Peg Abbott is the owner and lead guide of Naturalist Journeys, LLC. She has been designing, guiding, and organizing natural history tours for more than 25 years, working for the National Audubon Society and other organizations before launching Naturalist Journeys, LLC in 1998. Her work has taken her from Alaska to Africa and Argentina, as well as many other locations around the world. She has conducted research on several bird and mammal species and keeps a close interest in Yellowstone and Mexican wolf reintroduction projects. Her interests include all aspects of natural history and geology. After 20 years in and around the Yellowstone area, Peg relocated in 2003 to the birding mecca of Portal, AZ.
Photo credit: Carol Simon
Jon Atwood directs the Bird Conservation program for Mass Audubon. He has been a practicing ornithologist and conservation biologist for over 30 years, specializing in integrating behavioral studies of rare and endangered bird species with habitat conservation planning. After completing his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Southern California, where he studied Santa Cruz Island Scrub-Jay behavior, Least Tern breeding biology, and the taxonomy of gnatcatchers living in the deserts of North America, he moved to the East coast in 1986. While working at Manomet Bird Observatory he collaborated in the analysis of the first 30 years of Manomet’s landbird banding effort, spearheaded federal protection of the California Gnatcatcher under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, led a long-term study of factors affecting Least Tern colony site selection, and contributed to early studies of Bicknell’s Thrush in New England. Jon has led field trips in Mexico (Yucatan and Baja California), Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador (Galapagos and Amazonia), Peru (Amazonia), Kenya, Botswana, Southern California, Southeastern Arizona, Montana, and Maine.
Ben is a passionate birder and ecologist based on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. He has over 30 years birding experience throughout Australia and Internationally and over 25 years involvement in nature-based tourism, including successfully running his own birding tour business for several years. Ben’s easy-going nature and relaxed style somewhat belie his skills and determination in the field. With his knowledge of bird calls and understanding of the habitat requirements of particular species, he can often reveal natural wonders previously hidden to the inexperienced observer.
Photo credit: Inala Nature Tours
Bob Behrstock—Emeritus, retired
Bob Behrstock is a nature photographer, writer and tour leader living in SE Arizona. He has led birding and nature tours for nearly 30 years, primarily in North and Latin America. He has compiled Christmas Bird Counts in Mexico and participated in biological surveys including the development of birding and wildlife trails in several different states. As a full-time tour leader, he birded throughout the U.S., many countries in Latin America, and in the Old World. Besides taping and photographing birds in many countries, butterfly and dragonfly photography have taken him to all corners of the U.S. and several parts of Mexico. Bob has authored or co-authored nearly 50 popular and scientific papers concerning fishes, birds, dragonflies, and butterflies in the U.S. and Latin America, and prepared several of the family accounts for The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. His bird and insect photos appear in books, newspapers, and magazines including: Audubon, Smithsonian, Birding, WildBird, American Butterflies, and the Handbook of Birds of the World. He is a co-author of Birdlife of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coastand Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and has just finished an introductory guide to Southwestern dragonflies. Bob enjoys birding with tour participants of all skill levels and is equally happy pointing his spotting scope at other creatures. naturewideimages.com
Photo credit: Karen LeMay
Ed & Sil Pembleton
The Pembletons have led field trips for 30+ years. Ed worked for the National Audubon Society and as director of the Leopold Education Project, promoting Aldo Leopold's land ethics philosophy. Ed's photos appear in books and national magazines. Seliesa has written children's wildlife books, worked at the Smithsonian Institution, and was director of environmental studies at Hard Bargain Farm. She has taught "American Style" environmental education in Japan. The couple enjoys birding, hiking, gardening, and canoeing.
Gustavo is a professional birding guide, working with Naturalist Journeys in both Ecuador and Colombia. He has also led many trips to the Galapagos, the Andes, Amazonia, and more. Gustavo not only has expertise in botany, but also in birding, and is passionate about the history of South America. He has guided in Colombia since 1991 and has developed close relationships with many birders in the country. His knowledge, kindness, and enthusiasm help to create a forever memorable experience.
