2017 FEATURED SPEAKERS
When Pete Dunne was seven years old, he was presented with two instruments that would define his life. One was binoculars; the other a book--a book about birds. One brought intimacy with the nature, the other understanding, and through them the woodlands behind his suburban home in Northern New Jersey became a portal that opened onto a world of discovery.
Now 64, serving as Birding Ambassador for the New Jersey Audubon Society and formerly Director of the Society's Cape May Bird Observatory, Pete uses his talents and energy to make the natural world real for others. Through books like THE ART OF BIRD IDENTIFICATION, BAYSHORE SUMMER, PRAIRIE SPRING; PETE DUNNE ON BIRDING; THE WIND MASTERS; HAWKS IN FLIGHT, PETE DUNNE’S ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE COMPANION; regular columns that have appeared in Birding, Winging It, Bird Watcher's Digest, Wild Bird, Birder's World, American Birds, Living Bird, the "New Jersey Sunday Section of the New York Times.
A field birder with an international reputation, he has served on the board of the American Birding Association, Hawk Migration Association of North America the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. An authority on the optical needs of birders he has been a marketing and product advisor to Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, Leupold, Swarovski Optik, Swift Instruments, Bausch and Lomb, and other companies.
As involved as he is with New Jersey Audubon's programming, Dunne makes time to lead an every Monday morning bird walk and, in season, to assist visitors at the Cape May Hawk Count--the count he inaugurated in 1976.
He is also the founder of and a 29-year veteran of the World Series of Birding. Called "The Worlds Greatest Natural Treasure Hunt," the annual event attracts approximately 75 teams and has raised over $8 million dollars for assorted conservation initiatives. In recognition of this event, and for “life time achievement” Dunne was awarded the American Birding Association’s Roger Tory Peterson Award in 2001. Other awards include the EPA Environmental Protection Award, Governor’s Conference on Tourism Environmental Award and the 1991 Winchester Good News Hunting Writer’s Contest 1st prize.
When not working, writing, or traveling Dunne spends his free time with wife Linda birding and exploring the natural areas near their hometown of Mauricetown, New Jersey. His presentation SMALL-HEADED FLYCATCHER, HE DIDN’T LEAVE HIS NAME recounts the presumed rediscovery of the bird that has come to symbolize the rivalry between these twin pillars of American Ornithology, written in the guise of a modern day birding who done it.
Laura Erickson has been blathering about birds since she memorized the “Bird” entry in her family’s encyclopedia when she was a preschooler. She whistled in a cardinal when she was very little, and once saw a whole flock of warblers in the tree outside her bedroom window, though she thought they must be the angels of canaries that died saving miners’ lives.
Laura didn’t know how to identify birds until after her mother-in-law gave her a field guide and binoculars for Christmas in 1974. By the late ’70s she was subjecting her middle-school students in Madison, Wisconsin, and readers of her occasional columns in The Wisconsin State Journal to endless stories about birds. She moved to Duluth, Minnesota, and started producing “For the Birds,” a radio spot now airing on independent public and community radio stations from Oregon to New York, in 1986. “For the Birds” is the longest-running radio program about birds in the United States, podcast at http://www.lauraerickson.com/radio/.
Laura is currently a contributing editor of BirdWatching magazine, author of ten books, including 101 Ways to Help Birds and the National Geographic Pocket Guide to North American Birds, and she collaborates on projects with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where she served as science editor from 2008–2010.
Laura served as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator focused primarily on songbirds and especially Common Nighthawks while she was a stay-at-home mother in the 80s and 90s; has counted raptors and songbirds at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and other sites in Duluth, Minnesota; and studied nighthawk digestion as part of an ill-fated Ph.D project. Her professor, Dr. Gary Duke (co-founder of The Raptor Center) told her she was the “world authority on nighthawk digestion” even as he mentioned that no one else particularly wanted that distinction.
An avid birder, Laura saw 604 species (593 countable by ABA rules) during her “2013 Conservation Big Year,” and until recently was listed in the top ten overall on the ABA “Listing Central” for Lower 48 Big Years. Probably many people have seen more than she has who haven’t entered their totals, so this is a meaningless distinction.
Luke Seitz's birding career took off when a brilliant male Scarlet Tanager graced his Connecticut yard when he was only six years old. Birds then became an all-encompassing focus and he hasn’t looked back since. Luke graduated from Cornell University in 2016 with a degree in philosophy, although much of his time there was spent painting birds and working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Luke’s interest in Neotropical birding started at age 14 with a week-long stint in northwest Ecuador. Since then, he hasn’t been capable of staying home for very long. He has spent substantial time exploring the nooks and crannies of the Andes and Amazon, enjoying brilliant hummingbirds and tanagers but also the subtleties of tyrannulets and ovenbirds. More recently, Luke has continued expanding his interested in global birding with expeditions to Australia, China, Southeast Asia, and Ethiopia, although South America will always hold a special place in his heart.
One of Luke’s strongest bird-related interests is illustration. He started doodling at a young age, which gradually progressed into more detailed scientific artwork. Especially enthralling is the challenge of sketching birds in the field. His illustrations have been used in many publications including “Birding” and “Birder’s Guide” magazines, and as logos for the World Series of Birding and eBird’s Global Big Day initiative.
Luke currently serves as a member on the Maine Bird Records Committee. In addition to birds, he has a keen interest in gymnastics, dry riesling, and the music of Bruce Springsteen.