Dorian Anderson started birding in the greater Philadelphia area at age 7. In the intervening 30 years, his bird-motivated travels have to taken him throughout North America, England, Sweden, Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, and New Zealand. During his 2014 “Biking for Birds” bicycle Big Year, the first of its kind, he bicycled 18,000 miles around the lower 48 states in search of birds. During that year-long, petroleum-free adventure, he tallied 619 species and raised nearly $50,000 for conservation purposes. He is an accomplished bird photographer, and his work can be viewed at www.dorianandersonphotography.com. He currently lives in Los Angeles where he works as a scientist at the University of Southern California.
George Armistead, a birder since the age of 9 years old, has a long history in connecting people with nature through ecotourism and expedition travel. Currently he is chief network officer at Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures, which operates over 300 tours annually including birding tours, photographic tours, and wildlife safaris. A professional wildlife guide with 20 years of experience, George has led trips to all seven continents. From 2012 to August of 2016 he managed events for the American Birding Association, served on the ABA’s Recording Standards and Ethics Committee, and was an instructor at ABA young birder camps. He has authored two books on birds including Better Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field (2015, Princeton University Press) and The ABA Field Guide to the Birds of Pennsylvania (2016, Scott & Nix, Inc.). Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he received a masters degree in environmental studies at the University of Pennsylvania, he is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and spends much of his free time outdoors, studying birds and nature around the United States and beyond.
Monica Barrera is currently the Interpretive Naturalist at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center. Growing up in her hometown of Rio Grande City, Texas, Barrera had an interest in both birds and plants, and their connection within the ecosystem. She obtained a Bachelor’s of Science at the University of Texas – Pan American (now UT-RGV), and has enjoyed learning anything she can about our local birds and other wildlife while working at the EWBC and volunteering at other sites. Barrera is a member of the South Texas Border Chapter Texas Master Naturalists, and is currently the hours manager for the chapter.
Jim Beckman is a retired Senior IT Project Manager who has been an avid birder for over 20 years. He has traveled extensively for most of his adult life, and loves to share birding experiences with others. He’s skilled at spotting birds and helping others find birds in the dense forest, although he frequently defers to expert local guides for positive identification. Always eager to help anyone who needs a bit of extra time or information to “get on” a bird, Jim is a valuable asset on any birding tour, regardless of the location. Jim’s ABA life list is just under 600, and his world list stands at 3644.
Bob Behrstock lived in Texas for 22 years, first as a co-founder of Peregrine Tours, then as a senior birding tour leader for Wings, Inc. He participated in environmental assessment in Houston, site assessment for five of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail maps and the World Birding Center, and birding trails in Virginia, Maryland, Kansas and West Texas. Bob co-authored Birds of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast, and the Upper Texas Coast volume of Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. Additionally, he has authored or co-authored 60 popular and scientific papers concerning fishes, birds, dragonflies, butterflies, and grasshoppers in the U.S. and Latin America, and a guide to Southwestern dragonflies. He has been a leader at the RGV Birding Festival since 2006. He now lives in Southeastern Arizona, continuing to lead a variety of natural history tours for Naturalist Journeys. Please visit: www.naturewideimages.com
David Benn begin birding in the 1970’s when a birder relative discovered a Yellow-green Vireo in his mother’s Brownsville yard (where later the first documented USA Golden-crowned Warbler was discovered) and he wondered what all the interest was. It turned out to be pretty compelling. As a Brownsville native his birding experience since has mostly been limited to South Texas and points south, including half a dozen trips to Central and South America and dozens of birding trips to Mexico. When he’s not thinking about going birding somewhere he’s probably thinking about going fishing.
Stephanie Bilodeau is a Coastal Bird Conservation Biologist for Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program. Stephanie’s interest in birds was sparked in Vermont while receiving her bachelors of science in wildlife biology from the University of Vermont. She has since had various bird jobs, including conducting point counts in Maine, Piping Plover monitoring in New York, and habitat management and shorebird conservation in High Island. Stephanie currently lives in Harlingen and is eager to show everyone the unique birds the Rio Grande Valley has to offer.
Erik Breden began nature photography as a teenager. A frustrating attempt to photograph a Baltimore Oriole in a large willow tree in his backyard was the catalyst that ignited his passion for birds, and started him on a lifelong quest to photograph birds.
Since then he has photographed over 920 species of North American, Central/South American, European, and Asian birds (over 680 in North America alone). After moving to Texas in 1999, he has documented many rarities for the TBRC (Texas Bird Records Committee).
Erik also provided slides to David Sibley for use in the preparation of the highly acclaimed “Sibley Guide to Birds”, and his photographs can be seen in the following photographic field guides: “The Sparrows of the United States and Canada – The Photographic Guide” – James D. Rising, 2001, “Shorebirds of North America – The Photographic Guide” – Dennis Paulson, 2005
John Brush born in Iowa but raised in Texas, John’s early life is summed up perfectly by the saying “I wasn’t born in Texas, but got here as fast as I could.” Son of an ornithologist, John was out watching birds with his father at an early age. John got his B.S. from the University of Texas – Pan American (UTPA) in Fall 2013, and is back at UTPA to get his Master’s in Biology. One of his main interests is how we can make our urban areas better for bird diversity. His interest in conservation of birds in the Valley has seen him work at Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center (2008-2014), conduct research with UTPA, and appear as a guest speaker for local nature centers and organizations. Nothing makes John happier than enjoying the incredible biodiversity of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and he is thrilled to be able to share that beauty and excitement with others.
