Our Regular Guides

All our guides are all round naturalists and aside from a common interest in the beavers of the River Otter, each have their own areas of expertise in Devon’s wildlife, so if you have a particular species group you are interested in please email us and we can organise something for you.

Chris Townend
SPECIALISM: Birds, Beavers & Cirl Buntings

Chris is the lead guide for Devon Beaver & Wildlife Tours and director of Wise Birding Holidays Ltd

Chris lives in Budleigh Salterton, East Devon with his partner Helen where he is most often to be found on his local patch, the Otter Estuary studying the Beaver population or adding to the growing bird list of the area. Chris has travelled throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia and his favourite continent, Africa, all following his birding interest, as well as wildlife and conservation. He was employed by the RSPB for 7 years and based at the RSPB’s HQ at Sandy for most of that time, in species protection. Here he was part of a team working to combat bird of prey persecution, illegal trade in birds and egg collecting. He then moved to Devon and worked on cirl buntings for 3 years including a year spent managing the cirl bunting re-introduction project.
Now, Chris works full time as a guide as well as taking time to develop new itineraries. He has led  wildlife watching holidays for over 20 years. He is a people person keen to share knowledge and ensure that tours are full of wildlife, humour and good quality cakes and puddings!

Laurie Allnatt
SPECIALISM: Birds, Beavers & Botany

Laurie lives in Budleigh Salterton, East Devon and has had a passion for birds since a very early age. Having completed his degree in Biology, and undertaken a years volunteering for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, he now works as an ecologist, undertaking wildlife surveys throughout the South West of England. Over the last few years, during his holiday, Laurie has undertaken research on birds in Costa Rica, Uganda and the Peruvian Amazon, and has a soft spot for the birds, wildlife and trekking in Nepal. Although birds are his main interest, he has diversified into plants and invertebrates over the last few years and can often be found out in the evening watching the beavers on the River Otter.

Rick Lockwood
SPECIALISM: Birds, Beavers & Bats

Rick lives in Budleigh Salterton, East Devon where he is currently the Ranger for the Otter Estuary.
He has held a keen interest in the natural world since a young age, first mentored by a teacher at school he began exploring the wildlife found in the post-industrial landscapes of Sheffield and the granite landscapes of the Peak District. After studying for an environmental degree Rick’s first roles in nature conservation were safeguarding a Little Tern colony and then working as a ranger for the National Trust, both on the Northumberland coast. Following this Rick worked for 3 years in the Philippines, providing support to protected area staff and indigenous communities to assist them in developing ecotourism projects as alternatives to destructive livelihood practices in several priority protected areas. During this time he also worked as a tour guide for foreign birders helping them to see some of the endemics and most sought-after birds of the Philippines.

Returning to the UK he then did a further two community ranger roles with the National Trust, worked as an ornithologist monitoring seabirds on the first offshore windfarms in Wales, before settling on Dartmoor to raise a family and working as a Conservation Officer at the Barn Owl Trust, and as a Project Officer for South West Lakes Trust. Before becoming a father, he travelled extensively undertaking bat research expeditions in Peru and Jordan, bird monitoring in a cloud forest reserve in Costa Rica, and during raptor migrations in Batumi, Georgia. For the past 14 years he has also helped to run nature retreats on Dartmoor.

Mark Elliott
SPECIALISM: Beavers & Wetland Management

Mark was the Beaver Project Lead with Devon Wildlife Trust until March 2022.

Mark lives near Bradford, North Devon and his love of wildlife began in childhood – initially through a fascination with amphibians. He started work in the 1990s as a wetland ecologist for the Environment Agency (and NRA) covering the rivers of Sussex. He was the Senior Natural Resources Officer for West Sussex County Council before moving to Devon in 2010 where he began working for the Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT).
His early role with DWT included establishing the beaver enclosure, and it was here that his interest and enthusiasm for beavers began in earnest. This meant he was well placed to manage the River Otter Beaver Trial which ran from 2015 to 2020 - England’s first licenced wild-release of beavers. Following the success of this trial, the government announced that beavers would be recognised as a native resident species once again, after an absence of 400 years. Mark now works as a beaver specialist, advising organisations on their reintroduction and management.

Mike Langman
SPECIALISM: Birds, Cetaceans & Seabirds

Mike lives in Torbay, South Devon and is well known as a bird illustrator and Devon County Bird Recorder (1996-2002). Mike’s fabulous illustrations can be seen in almost every RSPB reserve from identification cards to large murals. Mike worked for the RSPB for nine years after leaving Art College and then pursued a career in bird illustration. His interpretation work for nature centre information boards can be found across Britain and in Europe. Much of Mike’s work can also be found in numerous international bird books and magazines. Mike spends much of his free time birding, particularly Berry Head in Devon where he spends many hundreds of hours seawatching and searching for migrants. His numerous hours in the field have been rewarded with many good finds that include Sardinian Warbler, Little Shearwater and Britain’s first Yelkouan Shearwater!
Mike has a very approachable character and he is always very willing to help others improve their birding skills and knowledge. These traits along with his exceptional field skills will be a great asset to the Wise Birding team.

Steve Waite
SPECIALISM: Birds, Water Voles & Insects

Steve lives in Seaton, East Devon. He was Devon County Recorder (2010 – 2015) and has lived in Devon since 1991 where he spends most of his time birding his local patch, the River Axe in the far south east of the County. Over the years his efforts here have rewarded him with some exciting finds including the Counties first records of Audouin’s Gull and Solitary Sandpiper, along with an enviable list of other rare and scarce species. After college Steve spent a couple of years volunteering at several bird observatories across the UK, and it was through this he secured a season working at Spurn Bird Observatory. Here, he was introduced to the wonders of bird migration (including learning the art of ‘vis-migging’) and rarity finding. All encouraged by the friendly and experienced staff, volunteers and local birders around him, to whom he is forever indebted to. It’s not only finding, watching and photographing birds that Steve enjoys. His interest spans across the whole natural world and he also loves moth trapping and stalking butterflies and dragonflies! Steve’s positive attitude to life, and his wish to always share his passion with others, makes him a very welcome addition to the team.

David White
SPECIALISM: Beavers, Otters & Photography

David lives in East Budleigh, East Devon. He grew up in the countryside on the southern escarpment of the Cotswolds where he gained his life long interest in wildlife. 

In 2009, David retired to East Devon where the nearby coast and red sandstone cliffs, Pebblebed Heathland and the River Otter are all on his doorstep. These were all totally different ecosystems to which he was familiar, but now they form David’s local patch where he has a great understanding of the wildlife that lives in this area, particularly the beavers which are now thriving.David spends many hours on the River Otter searching for signs of both Otters and Beavers with make him an invaluable part of the team. He also enjoys taking photos of the wildlife he sees on a daily basis and he loves to share these with people. This has led to his village community shop producing a local wildlife calendar aimed at raising awareness & knowledge among local schoolchildren of the variety of wildlife that can be found in East Devon. David also won the BBC Countryfile Calendar competition in 2019 with a fabulous photo of a family of Polecats taken near his home.