Expert Guides & Staff

We are compulsive birders from around the world

Iain Campbell
Iain ended his career as a geochemist in West Africa when it dawned on him that his life list was more valuable than gold. He packed up his G-pick, said goodbye to fufu, and headed to South America, which better suits his style. He is very involved in bird conservation, having created Tandayapa Bird Lodge and Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, and he now spends a significant amount of his time on donor cultivation for conservation groups. He used to be a fanatical lister, but now prefers to target the world’s specialties, and uses his enthusiasm to bring others into the hobby. He is also one of the founders of Tropical Birding.
Keith Barnes
Keith reailzed that he was no longer a scientist when a significant difference in the tail lengths of larks didn’t really make a significant difference in his life! Turning his back on the Ivory Towers, Keith helped found Tropical Birding and now heads the Africa and Asia operations. Having traveled far and wide in Africa in search of larks, turacos, bee-eaters and other beasties, he has turned his interests towards Asia and its wren-babblers and pittas. Before Keith was able to actually see most of the birds he wanted to, he had to sit in an office and write about them, producing The Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa and The Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland in the process.
Christian Boix
Christian followed the swallows, and headed south from Spain in 1990 after developing a lust for African ornithology. He has an unhealthy interest in the reproductive biology of birds, especially those with bizarre mating and breeding systems, such as birds-of-paradise and hornbills. Christian’s effect on clients is so profound we refer to them as either BC or AC. Nobody believes he is a Spaniard as he speaks English like a South African. A partner of Tropical Birding, Christian spends most of his time leading tours in Africa and Asia, where his infectious enthusiasm has ensured a faithful following.
Nick Athanas
Nick’s obsession with bird sounds is legendary. In fact, it is rumored he can live off the songs of antbirds without any other sustenance. Nick gave up a lucrative career in geophysics to go watch birds in South America a decade ago and has never looked back. He is one of the founders of Tropical Birding, and when not leading tours, can often be found in odd corners of the world adding to his collection of photos and sound recordings. American by birth, Nick now lives in Quito, Ecuador.
Ken Behrens
Ken discovered flickers in the Pennsylvania woods when his family relocated there, and he has been chasing birds ever since. He has progressed from US road trips through to adventurous treks through the highlands of the Albertine Rift and Bolivian Amazon. Ken spent the better part of two years counting birds in Cape May, where he developed a particular interest in seawatching, which he considers the more challenging cousin to hawk-watching! Now based in Cape Town, he enjoys the spectacular seabirding when not leading tours. Ken is a keen photographer and writer, and recently co-authored Birding Ethiopia, a site guide to that country, and is also working on a field guide to eastern North American waterbirds in flight.
Jen Brumfeld
Jen hails from Akron, Ohio, where she presently gets great kicks working for Cleveland Metroparks as a scientific illustrator and naturalist. Heavily involved in young birder education, she is the editorial advisor for the ABA’s youth birder newsletter, A Bird’s-Eye View. Jen’s natural history illustrations have appeared in throngs of journals, newsletters, books, and even on greeting cards. Birding is innate for this gal, who ventures to say she’s gone way beyond the “interest.” It’s simply a way of life.
Bradley Davis
Brad grew up chasing vagrants in southern Ontario, where a lost Variegated Flycatcher in Toronto in 1993 piqued his interest in tropical birds. When no more appeared on the shores of Lake Ontario over the next few years, he decided he would have to go to them instead. After a number of birding trips and field work throughout the Americas, Brad has now settled in southern Brazil – a perfect base for chasing after the piculets, antbirds and spinetails over which he obsesses. When not guiding, he keeps busy recording bird songs, devouring old and new ornithological literature, and exploring new areas of the country – particularly the vast Amazon basin where his interests in distribution and vocalizations are equally indulged. Brad guides for TB in Brazil and Ecuador.
Josh Engel
Josh grew up near Chicago, where he soon learned the joys of birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. He was soon crisscrossing the US with other young birders before getting hooked on the Neotropics. Josh has been spending a lot of time in Africa lately, fueling a fast-growing obsession with Madagascar’s ground-rollers and asities, the red dunes of Namibia, and the many endemics of South Africa, where he now lives. Past trips to Indochina have left him longing to return to southeast Asia as well.
Charley Hesse
Charley’s devotion to birds began when he could first lift binoculars to his face. Before graduation at university he eloped with his life list to India and Mexico. He studied mixed flocks in Cameroon and compiled inventories of rainforest birds in Malaysia before heading to Japan for work in international public relations. Today, Charley works as a bird guide in four continents, having birded much of South America and over 50 countries worldwide. British by birth he is now also fluent in Spanish and Japanese.
José Illanes
