TRIP LEADERS

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.

Monica Barrera, originally from Rio Grande City, Texas, got her B.A. in Biology from the University of Texas – Pan American and is currently the Interpretive Naturalist for the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center in Edinburg, Texas. She is a member of the South Texas Border Chapter Master Naturalists, where she used to serve as the Membership Committee Chair. Monica enjoys bird and butterfly watching during work at the EWBC as well as on her days off from work, with one of her favorite spots being the new hike and bike trails in Rio Grande City.

Tim Bagworth, resides in the UK and has been birding since a young age. He has been lucky enough to have held the positions of Warden of the Calf of Man Bird Observatory, Isle of Man, and Landguard Bird Observatory, Suffolk, along with being an assistant warden at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent, and a contract warden at the Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve, Lincolnshire. Tim has been birding frequently in the USA since the 1990’s, mainly in Texas, north-west Florida, California, and Georgia. He has been a bird bander since 1982..

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 studies in Houston, site assessments for five of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail maps, 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 and wrote a guide to Southwestern dragonflies and damselflies. Additionally, he has authored/co-authored 60 popular and scientific papers on fishes, birds, dragonflies, butterflies, and grasshoppers in the U.S. and Latin America. Bob 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

Carl Bendorf at age 12, Carl rigged up a toy parabolic reflector to a reel-to-reel recorder, carried it three miles on his bike out into the Iowa countryside and captured the song of an Eastern Bluebird. Later that day, his father drove him to the same spot and Carl was amazed at the bluebird’s reaction to hearing its own call. He’s been captivated by birds and birding ever since! Carl is past president and records committee member of the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union and serves on the American Birding Association Board of Directors. After retiring in 2011 from non-profit development and management, Carl founded Iowa Young Birders, served as executive director until 2015, and remains a member of the board. In 2016, Carl and his wife, Linda, moved to Longmont, Colorado. He founded Colorado Birding Adventures and serves as chief guide. Carl is also completing a novel whose main character is a birder!.

Chris Benesh began his career as a bird guide for Field Guides in 1987. Since that time, he has been guiding groups in south Texas and many spots around the globe, and loves to share his passion for the natural world with others. He has lived much of his adult life in Tucson, Arizona.

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.

Carlos Bethancourt was born in Panama City in 1978 and raised in the small rural village of Huile.  Here he learned many lessons about 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 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 and workshops, and presented programs on Panama’s birds. Carlos is a very popular guide, a testament not only to his birding ability, but also to his sincere and friendly demeanor. When not guiding, Carlos is busy at the office working on marketing and other projects for the Canopy Tower & Canopy Lodge.

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.

Chris Brown is a senior leader with Wildside Nature Tours, serving as the ABA Region Specialist. Chris maintains that among his earliest memories is the first bird he identified without use of a field guide: a Brown-headed Cowbird in his suburban NJ backyard, at age 5. Early trips with his godfather to the Desert Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and New England were formative and helped to solidify an interest in varied habitats and birdlife. After beginning his college career at the University of Montana, Chris gained extensive experience through biological field work. He held jobs in 10 states and with multiple bird observatories, including breeding bird surveys in Montana, bird and habitat surveys in several other Rocky Mountain States, breeding bird atlas work in Ohio, and counting migrating hawks and seabirds in Cape May and Sandy Hook, NJ. Chris lives in Hamilton, New Jersey.

Jen Brumfield is a full time naturalist and outdoor educator for Cleveland Metroparks, author of several natural history field guides and a rep with Leica’s Birding Optics Prostaff team. Her natural history illustrations have appeared widely in journals, magazines, field guides, and beyond. Currently residing in Cleveland, Ohio, she spreads the joy of urban birding opportunities and runs thrilling boat trips on the open waters of Lake Erie seeking rarities left and right.

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.” 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 Master’s from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Fall 2016, where he studied the avian community of residential neighborhoods in McAllen and Edinburg, TX. He currently works as the Urban Ecologist at Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center and has helped guide for the Rio Grande Birding Festival for the past four years.

Hannah Buschert hasn’t spent her birding life as a private tour guide, author, or photographer, but as a ranger and biologist offering interpretive bird walks. She started birding after an ornithology course at Oregon State, which spurred her to search the Pacific Northwest for Wrentits and terns as a seasonal Park Naturalist with Oregon State Parks. This led to permanent positions with Texas State Parks and more recently with Florida Fish and Wildlife as the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail Coordinator. She and her husband, Erik, travel to explore the world (33 countries and 29 states, so far) and see lots of birds. They share their travels and other birding-related discussion with the world on a podcast: Hannah and Erik Go Birding. Currently, she lives in Cannon Beach, Oregon managing a family-owned motel and working with local industry leaders to promote responsible, sustainable ecotourism.

