Trip Leaders

Home / Home / Trip Leaders

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 He currently lives in Los Angeles where he works as a scientist at the University of Southern California.

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.

Stephanie Bilodeau is a Coastal Bird Conservation Biologist for Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program. Stephanie’s interest in birds was sparked in Vermont while receiving her bachelors of science in wildlife biology from the University of Vermont. She has since had various bird jobs, including conducting point counts in Maine, Piping Plover monitoring in New York, and habitat management and shorebird conservation in High Island. Stephanie currently lives in Harlingen and is eager to show everyone the unique birds the Rio Grande Valley has to offer.

Erik Breden began nature photography as a teenager. A frustrating attempt to photograph a Baltimore Oriole in a large willow tree in his backyard was the catalyst that ignited his passion for birds, and started him on a lifelong quest to photograph birds.
Since then he has photographed over 920 species of North American, Central/South American, European, and Asian birds (over 680 in North America alone). After moving to Texas in 1999, he has documented many rarities for the TBRC (Texas Bird Records Committee).
Erik also provided slides to David Sibley for use in the preparation of the highly acclaimed “Sibley Guide to Birds”, and his photographs can be seen in the following photographic field guides: “The Sparrows of the United States and Canada – The Photographic Guide” – James D. Rising, 2001, “Shorebirds of North America – The Photographic Guide” – Dennis Paulson, 2005

John Brush
born in Iowa but raised in Texas, John’s early life is summed up perfectly by the saying “I wasn’t born in Texas, but got here as fast as I could.” 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.

Bryan Calk started birding in his backyard at Fort Clark Springs in south Texas when he was 10 and never stopped. Bryan received a BS in Genetics from Texas A&M University in 2015, and now works as an avian and bat field biologist and environmental consultant. He is currently stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has led field trips previously for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, the Texas Ornithological Society, and for various local Audubon Societies. While on a trip to chase a Ruff in Houston, Bryan found the woman of his dreams, Rachel Smith (and his lifer Ruff). His spark bird was the Painted Bunting and favorite birds are nightjars, but the people he has met through birding continue to be the “best birds” of them all. In his free time, Bryan also enjoys butterfly watching, learning odonata identification, searching for herps (reptiles and amphibians), and photography.

Mark Conway is a bird-bander and teacher from Harlingen Texas. He teaches biology at Harlingen South High School and is an adjunct instructor at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen. He moved to the Lower Rio Grande Valley eighteen years ago and has been banding birds in many locations in the Valley since he arrived.

Cameron Cox has been an avid birder since the age of 13. He spent his late teens and early twenties as a bird bum, traveling throughout North America to work on temporary bird related jobs. This allowed him to explore obscure locations like St Paul Island, Alaska, and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast. He discovered a love of seawatching while in Cape May, NJ, and went on to be the Seawatch Counter at the Cape May Avalon Seawatch. Along with Ken Behrens he authored the Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching: Eastern Waterbirds in Flight. He now works as a birding and photography guide for Tropical Birding. He has been a guide for the Rio Grande Birding Festival for 14 years.

Jim Danzenbaker
has been a nature enthusiast ever since the tender age of 6 growing up in southern New Jersey. His interest in birds led him from his local haunts in southern New Jersey to 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 (, 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.

Raul Delagado
is an avid “birder with a camera” who arrived in the Laredo, Texas, area via Sydney, Australia. His firm belief is that good photography happens automatically when you “sense” that right moment to press the shutter, and that those who find beauty in nature will find strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
His passion for birding began when he migrated to live and work in Australia from 1980 to 1994. Since his return to Texas he has traveled and birded extensively within the lower 48, Canada, Alaska, most of all of Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands). Raul is one of the founding members of the Monte Mucho Audubon Society in Laredo, Texas. He has been promoting birding and eco-tourism within Webb and Zapata Counties, and his close association with private ranch owners has provided a foundation for unique birding field trips for the Laredo Birding Festival.