Originally from the Amazonian village of Sani Isla, José is rapidly getting hooked on world birding. After tallying over 2,000 birds in 2005, José has not looked back; now guiding for us in Venezuela, Peru, and his home Ecuador (in between trips to southeast Asia, Africa and Europe). His first visit to the US came in 2006 when he brought the house down with his speech on Ecuadorian birding at the ABA convention in Maine. When not guiding, he can often be found poring over foreign bird books. He recently became a father for the first time.
Scott Olmstead
Less than a month after finishing college with a degree in Latin American Studies, Scott headed straight for Costa Rica, where he began learning the birds of Central America. When his money ran out, he returned home for a few seasons of fieldwork across the US, banding songbirds, counting migrating raptors, and studying eagle nests. In 2006, when he could stay away no longer, Scott came back to the Neotropics as a tour leader. He guides TB trips in Brazil and Ecuador, where he enjoys chasing elusive antpittas through the thick understory. Originally from Connecticut, Scott is now based in Arizona.
Michael Retter
Michael spent all of his college vacations birding in Mexico and became so hooked that all he could think about was quesadillas and leading bird tours after he graduated. He can be found guiding anywhere from Canada down to Ecuador, but a recent trip to Micronesia whetted his appetite for birding beyond the Americas. When at home in the Midwest, Michael puts his intense interests in taxonomy and distribution to use both as “Sightings” Department Editor and Technical Reviewer for ABA’s Birding magazine.
Benji Schwartz
Benji Schwartz began birding at a tender young age, but soon realized that in order to expand his world list he would have to leave the confines of Minnesota. His quest to see new species has since led him to every continent but Antarctica. Two years ago Benji decided he wanted to lead tours fulltime and began with an intensive six month course to lead safaris in Africa. However, he found that it was too difficult to convince non-birders to look at the cisticolas on the left while a lion was attacking an impala on his right. After a brief hiatus of guiding in Ecuador and Alaska, he has now returned to Africa with Tropical Birding so that he can focus on the birds while still seeing all the other amazing wildlife.
Andrés Vásquez
Since graduating with a degree in Ecology in 2003, Andrés has hardly had time to get back to his native Quito as he has been twitching new birds in every corner of megadiverse Ecuador. He spent a year among colorful tanagers and quetzals of the Chocó cloud forest before heading to the steaming Amazon in search of eagles and antbirds. In his free time he explores popular birding areas and less-frequented destinations to boost his bird list. When not in the field, he can be found at his computer working on book publishing; he has already released several wildlife guidebooks for Ecuador.
Sam Woods
Sam obsession for birds began with a pair of tits in the Royal London park at age 11. Working for TB fits in perfectly with his plan of building up a massive world list, and now he guides on five continents. Now well known around the world for his affable English gentlemanly demeanor and his skilled guiding, his prodigious output of trip reports has almost surpassed those qualities. Sam supposedly resides in Ecuador, but his schedule hardly allows any time there.
Office Staff
Cristina Cervantes
Cristina is TB’s General Manager. It is through her good work that our tours run so smoothly. An Ecuadorian, she has a thorough understanding of business in South America and is in constant contact with most operators in Ecuador. If there is something to be arranged, whether it be an intense birding trip in the Amazon or an independent trip to the Galapagos, she is the one to contact. She is an occasional birder too, but prefers colorful toucans to skulking tapaculos.
Desirée D’sylva
Desirée was raised in Quito, Ecuador, but her life has taken her on many exciting adventures to the most beautiful places in the world. Desirée lived on merchant ships during her teens, and saw spectacular scenery and culture throughout India and Europe, Somalia, Ethiopia, and the whole East African seaboard, and is the only person in the company to have sailed through both the Suez and Panama canals. After finishing her college career in history, she developed a farm in NW Ecuador to produce eco-friendly palm oil. It didn’t work. Desirée manages the Africa and Asia logistics at TB.
Pablo Cervantes
Yadira Ordoñez
Yadi does the groundwork in our Quito office and she is the one making the arrangements for our many South American tours. She may be small in stature, but she can certainly sound intimidating on the phone, which gives us a useful edge when dealing with local hotels and lodges. Aside from making bookings, she also stays on top of the accounting department, keeps the guides in line, and organizes whatever else needs to be organized. Basically, Yadi can do it all.

espacio Compulsive birders from around the world
Iain CampbellIain ended his career as a geochemist in West Africa when it dawned on him that his life list was more valuable than gold. He packed up his G-pick, said goodbye to fufu, and headed to South America, which better suits his style. He is very involved in bird conservation, having created Tandayapa Bird Lodge and Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, and he now spends a significant amount of his time on donor cultivation for conservation groups. He used to be a fanatical lister, but now prefers to target the world’s specialties, and uses his enthusiasm to bring others into the hobby. He is also one of the founders of Tropical Birding.

