We admit it…there is nothing easy about mentoring the ABA Young Birders of the Year! 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 submission. Their efforts truly make the program an educational and memorable experience.

If you are interested in becoming a judge, please contact Ioana Seritan or any member of the ABA Staff or Board.

Below we present the 2021 mentors!

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.

Jennie MacFarland has been on staff with the Tucson Audubon Society since 2010 as the Bird Conservation Biologist. In 2010, Jennie graduated from the University of Arizona with a BS in Wildlife Conservation and Management from the School of Natural Resources. That same month she was hired by Tucson Audubon Society to work in the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program and currently coordinates the program with our partners Audubon Arizona and Arizona Game and Fish. Jennie is also the coordinator for the Tucson Bird Count and organizes several large-scale citizen science efforts in SE Arizona each year including Elegant Trogon surveys of five Southeast Arizona Sky Island mountain ranges, winter grassland surveys focusing on Chestnut-collared Longspurs and western Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys. After living in Tucson, Arizona, for over 20 years, Jennie is still amazed and delighted at the beauty and rich bird life of this region and is thrilled to be doing work with bird conservation. A great bonus to this work is how important birding skills and activities are to bird surveys and conservation work. It’s a job so fun it hardly feels like work!

Corrie Borgman is an ornithologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She is passionate about bird conservation and finding practical solutions that benefit both human and bird communities. Seeing young people engage with conservation issues is truly motivating, and she hopes to encourage a similar passion for conservation in young birders. She is currently involved in numerous studies that are trying to identify solutions to conservation issues for Bendire’s Thrashers, pinyon-juniper and grassland birds. Her family inspired her love of the outdoors and nature from an early age, and she still spends as much time as possible outdoors as an avid backpacker and skier. She loves observing bird behavior, especially during the breeding season, and loves to hawkwatch.  

Jennie Duberstein

Jennie MacFarland

Corrie Borgman

Jen Brumfield

For Donna L. Dittmann, birds and birding have been a driving force since childhood. Donna has a long history with the birding community, including leading many trips and workshops, is currently the Secretary of the Louisiana Ornithological Society’s (LOS) Louisiana Bird Records Committee (LBRC), Editor of the LBRC Annual Newsletter, and editor of the LOS News. She served on the ABA-Checklist Committee and was a technical editor for Birding. She garnered her appreciation for museum science and learned how to prepare specimens while volunteering at the California Academy of Sciences while in high school. She later started her museum career at LSU Museum of Natural Science and has participated on expeditions to Peru, Bolivia, Panama, Cameroon, and many US destinations including the Hawaiian Islands. Research interests include genetics, distribution, identification, and molt of birds with emphasis on those species occurring in North America, which have resulted in numerous publications in scientific journals and popular outlets. She has contributed over 11,500 prepared specimens to various museums. She and Steve Cardiff co-founded the unique birding-agritourism event Yellow Rails and Rice Festival, which celebrated its eleventh year in 2019 (2020 was canceled due to COVID-19). She is also an artist and her artwork has been published in various scientific and popular publications.

Rebecca Minardi is passionate about connecting young people with nature and fostering a love of birds at an early age. After receiving her MPH from Des Moines University and a MS in Community Sustainability from Michigan State University, Rebecca and her family lived in New York City where she facilitated Free Forest School sessions in Central Park and wrote for The Urban Audubon while continuing to serve on the board of the Detroit Audubon and co-editing their quarterly publication, The Flyway. As a full-time mom of two, Rebecca now resides in Illinois and enjoys birding with her children in their backyard. In her spare time, she draws, trail runs, and is currently working on her first book.

Donna Dittmann

Rebecca Minardi

Jessica Melfi is the assistant editor for Bird Watcher’s Digest and co-founder of Longbourn Editorial Services, where she freelance edits for a number of publishers, including McGraw-Hill Education, University of Dayton Publishing, and The Ohio State University Press. Her first publishing job was as an intern at Bird Watcher’s Digest while she attended Marietta College in southern Ohio, but it wasn’t until some years later that she became a serious birder. Her editing career recently brought her back full circle to BWD, and she is also now raising four young birders in Columbus, Ohio. It is Jessica’s passion to inspire young people and their caregivers to be curious about nature, observing not just birds but all the flora and fauna in our backyards and beyond.   

Orietta Estrada is a professional writer and photographer based in Maryland. Her work has been featured in The Week, BirdWatching, Drive Magazine, Birding Magazine, Sierra, as well as other print and online publications. She is co-founder of IDEA Birders and co-chairperson of the Black & Latinx Birders Scholarship Fund. Orietta is also a Maryland Master Naturalist who participates in community outreach focused on informing the public about raptor conservation. When she’s not birding, she’s spending time with her family and friends, reading, or playing music.

Neil Hayward has been a birder ever since he was strong enough to lift a pair of binoculars on his own. He is a current director on the board of the ABA, serves as President of the Brookline Bird Club, and teaches birding in Massachusetts. He is a writer and editor for the journal Bird Observer, and is the author of Lost Among the Birds, a memoir of his somewhat accidental and entirely ridiculous big year. He’s currently working on a book about the wildlife of southern India. Neil lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife Gerri, sons Henry and Alexander, and cats Sally and Khiva.

Jessica Melfi

Orietta Estrada

Neil Hayward

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.

Maresa Pryor-Luzier’s interests in nature began as a birder as a young child. She now leads private photo tours specializing in bird photography. Her travels include extraordinary places such as the Galapagos Islands, Cuba, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Southern Africa. With over three decades of photo credits including: Audubon, Living Bird, Mother Earth News, National Geographic Kids, National Wildlife, Outdoor Photographer, Ranger Rick, Reuters America, Scholastic Library, Sierra Outings, Smithsonian, and is represented by Danita Delimont. As a lifelong resident of Florida, Maresa now resides in New Mexico with her husband of thirty years. Maresa has an A.A. degree from Lake Sumter State College in Leesburg, Florida. She also studied Photography at Daytona State College.

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

Bill Schmoker

Maresa Pryor-Luzier

Mia McPherson

Liz Clayton Fuller is a Scientific Illustrator specializing in birds. Liz served as a Bartels Scientific Illustration Intern at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where her work was published everywhere from scientific journals to bird ID guides. As an art instructor at Cornell, she traveled to the Galapagos to teach her students how to sketch wildlife in the field. Most recently, she collaborated with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to create an online course for Nature Journaling and Field Sketching. Liz’s work is suffused with  her love of nature. Constantly inspired by the natural world, she approaches her subjects with the wonder of first discovery and works meticulously to document them accurately. Through her illustrations she strives to provide her viewers with a new perspective on animal life

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.

Julie Davis is past president of the Ohio Ornithological Society, a statewide birding organization with over 600 members. She is currently the chair of the board of directors of the American Birding Association. Julie has been birding for over 20 years. She has birded in many parts of the US as well as Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, South Africa, the Galapagos and Trinidad & Tobago. She has led birding trips for Columbus Audubon, OOS, Black Swamp Bird Observatory and Wild Birds Unlimited Westerville, along with Touch the Earth Adventures. She has a degree in graphic design from Purdue University.  She is an active hiker, kayaker, and fiber artist.

Liz Clayton Fuller

John Sill

Julie Davis