Iain Campbell ended his career as a geochemist in West Africa when it dawned on him that his life list was more valuable than gold. He packed up his G-pick, said goodbye to fufu, and headed to South America, which better suited his style, where he built Tandayapa Bird Lodge. He lived for many years in Ecuador, but now resides in the US. Besides being one of the original guides of Tropical Birding, Iain is near fanatical about getting more people into birding and wildlife photography, and works with many organizations trying to achieve this main goal. He used to be a fanatical lister, but now much prefers to photograph the world’s specialties. Iain uses Zeiss binoculars and scope, and shoots with Olympus camera gear.

Bryan Calk started birding at Fort Clark Springs in south Texas when he was 10 and never stopped. His mentors and the friends he has met through birding continue to be the “best birds” of all. After graduating from Texas A&M in 2015, he worked as an avian biologist on several consulting projects across Texas and New Mexico. He now works as a guide for NatureScape Tours, currently guiding in Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota, and other destinations. He enjoys sharing birds with others, and has led field trips previously for the RGVBF, TOS, and other organizations. He continues to avidly explore wherever he can with his binoculars and camera. His spark bird was the Painted Bunting, and his favorite birds are the caprimulgids. In his free time, he enjoys photography, butterflies, learning odonata identification, and searching for herps.

Helder Cardoso is one of the main guides for Birds & Nature Tours Portugal (www.birds.pt). His passion for birdwatching began in his childhood, and after studying geography at the University of Coimbra he worked as manager of a Local Nature Reserve. He devoted himself particularly to the study of small reedbed passerines, from moult to migration, and is one of the founding members of the Portuguese Bird Banding Association (APAA). He ran a bird banding station for 10 years where he banded more than 40,000 birds. He also worked for the conservation of some of the most endangered bird species in Portugal like the Bonelli’s Eagle, Cinereous Vulture, and Golden Eagle. Helder is author and co-author of several books and articles, from moult in passerines to seabirds. He is a keen educator and truly enjoys showing off the Portuguese countryside.

Eric Carpenter grew up in Houston where he started his birding obsession at the age of 10 alongside his dad and brother, eventually moving to Austin in 1994.  Eric has served on the Texas Bird Records Committee since 2004 (Secretary since 2011) and also volunteers his time as a co-author of the Texas section for North American Birds and as a reviewer of eBird records for the state. He was the first to see over 500 species (505) in a single year in Texas during his Texas Big Year in 2003.  He has been involved with Texas pelagic trips since the early 1990s and has been helping co-lead or organize them for the past 10+ years.  He is very fortunate to have a loving wife, Maggie, who is an avid birder herself.  Eric and Maggie are retired and live in southwest Austin; when they aren’t there, they are almost certainly birding!

Bill Clark is a photographer, author, researcher, and lecturer and has over 50 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 led raptor and birding tours and workshops, both home and abroad. He has been living in the Rio Grande Valley since 2002.

Bill has written a raptor field guide for Europe, another for Mexico and Central America and yet another for Africa. He is a coauthor of the Photographic Guide to North American Raptors and the completely revised Peterson series guide, Hawks.

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.

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 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’s enjoying a semi-retired life which includes daylong pelagic trips and an active involvement 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 DeLeonan was raised in Harlingen, Texas. When he was a teenager, a group of birders 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, and Bentsen RGV State Park, where his interests grew to include local plants, butterflies, reptiles, and dragonflies. Javier is currently the Park Superintendent at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas. Javier’s personal mission is to help others become aware of the Rio Grande Valley’s plants and animals in order to make sure future generations can enjoy seeing the same wildlife their ancestors did.

