Gian Basili was one of the people most responsible for guiding restoration efforts on the Lake Apopka North Shore

and for opening the area to birding and other passive recreational use. He is an ornithologist who now works for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Jacksonville and previously worked 2 years for Audubon Florida and 17 years for the St. Johns River Water Management District.  Gian received his Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his groundbreaking work on Dickcissels, the first year-round study of a Neotropical migratory songbird.  He will be leading Trip 5, a Friday all-day trip, and will be presenting the Thursday Keynote on birding Lake Apopka, entitled "It takes a Village: A Story of the People, Partnerships, and Perseverance on Lake Apopka’s North Shore." The Thursday Keynote is a free pre-festival add-on. Join Orange Audubon Society and other festival attendees for a meet-and-greet at 6:30 p.m. This exciting program starts at 7 p.m. at Harry P. Leu Gardens, Camellia Room, 1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando, FL.




Michael Brothers is one of the leading gull experts in the U.S. and is Director of the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, Florida.  He has been leading pelagic birding expeditions off Florida and Georgia for the last 12 years, as well as natural history tours throughout Florida, the Galapagos Islands, Kenya, and the Amazon. Michael is a member of the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee, which evaluates reports of birds recorded in Florida and is responsible for updating the scientific record of Florida’s bird life. He is also Florida regional editor of the journal, “North American Birds.” He is currently conducting a banding project on the Lesser Black-backed Gull (a European species that is showing up with greater regularity in North America) in hopes of determining their breeding location. See Schedule tab for details on the Friday Keynote.






Greg Miller is of the country's top birders and was portrayed by actor Jack Black in the film “The Big Year.”  Mark Obmascik, a Denver-based journalist and birder, wrote his hilarious 2004 nonfiction bestseller “The Big Year” about the competition between Greg and two other birders doing a 1998 Big Year. Greg was the main birding advisor for the 2011 film based on Obmascik’s book. If you haven’t seen it, the film is available from libraries and streaming sites. Greg, who lives in Ohio when he is not leading birding tours through Wildside Nature Tours, will be in Florida for the Space Coast Birding Festival, but particularly loves leading field trips on the Lake Apopka North Shore. Learn more about him from and about Wildside Nature Tours at Greg will be at all the keynotes and will be  co-leading Trips 4, 11, 14 and 17 (which gives you plenty of chances to meet this friendly master birder and storyteller).




Clay Taylor started birding in the 1970s during his college days in Rochester, NY.  At that point, he was a racecar photographer who owned a 500mm lens, but no binoculars.  To the amazement of his birding friends, he found that it actually WAS possible to go “birding” with his camera, and has done so ever since. In 1999, he was hired by Swarovski Optik to be “their birder.”  He is now based in Texas, and as Swarovski's Naturalist Market Manager, he travels to birding festivals and competes in birding events all over North America. In this Saturday Keynote, Clay will talk about bird photography challenges and solutions and share photos taken over 4 decades using both film and digital cameras.  His camera is ALWAYS with him.  Oh, yes, his iPhone, too. On Saturday Clay will be at the Swarovski Optik table and will also offer short digiscoping workshops lakeside before his Saturday Keynote presentation. He will also present an in-depth Digiscoping Workshop Sunday afternoon, teaching how to secure good photos with a spotting scope and smart phone. He may join the fun and share his birding expertise on one of the Sunday morning field trips as well. See Schedule tab for details on the Saturday Keynote.



2018 Field Trip Leaders

Bruce Anderson is past president of Florida Ornithological Society and past regional editor of the American Birding Association’s journal, North American Birds. He reviews all Rare Bird Forms for Florida Christmas Bird Counts and has published many articles. He coauthored (and is proudest of) The Birdlife of Florida, referred to as “A masterpiece of Florida Ornithology. Pick a species and learn more than you ever thought possible about its range and natural history.”

Bruce studied biological sciences at University of Central Florida and zoology, specifically birds, at the University of Oklahoma. He has taught waterfowl workshops for years at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival.  Bruce will be leading Trip 3.





Gian Basili knows the Lake Apopka North Shore well, having worked toward the buyout of the farms and through the first 17 years of the restoration efforts. Read more about Gian under Speakers and Leaders. Gian will be co-leading Trip 5.








Andrew Boyle is the master bander at the Wekiva Bird Banding Station at Lake Lotus Park.  He will be demonstrating banding both at Lake Lotus Park on Sunday morning in the first half of Trip16. Likely captures will be winter resident birds like Common Yellowthroats and Catbirds, but the fun of banding is in the surprise species that are netted. Learn more about the Wekiva Bird Banding Station through Andrew's blog at





Greg Bretz began birding in 1975 and has a current ABA continental list of 817 species, having birded extensively during travels throughout the U.S. and Canada. A retired banker, he is a past president of Orange Audubon Society.  Greg was recently the Seminole County Coordinator for the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas II project. He will be co-leading Trip 13.