Larry Ditto

Larry Ditto resides in McAllen, Texas and has been a published nature photographer for over four decades (full time for 18 years).  His butterfly, bird, wildlife, and landscape photos appear regularly in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, Birds & Blooms, and Texas Highways. Ditto has won the prestigious Valley Land Fund Wildlife Photo Contest with his good friend Greg Lasley.  His photos have been published in several books,  including Texas Wildlife Portfolio  and Texas: A Photographic Journey.

Ditto’s busy schedule includes leading nature photography workshops and instructional photo tours when he is not advising landowners on establishing wildlife photography ranches.  His outdoor career began with training as a wildlife biologist (BS degree from Texas A&M University in Wildlife Science).  After that, Larry was a refuge manager in the National Wildlife Refuge System for 29 years.  His web site, includes galleries with thousands of photos along with a workshop schedule.

Jennie Duberstein
has lived in southeast Arizona since 2001, where she currently coordinates the Sonoran Joint Venture, a binational partnership to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is a wildlife biologist and conservation social scientist, working to understand the relationship between people and nature and improving conservation efforts. Jennie has worked with young birders through the American Birding Association and other organizations since the late 1990s, directing summer camps, leading field courses, organizing conferences, and editing and managing young birder publications. She directs the ABA’s Camp Colorado and co-leads VENT’s Camp Chiricahua, serves on the Executive Advisory Board of the Prescott College Kino Bay Center, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.

Jon Dunn
has been a tour leader for Wings since 1977 and leads tours widely in North America and Southeast Asia. He has written numerous articles on distribution and identification and has co-authored National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and their Birding Essentials, Warblers, Gulls and Birds of Southern California, Status and Distribution. He is a member of the California Bird Records Committee, the American Birding Association’s Checklist Committee and the American Ornithologists’ Union Committee on Taxonomy and Nomenclature. He serves as a board member to Western Field Ornithologists’ and lives in Bishop, California.

Dudley Edmondson
has spent the last 25 years living in Duluth, Mn and working as a Professional Photographer, and Film Maker. He’s been a birder since his High School days too long ago to mention. During his time as a professional freelance Nature Photographer Dudley birded as he worked, traveling the nation gathering images for numerous flora and fauna field guides. Today most of his birding is done during the time he spends in the outdoors cycling, kayaking or fly-fishing. He’s been birding the Rio Grande Valley as a guide for over 5 years now. Dudley is also 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 group birding tours to the tropics for JB Journeys, a woman-owned ecotourism company, and works at Shield Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.

Shawneen Finnegan a native of Palo Alto, California, Shawneen began birding in the early 1980’s. She hasn’t done much else since. After leaving California she lived in Cape May, then Tucson, and for the past 10 years, Portland, Oregon. In a previous life she led and later managed tours for WINGS. Shawneen is an accomplished artist. For 24 years she managed the BirdArea database used by BirdBase and AviSys. She is a field trip leader, an eBird reviewer, speaker, and has taught workshops about bird identification, how to draw birds, and more.  Shawneen and husband, Dave Irons, share their passion for birds.

Susan Foster
spent 30 years as a resident of Laredo, Texas, enjoying the unique avifauna of the Texas/Mexican border. Susan leads bird tours in and around South Texas for the Laredo Birding Festival, Rockport Hummerbird Festival, and the Texas Ornithological Society. She is a founding member of the Monte Mucho Audubon Society, and is currently secretary of the Texas Ornithological Society, helping birders on a statewide basis. Originally from Massachusetts, Susan spends her time birding Colorado in the summer and all around the great state of Texas the remainder of the year. Susan moved to Rockport four years ago and is currently concentrating on the birds of Aransas County so that she can better know her local birds.

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 Americas avifauna. After living in the LRGV for two years she decided to become a member of the Rio Grande Valley Chapter Texas Master Naturalist program. As a chapter member she has spent her volunteer time doing Red-crowned Parrot surveys and guided nature walks. Corina enjoys sharing her birding experience with her nieces and nephews, mentoring the next generation of birders.

Javi Gonzalez2inch
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.