John first set foot in Antarctica in 1994 as a general laborer at Palmer Station. He has spent the last 25 years figuring out ways to continue to return. This has included stints researching Adelie Penguins at two locations on the Peninsula, conducting biological inventories throughout the peninsula, and as a guide/naturalist on many expeditions to Antarctica as well as South Georgia and the Falklands.When he isn’t traveling south he is a Wildlife Biologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Billings, Montana. His main duties are now centered on Greater Sage-Grouse management.
John was born and raised in northeastern Montana and has had a strong interest in wildlife in general and birds specifically for as long as he can remember. He obtained his BA in Zoology from the University of Montana and MS in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming. In addition to his Antarctic work, he has conducted research on a wide variety of animal species from one end of the world to another, including seabird research in the Bering Sea, and northern Baffin Bay.
Dan Donaldson is an accomplished naturalist-birder based in Northeastern Ohio. Dan has developed his skills while working as a naturalist for a local park district for 15 years as well as with his full-time job as director of the local soil and water conservation district. With varied audiences from novices to experts, Dan incorporates much more than just identification in his tours and programs. Dan led tours for Discovery Tours and this is where Peg and Dan met. His specialization in birding locales ranges from the Great Lakes to coastal destinations from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to the Florida Keys.
Dan has led a number of historical tours including Michigan’s lighthouses.
Butterfly, orchid and bird authority of Honduras. An avid naturalist from childhood, Robert left his native California to join Peace Corps, finding a passion for tropical nature on arrival in 1993. He has authored two CD's, small field guides, and the forthcoming authoritative "Guide to the Birds of Honduras". He resides at the scenic Lake Yojoa and spends much of his time afield.
Gerard Gorman is a very experienced birding and wildlife guide, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe where his knowledge of the wildlife sites of the region is second to none, having visited every country from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In recent years he has led several Naturalist Journeys groups to Hungary and Austria. Gerard is also an author, his books include Central and Eastern European Wildlife (Bradt, UK, 2008) and Birding in Eastern Europe (WildSounds, UK, 2006). His main ornithological interest focuses on woodpeckers, and he is regarded as an authority, authoring five books including the acclaimed Woodpeckers of the World (Firefly Books, USA/Canada, 2014) and Woodpecker (Reaktion, UK, 2017). Gerard is also interested in wildlife tracks and signs and his Pocket Guide to Tracks and Signs of European Wildlife (Bloomsbury, UK, 2014) was published in 2014.
Photo credit: probirder.com
Keith Hansen & Patricia Briceño
Keith is a renowned wildlife artist, capturing birds and other wildlife in innovative yet accurate portrayals for a wide range of books and other publications, art shows, and private commissions. Patricia is a fabric artist with an eye for color, fabric, and texture that influences all her art. Keith and Patricia’s compassionate, positive spirit, and sense of fun are contagious. Together they share their passion for the natural world with their groups.
Dodie Logue is an artist, a horse trainer and an avid birder. Her interest in birds has taken her all over the United States including Alaska, as well as Central and South America. She is a certified bird bander and has done surveys and banding in the U.S. and Ecuador. Dodie splits her time between the southwest and the midwest, where she has worked to turn her 120 acre farm back into a native landscape including wetlands and 50 acres of tall grass prairie. She has been involved with numerous citizen scientist projects and is a member of PAN (Project Art for nature), a group of midwest artists who make art about critical habitat and educate the public about it. She loves nothing better than spending all day out in the field hiking and observing.
Photo credit: Chris Benesh
Pat Lueders has been leading birding trips in the St. Louis area and Midwest for over 10 years. A love of traveling has taken her to many countries of the world and most of the US, often with Naturalist Journeys' trips. When not out birding, she is the coordinator of volunteers for a number of Citizen Science projects partnering with many agencies including U.S. Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Audubon, National Trumpeter Swan Society, and Missouri Department of Conservation. Pat serves on the boards of St. Louis Audubon & Audubon Society of Missouri and is on a bird banding team.
Michael 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 new venture as a birding guide. Michael and Donna initially moved to Cayman House in Rockport, then to the San Pedro River Inn and the Paton Birders’ Haven in S.E. 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 South Texas. As well as regular tours in the U.S./Mexico borderlands, Michael has guided birding trips to Cuba, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama and has travelled extensively in Europe and the Americas. He met Peg Abbott being very gracious to Naturalist Journeys groups along Arizona’s San Pedro River. He now shares his guiding skills with us in Texas and beyond.
