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Fee $12 / Wednesday 1:00p-2:30p
This interactive indoor workshop shares a different approach to field identification that Kevin calls Birding by Impression, A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, which is the title of his and Dale Rosselet’s new book in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series (April 2015). Covering shorebirds and other bird families, comparative digitized photos from this book encourages the audience to spot differences between similar species in direct side-by-side views. This exciting ID approach concentrates initially on basic impressions of size, shape and behavior to form an accurate mental picture of each bird seen in the field. A similar approach was used in Kevin’s popular book, The Shorebird Guide (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006). Test your birding and observation skills by attending this workshop and guessing the correct species using pertinent ID tips that contribute to your opinion.

KEVIN KARLSON is an accomplished birder, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer who has published many bird and nature related articles for magazines, books, and journals over the last 20 years. 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 Kevin is a co-author of The Shorebird Guide(Houghton Mifflin Co. 2006), and the author/photographer of a two photography books titled The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography(Schiffer Publishing, 2010, 2012). His most recent book with wife and co-author Dale Rosselet, Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds was released in May 2015 in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers.

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). A former photo editor for North American Birds, he also wrote the Birder’s ID column and served as an Advisory Board member for Wild Bird Magazine from 1992 – 2012. He currently leads several bird tours each year and a birding cruise with Dale Rosselet for Carefree Birding of Florida to six countries (

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.


Fee $12 / Thursday 1:30p-2:30p
Field Guides have empowered birders for years by making valuable identification information available in a format that is easy to use in the field. Field guides have been responsible for a surge in the popularity of birding. They have transformed how we bird. eBird is a Citizen Science project that stores birders’ checklists from around the world in an online database. There are currently over 16 million checklists in this database for North America alone. But how can this help a birder? Many birders are faced with more demanding schedules that allow them less free time. How can a birder make the most out of smaller window of time? The free, online Impatient Birder’s Guide to North America is a good place to start. Your field guides help you with identification. The Impatient Birder’s Guide will help you with the where and when in planning a birding adventure. Greg believes it will transform how we bird in the future just like the introduction of field guides changed birding in the past.
GREG MILLER was one of three persons to see more than 700 species in 1998 in North America. Pulitzer Prize winning Denver Post writer Mark Obmascik documented their stories in his 2004 nonfiction book, The Big Year. The book was converted to a Hollywood movie which was released in 2011 and starred Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. Greg was portrayed by the Jack Black character. He was also the Bird Consultant for the movie. Greg is currently a member of the American Birding Association’s Recording Standards and Ethics Committee and is an active tour guide for Wildside Nature Tours.


Fee $12 / Thursday 3:30p-5:00p
Join American Birding Association President Jeffrey Gordon for a celebration of the power of birding to heal and transform, not only our own lives but even our world. Those of us who are lucky enough to be birders know what a positive force birding can be. But that message is something that we as a community have had mixed results in conveying. Why is it that with as great a “product” to sell as the redemptive power of a passionate curiosity about nature and belonging to community of some of the most interesting, caring people anywhere, we’ve made relatively little traction with the wider public? Jeff will share stories and insights about how we can build a better world for birders and for birds.
JEFFREY A. GORDON is the president of the American Birding Association, now headquartered in Delaware City, Delaware. Jeff is also a well-known writer, photographer, tour leader, and naturalist. He is a frequent speaker at various birding and nature festivals. For more information on the ABA and on Jeff, visit


