The finest collection of trip leaders and guides providing world class instruction and with one of the best guide-to-guest ratios on the festival circuit!
Take a leisurely scroll and to get to know them.
Julie Zickefoose is author and illustrator of Letters from Eden, The Bluebird Effect, Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest, and Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-luck Jay (2019) 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. This experience became her latest book, Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-luck Jay. 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
Jim 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
Mark 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
Bill’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, Alumni Ring, and Luceo Mea Luce Awards from Newberry College; and the Prize for Excellence from Yamagata University in Japan in an international competition for projects involving “Nature and Human Symbiosis.”
Hilton’s formal 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. Newberry awarded him an honorary doctorate for a lifetime of accomplishments as an educator and naturalist.
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 birds and has banded and released more than 6,000 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, a non-profit research, education, and conservation organization. Since 2005, Hilton has led 30 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.
To learn more about Bill and his work as an educator-naturalist, go to rubythroat.org and hiltonpond.org and "Like" his Facebook pages facebook.com/HiltonPond for timely updates on nature topics,
and facebook.com/rubythroats for info about hummingbirds.
Follow him on Twitter @hiltonpond
Jim 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. Thanks to Mr. Hazel’s generosity and vision, the HODC is made available to scout, school and youth groups at no cost. Learn more at www.HazelOutdoors.org.
Jim was employed as director of the Salisbury Zoological Park from 1994 through 2007. During his service as zoo director, Jim helped develop innovative wildlife education programs, and earned accreditation on three separate occasions from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. In addition to managing the daily operations for a living collection, buildings, and grounds that hosted 200,000+ annual visitors, Jim also found time to help found and manage the award-winning Delmarva Birding Weekend.
From 2007 through 2011, Jim was employed as director of Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE). Under Jim’s direction, DLITE received tourism awards from the Delaware and Maryland Offices of Tourism for the innovative social media-marketing program Host Our Coast, and from the Delaware Office of Tourism for the Delmarva Birding Weekend. Jim was named Tourism Person of the Year in both Wicomico and Worcester counties in 2004 and 2006 respectively.
With much assistance from partners, Jim also 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.
Jim has served the community as a volunteer leader with several Delmarva-area nonprofit organizations, and has chaired the Board of Directors for the Assateague Coastal Trust, Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council, Wicomico Environmental Trust, and the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. He is currently the chair of the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Committee for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Prior to forming Conservation Community Consulting with Dave Wilson, Jim served as a consultant for the Rackliffe House Trust from 2011 through 2016. He also produces monthly travel videos with Unscene Productions for Worcester County Tourism’s Beach and Beyond YouTube channel.
To learn more about Jim and Conservation Community Consulting, go to conservationcommunityconsulting.com
Katie 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.
Jeffrey Gordon served as president of the American Birding Association from 2010-2021. A well-known writer, photographer, and naturalist, Jeff is a frequent speaker at various birding and nature festivals and has led birding tours around a goodly portion of the globe, especially in North and Central America. He loves to travel, especially in the company of other birders, and has found such journeys afield to be some the most educational, memorable, and enjoyable times of his life.
The American Birding Association inspires all people to enjoy and protect wild birds and offers a wealth of resources for birders, as well as providing a suite of effective conservation and community programs that aim to build a brighter future for birds and for birders. For more information on the ABA and on Jeff, visit www.aba.org.
From near and afar, depending where you are, these terrific people provide tremendous support and camaraderie. Local talent tossed into the mix enhances the flavor of cultural and natural history on each field trip. Their good humor, knowledge and love for the West Virginia mountains are sincere and appreciated.
Hosts & Guides - go to "Who We Are"
Allen and Mindy Waldron are a pair of local West Virginia birders living in nearby Raleigh County. Mindy has been a birder for many years. Allen came to birding in the 90’s. Both are members of the Bibbee Nature Club and the Brooks Bird Club in West Virginia. They spend the summer months operating two MAPS ( Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) bird banding stations. They stay busy throughout the year with 3 Breeding Bird Surveys, Breeding Bird Point Counts, Christmas Bird Counts and the Big Sit. Raleigh and Summers Counties in southern West Virginia are their favorite locales for birding, botanizing, and enjoying all aspects of nature.
Alma Lowry became interested in birding 30 years ago after her children left the nest. Since then, she has expanded her circle of friends and knowledge of birds on outings with the Brooks Bird Club and Bibbee Nature Club. Vacations have been primarily focused on birds and Alma has added life birds at destinations around the United States and internationally. She has participated in the New River Birding & Nature Festival, first as a participant and then as a local guide for more than ten years. Alma is excited to share her joy of birding with fellow enthusiasts.
Jodi is a life long natural and cultural heritage enthusiast. Growing up hiking and camping led her to earn a degree in Recreation & Wildlife from Ohio’s Hocking Technical College were she began an in-depth study of flora and fauna and developed a fondness for wildflowers and Appalachian ecology. Jodi currently is an Intreptive National Park Service Park Ranger for over 30 years. As a "teacher in a park," she strives to share her love of nature with others and help people find their own connection to the world around them. In her work at New River Gorge National River she helped develop and coordinate the annual events New River Gorge Wildflower Weekend (2000), Hidden History Weekend (2009), and Youth Arts in the Parks and youth wildflower art contest (2009). Jodi is a Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics Master Instructor, as well as an instructor and a leader for the New River Gorge Chapter of West Virginia Master Naturalist. Her love of nature comes through in her naturalist work as a storyteller, sharing tales of flora and fauna folklore and mythology. “There is always something exciting to discover and learn in nature!”