Stephan Lorenz was born in Germany, but moved to the United States at a young age and began birding in Texas, one of the most biologically rich areas of the US. He completed a Master of Science degree focusing on grassland birds, before joining various research projects in Australia, Jamaica, Costa Rica and especially Alaska. Stephan also has a broad background in education, including teaching college-level biology and working as a biologist educator for the National Audubon Society.
Stephan Lorenz resides in Texas, but has mainly been on the road for the past two years. He has guiding and birding experience throughout North, Central and South America with forays into southeast Asia, South Africa, Australia and the South Pacific. After looking into a career in outdoor education, he realized that he could combine his passion for birds and travel by joining various research projects. He spent several seasons as a field biologist, working for the Smithsonian Institute in Jamaica, Max Planck Institute in Australia and the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. In addition, he spent four years teaching biology at a community college, and then pursued guiding full-time, leading tours throughout the Americas.
How did you get into birding?
I participated as a volunteer in Texas State Parks and assisted with a bird banding project. After seeing the intricate plumages of various sparrows in hand, I was hooked. I first approached birding from a scientific angle, but soon discovered that I could travel and look for birds instead, a perfect combination. Guiding and sharing the birds of the world with others has added a whole other layer of enjoyment.
What led you to choose a career in tourism?
After working on various scientific projects focusing on the evolutionary ecology of birds, I lucked into a guiding position in southwest Costa Rica. I spent two months tracking down endemics and dazzling Neotropical birds with one set of excited birders after another and I sincerely enjoyed the teaching and sharing aspects as much as the birds. I quickly realized I had discovered the perfect job.
What are your other hobbies and interests?
I like to write, naturally about birds and travel, and always think about fresh angles and perspectives to present birding to readers. I am also interested in mammals, reptiles and amphibians, often getting quite animated about non-feathered critters. Other interests include trekking, hiking, and occasionally climbing a mountain.
What do you enjoy most about being on tour?
Sharing the world of birds and travel with others. I deeply enjoy teaching people about the natural world, and at the same time having learning opportunities during each tour, no matter how often I have done it. There is always something new to see and appreciate whether it be natural history, bird identification or culture.
What are your strengths as a tour leader?
I have travelled widely and have visited every continent, gaining knowledge not only about birds, but also travel logistics and cultures. I have a diverse background in education, which allows me to adapt to clients very well. Due to my extensive guiding experience, I can understand clients of every interest level, having worked with serious listers and beginning birders. In general, I am passionate not only about birds, but anything living, and that excitement transfers to everybody on the tour.
Are you a keen bird photographer?
I would consider myself a birder first and a photographer second, but I do try to snap a picture of nearly everything I see. I enjoy setting out on photo projects to illustrate my articles, but have still much to learn in the realm of photography. I have been fortunate enough to have several of my bird photos published.
Are you a lister; and if so, which lists are your main focus?
I have narrowed down my listing to one list and that is my world life list. While in the past I have put more focus on my ABA list, having to admit to the occasional twitch, I have slowed to a near halt when it comes to chasing rarities. Of course, I still enjoy adding to my ABA list, especially when the winds are right and vagrants pour into Alaska. Seeing birds in their natural habitats gives me the most enjoyment. I am also keeping a close eye on my bird family list.
What are your future goals as a birding tour leader?
I would like to expand my knowledge and guiding experience to other major regions of the world. I am always interested in seeing new places, learning new birds, and experience other cultures. Yet, at the same time I am hoping to be an ambassador for some of the fantastic birding available in the United States. Granted I am more than a bit biased here, but Texas is an incredible destination.
What is your favourite place/country to guide?
Tough question because I sincerely like them all. If I have to choose, I would say Alaska for the wilderness, sheer spectacle of migration, seabirds, and high Arctic shorebird drama. Colombia for its incredible diversity and Australia for its otherness and bold birds.