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 7 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 Devon and worked on cirl buntings for 3 years including a year spent managing the cirl bunting re-introduction project. Chris now works as a freelance bird guide and ornithological consultant. He has led numerous birding holidays for a number of well known bird tour companies during the last 12 years. His first passion is birds, but this is closely followed by mammals, particularly the cats! He is a people person keen to share knowledge and ensure that bird tours are full of wildlife and humour!
Mike is well known as a bird illustrator, Devon County Recorder (1996-2002), tour leader and avid Devon birder. His fabulous illustrations can be seen in almost every RSPB reserve from identification cards to large murals. Mike worked for the RSPB for nine years after leaving Art College. His interpretation work for nature centre information boards can be found across Britain and in Europe. Much of Mike’s work can also be found in numerous international bird books and magazines. Mike spends much of his free time birding, particularly Berry Head in Devon where he spends many hundreds of hours seawtaching and searching for migrants. His numerous hours in the field have been rewarded with many good finds that include Sardinian Warbler, Little Shearwater and Britain’s first Yelkouan Shearwater! His approachable and relaxed character along with exceptional field skills will be a great asset to the Wise Birding team. Mike will lead tours in 2017.
Richard is a first class bird and mammal man working for a leading Ecological Consultancy, Biome Consulting. We are very pleased to have Richard as part of the Wise Birding team and he will be leading our new and exciting tour to the Western Sahara in 2017. In Richard’s own words – “If it’s got fur or feathers then I’m basically interested! I developed my zeal for ecology during many a formative hour trailing my gamekeeping father around the south Shropshire countryside. Whilst mammals have become a dedication, birds will always retain my devotion with migration and waders a real affection of mine. As happy in the Saharan Desert or in an Estonian forest, if there’s a glimmer of hope of seeing something incredible (in my eyes, even non-descript shrews fall into this category) I’ll be at the head of the queue!”
Ryan lives in east Norfolk and has recently become a freelance ornithological consultant after 7 years working for an offshore company leading ornithological surveys for renewables projects. Prior to this Ryan worked for the RSPB in various roles in Wales, Scotland and Cornwall over a 6 year period. Ryan is a member of the Norfolk Bird Recording Council and when he isn’t working you will probably find him on his patch in east Norfolk, patch birding a real passion of his that ultimately led him to become a co-founder of the very popular Patchwork Challenge, the largest birding competition in the world. Ryan has travelled extensively throughout much of the world through his work and numerous birding holidays. Ryan’s great field skills and friendly personality will be a great asset to our 2017 tours.
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.
Steve Braine has been involved with wildlife and natural history almost from birth and is probably the only person in Namibia to have several species of butterfly named after him! Encouraged by his father, who also had a love of birds and butterflies, Steve inherited this passion and has become one of Namibia’s leading natural history experts. After leaving school Steve worked for several years in exploration geology, eventually leaving to study nature conservation. His first posting was to the Skeleton Coast Park where he remained for nearly 9 years and it is his experiences here that form the foundation of his expertise and love of the Namib Desert which he carries over into his tours. After spending another 2 years as a ranger in the Eastern Caprivi, Steve and his wife Louise (and their 2 sons) located to a lodge on the Hobatere concession on the western border of Etosha National Park where they spend 21 years. After a tragic fire at Hobatere Lodge in January 2011, the family lost many of their personal possessions, photographs and many years’ of data, they started Batis Birding Safaris based in Swakopmund where they operate birding, wildlife and photographic tours.