Fee $20 / Thursday 6:15p
As 2012 came to a close, Dorian Anderson decided he no longer wanted to run the academic research race. Drawing on his bird interest, he conceived a plan, to attempt the first solo, continent wide, North American bicycle Big Year. The goals of the trip were threefold: find as many birds as possible, raise awareness about environmentally sustainable travel, and personally challenge himself in new ways. After a year of planning, Anderson departed a frozen Massachusetts on Jan 1, 2014 for what turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime.
In the next 365 days, Anderson biked 17,830 miles through 28 states. He found 617 species, and he raised close to $50,000 for habitat conservation and bird-related programing. This was all accomplished using just a bicycle. He did not get into a car, plane, train, or powered boat for the entire year – for birding or for any other purpose. His talk will highlight the birds he saw during his incredible journey, and it will also draw from the bottomless well of stories that was bicycling around America. His unique blend of birds, biking, environment, adventure, and humor should not be missed.
DORIAN ANDERSON started birding at age 7 in the Greater Philadelphia region. Not sure what to do with a bird-obsessed child, his non-birder parents decided to encourage whatever interests would keep him out of the house, and perhaps more importantly, out of trouble (this failed miserably anyway). Family trips to the Jersey Shore as a pre-teen proved particularly formative, and attendance at a number of youth birding camps west of the Mississippi bolstered the interest.
For a number of years, birding was forced to take a backseat to his education. He studied Cellular and Molecular Biology. A Ph.D. in Developmental Genetics at NYU was the next stop on the degree carousel. It was during these New York City years, that the long-dormant birding gene was again activated. The newly revived interest moved with him to Boston when he accepted a Post-doctoral position at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. It was during these Boston years, 2011-2013, that a serious interest in bird photography also developed and the idea of birding across the USA by bike was hatched.


Free! / Friday 10:30a – 12n
Come join us to find out for yourself why 48 million Americans (USFW study) call themselves birdwatchers!
Want to know the names of the birds you are seeing in your backyards, nearby parks, or lake and sea shores? Valuable information from our tag team of speakers on how to use binoculars, books, nature parks and organizations will help you Get Started Birding!
NORMA FRIEDRICH, Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society President; Introduction
JAN DUNLAP, author of the acclaimed Birder Murder Mystery series, will present her easy instructions on “How to Walk, Talk, and Act Like a Birder (so you won’t feel like a complete idiot your first time in the field. Her newest release, The Kiskadee of Death, takes place here in the Lower Rio Grande River Valley. Jan is from Minnesota and this is her first visit to the Festival.
JIM FOSTER, outdoor writer who specializes in writing about and photographing nature, the outdoors, travel and adventure travel. The author of Birding Trails TEXAS Gulf Coast will speak about visiting places to bird that offer educational programs for birders and guided bird and nature walks.
BEN LIZDAS, Eagle Optics Sales Manager – will offer tips on how to use binoculars.

Birding the World

Free! / Friday 1:00p-5:00p (30 minute sessions)
Ever wonder what birding in far off countries might be like, but weren’t sure what you would see, where you would stay, or how to get in touch with a guide? Come hear how you can make plans to bird in any number of foreign countries and how to get in touch with destinations and guides. Starting at 1 p.m. a different country will be highlighted every 30 minutes (a more detailed schedule will be announced at a later date.) Find out about locations, bird species, travel requirements and meet local guides or destination representatives. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and determine where you will be going next.
Presenters will be vendors from the Birders Bazaar who represent a variety of countries, tour groups or destinations. Each ½ hr. session will feature one country and presenters will be discussing their country as a birding destination – not just the company they represent.


Fee $20 / Friday 6:15p
This keynote talk shares a new slant to field identification that Kevin Karlson and his co-author and wife Dale Rosselet call Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, which is the title of their new book in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers (2015). The topic of this multi-media presentation includes a more holistic approach to birding that involves right and left brain strengths to enhance your birding skills as well as a greater awareness of bird’s behavior and natural history rather than just a check on your personal list.
A short description of Birding by Impression is followed by unique digitized or real life photos from their new book that encourages the audience to spot differences between similar species in direct side-by-side comparison. This exciting ID approach concentrates on basic impressions of size, body shape, structural features and motion to form an accurate first impression of birds, with analysis of plumage details and bare parts to follow. Several videos and a musical ending allow for a relaxed appreciation of the beauty and intriguing nature of birds.
KEVIN KARLSON see Shorebird ID Workshop for bio.
DALE ROSSELET see Shorebird ID Workshop for bio.


Free! / Saturday 11a – 12n
See Family Activities page for full rundown of this great offering.  Everyone welcome!


