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Hummer Speakers - Keynotes & Bios

2022 Speakers

Cissy Beasley  Thursday: Texas BBQ Dinner

Cissy Beasley is a native South Texan with deep roots going back many generations to the mid-1800s. Ranch owner, professional nature & wildlife photographer, professional real estate photographer & videographer, FAA-certified drone pilot.  spending so much time in the country and on the coast, closely observing all the indigenous species populating those areas, has well equipped her to follow her passion - photography. Through photography she attained a new awareness of a world full of beauty and an awareness of the details. "With a camera in my hand, I emerge into the light of each day believing that anything is possible. If by way of this calling, I help others become more sensitive to the world around them, I will have fulfilled my mission."

Sky Kings Falconry: "Raptors Revealed" in the Auditorium

Sky Kings Falconry features hawks, owls, falcons, vultures, parrots and other colorful and interesting animals. The program will focus on natural history, unique traits and the natural abilities of these incredible animals. Sky Kings Falconry is dedicated to the Education, and preservation of our planet's wildlife, and employing its natural abilities to correct environmental issues. Birds in flight, so arrive early, as the doors need to stay closed after the presentation begins.

Richard Crossley

Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, photographer and award-winning author of ‘The Crossley ID Guide’ series, a “reality birding” approach to looking at connections between birds and habitats, and “Western Guide”, Ornitherapy: For Your Mind, Body, and Soul (co-authored with Holly Merker and Sophie Crossley). Born in Yorkshire, England, he also lived in Japan, and birded worldwide before settling down for three decades in Cape May, NJ. He now swaps time between Southern Florida and the mountains of Southern California – both places chosen for their exciting birding prospects. Richard co-founded the global birding initiatives Pledge to Fledge, Race4Birds and co-founded The Cape May Young Birders Club. Richard has served on the board of directors at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and contributed to most major birding publications. Richard is frequently heard on radio, and is a sought-after public speaker known for his thought-provoking and entertaining style that helps awaken a bigger picture view of observation and ID.

Other featured speakers:

Ben Horstmann serves as the Regional Interpretive Specialist for South Texas State Parks. His addiction to birding was a direct result of moving to the coastal bend and birding with the park staff and volunteers. His favorite pastime is birding in the parks and natural places of Texas.  No need for binoculars for this tour but get ready to take notes about some of the best birding spots in Texas!

Program Title: Birding in Texas State Parks, Your Other Backyard

Thurs., Sept. 15 - Aquarium Ed Center at 2:20PM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 2:20PM

Ben will also lead a Local Birding Panel Discussion where local birders discuss and share tips on birding experiences and premier locations.

Thurs., Sept. 15 - Aquarium Ed Center at 3:40PM

In addition, Ben will lead a Birding Tour of Goose Island State Park.  Park entry fee is waived with ticket purchase.  Begin in the historical pavilion built in the 1930s.  Goose Island State Park is a great stopover for migratory birds such as hummingbirds, and whooping cranes, as well as a home to a variety of wildlife.

Fri, Sept. 16 - GISP birding talk and field trip 8:30-11:30AM
Sun, Sept. 18 - GISP birding talk and field trip 8:30-11:30AM

Martha McLeod is an award-winning semi-retired science teacher and youth birding program sponsor.   She has been in education for 30 years.  Her student birding teams compete yearly in the Great Texas Birding Classic achieving top honors.  She was named “Birder of the Year” by Swarovski Optiks/Bird Watcher’s Digest in 2018 and is inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.  She will share highlights from her years of birdwatching with students and will give pointers on making successful outdoor experiences with children.

Program Title: A Peek Into The Most Successful Kids’ Birdwatching Program in Texas
Fri, Sept. 16 at 1:00PM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 11:40AM

Glenn Olsen leads birding and nature tours to exciting locations like Big Bend, the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica. He teaches bird identification, natural history, and landscaping for birds and butterflies classes through Rice University's Continuing Studies Department, Houston Audubon, and the Texas Master Naturalist program. Glenn enjoys plants and has served as president the State Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT). He is currently serving a second term on the Houston Audubon Board. He has led trips or presented programs for the Texas Ornithological Society, Houston Audubon, and Birding Festivals for the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, and Galveston.

Program Title: Beginning Birding
Fri, Sept. 16 8:30-11:00AM
Meet for lecture at Aquarium Ed Center in Rockport 8:30-9:30AM then board a bus to field trip location for field talk until approx. 11:00AM (location in Rockport to be advised).

Bird watching, now known as birding, is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors. Texas offers some of the best birding in the US and some beautiful places to see birds! This program is intended for anyone that wants to improve their bird identification skills.  Glenn will cover key elements of: optics, field guides, and apps for birding, how to look at and what to look for to identify birds, common mistakes in identification, and when and where to see birds.  In the field trip, you will practice using the principles learned in the presentation.

Glenn will also share his knowledge of hummingbirds!  In this presentation, he will focus on learning about the nine that either migrate through or reside in Texas. We will learn about their amazing migration, breeding and nesting habits, when and where to go to see the various species and how to identify them. Additionally, you will learn about some astounding aspects of these jewels of the bird world that are regularly overlooked or not even thought about!

