Who are the Flyway Birding Association?


The founders and managers of the Flyway Birding Association (FBA)

The directorate are the elected managers, administrators and representatives of the Flyway Birding Associations strategy, conservation directive and approach.

Simon Tonkin

Flyway Birding Association President

Simon is co-owner and partner in Inglorious Bustards, living in Facinas in the heart of The Straits of Gibraltar, Spain.

Fulfilling a boyhood dream, Simon worked for the RSPB full-time for fifteen years; the first projects he was involved in were to protect breeding Hen Harriers and European Bee-eaters nesting in the North of England.

He worked in farmland bird conservation for the most of his RSPB career, latterly working at the RSPB’s headquarters in Sandy.  He and Niki launched the first landscape-scale farmland bird initiative, The Thorney Farmland Bird Friendly Zone.

Simon has conducted a variety of ornithological research including Corn Bunting crop nest site selection preferences, the seed palatability of farmland granivores, Tree Sparrow winter movements, Stone-curlew conservation management plans, European Turtle Dove summer seed source provision and practical conservation management demonstrations for advisers and practitioners.

Simon originally help co-launched Operation Turtle Dove, co-ordinating efforts in the UK and internationally to save the species from extirpation.

Simon has worked as the Conservation Manager for Conservation Grade, working on ground-breaking and exciting conservation projects in Spain, Portugal, Central America, Morocco, Senegal and The Gambia.

Simon has lectured in ornithology, specialising in a variety of subjects including bird ethology, migration and bird populations.

Simon lives in the epi-centre of migration at The Straits of Gibraltar as one of the Inglorious Bustards.

You can view Simon’s conservation and guiding career history and further information about him here.

Dr. Alejandro Onrubia

Flyway Birding Association Vice President

Alejandro is the project coordinator at Fundación Migres, working on a number of scientific monitoring schemes here in The Straits of Gibraltar.

Many will know Alejandro from his skills in monitoring the crossing of thousands of soaring birds here in The Straits, where seemingly he spends every waking moment at a watchpoint busily ‘clicking’ each new traveler through the migration bottleneck.

Aside from monitoring work, Alejandro is also working on new sustainable eco-tourism opportunities in partnership with the Inglorious Bustards and projects through The Flyway Birding Association.

Alejandro is a well-published ornithologist having authored many scientific studies, improving our knowledge of bird migration and the ever-increasing and changing threats these migrants face on their travels.

Alejandro has vast experience and knowledge and he translates that through his friendly, patient and enlightening ornithological skills.  

Niki Williamson

Flyway Birding Association Secretary and Treasurer

Niki is also co-owner and partner in Inglorious Bustards, and lives with Simon in the village of Facinas in the epicentre of migration – The Straits of Gibraltar, Spain.

Niki grew up playing amongst the woodlands, fields and streams of the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire where she developed a deep connection with Nature from an early age.

After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BSc in Ecology, Niki worked and volunteered for the RSPB for twelve years as a warden, managing habitats, surveying birds and other wildlife and honing her birding skills and ecological knowledge in amazing wetland, upland and coastal habitats.

In recent years she had the pleasure of working with Nature-friendly farmers to make the countryside a better place for wildlife.  Latterly she headed up RSPB’s Eastern England farmland advisory team which, together with the other partners in Operation Turtle Dove, were working to ensure a future for this iconic bird.

Niki was one of a team of conservationists working with West African peanut growers to grow Nature-friendly peanuts for birdfood, which also provide habitats for struggling migratory species – including Turtle Doves – through Fair to Nature accreditation, and led on reporting the work.

Seeing first hand the challenges faced by journeying birds all across the flyway has given Niki a deep passion for the epic nature of migration, and for the conservation work carried out through the Flyway Birding Association.

Niki also lives in the epi-centre of migration at The Straits of Gibraltar as one of the Inglorious Bustards.

Founder members and advisory board

To ensure our project support is aligned to organisational and scientific approaches, our founder members and advisory board are leads on projects and the latest conservation science initiatives. This invaluable expertise and input ensures we track our approach to conservation project management in a way that allows us to evaluate the success (or indeed failure) of the Flyway Birding Association conservation projects using the framework of spatial targeting for single-species conservation planning.

Each founder / advisory board member have both a voice and vote at the general assembly and meetings to direct, input and evaluate our work and support of conservation initiatives across the East Atlantic Flyway.

Virginia Morandini

Flyway Birding Association lead advisory technician

The overall goal of Virginia’s research is to improve our understanding about which factors regulate population dynamics of long-lived species, at a metapopulation level, in order to manage species for conservation.

In collaboration with Oregon State University and Fundacíon Migres,  Virginia’s work includes finding solutions to allow the coexistence of human being and high levels of biodiversity. In order to archive this objective, she uses apex predators’ emblematic species as sentinels of ecosystems health and as a tool to engage public opinion generating positive attitude for biodiversity conservation. Her research in populations ecology has been focused on population dynamics modelling, movement ecology, animal physiology and, microbiology and emerging diseases.

