! If you ever need help with an identification problem, or help seeing a bird, please ask them to help you. They are ready, able and willing to do anything to make your trip a successful and fun time. You may even learn a little something from them. Whenever possible, we use FRS radios so leaders can communicate with each other around the boat and so everyone knows what birds are where and they can get people “on” the birds. Leaders often become hoarse from yelling out birds which is why a beer at the end of the day is oh so soothing to them.
Our Leaders, March 16, 2003: On the way back in from a highly successful trip, the leaders join in the famous “four o’clock beer”. How many of the beers can you identify?
Back row (left to right): Colin Campbell, Bruce Peterjohn, Mary Gustafson, George Armistead, Mark Hoffman, and Marshall Iliff
Front row (left to right): Paul Guris, Mike Fritz, and Ed Sigda