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.
Barry Lyon’s passion for the outdoors and birding has its roots in his childhood where he grew up in southern California. He attended several VENT/ABA youth birding camps in his teenage years, which ultimately paved the way for his future involvement with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. He holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona at Tucson where he studied history and political science, with an emphasis on environment and development politics. Barry joined the VENT team as a tour leader in 1995, and embarked on a travel-based career that has taken him to an array of worldwide destinations. He has lived in Austin, Texas since 2004 when he joined our office staff as an assistant to company president Victor Emanuel. His responsibilities are now geared more toward the company’s business side, although he still leads a limited number of tours. Barry’s years of experience and his knowledge of natural history have provided him with a strong interest in conservation. He currently sits on the boards of directors of two Austin-based organizations: the Malcolm C. Damuth Foundation, which embraces land acquisition as its principal conservation strategy; and Travis Audubon Society, which emphasizes conservation through birding and youth outdoor education for urban children.
Bill Clark is a photographer, author, and lecturer and has over 35 years experience working with birds of prey, including 5 years as Director of NWF’s Raptor Information Center. He has published numerous articles on raptor subjects; has traveled extensively world-wide studying, observing, and photographing raptors; and regularly leads raptor and birding tours and workshops, both home and abroad, with his company, Raptours. 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.
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.
Brainard Palmer-Ball grew up on a farm outside Louisville, KY.M.S. in Biology from the University of Louisville. Career in KY state government; served as terrestrial vertebrate zoologist for the state’s “heritage program.” Retired end of 2008. Author of The Kentucky Breeding Bird Atlas (1996) and the Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Kentucky (2003). Active in Kentucky Ornithological Society for more than 30 years; serves as editor of the Society’s quarterly journal, The Kentucky Warbler.
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.
Chip Clouse – With a Masters in Conservation Biology from Colorado State, Chip has spent many years in the field conducting avian research – surveying for the critically endangered Grenada Dove in the Caribbean, Southwestern Willow Flycatchers in CA and AZ, and Peregrine Falcons in NC and OR. He studied the effects of wildfire and prescribed fire on birds, especially cavity nesters, in five western states for the USGS-Biological Resources Division. Chip is also the former Education and Outreach Director for the American Birding Association. He is partial to nuthatches and woodpeckers and longs to finally see a Red-billed Pigeon in the Valley.
Born in Dallas, Cliff Shackelford is a 7th generation Texan. He started birdwatching in the late 1970s at the age of nine. He is the statewide Nongame Ornithologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department where heâs been employed since 1997. Cliff is the first author of the book Hummingbirds of Texas which was published by Texas A&M University Press in 2005 and revised in 2009. He also has authored over 60 publications on birds and birding with over a dozen of those appearing in peer-reviewed journals. Cliff and his wife, Julie, and their 2 young children live amongst towering pines and hardwoods in Nacogdoches, Texas
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 is a life long resident of the Valley. HIs interests have always included the natural world and the creatures that live in it. He begin birding in the 1970’s, sharing his birding time with fishing the Gulf of Mexico and the bays of South Texas. He has traveled extensively in Mexico and has enjoyed opportunities to visit both Costa Rica and Panama several times each.
George Armistead is the events coordinator for the American Birding Association. He is a lifelong Philadelphian, and an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. A birder since the age of 9, he spends most of his time birding the Mid-Atlantic coast, between Cape May and Cape Hatteras. He has worked as a professional guide since 2002, and has guided trips on all seven continents. While he enjoys seabirds most of all, George enjoys all types birding. His writing and photographs have appeared in a number of publications and he is a frequent guest lecturer at birding clubs and festivals.
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 currently works as a 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.
Mark Lockwood is a conservation biologist with the Natural Resource Program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He has a master’s degree in Biology from Sul Ross State University. He has actively birded Texas for over 35 years and is a member of the Texas Bird Records Committee of the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) and of the American Birding Association’s Checklist Committee. He is also the regional editor of the quarterly Texas column that appears in North American Birds. Mark has over 50 publications in popular magazines and scientific journals, including Birding, The Wilson Bulletin, Cotinga, North American Birds, and The Southwestern Naturalist. He is also the author of five books, including Birds of the Texas Hill Country, The TOS Handbook of Texas Birds, and Basic Texas Birds.
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.