Fee $12 / Saturday 1:30p – 2:30p
Birders do crazy things. Chasing rarities or, better yet, finding a rare life bird is even more intoxicating. Join Shawneen Finnegan as she shares tales that include her own discovery of a Yellow-nosed Albatross that flew past her as she was driving up the Garden State Parkway, which made ABC’s World News Tonight. Who but a birder would take a vacation that included planned visits to dumps and sewage ponds hundreds if not thousands of miles from home? If a bird is rare enough, it suddenly becomes reasonable to make a 1500-mile round trip in a weekend just to see a single bird.
Shawneen will have you scratching your head and laughing aloud as she recounts more than three decades of bearing witness to insane birding adventures.
SHAWNEEN FINNEGAN began birding in Northern California as a young woman. Being passionate about bird identification led to a career that included leading and managing tours for WINGS, being the Range Data Editor for Santa Barbara Software’s BirdArea for 23 years, and is Photo Editor for Birding Magazine. Shawneen is also an accomplished artist with her work published in many books, magazines, catalogs, on clothing, and held in private collections. Cape May was home for years (where her heart remains) and later Tucson. Since moving to Portland, Oregon in 2007 for family reasons, she completed a B.S. in Geography at Portland State University, conducted bird surveys and currently teaches several classes for Audubon Society of Portland. She recently took over Tony White’s State Checklist Newsletter for AviSys Software. She is a member of Oregon and Washington Bird Records Committees, and ABA’s Record Standards and Ethics Committee.

KarlBerg_SpeakerGREEN-RUMPED PARROTLETS: What’s all the talk about?

Fee $12 / Saturday 3:30p – 4:30p
Growing up in Central Florida, Karl S. Berg, began learning about nature while camping as a Boy Scout. These important early experiences eventually lead to a B.B.A. at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, where an undergraduate ornithology course piqued his outdoor interests.
After three years in Ecuador coordinating conservation/wildlife programs, Berg returned to Florida International University, Miami for a M.Sc. in biology and the beginnings of serious study in vocal behavior of birds. For his Ph.D., he worked under Prof. Jack Bradbury, Dept. of Neurobiology & Behavior, and Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab. He has spent over a decade studying the vocalization of Green-rumped Parrotlets (Forpus passerinus) in Venezuela, arguably the world’s best-known parrot population. It is in Venezuela that parrotlets have been tirelessly marked and studied since the 1980s, work led by Prof. Steven Beissinger, University of California, Berkeley where Berg did post-doctoral training. Now an assistant professor at The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley’s Dept. of Biology, Berg will help enlighten us about the intelligence and communication of these Neotropic parrots. How does their bizarre ability to articulate human words and phrases in captivity help individuals thrive in nature? Berg addresses this and other questions that can help us understand the diversity and evolutionary history of adult parrot behaviors.
KARL BERG and his graduate students are currently studying the site fidelity of Red-crowned Parrots (Amazona viridigenalis) in the Rio Grande Valley. If you are interested in contributing observations to this RCPA Project, come join him to learn more about this parrot study as well.


Sponsored by Eagle Optics
Free! / Saturday 6:15p
The encores keep getting louder and louder! This offering has been so popular that it’s now in its seventh season. Join our quizmaster, ABA President Jeffrey Gordon and his lovely “First Lady”, in a TV-style game show format, a multimedia production of birding trivia and friendly competition. You’ll be laughing, cheering, learning, and seeing a different side of some of your favorite birding personalities, authors, and leaders. Audience participation with great prizes, made possible by the generous support of Eagle Optics.
JEFFREY A. GORDON is the president of the American Birding Association, now headquartered in Delaware City, Delaware. Jeff is also a well-known writer, photographer, tour leader, and naturalist. He is a frequent speaker at various birding and nature festivals. For more information on the ABA and on Jeff,
LIZ GORDON is one of the founders of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. She served on the board, ran the children’s program, worked with the artist and designed the festival graphics, and did anything else necessary to support the festival. Liz no longer lives in Harlingen, but she remains active with the festival, she is Seminar Chair, and Artist Liaison. Liz is the wife of Jeffrey Gordon, ABA President.