Roadrunners may be spotted at the Birding Festival. Photo © Lynn Dyer
Fred Blackburn, Naturalist-historian
5:45 am; $50
Begin the tour with a trip through the Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch with the hope of finding a Burrowing Owl. An hour-and-a-half southwest of Cortez, the quaint little town of Bluff, Utah is a great early-season birding destination. Large cottonwoods along the San Juan River and a warmer climate make this tour feel like spring migration has jump-started. Summer & Western tanagers, warblers, Lazuli Buntings, Gray Vireos, sparrows, orioles, hummingbirds and waxwings are often sighted. Bird the feeders, trees and river trail at Recapture Lodge; then spend time at Sand Island, with its immense glyph panel and trails. The return drive to Cortez may include a stop at lower Yellow Jacket Canyon to listen for Lucy’s Warbler. (45 species, 2016) Easy; warm temps likely (80s). Lunch provided.
Black-billed magpie. Photo © 123rf.com
Mark Franklin, Historian, Old Spanish Trail Association
6:00 am; $40
The Seltenreich property is a vast 788-acre private ranch protected by a conservation easement held by the Montezuma Land Conservancy. The property is located two miles east of the Utah border and close to Coalbed Canyon State Wildlife Area. A visit reveals a reestablished sea of native sagebrush. The Seltenreich Ranch had become a productive dryland farm. In recent years, the landowner replanted nearly the entire property in sagebrush to benefit the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. A local Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist has cited the restoration project as one of the best examples of reestablishing sagebrush habitat. Though the property is home to the elusive Gunnison Sage-Grouse, encountering the vast array of sage-obligate birds such as the Spotted Towhee, Gray Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Western Bluebird, Sage Thrasher, Horned Lark and Brewers & Chipping sparrows is more likely. Golden Eagle and Loggerhead Shrike may also come into the mix. (55 species, 2016) Easy. Lunch provided.
Aimee Way, Environmental Consultant, ERO Resources Corporation
6:15 am; $45
This is an opportunity to be among the first to contribute to the baseline species list of this unique area. Lone Mesa is a new state park in the making, as yet not officially open to the public. The Birding Festival has been granted a special permit to offer a tour this year. A pristine and isolated preserve in southwest Colorado, the Park is a mosaic of habitats from mountain sagebrush meadows to pine/oak woodlands to aspen groves to spruce/fir forest. Join us in taking a closer look at this special place. Expected species include Red Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Broad-tailed & Black-chinned hummingbirds, Spotted Towhee, Western Tanager and Mountain Chickadee. Other possibilities are Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hairy Woodpecker, Purple Martin, Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-rumped Warbler, raptors, jays, waterfowl, sparrows, bluebirds and wrens. Moderate with some hiking. Lunch provided.
Mike Jensen, Rangeland Management Specialist, Bureau of Land Management; TJ Holmes, Mustang Advocate
6:30 am; $45
Join us as we tour the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area in Disappointment Valley, 90 minutes north of Cortez. Disappointment Valley was one of the first areas settled by Four Corners pioneers. Visitors will get a look at mustangs in the 22,000-acre Spring Creek Basin with BLM herd manager Mike Jensen and volunteer TJ Holmes. They will have the opportunity to learn about behavior, social structure and what mustangs eat, as well as modern on-range management practices such as fertility control and how it has prevented the need for roundups and removals since 2011. We will make stops to observe semi-desert birds and will watch for Golden & Bald eagles and Peregrine Falcons. Disappointment Valley, a basin and range formation, includes sage, saltbush and pinyon-juniper habitats. Easy; short walks possible. Lunch provided.
Black backed gull. Photo © Tim Reeves
Tim Reeves, Professor, San Juan College, Farmington, Retired
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm
This is a photographic overview of the species of waterfowl including geese, swans and ducks documented as occurring in the Four Corners Area. The lecturer’s own photographs, taken inside and outside this region, illustrate the diversity of waterfowl birders can expect to see here.
Chip Clouse, Manager, Front Range Birding Co.
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
10×50, 8×42, close focus, field of view, eye relief, interpupillary distance – what do the numbers and terms actually mean? Chip Clouse from the Front Range Birding Co. and Opticron will teach you the basics and some in-depth knowledge for choosing which binoculars and spotting scopes will work best for you and your budget. Whether buying your first pair, upgrading to better equipment or going for the investment of a lifetime, Chip’s seminar is a must for those seeking to get the most out of their optics for birding or other uses.
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