Jennie Duberstein is a wildlife biologist and conservation social scientist who has spent her professional career working to build partnerships for bird and habitat conservation; she currently coordinates the Sonoran Joint Venture, a binational partnership that strives to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. Jennie has directed environmental education programs, developed community-based conservation projects, developed and taught courses and workshops on bird identification, ecotourism, and bird monitoring, and has studied species including Double-crested Cormorant and wading birds in Sonora and Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Arizona. She has worked with young birders for more than twenty years, directing summer camps, leading field courses, coordinating conferences, and generally helping to connect young birders with opportunities and each other. Jennie received her B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Virginia Tech and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Jon Dunn has spent much of his life birding in California, with an eight year sojourn to southwest Ohio in the 1990’s.  Jon is a tour leader for Wings and has written (or co-authored) numerous articles and a handful of books on bird identification and distribution.  These include Birds of Southern California, Status and Distribution (with Kimball Garrett), all seven editions of the National Geographic Society Field Guide to the Birds of North America (the latest with Jonathan Alderfer), Warblers (with Kimball Garrett), Gulls of the Americas (with Steve Howell) and Birding Essentials (with Jonathan Alderfer).  Jon served for many years as Chair and as a member on the ABA Checklist Committee, and has been a member of the California Bird Records Committee for nearly 30 years and the AOS’s  Committee on Classification and Nomenclature since 2000.  Jon is a board member for 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 an 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 birding tours for several Texas birding festivals, and works at Shield Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.

Shawneen Finnegan after growing up in California’s Bay Area, Shawneen Finnegan found her tribe and calling when she discovered birding in her early 20s. Already a talented artist, she began drawing and painting birds. Her illustrations have adorned bird festival t-shirts and her art, photos and writing have been featured in numerous identification articles, field guides and state and regional monographs. Driven to be recognized as a “top birder,” Shawneen’s ascent into birding’s upper echelon was rapid. She led and later managed tours for WINGS, was Birding magazine’s photo editor for several years, and has served on four state bird records committees. In addition to birding around the globe, Shawneen has lived in birding meccas, with long stints in Cape May and Tucson. In 2007 she moved to Portland, Oregon to be with her mom, who passed in 2012. She and husband Dave Irons are the statewide eBird Review Coordinators for Oregon, making their home in Beaverton.

Raul Garza Jr. is a Rio Grande Valley native from Weslaco, Texas. From an early age his father instilled in him a love of the outdoors, but it was later that he had an opportunity to serve under former Executive Director Martin Hagne at the Valley Nature Center. It was then and there that he found his passion as a naturalist and environmental educator. While at VNC, he was exposed to multi-agency partnerships that allowed for him to lead and co-lead birding tours. As a Park Technician he was able to gather broad knowledge of native flora & fauna. Raul is currently a Park Ranger at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge where he loves sharing his knowledge of habitats, reptiles, and most of all birds. He can also be found within the community teaching youth outdoor skills with archery, fishing, and birding. He also enjoys artwork and nature photography.

Corina Giron was raised in Baldwin Park, California. After graduating college she worked as an avian research assistant monitoring Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers in Texas Hill Country, as well as conducting point counts for Grasshopper Sparrows in central Florida. She came to south Texas when she was hired as an avian/bat field technician for an environmental consulting firm. Her interest in birding was piqued when a co-worker took her along to a spring migration fallout on South Padre Island, where she experienced the beauty and diversity of North America’s avifauna. After living in the LRGV for two years she became a member of the Rio Grande Valley Chapter Texas Master Naturalist program and has spent her volunteer time doing Red-crowned Parrot surveys and guiding nature walks. Corina enjoys sharing her birding experience with her nieces and nephews, mentoring the next generation of birders.

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.”

Mary Gustafson is one of those lucky people where vocation and avocation overlap. Mary is a bird guide in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as well as a consultant for 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 currently serves on the American Birding Association Checklist Committee, volunteers as an eBird editor for a few dozen counties in south Texas, runs the Lower Rio Grande Valley Rare Bird Alert, and works as photo editor for the ABA Birder’s Guide as well as organizing leaders and field trips for the RGVBF. She remains very interested in increasing ecotourism and conservation action across the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Neil Hayward grew up near Oxford, England, where, at a young age, he became obsessed with birds. After a PhD in genetics at Cambridge University he moved to the US in 2005 to head up the biotechnology company Abcam. He left in 2011 to pursue a consulting career as owner of Cambridge Blue Consulting. Neil is a board member of the American Birding Association, president of the Brookline Bird Club, council member for the Nuttall Ornithological Club, and Bird Sightings Editor for the Massachusetts journal Bird Observer. Neil teaches classes in birding and 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, son Henry and two cats, Sally and Khiva.

Tony Henehan received his Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management from the State University of New York at Cobleskill. After graduating from SUNY Cobleskill, Tony worked in Missouri, Arkansas, New Jersey, and Florida with a variety of wildlife species from Brown-headed Nuthatches to Indigo Snakes. Tony then received his Master’s degree in Rangeland and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M University- Kingsville. Tony is currently a wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department covering Las Palomas WMA, private lands in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy Counties, and urban biology in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Tony enjoys birdwatching, butterfly watching, and walks with his dog Darwin.