Bryan Calk started birding in his backyard at Fort Clark Springs, Texas when he was 10 and never stopped. He was fortunate enough to be helped in his early years by his two mentors, and the people he has met through birding continue to be the best birds of them all. He currently is stationed in Harlingen working as a avian and bat field biologist for an environmental consulting company. Bryan has led field trips previously for the Texas Ornithological Society winter meeting and on many occasions for the Rio Brazos Audubon Society. He met the woman of my dreams, Rachel Smith, while chasing a Ruff in Houston with RBAS. Spark bird: Painted Bunting. Favorite birds: Nightjars. Dream destination: Ecuador. Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2015.
Emmanuel Chan (who goes by “Chan”), is a certified guide who has been working at Belcampo Belize since 2010. Chan focuses on inland tours to Toledo’s beautiful natural sites and Mayan ruins, but birding excursions are his favorite Belcampo Belize activity. Chan is an avid birder who demonstrates a remarkable depth of avian knowledge for his young age. Mentored by some of the region’s leading experts, including noted ornithologist and author of The Birds of Belize, Dr. Lee Jones, Chan is always eager to learn from other birders as well.
Chip Clouse is a tour guide and sales/marketing rep for The Partnership for International Birding (PIB). Originally enamored with tooth and claw predators, his fascination with birds started by volunteering with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor Peregrine Falcon nest sites while an undergraduate and was cemented once he saw his first Western Tanager while working for the Peregrine Fund in Oregon. With bird research and project management experience in 9 states and the Caribbean nation of Grenada, a Masters in Conservation Biology from Colorado State, 5 years with the American Birding Association, 3 years as a rep with Opticron optics and Novagrade Digiscoping adapters and stints guiding at 15+ different US birding festivals, Chip is excited to return to the RGVBF for the 7th time.
Mark Conway is a bird-bander and teacher from Harlingen Texas. He teaches biology at Harlingen South High School and is an adjunct instructor at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen. He moved to the Lower Rio Grande Valley eighteen years ago and has been banding birds in many locations in the Valley since he arrived.
Cameron Cox has been an avid birder since the age of 13. He spent his late teens and early twenties as a bird bum, traveling throughout North America to work on temporary bird related jobs. This allowed him to explore obscure locations like St Paul Island, Alaska, and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast. He discovered a love of seawatching while in Cape May, NJ, and went on to be the Seawatch Counter at the Cape May Avalon Seawatch. Along with Ken Behrens he authored the Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching: Eastern Waterbirds in Flight. He now works as a birding and photography guide for Tropical Birding. He has been a guide for the Rio Grande Birding Festival for 14 years.
Jim Danzenbaker has been a nature enthusiast ever since the tender age of 6 growing up in southern New Jersey. His interest in birds led him from his local haunts in southern New Jersey to visits to every corner of the United States. He has an enthusiasm for sharing information about different locations which helped him to become a birding tour leader not only on boat trips in Monterey Bay, CA, but also to neotropical destinations. He has led no less than 15 trips to various locations including Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador, and has been a Naturalist on an annual Falklands-South Georgia-Antarctica cruise for 13 years. He has been leading at the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival for over 15 years. He currently lives in Battle Ground, Washington, where he lives a semi-retired life which includes an active involvement (current President) in the Washington Ornithological Society.
Ian Davies works at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as the Project Coordinator for eBird (ebird.org), a free global database of bird sightings that is used by birdwatchers, researchers, and conservationists worldwide. More than 335 million sightings of birds from every country on earth are available for free use by anyone, contributed by more than 315,000 birdwatchers like you. Ian got interested in birds at age 13 when he visited a banding station and released a Canada Warbler. He has been lost to the feathered world ever since. He enjoys traveling to find birds, making sure to collect information on the birds seen through eBird and sharing those resources with birding communities worldwide. He has visited more than 30 countries in the pursuit of birds so far, and looks forward to continuing to explore the amazing natural world that we live in.
Javier de Leon was raised in Harlingen a few blocks from where the birding festival takes place every year. When he was a teenager, a group of birders from the birding festival pointed out some parrots in his neighborhood. This and a few other happy accidents led him to begin birding around the Rio Grande Valley and pursue a degree in Biology while attending the University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg. During and after college, he worked as a naturalist/interpreter at several Rio Grande Valley nature sites including the National Butterfly Center, the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center, Bentsen RGV State Park where his interests grew to learning local plants, butterflies, reptiles, and dragonflies. Javier is currently the Park Superintendent at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Mercedes, Texas.
Raul Delagato is an avid “birder with a camera” who arrived in the Laredo, Texas, area via Sydney, Australia. His firm belief is that good photography happens automatically when you “sense” that right moment to press the shutter, and that those who find beauty in nature will find strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
His passion for birding began when he migrated to live and work in Australia from 1980 to 1994. Since his return to Texas he has traveled and birded extensively within the lower 48, Canada, Alaska, most of all of Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands). Raul is one of the founding members of the Monte Mucho Audubon Society in Laredo, Texas. He has been promoting birding and eco-tourism within Webb and Zapata Counties, and his close association with private ranch owners has provided a foundation for unique birding field trips for the Laredo Birding Festival.
Larry Ditto resides in McAllen, Texas and has been a published nature photographer for over 4 decades…full time for 17 years. His butterfly, bird, wildlife and landscape photos appear regularly in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, Birds & Blooms, and Texas Highways. Ditto has won the prestigious Valley Land Fund Wildlife Photo Contest with his good friend Greg Lasley. Check out the coffee table books, Texas Wildlife Portfolio and Texas: A Photographic Journey for more of Larry’s work. Ditto’s busy schedule includes leading nature photography workshops and instructional photo tours when he is not judging photography contests and advising landowners on establishing wildlife photography ranches. His outdoor career began with training as a wildlife biologist (BS degree from Texas A&M University in Wildlife Science). After that, Larry was a refuge manager in the National Wildlife Refuge System for 29 years. Take a look at his web site, www.larryditto.com to see galleries with thousands of photos and a workshop schedule.