Dave is a naturalist with interests in birds, migration, ecosystems and natural disturbances, plants, and gardening. He holds a PhD from the University of New Mexico. Dave worked for The Nature Conservancy for 25+ years as Director of its Migratory Bird Program. He has researched in Latin American and the Caribbean. An avid birder, Dave enjoys teaching about natural habitats and local cultures. He has published papers in scientific and popular journals.
Bob Meinke started birding in earnest while an undergraduate in plant science at Humboldt State University in northern California. After graduate school he went on to join the botany faculty at Oregon State University (OSU), where he’s led the state’s Native Plant Conservation Biology Program (in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture) for over 25 years. Bob and his graduate students conducted research on the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered plants in the western U.S., focusing on life history and re-introduction studies, and have also discovered and named a number of plant species new to science. When not botanizing, Bob enjoys travel with his wife Kelly (also a botanist)—never having lost their early interest in birding, Bob and Kelly have traveled extensively over the years, searching for birds and other wildlife in areas as diverse as Papua New Guinea, southern India, Fiji and Tonga, Australia, Iceland, Brazil, and southwest Africa. They share a particular interest in the avifauna of Central America, and reside with their cats in an historic neighborhood in Corvallis, Oregon, a few blocks from the OSU campus.
Photo credit: Courtesy Bob Meinke
Xavier Muñoz's background is in tourism business administration and he also is also a professional bird-naturalist guide. Co-founder of Neblina Forest in 1994, Xavier collaborates with his peers in Ecuador and the USA, including Fundacion Jocotoco and Rainforest Trust; for Xavier, ecotourism and conservation walk together. Xavier has worked with Naturalist Journeys for more than six years, leading tours in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Trinidad & Tobago. He lives in Ecuador with his family and horses.
Photo credit: Demis Bucci Fotografia
Born in Miami, Florida, Carlos has had a fascination with wildlife since childhood. In college he began to bird in earnest throughout Florida, South America, and even Australia. Currently, Carlos sits on the board of the Tropical Audubon Society, is a regular contributor to the birding blog 10,000 Birds, and leads local tours through his company, EcoAvian Tours. He has also been a resident guide at lodges in both Ecuador and Brazil.
Greg spent over 20 years working as an ecologist managing sensitive bird species for California State Parks along the Central coast. His decision to promote to the Park Superintendent series allowed him to work directly with partners in conserving lands for the benefit of birds, people, and resources. And then he retired! Three days later he started his now eleven-year career with Naturalist Journeys by leading his first of over sixty tours. He had already traveled to all seven continents, and now has a Master Bird Banding permit, both of which made him a great fit to work with Peg and to lead natural history and birding tours to her exceptional array of tour locations. His relaxed style and breadth of knowledge makes his tours both educational and fun, all while exploring Naturalist Journeys' diverse locations and viewing the areas' distinctive birds, wildlife, and plant species. Two of his favorite past times are good food and photography, so take a peek at his Flickr site to see some of what he shares with those that join him on his tours.
James P. Smith
James brings some twenty five years of guiding experience to Naturalist Journeys. Originally from Sheffield in the United Kingdom, he discovered a love for guiding in Israel in 1995 where he helped establish the Kibbutz Lotan Center for Birdwatching in the Southern Arava Valley. Since then, he’s led hundreds of tours throughout the Northern Hemisphere for a number of UK-based tour companies. His trips to Israel and North America are especially close to his heart but he’s also led or co-led tours to Mexico (Veracruz), The Gambia, Kenya, Iceland, Scottish Highlands, Spanish Pyrenees, Central/Southern France, Greece (Lesvos), and India (Goa). An accomplished illustrator, James placed runner-up in the British Birds “Bird Illustrator of the Year” competition in 1992 and went on to have his work published in numerous birding magazines and journals. He also co-authored the two volume set A Guide to the Birding Hotspots of Israel (Published in 2000 by the Israel Ornithological Center and the S.P.N.I.). He returns to Israel every year to lead trips and remains an active member of the Israel Rarities and Distribution Committee. When not leading tours he can be found at home in Western Massachusetts with his wife Susannah and their young son Matan.
