Speaker Series

Golden Gate Audubon’s monthly Speaker Series in San Francisco and Berkeley features renowned naturalists, photographers, ornithologists, authors, international travelers, and other fascinating speakers.

To cover event costs, we ask non-members for a voluntary donation of $5. Non-members may attend for free if they join that evening. As always, GGAS members are welcome to attend free of charge. Locations are listed on the right side of this page.



Identifying Warblers with The Warbler Guide     

Common Yellowthroat by Scott Whittle

Common Yellowthroat by Scott Whittle

Scott Whittle
Berkeley: Thursday April 17
7 p.m. refreshments, 7:30 program

Warblers are a favorite of many birders, but they are often a challenge to identify. Their size, speed, and preferred habitats can make them difficult to see, much less name! In their new, critically acclaimed book The Warbler Guide, Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson tackle this problem and come up with some useful solutions. Scott will talk about important but often overlooked ID points such as overall contrast, subtle facial features, general color impression, feather edging, and behavior. He will also present the guide’s revolutionary system for studying and memorizing vocalizations that can give the warbler enthusiast a whole new set of tools for identification by ear. He will show that once birders have a trained eye and ear, even partial views of the bird can be valuable and diagnostic—and that with the right information, every look at a bird can be a good look!

Scott Whittle has 20 years of experience as a professional photographer and educator. He earned an MFA in photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York, is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, has held the New York State Big Year record, and has birded throughout the United States. He lives in Cape May, New Jersey, where he leads workshops and pursues his passion for birds and photography.


Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet

 Rare Birds cover
 Maria Mudd Ruth
San Francisco: Thursday May 15
7 p.m. refreshments, 7:30 program 

Maria Mudd Ruth will share tales from her book, Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet—part naturalist detective story, part environmental inquiry celebrating the world of this endangered seabird of the Pacific Coast. Maria will highlight the fascinating life history of the murrelet, the 185-year-long search for its elusive nest, and its accidental discovery in Big Basin Redwoods State Park in 1974. She will describe the challenging work of the field biologists in the old-growth forests and at sea, as well the work of Audubon and other conservation groups to protect the murrelet from extinction. While unraveling many mysteries, Maria found herself exploring larger questions: Why does this bird matter so much? Why and how should we care about the murrelet and the other wild animals we fall in love with?

Maria Mudd Ruth has published more than a dozen natural history books. Originally released in 2005, Rare Bird was reissued in 2013 by Mountaineers Books. A native of Virginia, Maria moved her family to California in 2001 to be closer to the murrelets. She now lives in Olympia, Washington, where she is very close to the clouds—the subject of her next book.


Barred Owls and Spotted Owls in California:

The Future of Deep Forest Owls

Barried Owl by Bob Lewis

Barried Owl by Bob Lewis

Jack Dumbacher
Berkeley: Thursday June 19
7 p.m. refreshments, 7:30 program 

Over the last 50 to 100 years, the eastern Barred Owl has made its way to the western United States. Presumably helped by human landscape alteration, the species now inhabits all of the range of the endangered Northern Spotted Owl. In recent years, evidence is mounting to suggest that Barred Owls have become a primary threat to Spotted Owls—they are fierce competitors, aggressive territory holders, and faster reproducers, and have even been anecdotally reported to kill Spotted Owls. And they are spreading faster than ever. Jack Dumbacher will discuss the natural history and conservation concerns for both species and the potential actions proposed by different management agencies.

Jack Dumbacher is curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences and professor of biology at San Francisco State University. He has been working on California Barred Owls since 2006. Jack points out that both species of forest owls can be seen (or more likely heard) in Marin County. He is a member of the Golden Gate Audubon Society board of directors.