Meet The Team
This impressive team of mentors & T.A.s is here to support your bird learning journey. Take a moment to get to know their stories.
Founder - Bird Mentor
hasKristi Dranginis is the founder of Bird Mentor, a resource for live and online courses helping people worldwide build confidence learning about birds and the natural world. Through her courses, students are immersed in the principles of instinctive birding, deep nature connection, bird language, and her innovative model for advanced bird identification.
In addition to her online courses she teaches birding at traditional skills events like Rabbit Stick, Winter Count, Saskatoon Circle, Buckeye, Sharpening Stone and for amazing organizations like the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, The Women’s Wilderness Institute, Crow Canyon Archeological Center, The Vermont Wilderness School, Flanders Nature Center, Eight Shields and The Powerhouse Science Center.
During a real bird nerd phase, she helped to band birds on Great Gull Island, focusing on the Roseate & Common Terns, as well as migratory birds at Oxbow Preserve and hummingbirds at Mesa Verde National Park.
In addition to geeking out about birds, she’s also a Naturalist, Herbalist, and Photographer and has contributed to the new Peterson’s Field Guide to Bird Nests and ABA’s Birder’s Guide.
Dan Gardoqui is a mimic, a bird nerd and gets more questions about animal poop than you can imagine.
As a leading bird language expert, Dan served as Science Editor of What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal Nature’s Secrets. Dan earned a M.S. in Natural Resources, served as science faculty for multiple colleges.
He also co-founded and led a successful nature connection nonprofit for 20 years.
Dan helped design the popular “A Bird’s World” exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science. Today, Dan runs Lead with Nature, where he does nature-based consulting, guiding and training for businesses, communities and individuals.
He lives in the coastal foothills of Southern Maine with his family where he enjoys running, cycling, hunting and foraging.
Bryan Calk started birding in his backyard in south Texas when he was 10 and has never stopped. He was fortunate enough to be helped in his early years by two, strongly encouraging mentors. Those mentors—and the people he has met through birding—continue to be his “best birds” of all.
Currently residing in Albuquerque as a professional birding and nature tour guide, Bryan loves to explore the Southwest with his binoculars and camera in tow.
He enjoys sharing his knowledge and birdfinding with others and has led field trips previously for Birding with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Naturalist Journeys, NatureScape Tours, BRANT, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Festival of the Cranes, and for numerous Ornithological and Audubon Societies.
Thanks to his partnership with Birding with Extension, Bryan has been able to pursue his greatest passion: leading and educating young birders. His summer program Rio Diablo Birding Camp takes high school students across the Transpecos region of Texas to not only look for birds, but also learn about ecology, history, and culture.
Bryan’s “spark bird” was the incomparable Painted Bunting, and his favorite bird is the Common Pauraque. In his free time, Bryan enjoys cooking, gardening, art, and searching for and photographing not only birds, but butterflies, reptiles, mammals, and more.
YOUR ROCKSTAR T.A.’S
I’m first and foremost the blessed mother of three kids, who luckily enough, love listening, and witnessing bird stories, whenever there is one to share!
I have an M.A. degree in archaeology, and I’m thus fascinated with the relationship that seems to have been existing between birds and humans since, well, since the beginning of times!
I am a former survival instructor, and I’m passionate about any skill that allowed our ancestors to strive in this wild and free environment that was ours thousands of years ago… Especially tracking and bird language. I now mentor groups of people to reconnect with Nature through these ancient skills. I have a certificate in falconry, but am only just stepping on this new and fascinating road.
I started formally birding with Kristi’s «Master Class», «Learning Bird Song» and «Earnest Rascals» and am amazed at the wonders I discover everyday!
Previous Team Members – You may see them from time to time in the Facebook group, the masters course and other interesting places.
Bird Song Mentor
Hey there! My name is Treven Hooker (He/Him/El) I have dedicated my life to learning about and bonding with the wild spaces around me, and I am incredibly fortunate that those wild spaces include the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona.
I am an outdoor and environmental educator for the Arizona Trail Association. I do this work because I am deeply passionate about helping others develop deep and meaningful relationships with wild spaces, both internally and externally.
