Birding Festival: May 10, 2019 Events

16th Annual


May 13 - May 17, 2020

We're excited about the 2020 Birding Festival! Mark the dates on your calendar: May 13 - May 17, 2020. For an idea of the kinds of tours, lectures and bird sightings available, take a quick tour through our 2019 events.

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Events Scheduled for Friday, May 10, 2019
A chickadee seen during the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Diane Cherbak


Bears Ears National Monument, UT
Erica Tucker, Education Manager, Friends of Cedar Mesa; Melinda McFarland, Interpretive Park Ranger, Mesa Verde National Park

5:45 am Friday – 3:30 pm Saturday; $85
Bears Ears National Monument has garnered considerable media coverage focusing on scenic wonders, cultural legacies and political controversies. While birding along the route to pine and aspen forests within Bears Ears’ southern regions, learn the importance of birds in human history. Explore diverse habitats: the San Juan River riparian corridor at Bluff, the canyons of Cedar Mesa and sheer cliffs overlooking Monument Valley. Watch for Black-chinned Hummingbird, Canyon Wren, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Chat, Spotted Towhee, Say’s Phoebe, Violet-green Swallow, White-throated Swift, Pinyon Jay, Black-throated Gray Warbler and Peregrine Falcon as well as many other species. Easy; warm temps likely (80s). Friday lunch provided. Other meals, transportation and lodging at Recapture Lodge (435-672-2281) not included in tour fee. Mention birding festival to receive special rate.


Yellow Jacket Canyon and Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch
John Bregar, Oil & Gas Geologist/Geophysicist, Retired

6:00 am; $75
Yellow Jacket Canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients NM cradles permanent riparian corridors with big cottonwoods and an understory unique to southwest Colorado – the only known location in Colorado for nesting Lucy’s Warbler. Canyon of the Ancients historic guest ranch sits in a Sedona-like setting with more than 5,000 documented archaeological sites. This popular tour has tallied Summer Tanager, Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak, hummingbirds, other warblers and Cooper’s Hawk. (44 species, 2018) Moderate hiking of approximately two miles; insect repellant suggested; warm temps likely (80s). Catered lunch with locally sourced food provided.
A Great Blue Heron in flight

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

TOUR #10

Mega Miramonte Meander
Erik Hendrickson, Engineer, National Park Service, Retired

6:15 am – 5:00 pm; $60
Miramonte Reservoir, a remote migrant trap, is reachable through the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests. Stop en route at the town of Dolores, a high elevation meadow & stream and Groundhog Reservoir. Anticipate raptors along the way. Waterfowl frequent ponds scattered across the high plateau. Both Groundhog and Miramonte lure a mix of waterfowl and shorebirds. Gunnison Sage Grouse may be a possibility. In returning, stop at McPhee Park, set aside in 1925. Old stand ponderosa pines harbor woodpeckers, flycatchers, Grace’s Warbler, nuthatches and more. Easy. Lunch provided.

TOUR #11

Pontoon Boat on McPhee Reservoir
Brenda Wright and Coen Dexter, Colorado Birding Atlas II

6:30 am; $80
Start with a birding stop at Narraguinnep Reservoir before a “pelagic” tour of McPhee Reservoir on a smooth-riding pontoon boat. With over 50 miles of shoreline, sandstone cliffs, marshes and tree-lined canyons, expect to encounter a variety of species. Osprey, eagles, Red-tailed Hawk and Peregrine Falcon, Western, Eared & Pied-billed grebes, Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, loons, mergansers, gulls, American Avocet, Willet, American White Pelican, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, wigeons and even ibises are possible. (61 species, 2018) Easy. Sunscreen and layers recommended. Lunch provided. Limit 9.