Drs. Howard Topoff & Carol Simon
Drs. Howard Topoff and Carol Simon have been study leaders on natural history trips for over 30 years. Both are formerly professors at the City University of New York and Research Associates at the American Museum of Natural History. Howard Topoff has spent 40+ years researching the social behavior of animals. His field research has been conducted in Central and South America, Africa, and in the deserts and mountains of Arizona. In addition to his publications in scientific journals, his more popular articles have appeared in magazines such as Scientific American and Natural History. His research has been featured on National Geographic Television, and Scientific American Frontiers. Carol Simon is broadly trained in ecology, behavior and evolution. Her research on the social behavior of reptiles has taken her to many areas of North and Central America. Her current field research on reptile behavior is based in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. As an added bonus, Carol and Howard provide multimedia presentations that provide in-depth insights into the natural history of the regions visited.
Woody Wheeler—Emeritus, retired
Woody Wheeler is a master birder, a certified interpretive guide and owner of Conservation Catalyst, a birding and natural history firm based in Seattle, Washington. He has worked for The Nature Conservancy, Audubon, Seattle Parks Foundation, as a naturalist and tour leader. He holds degrees in Environmental Education and Geography. Woody is a skilled interpreter and educator with special expertise in birds. To augment field experiences, he is a natural story teller and a former teacher. His approach is inclusive; he enjoys working with diverse groups of people, and likes to combine physical activity with nature study. He inspires people to appreciate nature and to have fun along the way.
Andrea is an Ecuadorian bird guide who has been guiding since 2006. She started as a local guide at the Bellavista Reserve cloud forest in Ecuador and then was recruited by Neblina Forest as a guide in 2010. Since then, Andrea has trained in Brazil, Peru, and other locations in Ecuador. Her good energy and kind touch with clients, as well as her good ears and great eye for birds, ensures her groups have an excellent experience. Andrea lives in Ecuador with her family.
Lynn Tennefoss is a general naturalist with a strong interest in birds and geology. Lynn helps with Naturalist Journeys’ special projects as well as many of the logistics of our U.S. tours, and has led or co-led trips to Trinidad, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Big Bend, Oregon Coast, Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the American Southwest, and more. When not traveling, Lynn consults with nonprofit organizations, providing strategic planning, organizational assessment, and meeting facilitation services.
David started birding at the age of 10. By high school, birding was his passion. He went to college at UC Santa Cruz, majored in biology, and bird science was always his focus. David went on to become a full-time chemist, but birding remained his passion, and according to his wife, his obsession. He has authored the Annotated Checklist of the Birds of San Joaquin County. He was the Regional Editor of North American Birds, Northern California Region. He has travelled extensively, and enjoys guiding throughout the US, Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia.
Rick lives in Oakland, NJ with his wife Patricia and two teenage children, Jack and Annabel. Rick has led birding trips for a number of years as a volunteer associate naturalist for NJ Audubon and a preserve monitor for The Nature Conservancy. He just completed his 30th world series of birding event, raising dollars for endangered species recovery efforts. His passion for conservation started during his college years at Rutgers where he majored in Biology and he has been a trustee of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ since 2000. More recently his volunteer and fundraising efforts for The Raptor Trust, the largest wild bird rehabilitation center on the east coast, resulted in his recent addition to their board of trustees in 2018. In his spare time besides birding, Rick enjoys playing tennis, street hockey, and is also a youth hockey coach.
Nick has been pursuing birds since the age of six after being shown a Dartford Warbler by his father on a family holiday. After traveling and birding in the Pacifica and Southeast Asia, Nick settled in Thailand over twenty years ago and now has over a decade of experience in leading bird tours throughout Asia. Widely recognized as the leading guide for Thailand, he can find difficult species and interpret the ecology of the bird, as well as the conservative issues many species face.
Avijit (Avi) Sarkhel lives in New Delhi in Northern India & runs a travel company for inbound tours to the Indian Sub-continent. Avi (as most people call him) has been designing and leading wildlife and birding tours for the last two decades all over the sub-continent. He has lead tours with a number of well-known tour operators from all over the World. Avi enjoys meeting people and showing them his country and its wildlife and nature. He is concerned about the well-being of his co-travelers, enjoys having a laugh with them
and is always ready to address their concerns while on tour.
