Ashli Gorbet grew up in the forests of northern Ohio and received her B.S. in Wildlife Management from The Ohio State University. In 2006, she relocated to New Mexico to explore the birds and mountains of the Land of Enchantment. She currently studies the breeding biology of Black-throated Gray Warblers and dispersal and seasonal movement in White-breasted Nuthatch, works as a wildlife biologist, bands birds and serves on the board of directors of Rio Grande Bird Research, Inc., and acts as secretary of the New Mexico Ornithological Society. Ashli loves to travel; she loves to immerse herself in the birds and culture of both new and familiar places.
Bill Clark is a photographer, author, researcher, and lecturer and lives in the Rio Grande Valley. He has published numerous articles on raptor subjects; has traveled extensively world-wide studying, observing, and photographing raptors; and formerly led raptor and birding tours and workshops, both home and abroad. He regularly teaches evening and weekend courses on raptor field identification and biology and frequently presents lectures on raptor subjects. Bill has written a raptor field guide for Europe, and is writing two others for Africa and for Mexico and Central America. He is a coauthor of the Photographic Guide to North American Raptors and the completely revised Peterson series guide, Hawks. He has on-going research projects on Harlan’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, and Harris’s Hawk. Some of his latest papers deal with raptor taxonomy. Bill has a personal goal to see and take photographs of all of the world’s diurnal raptors.
Bob Behrstock lived in east Texas for 22 years, first as a founder and Vice-president of Peregrine Tours, then as a senior tour leader for Wings, Inc. While living in Texas, he participated in site assessment for five of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and Great Texas Wildlife Trail maps, the World Birding Center, and birding trails in Virginia, Maryland, Kansas and West Texas. For at least 12 years, he has been a presenter and field trip leader for birding, dragonfly, and butterfly festivals and workshops in Texas, Arizona, and California. He has authored or co-authored nearly 60 popular and scientific papers concerning fishes, birds, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and butterflies in the U.S. and Latin America, and three books: Birds of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast; the Upper Texas Coast volume of Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail; and an introductory insect guide Dragonflies & Damselflies of the Southwest. He now lives in Southeastern Arizona, and continues to lead a variety of natural history tours both freelancing and for Naturalist Journeys.
Byron Stone is a physician and naturalist with a love of the outdoors that started in early childhood when he would chase horny toads near his home in central Austin and go fishing with his grandfather on Lake Travis. 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 been teaching a sparrow identification class for Travis Audubon Society for twelve years, using his own digital images to teach those classes and to conduct other workshops on sparrow identification. Byron was a co-founder of the perenially-popular SparrowFest, conducted each February for the past 8 years at Balcones Canyonlands NWR. For the past 9 years, Byron has conducted 4 or more breeding bird surveys in central Texas and in the trans-Pecos. He is an eBird regional reviewer, and is privileged to serve on the TOS Bird Records Committee, and is President-Elect of the TOS. Besides sparrows and breeding birds, Byron also has special interests in shorebirds, gulls, raptors and seasonal and regional bird distribution in Texas. He lives in Austin with his 16 year-old dachshund Kramer.
Cameron Cox has been an avid birder for 19 years. Birding adventures have led him all corners of North America, from southern Mexico to the Pribilof Island in the Bering Sea. He is particularly interested in the identification challenges presented by waterbirds and is currently working on a flight identification guide to eastern waterbirds to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He spent over 10 years as a “bird bum” traveling from one low-paying bird field-tech position to another, learning as much as he could about bird identification and behavior at every stop. His current job title is much more reputable, Product Specialist for Leica Sport Optics. You can now find him at birding events, leading field trips and explaining the merits of spectacular optics. He has been a leader for the Rio Grande Birding Festival since 2001.
Carlos Bethancourt was born in Panama City in 1978 and raised in the small rural village of Huile, next to the Canal Zone. It was here where he learned many lessons of nature from his mother and grandmother, both of whom were deeply connected to nature and involved with conservation. After high school Carlos was awarded a scholarship to Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon, where he studied natural resources and received his first formal training in ornithology. Carlos began his career at the Canopy Tower in October of 2000 and has since attended numerous birding conferences and conventions in the US and Great Britain, where he led tours, workshops and presented programs on Panama birds. Carlos is a very popular and a much-requested guide, a testament not only to his birding ability, but also to his sincere friendly demeanor. When not guiding, Carlos is busy at the office working on marketing and other projects for the Canopy Tower & Canopy Lodge.
