Welcome to Special Guest- James Currie

2016 James Currie web pic

 Special Guest James Currie is a birding expert, conservation advocate, and host of Nikon’s Birding Adventures TV and Nat Geo Wild’s Aerial Assassins. He was born, raised, and worked in Cape Town, South Africa. James and his family have lived in Florida since 2007. A life-long birder and native of South Africa, James Currie has led professional wildlife and bird watching tours for over 12 years and his passion for birding and remote cultures has taken him to far corners of the earth from the Amazon and Australia to Africa and Madagascar. He has contributed to several publications, including the acclaimed Southern African Birdfinder. He is also an expert in the field of sustainable development.


Presenters, Workshop Leaders
& Field Trip Guides

Taylor Abbott has become an avid birder after begrudgingly being roped in by a family member. He's been traveling the U.S. ever since looking for birds, visiting each of the 50 states. Taylor has a Zoology degree from North Carolina State University, and currently teaches science in Layton, Utah.

Tim Avery has worked for the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and the Utah DWR doing bird surveys.  He currently holds Utah's Big Year record.

John Bellmon is a life-long birder. He helped organize the 1st Ogden Christmas Bird Count 30 years ago.  He is founding president of the Wasatch Audubon Ogden Chapter-1981, and founding chairman of the Audubon Council of Utah-1985.  He served on the board of Directors of the National Audubon Society as representative of the Rocky Mountain Region from 1998-2004.

Jeff Bilsky is one of the few individuals that have seen over 300 birds in the state of Utah in the span of one year.   Jeff is entertaining, as well as informative; his trips are bound to leave you stimulated.  Jeff has a vast knowledge of birds, habitats, and migrant traps in and throughout the state of Utah.  Birding with Jeff is an unforgettable learning experience.

Howard Browers is currently the wildlife biologist at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  His background includes managing eight refuges located in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington.  He holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Oklahoma State University and a M.S. in Wildlife Science from South Dakota State University.

Ginger Brown is owner of R&G Horse and Wagon.  Ginger and her late husband  Ron started doing a Roman-style rider act in a wild west show in 1970 and have wrangled horses for several major motion pictures.

Jaimi Butler is the coordinator for Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster college.  Since 1999 Jaimi has been working in and around GSL as a field and lab biologist for a variety of organizations.  As coordinator of GSLI she manages undergraduate research, K-12 outreach and does anything she can to spend as much time at the lake as possible.

Dr. Randy Chatelain is a recently retired professor at Weber State University and avid bird watcher. He loves the outdoors and is an accomplished wildlife photographer. He regularly attends the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival and has previously helped lead the raptor field trip.

Terri Clemons got involved with birding when she bought a cat named Oliver seven years ago and set up a bird feeder on her balcony to keep him occupied and out of mischief. She enjoyed the birds more than the cat did, and took it up as a hobby. She especially enjoys viewing shorebirds and raptors. Terri is also a volunteer and seasonal employee at Antelope Island State Park.

Joseph Donnell began his career in parks and recreation in 1984 working with a county parks system in Pennsylvania while attending high school and college.  He graduated from slippery Rock University with a dregree in Recreation Resources Management.  He has worked for the US Fish and Wildlife service in Rhode Island and Connecticut doing endangered species studies and protection.  In 1992 he began a career with Utah State Parks and Recreation as a Park Ranger and is currently the Park Manager at Rockport State Park.

Kathy Donnell is the Park Naturalist at Rock Cliff State Park.  She is also a volunteer for HawkWatch International and serves on the Utah Society for Environmental Education Executive Committee.

Phil Douglass has served the people and wildlife of Utah for the past 20 years. His experiences include wetland biologist, assistant manager at Farmington Bay WMA and his current assignment as Regional Conservation Outreach Manager. His current duties include managing all outreach programs for Northern Utah, which include hardware Ranch WMA, education and education programs.

Billy Fenimore is owner of the Wild About Birds Nature Center in Layton, Utah.  He also guides birding tours each weekend and to Deseret Ranch.

