Birding Festival: May 11, 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 Saturday, May 11, 2019
Lucy's Warbler have often been spotted at the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Charles Haspels
EXPANDEDSOLD OUT!Only 1 Space Available!

TOUR #16

Yellow Jacket and Lower McElmo Canyons
Brenda Wright and Coen Dexter, Colorado Birding Atlas II

5:30 am; $60
Yellow Jacket Canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients NM cradles permanent riparian corridors with big cottonwoods and a unique southwest Colorado understory — the only known location in Colorado for nesting Lucy’s Warbler. Past sightings for this popular tour: warblers, Summer Tanager, Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak, hummingbirds and Cooper’s Hawk. Continue to explore McElmo Canyon toward the Utah state line. Open habitat possibilities are grouse, Sagebrush & Black-throated sparrows, Burrowing Owl and raptors with warblers and flycatchers likely in riparian areas. Moderate hiking of approximately 2-3 miles; insect repellant suggested; warm temps likely (80s). Lunch provided.
EXPANDEDSOLD OUT!Only 1 Space Available!

TOUR #17

Montezuma Land Conservancy

Roaring Fork Ranch & Twin Spruce Ponds SWA

Ryan Votta, Asst. Manager, Durango Fish Hatchery, Colorado Parks & Wildlife

5:45 am; $50
Located in the spectacular Dolores River Valley, this 225-acre property ranges from 8,100’- 9,100’ in elevation. Engelmann Spruce, Subalpine fir, aspens and mountain shrubs dominate the montane forest. Blue spruce, narrowleaf cottonwood, riparian habitats, red-rock cliffs, mountain meadows, willows and marshes highlight waterways. Many species use the property for foraging, nesting sites or migratory stopovers. Target birds: Bald Eagle, American Dipper, Ruby- crowned Kinglet, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Tree & Violet-green swallows, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Purple Martin and Gray Jay. Also, watch for Mountain Bluebird, Clark’s Nutcracker, Northern Flicker, Hermit Thrush, Western Tanager, White-crowned & Chipping sparrows, Townsend’s Solitaire and Hairy Woodpecker. At Twin Spruce Ponds SWA, marked as a migrant trap, look for waterfowl and possibly Black Phoebe, Belted Kingfisher and Purple Martin. (60 species, 2018) Moderate, uneven terrain, up to three miles walking. Lunch provided.
Having lunch at the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Diane Cherbak

TOUR #18

Montezuma Land Conservancy

Marsh/Washburn Ranch

John Bregar, Oil & Gas Geologist/Geophysicist, Retired

6:00 am; $55
The Washburn Ranch sprawls across 3,000 acres of rolling sagebrush plain and pinyon-juniper. The entire eastern boundary provides panoramic views above the Dolores River. The expansive ranch is mapped as occupied habitat for the endangered Gunnison Sage-Grouse. Anticipate common species like Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Western Bluebird, Mourning Dove, Western Meadowlark and Spotted Towhee as well as Black-headed Grosbeak, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Pinyon Jay, Plumbeous Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Black- capped Chickadee, Chipping, Song, Lark, Vesper & Brewer’s sparrows, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit, Black-throated Gray, Virginia’s & MacGillivray’s warblers, Common Nighthawk, Sage Thrasher, Common Poorwill, Northern Flicker and Red-tailed Hawk. (55 species, 2017) Easy. Lunch provided.

TOUR #19

Among the Ancients
Byron Greco, Design Engineer, La Plata Electric Company, Retired

6:15 am; $50
High desert and sage landscapes surrounding remnants of ancient dwellings offer bird-rich habitats. Possible stops: Canyon of the Ancients VC & Museum, Yellow Jacket and Lowry pueblos and Sand Canyon Pueblo Trail. Open fields are ideal for buteos, eagles, falcons, Horned Lark and bluebirds. Intermittent pinyon-juniper and cottonwood stands and rocky side-canyons entice Red-naped Sapsucker, Say’s Phoebe, Gray Vireo, titmice, wrens, flycatchers, warblers, towhees, Black-throated, Vesper, Lincoln’s & White-crowned sparrows and possibly a Loggerhead Shrike. (54 species, 2018) Easy. Lunch provided.
Burrowing owls are often seen during the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Charles Haspels

TOUR #20

Montezuma Land Conservancy

At the Foot of the Mesa (Montezuma Land Conservancy Co-sponsor)

Vern Gersh, Naturalist Ranger, Bureau of Land Management, Retired

6:30 am; $60
The iconic RSL Ranch, registered as a Centennial Farm since the 1980s, has a rich heritage. Having homesteaded just north of this property in 1874, the Lee family represents a long lineage of local farmers and ranchers in Montezuma County. Back dropped by Mesa Verde NP, the ranch holds 1060 acres of scenic sagebrush rangeland. Help create a baseline bird survey for this historic property that encompasses critical wildlife connectivity areas. Easy. Lunch provided.

