The finest collection of guides providing world class instruction with one of the best guide-to-guest ratios on the festival circuit!
Take a leisurely scroll and to get to know them.

Jim McCormacJim worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for 31 years, much of it as a botanist. He was inaugural president of the Ohio Ornithological Society, and served for seven years as secretary of the Ohio Bird Records Committee. Jim was the 2009 recipient of the Ludlow Griscom award, given annually by the American Birding Association to individuals who have made significant regional contributions to ornithology.

He is author of Birds of Ohio (Lone Pine 2004); The Great Lakes Nature Guide (Lone Pine 2009); and Wild Ohio: The Best of Our Natural Heritage (Kent State University Press 2009). The latter won the 2010 Ohioana Book award. He has also coauthored three other books, including the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II (2016).

Jim writes a column, Nature, for the Columbus Dispatch, and a photography column for Bird Watcher’s Digest. He has authored or co-authored over 100 scientific and popular articles in a variety of publications. The League of Ohio Sportsmen gave him the Conservation Communicator of the Year award in 2015.

To learn more about Jim and Ohio Birds and Biodiversity, go to jimmccormac.blogspot.com


Julie Zickefoose. Photo by Liam Thompson.Julie Zickefoose is author and illustrator of Letters from Eden, The Bluebird Effect, and Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest, all published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Awakening readers to the astonishing things birds think and do is her job. She writes and paints from Indigo Hill, an 80-acre sanctuary in Appalachian Ohio.

In between books, she gives talks to clubs and festivals around the country, hoping to sell more books so she can keep writing them. Outreach through a variety of media, including Instagram and Facebook, leads readers to her long-running blog, Julie Zickefoose on Blogspot, regularly updated since 2005. Julie actually begins to feel peaked when she hasn’t posted recently. The buildup of wonder and beauty, constantly flowing and unshared, must be regularly addressed.

Perhaps the greatest blessing of Julie’s freelance career is the ability to leap off after interesting tangents, the way one would chase a butterfly. Baby Birds, for instance, chronicles the daily development of 17 species from hatching to fledging in pencil and watercolor, something no one has ever done before. The book was the result of 13 years of serendipitous encounters with nesting birds. Julie’s latest irresistible tangent is blue jays, sparked by raising and releasing Jemima, an orphaned nestling, in the summer of 2017. In all this, her home base is the wellspring of study and observation. Her home, ringed by hummingbird and butterfly gardens, is like a large blind, from which she becomes acquainted with birds, box turtles, bats, bobcats, and bugs. Leaving no creature unidentified is a potent way to connect with nature, and Julie enjoys sharing her passion and curiosity with people wherever she goes.

To learn more about Julie, go to juliezickefoose.blogspot and juliezickefoose.com


Mark GarlandMark is a naturalist who has been sharing his enthusiasm for nature with others professionally for nearly 40 years. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture Work experience includes 6 years as a Ranger/Naturalist with the National Park Service, 17 years with the Audubon Naturalist Society (based in the Washington, DC area), and 4 years with New Jersey Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory.

He has also led tours for Smithsonian Journeys, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Riveredge Nature Center, and Betchart Expeditions. He teaches week-long birding classes in Cape May for the Road Scholar program by Elderhostel each spring and fall, and he also teaches at the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine. He continues to lead many field trips and workshops for both Audubon Naturalist Society and the New Jersey Audubon Society. From 2006 to 2016 he planned and operated the Nature Travel Program for the Audubon Naturalist Society.

He is the author of the book Watching Nature: A Mid-Atlantic Natural History, published by the Smithsonian Press in 1997, and of the chapter Canal Walk in the Anthology City Birding, published by Stackpole Books in 2003. He founded the Cape Charles, Virginia, Monarch butterfly research project in 1995, and in 2015 he became the Director of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, New Jersey. He has co-authored 3 scientific papers on the Cape Charles monarch migration project.

Since early 2015 he has authored the “Birders Question Mark,” Q&A Column for Bird Watchers’ Digest. For over 15 years he appeared regularly on the weekly radio program Metro Connection on Washington’s public radio station WAMU. He has written regular columns for the Cape May Star and Wave, for birdcapemay.org, and for the Audubon Naturalist News; one of the latter pieces was awarded the Excellence in Mass Media Award by the American Association of University Women in 1995. He is a frequent speaker at various events, ranging from nature and birding festivals to bird club monthly meetings.

Mark currently runs his own small business Garland Cunningham LLC, which plans and conducts the programs and private tours he leads and tours led by other naturalists.   

To learn more about Mark, go to mgnature.com


Dr Bill Hilton JrBill’s job allows him to do all day what he likes best, so his vocational activities are almost indistinguishable from his hobbies.

Among Hilton’s awards are: South Carolina Science Teacher of the Year, and SC’s Outstanding Biology Teacher; one of “50 Best Brains in Science”  in the December 2008 issue of Discover magazine; Carolinas Guardian of the Environment; the Outstanding Alumnus Dr. Bill Hilton Jr.Award and the Alumni Ring Award from Newberry College; the Luceo Mea Luce Award;  and the Prize for Excellence from Yamagata University in Japan in an international competition for projects involving “Nature and Human Symbiosis.”