Ernest Herrera is a naturalist at the McAllen Nature Center and a TA for Ornithology at The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley. He is a Valley native from Mission, TX, and has had an interest for as long as he can remember in the native flora and fauna. His interest started by observing small reptiles and amphibians, like the Texas Horned Lizards in his backyard. He then began taking regular trips to Bentsen State Park (down the street from his home), and now he has grown into a full-fledged naturalist in the Rio Grande Valley. He always enjoys taking people on birding trips as there is always a chance for him to enlighten them on the beauty of the LRGV’s inhabitants and their role in the ecosystem..

Michael Hilchey. It all started at Bosque del Apache NWR when Michael’s grandmother dragged him out on a cold Nov morning during the Festival of the Cranes. After waiting patiently, the sun began to rise along with the sound of the birds, getting louder and louder; the light turned orange, then purple, then a blazing red, engulfing the morning fog in flame.  Suddenly, with the energy of a battlefield, thousands upon thousands of geese and cranes exploded from their nighttime roosts and rose into the air to fight against the now golden rays of the sun. In that moment, amongst the deafening cacophony of honks, cackles, and trumpets, Michael lost his breath, and has been flying with the birds ever since. He has spent his life working with birds and wildlife as a biologist and guide. He owns BRANT Nature Tours and currently lives in Albuquerque, NM.

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Lee Hoy grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and refers to himself as a “Tokie.” His interest in wildlife began with regular trips as a child to the Oklahoma City Zoo and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma. The real impetus for his passion for bird watching and photography began on his inaugural trip to Big Bend National Park in August 1988. His grandparents had bought him a Canon 630 and Canon 100-300 f/4.5-5.6 L. With a bunch of rolls of Kodachrome in hand, they headed to west Texas. It was a Canyon Towhee that initially caught his eye and led to a life-long passion for birds. Lee makes his home at 6,143’ up in the Davis Mountains of west Texas and is owner/lead guide for Big Bend Birding & Photo Tours. He also is a guide for international and domestic tours for Wildside Nature Tours.

Jesse Huth was born and raised in the Texas Hill Country, and began birding at the age of six. He quickly joined up with local birding groups, and started going on birding trips all over the state. He eventually started leading local trips for the Wimberley Birding Society, and captained a team in the Great Texas Birding Classic almost every year. He regularly conducts bird surveys for landowners who maintain wildlife management plans on their properties. Now with over 20 years’ experience birding in Texas he has begun to lead a number of Texas trips for the Partnership for International Birding, and assists with other trips around the country. He graduated from Texas A&M with an M.S. in poultry welfare and behavior, and a B.S. in poultry science. When not birding, Jesse runs a poultry consultation business to help small flock owners correctly raise, care for, and understand their chickens.

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].

Dave Irons started birding at age six and became fully hooked by age 17, when he connected with other young birders. His curiosity about vagrancy, biogeography, and the finer points of field ID, along with finding opportunities to pass forward what he has learned, sustain his passion fifty-plus years later. Dave is a past member of Oregon’s Bird Records Committee (OBRC) and was a regional editor for North American Birds for more than a decade. His recently completed ABA Field Guide to the Birds of Oregon will be available in the Fall of 2018. Over the past two decades Dave has led field trips and taught birding classes for Lane Community College, Pacific Northwest College of Art, the Siskiyou Field Institute, Winter Wings Festival, American Birding Association, Oregon Birding Association, Lane County Audubon Society, the Audubon Society of Portland and of course the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

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/

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.

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 has a B.S. in Biology from the University of Kansas, M.S. in Zoology from North Dakota State University, and Ph.D. in Wildlife Science from Texas Tech University. His research focuses on avian ecology and habitat management. Rich’s first job after completing his Ph.D. in 2002 was with The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC’s) Fort Hood Program in central Texas, a cooperative effort with the Army to monitor and manage Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers. In 2011, Rich assumed his current state-wide role as Associate Director of Conservation for TNC in Texas. In this role, he serves as co-lead for science in the state, focusing on research and monitoring, spatial analysis, and conservation planning.

Rich is a Missouri native, but has called Texas home for the past 21 years, where he spends much of his free time traveling, exploring the outdoors, and studying and photographing birds and other critters.

