Leaders & Staff: Tour Leaders

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Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 69 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have taken him to all the continents, with his areas of concentration being Texas, Arizona, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. He is the founder and compiler for 50 years of the record-breaking Freeport Christmas Bird Count, and served a term as president of the Texas Ornithological Society. Birds and natural history have been a major focus throughout his life. He derives great pleasure from seeing and hearing birds,...

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Chris Altwegg

Chris Altwegg has been with BirdNote from the start. He’s a strategic thinker with 25+ years of experience helping businesses and organizations grow and thrive. He is a former Seattle Audubon board member. As BirdNote flourished and grew to be a national program, Chris was the first president of the board for the new nonprofit. His favorite bird is the Blue Jay, because it’s so evocative of his growing up in Texas. He currently teaches iPhone and iPad skills to seniors. Chris enjo...

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David Ascanio

David Ascanio, a Venezuelan birder and naturalist, has spent 32 years guiding birding tours throughout his native country, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, the Amazon River, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, Cuba, the Orinoco River, Costa Rica, Chile, and Panama. He is especially interested in bird vocalizations and has a private library containing sounds of more than 70% of all the birds of Venezuela. David combines superb birding skills with an astoni...

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Diana Balcázar

Diana Balcázar has been interested in birds since she was a little girl. She began birding seriously in 1998, working with her neighbors in conservation efforts to protect the wetlands of her native city, Bogotá. At that time she joined the local ornithologist’s association and has since then conducted many environmental and birding workshops. Her knowledge of the English language and her great people skills led her to work (since 2009) as a birding guide. During her tours...

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Jessie Barry

Jessie Barry is the Merlin Project Leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She started her life list at age 10, and during high school she attended VENT’s summer youth camps before heading to the University of Washington. Jessie is passionate about birds and is always working towards engaging more people in birding, citizen science, and conservation. She is active in building opportunities for young birders and undergraduates working towards careers involving birds. She also enjoys th...

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Alison Beringer

Alison Beringer is Associate Professor of Classics and Humanities at Montclair State University, where she teaches courses in literary history, women’s studies, and medieval literature and culture. She holds the M.A. in Classics from the University of Victoria and the Ph.D. in German Studies from Princeton University. Her scholarly research focuses on the transmission and illustration of Latin and German literature in the medieval and early modern periods. Her book The Sight of Semirami...

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Ellen Blackstone

Ellen Blackstone has been working with BirdNote since it was a figment of the founder’s imagination—before the show hit the airwaves in 2005. She writes and edits shows, blogs, and social media posts and sits in on recording as the bird and grammar consultant. As part of her work as web manager, she finds—and secures permission to use—all the photos that appear on the website and in social media. Well, somebody has to do it. A native Iowan, she started birding at the a...

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Sallie Bodie

Sallie Bodie is Managing Director of BirdNote. Since 2007, she has helped the organization grow into what is now a national production company with over a million daily radio listeners. Prior to BirdNote, she worked in public broadcasting and for other nonprofits including National Public Radio, the Smithsonian, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She enjoys hiking, biking, and taking on ambitious house projects. Her travel list has many unfulfilled destinations including Big Bend National Park....

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Erik Bruhnke

Erik Bruhnke has had a love for birds since he was a child. He graduated from Northland College in Wisconsin with a Natural Resources degree in 2008 and taught field ornithology for various semesters while there. As a devoted raptor nerd, Erik is drawn to hawkwatches. He worked as an interpreter for six seasons at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota; has counted migrating raptors at the Corpus Christi HawkWatch in Texas; and is the 2016 hawk counter at the Cape May Hawkwatch in N...

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Patrick Cardwell

Patrick Cardwell has been passionate about birding since his boyhood days in rural surroundings. Armed with an introductory bird book and an inexpensive pair of binoculars, he embarked on what has proved to be an enduring and intense interest for over 50 years. During this time Patrick enthusiastically indulged in tape recording, bird photography, bird banding, and regional distribution assessments throughout Southern Africa as part of the S.A. Bird Atlas Project. This was the background for ...