Dave Irons started birding in Indiana at age six. After his family moved to Oregon his affliction became progressively more “serious.” At age 17 he discovered that there were other Oregon birders close to his own age and birding became a focal point in his life. He skipped his high school commencement (mom retrieved the diploma later) to go birding in southeastern Oregon, and by age 21 he was elected a member of Oregon’s Bird Records Committee (OBRC).
David Benn I begin birding in the 1970’s when a birder relative discovered a Yellow-green Vireo in my mother’s Brownsville yard (where later the first documented USA Golden-crowned Warbler was discovered) and I wondered what all the interest was. It turned out to be pretty compelling. As a Brownsville native my 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 I’m not thinking about going birding somewhere I’m probably thinking about going fishing somewhere.
Holly Reinhard discovered her passion for nature, and birds in particular, as a teenager growing up in western Oregon. While earning her BS in Environmental Science at Oregon State University, she worked several seasonal wildlife and nature positions, from Maine to Colorado. Through these varied experiences, Holly discovered her passion for sharing nature with others, and she has worked for two years in her current position as Park Interpreter for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Laredo. Holly is constantly rediscovering the great diversity of Texas habitats and birdlife, and is always happy to spend time outside looking at birds, herps, butterflies, dragonflies, and nature in general, especially when she can share these experiences with others.
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. He has ben leading at the Rio Grande Valley bird festival for over 12 years. He is also a Naturalist on an annual Falklands-South Georgia-Antarctica cruise for Cheesemans Ecology Safaris(CES) http://www.cheesemans.com. He currently lives in Battle Ground, Washington where he is the Polar Expeditions Director for CES.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Katherine Miller started birding at places like Hassayampa River Preserve (TNC) and at her parents’ get-away on the Mogollon Rim. She went west to study marine biology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. On weekends she hiked around the chaparral, and gradually realized she was more interested in terrestrial systems. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in environmental science. Ornithology field jobs in Alaska (ABO), Oregon (KBO), and Arizona (willow flycatchers) followed, and she knew she wanted to get paid to chase birds. She moved to Corpus Christi and worked on her master’s degree in biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, investigating the nest success of the Botteri’s sparrow in south Texas. Katherine is currently working on her Ph.D. in wildlife sciences at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at T A&M U-Kingsville, studying landscape genetics of northern bobwhite in Texas and the Great Plains.
Mark Garland is based in West Cape May, New Jersey, where he runs a small company that plans and conducts nature-oriented tours, lectures, workshops, and field trips for various organizations. He works with the Audubon Naturalist Society, New Jersey Audubon, Road Scholar, Smithsonian Journeys, American Birding Association, and others. He has led over 200 birding/nature tours, including many to South Texas. He first visited the Rio Grande Valley in 1983. Learn more at his website, http://mgnature.com, or “like” his related facebook page: mgnature.com.
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 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 pineywoods 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.
Richard Gibbons is the Director of Conservation for Houston Audubon where he manages their sanctuaries, develops and manages monitoring programs, and advocates for bird conservation in the region. He has worked as an ornithologist throughout the Americas for 17 years including bird banding, hawk watching, and colonial waterbird management. He gained his Louisiana experience while working at LSU’s Museum of Natural Science, where he coordinated citizen science projects in Louisiana and studied birds, wetlands, and climate change in Peru’s high Andes.
Tiffany Kersten first became hooked on birds at age 12, after witnessing a flock of thousands of displaying sandhill cranes in a Wisconsin cornfield. After earning a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology at Northland College, she has spent time interpreting hawk migration with the Cape May Bird Observatory, conducting honeycreeper research in Hawaii, monitoring shorebirds on Cape Cod with Massachusetts Audubon Society, censusing waterfowl in Wisconsin and marsh birds in New Jersey with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, and banding seabirds in Maine with Project Puffin. Tiffany highly attributes her birding successes to her years spent in Cape May, NJ, birding with and learning from the folks who wrote the books. She is currently Birding Educator Supervisor at Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center, is a member of the Leica Sport Optics ProStaff team, and also works as a private bird guide in the Rio Grande Valley.
John Yerger’s childhood interest in birds developed into more of an obsession by high school, leading him to a degree in wildlife and Fisheries Science at Penn State University. He has a strong background in ornithology research, but enjoys every other aspect of natural history as well. In 2006 he co-founded the Adventure Birding Company in Tucson, AZ and has led trips throughout North America. John currently serves as the Assistant Director of Borderland Tours, which has expanded his travel itinerary across multiple hemispheres. John also volunteers as a member of the Arizona Bird Committee, serves on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Field Ornithologists, and is on the editing team for Tucson Audubon’s Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona. John is always excited to return to South Texas, where he has birded at least once annually since 2002.