Keith BarnesKeith reailzed that he was no longer a scientist when a significant difference in the tail lengths of larks didn’t really make a significant difference in his life! Turning his back on the Ivory Towers, Keith helped found Tropical Birding and now heads the Africa and Asia operations. Having traveled far and wide in Africa in search of larks, turacos, bee-eaters and other beasties, he has turned his interests towards Asia and its wren-babblers and pittas. Before Keith was able to actually see most of the birds he wanted to, he had to sit in an office and write about them, producing The Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa and The Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland in the process.
Christian BoixChristian followed the swallows, and headed south from Spain in 1990 after developing a lust for African ornithology. He has an unhealthy interest in the reproductive biology of birds, especially those with bizarre mating and breeding systems, such as birds-of-paradise and hornbills. Christian’s effect on clients is so profound we refer to them as either BC or AC. Nobody believes he is a Spaniard as he speaks English like a South African. A partner of Tropical Birding, Christian spends most of his time leading tours in Africa and Asia, where his infectious enthusiasm has ensured a faithful following.
Nick AthanasNick’s obsession with bird sounds is legendary. In fact, it is rumored he can live off the songs of antbirds without any other sustenance. Nick gave up a lucrative career in geophysics to go watch birds in South America a decade ago and has never looked back. He is one of the founders of Tropical Birding, and when not leading tours, can often be found in odd corners of the world adding to his collection of photos and sound recordings. American by birth, Nick now lives in Quito, Ecuador. Ken BehrensKen discovered flickers in the Pennsylvania woods when his family relocated there, and he has been chasing birds ever since. He has progressed from US road trips through to adventurous treks through the highlands of the Albertine Rift and Bolivian Amazon. Ken spent the better part of two years counting birds in Cape May, where he developed a particular interest in seawatching, which he considers the more challenging cousin to hawk-watching! Now based in Cape Town, he enjoys the spectacular seabirding when not leading tours. Ken is a keen photographer and writer, and recently co-authored Birding Ethiopia, a site guide to that country, and is also working on a field guide to eastern North American waterbirds in flight.

Jen BrumfeldJen hails from Akron, Ohio, where she presently gets great kicks working for Cleveland Metroparks as a scientific illustrator and naturalist. Heavily involved in young birder education, she is the editorial advisor for the ABA’s youth birder newsletter, A Bird’s-Eye View. Jen’s natural history illustrations have appeared in throngs of journals, newsletters, books, and even on greeting cards. Birding is innate for this gal, who ventures to say she’s gone way beyond the “interest.” It’s simply a way of life.

Bradley DavisBrad grew up chasing vagrants in southern Ontario, where a lost Variegated Flycatcher in Toronto in 1993 piqued his interest in tropical birds. When no more appeared on the shores of Lake Ontario over the next few years, he decided he would have to go to them instead. After a number of birding trips and field work throughout the Americas, Brad has now settled in southern Brazil – a perfect base for chasing after the piculets, antbirds and spinetails over which he obsesses. When not guiding, he keeps busy recording bird songs, devouring old and new ornithological literature, and exploring new areas of the country – particularly the vast Amazon basin where his interests in distribution and vocalizations are equally indulged. Brad guides for TB in Brazil and Ecuador.
Josh EngelJosh grew up near Chicago, where he soon learned the joys of birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. He was soon crisscrossing the US with other young birders before getting hooked on the Neotropics. Josh has been spending a lot of time in Africa lately, fueling a fast-growing obsession with Madagascar’s ground-rollers and asities, the red dunes of Namibia, and the many endemics of South Africa, where he now lives. Past trips to Indochina have left him longing to return to southeast Asia as well.  Charley HesseCharley’s devotion to birds began when he could first lift binoculars to his face. Before graduation at university he eloped with his life list to India and Mexico. He studied mixed flocks in Cameroon and compiled inventories of rainforest birds in Malaysia before heading to Japan for work in international public relations. Today, Charley works as a bird guide in four continents, having birded much of South America and over 50 countries worldwide. British by birth he is now also fluent in Spanish and Japanese.