Martin Hagne was born and raised on the Swedish west coast, where his grandfather instilled a love for nature at an early age. He moved to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas in 1979 and turned his focus towards wildlife viewing and conservation concerns. Martin is the Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, TX; he previously served as the Executive Director of the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco, TX, an environmental education facility, for 13 years. He then moved to Bandera, TX where he ran the Flying L Resort and Conference Center. He has also worked as a Field Biologist doing baseline studies for many years, including avian, herp, mammal, T&E, and habitat studies. He enjoys leading birding field trips in the US and Mexico and has served on several state, regional, and local environmental appointments, committees, and boards. Birding, nature viewing, native plants, conservation issues, and environmental education are his great passions.

Neil Hayward grew up near Oxford, England, where, at a young age, he first became obsessed with birds. After a PhD in genetics at Cambridge University he moved (permanently) to the US in 2005 to head up the US operations of the biotechnology company Abcam. He left in 2011 to pursue a consulting career as owner of Cambridge Blue Consulting. Neil is currently the Field Trip Coordinator and a director of the Brookline Bird Club. He is the author of Lost Among the Birds (Bloomsbury, June 2016), a memoir of his accidental big year. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Gerri and two cats, Sally and Khiva

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.

Michael Hilchey’s interest in nature was sparked by the wintering Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR. One morning watching thousands of Cranes take flight over the chilly New Mexico sunrise was all it took to push him towards a life outdoors. Today, Michael still resides in New Mexico where he is an avid conservationist, researcher, birder, and owner of BRANT (Birding Research And Nature Tours), a birding and eco-tourism company committed to supporting local conservation in all the places they tour.Michael has been guiding in the United States and Latin America for most of his life and this will be his 6th year guiding at the RGVBF. When asked what he likes about guiding he says, “To me, the thrill of sharing the natural world with others is the most addictive things about birding. I can’t help but feed off the excitement, energy and wonder of my participant’s experiences!”

Ruth Hoyt is a full-time professional nature photographer, writer, public speaker and consultant with more than 25 years’ experience teaching photography. She is best known for her Texas bird photography and professional guiding services on private Texas ranches, but she also pursues landscape, flora, macro, night and more in locations across the United States. Ruth prefers her Canon 1DX Mark II DSLR for most of her work, but also uses an iPhone 6+ and DJI Phantom 4 drone for video and still work for selected subjects. Her work includes large canvas gallery-wrapped prints as well as mounted prints using archival, museum-quality paper. Her work can be seen in permanent public locations in various states as well as local hospitals, offices and visitors’ centers. Please visit her studio at the McAllen Creative Incubator, 601 N. Main Street, McAllen, Texas, and her website at Contact her at (956) 330-2900 or [email protected].

Dave Irons started birding in Indiana at age six and became fully hooked by age 17 when he met other young birders close to his own age. His birding interests are fueled by his curiosity about vagrancy, biogeography, and the finer points of field ID. Dave is a past member of Oregon’s Bird Records Committee (OBRC) and has served as North American Birds regional editor for Oregon and Washington since 2003. Dave has lead trips and taught birding classes for Lane Community College, Pacific Northwest College of Art, the Siskiyou Field Institute, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Winter Wings Festival, American Birding Association, Oregon Birding Association, Lane County Audubon Society, and the Audubon Society of Portland.

João Jara was born in Lisbon and studied biology at the Faculdade de Ciências de Lisboa, from where he developed his professional career in the pharmaceutical industry. With more than 30 years of field experience, he knows Portuguese birding intimately and has birded in Africa, Asia and the Americas. João was a member of the board of Birdlife in Portugal and was a voting member of the Portuguese Rarities Committee from 2005 until 2011 and chairman of the committee from 2007 until 2011. Author and co-author of articles about birds, João has led many field tours (in Portugal and abroad), as well as bird identification courses. In 2008, he launched the first Portuguese company totally dedicated to organize birdwatching tours, Birds & Nature Tours Portugal, being responsible for management of the company. Besides birds, he has an active special interest in amphibians, reptiles and fishes.