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Kitty Coley

Kitty Coley is a geologist, naturalist, and avid birder who has led natural history tours for the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institute, as well as VENT, for over 20 years. Tour destinations have included Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, the Galapagos, the Peruvian Amazon and Andes, Chile, Brazil, Antarctica, Alaska, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Iceland, as well as the western United States and Canada. Other nature travels have taken her to East Africa, Australia, Belize, Honduras, ...

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Bradley Davis

Bradley Davis is originally from Canada, but now makes his home in the Brazilian Amazon with his wife Jessica and their young son, who is always keen to look for owls, perhaps due to his fascination with the flashlight more than anything else. In addition to a decade of experience organizing and leading birding tours with his own company, Bradley has been involved in bird research and conservation projects in Brazil and Bolivia. Bradley is a regular contributor to the online bird sound and ph...

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Fernando Diaz

Fernando Díaz, or “Feña,” showed a special interest in birds that lived around his neighborhood during his childhood. He grew up birding in the fields and wetlands of Lampa, a few kilometers from Santiago de Chile, where he developed his bird observation abilities at an early age. Feña has strong skills for recognizing birds by song. His first serious approach to bird study was as a volunteer participant in waterfowl censuses and bird banding. This was the cat...

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Pete Dunne

Pete Dunne is a birder/writer, founder of the World Series of Birding, former Director of Natural History Information for the New Jersey Audubon Society, former Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, and currently Birding Ambassador-at-Large for New Jersey Audubon. An experienced tour leader, he is well-known for his columns and contributions to publications such as American Birds, Birding, Living Bird, Wildlife Conservation, and WildBird. He is also the author of numerous books, includin...

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Dr. John Fitzpatrick

Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., is Director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. From 1988-1995 he was Executive Director of the Archbold Biological Station in central Florida, and before that served for twelve years as Curator of Birds and Chairman of the Department of Zoology at the Field Museum in Chicago. He is Fellow and past President of the American Ornithologists' Union, and in 1985 received its highest resea...

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Rafael Galvez

Rafael Galvez has been birding and illustrating birds since childhood, a dual passion that developed when his family moved from Peru to South Florida. Always with a sketchpad in hand, he has traveled throughout the U.S., Latin America, and Eurasia in pursuit of birds. He served several years as a board member of the BirdLife International affiliate in the Republic of Georgia, developing educational and conservation programs.  He gained knowledge of the Caucasus region while directing a s...

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Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local creeks and parks. Chasing butterflies and any animal that was unfortunate enough to cross paths with the Gibbons boys occupied his childhood. A wooden bird feeder kit sparked a flame that was stoked by a gift of the Golden Guide and family camping trips to Texas state parks. Twenty-five years ago Brian attended two VENT camps for young birders. Birds are now his primary interest, but all things wild cont...

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Richard Gibbons

Richard Gibbons is the Conservation Director for Houston Audubon where he manages their sanctuaries, develops and manages monitoring programs, and advocates for bird conservation in the region. He has worked as an ornithologist throughout the Americas for 18 years including bird banding, hawk watching, and colonial waterbird management. He recently earned his PhD working at LSU’s Museum of Natural Science where he split his time between coordinating citizen science projects and stu...

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Kate Godman

BirdNote Director of Development, Kate Godman, is a beginning birder with roots in England, storytelling, and theatre. After working for many years as Casting Director for the Intiman Theatre in Seattle, Kate moved into a fundraising career at Book-It Repertory Theatre and the Frye Art Museum, also in Seattle. She loves to bring about transformational change in individuals and communities through storytelling, and she's thrilled to be learning about, and advocating for, birds and the natural ...

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Héctor Gómez de Silva

Héctor Gómez de Silva began birding at age eight in New York City. He published his first article about birds at age 15 while in Kenya, where he lived for six years. Since his return to his native Mexico in 1985, Héctor has acquired one of the highest Mexico bird lists at over 950 species, and since 1993 he has led numerous tours in Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Kenya, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, and New Caledonia. Héctor has a Ph.D. in ecology f...

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