Zoothera Team

One of the most important factors for the enjoyment of any birding tour is the performance of the tour leader. All of our leaders have been chosen not only for their bird-finding ability, but also for their professionalism and enthusiasm to share their knowledge and expertise. It is very important to all of us that everyone gets to see every form of wildlife available in each destination. Of course our primary focus is on birds, but we also have leaders with extensive knowledge of mammals, cetaceans and all other forms of wildlife.

 

Nick at Point Pelee 2016

 

NICK BRAY
Nick is the owner of Zoothera Birding and the main point of contact in the Zoothera office. He has been birding from a very young age, when his dad pointed out the different birds in his garden on the edge of Plymbridge woods in Devon. Since then he has birded all over the Western Palearctic before outgrowing his twitching instincts to explore further afield. Nick has been guiding birdwatching groups for the past 18 years on a full-time basis all over the world. Having led numerous tours in North America, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador & Galapagos, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Namibia & Botswana, New Zealand and over a dozen tours to the Gambia amongst other destinations. He now leads the majority of our Asia tours and has built up an enviable knowledge of that regions avifauna. He led the first British commercial birding tours to Eaglenest, Nagaland & Mishmi Hills and was the first Brit to see Naga & Mishmi Wren-babblers. He also has an interest in mammals, cetaceans and butterflies and is always willing to pass on his knowledge to fellow travellers. Nick will be leading tours to Thailand, Borneo, India - Gujarat, India - the South & Andamans, Tibet, Sichuan, Ghana, West Mexico, ArmeniaLesser Sundas, Sulawesi & Halmahera, TanzaniaEthiopiaNepal & Tiger Special in 2016 - 18.

Steve Bird
STEVE BIRD
Steve is also based in Devon and is one of the most experienced leaders in the UK. His enthusiasm and tireless leadership skills, combined with a pleasant easy-going attitude have made him a very popular leader, and it is this and his uncanny success in finding birds that has seen him gain an avid band of followers. As a wildlife artist Steve has illustrated several books and is a well-known figure in the South West birding scene. He has been birdwatching since he was a small child and having travelled throughout the world now enjoys passing on the wealth of information he has acquired. Steve combines his love of birds with that of Dragonflies, Butterflies, Moths, Cetaceans and Mammals. In 2016/17/18 he will be leading several tours for ZOOTHERA including Japan, Guatemala, Costa Rica, India and Sri Lanka.
 
 
Gina Nichol

GINA NICHOL
Gina Nichol is the founder and principal tour leader of Sunrise Birding. A naturalist and birder for more than twenty years, Gina began leading ecotours for Audubon Nature Odysseys in the early 1990's in Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, the Pacific Northwest and Baja California. Gina's avid interest in wildlife biology led her to the Yellowstone Institute in Wyoming where she studied animal behaviour as well as methods for tracking animal movements. She also worked on a research project investigating habitat requirements of Eurasian Otters and Mountain Lions in the Jim Sage Mountains in Idaho. Her varied interests and love of the natural world have taken her to Alaska, Costa Rica, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Kenya, Chile, the Northwest Territories, Panama, the American Southwest, California, Belize, Florida, and a host of other destinations. She has led tours in New England, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, Colombia, Antarctica, India, Montana and Yellowstone, Big Bend, and Coastal Texas and continues to expand Sunrise Birding's wildlife tour offerings. Gina will co-lead several tours for us in 2016/17.

nick-upton

NICK UPTON
Nick has spent almost his entire life pursuing an interest in birds since being shown a Dartford Warbler by his father when just 6 years old. Having travelled in the Pacific and Southeast Asia Nick settled in Thailand where he has built almost a decade of experience in leading bird tours and with an average of over 200 days in the field per year he has become adept in
not only finding birds but also in helping others to see and enjoy them. With a first class bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Countryside conservation Nick is also has the background to inform others about the ecology of the birds seen on tours as well as the conservation issues that many species face. Nick will be leading tours to Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Myanmar, SE China and Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan in 2017/18.
 