Program Title:  The Tiniest Birds of Texas:  Hummingbirds
Sat, Sept. 17 at 10:20AM
Sun, Sept. 18 at 1:00PM

Brent Ortego Dr. Ortego recently retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife.  He had been a wildlife biologist since 1982 who primarily worked with conservation of endangered and non-game species.  He has a special interest in hummingbirds and has banded over 30,000 individuals of 14 different species.  Dr. Ortego will discuss the bird’s fascinating biology, nesting habits, and foraging.  We know you will enjoy!

Program Title: Hummingbirds 101 - The Basics
Fri, Sept. 16 at 2:20PM
Sun, Sept. 18 at 10:20AM

Cissy Beasley (KEYNOTE) was born and raised in South Texas into an outdoors and ranching family. Heredity, environment, training and experience have led Cissy to form an interactive and cooperative relationship with nature beginning in childhood, and flourishing ever since. Her passion for nature photography was ignited 11 years ago during a photo session of nesting Mourning Doves; Cissy's enthusiasm for showcasing nature continues evolving to this day. Highly honored for her work, Cissy humbly acknowledges her many finishes as a Top-five Finalist in the South Texas-based Wildlife in Focus Photo Contest, winning First Place Grand Prize in 2019.  This program will showcase the natural world, where order and beauty prevail – versus the stressful human world. We need nature now more than ever! Images will highlight local creatures, flora and fauna, & landscapes, including aerial photography.

Program Title:  The Beauty Around Us – A Celebration of Nature
Thurs, Sept. 15 - Saltwater Pavilion Dinner at 6:30PM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 10:20AM

Joan Garland is the Outreach Program Coordinator at the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute. The Reserve is a federal and state partnership that conducts research, education, and stewardship programs. Joan previously worked at the International Crane Foundation for 14 years on Whooping Crane conservation education in Texas and with the reintroduced ultralight-led migratory population of Whooping Cranes. She also coordinated crane education programming in northeastern China and Russia.  Learn about the life cycle of Whooping Cranes, and past and current conservation efforts to protect and restore one of North America’s most endangered species.

Program Title:  Whooping Cranes
Fri, Sept. 16 at 11:40AM

Nelida Spurrell, a Forester Engineer native from Brazil, Neli moved to Texas in 1999 where she embraced the journey of learning how to garden in Texas soils and as advocate for the butterflies in North Texas area, became a Texas Master Gardener & Master Composter.  Neli is Mid-Coast Chapter Texas Master Naturalist. She has worked diligently with “Keep Aransas County Beautiful” and Aransas Pathways including re-establishing the native milkweeds at these sites after Hurricane Harvey.  Neli’s passion includes controlling invasive plants and replenishing gardens with other blooming native plants to encourage more butterflies and pollinators to the area.

Program Title: Life Migration Story of the Monarchs
Fri, Sept. 16 at 10:20AM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 1:00PM

Darrell Cochran is an award-winning, internationally published, wildlife photographer that focuses on photographing birds that can be found in Texas. One of Darrell’s specialties is photographing hummingbirds. Darrell took up wildlife photography after retiring from the United States Air Force.  He has a passion for sharing his knowledge and experience with other people and has partnered with several cities and Texas Parks and Wildlife to build photography areas that are free to the public, so that anybody can have access to photographing wildlife. Darrell is a native Texan and currently resides in San Antonio, Texas.  This program provides information and tips on how to photograph hummingbirds using several techniques that can be used by participants in their own backyards.

Program Title:  The Joy of Hummingbird Photography
Fri, Sept. 16 at 3:40PM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 3:40PM

Samantha Wolfe is a shorebird biologist with Manomet- a non-profit organization focusing on shorebird research and conservation across North & South America. Sam earned a master’s degree in range and wildlife management from Texas A&M University—Kingsville, where she studied habitat use of songbirds migrating along the Texas coast. Her work in Texas has also included Black-capped Vireo and White-eyed Vireo monitoring in central Texas, and multi-species inventory and monitoring in the panhandle. She has banded, counted, and monitored birds in Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, and American Samoa. Sam lives in Rockport with her husband Carter & their dog Millie.  The long-distance migration of shorebirds is a spectacle that far too few people know about. Twice per year, shorebirds travel thousands of miles and cross vast oceans. And even with their exceptional ability to navigate challenges like predators, storms, and land conversion, shorebird populations are declining at an alarming rate. Sam will discuss the value of conservation tools and what birders can do to help.

Program Title: Shorebird Conservation Across Continents & Flyways: A Look at How the Coastal Plain of Texas Fits Into the Bigger Picture
Fri, Sept 16, 10:20AM
Sat, Sept. 17, 3:40PM

Tiffany Kersten is owner/guide of Nature Ninja Birding Tours, based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She is the current record holder for the Lower 48 States Big Year, seeing 726 species in 2021. She holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Northland College, and has a fifteen-year background working in environmental education and hands-on field research. She is passionate about making the birding a more welcoming and safe space for women.  She didn’t set out to do a big year, but after a series of unanticipated and serendipitous events, she found herself suddenly amidst one! Join Tiffany to learn about the trials, successes, strength, and healing that she found along the roads she traveled throughout 2021, ultimately setting the all-time Lower 48 Big Year record: 726 species.

