About The Team

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KRISTI DRANGINIS

Founder

 

People often ask me how long I’ve been studying birds for.

They usually assume that I must have been born into a family of naturalists or had a passion for birds as a child.

There are times I wish this was true!

 

Although, I imagine if it had been true I would not have had the freedom to wander the woods that was afforded me by my parents back then.

These two wise guardians of mine were not as aware back then, as they are today, of the wild ones living so close to us.

If they had been, they probably would have kept a tighter tether on me.

Because they didn’t, my first mentor was the grand forest itself.

My mother was a seamstress who worked from home and in order to get anything done she use to scoot me out of the house early in the morning and tell me to, “go play in the woods.”

I often resisted, as most kids might do, wanting only to stay inside and watch cartoons.

Well, it didn’t take long before I’d find myself somewhere in the middle of the 4,000 acre nature preserve that bordered my home, engrossed in a made-up story about the people who use to live there or my current mission to explore the places that no one had seen before.

For the most part, when I wasn’t in school, I was outside.

Despite having spent so much of my childhood with nature, it wasn’t until I was 20 that I even began to notice birds existed.

In addition to countless hours spent in nature wrestling with bird mysteries on my own, most of what I know today I owe to the patient mentoring of a few key individuals.

One of these is author and birder Jon Young, who I was fortunate to study Deep Bird Language with soon after I graduated college.

Keith Marshall, former Education Director at New Canaan Nature Center, was really the first person to introduce me to the ancient ways of Coyote Mentoring that eventually sparked this bird fire of mine.  He is a truly exceptional and curiosity-evoking mentor.  I was lucky to learn from him.

I also had the pleasure of working as a research assistant for the American Museum of Natural History’s Roseatte Tern banding project on Great Gull Island, NY with world famous Helen Hays.

If you ever have a little free time on your hands you might consider spending some of it with Helen and the terns out at GGI, where she can still be found, like a migrating bird, every spring through fall.

The last few summers I have found myself up and out the door well before the sun rises to spend time with the dedicated folks at Mesa Verde’s migratory hummingbird banding project and the Oxbow Preserve songbird banding project.

Today I am taking what I have learned over the last 20 years and offering it to folks all over the world with THE ADVANCED SKILLS FOR BEGINNING BIRDERS course.

If you find yourself near Durango, CO in the spring come and join me on one of the tours for the Mesa Verde Bird Festival or our local Durango bird walk every Wednesday.

Everyone is welcome!

Check the calendar for up to date information.

Your Mentors

Stephanie MacKay, Canada Specialist

Naturalist, Wilderness Therapy Counselor, Instructor at Soaring Eagle Nature School

Stephanie grew up in the Pacific Northwest of Canada exploring the deep mysteries of the coastal forests and discovering the abundance of life in the intertidal zones of the local beaches. Her passion for wild Nature, art and culture has taken her across the globe and into a wide array of ecosystems.

Stephanie holds the truth of our belonging in the Natural world as a given and loves witnessing the moments when this connection happens. She studied indigenous ways and culture for five years with Martin Prechtel in New Mexico and has completed several trainings in nature based Rites of Passage with the Animas Valley Institute. She has also completed a nine-month apprenticeship with Annie Bloom and Jade Sherer to be a guide for the pan-cultural Vision Fast.

Before Soaring Eagle she worked with Calgary’s Ghost River Rediscovery where she ran wilderness camps for youth in the Rockies.

Stephanie loves spending time with her family, doing yoga, crafting with rawhide and can most often be found, or not found, somewhere out on the land.

Zachary Fisher, West Coast Specialist

Founder, Wildbridge ~ Institute for Experiential Learning & Wilderness Therapy Senior Field Guide

Zach loves supporting people to discover deeper connections with nature and within themselves. His own life was transformed by a month-long solo journey through the Wiminuche Wilderness when he was 18, and he continues to be profoundly affected by his relationship with the wild.

His passions have led him to study and practice a variety of primitive skills with, among others, Dancing Hawk Native Lifeways and the Wilderness Awareness School. Zach is a graduate of WAS’s year-long Anake training program, is certified as a Level 3 Cybertracker, and spends much of his days creating practical objects from natural materials. Zach also enjoys exploring his internal wild through yoga, meditation, and vision fast work.

He spent six years working as a guide with Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, has led numerous animal tracking and nature-connection workshops in the four corners region, and leads classes through Durango Nature Studies, 4-H, and La Plata Youth Services.

He has become dedicated to strengthening our cultural connection to the ever-present force we call nature, and through ceremony and community, he believes we can learn to heal ourselves and the world around us.