Lynn Marie Folts is one of the top Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD) photographers, found every weekend on the LAWD searching out new bird species and other wildlife, including  insects and spiders.  She is one of the most active participants in the LAWD  Facebook Group,, encouraging everyone to get out and see what they can find.  She is a participant in the Wekiva Bird Banding Station as well as butterfly surveys in Central Florida. See some of her photos at Lynn Marie will be co-leading Sunrise Photography Trips 1 and 15.






Reinhard Geisler chases birds throughout Florida, while working as a manager for a large corporation. A superb nature photographer, Reinhard is a volunteer at the City of Orlando's Orlando Wetlands Park and a Florida Master Naturalist. Along with his wife Jutta, he created the “Birds of Orlando Wetlands Park” book and teaches bird photography workshops to benefit that park in east Orlando. His images have also been featured in “American Birding Association” (ABA) magazine and “ABA Field Guide to Birds of Florida” by Bill Pranty. Reinhard will be co-leading Sunrise Photography Trip 15.





Deborah Green knows the birds and plant life at Wekiwa Springs State Park well, having written two natural history books on the area and taught a community college field class at the park. At its inception in 2012, the Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival & Birdapalooza was a Saturday-only, family-oriented event. Having attended many birding festivals around the country, in 2016 while serving as president of Orange Audubon Society, Deborah conceptualized the Lake Apopka Birding Festival. She chairs the Birding Festival committee and also co-chairs the Orange Audubon Society Nature and Environmental Education Center Committee. Deborah will be co-leading Trip 16.




Milton Heiberg is a professional photographer and instructor of nature photography, who has written seven books and numerous articles on photography. The most recent is “The Essentials of Nature Photography,” published by Tern Book Company. Milton was the founder of the photo committee at the New York City Audubon Society and taught nature photography courses there from 1980 until he moved to Orlando in 1998. He now teaches nature photography at the Crealdé School of Art, Winter Park, and is Central Florida's photography instructor at Digital Photo Academy—Panasonic/Lumix's national school of photography, at Harry P. Leu Gardens and at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville. Milton  will be leading Trip 9.




Earl (Bud) Horn is an avid birder who lives near the Lake Apopka North Shore in Mt. Dora. He was a significant contributor to the Lake County Breeding Bird Atlas, as well as Christmas Bird Counts, and other surveys, both in Central Florida and his former Georgia home. Bud will be co-leading Trip 9.







Lorne Malo is a Fish and Wildlife Biological Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Invasive Plant Management Section.  During his 23 years working in surface water compliance enforcement for the St. Johns River Water Management District (District), he assisted with monitoring Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Florida Scrub-Jays, and Barn Owls on District lands.  He also led bird surveys on the Wekiva, Middle St. Johns, and Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserves for 17+ years for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). As a volunteer, Lorne organized monthly bird surveys on District lands, and he has been the compiler for the Econlockhatchee Christmas Bird Count for the past 27 years.  Lorne worked 2+ years full-time with the FDEP doing surface water enforcement and wetlands delineation and for a season for Ducks Unlimited conducting water bird surveys before joining FWC.  Lorne also assists with monthly butterfly surveys and has worked with black bears, snakes, gopher tortoises, and alligators.  Lorne will be co-leading Trips 4 and 18.


Larry Martin is an avid birder who is Orange Audubon Society’s (OAS) field trips coordinator. For the past few years he has organized fall and spring migration bird walks at Mead Botanical Garden and served as OAS’ liaison to Mead Botanical Garden, a 48-acre migrant hot-spot located at 1500 S. Denning Drive, Winter Park, FL. Larry will be co-leading Trips 7 and 11.







Greg Miller will be leading Trips 4, 11, 14 and 17. See more about Greg under Keynote speakers.









Chris Newton first started birding when his father and uncle took him on birding trips and Christmas Bird Counts throughout the Northeast.  He now has nearly 700 species on his North American life list and has been a birding guide in Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Texas. He has worked as an on-call field biologist for an environmental firm and monitored raptor nests in Nevada.  He currently works as an animal keeper of giraffes, lions, rhinos and zebras at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In 2015, he did an Osceola County Big Year while his friend Gallus Quigley did a Lake County Big Year. Chris saw 236 bird species, a record for Osceola County. In addition to being an avid birder, Chris is also a wildlife photographer and an active member of the Kissimmee Valley Audubon Society. He will be co-leading Trips 13 and 20.




Gallus Quigley has been an avid birder for 25 years. He is the Cornell eBird regional reviewer for Lake and Sumter counties and was Lake County’s coordinator for Florida Breeding Bird Atlas II. He is employed as a planner, biologist and trails coordinator with the Lake County Parks & Trails Division. His 2008 Florida Big Year, with 359 bird species spotted, remains the third highest count on record. He broke Lake County’s Big Year record in 2015 with 243 species. In his spare time, Gallus works as a birding guide. He will be leading Trips 2, 10 and 17.