Rich Kostecke earned his B.S. in Biology (Systematics and Ecology) from the University of Kansas in 1995, his M.S. degree in Zoology from North Dakota State University in December 1998, and his doctorate in Wildlife Science from Texas Tech University in 2002. Rich’s graduate research was field-based and focused on addressing real-world problems. For his M.S., he assessed ecological hazards associated with a program to control crop-depredating blackbirds in the Dakotas. For his Ph.D., he quantified conservation benefits associated with the removal of invasive cattail at Cheyenne Bottoms, a globally important wetland complex in central Kansas. Rich’s first job after completing his Ph.D. was with The Nature Conservancy’s Fort Hood Program in central Texas, a cooperative effort with the Army to monitor and manage endangered species (Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers) and their habitats; seeking to balance the needs of both endangered species and the military training mission. In 2009, Rich became director of the Fort Hood Program. In 2011, Rich assumed his current state-wide role as Associate Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Texas. In this role, he serves as co-lead for science in the state with a particular focus on evaluating the effectiveness of conservation actions using multiple measures (e.g., biodiversity, socioeconomic) at multiple scales (preserve- to system-level). Among his current research projects, Rich is assessing Black-capped Vireo status in the upper Devils River Basin, assessing the impacts of large-scale wildfires on the birdlife of the Davis Mountains, and researching the winter ecology of the Sprague’s Pipit. Rich has published 28 notes or articles on his research to date.
Rich is a Missouri native, but has now called Texas home for the past 16 years. To a large extent, his work is not only a vocation, but an avocation. Richard spends much of his free time traveling; exploring the outdoors; and studying and photographing birds and other critters.
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.
Simon Thompson owns and operates his own bird watching and natural history tour company, Ventures, Inc., based in Asheville, NC and leads small groups of naturalists and birders both within North America and to many locations throughout the world. Destinations include the Peruvian Amazon, Belize, Galapagos, Greece, France, England and Australia. Ventures also runs daytrips throughout North and South Carolina and offers weekends and longer trips to many of the top birding sites throughout the US. Simon and Chris have also recently bought the Asheville Wild Birds Unlimited store where they sell a selection of seed, feeders and houses for backyard birds, as well as wildlife-related gifts, books and binoculars. Back in western North Carolina, he is also the ornithologist at Chimney Rock Park, where he leads bird walks and has put together the park bird list and is active with both the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society and the newly-formed Henderson County Bird Club. Simon was born in Malta and educated at Writtle Agricultural College in Chelmsford, England, where he received his degree in commercial horticulture in 1984. Prior to taking his degree, he lived in Ghana, Kenya and Lebanon, where his interest in birds began. In addition to traveling extensively in the US, he spent six months in China studying the crane and bird of prey migration as a member of the British “China Crane Watch” expedition. Since moving permanently to the US in 1987, Simon has been the ornithologist and nature director at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) in Tryon, NC, a position he held for 7 years until he started Ventures. He has been active in various conservation activities, such as the recycling effort in Polk County, NC. He is a member of the American Birding Association and the Carolina Bird Club, and plans many bird watching talks and programs throughout western NC. He has also done a regular weekly commentary on birds on WNCW, the local Public Radio station. Currently he writes birding columns for the Hendersonville Times-News and the Tryon Daily Bulletin in Western North Carolina. He has also participated in 2 of New Jersey Audubon’s “World Series of Birding” spring competitions. Simon lives with his partner of 12 years, Chris, in the beautiful forested hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Terry Fuller, holds multiple state and US records for rare birds, butterflies, and odonates. A physician by vocation, but a devout naturalist by avocation, Terry can swing between all winged creatures and plants at the drop of a birding hat. He’s lived in the Valley for 14 years, and is well-versed in all the local flora and fauna. His yard is widely known for its mega yard counts for species of birds and butterflies, and counting. His passions have taken him all over the world, and his specialty is tropical ecosystems.
Tiffany Kersten was first introduced to birds at age 12. She grew up hunting and fishing in Wisconsin and has a B.S. in Natural Resources from Northland College. After a 4-year stint with the US Forest Service conducting various bird surveys and several years volunteering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service censusing waterfowl, Tiffany relocated to New Jersey to work for NJ Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, where she learned from and birded with the folks who wrote the books. She is currently a Visitor Services Specialist at Edwin B. Forsythe (Brigantine) National Wildlife Refuge and a member of the Leica Sport Optics ProStaff team. Tiffany has also spent time conducting honeycreeper research in Hawaii, monitoring shorebirds in Massachusetts, and banding seabirds in Maine. Tiffany spent last winter working at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and has returned to the Valley to begin work as Supervisor of Environmental Education at Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center in October.
Tom Stephenson has been birding since he was a kid under the tutelage of Dr. Arthur Allen of Cornell University. His articles and photographs are in museums and many publications including Birding, Birdwatcher’s Digest, Handbook of the Birds, Handbook of the Mammals of the World, and Guide to the Birds of SE Brazil. He has lectured and guided many groups across the US as well as in Asia, where he trained guides for the government of Bhutan. He has donated many recordings of Eastern Himalayan rarities and other Asian species to Cornell’s Macaulay Library of Natural sounds. He was on Zeiss’s digiscoping team for the World Series of Birding and in 2011 his own team won the World Series Cape Island Cup. His latest book, The Warbler Guide, is published by Princeton University Press.As a musician he played concerts and did studio work for many years, working with several Grammy and Academy Award winners. His clients included the Grateful Dead, Phil Collins and the FBI. He joined Roland Corporation in 1991, managed the recorder division, and retired recently as Director of Technology.
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.