We admit it…there is nothing easy about judging the ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest! We owe a debt of gratitude to those who step forward each year to help us select our contest winners. They spend countless volunteer hours reviewing and providing feedback on each entry. Their efforts truly make the contest an educational and memorable experience.

We often have repeat entrants so we like to rotate judges year-to-year. If you are interested in becoming a judge, please contact Liz Deluna Gordon or any member of the ABA Staff or Board.

Below we present the 2019 judges! (Changes to the lineup for 2020 coming soon)

Field Notebook Module

Matthew Halley is a scientist and historian, from southeastern Pennsylvania, who has authored numerous articles about the evolution and history of American birds and birding. He is best known for his research on the Nightingale-thrushes (genus Catharus), especially his discovery of cooperative breeding in the Veery (C. fuscescens), and for locating and exposing lost artifacts and manuscripts that have reshaped the public understanding of ornithological history. Halley lives in Philadelphia, where he is a PhD candidate at Drexel University, Research Associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and Editor of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC) and its journal Cassinia.
Lisa A. White is Executive Editor of Nature and Field Guides at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She has edited books by many of North America’s most well-known birders and is the editor of both the Peterson and Kaufman Field Guide series. Lisa completed Mass Audubon’s Birder’s Certificate Program, has been a member of the ABA since 2000, and has enjoyed judging the YBY contest for many years. She lives in Boston with her husband, two sons, two cats, and one dog.
Jody Enck is a life-long birder, having been fascinated as a child by the incredible diversity of avian life on a small farm in south-central Pennsylvania. While his family members enjoyed birds, none of them were really into birding. So, he looked to print and audio media for support as a birder. Eventually, he adopted the idea of using a field notebook to record his sighting, take notes, and draw pictures that only he could love. He has spent the last 30 years or so in the conservation field, first as a wildlife biologist and then as a conservation social scientist. In 2016, he helped found the Sister Bird Club Network, which links birders throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond through the birds we all love so much.

Writing Module

Frank Izaguirre is a doctoral student in English literature at West Virginia University. He loves reading any bird book he can find, from the exploration narratives of early naturalists to Big Year adventure stories. He has published several articles in birding magazines like Birding and Bird Watcher’s Digest, and is also currently serving as Editorial Intern at Birding.
Jordan Rutter is a life-long birder with a passion for connecting others to the natural world through birds. She currently is the American Bird Conservancy’s Director of Public Relations and serves on the Wilson Ornithological Society Council. With a M.Sc. in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and over ten years of experience in the ornithology field, she has a strong science background that helps her better understand current bird research. Having managed the digital communications for other bird organizations (American Ornithological Society, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort) and international events (NAOC 2016, Earth Optimism 2018) has aided in her science communication and outreach to non-technical audiences. She has long ties to the ABA too given she was a young birder of the year in middle school and a Tropicbirds team member for the Great Texas Birding Classic in high school. The past two years, she has been a co-leader of ABA’s Camp Colorado. Connect with Jordan personally on social media – @JERutter
Neil Hayward grew up near Oxford, England, where, at a young age, he first became obsessed with birds. After a PhD in genetics at Cambridge University he moved (permanently) to the US in 2005 to head up the US operations of the biotechnology company Abcam. He left in 2011 to pursue a consulting career as owner of Cambridge Blue Consulting. Neil is currently the Field Trip Coordinator and a director of the Brookline Bird Club. He is the author of Lost Among the Birds (Bloomsbury, June 2016), a memoir of his accidental big year. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Gerri, his young son Henry, and two cats, Sally and Khiva.

Illustration Module

Christina Baal is a wandering bird artist whose life dream is to see and paint 10,000 different species of birds. She runs Drawing 10,000 Birds as her platform to create bird art and inspire others to do the same. While not running around chasing birds, Christina teaches as an environmental educator and is pursuing a Masters degree in Environmental Science from Green Mountain College. Her favorite birds are Yellow Warblers, Turkey Vultures, and California Condors.
Kate Garchinsky illustrates books and performs raucous bird calls in the woods surrounding her studio near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She draws her inspiration from the natural world, from mountaintops to cracks in the sidewalk. Her debut picture book, The Secret Life of the Red Fox, written by celebrated author Laurence Pringle, was published to critical acclaim. Kate was awarded the Don & Virgina Eckelberry Fellowship for nature artists at the Academy of Natural Sciences in 2015, where she has spent time researching and sketching bird specimens.
John Sill was born in the coastal plain of North Carolina in the small town of St. Pauls. He received a BS in wildlife biology from N. C. State University. John got his love of birds from his Aunt Della who had an abundant interest in all of creation. His father, a talented artist with a love of watercolor and an able naturalist, gave him instruction and encouragement.

Photography Module

Mia McPherson enjoyed film photography but when digital cameras were invented her love for bird photography deepened because of the instant results she could obtain. Mia became seriously passionate about bird photography while living in Florida and after her move West in 2009 she has spent much of her time photographing birds in Utah, Idaho and Montana. Her images have appeared in field guides, magazines, books and on her daily blog. Mia is a frequent photo contributor to ABA’s Birding magazine and other ABA publications
Maresa Pryor-Luzier is a lifelong resident of Florida and studied photography at Daytona State College and specializes in nature and wildlife. As a long time birder, her compassion shows in her work. Published world-wide her images have appeared in numerous nature magazines and periodicals. She is a founding member of the North American Nature Photographers Association, and former board member of the Sarasota Audubon Society, and the American Society of Media Photographers of Central Florida.
Bill Schmoker’s photos appear in magazines, photographic field guides, bird ID cards, newspapers, interpretive signs, webpages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as artist references (www.schmoker.org/BirdPics). He is also a busy blogger, columnist, instructor, speaker and trip leader, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team. When not birding, Bill teaches middle school science and enjoys family life with his wife and son.

Conservation & Community Leadership Module

Jennie Duberstein is the Young Birder Liaison for the ABA. She manages the young birder blog (The Eyrie) and provides support to other young birder programs, including directing Camp Colorado. She’s been involved with young birder programs since 1999 with the ABA and other organizations, editing A Bird’s-Eye View, the student newsletter of the ABA, coordinating the first three young birder conferences, and directing and leading field courses and summer camps for young birders. In addition to Camp Colorado, Jennie currently co-leads VENT’s Camp Chiricahua. For her day job, Jennie works as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Sonoran Joint Venture, a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is also adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona, in the School of the Environment and Natural Resources and a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.
Mike Parr, President of the American Bird Conservancy, joined ABC in 1996 after graduating from University of East Anglia, UK, and working for BirdLife International. He has authored several books including: Parrots – A Guide to the Parrots of the World, Important Bird Areas in the United States, and The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation, along with numerous articles and papers. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and is Chair of the Alliance for Zero Extinction.
Judy Pollock received the ABA’s Betty Petersen Award for Conservation and Community. Judy has been a leader in local bird conservation since 1997, when she and others founded the Bird Conservation Network. A bird monitor since 1995 for the North Branch Restoration Project, she and others founded the Bird Conservation Network Survey, the largest local long-term citizen science breeding bird monitoring project in the nation. She still coordinates the Survey along with Lee Ramsey. She served as BCN’s first president as continues to be an active representative.

Currently a resident of Evanston with her husband Scott, Judy was born in New York and came to the Chicago area in 1985. She and Scott have two children, Jake and Sonia.