Meet Our Guides

Brian Zwiebel



Brian began his journey with birds by enrolling in an Ornithology class at Hocking College in 1993. Six years later he began photographing the subjects he had come to know so well. Warblers are among Brian’s favorite subjects. He spends much of his free time in May photographing warblers at northern Ohio’s Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. His work has been prominently displayed in exhibits throughout Ohio. More than thirty of his songbird images were featured at the National Center for Nature Photography in Toledo, OH. Brian’s award-winning photography has been internationally published in books and magazines including Birder’s World, Bird Watching, Bird Watcher’s Digest and the American Birding Association’s magazine Birding. Brian has also authored articles for Audubon and B&H Photo-Video’s Explora blog and leads photography tours and workshops.

Rob Ripma



Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has birded extensively throughout the Americas and also spent time birding in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Rob is currently on the executive boards of two organizations:  Past President of the Board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis (after leading the board as President for 6 years) and Secretary for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the field trip coordinator for BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding annual event. Rob sat on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President. He is a co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. His leadership and expertise led to Rob working as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine from 2013-2017.

Rob enjoys working with both new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect them and their habitats.  Additionally, he loves educating others about the positive impact nature tourism can have on local economies, especially in developing countries. This passion led to his involvement in the production of a PBS television program called, “Flight Path: The World of Migratory Birds”, where a crew accompanied him on a tour to Panama to highlight and bring to life the effect that birds and birding have on both the people that see them and those who work and live in areas visited by birders and nature lovers. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 and lives in Carmel, Indiana with his wife and daughter.

Eric Ripma - For Website



Eric enjoys sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge, especially about identification, with birders of all ages and experience levels. After beginning birding at the age of ten in Indianapolis, Indiana, he birded every chance he had throughout his childhood. Birding has led him from spectacular migratory hotspots in the Great Lakes region to the Pacific coast and beyond. Eric has also spent time birding in many tropical locations throughout Central and South America.

He has worked for numerous bird-related projects including bird banding in the United States and Belize, monitoring breeding Caspian Terns in Oregon, counting migrating waterbirds at Whitefish Point, Michigan, and conducting shorebird surveys on Louisiana’s barrier islands. He is currently living in Louisiana assisting on a PhD project studying Royal Terns and Black Skimmers and conducting breeding bird surveys in his spare time.

Larry Richardson



Larry Richardson has been teaching birding courses and leading domestic and international birding trips for over 30 years. Larry is a graduate of The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources where he majored in Wildlife Management & Natural Resource Policies. He is now retired living in West Farmington, Ohio but still stays involved with birding!

Tyler Ficker



Tyler is a Cincinnati native who found his passion for birding when his 4th-grade teacher incorporated bird identification into the science curriculum. He first visited the Northwest Ohio region for the Biggest Week in American Birding in the 5th grade and has been back every year since then, now as a guide and a field trip coordinator. Tyler earned a Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife degree from the School of Environmental and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. Tyler was a co-founder of Lights Out Buckeyes—part of Ohio Lights Out, a network of programs aimed at making urban landscapes (in this case, the Ohio State campus) safer for migratory birds. Tyler is the Communications Specialist at Black Swamp Bird Observatory. He also worked as a field technician for the Ohio Division of Wildlife surveying grassland species. Tyler served as the Southwest Regional Director for the Ohio Ornithological Society, furthering his connections within the Ohio birding community. He is a professional portrait and wedding photographer as well as a graphic designer.

Jamie Cunningham



Jamie has had a lifelong interest in all nature and wildlife, but especially birds. A visit to Magee Marsh in NW Ohio during the Biggest Week festival turned her interest into a passion. That was in 2012, now she is a field trip leader for the festival. Since then Jamie has dove headfirst into birding and especially bird photography. Her award-winning images have been featured in a number of publications and were even featured in her own gallery. Jamie was instrumental in forming a Nature Photography club in her hometown, where she shares her wealth of knowledge with members. She also serves on the board of directors for the Tri-Moraine Audubon Society. Jamie is most proud of her involvement as an advisor for the Ohio Young Birder’s Club. She is passionate about sharing her love of birds with youth.

Whitney Lanfranco



Whitney’s passion for nature began at a young age while growing up on a ranch in rural Central Texas, where she spent her childhood learning the names of wildflowers and observing bacteria under her microscope. While earning her degree in zoology from Texas A&M University, she discovered her true passion was birds. She completed an ecological study abroad in South Africa before beginning work as an aviculturist at the San Antonio Zoo, where she did breeding conservation work with species such as Guam Kingfisher and Attwater Prairie Chicken. Realizing that her true joy was educating and sharing her passion with others, she discovered the world of bird guiding and ecotourism and started her new career as a guide on King Ranch in South Texas. Her passion for birds and guiding has since taken her to various places in Central and South America and southern Europe. In 2020, she joined the optics industry and was the Nature Sales Manager for Leica Sport Optics before becoming the Birding and Nature Manager for Land Sea and Sky, a Houston-based optics company.  She can now be found at festivals and events all over the country, guiding and talking about all things optics.