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 Liz Deluna Gordon or any member of the ABA Staff or Board.

Below we present the 2020 mentors!

Jason Ward is a birder, writer and the host of ‘Birds of North America’. Born and raised in The Bronx, NYC, his love for wildlife began at a young age as he fell in love with dinosaurs. An infatuation that provided him with an escape from the obstacles growing up in the South Bronx provided. Now, he gets to share his love for modern-day dinosaurs with the public, in his web series; “Birds of North America”. 

Jason’s mission is to change the way the public views wildlife, and to blaze a trail for future generations of children growing up in underserved communities.

Jonathan Franzen is a novelist, essayist, journalist, translator, screenwriter, and birder. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the author of five novels, including The Corrections, Freedom, and Purity, and five volumes of nonfiction, most recently The End of the End of the Earth. He has written extensively about birds and their conservation, including the National Geographic cover story “Why Birds Matter.” Among his honors are the National Book Award, for fiction, and the EuroNatur Award, for his work in conservation. He lives in Santa Cruz, California.

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.

Jason Ward

Jonathan Franzen

Jennie Duberstein

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

Birdwatcher’s Digest, and is also currently serving as Editorial Intern at Birding.

Lauren Morgens is a lifelong birder and supporter of conservation science.  While earning her BA from Cornell University, she participated in a semester program aboard a tall ship and chose to pursue sailing and experiential education as a career.  Today, she serves as the captain of the 17th-century replica tall ship Kalmar Nyckel, out of Wilmington, Delaware.  In this role she trains and leads several hundred volunteer crew members in sailing a colonial-era ship and delivering the non-profit organization’s educational programming.  Lauren has extensive real-world experience in leadership, education, team-building and communication.  In addition to birding, free time finds her practicing aerial silks and trapeze for fitness and fun!

Tom Stephenson’s articles and photos have appeared in Birding and Bird Watcher’s Digest, at Surfbirds.com, and in the Handbook of the Birds of the World. He has guided groups across the United States and Asia. A musician, he has had several Grammy and Academy Award winners as clients, and was director of technology at Roland Corporation.He is a co-author of the Warbler Guide and helped in the creation of the fabulous Warbler App. He currently resides in Brooklyn NY and leads bird walks in Prospect park, his patch.

Frank Izaguirre

Lauren Morgens

Tom Stephenson

Julia Zarankin writes, birds, and lectures to later-life learners in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in US and Canadian literary journals, including Threepenny Review, Antioch Review, Maisonneuve, and The New Quarterly. In addition, she reviews books for Birding and has written for 10000Birds, Nature Travel Network and Ontario Nature. Julia graduated from Brown University and received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. Julia accidentally discovered birds in 2009 and hasn’t looked back since; she documents her transformation on her blog coyot.es/birdsandwords.    

Orietta C. Estrada is a professional writer and photographer based in Maryland. Her work has been featured in The Week, BirdWatching, Drive Magazine, and other national publications. She is editor of The Maryland Yellowthroat, a bi-monthly publication of the Maryland Ornithological Society, and a columnist for a regional print newspaper. Orietta is also a Maryland Master Naturalist who participates in community outreach focused on informing the public about raptor conservation. Through her work, she seeks to attract non-birders to the bird side of life. When she’s not birding, she’s spending time with her family or playing the double bass.

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.

Julia Zarankin

Orietta C. 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 A new resident of New Mexico specializes in nature and wildlife. As a long time birder, her compassion shows through her work. Published worldwide her images have appeared in numerous nature magazines and periodicals. 

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.

Nadir Souirgi lives in New York City where he was born. He grew up there and in South Florida. He studied drawing at New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida, and later, painting at the the École Nationale Supérier des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Since 2008, his work has increasingly turned toward the representation of wild birds. While science illustration is a point of departure, his hope is to foster recognition of the sentient and individual character of his subjects. Themes of history, displacement, and, segregation are also explored. In 2009, he created THE HARLEM COUNTY BIRD CLUB, a nature program that introduces children of color to birdwatching and field science. In addition to being an educator, He is a freelance bird guide that has worked with New York City Audubon and Zugunruhe Birding Tours.

Liz Clayton Fuller

John Sill

Nadir Souirgi