Hilton’s education consists of a BA in Philosophy from Newberry College, Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Biology from Winthrop University, and an M.S. in Ecology & Behavioral Biology from the University of Minnesota.

Hilton has studied extensively and trained students, teachers, biologists, and “citizen scientists” in the U.S. and six other countries. Hilton continues his work as an educator through lectures and workshops; as a consultant in science curriculum design and implementation and in outdoor learning; and as a widely published author on nature and education.

In 1999 Hilton launched “Operation Ruby Throat: The Hummingbird Project,” a cross-disciplinary initiative that builds international collaboration among students and teachers. An active field researcher, Hilton is authorized to capture wild hummingbirds and has banded and released over 4,000 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at Hilton Pond Center. Since 2005, Hilton has led field expeditions into Central America to band and observe ruby-throats on their wintering grounds in the Neotropics.

Hilton also works with outdoor learning and nature centers to design trails, interpretive exhibits, and comprehensive education programs. In 2008, Hilton began exchange work as Consulting Director for New River Birding & Nature Center at Wolf Creek Park in Fayette County WV. Hilton is based near York, SC at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, a non-profit research, education, and conservation organization.

To learn more about Bill, go to rubythroat.org and hiltonpond.org


Bill Thompson IIIBill is the editor and co-publisher of Bird Watcher's Digest, the magazine founded by his parents more than 30 years ago, in 1978. He is the author of numerous books about birds and nature, including, most recently Feeding and Identifying Birds  and The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, both part of the Peterson Field Guide Series from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. Bill has led birding trips all across North America and has spoken or performed at more than 100 birding and nature festivals worldwide. He has watched birds in more [Bill Thompson III] than 25 countries and on five continents.

Bill writes a blog called “Bill of the Birds;” he also creates and hosts a podcast called “This Birding Life” which is available as a free download on the Bird Watcher’s Digest website and in the podcasts section of the iTunes store.

In 2008 Bill was awarded a Service Citizen Award from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for his contributions in making the National Wildlife Refuge system more bird and birder-friendly. He was also awarded the Robert Ridgley Award for Excellence in Ornithological Publications from the American Birding Association.

In 2009 he was nominated for a "Heart of Green" award by thedailygreen.com for his work in fighting Nature Deficit Disorder by helping introduce kids to bird watching.

Born in Pella, Iowa, Bill encountered his spark bird there at the age of 8, when a snowy owl flew into the Thompson family's front yard. His favorite bird is the Red-headed Woodpecker.

To learn more about Bill, go to his blog billofthebirds.blogspot and This Birding Life podcast birdwatchersdigest.com - podcasts


Katie FallonKatie is the author of the nonfiction books Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird (University Press of New England, 2017) and Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird (Ruka Press, 2011), which was a Finalist for the Reed Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment. Katie is also the co-author of two books for children, Look, See the Bird! (2017) and Look, See the Farm! (forthcoming 2018), both from Hatherleigh Press.

Katie’s essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Ecotone, Bark Magazine, Appalachian Heritage, Now & Then, Isotope, Fourth River, the minnesota review, The Tusculum Review, and elsewhere. Her essay “Rebirth” (published in River Teeth, Fall 2013) was listed as a “Notable” in Best American Science & Nature Writing 2014, and her essay “Hill of the Sacred Eagles” was a finalist in Terrain‘s 2011 essay contest. She has been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. Katie has taught creative writing at Virginia Tech and West Virginia University; she is currently Guest Faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she teaches Nonfiction in the Low-Residency MFA Program.

Katie is also one of the founders of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds through scientific research; outreach and public education; and rescue and rehabilitation. The ACCA is based near Morgantown, WV, and each year treats more than 300 injured wild birds, conducts dozens of environmental education programs, and sponsors citizen-science research projects.

To learn more about Katie and the ACCA, go to katiefallon.com and accawv.org


Jim RappJim is a naturalist and tireless promoter of nature and heritage travel experiences on the peninsula that comprises the State of Delaware and the Eastern Shores of Maryland and Virginia (known regionally as “Delmarva”). He started birding in 1989 while attending Salisbury University, and became active in Delmarva’s birding community after attending the Eastern Shore of Virginia Birding & Wildlife Festival in 1991.

Jim is the director of the Hazel Outdoor Discovery Center, a 500+ acre wildlife preserve and outdoor recreation hub located in Eden, Maryland. The mission of the HODC is to provide opportunities to explore and celebrate nature, and to promote harmony between all people through natural experiences.

Jim was employed as director of the Salisbury Zoological Park from 1994 through 2007. In addition to managing the daily operations for a living collection, buildings, and grounds that hosted 200,000+ annual visitors, he also found time to help found and manage the award-winning Delmarva Birding Weekend in 1995.