Alex Lamoreaux  has been an avid naturalist since he was a youngster, growing up exploring the forests and farmland near Hershey, Pennsylvania. His love for wildlife and desire for adventure has led him to travel extensively throughout the United States, Central America, and South Africa. Alex is a part-time field biologist and consultant, and is a senior guide for Wildside Nature Tours specializing in North America. He has worked on many wildlife research projects, ranging from Whimbrel along the coast of Virginia to Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the desert southwest. His main interests are the visible migration of birds, especially raptors and shorebirds. Alex loves to share his knowledge of nature, and strives to bring the birding community together for the common goal of protecting and enjoying our natural areas.

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 Nov 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 Le Claire was born with a love for the outdoors and a passion for wildlife. He started as a diehard reptile lover thanks to The Crocodile Hunter, however Ornithology later captivated Justin while he was attaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Biology in his home state at the University of Vermont. Over the last half-decade since graduation, he has birded and worked as a field biologist across the country to follow this new passion in a diverse array of landscapes from the oak-pine forests of North Carolina, the coastal Northeast beaches of Long Island and Cape Cod, the Sonoran Desert in Southern California, and most recently, the unique and diverse ecosystem of South Texas. Justin is enthusiastic and ready for whatever comes next!

Adrian Lesak has been a birder since childhood and fondly recalls the early mornings of spring migration and birding while delivering newspapers until the school bell rang. He has studied forest songbird communities for the US Forest Service in Washington and did his Master’s and PhD research in Alabama and Wisconsin respectively. As part of the Eagle Optics sales team for five years, and now as the birding and nature observation manager at Vortex Optics, he has gained extensive knowledge and field experience with the latest the sport optics industry has to offer. Adrian enjoys the challenge and reward of pairing birders with the right optics to help them enjoy the pursuit and the passion for birds and birding he shares with them

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. He began to bird seriously in 1996 while attending the University of Veracruz where he received his B.Sc. in Biology, and also started working for the Veracruz River of Raptors.  He has collaborated with many international agencies such as HawkWatch International, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and SEO/Birdlife International.  Alberto is a founder of Origenes Conservation de Especies y Espacios A.C. and Royal Flycatcher Birding Tours, and throughout his career he has specialized in leading birding tours, teaching census techniques, monitoring and capturing different groups of birds, and directed birding workshops in order to train local guides 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 Antonio Martinez was born in Oaxaca Mexico; at the age of eight his passion for birds was born, which led him to travel throughout his entire country in search of endemic birds and regional specialties. In 2008 he spent two seasons at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario, Canada, monitoring bird migration; he also worked at the Navopatia field station in southern Sonora Mexico and was part of a bird banding team at the Pemex Bird Observatory in Veracruz Mexico. He now owns Mexico Birding Tours which is one of the few Mexican-owned birding companies, and leads tours in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, the Yucatan peninsula, Baja California, and central México. Each year he spends a few weeks birding in Cuba with his Cuban wife Jilly and their daughter Dacnis.

Brad McKinnney works as a high school administrator at South Texas Academy for Medical Professions in Olmito, TX. He has lived in the Lower Rio Grande Valley for most of his life and enjoys birding, surfing, and nature photography. His favorite birding spots are right here in the Valley, especially along the Lower Texas Coast. Brad is co-author of a Birder’s Guide to the Rio Grande Valley (2008, American Birding Association). He lives in Rancho Viejo with his wife Janette and their son Will.

Jorge Montejo born in Yucatan, Mexico, developed a passion for nature at a young age exploring around his hometown of Merida. He began to bird seriously while attending the University of Veracruz where he received his B.Sc. in Biology. It was also during his time in university that Jorge and several friends “discovered” the world-renowned River of Raptors in central Veracruz. Since the ´90s he has led birding tours in different parts of Mexico. His birding pursuits focus on conservation, research, guiding, and enjoying nature. Currently, he guides tours to El Triunfo and other Biosphere reserves in Mexico, or anywhere else his friends would like to go! As a personal challenge and just for fun, last year he and his partner, Amy, broke the Mexico big year record with 928 species. Helping others and learning from them is also one of his favorite activities.

Ann Nightingale Ann Nightingale lives in Victoria, BC, just a few miles from the famous Eurasian Skylark sites. A relative late-bloomer, she started birding about 20 years ago, but jumped in with both feet. Ann is a past-president of Rocky Point Bird Observatory and the Victoria Natural History Society. She is the Victoria Christmas Bird Count Coordinator and has led field trips for the Washington Ornithological Society, BC Field Ornithologists, and the Creston Valley Bird Festival, as well as for several local organizations. In 2015, she completed a Vancouver Island Big Year, finding BC’s third record, and getting BC’s first photographs of a Blue Grosbeak. Ann is a licensed hummingbird, passerine, and raptor bander, with projects in BC and Oregon. In 2016, she received the ABA’s Betty Peterson Award for Conservation and Community, and the Governor General’s Caring Canadian award for volunteerism.

