Spotlight Speakers

The Schedule

January 23
4:00pm-5:00pm: Kevin Loughlin, GALAPAGOS: What You Must Know Before You Go! Auditorium, $10
January 24
2:45pm-3:45pm: Jason Guarard, Warblers and Birding Northwest Ohio Auditorium, $10
4:00pm-5:00pm: Aidan Place, An International Big Day for Conservation: The Story of the ABA-Leica Subadult Wheatears Auditorium, $10
January 25
1:00pm-2:00pm: Steve Shunk, Humming Across the Americas Auditorium, $10
4:00pm-5:00pm: George Armistead, Crying Wolf: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Audiolures Auditorium, $10

Meet the Speakers

Kevin Loughlin


GALAPAGOS: What You Must Know Before You Go!

Kevin Loughlin has led 39 tours to the Galapagos, and has taken hundreds of thousands of photos while there! There won’t be time to show you all of them, so he will choose the images that he hopes will truly convey how incredibly special this destination is and why you need to visit!

From the iconic Blue-footed Booby and its comical dance, to the famous (infamous?) Darwin’s Finches that helped turn the beliefs of the world upside down, the Galapagos offer more to than immediately meets the naturalist’s eye.

As you enjoy Kevin’s photos, he will discuss what you really need to know before you visit this wondrous destination. When to go, what to pack and so much more will be shared!

Kevin Loughlin was raised to appreciate nature while exploring the woodlands of Pennsylvania as a child. At age six, during a family trip through the American West, Kevin became fascinated with photography as well seeing the new and different birds throughout North America. Instilled with a love for travel and seeking new, exciting destinations he felt a desire to share his experiences with others and in 1993 he created Wildside.

Kevin’s photographs and articles have appeared in publications such as WildBird, Nature Photographer, Audubon, Birding and Philadelphia Magazines, as well as the many natural history books, including the new Peterson’s Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean by Scott Weidensaul and the Kevin’s current project, co-authoring with John Kricher Galapagos: A Natural History.

Jason Guerard


Warblers and Birding Northwest Ohio

Northwest Ohio has become world renowned for its spring migration of Neo-tropical birds. At the top of the list for most birders are the warblers. Those feathered jewels of the forest whose beauty in plumage and song can make your heart skip a beat. Join Jason to explore what makes the Lake Erie marsh ecosystems so special for witnessing bird migration. Learn about the warblers that make passage through Magee Marsh every May– where do they nest and where do they spend our winter months? Find out how these birds are helping a community to discover that conserving habitat can lead to a major economic boost for the region.

Jason Guerard is the Outreach Director at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and event coordinator for The Biggest Week In American Birding . He is a native Floridian who grew up exploring the woods and family farm in the Tampa area. He earned a degree from Northland College in Ashland, WI, majoring in Outdoor Education/Natural History. Jason spent a number of summers working at the Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island, where he was instrumental in delivering ornithological programs along Maine’s mid-coast to teens, families, and adults. While working with the University of Maryland, he studied Grasshopper Sparrows on a restored grassland on Maryland’s  Eastern Shore. Jason has spent more hours than he can count scanning the skies atop hawkwatch platforms such as Braddock Bay in Hilton, NY and Cape May, NJ and is a US Army Corps of Engineers certified bird monitor. He returned to Cape May years later to live and bird year round while working for the Cape May Bird Observatory as the Sale Manager of the Northwood Center nature store. He has led a World Series of Birding team to victory (more than once). Jason has extensive experience guiding and educating other about birds and was a guide for the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival from 2010 to 2016 (and very happy to be returning for the 2020 festival!). He is an eBird reviewer in northwest Ohio and enjoys photographing nature, and loves to share his passion for birds with the community he surrounds himself with. Most of all, he enjoys spending time outside with his family.

George Armistead


Crying Wolf: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Audiolures

Using recordings of bird sounds to attract birds (a.k.a. “playback”) is a hot-button issue. Today many birding apps that are widely available come stocked with loads of bird sounds that can be deployed by anyone, regardless of experience. In fact few people are trained to understand the risks to the birds they seek, or the methods for responsible playback. Join us to examine how birds and birders react when someone introduces artificial bird sounds into the environment.

