About Fun Birding Tours in SE Arizona
Introducing Arizona Birding Guide, Richard Fray
Hi, I’m Richard Fray, professional birding guide in southeastern Arizona. I was born in Leicester, England and lived there until I moved to Tucson, Arizona in 2002. Having spent eight years studying the wildlife of southeast Arizona, I started my company, Fun Birding Tours, in January 2010, and I’ve been guiding birders full-time ever since.
I live in Rio Rico in Santa Cruz County, 15 miles north of the USA/Mexico border in great birding habitat. I offer my services as a birding guide in southeast Arizona.
Richard (left) birding with brother Rob (right) and a friend, c.1985
I grew up in Leicester, England in a wildlife-mad household, and I’ve been a birder since I was big enough to pick up binoculars. I was inspired by my dad, who ran the local youth birding club, and my older brother, Rob Fray, who was twice named Britain’s Young Ornithologist of the Year. I became involved in several local wildlife organizations in the UK, and held various positions with the Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society and Leicestershire & Rutland Dragonfly Group.
I moved to Tucson, Arizona in 2002 and finally became a US citizen in 2019. I served on the Board of Directors of Tucson Audubon Society from 2008 – 2012 and occasionally write for the Vermilion Flycatcher magazine. I’m a regular volunteer for Tucson Audubon, representing the society at public events, leading free field trips, and participating in a variety of local birds surveys, including specific Important Bird Area (IBA) surveys for Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Elegant Trogon, and Chestnut-collared Longspur.
Over the years I’ve worked with a number of national and regional organizations, including leading field trips for the American Birding Association (ABA), American Ornithological Society (AOS), US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Arizona Field Ornithologists (AZFO), and Arizona State Parks.
Every year I lead trips for some of the biggest birding festivals, such as the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival, Southwest Wings Birding Festival, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, and Wings Over Willcox.
As well as Fun Birding Tours, I’ve also led trips for well-known birding companies such as Naturalist Journeys, Borderland Tours, Quetzal Tours, Adventure Birding, Lanius Bird Tours, and Wings.
Since its creation in 2013, I was one of the administrators of the popular Arizona Birding Facebook Group for eight years.
I’m a consultant on bird vocalizations of Western USA for iSpiny Nature Apps, developers of ChirpOMatic, the automatic birdsong identification app.
My wildlife photos have appeared on the iBird Pro 2 app, and in a number of publications including The Birds of Scotland, Rick Taylor’s Birds of Southeastern Arizona, Nightjars of the World, British Birds, Birding World, Birdwatch Magazine, Birdwatching Magazine, LROS Annual Bird Reports (including the cover in 2003), The Purple Martin Update (cover in fall 2020), and Vermilion Flycatcher, among others.
I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to birding – enjoy it! As you’ll discover when you meet me, I’m a fairly laid back guy, easy to get along with and in possession of a typically English sense of humor. I like to be laid back when I’m birding, too, but equally I enjoy birding intensely and locating as many birds as I can, particularly scarce birds.
I’ve found a number of rare and scarce birds in Arizona, including the USA’s 12th (or so) and Pima County’s first Tufted Flycatcher, Arizona’s 9th Ruff, 10th Laughing Gull, 16th Bay-breasted Warbler, 20th Philadelphia Vireo, Navajo County’s first Blackpoll Warbler, Santa Cruz County’s first Black-bellied Plover, breeding Least Grebes, first breeding of Lucifer Hummingbirds in Pima County, several Rufous-backed Robins, a couple of Heermann’s Gulls and Ruddy Ground-Doves, Pacific Loon, Surf Scoter, Eurasian Wigeon, Short-tailed Hawk, Lapland Longspur, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and new US locations for Five-striped Sparrow, Rufous-capped Warbler, and Black-capped Gnatcatcher.
While I lived in the UK, I was lucky enough to find rarities such as Yellow-breasted Bunting, Great Reed Warbler and Gull-billed Tern.
I chase the odd rarity and keep a few lists, but I don’t approach birding with a particularly competitive edge (with the exception of my SE AZ “found” list which I’m always keen to improve). My main goal is always to increase my own knowledge and enjoy the birds I see.
It’s not just birds, I’m interested in all aspects of the natural world. I’m particularly fond of butterflies and dragonflies, and increasingly keen on mammals and reptiles, living in such a great place to see them. I’m no expert in any of these areas but I have a good background knowledge.
I get a real kick out of showing people the birds, wildlife and beautiful scenery of my adopted home of southeast Arizona, and I’m especially thrilled when I get the chance to show people birds they’ve never seen before. You’ll find that I’m always enthusiastic about what we see, and I’m not putting it on; I’m like that even when I’m birding on my own!
Away from birding and wildlife – yes, it does happen occasionally – I enjoy spending time with my dog, Minno, and my cat, Juniper, watching comedy and sport (often combined in the case of my favorite soccer team, Leicester City) and spending as much time as possible with my beautiful partner, Tucson Audubon’s Bird Conservation Biologist, Jennie MacFarland.