The Crossbill Guides Foundation is basically a grass-root organisation of ecologists. Its core consists of young Dutch biologists, who founded the organisation from the notion that it is unacceptable that there is only limited information available for non-scientists on Europe's most important natural areas. If we want to maintain, let alone increase public involvement with nature conservation, the first thing that needs to be done is to invite people to see through the eyes of an ecologist and nature conservationist. We created a concept in which we think this target is best met: The Crossbill Guides.
Dirk Hilbers Director and Author
Dirk Hilbers is the founder and director of the Crossbill Guides Foundation and the principal author of the Crossbill nature travel guidebooks. Dirk has been interested in nature since childhood and has been active in the NJN, the Dutch youth organisation for field biology, for many years. During his studies in ecology at the University of Nijmegen, Dirk found out he wanted to focus on nature conservation. The biggest challenge in this was to bridge the gap between conservation and the general public. The conspicuous lack of information on the value of Europe's most important natural areas (Natura 2000) was a special incentive to start the Crossbill Guides Foundation. He found himself a great job: combining nature trips and reliving them when writing the travel guides. Next to his part-time job at Crossbill Guides, Dirk also teaches topics such as Science & Society and bioethics at the University of Amsterdam.
Author / co-author: Biebrza marshes, Coto Doñana, Bialowieza primeval forest (2005), Extremadura (2006, 2011, 2013, 2019), Camargue (2006), Andalusian Sierras (2007), Hortobagy (2008), Cevenes and Grands Causes (2009, 2015), Finnish Lapland (2010, 2017), Loire, Spanish Pyrenees (2011, 2016), Northeast Poland, Eastern Rhodopes (2013), Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, Iceland (2014, 2017), Tenerife and La Gomera (2015), Western Andalucia, Eastern Andalucia, Veluwe (2017, 2018), Southern Portugal (2018), Madeira, Wadden (2019), Provence and Camargue (2020)
Board of Directors
Johanna Winkelman Chair
Johanna Winkelman has been active as a chairman of the Board of Directors for the Crossbill Guides Foundation since the start of 2014. She was familiar with the guidebooks before she became part of the board, since she used them during her own travels. Johanna studied biology at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam and the University of Wageningen focusing on ecology, animal systematics and nature conservation in the (sub)tropics. She also decided to take another study in scientific journalism at University of Applied Science Utrecht. Johanna was awarded with many distinctions during her professional career at organisations such as the Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds, Birdlife International, Alterra Research Institute – Wageningen University, and many more. Johanna’s main motivation and challenge is to take Crossbill Guides to another level. Increasing quality and publishing new books will create more awareness, which in turn will increase awareness for conservation of our beautiful European nature.
Neil hails originally from Scotland and moved to the Netherlands in 2005. A graduate of Edinburgh University, he has worked in various sectors including health, education, social regeneration and nature protection. Neil’s last job in the UK was with Scottish Natural Heritage: his work focused on building nature professionals’ capacities in projects and diverse, multi-sectoral partnerships throughout Scotland. Neil has continued to work in equivalent areas at European level. For the last 14+ years, he has worked with various European network organisations, focusing on practical nature conservation, sharing information and experience, to build new know-how: more recently, his work has included development of sustainable tourism initiatives in Europe’s protected areas. Travelling frequently across Europe (and more widely), Neil is able to meet and work together with amazing people and a wide range of organisations. He met Dirk and got to learn about the Crossbill Guides in year one of his move to Arnhem. The deep connections that exist between nature and society have always been special for Neil: on both personal and professionals levels, the relationships between folk and place matter.
Merijn grew up in the south of the Netherlands (Noord-Brabant) and has ever since he was young felt how important it is to safeguard a place for other organisms inhabiting this planet. He holds a MSc degree in Forest and Nature Conservation (Wageningen) with a special interest in ecological networks, philosophy and (organic) agriculture (Minor degree obtained at the University of Copenhagen). He has worked for the European Centre for Nature Conservation and Eurosite, through which he has developed an international network. Furthermore he has worked for the Dutch Natuurmonumenten for 10 years in a variety of jobs. He has coordinated multi-stakeholder projects, has a wide ecological knowledge base (of e.g. Natura 2000) and is smart at the policy-practice interface. As a Public Affairs Manager he has broad experience with effective lobbying, he practiced the MGA method and knows how to achieve goals for better nature conservation and management. In the beginning of 2020 Merijn switched to Waterschap Rivierenland to take up the Program Management of Climate Adaptation Strategies. Merijn is an enthusiastic nature conservationist who always aims to enthuse others for the beautiful, wonderful world that surrounds us and on which we depend so much. Crossbill Guides is such a positive idea Merijn is proud to be part of and hopes to make many more guidebooks happening!