Jennie Duberstein has lived in southeast Arizona since 2001, where she currently coordinates the Sonoran Joint Venture, a binational partnership to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is a wildlife biologist and conservation social scientist, working to understand the relationship between people and nature and improving conservation efforts. Jennie has worked with young birders through the American Birding Association and other organizations since the late 1990s, directing summer camps, leading field courses, organizing conferences, and editing and managing young birder publications. She directs the ABA’s Camp Colorado and co-leads VENT’s Camp Chiricahua, serves on the Executive Advisory Board of the Prescott College Kino Bay Center, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.
Tom Dunkerton was a nature enthusiast as a kid growing up in NYC, he got his first birding field guide from his future wife when he was 18. Everything after that is all her fault! Moving to Florida in 1995 allowed many of those wishful field guide images to come to life and he was hooked for good. Spending 4 years as a research technician studying the Florida Scrub-jay nurtured his intimate knowledge of Florida scrub habitat and it’s residents. Annually leading field trips for Florida Audubon chapters through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge as well as private birding adventures and photography workshops, Tom shares his passion with anyone who wants to tag along. Unending hours in the field inspired Tom to take up photography as well, to share what he saw with friends and family. That soon blossomed into photo presentations all over Florida and the southeast as well as a few contest accolades. It’s safe to say Tom is the walking definition of an OCD birder/nature photographer! He also is an Opticron Sport and Nature Optics prostaff, trying to help the world see Nature’s beauty a little clearer.
Jon Dunn has been a tour leader for Wings since 1977 and leads tours widely in North America and Southeast Asia. He has written numerous articles on distribution and identification and has co-authored National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and their Birding Essentials, Warblers, Gulls and Birds of Southern California, Status and Distribution. He is a member of the California Bird Records Committee, the American Birding Association’s Checklist Committee and the American Ornithologists’ Union Committee on Taxonomy and Nomenclature. He serves as a board member to Western Field Ornithologists’ and lives in Bishop, California.
Dudley Edmondson has spent the last 25 years living in Duluth, Mn and working as a Professional Photographer, and Film Maker. He’s been a birder since his High School days too long ago to mention. During his time as a professional freelance Nature Photographer Dudley birded as he worked, traveling the nation gathering images for numerous flora and fauna field guides. Today most of his birding is done during the time he spends in the outdoors cycling, kayaking or fly-fishing. He’s been birding the Rio Grande Valley as a guide for over 5 years now. Dudley is also and author. His latest publication What’s That Flower? is a field guide to the common wildflowers of the Eastern U.S by DK Books of London, UK. In 2006 he wrote his ground breaking book “Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places” In 2010 Dudley’s book and conservation work landed him an invitation to the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors.
Laurie Foss started birding at the urging of her high school science teacher in Wisconsin. Since moving to Austin in 2003 she has discovered the joys of Texas birds and birding. A member of Travis Audubon, Friends of Balcones Canyonlands NWR, as well as other local, state and national birding organizations, Laurie is active leading field trips, teaching birding classes, and working for habitat conservation. Laurie leads group birding tours to the tropics for JB Journeys, a woman-owned ecotourism company, and works at Shield Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.
Shawneen Finnegan a native of Palo Alto, California, Shawneen began birding in her mid-twenties. She was immediately passionate about bird identification. Her birding career included leading and managing tours for WINGS; Photo Editor for Birding Magazine; and Associate Naturalist for Cape May Bird Observatory. She has served on four different state bird records committees and is on the ABA Records Standards and Ethics Committee. Shawneen is an accomplished bird artist. For 24 years Shawneen managed the BirdArea database used by BirdBase and AviSys. She is an eBird reviewer; gives keynotes; and teaches workshops about bird identification, how to draw birds, and more.
Susan Foster spent 30 years as a resident of Laredo, Texas, enjoying the unique avifauna of the Texas/Mexican border. Susan leads bird tours in and around South Texas for the Laredo Birding Festival, Rockport Hummerbird Festival, and the Texas Ornithological Society. She is a founding member of the Monte Mucho Audubon Society, and is currently secretary of the Texas Ornithological Society, helping birders on a statewide basis. Originally from Massachusetts, Susan spends her time birding Colorado in the summer and all around the great state of Texas the remainder of the year. Susan moved to Rockport four years ago and is currently concentrating on the birds of Aransas County so that she can better know her local birds.
Javier Gonzalez is a native of Tampico, Mexico and raised in McAllen, TX. He developed an interest in the outdoor world at an early age on fishing trips with his father. He took it a bit further and became passionate for birding while leading kayak trips down the Rio Grande River. Javi is the Naturalist Educator at South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center where he does a lot of birding and also birds on his days off at other local parks. Javi says “The Rio Grande Valley is such an exciting place to be a birder and it seems like there’s never a dull moment! I love showing the special birds and wildlife of the area to locals and out of town visitors alike. I also have an eye out for the unique butterflies of the region and you can usually find me with birding plus butterfly binoculars hanging from my neck.”
Ashli Gorbet grew up on the west side of Cleveland and was enamored with nature at a young age. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management from Ohio State University, Ashli spent the next decade plus exploring the Southwestern US, based primarily in Albuquerque, NM. Here she worked for Rio Grande Bird Research conducting banding operations and completing her study on the breeding biology of Black-throated Gray Warblers. She recently returned to Ohio to join Black Swamp Bird Observatory as their Banding Projects Manager. Ashli leads trips for BRANT during her free time and is pursuing her Master of Natural Resources from Utah State University.