Adrienne Warner An Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident all her life, Adrienne grew up to a soundtrack of Scaled Quail and Pinyon Jays. But the sighting of a red-shafted Northern Flicker sparked a passion for birding. Since then, she’s gathered survey data for the Middle Rio Grande Songbird Study, monitored raptor nests, coordinated bird education and conservation programs for elementary students, as well as headed up the New Mexico Junior Duck Stamp contest. When she’s not birding, Adrienne can be found sharing her love of nature with her daughter and being a librarian at the University of New Mexico’s science library.
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.
Jake Mohlmann graduated from Penn State with a degree in Recreation and Parks Management. While there, he helped found the Penn State Student Bird Club. He has long specialized in natural history interpretation and excels at combining these talents with his voluminous knowledge of ornithology. Jake has regularly traveled around the North American continent for bird-related field work and ended up at the University of Arizona conducting bird research in 2005. He spent half of 2007 on St. Paul Island in Alaska’s Pribilofs, where he discovered and documented North America’s first Brown Hawk-Owl. On a recent experience he spent 6 months living in Africa, mostly researching chimpanzees in the Albertine Rift of Uganda. Jake’s travels have taken him to 6 continents in search of birds and mammals, but he’s always excited to return home to sunny southeastern Arizona to lead tours for his local guiding business the Adventure Birding Company.
Jennie Duberstein has lived in southeastern Arizona since 2001, where she currently works as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Sonoran Joint Venture, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She 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. Jennie co-leads the ABA’s Camp Colorado and VENT’s Camp Chiricahua, serves on the Board of Directors for Tucson Audubon Society, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team. In her free time she competes in marathons, century rides, and triathlons as a member of Team In Training to help find a cure for blood cancers.
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.
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.
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 he still leads private tours (especially to Middle America) part-time. When at home, Michael currently spends most of his time writing a field guide to the birds of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. He is the Chair of the Indiana Bird Records Committee and volunteers as an eBird reviewer for Illinois and Indiana. Michael just moved from Indiana to Fort Worth, Texas, with his fiancé, two indoor cats, and about 150 orchids. He has led friend trips for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival for thirteen years and looks forward to returning for many years to come. Regular festival-goers may know him as “the parrot trip guy”.
Rich Kostecke has 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.
Rob Ripma is the owner and creator of www.NuttyBirder.com, “the place to go to find birds”. He also is the co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours, leading birding and photography trips in the US and Central and South America. Rob currently sits on the Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s (Ohio) Board of Directors as Secretary. He is co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. Most recently, he has become the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine. When he’s not birding or travelling, Rob works part-time at Wild Birds Unlimited. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 with a degree in Marketing and lives with his wife Stephanie in Carmel, Indiana.
Stephanie Galla is the Habitat Biologist at Estero Llano Grande, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley, and Resaca de la Palma State Parks. Stephanie started her birding adventures in western Kentucky, where she received her bachelors of science in wildlife biology from Murray State University. Since then, Stephanie has worked on several avian conservation projects, including work with Piping Plovers, Mississippi Sandhill Cranes, Ruffed Grouse, and Attwater’s Prairie-chickens. When she moved to Texas in 2010 to pursue a graduate degree at the University of North Texas, Stephanie began making regular birding trips west Texas, High Island, and the Rio Grande Valley. This is Stephanie’s second year leading tours at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, and she looks forward to helping people sight the beautiful birds that can only be found in south Texas.
Justin Rink has been birding since the age of 15. He currently resides in Omaha, NE where he has been for the past seven years. He has birded extensively in the US, Costa Rica, and Mexico. He leads local freelance birding field trips and has established a meetup group called YBLO or Young Birding Locals of Omaha. Justin has been guiding at the festival since 2002.
Libby Errickson hails from York, Pennsylvania. She earned her B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and Management from Delaware Valley College in Bucks County, PA. Her first job out of college was as a naturalist for New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. There she was plunged headfirst into the world of birding, learning from some of the best in the field and developing a strong passion for our avian kin. Since then, she has monitored urban bird breeding ecology for Ohio State University, counted raptors with Hawkwatch International at Chelan Ridge, Washington, and conducted numerous bird and wildlife surveys as a biological technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, Florida. Fall 2014 has brought her to Texas, where she has rejoined Hawkwatch International as a raptor counter at the Corpus Christi Hawkwatch.
A native Texan, Mark Scheuerman 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.
Sherry Wilson grew up on 65 wooded acres in central Vermont. Life was rustic and 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 as fulltime RVers. In January of 2009 they arrived at Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, TX, and fell in love with this unique segment of the Rio Grande River Delta and its subtropical evergreen forest. Sherry is now a TX Master Naturalist, and always a birding and nature enthusiast.