Merijn van Leeuwen
Nature is the red thread in Merijn’s life: being a member of the Dutch Youth association for Natural History (NJN) from 12 years on, birds were his first group of interest. This developed into a broad interest nature in and extensive field experience with mammals, herpetofauna, dragonflies, butterflies and recently grasshoppers. He holds a MSc in Tropical and Conservation Ecology at the Free University of Amsterdam (VU). His career lead Merijn to a multitude of places across the globe. He worked in climate change research in the Swedish Arctic, managed the Amsterdam Diemerpark and worked on nature policy for the Province of Flevoland. He developed and lead nature tours for SNP, Natura Aragon and Explorer’s Inn and for Wetlands International he worked on integrating conservation into water management, disaster risk reduction and agriculture in various countries in South-east Asia and Africa. Currently Merijn coordinates the conservation efforts for the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest for WWF Netherlands. He thinks ‘selling’ the beauty and importance of nature to the public is a critical part of conservation and this makes him very much at home at the Crossbill Guides Foundation. Privately, he uses Crossbill guides whenever he plans for a holiday.
John Cantelo Author
John Cantelo assists by editing the English, and the ornithological and historical content of the Crossbill Guides. John has been interested in wildlife since early childhood and first became involved in promoting the understanding of wildlife whilst at school in Southampton (UK). Having gained a degree in History and Sociology (Keele University), he pursued a career in teaching both subjects at secondary level. After moving to part-time school teaching, he combined this with working as a field teacher for the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) until his retirement. He has been an active member of the Kent Ornithological Society (KOS) serving on their executive committee and as their newsletter editor. He is also an active member of the Andalucia Bird Society having written a number of articles for their magazine and more recently by acting as assistant editor. As well as watching them, he is also interested in drawing and painting birds. History continues to run a close second to wildlife in his interests. In recent years, he has spent much time in Andalucia where he has a second home.
Author / co-author: Andalusian Sierras (2007), Western Andalucia (2017).
Editing: from Andalusian Sierras (2006) until the present.
Bouke ten Cate Author
Bouke ten Cate has been an avid nature enthusiast since childhood. He had been enjoying the foundation's guidebooks for years before he became part of the Crossbill Guides team of authors in 2011. Bouke studied Forestry and Nature Management at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences in Velp, the Netherlands and has been doing volunteer work for several Dutch NGO's such as BirdLife Netherlands, SOVON and RAVON. His fascination with nature began with birds but has spread to the fields of orchids, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Apart from being a nature enthusiast he also greatly enjoys nature photography, which comes in very handy when working on a guidebook. Instead of merely directing the reader to the region's rarities, Bouke likes the fact that the guidebooks really explain what’s going on in nature, by showing how environment, climate, flora, fauna and human activity interact. They show the unique circumstances that make the described region so special. This deeper understanding of nature really heightens the visitor's appreciation of the experience. His motto is 'see everything that is to be seen' so exploring Europe's most wonderful natural areas on behalf of the Foundation was something of a dream come true for him.
Author / co-author: Northeast Poland (2013), Eastern Andalucia (2017).
Graham Chisholm has been dedicated to the conservation movement for more than 20 years in the United States. Through his work in leadership positions at The Nature Conservancy and Audubon he has help put over 150,000 hectares into permanent conservation working with private landowners, Native American tribes and public agencies. He is currently a Senior Policy Advisor for the Conservation Strategy Group working increase the conservation impact of infrastructure mitigation in California and climate policy.
As a child he lived in Italy and has maintained a close connection to Italy and the Mediterranean. After many years in the U.S., he returned to Germany to complete dissertation research on the West German Green Party using his time off to further explore Europe’s natural areas. In addition to working with The Nature Conservancy and Audubon in California and Nevada, he has been involved in helping build connections among conservationists working in Mediterranean habitats in California, Chile and Baja California, Mexico.
In the past several years he has started spending more time back in Italy and can’t think of a better way to learn about a new landscape than teaming up with the Crossbill Foundation and colleagues to encourage nature tourism to Tuscany. He looks forward to getting involved in conservation projects and learning from the work in the European Union. He is passionate about supporting the next generation of conservation leaders and ensuring that nature has a strong constituency in the coming century.
For Crossbill Guides, Graham writes the Crossbill Guide to Tuscany, Italy (planned 2021)
Frank Jouandoudet Author
Frank was born near Bordeaux (France) in 1965. He has been a ‘nature addict since childhood’ as he puts it. His first job was in a natural reserve in Arcachon bay near Bordeaux. Frank currently divides his time working as a teacher of classical languages, and studying the natural world of the French region of Aquitaine and Dordogne. Frank published several books on orchids (e.g Guide des orchidées communes de France; 2011, and À la découverte des orchidées sauvages d'Aquitaine; 2004 and 2015), but he really is an all-round naturalist. Besides books on orchids, Frank wrote books on the Archochon nature reserve and its tributary river, the Eyre. Additionally, he is a keen nature photographer.
