Council Members

Current officers and members (Scroll down for biographies)

Chair: Raymond Jeffers

Treasurer: Chris Collins

Secretary: Chris Balchin

Membership:  Chris Balchin

Conservation Awards Programme: Rob Clay

Advertising: Charles Wilkins

Chris Balchin was part of the launch committee of the NBC in 1993, and has been involved with the Club ever since, including long stints as Secretary, and he has also served as Chairman. During the 1980s Chris evolved from being a feverish British twitcher into a dedicated world birder who would spend every hour of holiday entitlement in the tropics. Chris’s passion for seeing rare and unusual species took him to places that often lay off the regular birding routes in those days and enabled him to contribute regularly to BirdLife International publications. An electronics engineer by trade, Chris lives in Essex, UK. Chris’s favourite Neotropical bird is the White-plumed Antbird, a tattoo of which is on his arm. One of  his favourite Neotropical birding memories was watching a Black-fronted Piping-guan that perched above his tent whose amazed occupants were rather tipsy on a stout bottle of malbec…

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.

Mike Dawson is an enthusiastic¬† world birder with a special interest in the Neotropics. For a number of years Mike has been a participant in the annual ‚ÄúChampions of the Flyway‚ÄĚ, a bird race to raise funds for BirdLife International. Currently he is commercial director of Swallowtail printers where he specialises in the wildlife and conservation markets, working mainly for charities and small organisations.

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 Chairman from 2003-2009.

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!

Raymond Jeffers is currently chair of NBC and a founder Life member of NBC. For many years he has provided technical support to the Officers of NBC in relation to legal and regulatory matters. He is also a member of the editorial team at Neotropical Birding and has written a number of book reviews for the magazine. From the age of 10, his favourite bird was Cock-of-the-rock, and when a lot older he had the good fortune to see the bird in Ecuador, Guyana and Peru. Although based in London for the last 40 years, he has birded all the mainland countries of South America, most nations of Central America plus Mexico and a number of Caribbean islands.

Dr Lia Kajiki is a Brazilian biologist who was lucky to grow up amidst the lush Atlantic Forest and Cerrado. Her fascination with birds started during an Ornithology course, where she was amazed by her colleagues’ ability to identify birds by their songs – a superpower she desired to have! She pursued this by immersing herself in environmental and conservation projects across¬†the Amazon, Atlantic Forest, Cerrado and Pampas, amassing a decade of field ornithology expertise. After studying the breeding behaviour of the Helmeted Manakin for her PhD, she became especially fond of manakins, but tapaculos, antpittas and cotingas have a special¬†place in¬†her heart. A life plot twist brought her to London, where she now orchestrates conservation efforts with Amazonian river-dweller¬†communities, all while aiming to expand her global birdwatching tally.

Manuel Sánchez is an independent field ornithologist 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 various organizations in ornithology and birding tourism, mainly in the Neotropics, to promote birding as a tool for development and conservation. Currently, he is working on the taxonomic status of some cryptic songbird groups in the cloud forests of northern South America.

John Thirtle will be known to many UK members though Geodyssey, the specialist travel company for Latin America which he founded with his wife Gillian a year before the NBC was formed. They became one of the first Corporate Supporters of the NBC and have been present at almost every annual meeting since that time.  John has travelled extensively through the Neotropics from Costa Rica to Chile and brings to the NBC his exceptional experience of travel through our region.

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 ‚Äėn‚Äô 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 Chairman until he moved to Quito in 1999.