Dan Jones a retired high school math teacher and longtime guide at the Festival, Dan Jones has been birding for 38 years with the past twenty as a resident of the Rio Grande Valley. Dan particularly enjoys scouring the local backwoods roads and trails for unusual Valley birds and butterflies. His avian finds include North America’s and ABA’s first White-crested Elaenia, ABA’s first chaseable Crescent-chested Warbler and Arizona’s first Pine Warbler. Dan’s adventures in the field are chronicled in his blogs, and

Kevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer. He is a regular presence at Bird and Nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations and workshops on bird identification and appreciation, as well as photo instruction. His photos can be seen in numerous locations, including his website Kevin is the author/photographer of two photography books titled The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography (Schiffer Publishing, 2010, 2012).Kevin recently produced four photographic laminated foldout guides for Quick Reference Publishing of Florida (Raptors of Eastern and Western North America (2012), Waterfowl of North America (2013) and Shorebirds of North America (2014). He currently leads several bird tours each year and a birding cruise with Dale Rosselet for Carefree Birding of Florida to six countries (

Laura Keene is an avid birder and photographer from Mason, Ohio. A clinical pharmacist by profession, her passion for birding was sparked during a high school summer field biology class when she saw an Indigo Bunting. In 2016, Laura followed her dream and did an ABA Big Year, in which she traveled to all corners of the continent to set a record of 741 photographed species. She was one of four birders that year to break the ABA record with 762 species. She is the former photo editor of The Ohio Cardinal, and her wildlife photography has been published in multiple outlets.

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 19 years, where he spends much of his free time traveling, exploring the outdoors, and studying and photographing birds and other critters.

Tom Langschied is coordinator of the King Ranch Nature Tour program. Tom started the King Ranch Nature Tour program back in the fall of 1994. Originally from Fort Wayne, IN, Tom came down to South Texas in January of 1991 to get his Master’s degree from Texas A&M University- Kingsville and his thesis evaluated seasonal changes in bird communities on King Ranch. While Tom has worked for King Ranch since 1994, he left his full time position in the summer of 2005 to work full time as a Research Associate for the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute coordinating a South Texas wintering birds program. Then in November 2013 he returned to the King Ranch full time to once again coordinate the King Ranch Nature Tour program. Besides his passion for birds and birding, he also has a strong interest in butterflies and dragonflies. Tom is married and has two kids.

Justin LeClarie 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!

Michael Marsden has been an avid birder since childhood in England but decided, for reasons that now escape him, on a career in law. Meeting Donna Knox on a birding trip, however, changed all that and in 1996 he gave up his work as solicitor general to the Cayman Islands Government to start a second career as a birding guide. Michael and Donna initially moved to Cayman House in Rockport, then to the San Pedro River Inn and Paton Birders’ Haven in SE Arizona and are now happily back in Texas: this time in San Benito, an ideal base for Michael’s interest in the wildlife and history of the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend. Michael offers customized birding tours for both individuals and groups. He has guided for Road Scholars, many birding clubs and festivals and has led tours to Belize, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba.

Alberto Martinez is a professional birding guide, biologist, field ornithologist and photographer. Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Alberto developed a passion for birds at a young age exploring around his hometown. He began to bird seriously in 1996 while attending the University of Veracruz where he received his B.Sc. in Biology. At this time he started working for the Veracruz River of Raptors and in 2001 began to guide birders who came to watch the raptor migration. He has collaborated with international agencies such as HawkWatch International, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Pronatura Sur, Pronatura Veracruz, the Conservation Leadership Program, SEO/Birdlife International, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain, Chiapas Birding Adventures, Royal Flycatcher Birding Tours, Environmental Sustainability Leadership, Mass Wildlife, and Origenes Conservación de Especies y Espacios. Throughout his career he has specialized in leading birding tours, teaching census techniques, monitoring and capturing different groups of birds (such as shorebirds, raptors, owls, passerines, and waterbirds) and directed birding workshops in order to train local guide and monitors. Currently, he lives in Chiapas and leads birding tours in southern Mexico and Central America, and also coordinates projects that teach local people about sustainable tourism.