TOUR #12

Middle McElmo Creek Corridor

Bald eagles can be seen during the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Diane Cherbak, Citizen Scientist and Chairman, UMMV Birding Festival

6:45 am; $50
Perennial McElmo Creek courses often overlooked prime birding areas near the heart of Cortez. A meandering stream, oxbow ponds, wetlands, clay bank gullies, arroyos and a narrow floodplain offer diverse habitats for raptors, owls, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Bullock’s Oriole, Wilson’s Snipe, Forster’s Tern, jays, swallows and sparrows. Easy. Lunch provided.
NEWSOLD OUT!Only 1 Space Available!

TOUR #13

Geer Natural Area with Optics Training ½ Day
Eric Moore, Owner, Jay’s Bird Barn; Ryan Crouse, Mgr Arizona Field Optics & Jay’s Bird Barn, Prescott

7:00 am – 11:00 am; $30
Located at the north edge of Cortez, Geer Park’s year-round pond attracts a multitude of waterfowl & waders. Scrub Jay, Northern Flicker, sparrows and finches favor an adjacent arroyo. This park is ideal for learning to use spotting scopes and binoculars with access to an array of Swarovski & Vortex optics. Easy.
NEWSOLD OUT!Only 1 Space Available!

TOUR #14

Beginning Birding ½ Day
Donna Thatcher, Director, Riverside Nature Center at the Farmington Museum

7:15 am – 12:00 pm; $15 (no reg fee req’d)
Join a fun, hands-on introduction to bird-watching. Become familiar with choices in field guides and binoculars and how to use them. Learn the steps in identifying birds at feeders and in the wild. Travel by van to Thomas Preserve to practice birding skills in varied habitats. (28 species, 2018) Easy. Bring a sack lunch for a picnic at nearby Denny Lake.

TOUR #15

Montezuma Land Conservancy

East Canyon Ranch and Mancos Owling

Ilyse Gold, Wildlife Biologist, Four Corners Biological Consultants, LLC

3:00 pm – 11:00 pm; $60
Tucked within a narrow canyon shaped largely by water, East Canyon Ranch’s 560 acres encompass the entire canyon floor between Menefee Mountain Wilderness Study Area and BLM lands south of Mancos. The Conservancy-protected ranch hosts Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon. Black-headed Grosbeak, Virginia’s Warbler, Plumbeous Vireo, Northern Flicker, Juniper Titmouse and Western Bluebird might show, too. Have dinner in the field; then owl on the return trip through the canyon. Within Mancos Valley, hoot and listen for Great Horned, Long-eared, Flammulated, Western Screech, Northern Pygmy, Northern Saw-whet and possibly a Short-eared Owl. (36 species, 2018) Easy with some hiking. Box dinner from Mancos Brewery provided.


“Black Swifts”
Carolyn Gunn, State Aquatics Veterinarian, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Retired

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Long-time Black Swift field researcher Carolyn Gunn gives an overview of the Black Swift in Colorado and the West and reviews results of recent research into the diet, plumage, genetics, phenology and migration patterns of this amazing bird.

songbird silhouetteBirding Festival General Information

  • The Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival is the major fundraiser for the Cortez Cultural Center. All proceeds benefit the Center.
  • All tours require pre-registration.
  • A registration fee is required for all tours except as noted. Full registration includes keynote banquet and all lectures. Daily registration includes that day's lectures. Full registration is required in order to qualify for the free early bird t-shirt.
  • Unless otherwise noted, tours will return to the Center at approximately 3:00 pm.
  • Van transportation is provided except as noted.
  • Tour size is generally 13 or less.
  • Cancellations considered on a case by case basis up to 21 days prior to start of Festival. All cancellations subject to a processing fee.
  • Availability of restrooms depends on the tour. Nearly all guides scout out restroom locations as well as bird species. Some tours are in parks or other facilities that have established restrooms. Some have outhouses. Others, the only option are bushes. Usually the leader will mention the restroom plan at the beginning of the tour.
  • All tours depart from and return to the Cortez Cultural Center.
  • Tour times listed are the DEPARTURE time. Please arrive 15 minutes prior.

For Birding Festival information email

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