James Smith

JAMES P. SMITH
James grew up in Sheffield, South Yorkshire but now resides in Massachusetts in the eastern United States with his wife and son. He brings over twenty years of tour leading experience to the Zoothera team, a career which began in Israel at the Kibbutz Lotan Center for Birdwatching. Since then he’s become an established tour leader in North America having worked with Birdfinders, Speyside Wildlife and Wildwings and leads trips to most of the top birding destinations in the USA. In addition, his tour experience extends to southern Europe, India, and Africa (west and east). He has a keen eye for rarities and has served on the Israel Rarities and Distribution Committee and the Massachusetts Rare Birds Committee. James is also an accomplished illustrator and finished runner-up in the ‘British Birds’ Bird Illustrator of the Year in 1992, and then went on to illustrate several books as well as a set of National stamps for Israel. He’s never happier than when in the field whether it be on his local patch in Western Massachusetts, or guiding groups further afield and often posts updates on his personal blog: http://pioneerbirding.blogspot.com/

James will be leading our new tours to Texas where he has led 20 spring & winter tours, Arizona where he has led 15 tours, California, Trinidad & Tobago, Israel and other exciting future destinations.

Xavier-photo
XAVIER MUNOZ-CONTRERAS
Conservationist by heart, Tour guide by profession and an ever growing birder, Xavier is Neblina Forest founder, owner and guide. He has been working as Board Member and has been mentor for both AVES & CONSERVACION (previously known as CECIA) and the Jocotoco Foundation. Guiding Ecuador since 1997, Xavier and his team are regarded as the finest guides in Ecuador, where they will now lead for Zoothera. With considerable knowledge of other destinations such as Peru, Bolivia, Guyana and Brazil their repuation for birding in Ecuador is second to none. Neblina unlike many local guides and companies are totally commited to conservation and Xaviers vision has seen Neblina work on reforestation and restoration work with local communities with an ongoing development of ecotourism! Xavier is one of the trustees of the new Fundacion Sembrando Esperanza Foundation, and we praise his work and are delighted to have him and Neblina as part of our team. 

 

 
Alejandro
ALEJANDRO SOLANO
Alejandro is Costa Rican, a 32 years old now residing in Ecuador, he is a highly trained guide and biology graduate from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica and the most recent acquisition to Neblinas staff. Alejandro has worked as resident naturalist guide at Monteverde Cloud Forest, as a volunteer in Costa Rica's national parks, on the MAPS project at the Institute of Bird Populations in California and at the Redwoods Science Lab, Trinity River Restoration Program at Humboldt University, surveying and mapping nests as well as banding birds. In Ecuador he has conducted bird inventories and surveys, field projects in coastal and southern Ecuador, and conservation work on the endangered Black-breasted Puffleg. Alejandro has also birded Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia and southern Brazil. He now lives in Ecuador with his wife Agustina. Zoothera are delighted to have Alejandro as one of their guides in Ecuador. His expertise and knowledge of bird calls sets him high in the competitive world of bird guides. We are sure you will be very impressed with his bird finding abilities and a welcome addition to our high quality team of guides. 
 
 
Charles-Rhyn

CHARLES RHYN
Charles is the latest addition to our team, a native to Namibia and is the foremost bird guide in the country. He has been leading birding and wildlife/safari tours for 15 years throughout his beloved country and has been instrumental in making our 2 tours to Namibia this year so successful. His excellent bird & mammal finding skills, general knowledge and good sense of humour make him a superb ZOOTHERA guide. He will be leading our combined Namibia, Botswana & Zambia tours in 2016 and 2017.

 

 

 Will Wagstaff in South Georgia

WILL WAGSTAFF
Born in South Wales Will moved to the Isles of Scilly for a three month stay over 30 years ago! Will is a familiar sight to many visitors to Scilly with his regular programme of walks and talks during the summer months which has enabled him to find some of the rarities that Scilly is famous for.Will has been leading his wildlife tours on Scilly since the mid 1980's and has been leading wildlife holidays to various parts of the world since 1989 which has included over twenty trips to the Falkland Islands as well as several countries in North and South America, Africa, the Arctic and Antarctica. Will has a keen interest in animals as well as pretty much anything else that moves and has been birdwatching since the age of five. Will is Honorary President of the Isles of Scilly Bird Group and has just taken over as Recorder for Scilly and has regularly been seen and heard talking about the wildlife of Scilly on TV and radio. We are delighted to welcome Will to our team. 