Valerie Frokjer discovered her passion for birds after an Ornithology class at Weber State University, while obtaining her Bachelor's degree in Zoology.  She then went on to work for Dr. John Cavitt doing a Colonial Waterbird Survey all over Utah.  She is currently employed at Weber State University.

Brian Ferguson is retired from the U.S. Forest Service.  He has worked in diverse ecosystems and promotes quality habitat for many species of wildlife.  He volunteers at Antelope Island State Park and Bear River National Migratory Bird Refuge.  He is also a nature photographer.

Dave Ghizzone is the owner operator of Gonzo Tours.  His kayak and pontoon boat business is located at the Antelope Island State Park marina.  His birding tours spotlight birding along the shores of Antelope Island and Egg Island (but not close enough to disturb the nesting birds.

Charity Gibson is the Naturalist at Antelope Island State Park.

C. Val Grant is president of Bio-Resources, a company looking for environmentally friendly solutions for industries.  He has served three years as president of Bridgerland Audubon.

Mike Hearell has grown up as an avid waterfowler and has a passion for learning about and finding ducks. This background was easily converted to the world of birding.

Dallin Henderson is an avid bird watcher and outdoorsman.  Teaching and working in Scouting as a Scout master, Cub master, Varsity Coach, and Round Table Trainer for more than 25 years.  He firs fell in love with bird watching while attending college in eastern Idaho and enrolling in a Western Bird Study class and has been watching birds ever since.  Contractor by trade, bird house builder by profession. He is joined at the Festival by his wife, Carol.

Home Depot, Centerville has been a Festival Partner for many years.  They are a great asset to our community.

Ellen Labotka is a park ranger on Antelope Island State Park.  She is a transplant from Illinois and has worked for Utah State Parks for over twenty years.  She received a BA in Forestry focusing on natural resource recreational management.   Her passion for the wilderness arose from visiting many national parks and meeting lots of awe inspiring rangers. 

Jerry Liguori is the author of three books and numerous articles on raptors and raptor identification. He is a photographer as well, and has published thousands of images in books and magazines. Jerry writes regular blog posts, online material, and leads field trips for HawkWatch International.

Sherry Liguori is Avian/Environmental Program Manager for Rocky Mountain Power/PacifiCorp, and is based out of Salt Lake City, UT.  She was the project manager and primary author of Suggested Practices for Avian Protection on Power Lines: The State of the Art in 2006, and was a contributing author and reviewer of Reducing Avian Collisions with Power Lines: The State of the Art in 2012.  She has 21 years of professional experience as an avian biologist, working for the New Jersey Endangered & Nongame Species Program, HawkWatch International, and PacifiCorp.  She has a B.S. in Natural Resource Management and Wildlife Biology and a M.S. in Ecology and Evolution, both from Rutgers University.


John Luft graduated from Kansas State University with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology.  He has worked for DWR since 1994 at Ogden Bay WMA and Farmington Bay WMA as assistant superintendent.  He is now the Project Coordinator for the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Project.

Wayne Martinson works as Utah Important Bird Areas Coordinator for National Audubon Society.  In 2008, Keith Evans and Wayne co-authored a book titled: Utah's Featured Birds and Viewing Sites: A Conservation Platform for IBA's and BHCAs.

Keeli Marvel discovered the wonderful world of birds while taking ornithology and world bird families courses at Brigham Young University.  She has a Master's degree in Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation and has been the Natural Resource Specialist at Dugway Proving Ground for the last two years. She love spending time outdoors and currently serves as the president of the Utah County Birders.

Samuel McKay is the Native Aquatic Biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Northern Region.  He will give a hands-on presentation on native amphibians and reptiles of Utah.  

Katie McVey is a Wildlife Refuge Specialist at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Brigham City, UT.  She originally hails from north-central Wisconsin and holds Masters of Raptor Biology from Boise State University, where she studied burrowing owls.  Katie is an avid naturalist and has passion for teaching about the out-of-doors.