Kathy Rigling is an avid birder and photographer.  She is a member of the Orange Audubon Society Board of Directors, serves as its Birdathon compiler, and on the Lake Apopka Birding Festival committee. An active eBirder, she teaches middle school science and each summer directs the Nature Studies program at the Wekiva Youth Camp. Through the latter position, she knows Wekiwa Springs State Park well. Kathy will be co-leading Trips 16 and 20.






Ralph Risch is the Florida Scrub-Jay (FSJ) Biologist for Seminole State Forest in Lake County. While studying for his Master’s in Zoology at University of South Florida, Tampa he researched FSJs at Archbold Biological Station with Reed Bowman, John Fitzpatrick and Glenn Woolfenden. Ralph has birded in 45 U. S. states, 3 Canadian provinces, and 6 European countries. He has worked as a biologist with birds in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, New York, Oregon and Washington-.  Ralph is also a birding guide and Christmas Bird Count participant. He will be leading Trip 8.






Bob Sanders is an avid birder who for many years taught raptor identification. Before moving to Central Florida, Bob was co-founder of the Chimney Rock Hawk Watch program in Martinsville, New Jersey. Known for his birding expertise and superb instruction, Bob also teaches Beginners’ Bird Watching Classes and leads Limited Edition Field Trips for Orange Audubon Society.  He also participates in most Central Florida bird surveys and birding events, and works as a birding guide in Central Florida. Bob will be leading Trip 7.





Mark Hainen  is a birder/nature photographer from southeast Michigan, who birds for the majority of the year in Michigan and Ohio (particularly at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory at Magee Marsh. A snow bird, he spends 3 months each winter in central Florida and has enjoyed birding Lake Apopka for the past 4 years. An official Observer for the Detroit River Hawk Watch and one of its photographers this fall, Mark makes an annual trip to the Northern Minnesota’s Sax Zim Bog during February to see and photograph Great Gray, Northern Hawk and Boreal Owls. He wades into chest deep marshes, crawls on hands and knees and hikes miles for an opportunity to see and photograph nature. Before coming to Florida this winter he spent 4 weeks of exhaustive birding for Snowy Owls and Short-eared Owls and was able to see and photograph both. He missed out on Long-eared and Saw-whets, but hopes to get them in March. Mark will be co-leading Trip1 with Lynn-Marie Folts.



David Simpson is one of Florida’s top birders. He is a life-long resident of Central Florida. For 25+ years he has been leading birding tours through his previous job as a ranger at the St. Sebastian Buffer Preserve, at festivals including the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival and the Big "O" Birding festival and through his own company, Birding with David Simpson. David holds many American Birding Association records, including Big Year (both first and second place for Florida) and Big Day (current holder of 10 monthly records in Florida). In 2015 he was part of Swarovski Optik’s Great Texas Birding Classic team. See more about David at David will be co-leading Trips 5, 11, and 18. He will also be co-leading Trip 12 Beginning Birding with the Simpsons, with his wife Dee.




Dee Simpson is a long-time birder, Florida Master Naturalist, Certified Interpretive Guide, and former Space Coast Audubon Society board member.  With her husband, David, she has developed many classes that they present at festivals and other public venues. She and David will be presenting Trip 12 Beginning Birding with the Simpsons.








Becki Smith is a bird bander with the Wekiva Basin Banding Station. Since 2000 during her first internship studying Dotted Skippers and Diamondback Terrapins in Cape May County, NJ, her passion for biodiversity spread from entomology and herpetology to birding. A Certified Master Naturalist, she participates as a volunteer in Jay Watch, NABA butterfly counts and Christmas Bird Counts. She is now an Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society board member and coordinates that chapter’s field trips. Becki will be co-leading Trips 2, 8, 10 and 17.






Clay Taylor will present the Saturday Keynote at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center. He will also lead Trip 19 , a Digiscoping Workshop, Sunday afternoon to demonstrate how you can secure great photos with a spotting scope and smart phone. He may join the fun and share his birding expertise on a Sunday morning field trip as well. Read more about Clay under Keynote Speakers.





Robert  Wilson began digiscoping after a 30-year career as a staff photographer for Lockheed Martin and is now a rep for KOWA Optics. He was lured to digiscoping—attaching a camera or smart phone to a spotting scope—for two main reasons: Digiscoping extends focal length thereby helping to minimize the impact of photography on wildlife and eliminates the challenge of manual focus. He takes great joy in sharing a view through his Kowa 883 scope or his Iphone 6S+ while attached to the scope. Robert will offer Trip 6, an in-depth Digiscoping Workshop Friday afternoon.





2018 Keynote Speakers