Mary Gustafson is one of those rare lucky people where vocation and avocation overlap. Mary is currently working as a private bird guide in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as well as consulting on bird projects across Texas. She loves pelagic trips and can turn up on a boat anywhere, and leads for Shearwater Journeys in California whenever she can. Mary has been watching birds since she was about 6 years old, her interest spurred by her grandfather. She got serious about actively seeking birds out at age 14 when Robert Segedi of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History got her interested in the more scientific side of birding. A(n overly) competitive birder, Mary is “very slowly” closing in on 800 birds in the ABA area. She was part of a team that won the World Series of Birding “a long time ago” and has been part of the team that won the “Big Sit!” of the Great Texas Birding Classic at Estero Llano Grande. Mary currently serves on the American Birding Association Checklist Committee, and has formerly served on the Maryland/DC and Texas Bird Records Committee. Mary volunteers as an eBird editor for a few dozen counties in south Texas, works as one of the eBird state portal editors for Texas, runs the Lower Rio Grande Valley Rare Bird Alert, and formerly volunteered for the RGVBF organizing leaders and field trips. She formerly worked as the Coordinator for the Rio Grande Joint Venture, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-funded bird and bird habitat conservation partnership and she remains very interested in increasing ecotourism and conservation actions.
Martin Hagne was born and raised on the Swedish west coast, where his grandfather instilled a love for nature and birds at an early age. He moved to the United States, and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, in 1979. He served as the Executive Director of the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco from 2000 to 2013, and recently moved to Bandera, Texas, in the Hill Country. He also works as a Field Biologist for ecological survey companies doing avian, mammal, herp, and habitat baseline studies.
Cullen Hanks is a Texas Nature Tracker Biologist in the Wildlife Diversity Program at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. He grew up in Texas with a love for natural history and outdoor adventure. Cullen earned a BA in biology from Cornell University, and a MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. In his Masters, he focused on issues relating to biodiversity conservation and conducted research on the economics of the wildlife trade. Cullen has extensive experience with the collection and management of data on rare and threatened species. He is very passionate about being a naturalist and the contribution of the naturalist community to conservation. Cullen lives in Austin, Texas with his wife. To learn more about the Texas Nature Trackers Program go to www.tpwd.texas.gov/tracker.
Homer Hansen grew up in Willcox, Arizona surrounded by Sandhill Cranes in winter and Cassin’s Sparrows in summer. Homer has a passion for sharing bird watching with others and is a regular field trip leader for several festivals and served as chairman of the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival for 17 years. Homer is also co-founder of the Sulphur Springs Valley Young Birders Club and the annual Arizona Young Birders Camp. He instructs workshops on sparrows, raptors, flycatchers, warblers, birding by ear, and bird ecology, including: the Lifelong Learning courses for the Tucson Audubon Society, the Southwestern Sparrows IFO for the American Birding Association, and educational workshops for the Western Field Ornithologists (WFO) conferences. Homer is a life member of the WFO, Cooper Ornithological Society (COS), and Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS), and currently serves on the WFO board as chairman of the Youth Programs Committee.
Neil Hayward grew up near Oxford, England, where, at a young age, he first became obsessed with birds. After a PhD in genetics at Cambridge University he moved (permanently) to the US in 2005 to head up the US operations of the biotechnology company Abcam. He left in 2011 to pursue a consulting career as owner of Cambridge Blue Consulting. Neil is currently the Field Trip Coordinator and a director of the Brookline Bird Club. He is the author of Lost Among the Birds (Bloomsbury, June 2016), a memoir of his accidental big year. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Gerri and two cats, Sally and Khiva
Michael Hilchey’s interest in nature was sparked by the wintering Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR. One morning watching thousands of Cranes take flight over the chilly New Mexico sunrise was all it took to push him towards a life outdoors. Today, Michael still resides in New Mexico where he is an avid conservationist, researcher, birder, and owner of BRANT (Birding Research And Nature Tours), a birding and eco-tourism company committed to supporting local conservation in all the places they tour.Michael has been guiding in the United States and Latin America for most of his life and this will be his 6th year guiding at the RGVBF. When asked what he likes about guiding he says, “To me, the thrill of sharing the natural world with others is the most addictive things about birding. I can’t help but feed off the excitement, energy and wonder of my participant’s experiences!”
Ruth Hoyt is a full-time professional nature photographer, writer, public speaker and consultant with more than 25 years’ experience teaching photography. She is best known for her Texas bird photography and professional guiding services on private Texas ranches, but she also pursues landscape, flora, macro, night and more in locations across the United States. Ruth prefers her Canon 1DX Mark II DSLR for most of her work, but also uses an iPhone 6+ and DJI Phantom 4 drone for video and still work for selected subjects. Her work includes large canvas gallery-wrapped prints as well as mounted prints using archival, museum-quality paper. Her work can be seen in permanent public locations in various states as well as local hospitals, offices and visitors’ centers. Please visit her studio at the McAllen Creative Incubator, 601 N. Main Street, McAllen, Texas, and her website at ruthhoyt.com. Contact her at (956) 330-2900 or [email protected].
Huck Hutchens grew up at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where he spent most of his time in the outdoors enjoying hunting and fishing and wildlife in general. Upon retirement from Dupont in 1993, he and his wife, sold their home and began traveling the U.S. in a motorhome and birding along the way. He is now park host and naturalist at Estero Llano Grande SP/WBC for the past seven years. He has birded the RGV extensively and is always ready to go looking for birds. He gets excited showing the RGV birds to newcomers to the valley.