Michael O’Brien is a freelance author, artist, and VENT tour leader living in Cape May, NJ. 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. Michael serves as an Associate Naturalist with Cape May Bird Observatory for whom he conducts workshops and 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, an application for learning bird sounds. His illustrations have been widely published, including National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and the Peterson field guides. Michael also has an intense interest in butterflies and leads “Birds & Butterflies” tours with his wife, Louise Zemaitis, and is coordinator of the Cape May Butterfly Count.

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 and at Houston Audubon. He served on Houston Audubon’s Board as Vice President of Education, and co-founded 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 Katy Prairie Conservancy, and the Texas Master Naturalist program. 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. Contact Glenn at [email protected] or 832-517-2478.

Erik Ostrander started his birding life in the Pacific Northwest, where he and his wife, Hannah, spent weekends exploring the national wildlife refuges, state parks, and ocean shores. He followed Hannah’s career from Texas to Florida and back to Cannon Beach, OR, where they spend their time looking for puffins, guillemots, and more while hosting their podcast: Hannah and Erik Go Birding. Through their podcast, they share their birding adventures and work to expand birding and wildlife viewing around the world. They travel as much as possible and Erik obsessively eBirds along the way. Erik is passionate about the conservation of public lands, inspiring new birders, and is an avid unpaid and unofficial eBird promoter. Along with Hannah and another team member, he is a 3-time Human-Powered Tournament champion in the Great Texas Birding Classic.

Maynor Ovando is a dedicated and passionate Guatemalan naturalist, who left his profession as a civil engineer to find birds every single day of his life. He became an expert birder and guide. Because of his knowledge of bird distributions in the country, Maynor designs routes for birdwatchers that allows them to enjoy the natural diversity of birds of Guatemala. Maynor has led annual Christmas Bird Counts in Atitlan, Tikal, and Antigua, Guatemala, since 2007, and reports nearly every one of his bird observations to eBird, making him among the very top native Guatemalan eBirders. With all these experiences, Maynor was selected by the National Audubon Society to lead a training course which gave 60 people the skills necessary to become Local Birding Guides. He guides in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, and recently was one of the volunteers in the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival..

Laura Paulson was introduced to the wonders of birds while living in the bird mecca of Monterey Bay, but it took Texas birds, and Texas birding mentors, for it to develop into a full-blown obsession. Studying birds and sharing them with others so that they too can learn to love and protect them is her passion. To that end, she and her husband and dogs travel full-time. Laura is fond of saying that she doesn’t have a house but she has great back yards. One of those yards is the Rio Grande Valley.

Bob Powell is the Lead Naturalist/site Coordinator for the University of Texas Marine Science Center’s Road Scholar Birding Program. He has worked as a naturalist for the Frontera Audubon Society and the US Fish and Wildlife Service in South Texas.

Barbara Rapstein began birding 20+ years ago while living on Galveston Bay.  Birds in trouble frequently crossed her path, which lead to a great deal of time volunteering with the local wildlife rehabber.  After participating in her first Galveston CBC, she became hooked on birds after locating Groove-billed Anis on the shoreline of Virginia Point.  From there she quickly took on as many volunteer opportunities as she could manage, including participating in bird counts, surveys, rookery monitoring, HawkWatch, and FeatherFest.  She also led field trips, and was a founding member of Galveston Audubon, as well as an all-around promoter of birding and conservation through educational booths.  In 2010, a move south to Baffin Bay lead to new volunteer opportunities and nature tour guiding for King Ranch.  Ever a believer in the adage, “We will save only what we love,” Barbara’s wish is to grow that love of nature in others.

Michael Retter is the editor of the American Birding Association’s Birder’s Guide magazine, a tour leader for BRANT Nature Tours, and the author of the ABA Field Guide to Birds of Illinois. During college, Michael began to take regular trips into Mexico and has been tour-leading there ever since. He is currently putting his knowledge of the area’s birds on paper by writing the upcoming Princeton identification guide to the birds of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Michael runs QBNA, the continent’s email list and informal club for LGBTQ birders. This will be Michael’s 16th 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”. He currently lives and gardens in Fort Worth, Texas.

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.

