Conservation Award


This award honors individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the conservation of Louisiana’s wildlife and wild places.

We can all take inspiration from these wonderful individuals.



Rufus C. Harris, Jr. – OAS presented the first Swallow-tailed Kite Award to Rufus C. Harris, Jr., on May 21, 2013. Mr. Harris was honored for his service to OAS and especially for his dedication to the Swallow-tailed Kite Project. He has volunteered for the kite project for over 20 years, assisting in every way imaginable, including: finding and monitoring nests, banding and radio-tracking kites, conducting boat and airplane surveys, fund-raising, photography, and landowner liaisons.

He served on the Board of Directors for five years, during which time he chaired the Legal Committee and served on the Fund-raising and Sanctuary committees. Rufus also helped oversee the construction of the boardwalk at the Marguerite Moffett Audubon Sanctuary.


Frank P. Fischer, Jr. – OAS honored Frank P. Fischer, Jr., on October 8, 2013. The Society was founded in 1949 but fell inactive at some point. We have Phil Fischer to thank for reviving the Society in the 1960s. His long-time commitment to OAS has included serving on the Board of Directors and holding the offices of President and Treasurer for many years.

One of his many distinguished conservation actions was to create the Society’s first wildlife sanctuary—he and his family donated 86.5 acres along the scenic Morgan River in the Honey Island Swamp, and this became our Fischer Wildlife Sanctuary.

A great lover of nature, Phil started the New Orleans area butterfly counts in 1975 and this year (2013) was the 39th year of the count.


Michael L. Crago – OAS presented the Swallow-tailed Kite Award to Michael L. Crago, posthumously, on May 19, 2015. Michael was active in OAS for 45 years. He joined OAS in the late 1960s and took on a leadership role in the 1970s. From the 1970s on, Michael often served as President or Treasurer and served on the Membership and Publicity committees. He worked closely alongside the late Frank Ehret to help establish the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. He was also a supporter of the Grand Isle sanctuary project from its inception.

Michael recognized that what we have in Louisiana is special and worthy of saving. For many decades he urged National Audubon to take an interest in coastal restoration. Fortunately he lived to see this happen. Audubon now has a state office in Louisiana and lobbies for wetlands conservation and coastal restoration.

Nancy L. Newfield – On October 16, 2018, Nancy Newfield was recognized for her contributions to Louisiana ornithology, inspiring wildlife gardening, and, especially, for her 39 years of banding and studying hummingbirds. Nancy was the first person to draw attention to the phenomenon of western hummingbirds overwintering in the southeast. In 1979, Nancy became the twelfth licensed hummingbird bander in North America. In that year she launched her long-term research which has advanced our knowledge on hummingbird distribution, migration, and longevity.

An important part of her lasting legacy is her mentoring of so many birders and banders, including Bill Bowie, Steve Locke, Joan Garvey, and Charlotte Seidenberg, pictured here with her. Nancy is a Past President of OAS, and a long-time member of the Crescent Bird Club. She is also a Past President of the Louisiana Ornithological Society. She served on the Louisiana Bird Record Committee for 12 years, retiring this past spring. In her career as a free-lance writer, Nancy has authored three books on hummingbirds and gardening to attract wildlife and has written numerous articles on these subjects.

Joelle Finley (left) receives Swallow-tailed Kite Award, an original painting of a Green Jay, by Joan Garvey (right).

Joelle Finley – On Tuesday, May 18th, 2021, OAS thanked and honored OAS Vice-President, Joelle Finley. Joelle’s leadership in local environmental organizations is exemplary and selfless. She has served on Orleans Audubon’s Board for 15 years, and she has been the Vice-President for thirteen years. She is vital to Orleans Audubon, coordinating our programs and birding field trips, and serving on the City Park and Sanctuary committees. Joelle also serves as an advisor for the New Orleans City Park Birding Corridor and was instrumental in its planning and development. She has also conducted bird monitoring surveys there and elsewhere. Joelle also teaches beginning birding classes for OAS.

Joelle was a longtime leader of the Crescent Bird Club, running field trips and handling membership. The CBC has now merged with OAS. She is Secretary of the Greater New Orleans Chapter of the Louisiana Master Naturalists. She has also served as Secretary for the Louisiana Ornithological Society and coordinated many of the LOS quarterly meetings.

Joelle is also a wildlife photographer and dynamic speaker, and she shares her knowledge and talents by presenting lectures for OAS, LOS, CBC, Northshore Bird Club, Sierra Club and the like. Her talks have taken us to wonderfully exotic birding destinations such as Vietnam, Cuba and Madagascar. She has also helped organize local birding festivals.

She has also been featured and quoted in numerous articles about birds and birding, articles which have appeared in birding magazines, local newspapers, television spots and online blogs.

Perhaps her most important contribution of all is her being an inspiration to countless people in the Greater New Orleans Area who are getting started as birders. For many of us, Joelle is also a lifelong friend and cherished birding companion.