All our leaders have a strong background in conservation, many having worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. All are experienced in guiding and have an essential good sense of humour!

CHRIS TOWNEND
Chris is the company owner of Wise Birding Holidays Ltd and lives in Devon with his partner Helen. When not overseas, he is often to be found on his local patch, the Otter Estuary looking for something unusual. Chris has travelled throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia and his favourite continent, Africa, all following his birding interest, as well as wildlife and conservation. Chris was employed by the RSPB for 7 years and based at the RSPB’s HQ at Sandy for most of that time, in species protection. 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.

Now, Chris works full time as a guide for Wise Birding Holidays as well as taking time to develop new itineraries and grow the business. He has led  birding holidays during the last 20 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, humour and good quality cakes and puddings!

WILL WAGSTAFF
For over 35 years, Will Wagstaff has been a freelance wildlife tour guide based on the Isles of Scilly in southwest England. In the spring, early summer and autumn, he leads daily walks, boat trips, and weekly digital presentations on the islands’ wildlife. During the winter months, Will operates as both an ornithological guide and a general wildlife guide on tours and expedition cruise ships through southern Europe, Africa, South America, the South Atlantic, and most frequently, the Falkland Islands and Antarctica. Will is Honorary President and Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Bird Group and also the regional representative of the British Trust for Ornithology. He was a bird recorder for seventeen years, regularly contributes to local and national magazines, and has also appeared as a local expert on regional television and radio programs. In 2001 Will wrote the first guide book to the Falkland Islands titled Falkland Islands: The Bradt Travel Guide and has recently (2018) finished the second edition. Will is leading our Spring and Autumn tours to Scilly and with his enviable reputation for finding rarities we are very pleased to have him on the Wise Birding team!

STU ELSOM
Stu is a professional ecologist, a tour leader and wildlife photographer based in Cambridgeshire. Stu has been a keen naturalist from an early age and has had a lifelong interest in birds and insects which has taken him to over 50 countries on six continents. Recently he has specialised in the birds of the New World with the avifauna of North and South America, and The Caribbean. Stu is an enthusiastic wildlife photographer and a member of the Royal Photographic Society Nature Group, where he was awarded his Licentiate Distinction (LRPS) in 2012. Over 800 of his images have appeared in natural history journals, magazines, CD guides and books. While birds are Stu’s main focus he also has a huge interest in insects, especially butterflies, moths, dragonflies, damselflies and more recently, hoverflies. We are very pleased to have Stu leading our trips to Jamaica and other new destinations. His years of experience in guiding and easy going approach fit perfectly to the growing Wise Birding team.

JAMES LOWEN
James has been immersed in all aspects of natural history since he was able to walk, encouraging him to moult into a fully fledged wildlife writer, editor, guide, consultant and photographer. James is a multi-award-winning author writing about wildlife travel and natural history. His books include Pantanal Wildlife, a top-selling travel guide to Brazil’s great wetland where he will be leading our Pantanal Tour in September 2020. James is a top wildlife guide with a wealth of knowledge about birds, mammals and insects. He spent several years leading wildlife tours in South America and Antarctica. He is a very easy going guide with bags of enthusiasm and you could not be in better hands for our relaxed Pantanal tour. We are thrilled to have James join our growing team of leaders and we look forward to him leading more destinations in the future.

MIKE LANGMAN
Mike is well known as a bird illustrator, Devon County Recorder (1996-2002), tour leader and avid Devon birder. Mike’s 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 and then pursued a career in bird illustration. 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 seawatching 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!
Mike has a very approachable character and he is always very willing to help others improve their birding skills and knowledge. These traits along with his exceptional field skills will be a great asset to the Wise Birding team.

STEVE DUFFIELD
Steve grew up in a bird deprived area of East Lancashire which stimulated a desire to travel. This started with trips to Spain in his late teens and a lone trip to India and Nepal at the age of 19 which sparked the bug for birding and travel! He then spent 10 months travelling throughout South-east Asia and 3 months at Cape May, New Jersey where he also found the first Whiskered Tern for the US! Steve has also travelled to Ethiopia, Morocco, Ecuador, Argentina, Guatemala and throughout Europe. He graduated from Bangor Uni as a mature student in 1998 and spent 8 years working in conservation for the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and SNH. This included 9 months on the Farne Islands where a passion for rarity finding took hold. Notable finds here included Calandra Lark, Black-headed Bunting and a Fea’s-type Petrel! Steve also spent 3 years in Shetland but finally moved to the Outer Hebrides in 2005 where he worked as a Goose Officer for 2 years before setting up his wildlife tour company. Steve lives on North Uist with his partner and two children. They own a couple of crofts where Steve is constantly trying to improve the area for wildlife as well as growing vegetables and looking after their small flock of Hebridean sheep. Steve enjoys all natural history including plants, cetaceans and moths and butterflies for which he is the County Recorder for Outer Hebrides.

RYAN IRVINE
Ryan lives in east Norfolk and has recently become a freelance ornithological consultant having previously worked 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 six year period. Ryan is a member of the Norfolk Bird Recording Council and when he isn’t working he will be on his patch in East Norfolk. Patch birding is 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 found some exciting birds on his local patch including a Red-flanked Bluetail and a number of Red-footed Falcons.
He has travelled extensively across the world through work and  birding holidays. Though a bird specialist, Ryan is also very interested in mammals too. He is very experienced in cetacean identification as a result of his offshore work. Ryan has led tours for us to Sri Lanka,  Turkey and Chile and is becoming a favourite with many of our clients. He will be leading many new tours for us in 2020 and beyond!