Dave Irons started birding in Indiana at age six and became fully hooked by age 17 when he met other young birders close to his own age. His birding interests are fueled by his curiosity about vagrancy, biogeography, and the finer points of field ID. Dave is a past member of Oregon’s Bird Records Committee (OBRC) and has served as North American Birds regional editor for Oregon and Washington since 2003. Dave has lead trips and taught birding classes for Lane Community College, Pacific Northwest College of Art, the Siskiyou Field Institute, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Winter Wings Festival, American Birding Association, Oregon Birding Association, Lane County Audubon Society, and the Audubon Society of Portland.
João Jara was born in Lisbon and studied biology at the Faculdade de Ciências de Lisboa, from where he developed his professional career in the pharmaceutical industry. With more than 30 years of field experience, he knows Portuguese birding intimately and has birded in Africa, Asia and the Americas. João was a member of the board of Birdlife in Portugal and was a voting member of the Portuguese Rarities Committee from 2005 until 2011 and chairman of the committee from 2007 until 2011. Author and co-author of articles about birds, João has led many field tours (in Portugal and abroad), as well as bird identification courses. In 2008, he launched the first Portuguese company totally dedicated to organize birdwatching tours, Birds & Nature Tours Portugal, being responsible for management of the company. Besides birds, he has an active special interest in amphibians, reptiles and fishes.
Dan Jones a retired high school math teacher and longtime guide at the Festival, Dan Jones has been birding for 38 years with the past twenty as a resident of the Rio Grande Valley. Dan particularly enjoys scouring the local backwoods roads and trails for unusual Valley birds and butterflies. His avian finds include North America’s and ABA’s first White-crested Elaenia, ABA’s first chaseable Crescent-chested Warbler and Arizona’s first Pine Warbler. Dan’s adventures in the field are chronicled in his blogs, http://antshrike.blogspot.com/ and http://rgvbutterflies.blogspot.com/
Kevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer. He is a regular presence at Bird and Nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations and workshops on bird identification and appreciation, as well as photo instruction. His photos can be seen in numerous locations, including his website kevintkarlson.com. Kevin is the author/photographer of two photography books titled The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography (Schiffer Publishing, 2010, 2012).Kevin recently produced four photographic laminated foldout guides for Quick Reference Publishing of Florida (Raptors of Eastern and Western North America (2012), Waterfowl of North America (2013) and Shorebirds of North America (2014). He currently leads several bird tours each year and a birding cruise with Dale Rosselet for Carefree Birding of Florida to six countries (www.carefreebirding.com).
Tiffany Kersten first became hooked on birds at age 12, after witnessing a flock of thousands of dancing sandhill cranes in a Wisconsin cornfield. After earning a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology at Northland College, she has interpreted migration with the Cape May Bird Observatory, conducted honeycreeper research in Hawaii, monitored shorebirds with Massachusetts Audubon Society, and surveyed waterfowl in Wisconsin and marsh birds in New Jersey with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. She currently manages the McAllen Nature Center, is a field technician with Swarovski Optik, and also works as a private bird guide in the Rio Grande Valley. In her spare time, she can be found practicing, social dancing, and performing as a member of a local Latin dance team.
John Kaye has been birding with his wife since 1992 when they visited Alaska for the first time and both fell in love with it. Over the course of the last 23 years they have gotten a lot better and as a result have been to all 7 continents in pursuit of their passion. Five years ago John was introduced to Hawk Watch at Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission, TX where he lives for 10 months a year. He has been volunteering at Hawk Watch ever since, and has come to appreciate just how magnificent their migrations can be. He and his fellow watchers have been privileged to see as many as 32,000 raptors in a single 4-hour watch! As a retiree John thinks this is the greatest hobby of them all.
Simon Kiacz grew up in mid-Michigan where he gained an appreciation for nature, but it wasn’t until college that he realized his potential as a birder. After working in Michigan on various herpetological projects, he escaped the cold and worked as a field technician in central Texas with Black-capped and White-eyed Vireos for two seasons. He has lived in south Texas for the last year and is currently a graduate student at Texas A&M University working on the Tejano Parrot Project which will determine the status and assess risks to the population of Red-crowned Parrots in the LRGV. Interested in all things outdoors (particularly birds and butterflies), Simon can usually be found exploring parks and shorelines trying to refine his identification abilities.
Rich Kostecke as spent the last 15 years birding and conducting ornithological research in Texas. He earned his PhD in Wildlife Science from Texas Tech University in 2002, where his research focused on wetland management and migratory waterbirds. Rich’s first job after completing his PhD was with The Nature Conservancy’s Fort Hood Program, a cooperative effort with the Army to monitor and manage endangered species (Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers) and their habitats. In 2011, Rich assumed his current state-wide role as Associate Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Texas. His current research projects include assessing the status of Black-capped Vireos in the Devils River Basin and southern Edwards Plateau, assessing the impacts of large-scale wildfires on the birdlife of the Davis Mountains, and the winter ecology of Sprague’s Pipits on the middle to upper Texas Gulf Coast.
David La Puma is the Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, in Cape May, NJ. David has over a decade of research experience on topics ranging from using radar to quantify stopover habitat for migrating birds, to conservation of the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in the Florida Everglades. David is the former Product Specialist, Birding & Nature Markets, for Leica Sport Optics, USA.
Tom Langschied is coordinator of the King Ranch Nature Tour program. Tom started the King Ranch Nature Tour program back in the fall of 1994. Originally from Fort Wayne, IN, Tom came down to South Texas in January of 1991 to get his Master’s degree from Texas A&M University- Kingsville and his thesis evaluated seasonal changes in bird communities on King Ranch. While Tom has worked for King Ranch since 1994, he left his full time position in the summer of 2005 to work full time as a Research Associate for the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute coordinating a South Texas wintering birds program. Then in November 2013 he returned to the King Ranch full time to once again coordinate the King Ranch Nature Tour program. Besides his passion for birds and birding, he also has a strong interest in butterflies and dragonflies. Tom is married and has two kids.