Rick and May Snider live near Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. Rick has been a birder and naturalist for most of his life. Since retirement from teaching he spends much of his time wandering the woods studying and photographing all aspects of nature. He writes a nature column a local magazine and has given presentations on butterflies, dragonflies, and ferns. He leads spring bird hikes for the Parry Sound Nature Club and is a co-leader of a local butterfly count. Rick and May have wintered in south Texas for the last 10 years, where they led bird walks and butterfly walks at Bentsen Rio-Grande Valley and Estero Llano Grande State Parks. This will be their third year as co-leaders for the Harlingen Birding Festival in the Rio Grande Valley.
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.
Doug Gochfeld, a native Brooklynite, spent his early formative years scouring the urban landscape of New York City for birds with his father. Over the last decade he has put his BS in Economics to good use, via bird work in a number of locations. He was the swing counter for Cape May Bird Observatory (counting the Hawkwatch, the Seawatch, and the songbird Morning Flight) in Cape May, NJ for two fall seasons, and he has done hands-on ecology work in places as varied as subarctic Alaska, the northern coast of South America, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. For the last four years he has worked as a guide for St. Paul Island Tours, in the Bering Sea’s Pribilof Islands, guiding birders and other tourists around “The Galapagos of the North.” His writing and photographs have been published in several venues. Doug is on the New York State Avian Records Committee, and on Leica’s Pro Staff.
Erik Bruhnke graduated from Northland College in Wisconsin with a Natural Resources degree. In six years his avian field experiences have taken him throughout California, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Maine and Texas. During the fall seasons, Erik has worked as an interpreter at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, MN. In 2008 Erik created Naturally Avian Birding Tours with the goal of promoting conservation through birding, wildlife photography, and his bird identification workshops. His wildlife photography has won national awards, and his writings have been featured throughout various birding magazines. He recently jumped aboard Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, while continuing to expand Naturally Avian. Although he loves all birds, Erik is a devoted raptor and gull nerd. He recently moved to Texas and is hooked on birding in the Rio Grande Valley, the Gulf Coast, and the Hill Country. He loves to cook and bake in his free time.
Michael O’Brien is a naturalist, author, artist, and leader for Victor Eamanuel 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.
Louise Zemaitis is an artist, naturalist, and leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours living in Cape May, New Jersey where she is a popular field trip leader teaching birding workshops as an Associate Naturalist with New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. She also enjoys leading birding groups and lecturing at birding festivals and is known for her enthusiasm for all natural history subjects. Louise and her husband, Michael O’Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and conferences for many years. In addition to leading, Louise is coordinator of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May and compiler of the Cape May Christmas Bird Count. 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. Her proudest accomplishment has been the raising of her two sons, Bradley, a biologist and artist, and Alec, a philosopher and musician.
Kyle O’Haver I grew up in Missouri spending much of my time in the woods and ponds of my grandparent’s farm. I grew up loving hunting, fishing, and catching all kinds of critters, but birds have always got my attention. Attending the University of Missouri-Columbia I found an amazing class called ornithology and loved it. Working with Missouri Department of Conservation in Fisheries and then an internship and seasonal interpretation job with Missouri State Parks, I finally landed a job with Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center. Three years as a park interpreter and three years as the Natural Resource Specialist created the obsessed birder you get today. Now running my own park (Lake Colorado City State Park) and spreading the good word on birding, I hope my passion for birds pours into others like my children Sibley (not a coincidence) and Kaleb.
Luke Tiller Originally from London, England,transplanted to the Wilton, Connecticut in 2003. Surrounded by wildlife he found his love of birds reignited. Employed as a hawkwatcher both in Europe and North America, his passion and knowledge saw him invited to join the Hawk Migration Association of North America board. As well as chairing the HMANA Tour Committee he also leads birding tours for Sunrise Birding LLC. His most recent adventures include moving to Southern California and surveying raptors in Israel earlier this Fall.
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/ .
Kim Eckert has been guiding birders or teaching bird identification classes for over 35 years. Starting in the 1980s, he guided for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours in the U.S. and Canada and still directs the Minnesota Birding Weekends & Weeks program of birding tours. He has authored A Birder’s Guide to Minnesota and written numerous articles, notes, and columns for Minnesota’s birding journal The Loon and other publications. He has served for over three decades on the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee, and for 20 years he was the naturalist at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in Duluth. He has resided in Duluth, Minnesota since 1977 (winters included), although Texas has long been a favorite destination especially during the colder months. As evidence of this, Kim has led field trips on 18 consecutive Rio Grande Valley festivals.