Bonnie Messinger and her family began watching the Burrowing Owl colonies in the West Desert of Utah in the late 1980's.  Over the next decade they observed ongoing habitat destruction and the gradual decline of some established colonies.  Bonnie and her husband, Jim, began videotaping the 'Clowns of the Desert' in 1999.  They joined a group (Raptor Inventory Nest Survey-RINS) of raptor enthusiasts tracking raptor nesting activity on the West Desert in 2000.  Each spring and summer Bonnie observes and videotapes Burrowing Owl activity and creates educational video to give others the opportunity to watch the antics of these comical desert dwellers.

Andrea Nelson started carrying a bird guide on her runs down the Provo River Trail to Utah Lake after noticing birds she didn’t recognize. The spark was ignited, and she has incorporated bird ecology into her environmental education work at Red Butte Garden, the Natural History Museum of Utah and FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. She currently heads the volunteer, education and outreach programs for the Utah Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and serves on the education committee of Great Salt Lake Audubon.

Ann Neville is the former manager of Kennecott's Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve.  She is the North American representative for Birdlife International.

Dr. Russ Norvell has been working in the field with the birds of Utah for the past 16 years.  Currently, he works with Utah's Non-game Avian program designing and conducting research on Utah's riparian and shrubsteppe bird population trends, and is finishing his graduate studies (USU) on the shrubsteppe-obligate birds of Rich County.

Ogden Nature Center: Located in the heart of Ogden, you'll find a 152-acre nature preserve and education center open to the public year-round. Visitors enjoy 1.5 miles of walking trails, picnic areas, tree houses, bird blinds and an exhibit of live birds of prey.  Two of Utah's greenest buildings are on site to teach about sustainable structures. A unique gift shop is located in the Visitor Center. The Ogden Nature Center offers a wide variety of classes & workshops for all ages including art, photography, birding, wildlife in Utah, outdoor recreation, conservation, sustainability, summer camps and more.  

Dave Oleyar, HawkWatch International

Bryant Olsen has been a bird lover since he picked up an 'Audubon Society Guide to Birds of North America' when he was 19 and has been actively studying and seeking out the company of birds ever since- almost 20 years now.  Really more of a naturalist than a 'birder', he focuses on the way birds interact with their environment.  Besides birds, he also has an interest in no-feathered wildlife, botany, geology, astronomy, as well as gardening.  He works at the Salt Lake City Public Library.

Neil Paprocki, HawkWatch International

Don Paul is president of AvianWest Inc., a bird and habitat conservation business. He currently serves on the Shorebird Science Team for the Intermountain West Joint Venture. He is also President of the Linking Communities, Wetlands and Migratory Birds, Utah Committee. He also consults for a variety of organizations interested in conservation. He is a career wildlife biologist having served 34 years in several positions for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and four years as the Great Basin Bird Conservation Region Coordinator. Don is also a founding member of the GSL Bird Festival planning committee.

Terri Pope has worked as a biologist for the Division of Wildlife Resources since 2012.  She is currently the Sensitive Species Biologist in the Central Region.  Terri earned her Master's degree from Northern Arizona University and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.  Her research focused on how differences in habitat conditions affect avian behavior.

Jolene Rose is a biologist at Antelope Island State Park.

Vivian Schneggenburger began doing river trips many years ago and has been enthralled with the bird life along our Western river corridors.  As a nurse she has a flexible schedule and spends time birding while hiking, river running and skiing.

Bret Selman and his family are the owners of 4-Mile Ranch.  They have been caretakers of this unique land for generations and are avid birdwatchers.

Lee Shirley is a former Biology teacher and has served as President of Utah Audubon Council.  He is on the Northern Region Advisory Council of the DWR, past President of Wasatch Audubon Society, on the Board of the Ogden Nature Center and Friends of the Bear River Refuge.  Lee and Paula Shirley enjoy sharing their enthusiasm for birds and birding.

