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) 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, with Kevin Karlson and Pete Dunne

Also available as a classroom presentation. Time: about 50 minutes to 1 hour.

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). After a short video introduction by Pete, Kevin will review the history of biological nomenclature as pioneered by Carl Linneaus in the 1740s, and which is still relevant today. Recent interesting changes to bird family designations are then covered, followed by photos, videos and personal stories of bird species that enrich our lives in North America. This is an interactive program, so think about your favorite birds and bird families that you might contribute to the discussion when prompted. While the program starts out with a scientific slant, the remainder is a true celebration of our very special North American birds.



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:

Join Bird Uganda Safaris Director Herbert Byaruhanga for a firsthand experience about birding and wildlife viewing in Uganda! Bird Uganda Safaris is located in the East African Region in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The company specializes in birdwatching and primate watching tours. Herbert is bringing special guests, including noted naturalist Mark Garland, who will share their personal experiences in Uganda.


The evening begins with a cash bar social at 6:30PM followed by a Ugandan dinner buffet. The menu includes Market Salad with choice of dressings, Chicken Luwombo, Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa, Matooke (the national dish of Uganda made of green bananas and beans), Ugandan Curried Potatoes, Island Pumpkin and Squash, Tropical Fruit Salad with Orange Yogurt, tea and coffee.


The presentation portion of the evening begins at 7:45PM with assorted mini pastries as guests are treated to the extraordinary birding and wildlife viewing that Uganda offers. Uganda is regarded as the primate capital of the world with over twenty species. 50% are mountain gorillas with twenty-two groups habituated for tourist viewing. Uganda also has over 1085 bird species. This total accounts for 50% of Africa’s total bird species, or 10% of global bird species.


With support from the Mastercard Foundation, Bird Uganda Safaris is focused on producing jobs for the youth and women of Uganda through several unique initiatives. The goal is to surpass three thousand jobs by 2024. As part of the initiatives, under Herbert’s guidance, the Uganda Women Birders Club is celebrating over six years as a program to increase the number of Ugandan women in the field of nature guiding and the International Conference for Women Birders (IC4WB) is in the planning stages for December 2023. Be sure to stop by and visit their exhibit booth during the Expo show hours.


The evening will end with entertainment to celebrate Uganda (more specific details to follow) and the 25th silver anniversary of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. The event is limited to 150 guests, and we do anticipate selling out. So please register early. Cost is $50.00 per person.