Our guiding principles

Welcome, and thank you for choosing The Bird Guide as your pelagic trip provider. It is our goal to offer you a pelagic trip experience superior to any other you have taken. What makes a good pelagic trip? Certainly excellent birds are the foundation. And skilled seabird spotters are important. But there's more. And this is where we at The Bird Guide excel and differentiate ourselves.

The difference that The Bird Guide provides is our customer first priority and commitment. You are our guests and the reason our business exists. From the pre-trip preparation materials through the post-trip report, this is your pelagic trip, and we never forget it.

We want to share with you our excitement and wonder of this truly unique birding habitat. Thus, on every trip, we strive to tell you about the oceanography of the places we visit, and how that relates to bird distribution and abundance. Seabirds are uniquely adapted to their environment, so we make a special effort to inform you of their interesting life histories.

The identification of birds at sea does not allow a feather-by-feather examination with today's high-powered optics. Instead, we teach you a new way to identify birds. We want you to identify for yourself the birds you are seeing. Therefore we really work with you in describing the different shapes, flight-styles, and behaviors that allow you to accurately identify distant or fast-flying seabirds from the unstable platform of the boat. Our goal is that by the end of the trip you will be calling out the identifications of a dozen species of seabirds that you've never seen before, and come to have an informed appreciation about their lives and marine environment.

Our guides: All our professional guides are trained and dedicated to make sure you see and identify as many species of seabirds and marine mammals as possible. This is your pelagic trip, and we never forget it.

photo by Marlene Gillson

Greg Gillson founded The Bird Guide, Inc. in 1994, and serves as president, secretary, marketer, web master, and pelagic guide. He has organized and led about 137 West Coast pelagic trips through 2010. In addition, he has attended dozens of other pelagic trips off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America and off western Mexico. Greg began birding in 1972 for a junior high school science project and never stopped. He enjoys teaching others about birds--both their identification and natural history. He has volunteered for shorebird and Marbled Murrelet surveys. He served on the steering committee of the Oregon Breeding Bird Atlas Project (1995-1999). Greg contributed more than a dozen seabird accounts to the 2003 book, Birds of Oregon: A General Reference, edited by Marshall, et al.. He enjoys birding the Cascade Mountains and enjoys the challenging groups of birds, such as Empidonax flycatchers, shorebirds, gulls, and (of course) seabirds. He is adept at identifying Western birds by their calls and songs. He lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

photo by Bruce Craig

Tim Shelmerdine, co-leader, began birding in 1985, and was hooked on pelagic birds since his first trip that year. He has spent over 200 days on the ocean, having worked as a deck hand on a fishing boat and having taken over 125 pelagic trips in the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to Peru, as well as trips in the Atlantic. He has had photographs published in Oregon Birds and Birding and is a contributor to Birds of Oregon: A General Reference and the Oregon Breeding Bird Atlas. Tim has served Oregon Field Ornithologists as board member, secretary and multiple terms as president. He has birded extensively throughout North America, and has experience birding in Mexico and Middle America, South America and Europe. When not birding, Tim teaches Spanish at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, coaches high school sports, leads field trips of the Audubon Society of Portland, works as a part-time bird guide, and may occasionally be found at his home in West Linn.


Tom Snetsinger joined The Bird Guide in 2000. As a child, Tom was introduced to birding under the tutelage of his mother, an avid world birder. He rediscovered the joy of birding in the Seattle area in 1988. Since then he has lived and worked in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Hawaii, and Arkansas. Tom is an ornithologist whose primary interest is endangered species biology. Highlights of his birding career include co-leading the Hawaii Rare Bird Search Team and a six-month stint in southeastern Arkansas searching for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. He has participated in about 120 pelagic trips through 2010, primarily in the waters off Hawaii and Oregon. Tom now lives in Brownsville, Oregon, where he leads a long-term demography study on the northern Spotted Owl in the Oregon Coast Range.

David Mandell
David Mandell's pelagic birding career began at the age of five with a Horned Puffin off of San Diego. He as been hooked ever since, and has birded the Atlantic Ocean extensively from Maine to North Carolina. David joined The Bird Guide in 2001. He is also a member of the record holding Illinois Big Day team. David lives in Portland with his wife Alex and two-year old son, Oscar. He is the Research Director of the Children's Institute.
Russ Namitz

Russ Namitz began birding in earnest in the summer of 1996. He has worked as a seasonal wildlife biologist for 7 years in many of the western states from Texas to Alaska as well as in Mexico, Costa Rica & Ecuador. Highlights include working with Kemp's Ridley Seaturtles (TX), conducting demographic studies of all three subscpecies of Spotted Owl (CA,AZ), counting the world's largest raptor migration in Veracruz (MX), and being a bird guide/naturalist on St. Paul Island (AK) and at Sacha Lodge, Ecuador. He has traveled & birded extensively in the western US, Mexico & Central America and has also birded in South America & Asia. He has taken numerous pelagic trips from Alaska to Mexico as well as some east coasts pelagic trips (NC, FL). To feed the obsession, he teaches Biology, Oceanography & Ornithology at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay. Russ joined The Bird Guide in 2007.

Shawneen Finnegan joined us in 2008.

Dave Irons join us in 2011.