Andy Dobos, East Coast Specialist

Founder & Instructor, Three Red Trees School of Natural Learning

Andy grew up in northwestern Connecticut, living and playing on the old “family farm” land.

His study of Fine Art in college prepared him for a return to the woods of his childhood with a new vantage, to experience and study Nature with an artists delight.  He quickly became involved in the New England Primitive Skills Gathering, the Maine Primitive Gathering and the Maine Primitive Skills School.

During this time Andy worked for Great Hollow Wilderness School as an instructor for their Whole Earth Home School and Nature’s Chorus Summer Camp.  He now works as a Nature Connection Mentor with Two Coyotes Wilderness School as well as with Three Red Trees.  Andy also sells his sculpture and crafts at his Etsy Store WolfFoxBear

Robin Matthew Wolthausen, West Coast Specialist

Master outdoor educator, wilderness therapy and recreational guide, cultural mentor, lover and courtesan of the flowering village tree
Robin is a lover of connection, authenticity, respect, love, unity and honor in all things and practices.  The specifics of the activity are less important to him as long as it is done in a good way with all of creation. 
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Some of the forms he dabbles in with these principles are: tracking, bird language, sur-thrival skills, natural building, rocket stoves, permacultural land tending, village building/remembrance, nature and cultural mentoring, ceremony/ritual, council, dream tracking, soul guiding, addiction recovery, and initiatory rites of passages and experiences. 
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He has worked many years as a wilderness guide for teens and adults in the wilds of the American west from the mossy wet dripping pacific northwest to the scorching chert strewn southwest.  

Advisory Council

 

Lynn Wickersham

Co-principal and Senior Project Manager of Animas Biological Studies.

Lynn serves as lead biologist for research and monitoring projects at ABS for passerine birds. She has over 15 years of experience as an avian ecologist, with a particular expertise in reproductive ecology of Neotropical migratory birds.

She has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University and an M.S. in Biology from Arkansas State University and is skilled in current techniques in avian research and monitoring including project design, field methodologies, and bio-statistics.

Lynn has been successful at procuring hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for avian research projects and has been published in peer-reviewed journals. She currently holds a Master Bird Banding Permit for passerines and near-passerines from the U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory.

Lynn also has experience with vegetative sampling and with trapping and marking small and medium-sized mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

In addition to her involvement with ABS, Lynn is also employed as a research associate for the San Juan Institute of Natural and Cultural Resources at Fort Lewis College (FLC) where she is the state-wide project manager for the second Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas.

 

Raymond VanBuskirk

Former President of Central New Mexico Audubon Society, Owner and Guide at BRANT (Birding Research and Nature Tours) & Leica Birding Product Specialist. 

Raymond’s interest in birds was sparked at age seven, but it wasn’t until a few years later that birding completely ruled his life; All it took was a curious male Western Tanager to push him over the edge.

Alongside his best friend Ryan, Raymond started what is known as the Sandia Rosy-Finch Project, a rosy-finch banding project that has since received recognition in National Audubon Magazine, Birders World Magazine and with birders all over the nation.

Raymond has an impressive resume conducting bird research all over the western United States, notably, a breeding ecology study of Gray Vireos in central New Mexico and a similar project investigating the little-known breeding habits of the Arizona Grasshopper Sparrow.  Other highlights include: stints with the USFWS in the Arctic Ocean, and USGS  in desert-grasslands of Arizona; guiding all over the world from Alaska to Ecuador with his ecotourism company Birding Research And Nature Tours (BRANT); serving as the youngest National Audubon Society chapter President in history; and being one of the most interesting and charming individuals you’ll ever meet!

Jason St. Pierre

Environmental Consultant & Waterbird Field Biologist

Jason is an environmental consultant in Durango, CO with 20 years of birding experience. He has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan in Flint.

Jason has worked on numerous bird-related projects including breeding bird surveys at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

He has also conducted surveys of migrating waterbirds at Isle Royale National Park and Whitefish Point in Michigan.

Most recently, Jason spent 17 months with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory as a waterbird field biologist.

He is an avid Ebird user and loves teaching people the importance of detailed record keeping, and how to use this amazing tool

 

Nancy Fisher

Chief Executive Mother, Coach and Damn Good Armature Birder.

Nancy is….well, yes, my mother.  Now, what good business does not have a good mother behind it, really!!

She has been a most important product tester, idea sounding-board, as well as a voice for the over-60’s who are keen on the internet, but just don’t love it like a 12 year old does.

Her personal birding experiences are quite extraordinary and our discussions about them have helped me discover better ways to teach people about birds.

Thanks for all of your hard work!

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