 

 Upali Ekanayake
UPALI EKANAYAKE
Upali is the senior most Ornithological Tour Leader in Sri Lanka and a highly accomplished all-round naturalist. He has been leading bird tours for more than 30 years and is well known in the birding world. He was previously attached to the Zoology department of the University of Peradeniya, has undergone training in the U.K. in Terrestrial Ecology and Conservation with attachments to Aberdeen and Cambridge Universities, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, and is one of the local representatives of the Oriental Bird Club (O.B.C.). He is also a Life Member of the Ceylon Bird Club where he has served in the Executive Committee and the Rarities Committee for a number of years. Upali is also a popular lecturer on birds and he took lectures at the Tourism Training Centre of the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management from 2004 to 2006. He worked for the IUCN, The World Conservation Union in Sri Lanka for two years from 1994 as a National Consultant (Fauna) surveying the faunal diversity of all Sri Lankan forests which are more than 200 hectares in extent. Upali leads a number of major bird-watching tour groups visiting Sri Lanka annually from Britain, Europe and America. He also works as a Freelance Eco-tourism Consultant in the local tourist hotel industry. 
 
 Suchit Basnet
SUCHIT BASNET 
Suchit was born in the eastern Terai of Nepal and as a science student had a keen interest in all wildlife. After finishing his studies from St. Joseph’s College (Darjeeling) he worked in a high school in Kathmandu, however, he changed his plans and his wildlife career took off when he started working as a full time naturalist in the Royal Chitwan National Park. Suchit worked at Chitwan for five years and during that time he accumulated an invaluable knowledge of its flora and fauna. He started work as a full time wildlife leader in 1994. Since then his great enthusiasm, cheerful and friendly disposition, together with exceptional knowledge have contributed to many visitors having a successful stay in Nepal. Now ranked as one of the country's leading naturalists and ornithologists, Suchit leads many wildlife tours in Nepal and India and has made 6 trips to Tibet. Suchit has found a number of new species for Nepal; Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythaca, Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni, Purple-backed Starling Sturnus sturninus, Rufous-vented Prinia Prinia burnesii nepalicola (an endemic and new sub-species to science), and Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis are some worth mentioning.

Tika Ram Giri 

 

 

 
TIKA RAM GIRI
Tika was born at Sauraha on the edge of the Royal Chitwan National Park. His knowledge of the birds and mammals of Nepal is vast and has been gathered over many years and by much hard work. In his ten years at Chitwan National Park he established his expertise, ultimately becoming the senior naturalist. He is a great companion and no ornithologist knows Chitwan better than Tika and no one else has seen as many species there. He has travelled and trekked widely all over the Indian Subcontinent leading many birding and wildlife groups. As one of the very best Nepalese naturalists the insight he is able to give into his country's culture and traditions is excellent and informative and makes any trip to the Himalayas a truly enlightening experience. Tika has conducted a number of birdwatching identification activities in Chitwan and at Koshi. He has recently found the Small Snowfinch in Ladakh as a new species for the Subcontinent and Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis as a new species for Nepal. Tika has led nearly 200 bird tours which is the highest total of tours led by any bird guide in Nepal.

 Viv185
VIV STRATTON
Viv is a very well known and liked character and has played an important part in Cornwall’s birdwatching history. Since 1956 he has studied sea-birds at St Ives Island, with particular interest in identification of petrels, skuas, shearwaters, divers and gulls. In the late 50’s he and several other birders discovered Porthgwarra, Cot Valley and Nanquidno Valley. These areas are now recognised as being of major importance to American and Asian migrants. He has also chartered the Scillonian 3 since 1986 for pelagic trips into the western approaches, looking for rare seabirds. He has travelled and led many tours to South Africa, China, Israel, and throughout Europe with a particular affinity for Poland, where studies he started in 1990 are still on-going.  To cap it off he has been a regular visitor to Scilly for 51 years. His enthusiasm, knowledge and friendly personality make him a perfect ZOOTHERA leader.
 