Becky Reyes enjoys birding and exploring the flora and fauna of the Rio Grande Valley. She works as a Naturalist Educator at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center; she is also an instructor for the National Hispanic Environmental Council Institute.

Virginia Rose has been a birder and a member of Travis Audubon for 15 years. She co-led Beginner Bird Walks once a month for seven years and is now on the TAS Board of Directors. She is also a paraplegic and has used a manual wheelchair for 45 years after a horseback riding accident.
She very recently launched an initiative called Birdability to share the joy of birding with the mobility challenged and is currently working with several Austin organizations. She has identified 35 accessible birding sites in Austin, and shares with others how the hobby has enriched her life in so many ways. She has taken countless birding classes, participated in 100+ field trips, and met wonderful people who have welcomed her into the birding community with open arms.
If you or someone you know is interested in Birdability, please contact her at [email protected]

Bill Sain, a Harlingen native, has been birding for over 25 years throughout the US and 10 other countries. He has led local bird club and birding festival field trips and is on the Board of Directors of the American Birding Association. He lives in Alpine TX, just north of Big Bend National Park.

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.

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.

Kelly Smith as the newest member of the American Birding Association team, Kelly works in Delaware as the Headquarters Operations Manager.  A transplant birder from Texas, Kelly has assisted with raptor and songbird banding projects in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Central Texas. For the past decade, she has volunteered or served on the board of many nature organizations including the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and Balcones Songbird Festival, the South Texas Border Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, Texas Pelagics, and the Texas Ornithological Society.  Each spring she can be found leading trips for the Biggest Week in American Birding in Ohio.  An all-around nature lover, Kelly spends her time birding, hiking, kayaking, scuba-diving, biking, and looking for herps.

Mike Stewart is originally from Texas, but over the past 20 years he has lived in several states throughout the eastern U.S. He has been interested in birds since 2002 when a pair of Blue Jays nested outside his kitchen window. Recently retired from the Army, he is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley with plans to work as a wildlife biologist after completing his degree. He lives in La Feria with his wife, Yvette, and their Green-cheeked Parakeet, Greenlee. Mike spends much of his spare time birding and trying to photograph birds, as well as banding songbirds when opportunities arise..

Mary Beth Stowe’s fascination with birds began with Peterson’s Field Guide to Bird Songs when only eight years old, where immersing herself in the weird and wonderful world of bird sounds snowballed into a passion that has led her all over the world, photographing and recording birds and even composing music based on their vocalizations. She has displayed artwork at American Birding Association Conventions, and has led field trips for ABA conferences near San Diego, CA. She has also guided birders visiting southern California and has participated in post-fire surveys for the San Diego Natural History Museum, as well as collected data for the monumental San Diego Bird Atlas. She also maintains a website (www.miriameaglemon.com) showcasing original music, artwork, travelogues, and interactive bird-finding pages for San Diego (CA) and Hidalgo (TX) Counties, and now resides in the Lower Rio Grande Valley where she works as a guide for Alamo Inn B&B.

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.

Luke Tiller originally from London, England, Luke transplanted to the United States in 2003. As a professional hawkwatcher he has traveled the world to witness raptor migration and has experience counting raptors in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. He has written about birds and birding for publications here in the US and in Europe including Audubon Magazine, Birdwatch Magazine, and ABA’s Birding Magazine. Since 2012 Luke has sat on the Hawk Migration Association of North America Board and chairs their Tours Committee. Luke is currently based in Altadena, California, and employed as a professional tour guide by High Lonesome BirdTours and Wildside Nature Tours. You will find him at most birding festivals working at the ZEISS Sports Optics booth.

Matthew Torres is a high school biology teacher at his alma mater, Harlingen High School. He fell in love with birds while taking an ornithology class with Dr. Glenn Perrigo at Texas A&M University Kingsville. After graduating with a Master’s of Science degree from TAMUK, he worked as an intern at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge restoring coastal prairie habitat for Aplomado Falcons. Matthew has worked as a field technician for ecological surveys, assisted with songbird and hummingbird banding, and has participated in various local Christmas bird counts. He is currently working towards introducing and building interest in local wildlife with his high school students while also volunteering with the Tejano Parrot Project tracking Red-crowned Parrots around the Rio Grande Valley. He enjoys spending time at his favorite local birding spot, Hugh Ramsey. While not teaching, he is spending time outside, more than likely birding, with his wife and daughter.

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.

