All our leaders have a strong background in conservation, many have worked (or are still working for) the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). All are experienced in guiding and have an essential good sense of humour!
Chris is the company owner of Wise Birding Holidays Ltd and lives in Devon with his partner Helen. He currently sits on the Devon Birds Rarities Committe and when not overseas, he is often to be found on his local patch, the Otter Estuary looking for rarities!! Chris has travelled throughout Europe, North and South America and his favourite continent, Africa, all following his birding interest, as well as wildlife and conservation. Employed by the RSPB for seven years and based at the RSPB’s HQ at Sandy for most of that time, in the species protection department. Here he was part of a team working to combat bird of prey persecution, illegal trade in birds and egg collecting. He then moved to the South West and worked on cirl buntings for three years including a year spent managing the cirl bunting re-introduction project.
Chris now works as a freelance bird guide and ornithological consultant and he has led numerous birdwatching holidays for a number of well known bird tour companies during the last 12 years. Chris has a great passion first and foremost for birds, but this is very closely followed by the larger mammals of the world, particularly the cats! He is very much a people person keen to share his knowledge and ensure that bird tours are full of birds, wildlife and humour!
Lee lives in Surrey and has been interested in birds since as long as he can remember. He is particularly interested in the birds of South America, especially those found in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil. REGUA lodge in Brazil is very close to Lee’s heart following his first visit in 2006 during a year’s trip around South America with his partner Rachel. Since then he has become very involved with promoting the great conservation work at REGUA and has made numerous return visits helping manage the lodge and lead bird tours around the reserve. When back in the UK, he is busy developing and updating the excellent REGUA website that he designed. Lee is well travelled in birding and has an excellent knowledge of birds and their conservation status throughout Europe, North & South America and Asia. Lee has a great eye for detail and is keen to share his knowledge. He also has a keen interest in cetaceans and other mammals and he is obsessed with night birding in the forest!
Simon has worked for the RSPB for many years. His work has included surveying the birds of Exmoor, helping protect Hen Harriers and Bee-eaters breeding in the North of England and analysing farmland bird survey data. He currently manages the RSPB’s land management advice and agricultural work throughout Eastern England working on policies that affect farmland birds and farm biodiversity. Simon has been a lecturer in ornithology for BSc students for several years, specialising in bird ethology and bird populations. He has a very strong bird guiding background from his experience in leading bird tours whilst on leave from his RSPB role.
Simon was raised in Plymouth, but now lives in Norwich and he has been an avid birder and naturalist since childhood. At just nine years old he remembers sneaking out with his father’s massive Russian binoculars at first light only to return home many hours later, covered in estuarine mud and to face the music from his parents! Simon also has an interest in dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies and moths.
Gary lives in Northumberland and is now an ornithological consultant running his own business. Prior to this he worked for the RSPB for at least 14 years with a varied number of roles working on a number of different species projects. These include the habitat management of farmland birds and biodiversity in Dorset, cirl bunting recovery work in Devon and upland habitat creation and restoration projects in Lancashire. This last project focuused on key species such as the ring ouzel, hen harrier and various upland breeding waders.
Working overseas has always been a big draw to Gary and to date, has resulted in an 8 month contract working on the Seychelles Magpie Robin project on Fregate Island, a number of weeks looking at Eleonora’s falcon prey analysis in the Greek islands and five weeks spent helping set up a Blue Pitta radio tracking project at Khao Yai NP in Thailand. His travels both independently and as a guide have taken him to many places that include India, Sri Lanka, North America, Gambia, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Finland and Norway, but it is Asian birding gems that get him most excited!
Upali is the most senior Ornithological Tour Leader in Sri Lanka. He has been leading bird tours for more than 30 years and is well known in the birding world. He is also a highly accomplished all-round naturalist. He was previously attached to the Zoology department of the University of Peradeniya and 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. He is one of the local representatives of the Oriental Bird Club and 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. He 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 (more than 200 hectares). Upali also works as a Freelance Eco-tourism Consultant in the local tourist hotel industry.