Arnold Smith has been interested in birds, especially their nesting behavior since he was eight years old.  He is a long time active member of Wasatch Audubon.

Dickson Smith

Weston Smith grew up watching birds with his father, Arnold.  As a lifetime resident of Morgan County he has spent countless hours bird watching in different areas of the county.  Weston also enjoys feeding birds and has counted approximately 124 species of birds in his yard over the past 6 years.  Weston is a new member of the Board of Directors for Wasatch Audubon Society.

Ella Sorensen is a well-known Utah birder and author and has worked and spoken avidly to protect bird habitats in the state.  Ella is manager of the National Audubon Society's Gillmor Sanctuary on the south shore of Great Salt Lake.

Kyle Stone graduated from Weber State University in 2006 with a bachelors in zoology. While there he discovered his love for birds while taking an ornithology class and began working for the Avian Ecology Lab. In 2009, after 4 years with AEL, he was hired by UDWR as a biologist on the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program.. 

Les Talbot is a retired Biology teacher, and has been an avid birder for the last 10 years. He is the fieldtrip chairman for the Wasatch Audubon, and sits on their Board of Directors. He currently volunteers at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge teaching Environmental Education classes, and leading bird tours.

Tracy Aviary: Tracy Aviary inspires curiosity and caring for birds and nature through education and conservation. As one of only two free standing aviaries in the nation and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Tracy Aviary has grown and evolved over our 78 year history to become a cultural landmark, public garden, and leader in environmental education and conservation. Tracy Aviary values excellence in aviculture, provides rich and engaging guest experiences both on-site and across the Salt Lake Valley, inspires and educates people to take steps towards conservation of birds and nature, and is recognized as a good community partner by the conservation community located at 589 East 1300 South Salt Lake City


Al Trout graduated from Colorado State University in 1971 with a degree in Wildlife Management.  For the next 35 years he was employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Refuge Manager in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and finally at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah.  His primary responsibility was the restoration, expansion and enhancement of the Refuge in the aftermath of flood damage inflicted by rising water of Great Salt Lake in 1983-87.  Now retired, Al is a member of the Friends of Bear River Refuge, Wasatch Audubon, and Friends of Great Salt Lake.

Jim Van Leeuwen assists John Luft with the Great Salt Lake boat tours.

Bob Walters is the DWR's Watchable Wildlife Program Coordinator. He initiated Bald Eagle Day in 1990 and has led/hosted myriad Watchable Wildlife Program Field Trips for years. He instigated and continues to maintain, nurture and sustain the famous Salt Lake City peregrine falcon family in downtown SLC.  With the cooperation of the LDS Church and SLC Peregrine Falcon Watchpost Team volunteers, Bob informs, educates and showcases the falcon family to passersby, spearheads the annual vigil to safeguard the first flights of the young-of-the-year birds and, since 2006, makes possible real-time, worldwide web coverage of the family via the SLC Peregrine Falcon Cam.

Nikki Wayment received a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife from Utah State University. Her non-profit experience comes from her tenure at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Ga, where she served as Curator of Science and Education.  She has been with HawkWatch International for 5 years and loves sharing her passion for raptors, the environment, and the important work that they do.

Merrill Webb is a retired high school science teacher and is currently a professor at Brigham Young University. He has compiled checklists for areas in Utah.  

Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah executive director is DaLyn Erickson.  She has over 13 years of experience training and working with every species of raptor as well as most non-raptor species native to Utah.  Throughout these years DaLyn has also provided wildlife education programs for groups of all ages.  

Wendy Wilson is the Assistant Park Manager at Antelope Island State Park.

Ben Woodruff has been training and handling raptors for 22 years.  He has had the opportunity to train and work with every species of diurnal and nocturnal raptor native to Utah as a practicing falconer, wildlife educator, and aiding in raptor rehabilitation.  Ben is the author of the book "Trapping Essentials", an illustrated guide for biologists, bird banders, and falconers.  Ben is the Director of the John Hutchings Museum in Lehi Utah and presents educational programs featuring live raptors.

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