George Armistead, a birder since the age of 9 years old, has a long history in connecting people with nature through ecotourism and expedition travel. Currently he is chief network officer at Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures, which operates  birding tours, photographic tours, and wildlife safaris to over 100 countries. A professional wildlife guide with 20 years of experience, George has led trips to all continents, and has authored two books on birds including 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.). Based in Philadelphia, he received a masters degree in environmental studies at the University of Pennsylvania, is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and spends much of his free time outdoors, studying birds and nature around Philly and beyond.

Steve Shunk


Humming Across the Americas

More than 375 hummingbird species live in the western hemisphere, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, with the hummingbird family diversity (Trochilidae) surpassed only by the flycatchers (Tyrannidae), worldwide. The center of hummingbird diversity lies in South America’s Andes Mountains, where up to 25 hummingbird species can be observed at single feeding stations. Though North America lacks this diversity, it balances species numbers with abundance. Birders from coast to coast describe swarms of hummingbirds at local feeding stations, including Florida’s Ruby-throated, one of the most migratory of all hummingbird species.

Join Oregon naturalist Steve Shunk, for this hummingbird extravaganza. Steve will share some outstanding stories, from the migration of the Rufous and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to the tiny ranges of Peru’s endemic White-tufted Sunbeam and Marvelous Spatuletail. He will share the specialization of species like the Sword-billed Hummingbird and the feeding habits of tundra hummingbirds in the Andes. He will discuss the natural history and distribution of North America’s hummingbirds, with enough tropical eye candy to make you dust off your passport!

Steve Shunk started birding in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, and he moved to central Oregon’s ‘Woodpecker Wonderland’ in 1997, where 11 woodpecker species can be found breeding in an area the size of Orlando. This phenomenon led to a 20-year obsession studying this charismatic family of birds, and he founded the region’s woodpecker festival in 2008. Steve’s work as a field biologist has taken him from the Coast Range of Oregon to California’s Sierra Nevada. Most recently, he spent three seasons as a field biologist for the Institute for Bird Populations studying Black-backed Woodpeckers of California’s Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. Steve has served on four non-profit boards of directors, co-founding the East Cascades Bird Conservancy (now East Cascades Audubon), and working as its first president. He has also managed two non-profits as executive director. Steve also co-founded the Oregon Birding Trails Program and coordinated its flagship project, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail. He founded his tour company, Paradise Birding, in 1997, and he currently leads natural history tours to 12 countries on four continents, including a spring tour to southern Florida and the Dry Tortugas. When he is not traveling for tours and bird festivals, Steve can be found writing, skiing, hiking, and watching woodpeckers at home in lovely Bend, Oregon. Steve’s woodpecker fanaticism eventually led to the 2016 release of his Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America—which he will gladly sign for you at the festival.

Aidan Place


An International Big Day for Conservation: The Story of the ABA-Leica Subadult Wheatears

Every March, teams of birders descend on the Negev Desert of southern Israel to participate in the Champions of the Flyway bird race—a big day competition to raise funds to combat conservation issues in the Old World. In 2018, a youth team from North America attended the race for the very first time. Dubbed the ABA-Leica Subadult Wheatears, they have competed for the past two years, raising over $10,000 for conservation, and setting an example for young birders across the US and Canada. With the 2020 race just over the horizon, the team are again competing and raising funds, this time for Steppe Eagle conservation in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Team captain Aidan Place will talk about his experiences birding in Israel, the past two fundraising campaigns, this year’s cause, and just what it is that makes this event so special.

Aidan Place (21) is a sophomore biology student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. His love of birds started at a young age on the Pennsylvania farm where he was born. Since then, his passion for birding has taken him everywhere from the steaming jungles of Panama to the barren steppes of Kazakhstan. In addition to birds, Aidan has a great love of travel as well as history, particularly that of the Balkan Peninsula and former Ottoman Empire.