Justin LeClarie born with a love for the outdoors and a passion for wildlife, lone “indoor” activity while growing up consisted of watching every new and rerun episode of The Crocodile Hunter that he could. Though reptiles were his primary interest as a kid in northern Vermont, Ornithology grabbed a special hold on Justin while he was attaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Biology at the University of Vermont. Over the last half-decade since graduation, he has worked (and birded) across the country to follow this new passion in a diverse array of landscapes from the oak-pine forests of North Carolina, to the coastal Northeast beaches of Long Island and Cape Cod, to the Sonoran Desert in Southern California, and most recently, the unique and diverse world that is South Texas. Justin is enthusiastic and ready for whatever comes next!
Michael Marsden has been an avid birder since childhood in England but decided, for reasons that now escape him, on a career in law. Meeting Donna Knox on a birding trip, however, changed all that and in 1996 he gave up his work as solicitor general to the Cayman Islands Government to start a second career as a birding guide. Michael and Donna initially moved to Cayman House in Rockport, then to the San Pedro River Inn and Paton Birders’ Haven in SE Arizona and are now happily back in Texas: this time in San Benito, an ideal base for Michael’s interest in the wildlife and history of the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend. Michael offers customized birding tours for both individuals and groups. He has guided for Road Scholars, many birding clubs and festivals and has led tours to Belize, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba.
Alberto Martinez is a professional birding guide, biologist, field ornithologist and photographer. Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Alberto developed a passion for birds at a young age exploring around his hometown. He began to bird seriously in 1996 while attending the University of Veracruz where he received his B.Sc. in Biology. At this time he started working for the Veracruz River of Raptors and in 2001 began to guide birders who came to watch the raptor migration. He has collaborated with international agencies such as HawkWatch International, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Pronatura Sur, Pronatura Veracruz, the Conservation Leadership Program, SEO/Birdlife International, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain, Chiapas Birding Adventures, Royal Flycatcher Birding Tours, Environmental Sustainability Leadership, Mass Wildlife, and Origenes Conservación de Especies y Espacios. Throughout his career he has specialized in leading birding tours, teaching census techniques, monitoring and capturing different groups of birds (such as shorebirds, raptors, owls, passerines, and waterbirds) and directed birding workshops in order to train local guide and monitors. Currently, he lives in Chiapas and leads birding tours in southern Mexico and Central America, and also coordinates projects that teach local people about sustainable tourism.
Eric Martinez was born in a Zapotec Village in Oaxaca, Mexico. and started birding at the age of 8. He has birded all over Mexico in the last 19 years, in 2008 he did some bird banding for the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario, Canada, and since then has been doing bird banding in many parts of Mexico, Eric is owner of Mexico-Birding Tours; the only Mexican owned company of birding tours in Mexico.
Derek Muschalek grew up in suburban Houston where he spent his early years observing Neotropical migrants at High Island. Three decades ago he moved to the family farm in Yorktown, Texas where he developed a keen interest in butterflies and botany while tending the large herds of cattle. He began leading professional bird tours that led him to Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, Southeast Arizona, Northeast Mexico, and the Florida Everglades. Derek is an avid runner with other interests in sports, especially pro football. He also enjoys trying
different health foods and studying ancient cultures.
Michael O’Brien is a naturalist, author, artist, and leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field identification, and a serious addiction to migration and nocturnal birding. His travels have taken him throughout North and Central America and beyond. At home in Cape May, Michael serves as an Associate Naturalist with Cape May Bird Observatory for whom he conducts numerous workshops, and, for many years, conducted a fall songbird migration count. He is co-author of The Shorebird Guide, Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, and America’s 100 Most Wanted Birds, and is primary author of Larkwire.com, an online and handheld application for learning bird sounds. His illustrations have been widely published including in National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and the new Peterson field guides. Michael also has an intense interest in butterflies and leads several “Birds & Butterflies” tours with his wife, Louise Zemaitis
Glenn Olsen leads natural history and birding tours with GOBirding Ecotours and teaches bird identification, gardening for birds and butterflies, and nature related classes through Rice University’s Continuing Studies Department, Houston Audubon, Katy Prairie Conservancy, and the Texas Master Naturalist program. He has served on the Houston Audubon Board as Vice President of Education and also served as an Audubon Warden monitoring colonial nesting birds along the Texas Gulf Coast. Two of his many other efforts towards conservation include monitoring endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chickens at the Nature Conservancy’s Texas City Preserve and co-founding the Wildscapes Workshop through the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) where he served as president of both the Houston Chapter and the State NPSOT. He has led field trips and given programs for meetings of the Texas Ornithological Society, Houston Audubon, Houston Arboretum, the Native Plant Society of Texas, Rockport Hummer/Bird Festival, Galveston FeatherFest, the Bastrop Christmas Bird Count, and other groups and festivals. Glenn has led trips to such exotic locales as Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Amazon Rainforest, Costa Rica and the hottest birding locations in the U.S.
Randy Pinkston’s life has been defined by birds & birding since 1972. His focus is Texas and North American birds, although he enjoys neotropical birding and has traveled widely in Mexico and Central America. Randy has a wildlife science degree from Aggieland (Texas A&M) and at one time hoped to make some sort of living in birds. Instead, he took the easy way out and became a surgeon so that he could afford a comfortable life of birds & birding. He and wife Patricia have four sons and reside in Temple, about an hour NE. of Austin. Randy has led numerous birding tours in Texas & Arizona over the past 30+ years, including several central Texas winter sparrow workshops for TOS. He has done piney woods breeding warbler trips for TOS, is a Life Member of TOS, and has served on its Bird Records Committee since 2002. He has co-authored the Texas column for North American Birds since 2004. Recently Randy has taken an interest in birding with a digital camera and telephoto lens.