Nancy McAllister is a professor of environmental science at the University of Maryland and a biologist at the National Bird Banding Laboratory. She loves combining a career in field work/research and education. Nancy became an avid birder in the mid-1980s in her home state of New Jersey. Since then she’s worked for The Nature Conservancy, the Smithsonian Institution and started a non-profit watershed association. Recently, Nancy has been working with Wildside Nature Tours and did her own 2016 Big Year of birding, a Mom’s Big Year. She holds an M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development and lives in Ellicott City, MD with her husband, Paul, and their three young children.

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.

Derek Muschalek grew up in suburban Houston where he spent his early years observing Neotropical migrants at High Island. Three decades ago he moved to the family farm in Yorktown, Texas where he developed a keen interest in butterflies and botany while tending the large herds of cattle. He began leading professional bird tours that led him to Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, Southeast Arizona, Northeast Mexico, and the Florida Everglades. Derek is an avid runner with other interests in sports, especially pro football. He also enjoys trying
different health foods and studying ancient cultures.

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 naturalist, author, artist, and leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field identification, and a serious addiction to migration and nocturnal birding. His travels have taken him throughout North and Central America and beyond. At home in Cape May, Michael serves as an Associate Naturalist with Cape May Bird Observatory for whom he conducts numerous workshops, and, for many years, conducted a fall songbird migration count. He is co-author of The Shorebird Guide, Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, and America’s 100 Most Wanted Birds, and is primary author of, an online and handheld application for learning bird sounds. His illustrations have been widely published including in National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and the new Peterson field guides. Michael also has an intense interest in butterflies and leads several “Birds & Butterflies” tours with his wife, Louise Zemaitis

Glenn Olsen leads natural history and birding tours with GOBirding Ecotours and teaches bird identification, gardening for birds and butterflies, and nature related classes through Rice University’s Continuing Studies Department, Houston Audubon, Katy Prairie Conservancy, and the Texas Master Naturalist program. He has served on the Houston Audubon Board as Vice President of Education and also served as an Audubon Warden monitoring colonial nesting birds along the Texas Gulf Coast. Two of his many other efforts towards conservation include monitoring endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chickens at the Nature Conservancy’s Texas City Preserve and co-founding the Wildscapes Workshop through the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) where he served as president of both the Houston Chapter and the State NPSOT. He has led field trips and given programs for meetings of the Texas Ornithological Society, Houston Audubon, Houston Arboretum, the Native Plant Society of Texas, Rockport Hummer/Bird Festival, Galveston FeatherFest, the Bastrop Christmas Bird Count, and other groups and festivals. Glenn has led trips to such exotic locales as Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Amazon Rainforest, Costa Rica and the hottest birding locations in the U.S.

Jay Packer started birding at the age of 12 after an extended family road trip to the great national parks of the Western U.S. He joined a local bird club on a field trip in his West Texas town where he discovered the joy of kingfishers and Cactus Wrens, and from that moment on, he was hooked. He began traveling across Texas, then the U.S. and at 20 years old, took his first trip to the tropics in Costa Rica, followed by epic road trips to Mexico. When he met his wife, Jay settled down, earned a master’s degree in ornithology, and became a high school biology teacher while honing his skills in photography. During summer breaks, Jay and his wife traveled to bird in Europe, Ecuador, Australia, Brazil, Africa, Southeast Asia, and India. Eventually Jay traded his classroom of students for a classroom in nature, as he loves showing people birds and teaching all things birding and photography related. Currently Jay is a guide for Tropical Birding.

Nathan Pieplow is the author of the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America, just released this March, a book that has been more than a decade in the making. A blogger about bird sounds at the website, Nathan has been a student of this field since 2003. He is one of the authors of the website “Colorado Birding Trail”, and a former editor of the journal Colorado Birds. He currently teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Let Nathan help you visualize bird sounds!

Randy Pinkston’s life has been defined by birds & birding since 1972. His focus is Texas and North American birds, although he enjoys neotropical birding and has traveled widely in Mexico and Central America. Randy has a wildlife science degree from Aggieland (Texas A&M) and at one time hoped to make some sort of living in birds. Instead, he took the easy way out and became a surgeon so that he could afford a comfortable life of birds & birding. He and wife Patricia have four sons and reside in Temple, about an hour NE. of Austin. Randy has led numerous birding tours in Texas & Arizona over the past 30+ years, including several central Texas winter sparrow workshops for TOS. He has done piney woods breeding warbler trips for TOS, is a Life Member of TOS, and has served on its Bird Records Committee since 2002. He has co-authored the Texas column for North American Birds since 2004. Recently Randy has taken an interest in birding with a digital camera and telephoto lens.

