“I have a question for you about volunteering for the Arizona Important Bird Areas program.”
I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up to me asking something like this. “I’m not the Jennie you are looking for,” I tell them. “You are Jennie, the bird biologist who works at the Historic YWCA building, aren’t you?” they ask. “Yes,” I reply. „I am. But you want the Jennie who works down the hall, not me.“
She’s Jennie-Mac. I’m J-Dubes. (Or, as Camp Colorado 2015 participants decided to call me, J-Dub). We both work in bird conservation and have offices in the same building. We often attend the same meetings and work together on different bird conservation and monitoring projects. We serve on a number of the same committees. Mixing us up is understandable. To make it even more confusing, we were both leaders at the recent First Annual Arizona Young Birders Camp.
And honestly? It’s an honor to be mistaken for Jennie-Mac. She’s an amazing woman who is doing important work for bird conservation in Arizona and northern Mexico. But the only way I can help you learn more about volunteering for the Arizona IBA program is to point you down the hallway to her office.
– Jennie Duberstein
Where are you from and where do you currently live?
Originally from southern California, I grew up in Phoenix and now live in Tucson. I have always lived in the desert southwest and have adopted Tucson as my hometown.
What do you do for a living?
I am a conservation biologist for the Tucson Audubon Society. I coordinate the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program. This is part of a larger global effort to identify the most important sites for bird habitat around the world. Our Arizona program has hundreds of volunteers who conduct bird surveys in a very effective citizen-science program.
I am also in charge of the Tucson Bird Count, an urban bird count that encourages residents to create bird habitat in their yards, making Tucson a friendlier place for birds. I also answer a lot of bird related questions from Tucson Audubon members and the general public, which can be very interesting. I do outreach activities like giving talks on the birds of Arizona for a women’s club, helping with young birder camps, and even promoting bird friendly yards at a Home Show. In short, I have a lot of fun for a living.
How long have you been a birder?
From a young age I was very interested in birds. I checked out every bird book the school library had over and over. I also loved watching nature documentaries. No one in my family is outdoorsy at all and I honestly didn’t know that birding was something people do on purpose until I was in middle school. Once I entered high school I began to actually go birding. This was mostly as part of academic competitions such as Envirothon and Science Olympiad where some very nice professionals encouraged me to tackle birding all out. In college I got my first „good” binoculars and when I got a good look at a male Olive Warbler in the Chiricahua Mountains, I was hooked.
What Leica optics do you own? How long have you owned them? Why did you decide on Leica?
I use my trusty Leica 8 x 42 BA binoculars all the time—I love them! Leica optics have a clarity, even on hot days, and a brightness of color that cannot be beat. When I am out with a beginning birder and they are having trouble getting on a bird, I hand my Leicas over and they often find it right away. I think this is because the quality of the glass is so good that if you get a bird nearly in focus, your eyes can do the rest. Also, they have survived me dropping them a few times, which makes me love them even more.
As for why I decided on Leica, I’d say that Leica actually decided on me. I have them through the generosity of one of my friends who „paid it forward“ by gifting them to me when he bought some newer Leicas. The only condition? I have to „pay it forward“ myself when the time comes and pass them on to someone else.
What are a few of the most memorable birds or experiences you’ve seen through your Leicas?
The great part about my job is I get to go birding quite a bit so I have been lucky enough to see some amazing things through my Leicas. I once watched what I thought was an American Kestrel chasing a Red-tailed Hawk only to realize it was a Red-tailed Hawk chasing a Golden Eagle. In New Mexico I once had a male Indigo Bunting in the same binocular frame as a male Painted Bunting. I was traveling with my father on that trip. He shows a polite interest in birds when we travel together, and happily the two birds stayed long enough for me to pass my binoculars over to him so he could see them up close, as well.
What are some things you are looking forward to seeing through your Leicas this year?This year I have some great events lined up like the Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival that will take me to some excellent birding spots. I would like to see all the specialty Sky Island warblers this year, such as Red-faced, Olive, Grace’s, and Virginia’s. I am also planning on traveling to South Texas this fall for the first time so am very excited about seeing lifers such as Green Jay, Olive Sparrow, and many others.