ANDREW KINGHORN
Andrew is an avid birder living in Durham and has been interested in birds since he was a young teenager. Much of his birding is done around his local county and elsewhere in the north-east of England. He is most passionate about birding in and around his home county of Durham and as a result he became the Durham County Recorder (2017-2019) and later, Assistant County Recorder. Andrew has always been interested in vagrancy and rarities and he is a member of the Durham Records sub-committee. He even holds the record in 2014, for seeing the most species seen in a single calendar year within the British Isles! Away from Durham and the UK, Andrew has also followed his love for birding with overseas visits to numerous countries including Morocco, Israel, Bulgaria, Spain, Cyprus, Poland, Lesvos, and more!
Birding aside, Andrew has worked in IT and as an Ornithological Consultant for a renewable energy company. He has an extremely easy going personality and is most happy when in the field birding and sharing knowledge and experience with others. We are very pleased to have him guiding some new tours for us in Northumberland and Europe.

BARRY EMBLING
Barry is based on the Welsh Borders, where he previously worked in conservation on both sides of the border for RSPB and Woodland Trust. He was Site Manager at the RSPB’s famous Nagshead Reserve in the Forest of Dean for its Pied Flycatchers. Although a great place for wildlife with its rare resident birds, vagrants were more unusual, so he was very pleased to find Gloucestershire’s first Little Bunting whilst checking the cattle one day! Barry’s first wildlife experiences started a lifetime ago, living in Australia, and since then has included travelling to all continents as a guide and naturalist, including numerous repeat visits to special places in Europe and the British Isles. More recently Barry was the ship’s ornithologist for various cruise liners exploring the North and South Polar regions. Barry enjoys sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge for wildlife and he will be leading our short breaks to the Forest of Dean, plus a number of other UK tours in Wales and the South-West of England. We very much look forward to having Barry on the ever growing Wise Birding team.

STEVE BLAIN
Steve lives in Bedfordshire and now works for the RSPB. Previously he worked as a bird guide in Ecuador for two years based in Quito where his regular patch was the Tandayapa valley on the west slope of the Andes. He has travelled five continents in search of wildlife, with South America stealing a special place in his heart for its incredible biodiversity. He has been the County Bird Recorder for Bedfordshire for a number of years and enjoys local patch birding. Steve also enjoys digiscoping and photography and is hooked on sound recording and ‘nocmig’ (recording calling migrants at night). Although a birder at heart, Steve also enjoys ogling orchids, tickling taruantulas, inspecting insects and seeking out rare cats whenever possible. We hope Steve will lead our Ecuador tour during 2020.

MARK LEWIS
Mark works in seabird monitoring based in Aberdeen, where he manages a citizen science program that collects data on seabirds and cetaceans from ferries. Prior to this, he spent several years as a bird surveyor specialising in offshore bird and mammal surveys and before that he was a chef. Mark is a keen patch birder at Girdle Ness, though he has other patches that he visits regularly, including Sanday in Orkney, the island of Ouessant, Brittany, and the French Pyrenees. Mark’s interests include looking for rare birds, seawatching, and sound recording. He also enjoys cetaceans and butterflies. Along with Ryan Irvine he co-founded Patchwork Challenge, a patch birding competition and community. Mark is also a member of the Scottish, NE Scotland and Upper Forth rarities committees.

ANDY FOSTER
Andy fell in love with Brazil during his first visit in 1995. After numerous further visits over the years Andy set up Serra dos Tucanos Lodge together with his wife Cristina. The Lodge ran for 14 years until they moved  to their new base Itororo Lodge. Prior to Brazil, Andy worked on a wetland nature reserve on the south coast of England where he was responsible for bird and botanical surveys. In Brazil, Andy also assisted with the establishment of a local wetland reserve and conservation NGO based in the State of Rio de Janeiro.
Now with over 20 years birding experience in the Tres Picos State Park of Rio de Janeiro state, Andy knows this area incredibly well. He has spent numerous hours in the field guiding birding trips and sharing his knowledge with many guests and he looks forward to more!

TARVO VALKER
Tarvo started birding at the age of eight and has been passionate about his hobby ever since. After working as a monitoring specialist at Silma Nature Reserve in Estonia, he decided to become a freelancer. Now, he is actively involved in bird surveys, wildlife guiding and nature education. Tarvo has been a long term council member of Birdlife Estonia and he sits on the Estonian Rarities Committee. Although a birder, Tarvo is also keen on mammals; especially the elusive Eurasian Lynx! He has guided many bird and mammal trips for 15 years and is one of the most experienced guides in Estonia. Tarvo loves all wildlife and enjoys sharing it with others. His huge field experience, friendly personality and good humour always make trips enjoyable and we our pleased to have Tarvo on our team.

RICHARD MOORES
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 lead some tours to the Western Sahara. In Richard’s own words “If it has got fur or feathers then I’m basically interested! I developed my zeal for ecology during many a formative hour trailing his 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. Happy in the Saharan Desert or an Estonian forest, if there’s a glimmer of hope of seeing something incredible, I will be at the head of the queue!’

DANI CAZO
Dani lives in Huesca, close to the Central Spanish Pyrennees, where his interest for nature and wildlife began at a very early age. He spent two years working on Steppe bird surveys focused on habitat management and conservation. This included both species of sandgrouse and bustards as well as Lesser Kestrels in the Ebro Steppes. He also worked as a forest ranger in the Pyrenees and Cinca River valley. More recently Dani has been giving environmental education talks for children and adults focusing on bird ecology and migration; something he is very passionate about. Dani also has a passion for bird photography. He has travelled throughout Europe as well as Africa, with several visits to his favourite country Morocco. Like Chris, Dani has a fondness for good puddings!