Through this multifaceted approach, she hopes to contribute a novel understanding of the functioning of complex systems under natural variability and human-related disturbances.

Juan Martín Bermúdez

Flyway Birding Association field technician and adviser

Juan has been a renowned Natural Park administrator and, for a stretch of time, director of some of them. He is the founder of Salarte, member of the local SEO/Birdlife in Cádiz and author of a number of birding and wildlife guides.

In 2012, together with other independent professionals, Juan founded the Fund for the Protection and Stewardship of the Salt Marsh, SALARTE; It is the only private entity that manages a Restricted Area in Andalucía and works in the running and recuperation of wetlands. In 2015 Salarte won the XIX Andalucian Environmental Award, in 2016 it received Special Mention in the XVI Andalucian Volunteer Awards and in 2017 was awarded the Andalucia-Cádiz Flag.

Antonio Jesús Rivero Reyes

Flyway Birding Association field technician and adviser

Antonio has been working in the Bahia de Cadiz to restore traditional management of the salt pans. This is done in a way that not only supports traditional management but offers new opportunities for nature tourism and sustainable food production.

Antonio is instrumental in the development of projects such as the Marambay restaurant which enables the conservation story of the marshes to be brought to life through the sustainable food on offer there. Additionally the views of the marshes here is superb so keep your binoculars handy!

Antonio also co-founded and manages Marisma 21 an organisation working to bring life back to the Cadiz marshes through sustainable management. Employing and combining three philosophies for sustainable and beneficial management; physical-natural, socio-economic and political / administrative.

The experience and skills Antonio posesses enables the FBA to ensure our approach to conservation demonstrates how a range of natural systems and healthy biodiversity can provide community and socio-economic benefits.

Antonio’s work demonstrates the benefits of integrated management models and Antonio ensures that our approach to projects also, wherever possible provides these key sustainability benefits.

Karanta Camara

Flyway Birding Association Gambian adviser and lead on Kotu Creek

Karanta is the president of The Gambian Birdwatchers Association. and has been campaigning for the protection and restoration of Kotu Creek where over 350 different bird species have been recorded.

The Gambia Bird Watchers Association are actively dedicated to contributing resources to conserving habitats and species. They active collaborate with local communities to conserve and manage important sites under threat within and outside the coastal areas of the country. 

Karanta is project lead for the restoration of Kotu creek through not solely mangrove creation and restoration but also reducing the risks of pollution, increasing beneficial management and improved water flow at the creek.

Karanta is well versed on a variety of conservation strategies, research and the practical interpretation and implementation of scientific studies into positive land management.

Yankuba Jammeh

Flyway Birding Association advisory member

Yankuba is Conservation Officer and prominent member of The Gambian Birdwatchers Association.

Yankuba provides the Flyway Birding Family with a wealth of sub-saharan and migratory bird conservation knowledge. We are continually working together to make The Gambia the safest refuge for long distance migratory birds wintering in the country as well as for those that are resident.

This work ultimately benefits people through increased opportunities for sustainable ecotourism, flood alleviation and functional ecosystems and environments.

Stuart Gillies

Flyway Birding Association engagement advisor and equipment support.

Stuart manages the Viking Optical shop in Edinburgh. Hooked on wildlife from an early age by watching Jaques Cousteau, local birds on the nearby Union canal in Edinburgh had to substitute for the undersea world.

Six years as an itinerant contract warden for the RSPB culminated in an opportunity to join Viking Optical who had recently become the optical supplier to RSPB.

Stuart is immensely proud of the conservation work supported by Viking Optical through various partnerships and sponsorships which have grown in scope throughout his 20+ years with the company.

Stuart brings a unique set of expertise and experience of corporate sustainability, sponsorship and support.

Stuart also oversees our media engagement and equipment supply for research and engagement projects.

Tijan Kanteh

Flyway Birding Association African field technician and adviser

Tijan is one of the most experienced conservationists, birders and guides in The Gambia.  He is much respected by his peers and renowned for his ability to use his wealth of knowledge to train new and upcoming guides in the country.  So much so that locally he is often referred to as ‘Elder’ or ‘Uncle’!  He certainly has our respect too, and we are proud to have him on the team. Tijan is a passionate conservationist and is involved in local projects around land use policy and illegal hunting and trafficking of birds.  

He also was one of the original members of teampeanut, working on sustainable peanut production management to protect wildlife habitats and the wider environment.

Tijan is now licensed to seize and confiscate wildlife items and even arrest individuals related to wildlife crime and habitat destruction.

Tijan is currently tasked with researching new projects and initiatives for the Flyway Birding Association including future community forest collaborations, Flyway-friendly villages and species and habitat protection initiatives.

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