For Crossbill Guides, Frank co-authored the Crossbill Guide to Dordogne (2018).
Kim Lotterman Author
Kim Lotterman has been the principal ecological editor of the guidebooks since the start of the Foundation. Together with local experts, he thoroughly checks the ecological correctness of the content of each book . His credo is 'if I get out of it what I want and my mother still finds it an enjoyable read, it's good'. Kim also writes short sections of the guidebooks, and does additional ecological research, being the main ecological consultant for the author, Dirk. He also gets to do the thankless jobs like constructing the long, multi-lingual species lists at the back of the books. In daily life, Kim works as a researcher at an ecological nature research and consultancy group called 'Natuurbalans', where he focuses mainly on flora. Before working there, he studied biology and environmental studies at the University of Nijmegen. In his spare time, Kim enjoys nature, having a broad ecological interest ranging from mosses and lichens to butterflies and birds, but his main interest lies in the flora of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Nature conservation starts with knowledge about natural areas, their ecology and the factors influencing them. Kim values the Crossbill Guides a lot because they inform tourists and local people about these topics. You can enjoy nature so much more when you know why certain things happen, or why particular species live in an area.
Redaction: from the first guide (2005) until the present
Martin Pitt Author
Martin has had an interest in wildlife since an early age. Although he worked until recently in development and consultancy across the globe, he has always kept this interest alight. He has travelled widely and is keen to explore the ‘sense of place’ that make each location special in the interaction between topography, human culture and the flora and fauna. He is an active member of conservation organisations and currently sits on the Hampshire Ornithological Societies (HOS) Rarities committee.
Primarily interested in birds and mammals, his time living in the Middle East gave him a deep interest in desert ecosystems and the migrant species of the African flyways. Recently he has expanded his interests to butterflies and dragonflies and is currently trying to get to grips with reptiles and amphibians.
Since taking semi-retirement, he also acts a tour guide for Naturetrek, probably the world’s largest eco-tour company and has led a range of tours over the last 4 years including Ethiopia, Morocco, Ethiopia, Extremadura (Spain), Austria, Hungary, Romania and Poland.
For Crossbill Guides, Martin writes the Crossbill Guide to Southern Morocco (planned 2021)
David Simpson Author
David has been passionate about wildlife since he was a child, firstly watching butterflies near his home and later birdwatching. He studied Geography at Sheffield University and volunteered for the RSPB at their Ouse Washes and Coombes Valley reserves. Soon afterwards he began a twenty-year reserve wardening career in northern England, first on the Farne Islands and subsequently in Ravenglass and finally the Sefton Coast. A childhood dream of working in the tropics took him to the Seychelles in 2001 where he volunteered with his partner Audrey for the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles and later to Mauritius where they were island wardens for the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation at Ile aux Aigrettes. They moved to France in 2002 and now live and work in the Dordogne near Bergerac where David is a wildlife guide.
David has published several articles in British Wildlife on Black-headed Gulls, Natterjack Toads and the Dordogne. In 2010 he wrote the book Birding Dordogne in the popular BirdGuides series and is the Dordogne contact for the European Butterfly Group, part of Butterfly Conservation UK. He has contributed over twenty monographs to the Aquitaine Butterfly Atlas and was a committee member for the Red Data List report of butterflies in Aquitaine.
For Crossbill Guides, David wrote the Dordogne Crossbill Guide (2008)
Constant Swinkels Author
Constant recently graduated as an ecologist and is now a young researcher and lecturer at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Constant has been fascinated by nature from a young age. Whereas his research mainly focuses on the interaction between insects (particularly bees) and vegetation, his natural interests are much broader, covering birds, mammals, reptiles and other insect groups. Having parents who own a book shop and an uncle who writes nature guides, it is no surprise that Constant developed an interest in writing himself, especially the kind of accessible scientific writing that is the benchmark of the Crossbill Guides. For Constant, it is combining the scientific and popular approaches to ecology that excites, whether in his writing, his guiding, in the courses in field biology he teaches, or in his travels around Europe. This is exactly what he does in the Crossbill Guides team, and does so with great enthusiasm. Eventually being able to transfer his new knowledge via the books to a broad readership is the cherry on top!
Author / co-author: Provence and Camargue (2020), Crossbill Guide route app Veluwe (2017, in Dutch), Crossbill Guide route app Wadden (2019, in Dutch).