From 2007 through 2011, Jim was employed as director of Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE), a regional nature tourism alliance. DLITE led efforts to create water trails for Smith Island, the Nanticoke River, and Maryland’s coastal bays; develop interpretation-training programs for Delmarva nature and history; and establish the Smith Island Cake as Maryland’s official state dessert. Under Jim’s direction, DLITE received tourism awards from the Delaware and Maryland Offices of Tourism. Jim was named Tourism Person of the Year in both Wicomico and Worcester counties in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

In 2015, Jim formed Conservation Community Consulting, LLC, with his friend and business partner Dave Wilson. Jim produces monthly travel videos with Unscene Productions for Worcester County Tourism’s Beach and Beyond YouTube Channel. He is also the chair of the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Committee for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

To learn more about Jim and Conservation Community Consulting, go to conservationcommunityconsulting.com


Ben LizdasBen manages sales in advertising and marketing for Bird Watcher's Digest's print and digital assets. Prior to BWD, he was sales manager for Eagle Optics; through his years of experience there, Ben developed a familiarity with the principals of how optics work and what to consider when purchasing optics for the best birding experience.

As a former restoration ecologist, Ben first fell in love with birds and birding while involved with vegetation studies on the prairies and oak savannahs of Southern Wisconsin. He's been an avid birder for ten years and continues to pursue this interest through his travels to birding and nature festivals across the country. Having witnessed and appreciated much of the avian diversity of North America while on the road, he still maintains a fondness for those grassland birds that first piqued his interest 10 years ago.

To learn more about Ben, go to birdwatchersdigest.com


Tom has been birding since he was a kid under the tutelage of Dr. Arthur Allen of Cornell University. His articles and photographs are in museums and many publications including Birding, Birdwatcher’s Digest, Handbook of the Birds and Handbook of the Mammals of the World, and Guide to the Birds of SE Brazil.
He has lectured and guided many groups across the US as well as in Asia, where he trained guides for the government of Bhutan. He has donated many recordings of African and Eastern Himalayan rarities and other species to Cornell’s Macaulay Library of Natural sounds.

He was on Zeiss’s digiscoping team for the World Series of Birding and in 2011 his team won the World Series Cape Island Cup. Tom and team also hold the US record for a Photo Big Day, capturing 208 species on camera in a 24-hour period.
As a musician he played concerts and did studio work for many years, working with several Grammy and Academy Award winners as well as performing with members of the NY Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His clients included the Grateful Dead, Phil Collins and the FBI. He joined Roland Corporation in 1991, managed the recorder division, and retired recently as Director of Technology.
His latest book, The Warbler Guide, is published by Princeton University Press and recently won the National Outdoor Book Award. The Warbler Guide App won the 2015 Design Award for AAUP Book, Jacket and Journal Show. His new app, BirdGenie, a “shazam” for bird song is available since 2015. Tom is endorsed by Zeiss Sports Optics.

To learn more about Tom, go to thewarblerguide.com/contributors


George is chief network officer at Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures, which operates over 300 tours annually. George has guided trips to all seven continents and authored two books: Better Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field (2015, Princeton University Press), and The ABA Field Guide to the Birds of Pennsylvania (2016, Scott & Nix, Inc.).

He has a masters in environmental studies from University of Pennsylvania, and is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Upcoming in 2019 and 2020 he is thrilled to return to Antarctica, the highest, driest and coldest continent on Earth. George is the expedition leader for two exclusive Rockjumper charters to world’s most seldom seen continent, also visiting the Falklands and astounding South Georgia Island.

To learn more about George, go to rockjumperbirding.com/george-armistead


Dr Thomas PauleyThomas was born and raised in West Virginia and is a graduate of both Marshall University and West Virginia University. With a doctorate he is a professor of biological sciences at Marshall University in Huntington WV. His teaching specialties are ornithology, herpetology, and conservation biology.

He has conducted numerous research focused herpetological studies since the 1960's, and has subsequently developed an impressive list of published papers, abstracts, government and private sector documents, books, brochures, manuals, field guides, and contributions to books. In October 2018, Pauley was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service in recognition of his career and contributions to the field of herpetology and the biology of the Cheat Mountain Slamander.

He is part of the West Virginia Wildlife Biodiversity Advisory Council and the Declining Amphibian Task Force (Appalachian Working Group).

To learn more about Thomas and his work at Marshall University, go to marshall.edu/herp


Dawn HewittDawn is managing editor for Bird Watcher’s Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She was bitten by the birding bug in 1979, during an ornithology class at West Virginia University. Consequently, many of the first birds on her life list were found in West Virginia.

While working as a copy editor and reporter for The Herald-Times newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, she was also the newspaper’s weekly birding columnist. She is a past president of Sassafras Audubon Society, and a founding friend of Friends of Goose Pond, based in Linton, Indiana.

She has been to all 50 states, and birded in most of them.

To learn more about Dawn, go to birdwatchersdigest.com


Local talent tossed into the mix of experts on each field trip enhances the flavor of cultural and natural history shared with Festival participants. Their good humor, knowledge and love for the West Virginia mountains they call home are sincere and sincerely appreciated.

Geoff Heeter
Keith Richardson
Rachel Davis
Paul Shaw
Alma Lowery
Al Waldron
Mindy Waldron
Rebecca Atherton
Suleka Deevi