I believe playfulness is key to learning and bonding, and so playfulness is often my favorite learning style, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I have worked with Kristi through her courses for over two years, and I am very excited to support bird lovers and nature geeks taking her courses.
My favorite birds to see right now are mysterious owls hiding in the dark, and sleeping cactus wrens tucked away in their nests for the night.
Hi, I’m Patty Cheek. I’ve always loved the outdoors since I was a little girl. However, I didn’t become a bird nerd until I moved to Whidbey Island 13 years ago and then, retired from nursing in 2018.
I have been a music teacher and an oncology nurse as well as a volunteer for the Red Cross.
I am actively working as president of Whidbey Audubon Society and have been during the difficult COVID 19 crisis. I will continue in that capacity for at least one more year.
I became a volunteer marine naturalist several years ago and have worked actively in the Langley Whale Center for several years.
There is just not enough time to do all the things I love like sailing, reading, hiking, and cooking and, of course, birding.
I attended Kristi’s For the Love of Birds Festival earlier this year and I became completely hooked into taking the Learning Bird Song course and Earnest Rascals after that.
I’m deeply honored to be a TA for a new group of trainees. I am doing the Advanced Skills with Kristi and enjoy her encouragement and the tools she is teaching me.
My abilities in birding have increased enormously in the past year and I am always curious to learn more.
Bird Song Mentor
Danielle Belleny is a wildlife biologist, science communicator, and avid birder from San Antonio, Texas.
Her favorite part about her job is being able to share her knowledge of nature with others.
She is a member of the BlackAFinSTEM Collective, an organization focused on sharing the stories of Black scientists and nature enthusiasts.
Danielle is also a co-founder of #BlackBirdersWeek, a movement created by the BlackAFinSTEM Collective which celebrates Black experiences in outdoor recreation.
My name is Suzanne. I am a lifelong native of Brooklyn, New York who has been fortunate to spend many years of summers in the country in Ct.
As a former nurse and patient advocate, I have always been aware of our bodies and our spirit’s need to experience nature no matter where we are.
Hey there! My name is Peri Sasnett. I am a multimedia science communicator who works mainly for the National Park Service, creating videos, articles, and programs to share scientific stories with the public.
Recent locations have included Grand Teton and Glacier, and I’m currently in Joshua Tree.
I’m relatively new to birding, first tagging along with birder friends in 2019 and then starting to learn independently in 2020, when I signed up for Kristi’s class.
My name is Deanna Nicols. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I love birds. I love to watch them, to listen to them, and to just know they are out there, sharing this world.
I completed the 9 month Advanced Skills for Beginning Birders Masters course and the Learning Bird Song Course.
She inspires many beginning birders with her thoughtful gentle approach to teaching.
I am a lover of all things in our natural environment, a Virginia Master Naturalist, an active participant in citizen science projects, and I lead children’s programs at a local state park.
I learned about the Learning Bird Song course and decided to take it despite a hearing loss. It was the highlight of 2020 and I must say the “tools” I received through the course opened up a whole new world for me.
I am currently taking Kristi’s Advanced Skills for Beginning Birders masters course and have joined the 2021 spring and summer Learning Bird Song and Earnest Rascal teams as a TA. The learning continues as it is boundless! I look forward to meeting you and sharing your journeys toward new discoveries.
Recent Blog Posts
BIRD MYSTERIES ARE FUN!!I love a good bird mystery! When nature provides a glimpse into the secret life of a bird, it's just so dang fun to try and figure out what's going on or who it is. Maybe I was a detective in a past life or distantly related to Sherlock Holmes...
Have You Ever Heard of The Word Murmuration? It’s a super cool word that means slightly different things to different folks. In the bird world, murmuration references a magical occurrence that a few among us have been lucky to witness. In my video below, I’ll share...
Could You Figure Out Who This Feather Belongs To? What if you found a feather in a place you'd never been to before... How would you ID it? Last week I was walking along a beach in South Carolina, a place I'd never been before, and found the feather above. I used a...
A Magic Encounter With A ShorebirdI'm on a mission to learn shorebirds this year! To do so, I've taken myself to warmer waters and devote a few hours each day(or most every day) getting to know them. The other day, I had a most magic and sweet encounter with one...