Albert Vliegenthart Author
Albert Vliegenthart is one of the authors of the Crossbill nature travel guidebooks, and also assists Dirk in acquisition. He has been interested in nature since his childhood, when he was a keen member of the NJN (Dutch youth organization for field biology). After studying plant biotechnology in Delft, he started working as a molecular biologist in a private company where research in crop characteristics was only sometimes combined with nature aspects. Meanwhile his passion was kept alive by travelling throughout Europe, exploring nature from North to South. Albert’s favourite destination is definitely Greece. It may be no surprise that a Crossbill Guide will be an outcome of this enthusiasm. Albert also guides butterfly-tours for the Dutch nature travel company SNP (formerly provided by EcoTourist Services), where his knowledge of butterflies, dragonflies, birds and other ecological topics can be shared with ecotourists. Since 2007, Albert has worked at the Dutch Butterfly Conservation (De Vlinderstichting) as a project leader. Albert enjoys the variety of this work, which includes protection and habitat management for butterflies and dragonflies.
Author / co-author: Eastern Rhodopes (2013), Eastern Andalucia (2017), Wadden (2019).
Redaction (insects): from Hortobagy (2008) until the present
Kees Woutersen Author
Kees has been one of the authors of Crossbill Guides since 2008. From the moment he set eyes on a Crossbill Guide for the first time, with its wide range of nature topics and practical information, he knew that this was what a nature traveller abroad needs to get around. Kees worked as a teacher in economics and as a consultant for small businesses. He was also a member of a Dutch youth organisation for field biology (CJN) and several bird groups, for many years. Once established at Huesca, in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, he worked professionally with birds and nature. He started his own travel company, organising nature tours and bird trips all over Spain and publishing several books, e.g. Atlas of the Birds of Huesca (1998). Besides, Kees is active in local bird and nature organisations, organising and working on education. Kees thinks these books, thorough as well as accessible to the general public, play a big part in publicising the most important natural areas of Europe. He thinks Crossbill Guide activities can convince administrations at different levels to put nature conservation higher up their agendas.
Author / co-author: Spanish Pyrenees (2011, 2016), Lanzarote and Fuerteventura (2013), Tenerife and La Gomera (2015), Eastern Andalucia (2017), Southern Portugal (2018), Madeira (2019).
Illustrations & Graphic Design
Horst Wolter Illustrator
Horst Wolter (1977) has been drawing ever since he was able to hold a pencil. When Dirk asked him to make a schematic overview of the habitats of the Biebrza river for the first Crossbill Guides publication, he immediately agreed. Horst is now the illustrator of the Crossbill Guides Foundation. After finishing high school, Horst had the choice to either study biology or to go to art school. He chose biology at the University of Nijmegen, where he received his master's degree in 2002. All through his studies Horst kept on creating illustrations of the various aspects of nature, from wild flowers and animals to the intricate patterns of organs and cells. His main fascination lies in the complex shapes and structures you can find everywhere in nature, and how these all have a purpose or function within 'the bigger scheme of things'. Examining and drawing these often cunning structures (from cell to ecosystem) gives a great insight into 'the why of things'. Within his work for Crossbill Guides Horst brings together his love for nature, fascination for its workings and his skills as an illustrator.
Chris Braat Illustrator
Chris has been active as an illustrator for the Crossbill Guides since 2006. The first book he worked on was Extremadura 1st edition, and he has worked on many others. Chris makes the overview illustrations inside the front covers, and the illustrations of species in region maps. Since he was only 10 years old, Chris has been interested in nature and was often to be found in the dunes of Haarlem. He started his study in Biology at Wageningen University, after which he worked for the NGO Natuurmonumenten for many years. In 2008 he became director of the Free Nature Foundation, which manages areas where nature remains largely undisturbed, only influenced by the weather and wild animals. Cattle and horses are often used in the management of these areas. Since 2012, Chris is manager for NAtuurmonumenten of the National Park Schiermonnikoog.
For Chris, the Crossbill Guides are more than just travel guides. Apart from their quality and usefulness for different kinds of people (experts and hobby travellers), the Crossbill Guides can really contribute to an area’s economy. The guides help tourists to go to specific areas, which boosts local initiatives.
Oscar Lourens Graphic Designer
Marketing & PR
Marjolein de Graaf Marketing & PR
Marjolein joined our team in 2017 to manage and facilitate the PR and network building for the Crossbill Routes App and guidebook of De Veluwe, Netherlands.
Marjolein is a passionate rambler and enjoys the ‘good country life’ – the local food and the fine landscape of the region.
Marjolein is a great network builder and organisor.