Avi is well-versed with the forests of the sub-continent, he has traveled all over the country, seen almost all of the birds and most of the mammals and is keen to learn more. He believes that there is a lot to learn about the wildlife of the areas that he travels to and enjoys learning from his guests.
Photo credit: Vana Safaris
Raised in the local Kek’chi Maya community, Steve Choco is one of the top local guides in Belize, and a great resource for visitors exploring on this Southern Belize nature tour. Steve developed his love of nature and his early fascination with wildlife during camping trips with his grandfather in the Belizean bush. Recognized today for his unparalleled birding skills, Steve was the 2017 recipient of the prestigious National Tour Guide of the Year award, given annually by the Belize Tourism Board. Naturalist Journeys relies on Steve and other experts to ensure high quality birding (and cultural) experiences for travelers.
Steve Shunk started birding in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, and he moved to central Oregon’s ‘Woodpecker Wonderland’ in 1997, where 11 woodpecker species breed annually. This phenomenon led to a 20-year obsession studying this charismatic family of birds. Steve founded the region’s woodpecker festival in 2008, and his Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America was published in 2016. He has fed leeches (his own blood) in Malaysian Borneo, and he has watched Spotless Starlings swarming around the Greek ruins of Sicily. Steve’s Alaska adventures have taken him from Ketchikan to Barrow and St. Paul Island. One of his favorite destinations takes him to see ‘eastern’ warblers breeding across the boreal forest of Alberta, but recent adventures have led him to favor the cushion plants and condors of the Peruvian high Andes. Steve speaks at bird festivals across North America, and he returns annually to speak and guide at the Vallarta Bird Festival in far-western Jalisco, Mexico. Steve joined Naturalist Journeys earlier this year, and we are excited to have him on the schedule for 2021 and beyond.
Steve’s work as a field biologist has taken him from the Coast Range of Oregon to California’s Sierra Nevada. Most recently, he conducted point-count and woodpecker surveys for a study in the Central Oregon Cascades. Steve co-founded the East Cascades Bird Conservancy (now East Cascades Audubon), and served as its first president. He also co-founded the Oregon Birding Trails Program and coordinated its flagship project, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail. When Steve is not traveling the world for tours and lectures, he can be found writing, skiing, hiking, and watching woodpeckers at home in lovely Sisters, Oregon. Learn more about Steve at his websites Paradise Birding and Woodpecker Wonderland
Ryan Chenery was born and raised in beautiful Barbados! Ryan’s first job on the island took him beneath the waves where he conducted coral reef surveys for the Bellairs Research Institute. Yet it wasn't long before his passion for birds and wildlife on terra firma saw him employed as Chief Naturalist and Eco-Guide Manager at the largest remaining mangrove wetland on Barbados (the Graeme Hall Nature Reserve), and later travelling further afield to conduct field research on birds and amphibians in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest and Ecuadorian Amazon.
After being swept off his feet by a Yorkshire Lass, he followed her to England where he continued his passion for “all things birds" with employment at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Here he spent three years at the organization’s internationally renowned seabird reserve Bempton Cliffs, where highlights included kittiwake monitoring in gale-force winds and rescuing disoriented gannets by perching both he and the birds precariously on the edge of 300 ft cliffs - to better allow them to catch enough updraft to head back out to the North Sea! Subsequent employment in the UK saw Ryan take on the role of National Parks Officer at the North York Moors National Park – a position he held for 3 years before returning to Barbados to conduct multi-island wildlife trips full time. Ryan has enjoyed all of the wonderful roles he has undertaken across the globe, but his greatest passion remains leading wildlife adventures through the magical islands of the Lesser Antilles. The tiny island gems will always be his home and he loves nothing better than sharing the unique wildlife, vibrant cultures and untamed wildernesses that each island has to offer with nature enthusiasts from around the world. Oh, and the food, he absolutely loves the island food, and has even been known to also share this...occasionally!
Photo credit: The Bajan Birder
Banner photo credit: Gustavo Cañas Valle by Peg Abbott.