José Illanes Originally from the Amazonian village of Sani Isla, José is rapidly getting hooked on world birding. After tallying over 2,000 birds in 2005, José has not looked back; now guiding for us in Venezuela, Peru, and his home Ecuador (in between trips to southeast Asia, Africa and Europe). His first visit to the US came in 2006 when he brought the house down with his speech on Ecuadorian birding at the ABA convention in Maine. When not guiding, he can often be found poring over foreign bird books. He recently became a father for the first time.  Scott Olmstead Less than a month after finishing college with a degree in Latin American Studies, Scott headed straight for Costa Rica, where he began learning the birds of Central America. When his money ran out, he returned home for a few seasons of fieldwork across the US, banding songbirds, counting migrating raptors, and studying eagle nests. In 2006, when he could stay away no longer, Scott came back to the Neotropics as a tour leader. He guides TB trips in Brazil and Ecuador, where he enjoys chasing elusive antpittas through the thick understory. Originally from Connecticut, Scott is now based in Arizona.  Michael RetterMichael spent all of his college vacations birding in Mexico and became so hooked that all he could think about was quesadillas and leading bird tours after he graduated. He can be found guiding anywhere from Canada down to Ecuador, but a recent trip to Micronesia whetted his appetite for birding beyond the Americas. When at home in the Midwest, Michael puts his intense interests in taxonomy and distribution to use both as “Sightings” Department Editor and Technical Reviewer for ABA’s Birding magazine.  Benji Schwartz Benji Schwartz began birding at a tender young age, but soon realized that in order to expand his world list he would have to leave the confines of Minnesota. His quest to see new species has since led him to every continent but Antarctica. Two years ago Benji decided he wanted to lead tours fulltime and began with an intensive six month course to lead safaris in Africa. However, he found that it was too difficult to convince non-birders to look at the cisticolas on the left while a lion was attacking an impala on his right. After a brief hiatus of guiding in Ecuador and Alaska, he has now returned to Africa with Tropical Birding so that he can focus on the birds while still seeing all the other amazing wildlife.

Andrés Vásquez Since graduating with a degree in Ecology in 2003, Andrés has hardly had time to get back to his native Quito as he has been twitching new birds in every corner of megadiverse Ecuador. He spent a year among colorful tanagers and quetzals of the Chocó cloud forest before heading to the steaming Amazon in search of eagles and antbirds. In his free time he explores popular birding areas and less-frequented destinations to boost his bird list. When not in the field, he can be found at his computer working on book publishing; he has already released several wildlife guidebooks for Ecuador.

Sam Woods Sam obsession for birds began with a pair of tits in the Royal London park at age 11. Working for TB fits in perfectly with his plan of building up a massive world list, and now he guides on five continents. Now well known around the world for his affable English gentlemanly demeanor and his skilled guiding, his prodigious output of trip reports has almost surpassed those qualities. Sam supposedly resides in Ecuador, but his schedule hardly allows any time there.    Office Staff Cristina CervantesCristina is TB’s General Manager. It is through her good work that our tours run so smoothly. An Ecuadorian, she has a thorough understanding of business in South America and is in constant contact with most operators in Ecuador. If there is something to be arranged, whether it be an intense birding trip in the Amazon or an independent trip to the Galapagos, she is the one to contact. She is an occasional birder too, but prefers colorful toucans to skulking tapaculos. Desirée D’sylvaDesirée was raised in Quito, Ecuador, but her life has taken her on many exciting adventures to the most beautiful places in the world. Desirée lived on merchant ships during her teens, and saw spectacular scenery and culture throughout India and Europe, Somalia, Ethiopia, and the whole East African seaboard, and is the only person in the company to have sailed through both the Suez and Panama canals. After finishing her college career in history, she developed a farm in NW Ecuador to produce eco-friendly palm oil. It didn’t work. Desirée manages the Africa and Asia logistics at TB.
Pablo Cervantes
Yadira OrdoñezYadi does the groundwork in our Quito office and she is the one making the arrangements for our many South American tours. She may be small in stature, but she can certainly sound intimidating on the phone, which gives us a useful edge when dealing with local hotels and lodges. Aside from making bookings, she also stays on top of the accounting department, keeps the guides in line, and organizes whatever else needs to be organized. Basically, Yadi can do it all.