Andrés Vasquez has been chasing birds all over his native Ecuador for well over a decade now. As part of the Tropical Birding team he leads tours regularly in Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and Belize, plus sporadically in Japan and other destinations. Andrés has also explored Southeast Asia and South Africa learning new families and tons of new birds. Based in Quito, when not in the field, he can be found at his computer working on book publishing; he has already released several wildlife guidebooks for Ecuador, including a field guide to the birds of Northwest Ecuador, one for the birds of the Amazon, and he just finished Wildlife of Ecuador: A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians.

Angelina Vasquez is a Valley native who is currently a supervisor at the McAllen Nature Center and is an interpreter for bird walks and night hikes at Frontera Audubon. She has an associate degree in Biology, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Ecological Restoration from Texas A&M University. She’s been involved in leading nature walks since 2017, with a particular focus on birds, insects, and plants. She hopes to get her Master’s in restoration with a focus on bird and insect pollinators.

Jason Ward is a birder, writer, and the host of “Birds of North America”. Born and raised in The Bronx, NYC, his love for wildlife began at a young age as he fell in love with dinosaurs, an infatuation that provided him with an escape from the obstacles he faced while growing up in the South Bronx. Now, he gets to share his love for birds with the public in his web series “Birds of North America”. Jason’s mission is to change the way the public views wildlife, and to blaze a trail for future generations of children growing up in underserved communities.

Drew Weber  is the Merlin Project Coordinator at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and has been birding since he got his first pair of 7×25 binoculars as a kid. Drew began building mobile apps for birders in 2012, starting with the BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide, a passion that continues in his current role at the Cornell Lab. In addition to helping Merlin Bird ID expand to cover species around the world and planning new features, Drew works closely with the eBird and Macaulay Library teams to build the next generation of birding apps and tools to make everything from identification to data collection and personal listing easier, more fun, and more rewarding. Drew enjoys day listing, a unique challenge that you should definitely ask him about.

Ron Weeks lives in Lake Jackson, TX with his wife of 28 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.

Bert Wessling is a Rio Grande Valley native who started birding in the 1980s. He is very active in the Native Plant Project, so if you want to know something about native plants, Bert is your guy.

Sherry Wilson grew up on 65 wooded acres in central Vermont. Life was lived outdoors, close to nature. After school in New Mexico, then living in Colorado and Nevada, she and her husband moved to Texas. In June of 2005, they headed north from Houston as fulltime RVers, workampers, and volunteers, living out a wonderful and ongoing adventure. Since returning to Texas in late 2008, they have spent much of their time in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Recently, they have enjoyed opportunities to volunteer at Texas State Parks in other regions. Sherry feels extremely fortunate to be able to share her love of birds, butterflies, and the natural world with others.

Sam Woods unhealthy obsession for birds began with a pair of tits in a London park at age 11. He famously proclaimed the evening before, “I’m not looking at birds; they’re boring”. Ironically, Sam was instantly hooked, starting off by spanning the British Isles in search of birds, and expanding to birding all seven continents over the last thirty years. He has been working as a full-time guide for Tropical Birding since 2005, still birding the globe. Sam attended Plymouth University in Devon, getting a degree in Environmental Science, which led him to the Andes of Ecuador to undertake research on hummingbirds. This stoked an interest in the Americas, and though he now resides in Ecuador, he spends just as much time overseas. Sam has also been a co-author on several books on Australian birds and wildlife. He uses Swarovski’s scope and binoculars. You can read Sam’s blog, “Lost in Birding”.

John Yochum hails from Hicksville, Ohio, but got to Texas as soon as he could (Thanksgiving 2006)! He has since been employed by Texas Parks & Wildlife as a Park Ranger, first at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in Mission, and then at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. When not exploring the great birds, butterflies, dragonflies, plants, herps, mammals, etc., of South Texas, he spends time with his spouse of 30 years, a dog, three parrots (an African Grey, a Red-crown, and a Blue-and-gold Macaw) and his wild jungle of a yard.

Louise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in West Cape May, NJ. 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. As a tour leader for VENT, Louise has traveled throughout the US and to such exciting destinations as Belize, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, Argentina, and Antarctica. But Louise’s favorite destination, without hesitation, is Cape May – where water meets land, and where migration can be witnessed practically year-round. There she works as an associate naturalist with NJ Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, and has coordinated the Monarch Monitoring Project for more than twenty years. Louise is known for her enthusiasm for all natural history subjects, a theme incorporated into her artwork. Her proudest accomplishment has been the raising of her two sons, Bradley, a biologist and artist, and Alec, a philosopher and musician.