Council Members

Current officers and members

Chair: David Fisher

Treasurer: Chris Collins

Secretary: Chris Balchin

Membership:  Chris Balchin

Conservation: Alex Lees

Regional representatives: Rob Clay

Meetings: David Fisher

Cotinga editor: Guy Kirwan

Neotropical Birding editor: James Lowen

Rob Clay is a founder member of the NBC and has been a Council member since 2007. Rob is currently the Director of the Executive Office of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, and prior to that was the Senior Conservation Manager for BirdLife International in the Americas. Both jobs have enabled him to enjoy many Neotropical birds in the backyards of different offices in the Americas, and to tackle key conservation issues on a daily basis. He is also a board member of Guyra Paraguay, a leading Paraguayan biodiversity conservation NGO, and a frequent bird guide for Fauna Paraguay. Rob’s interest in Neotropical birds and conservation began during an undergraduate expedition to Paraguay in 1992 and led to Ph.D. studies of manakins in Costa Rica and Panama. Since 1997, Rob has called Paraguay home, but enjoyed a two-year break in Ecuador.

Chris Collins is NBC Treasurer, and has been on Council since 1997. Although professionally qualified as a Chartered Accountant, Chris spends most of his time working as a bird tour guide. Among other trips, he is the driving force behind the ‘West Pacific Odyssey’ for Heritage Expeditions/WildWings. Such trips indulge Chris’s passion for seabirds and cetaceans, but he is equally at home in rainforests, and has a particular interest in unravelling the avian treats of Guyana. Chris co-led the NBC tour to Guyana in November 2009.

Carl Downing alternates his home between Cali, Colombia and Cardiff, Wales. Carl has been birding since the age of seven and first branched out onto the international scene at the age of 15 with a trip to the Austrian Alps. In the late 1980s, he spent eight months birding and working in the United States, but his obsession with all things Colombian began in 1991. That year, Carl was a member of a successful university expedition to the Chocó region of Colombia, which resulted in the discovery of a species new to science, the Choco Vireo, Vireo masteri. After graduating with a degree in Environmental Science in 1994, Carl moved to Cali. Since then, he has travelled extensively in Colombia and has been leading successful private tours there since 1995. Carl has been an NBC council member since 1998, and was the Club’s Chair from 2003-2009.

Gordon Ellis joined Council in May 2008 and served as secretary for seven years. He also helps assess applications for conservation awards. A pharmacist by profession, Gordon is now retired and devotes his time to conservation of Barn Owls in Nottinghamshire, UK, and is also currently working on a Willow Tit nest-box scheme. A visit to Trinidad and Tobago sparked Gordon’s passion for Neotropical birds and their conservation.

David Fisher has been a Council member since 1997. David works as a bird tour leader for the UK company Sunbird. He has had a keen interest in Neotropical birds since 1976 when he spent ten weeks birding in Trinidad & Tobago. Since then David has visited most countries in the Neotropics studying birds and leading tours, including multiple visits to Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, and Venezuela, and in total has spent more than three years in the field in South America. David is currently the Club’s Chairman and Meetings Officer.

Roberta Goodall is a biologist by training and worked as a Consultant Biochemist in the British National Health Service, where she had a strong research and development interest. She lives in the Severn Vale of Gloucestershire and recent retirement from full-time work is allowing her to pursue a lifelong interest in wildlife and conservation. Returning to birding, after a couple of decades when it took a back seat, she has now developed a love for world birding, particularly tropical birding and the Neotropics. Neotropical birding highlights are many, with two separate encounters with Harpy Eagle ranking pretty high, although she has a definite soft spot for antpittas!

Dr. Alexander Lees is a lecturer in tropical ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK and a research associate of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, USA. He has been working on Amazonian conservation issues for over 14 years and is one of the co-investigators of the Sustainable Amazon Network. He spent five years (2010-2015) working at the Goeldi Museum in the Brazilian Amazon with which institution he still maintains close ties. Beyond intensive field-work supported studies aiming to understand land-use change, and the drivers of past, current and future biodiversity loss he is also involved in leading on several large-scale syntheses and meta-analyses addressing macro-ecological and phylogenetic work at large scales to understand the context and interplay of ecological and evolutionary factors. He has published over 90 scientific papers. Alex has both been a member of NBC council and a member of the club’s Conservation Awards Programme team since 2010.

Manuel Sánchez is an independent ornithologist and bird guide who lives in Quito, Ecuador. He works as a birding guide in Ecuador and has worked as a field-ornithologist for several projects in Ecuador, other countries in South America, Scotland (UK) and Turkey. Manuel, also carries out voluntary work for different organizations in ornithology and in birding tourism, mainly in the Neotropics to promote birding as a tool for development and conservation.

Chris Sharpe is an ornithologist who has been working to conserve Neotropical birds since his first visit to the region in 1988. He lived in Venezuela, with residencies in Nicaragua and Peru, until 2010 and has worked throughout the Americas. Most of his experience is in field research and with local communities, but he has also worked for international NGOs, Latin American governments and intergovernmental organisations. He was part of the NBC Launch Committee in 1993, and has served as our Venezuela Representative and Senior Editor of NBC’s Neotropical Birding magazine. Chris is a Research Associate at the Venezuelan NGO Provita, a member of the Bird Records Committee of the Venezuelan Ornithologists’ Union (CRAV-UVO), Associate Editor (Birds) of the Venezuelan Red Data Book and Editor of Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. In his spare time he has led over a hundred bird tours to destinations from Alaska to Antarctica. His favourite birding location is Canaima National Park, an area he has been fortunate to work in regularly.

Tom Stuart carried out fieldwork in remote northern Beni, Bolivia in 1996/97 and 2000. He travelled widely in South and Central America in those years and in 1993 and 2006, birding along the way. Tom worked for BirdLife International from 1998 to 2000 as a researcher/compiler/editor for Threatened Birds of the World and the ‘World Bird Database’. He is now a Policy Officer for Wealden District Council. Tom joined the NBC Council in 1998 and managed its Conservation Awards programme from 2001-2009.

Charles Wilkins is an aficionado of the birds of the Neotropics who has been a Council member for several years. Charles and his partner Anna Hughes are stalwarts of the NBC stand at the British Birdwatching Fair each year. They live in France, preferring wine and cheese to steak ‘n’ kidney pudding.

Dr Rob Williams is a conservation biologist who has been working in the Neotropics since 1990 when he led an expedition to the Tumbesian region of SW Ecuador. From 1999 to 2004 he worked for Wildlife Conservation Society and BirdLife International in Ecuador. From 2005 to 2015 he led Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Andes to Amazon Conservation Programme in Peru. He is now freelance working on conservation, photographic and film-making projects in the region and leading bird tours. He is the scientific director for the Chaparri Reserve in Lambayeque, Peru and has a particular obsession with Andean Condors. He has published many papers and five books on the birds of the region. A founder member of NBC he served on council for a number of years and was Chair until he moved to Quito in 1999.