Brad McKinney is a long-time resident of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and has been actively birding the region for the past 25 years. He works as a high-school administrator at a medical magnet campus in Cameron County. He has co-authored A Birder’s Guide to the Rio Grande Valley and contributed to Checklist of Lower Grande Valley Birds. Brad, who has served on the Texas Bird Records Committee, especially enjoys pelagic birding and traveling in the Neotropics with his wife Janette and son Will.
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. Birding trips to Mexico (including an encounter with a Gray-collared Becard) cemented his interest in learning to identify, and eventually study, birds. 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, whether it’s the canopy of a Texas Ebony or the loud calls of a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and he is thrilled to be able to share that beauty and excitement with others.
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; all it took was a curious male Western Tanager to push him over the edge. Raymond soon became involved in a bird banding project near Albuquerque and within a few years started what is known as the Sandia Rosy-Finch Project, a rosy-finch banding project that has since received recognition in National Audubon Magazine, Birders World Magazine, Western Birds, and among birders all over the nation. His early interest in research paved the way for his involvement in many research and conservation projects throughout the southwest – notably, a breeding ecology study of Gray Vireos in New Mexico and a similar project on Grasshopper Sparrows. Additionally he has spent two summers living on a research vessel in the Arctic Ocean monitoring the distribution and abundance of seabirds. He is the president of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society, and the youngest Audubon president in history. He was recently voted on to the board of the Western Field Ornithologists. While he loves field research and conservation, one of Raymond’s favorite activities is traveling and birding with his friends, especially in Latin America! 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.
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.
Tom Langschied is the coordinator of the King Ranch Nature Tour program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. 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 work looked at how bird communities changed from fall through early summer 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 as a Research Associate for the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute coordinating a South Texas wintering bird 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.
Wezil Walraven a seasoned bird guide for over 3 decades, grew up in Atlanta, Ga. He was ﬁrst introduced to birding when he moved to the Osarks in the mid 70’s where he met his ﬁrst birding mentor, a wildlife artist/naturalist. They conducted breeding bird surveys where he learned the songs of regional birds. In the late 80’s he continued to hone his birding by ear skills working as a naturalist/bird guide for the Chattahoochee Nature Center outside of Atlanta, GA. There he led tours to the barrier islands, off the coast of GA, led bird-watching canoe trips and took patrons around the grounds birding. He married his wife, an employee of the Nature Center and they moved to southeast Arizona in 1998. There he gained employment with two international bird tour companies over a 10 year period, involving himself in bird banding projects, and bird surveys for the USFWS, before starting his own bird tour company, Wezil Walraven Bird Tours. He served on the board of Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival for 4 years and was president for one year. Currently Wezil is a senior guide for High Lonesome Bird Tours out of Sierra Vista, AZ, and guides for Birding Research And Nature Tours (BRANT), out of Albuquerque, NM, as well as conducting private and small group tours.
Rene Valdes is a Biologist/Ornithologist who lives in Monterrey, Mexico. He was born in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, and it was there where the birdwatching involved him since he was a teenager. He began his first sightings at an estuary in Mazatlan looking for the deciduous forest’s species. When he moved to Monterrey, he became a specialist on psittacines field research working with the endangered Thick-billed Parrots, and Maroon-fronted Parrots. He is also expert on pine-oak forest bird diversity, and has acquired the knowledge of hotspots location with presence of many other endangered and endemic bird species over the past 10 years in Mexico. Rene guides professional birding trips in Monterrey and adjacent areas in northeastern Mexico, and in the northwest especially in Mazatlan and the Durango hwy, one of the best birding locations in Mexico targeting the rarest Tufted Jay. Finally, the interest on capture the birding moment, has conducted him to be an amateur photographer, his material can be seen in the FaceBook page: RVBirdPhotography.
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. with Ed Kutac (his mentor) in the 1970’s 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.
Ric Zarwell has been a birder since an epiphany in March of 1966. He and his wife have birded 38 nations on 6 continents since his early retirement on the last day of 1999. Ric has bird sighting goals for 36 different geographic areas ranging from his yard (current total 189 species) to the world (4,031 species). Born and raised on the famous Mississippi Flyway where the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa meet, he has been very active in bird conservation at all levels since retirement from the Natural Resource Conservation Service. For the past four years Ric has been the North American Marketing Coordinator for Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures, ORYX Photographic Expeditions, and ORYX Wildlife Safaris. You are invited to stop at the Rockjumper booth to pick up a beautiful catalog of 2015 tours, have a conversation, and treat yourself to some candy.
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 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.