 
 
 
Peter Lobo
PETER LOBO
Peter is a long time friend and colleague of ZOOTHERA BIRDING and is the proprietor and CEO of Adventure Gurudongma. In the last ten years he has organized and guided tours for international birding groups to the remotest parts of India and Bhutan. He has an extensive knowledge and experience of guiding in all parts of India and Bhutan and is always keen to show his clients the most special, rarest and skulking species.  He has been guiding high altitude treks, wildlife safaris, tribal tours and a lot of other “off the beaten track” adventures to all parts of India and gained a very impressive reputation, as well as an amazing network of contacts across the subcontinent. During treks through various habitats, he developed an interest in birding, which became a passion. The ability to spot and identify birds, expert knowledge about “hot spots” and habitat, and rapport with local people and guides are his greatest assets especially in north-east India. He recently discovered the first record of Hodgson’s Frogmouth as a new species to Bhutan, amongst an impressive array of other fascinating ornithological discoveries in his beloved country. He is trained in wilderness first aid by the Wilderness Medicine Institute of the USA. At present after his Master’s in Ecology and Environment and MPhil in Ecotourism he is pursuing his PhD in Bird watching and Ecotourism. 
Adam-Vicki-landscape
 
VICKI and ADAM SCOTT KENNEDY
Since 2008, Adam Scott Kennedy and his wife Vicki have managed several remote luxury safari camps in Tanzania and Kenya and now operate as private safari guides, specializing in photographic and wildlife safaris. Adam has birded around the world, has a life list in excess of 3400 species, but now specialises in photographing the birds of East Africa. He is the author of Birds of the Masai Mara, a new photographic guide published by Princeton University Press and, together with Vicki, the Animals of the Masai Mara, also in the same series. Their website includes a fabulous stock image library and can be found at www.rawnaturephoto.com  
Adam has guided many succesful tours independently and also with both Nick and Steve. His sharp eyes and friendly easy going manner has seen all of his trips a delight for all participants. Adam and Vickis new venture in Kenya is sure to be a huge success and we fully back them in all they do!
 
Kim Risen 






















KIM RISEN
Kim started birding along the Mississippi River flyway more than 40 years ago at the age of ten. Experiences with his camera and binoculars along the ‘Big River’ and in the woodlands and prairies of the Midwest cemented birds, photography and natural history as major focuses of his life. He began leading birding trips around the Midwest while still in high school. As his experiences grew, so did his tour-leading schedule. As a result, for the last 31 years Kim has led birding tours throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and Southern Africa. For the past 25 years, he has specialized in Latin America, where he has studied bird vocalizations, status and distribution and field identification.

In 2004, he broke the record for most species recorded in one year for Mexico by 60 when he ended his Mexican ‘Big Year’ with a total of 876 species. Mexico remains his most visited international destination (having led more than 180 trips throughout the country) and a frequent subject of his photography. He lists Oaxaca as his favorite birding state in Mexico and he’ll lead his 36th Oaxaca tour in October 2015.

His tour leading travels have taken him to five continents, all the states of Mexico and into more bogs than most people have ever seen. He counts the woodlands and plains of Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba, the awesome diversity of Mexico, Alaska’s stark beauty (plus ever-present vagrant fever!), South Africa’s unsurpassed combination of birds/flowers/mammals and the peerless Andes Mountains among his favorite locations. Being a tour leader allows him the ultimate birding high—seeing old, familiar birds for the first time over and over again through the eyes and ears of others—something in which he takes great pleasure. Even after 40 years, Kim still looks at birds every day—often with his camera in tow—with the same excitement he felt on his first birding trips. Kim will be leading our West Mexico adventure in 2017.