Program Title: Birdie Big Year: Elevating Women Birders
Fri, Sept. 16 at 10:40AM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 1:00PM

Virginia (Ginger) Easton-Smith Virginia (Ginger) Easton Smith has been the County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Aransas County for 13 years. She came here from Hawaii, where she got her Bachelor and Masters degrees in Horticulture, lived and worked for 30 years.  She moved here to get closer to hummingbirds since there were not any in Hawaii.  Learn how to create a habitat for hummingbirds in your own yard. Hummers need food (and not just nectar), water, and shelter to feel comfortable to hang out and make your yard hum. Find out what they eat that has more protein than beef (pound per pound that is!) and what to plant to make them happy.

Program Title:  Make Your Yard “Hum”
Fri, Sept. 16 at 2:20PM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 11:40AM

Rari Marks has been a biologist for over 10 years and has worked for International Crane Foundation for a year and a half. She is currently looking at the ways that Whooping Cranes use freshwater wetlands on private ranches. She loves the work that she does and is delighted to share some of it with you.  Rari will be discussing what makes the Whooping Crane unique from other birds and animals. This program is jam packed with Whooping Crane natural history, a little anatomy and what International Crane Foundation does here in Texas.

Program Title: The Unique and Wonderful Whooping Crane
Fri, Sept 16, at 1:00PM
Sun, Sept. 18, 11:40AM

Sky Kings Falconry (KEYNOTE) is dedicated to the education and preservation of our planet’s wildlife.  They employ the natural abilities of raptors and other animals to correct environmental issues.  The team at Sky Kings has been working with raptors and other animals for more than 16 years.  The program features hawks, owls, falcons, vultures, parrots and other colorful and interesting animals.  They will focus on their natural history, unique traits and the natural abilities of these incredible animals.  Birds in flight so arrive early as the doors need to stay closed after the presentation begins.  You will have an opportunity to see the birds at the Hummer Mall and Outdoor Exhibits as well.

Program Title:  Wildlife Revealed!
Fri, Sept. 16 at 5:00PM
Sat, Sept. 17 at 2:20PM

Richard Crossley (KEYNOTE) is an internationally acclaimed birder, photographer and award-winning author of ‘The Crossley ID Guide’ series. Born in Yorkshire, England, he also lived in Japan, and birded worldwide before settling down for three decades in Cape May, NJ. He now swaps time between Southern Florida and the mountains of Southern California – both places chosen for their exciting birding prospects.  In his midlife, Richard decided to spend less time obsessively birding and to focus on paying it forward. Crazy, wildly passionate, and driven, are just a few adjectives used to describe his energy in pushing the envelope that challenges the way we look at birds and conservation.  You will also have an opportunity to meet Richard at the Hummer Mall.  He will be book signing before and after his presentations.

Program Title:  Learning to Look (outdoor birding talk, location TBA)
Fri, Sept. 16 - 7:00AM-8:30AM
Sat, Sept. 17 - 7:00AM-8:30AM

Enjoy an intimate setting connecting with nature with author Richard Crossley. Understanding is the key to learning. As you shift your focus to look at birds longer, closer, and from a broader perspective than is typical, a new world of discovery opens up. This program is for those who want to learn helpful hints on how to identify birds, observe interesting behaviors, and discover identification tricks of the birding trade with Richard. Ideal for beginners or experts alike, come experience bird watching as an open door into the natural world and connect with nature for your overall well-being. Everything in nature is connected and for a purpose!


Program Title:  There and Back
Fri, Sept. 16 at 3:40PM

While working on The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl, Richard decided he needed to drive to the Arctic Ocean, northern Alaska – from his home in Cape May, NJ. Told in a thick Yorkshire accent, with a sense of humor, and a disdain for PC, Richard will talk about his 16,000-mile adventure. Living out of his truck, Richard chats about the incredible places he travelled and the inspiring people he met who changed his thoughts. He learned lots; you will too.

Program Title:  Past, Present and Future
Sat, Sept. 17 at 5:00PM

Tales of lessons learned while growing up in the wild British birding scene, from travels around the world, to living in Japan and settling down in his birding utopia, Cape May, NJ. It will be a fast-paced story told in a Yorkshire brogue, through a camera lens that loves color and art, but with a strong point of view.  With humor and depth Richard will also highlight the thoughts behind the revolutionary ‘The Crossley ID Guide’ series to self-publishing his latest guide on Western Birds. He also talks about the positive impact of birds on people through Ornitherapy: For your Mind, Body and Soul (co-authored with Holy Merker, Sophie Crossley).  But is changing how we look at books and birds enough? ‘Heck, no!’ says Richard, ‘these are exciting times, and tomorrow must become a new day’.  Come and listen to Richard’s optimistic outlook for birding, lifestyles and conservation. It’s sure to change the way you think!

See Schedule For Locations


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