Bob Powell RGV resident bird watcher for 25 yrs. Worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Ranger at Laguna Atascosa NWR. Worked as a Naturalist for Frontera Audubon Weslaco Texas. Currently am Site Coordinator and Naturalist for The University of Texas for their “Deep South Texas” birding programs. Photo was take while leading a group in search of Canyon Wrens and Water Ouzels (whoops, showing my age- I mean American Dippers. Yes we found them both.

Michael Retter is the editor of the American Birding Association’s Birder’s Guide magazine, a 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.

Justin Rink has been birding since the age of 15 in his native state of Illinois. He has travelled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico, and has also birded Ecuador and the Caribbean in search of avian life. Justin is also the creator of the meetup group YBLO, or Young Birding Locals of Omaha. He currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska where he works at a plant nursery, and is lucky enough to live in a migrant trap. Justin has been guiding at the RGV Birding Festival since 2002.

Roy J. Rodriquez is a natural resource interpreter, consultant, and environmental educator involved in numerous regional conservation endeavors. A self-taught birder, Roy’s thorough knowledge and passion for teaching have transformed him into one of the Valley’s most sought-after birdwatching guides and an outspoken advocate of fostering diversity among birders. His experience as a professional guide has taken him across North America and from the Arctic Circle to the shores of the Yellow Sea. He is a charter member of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists and lead instructor for the ational Hispanic Environmental Council’s Environmental Training Institute Scholarship courses. Roy is a lifelong Texan, hunter, and angler working for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as a Master Interpreter & Park Naturalist out of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park & World Birding Center in Mission, Texas. This is his 16th year guiding for the RGV Birding Festival.

Dale Rosselet is vice president for education for New Jersey Audubon and oversees the statewide public and school-based education programs as well as the organization’s center operations. She has extensive experience teaching children and adults in both classroom and informal education settings for over 30 years. In her capacity with New Jersey Audubon she has authored and co-authored four natural history curriculum guides as well as the book Wild Journeys: Migration in New Jersey. She is past president for the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education and chairs the governor-appointed New Jersey Commission for Environmental Education. She has received the 2012 Women in Wildlife Award as well as the Pat Kane Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Education. She is a co-author of Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) with her husband Kevin Karlson.

Mark Scheuerman native Texan had identified over 100 species of birds by the age of eight. His interest in birds and the natural world has taken him birding throughout Texas, the US, and to fifteen other countries scattered over five continents. He is a regional editor for eBird and encourages others to contribute their birding records to the project to increase our knowledge and assist in bird conservation. Mark loves to share his passion for birds and the natural world with others and regularly leads field trips for various bird clubs, festivals, and privately. He has been leading field trips for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival since 2005.

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.

Byron Stone is a physician and naturalist with a love of the outdoors that started in early childhood. He has been an avid birder for over four decades, and has traveled all parts of Texas to observe birds and wildlife. Byron has many birding interests, and taught classes on raptors and on hummingbirds this year, but he has a special interest in sparrows, and has taught a sparrow identification class for Travis Audubon Society for 15 years. Byron is a co-founder of SparrowFest, conducted each February for the past 12 years at Balcones Canyonlands NWR. Byron conducts breeding bird surveys in central Texas and in the trans-Pecos, and is an eBird regional reviewer, a past member of the Texas Bird Records Committee, and a past-President of the Texas Ornithological Society. He resides in Austin, Texas.

