Keynote and Spotlight Speaker Bios

February 2, 2022 – Jeffrey Gordon, President, American Birding Association

Bio: Jeffrey Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association, a position he has held since late 2010. Jeff is also a well-known writer, photographer, tour leader, and naturalist. He is a frequent speaker and field trip leader at various birding and nature festivals. For more information on the ABA and on Jeffrey, visit www.aba.or

Talk Title: Birding IS a Purpose

Talk Description: If there was any doubt before, the global pandemic made it absolutely clear: birding’s time has come. Will we as a community rise to the occasion or will we fumble the ball? Join American Birding Association President Jeffrey Gordon for an opinionated, impassioned, amusing, and perhaps controversial look at the virtues and pitfalls of birding. We’ll survey and celebrate the delightful if occasionally twisting path we’ve traveled together and the thrilling and at times daunting challenges ahead.  Whatever your level of experience, if you like birding, this talk is for you!



February 3, 2022 – Carlos A. Bethancourt, Marketing Manager/Tour Operator – Canopy Tower, Panama


Bio: Carlos was born in Panama City in 1978 and raised in the small rural village of Huile, next to the Canal Zone. It was here where he learned many lessons of nature from his mother and grandmother, both of whom were deeply connected to nature and involved with conservation.

After high school Carlos was awarded a scholarship to Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon, where he studied natural resources and received his first formal training in ornithology. Carlos began his career at the Canopy Tower in October of 2000 and has since attended numerous birding conferences and conventions in the US and Great Britain, where he led tours, workshops and presented programs on Panama’s birds. Carlos is a very popular and a much-requested guide, a testament not only to his birding ability, but also to his sincere friendly demeanor. When not guiding, Carlos is busy at the office working on marketing and other projects for the Canopy Tower & Canopy Lodge.


Presentation Title:  Panama: A Birding & Nature Paradise


Talk Description: Panama, though scarcely the size of South Carolina, but perfectly positioned as a narrow land bridge between North and South America, is blessed with an incredible natural beauty and biodiversity second to none.  Over 1010 bird species, hundreds of mammals, reptiles & amphibians, and a staggering 10,000 plant species have been recorded here. Join knowledgeable and entertaining Canopy Family senior guide Carlos Bethancourt on a photographic journey of the tropical birds, bizarre mammals, unusual reptiles & amphibians and spectacular habitats from the former Canal Zone of Panama, to the foothills of western Panama and into the wilds of the Darién lowlands in eastern Panama.  From toucans to hummingbirds, Panamanian Night monkeys, Kinkajou, Carlos will keep you spellbound with his stories of discovery and vivid images.  Come experience why Panama is indeed a birding and nature paradise!



February 4, 2022 – Christina Baal, Artist/Naturalist/Storyteller, Drawing 10,000 Birds


Bio: Christina Baal is a bird artist, naturalist, and storyteller whose life dream is to meet and paint 10,000 different species of birds over her lifetime. She has loved drawing wildlife ever since she could hold a crayon, and discovered at a young age that she could communicate her affection for the natural world most effectively through visual storytelling. After discovering the world of birding, Christina realized that birds provided the impetus for incredible adventures finding birds, seeing new places, and meeting amazing people. She hopes that her art, stories, and work as an environmental educator will inspire people to follow their dreams and explore their own relationships with the natural world.


Presentation Title: What Birds Teach Us


Talk Description: Since graduating from college in 2014, Christina has wandered around the country and the world pursuing her dream of finding and painting every bird in the world. Armed with stubbornness, Google Maps, and incredible luck, Christina has defied the trope of “starving artist” and managed to chase down hundreds of birds while living on a shoestring. Join Christina as she recounts such stories as the hilarity of her first foray into bird festivals, the rush of falling in love in a mosquito-laden swamp, and the awe of seeing California Condors along Pacific Highway 1. Her stories will explore the magic that is birding as well as the universal language of birds that connects the birding community and reveals the extraordinary beauty of ordinary things.



February 5, 2022 (Late Afternoon) – Kevin Karlson & Pete Dunne, Authors, Bird Families of North America (Pete Dunne’s participation is via video)


Kevin’s Bio: Kevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, author, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer/instructor. He is a regular at Bird and Nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations, workshops on bird identification, and photo instruction. Kevin’s books include The Shorebird Guide (2007); Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Bird Identification (2015); Birds of Prey (2017) (all three Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers); and Gulls Simplified: A Comparative Identification Approach (Princeton University Press, 2018). A new book “Bird Families of North America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 2021) with Pete Dunne will be out in August 2021. Photography books include The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography (Schiffer Publishing). Kevin also produced six photographic laminated foldout ID guides for Quick Reference Publishing. While officially retired, Kevin continues to lead select tours and photo workshops for his company Jaeger Tours, and for Wildside Nature Tours of Pennsylvania.


Talk Title:  Bird Families of North America


Talk Description: This program is based on a new book by Pete Dunne and Kevin Karlson titled Bird Families of North America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 2021). It is an audio-visual celebration of the wonderful bird life of North America, with select bird families and species highlighted in a light-hearted manner that strives to portray the special appeal of some of our favorite birds. In Pete’s words: “This book is a tribute to the birds that have enriched our lives since childhood, and to all who pursue them for fun and enjoyment”, and that is what we hope to accomplish in this show. Come and join the celebration as we show still photos and videos of some of your favorite birds, and share some interesting personal stories and natural history tidbits about them.



February 5, 2022 (25th Anniversary Celebration Saturday Night) – Herbert Byaruhanga, Director of Bird Uganda Safaris


Bio: Herbert Byaruhanga is Managing Director of Bird Uganda Safaris, LTD and one of Uganda’s most distinguished tour guides. His company offers a variety of birding and wildlife tours of the most naturally resplendent regions of Uganda and Rwanda. Herbert is affectionately known as “Papa,” or father of tourism, in Uganda. He has dedicated himself to building the professional tourism capacity of his home country and is the leading trainer for tourist guides in Uganda and Rwanda. He is an Accredited Bird Guide Trainer by Bird Life International. He is the Founder of: Uganda Safari Guides Association, Uganda Bird Guides Club, Uganda Cultural Guides Club, and leads the organizing committee of the East African Tourist Guides Associations. He is actively involved in developing Uganda’s youth through its Young Birder Association, he is also the Chairman of Tourism and Hospitality Sector Skills Council. Herbert holds a B. A. in Tourism Management from Makerere University, Kampala. He holds a high diploma in Tourism and certificates in Tour Guiding and Advanced Motoring. He travels broadly as a guest speaker on the topics of Birding in Uganda, Avitourism Development in Uganda, Conservation & Birding in Uganda, and Bird Guide Training. He is often spotted at global travel shows such as the UK BirdFair, World Travel Market, Space Coast Bird & Wildlife Festival, Rio Grande Valley Birding & Nature Festival, UP Bird Festival India. Herbert can be contacted at [email protected].


Talk Title: Shoebills, Gorillas, Mountains and Forests!


Talk Description: Uganda is a landlocked country in east-central Africa with high volcanic mountains and rain forests. In the papyrus swamps around Lake Victoria and other lakes, the rare and elusive Shoebill can be found, as well as many other specialty birds including the crested crane. Uganda has a very active community of local birding guides that include women bird guides, and the tourism board actively encourages birding tourism.  Uganda is probably the best country to visit if you are interested in primates, with chimpanzees found in different forests, and mountain gorillas which are primarily found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Tree climbing lions, monkeys, leopards, impalas and so many others can be found in Uganda’s ten national parks.