Bob Powell RGV resident bird watcher for 25 yrs. Worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Ranger at Laguna Atascosa NWR. Worked as a Naturalist for Frontera Audubon Weslaco Texas. Currently am Site Coordinator and Naturalist for The University of Texas for their “Deep South Texas” birding programs. Photo was take while leading a group in search of Canyon Wrens and Water Ouzels (whoops, showing my age- I mean American Dippers. Yes we found them both.
Michael Retter is the editor of the American Birding Association’s Birder’s Guide magazine. A former full-time birding tour leader, he has traveled extensively in the Americas (from Alaska to Ecuador) and still leads private tours part-time. He is the author of two upcoming books: the American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Illinois and Birds of Mexico, Guatemala, & Belize: A Photographic Guide. Michael recently moved from Indiana to Fort Worth, Texas, with his fiancé, two indoor cats, and about 150 orchids. He recently organized and led field trips for the biannual meeting of GBNA, the continent’s informal LGBT birders’ club, in Chiapas, Mexico. This will be Michael’s 15th year leading at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, and he hopes to continue for many years to come. Regular festival-goers may know him as “the parrot trip guy”.
Justin Rink has been birding since the age of 15 in his native state of Illinois. He has travelled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico, and has also birded Ecuador and the Caribbean in search of avian life. Justin is also the creator of the meetup group YBLO, or Young Birding Locals of Omaha. He currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska where he works at a plant nursery, and is lucky enough to live in a migrant trap. Justin has been guiding at the RGV Birding Festival since 2002.
Roy J. Rodriquez is a natural resource interpreter, consultant, and environmental educator involved in numerous regional conservation endeavors. A self-taught birder, Roy’s thorough knowledge and passion for teaching have transformed him into one of the Valley’s most sought-after birdwatching guides and an outspoken advocate of fostering diversity among birders. His experience as a professional guide has taken him across North America and from the Arctic Circle to the shores of the Yellow Sea. He is a charter member of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists and lead instructor for the ational Hispanic Environmental Council’s Environmental Training Institute Scholarship courses. Roy is a lifelong Texan, hunter, and angler working for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as a Master Interpreter & Park Naturalist out of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park & World Birding Center in Mission, Texas. This is his 16th year guiding for the RGV Birding Festival.
Dale Rosselet is vice president for education for New Jersey Audubon and oversees the statewide public and school-based education programs as well as the organization’s center operations. She has extensive experience teaching children and adults in both classroom and informal education settings for over 30 years. In her capacity with New Jersey Audubon she has authored and co-authored four natural history curriculum guides as well as the book Wild Journeys: Migration in New Jersey. She is past president for the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education and chairs the governor-appointed New Jersey Commission for Environmental Education. She has received the 2012 Women in Wildlife Award as well as the Pat Kane Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Education. She is a co-author of Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) with her husband Kevin Karlson.
Mark Scheuerman native Texan had identified over 100 species of birds by the age of eight. His interest in birds and the natural world has taken him birding throughout Texas, the US, and to fifteen other countries scattered over five continents. He is a regional editor for eBird and encourages others to contribute their birding records to the project to increase our knowledge and assist in bird conservation. Mark loves to share his passion for birds and the natural world with others and regularly leads field trips for various bird clubs, festivals, and privately. He has been leading field trips for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival since 2005.
Scott Schuette is the current Tour Director for St. Paul Island Tours. He grew up the in the outdoors in rural Missouri, the son of a naturalist at a local state park. His passion for birds and travel has been with him since childhood and has led him to six continents and many countries around the world as well as across most of the United States. A biologist by trade he worked as a guide on St. Paul Island during 2008 and 2009 and returned (in spring 2012) as the full-time director of the company. Sharing the unique experiences that await in Alaska are what he finds most appealing about his job, well.
Willie Sekula has been birding for over 40 years. Growing up on a farm instilled an interest in birds. His interest in birds took off when he found a copy of Peterson’s Birds of Texas in his high school library. His passion for birds grew in college after he joined Travis Audubon. On a field trip to the U.T.C.(Upper Texas Coast) with Ed Kutac (his mentor) in the 1970’s a spectacular spring fallout occurred with a late spring cold front. The migrant traps at High Island were literally stuffed with migrants. It was an amazing experience and solidified a love of migrant songbirds. He goes to the Central Texas Coast every chance he gets to look for Neotropical migrants. This love for birds has taken Willie all over Texas, Mexico and South America. He also has been a sub-regional editor for South Texas and Texas coeditor for North American Birds for twenty years.
Stephen Shunk graduated from Lamar High School in lovely Arlington, Texas, but he didn’t begin birding until 1989, after moving the San Francisco Bay Area. Steve started teaching about birds and their habitats in 1991, and he soon landed his first volunteer field job with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. In 1997, Steve escaped California’s urban jungle, eventually landing in central Oregon’s “Woodpecker Wonderland”—where 11 woodpecker species breed annually in an area smaller than the city of Harlingen. He has spent the last 19 years studying woodpeckers across the continent, and his long-awaited Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America hit the shelves in May 2016.
