Naturalist Journeys Guide of the Year, 2022 – 2023 is Dave Mehlman

We are pleased to recognize the outstanding talents and above-and-beyond contributions to our company over the last year. David Mehlman has inspired clients on many wonderful outings! He reminds us of just why we work hard in the office — it’s FUN to empower great guides to do what they do best.

Through this most challenging pandemic year+ we are thrilled to help people connect with nature and discover the wonders of our world firsthand. In keeping with our focus on birding and wildlife, the award year runs from spring to spring.  

For this inaugural, annual award, Dave is the clear winner! He has received the first pick of tours for the next season, and a $2000 grant for continued learning and enrichment. Congratulations Dave. 

Dave (second from right) with guests on the Laguna Meadows Trail in Big Bend. Photo Credit: Naturalist Journeys Stock.

Meet Dave Mehlman

Dave is a naturalist with interests in birds, migration, ecosystems and natural disturbances, plants, and gardening. He holds a PhD from the University of New Mexico. Dave worked for The Nature Conservancy for 25+ years as Director of its Migratory Bird Program. He has published several dozen papers in scientific and popular journals.

How Do We Pick a Guide of the Year?

Fifteen criteria were used to select the Naturalist Journeys Guide of the Year. David was repeatedly strong in each area, from knowledge to demonstrated leadership skills under pressure (In addition to Covid affecting meals and various logistics, he coped with fires closing Big Bend National Park for two days and another fire closing half of the hiking trail at Isle Royale National Park, after rough lake winds delayed their ferry!)

Dave with an award from Partners in Flight, a conservation organization that advances full life-cycle conservation of landbirds in the Americas.

He topped the charts for preparedness, going over each detail with our office meticulously. He mentored new guides and is always timely on sending the office Trip Reports and Species Lists after each tour. He assisted our office with preparation of tour materials when staff numbers were low.

Dave Brought Back Columbia

David brought Colombia back into our calendar with three new routes in the coming year, helping us chart a partnership with a new operator.

He brought real joy to some of our favorite lodges in Belize with a private trip we did for the New Mexico Ornithological Society, and he revived a tour from our past, New Mexico Nature and Culture, adding his special southwestern expertise, as he is based in Albuquerque. Always willing to learn and explore, Dave pioneered time on the Apostle Islands on our Great Lakes series of tours. He posted great live-time social media from his tours. 

And he has many repeat clients! Two trips are coming right up and there is still space for YOU. 

Veracruz, Mexico: River of Raptors & More

Oct. 15 – 26, 2022 | $ 4290 with Dave Mehlman

Hawks a-plenty riding the thermals on their way to parts south hug the coastline of Mexico, and Veracruz has a LOT of coastline. Photo Credit: Dave Mehlman

Veracruz is the site of the largest hawk migration on the planet, with up to 1,000,000 hawks and other passerines riding the thermals in a “River of Raptors” on their way to parts south. We see a spectacular range of other birds here as well, thanks to the dramatic topography that rises from Gulf Coast beaches to rainforest and then cloud forest. We bird them all!

Our guests will enjoy several cultural experiences along with spectacular birding, exploring archeological and cultural areas like the Totonac sites of Cempoala and Quiahuiztlan and the ruins of Hernan Cortez’ first house in the new world, a tour of the renowned Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, with its extensive collection of pre-colonial Mexican artifacts; and a visit to a shade-grown coffee plantation.

New Mexico Nature & Culture

Dec. 4 – 11, 2022 | $ 2690 with Dave Mehlman

Bosque del Apache with migrants. Photo Credit: Bryan Calk

New Mexico is an amazing place: for birds, for sunsets, for iconic Southwest landscapes, plants and animals, for vibrant Pueblo culture and the chance to find unique artistic gifts! That combination makes this New Mexico: Nature and Culture tour the perfect place to spend the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The winter solstice has great significance to Pueblo cultures, and our home bases in Albuquerque and Taos have special events to celebrate this festive time of year. This is also perhaps the best time of the year to avoid crowds eager to bird the varied habitats of Bandelier National Monument and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. We stay at top-rate accommodations full of charm, visit outstanding geological and archeological sites, national monuments, historic trading posts, and modern galleries. Our feedback was fantastic from our inaugural trip last year, which Dave helped to design! You’ll love it.

Dave Mehlman’s “Top Choice” 2023 Trips


Colombia: Birding & Nature in the Central Andes, Los Colores & Balandu Jan. 23 – Feb. 3


Mexico Butterflies and Birds February 12-19

New Mexico Nature and Culture dates and price TBD


Guyana: Unspoiled Wilderness March 19-31


Western Panama: Tranquilo Bay April 9-16

Texas’ Big Bend Birding and Wildlife April 24 – May 1


Birding Canyon Country: Zion, Bryce Canyon & Grand Canyon National Parks, Southwest Parks May 7-15


Iceland June 13-22 

When the Guide of the Year picks a trip, that is a great inside travel tip! These are all fabulous trips. 

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