Noah Strycker, is Associate Editor of Birding magazine, the author of three well-regarded books about birds, and a contributor of photography and articles to all major bird magazines as well as other media. He also blogs regularly for the American Birding Association. Strycker set a world Big Year record in 2015, and his book about the experience, Birding Without Borders, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017. Strycker has studied birds on six continents with field seasons in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Australia, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, and the Farallon Islands. He also works as a naturalist guide on expedition cruises to Antarctica and Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, literally spreading the inspiration of birds from pole to pole. His first book, Among Penguins, chronicles a field season working with Adélie Penguins in Antarctica (Oregon State University Press, 2011) and his second, The Thing with Feathers, celebrates the fascinating behaviors of birds and human parallels (Riverhead Books, 2014).
Visit his website at:

Bill Supulski moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 2011 and has been a contributing photographer for the Birding Festival for the past several years.

Clay Taylor is celebrating his 40th year of birding, having been infected with the allure of stalking birds with his 35mm camera while attending college in Rochester, NY, in 1975. Returning home to Connecticut, he became active in the local birding groups, lead tours, presented slide shows, and started banding migrating raptors in 1983. He founded the Rochester Hawk Banding Project in 1984 (which eventually became Braddock Bay Raptor Research), and in 1994 was a co-founder, and became first president of, the Connecticut Butterfly Association. In 1999 he joined Swarovski Optik North America, and currently is their Naturalist Market Manager, giving him the opportunity to travel to birding festivals and play with really nice toys.

Rene Valdes is a Mexican birder and field ornithologist specializing in endangered species conservation and research. He is based in Monterrey and performs wildlife surveys, leads birding tours, and is a wildlife photographer. Rene guides custom birding trips in Monterrey and adjacent areas, and in west Mexico leads tours in Mazatlan-Durango and in the San Blas area, one of the best birding sites in Mexico. When not birding (rarely happens), Rene reviews eBird records and hotspots for many states in Mexico, organizes the eBird-Mexico and Mexico Rare Bird Alert Facebook groups, compiles rare records from north Mexico for North American Birds, and coordinates the Breeding Bird Survey program for the northeastern states of Mexico. He is recently working as Citizen Science Project Manager for BirdsEye Birding apps (, assisting with text and image editing, as well as collaborating with their many partners on new and improved citizen science projects.

Raymond VanBuskirk, having lived in New Mexico his entire life it wasn’t difficult becoming captivated by birds and nature. Raymond became fascinated with birds at age seven. He soon became involved in bird banding projects and within a few years started the renowned Sandia Rosy-Finch Project. Other research and conservation projects in the southwest included breeding ecology studies of Gray Vireos and Grasshopper Sparrows. Raymond has spent two summers on an Arctic Ocean research vessel monitoring seabirds. He is the president of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society, the youngest Audubon president in history, and is on the board of the Western Field Ornithologists. Over the years he developed a vision to start a tour company through which he could share his passion for birding, skills, and knowledge with other people. In 2012, alongside two partners, he started Birding Research And Nature Tours (BRANT), a responsible eco-tourism company specializing in international birding adventures.

Dylan Vasapolli, grew up in the outlying suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa, and was exposed to the world of birding from a young age. Currently still based in Johannesburg, he has been guiding for Birding Ecotours for over three years and balances studying in between his birding commitments. He has garnered much experience birding in the southern half of Africa, along with certain destinations in Europe, the Middle East, the US, and the Neotropics – his second love. He has an incredible ability to recognize bird calls, and it is this skill that makes him a valuable asset to the various tours he leads.

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

Sherry Wilson grew up on 65 wooded acres in central Vermont.  Life was lived outdoors, close to nature.  Most of her adult life has been spent in western states – Colorado, Nevada, and Texas – where she and her husband have shared a love of camping, birding, and the natural world.  June of 2005 began their RVing life as they headed north from Houston.  In January of 2009 they arrived at Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, TX, where they fell in love with this unique segment of the Rio Grande River Delta and its subtropical evergreen forest.

Louise Zemaitis is an artist, naturalist, and leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. At home in Cape May, New Jersey, she is a popular field trip leader, teaching birding workshops as an Associate Naturalist with New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. Louise and her husband, Michael O’Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and youth birding camps for many years. In addition to leading, Louise is field coordinator of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, compiler of the Cape May Christmas Bird Count, and proprietor of Swallowtail Studio in Cape May’s West End Garage. An honors graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, she enjoys working as a freelance artist and her illustrations have been widely published.