Zach Smith grew up in San Diego playing a lot of soccer. A move to Davis, California for college eventually introduced him to the world of birds, particularly raptors. After graduation, he embarked on a life of vagrancy as a field biologist that led to studying raptors in many wild parts of California, the Gulf coast of Texas, the southern New Jersey shore, Chile’s Atacama Desert, the humid lowlands of Veracruz, and the Canary Islands. Zach loves being in the field looking at raptors (and other wild things) and enjoys sharing what he has learned over the years. He has led field trips in northern California, Arizona and Mexico. His major goals in life are to continue working with raptors, go rock climbing and cycling as often as possible and master the 5-ball cascade (juggling). He lives in the Shawangunk Mountains in upstate New York with his wife Elizabeth.
Byron Stone is a physician and naturalist with a love of the outdoors that started in early childhood. He has been an avid birder for four decades, and has traveled all parts of Texas to observe birds and wildlife. Byron has a special interest in sparrows, and has taught a sparrow identification class for Travis Audubon Society for 14 years. Byron was a co-founder of the perennially-popular SparrowFest, conducted each February for the past 10 years at Balcones Canyonlands NWR. For over a decade, Byron has conducted 4 or more breeding bird surveys in central Texas and in the trans-Pecos. He is an eBird regional reviewer, a past member of the Texas Bird Records Committee, and is currently President of the Texas Ornithological Society. Byron resides in Austin, and also has special interests in shorebirds, gulls and raptors.
Bill Supulski moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 2011 and has been a contributing photographer for the Birding Festival for the past several years.
Clay Taylor is celebrating his 40th year of birding, having been infected with the allure of stalking birds with his 35mm camera while attending college in Rochester, NY, in 1975. Returning home to Connecticut, he became active in the local birding groups, lead tours, presented slide shows, and started banding migrating raptors in 1983. He founded the Rochester Hawk Banding Project in 1984 (which eventually became Braddock Bay Raptor Research), and in 1994 was a co-founder, and became first president of, the Connecticut Butterfly Association. In 1999 he joined Swarovski Optik North America, and currently is their Naturalist Market Manager, giving him the opportunity to travel to birding festivals and play with really nice toys.
Rene Valdes is a Mexican birder and field ornithologist specializing in endangered species conservation and research. He is based in Monterrey and performs wildlife surveys, leads birding tours, and is a wildlife photographer. Rene guides custom birding trips in Monterrey and adjacent areas, and in west Mexico leads tours in Mazatlan-Durango and in the San Blas area, one of the best birding sites in Mexico. When not birding (rarely happens), Rene reviews eBird records and hotspots for many states in Mexico, organizes the eBird-Mexico and Mexico Rare Bird Alert Facebook groups, compiles rare records from north Mexico for North American Birds, and coordinates the Breeding Bird Survey program for the northeastern states of Mexico. He is recently working as Citizen Science Project Manager for BirdsEye Birding apps (www.birdseyebirding.com), assisting with text and image editing, as well as collaborating with their many partners on new and improved citizen science projects.
Raymond VanBuskirk, having lived in New Mexico his entire life it wasn’t difficult becoming captivated by birds and nature. Raymond became fascinated with birds at age seven. He soon became involved in bird banding projects and within a few years started the renowned Sandia Rosy-Finch Project. Other research and conservation projects in the southwest included breeding ecology studies of Gray Vireos and Grasshopper Sparrows. Raymond has spent two summers on an Arctic Ocean research vessel monitoring seabirds. He is the president of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society, the youngest Audubon president in history, and is on the board of the Western Field Ornithologists. Over the years he developed a vision to start a tour company through which he could share his passion for birding, skills, and knowledge with other people. In 2012, alongside two partners, he started Birding Research And Nature Tours (BRANT), a responsible eco-tourism company specializing in international birding adventures.
Dylan Vasapolli, grew up in the outlying suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa, and was exposed to the world of birding from a young age. Currently still based in Johannesburg, he has been guiding for Birding Ecotours for over three years and balances studying in between his birding commitments. He has garnered much experience birding in the southern half of Africa, along with certain destinations in Europe, the Middle East, the US, and the Neotropics – his second love. He has an incredible ability to recognize bird calls, and it is this skill that makes him a valuable asset to the various tours he leads.
Ron Weeks lives in Lake Jackson, TX with his wife of 27 years, Irenna Garapetian. He has been an editor for North American Birds, an NAS Christmas Bird Count compiler, and an eBird reviewer for many years. Ron has co-authored two books about Texas birds, A Birder’s Guide to the Texas Coast and Birdlife of Houston, Galveston and the Upper Texas Coast. He also enjoys planning Big Days having organized teams that set the national record of 258 species in 2001 and the fossil fuel free (bike and foot only) national record of 193 species in 2015. Ron works in plastics R&D for the Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, TX and his other hobbies include triathlons and ministry work.
Sherry Wilson grew up on 65 wooded acres in central Vermont. Life was lived outdoors, close to nature. Most of her adult life has been spent in western states – Colorado, Nevada and Texas – where she and husband have shared a love of camping, birding and the natural world. June of 2005 began their RVing life as they headed north from Houston. In January of 2009 they arrived at Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, TX, where they fell in love with this unique segment of the Rio Grande River Delta and its subtropical evergreen forest. After six winters (and a couple summers) they are still in the LRGV but are farther west, in Mercedes.
Louise Zemaitis is an artist, naturalist, and leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. At home in Cape May, New Jersey, she is a popular field trip leader, teaching birding workshops as an Associate Naturalist with New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. Louise and her husband, Michael O’Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and youth birding camps for many years. In addition to leading, Louise is field coordinator of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, compiler of the Cape May Christmas Bird Count, and proprietor of Swallowtail Studio in Cape May’s West End Garage. An honors graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, she enjoys working as a freelance artist and her illustrations have been widely published.