TOUR #21

Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch
Lynn Wickersham, Senior Avian Ecologist, Animas Biological Studies

6:45 am; $70
Accompanied by a tribal member from the Ute Mountain Ute Wildlife Resources Division, the tour emphasizes the Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch Enterprises and an isolated reservoir. Travel between these areas covers a segment of the Colorado Plateau that incorporates most of the reservation. Watch for Burrowing Owl, American Kestrel, several buteo species and possibly Barn Owl. Horned Lark, White-crowned, Black-throated & Sage sparrows, Gray Vireo, Gray Flycatcher and buntings also should be present. Target birds: Greater Roadrunner, Scaled & Gambel’s quails, Loggerhead Shrike and Scott’s Oriole. Migratory and summer residents at the reservoir may include rails, phalaropes, stilts, gulls, herons, geese and several duck species. (46 species, 2018) Easy. Lunch provided.
Thomas Preserve provides prime birding habitat

Photo courtesy of Carla Fox

TOUR #22

Montezuma Land Conservancy

Birding Echo Basin

Linda Martin, Supervisory Interpretive Park Ranger, Mesa Verde National Park, Retired

7:00 am; $55
The Hackley Place, along with other a significant portions of the historic and operational Reddert/Brown Ranch, contains pasture and grazing land. The property, along with other conserved ranches in the area, helps maintain the critical mass of ranch land necessary to keep this type of agriculture viable in the county. With a habitat mix of gently rolling hills, meadows, ponderosa pine forest, riparian areas and a significant pond, sightings might include waterfowl, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-naped Sapsucker, warblers, bluebirds, jays, nuthatches and swallows. (52 species, 2018) Easy with some walking. Lunch provided.

TOUR #23

Montezuma Land Conservancy

Nature Center at Butler Corner and Boggy Draw

Donna Thatcher, Director, Riverside Nature Center at the Farmington Museum

7:15 am; $50
Butler Corner sits adjacent to national forest above Dolores. Observe Broad-tailed Hummingbird and Barn Swallow before embarking upon easy trails that cover approximately two miles. With more than 50 nest boxes along the trails, expect to see Mountain & Western bluebirds as well as Tree Swallow and House Wren. The expanded tour includes the Boggy Draw and House Creek areas. Habitats of mature Ponderosa Pine, an open understory of Gambel Oak and mountain shrubs attract chickadees, Northern Flicker, Black-chinned Hummingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Violet-green Swallow, Clark’s Nutcracker, Steller’s Jay, Western Tanager and Spotted Towhee. Target birds: Red Crossbill, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Brown Creeper, Pygmy Nuthatch, Chipping Sparrow, Grace’s Warbler and Hermit Thrush. Easy to moderate. Lunch provided.

TOUR #24

Family Outing: Nature Center at Butler Corner
Gabi Morey, Director of Education and Outreach, San Juan Mountains Association

8:30 am – 11:30 am; FREE, no reg. fee req’d
Calling all young birders! This family friendly activity seeks to promote kids’ awareness of
their surroundings while developing bird-savvy. Parents are encouraged to join their children in a one-mile nature walk while exploring habitat, learning bird characteristics and identifying bird species. Travel by personal vehicles to a bluebird sanctuary and alpaca ranch near Dolores. We’ll also have the opportunity to visit the farm animals. Bring your own picnic lunch if desired.For kids ages 5-12 and an accompanying adult.


Dinner, Silent Auction, Keynote Speaker — Cortez Conference Center

5:30 pm – Social Hour and Silent Auction Opens
6:15 pm – Dinner
7:15 pm – Silent Auction Closes
7:30 pm – Keynote Speakers: Noah Strycker, “Birding Without Borders: An Epic World Big Year”

In 2015, bird nerd Noah Strycker of Oregon became the first human to see more than half of the planet’s bird species in a single, year-long, round-the-world birding trip. Anything could have happened and a lot did. He was scourged by blood-sucking leeches, suffered fevers and sleep deprivation, survived airline snafus, car breakdowns, mudslides and torrential floods, skirted war zones and had the time of his life. Birding on seven continents while carrying only a pack on his back, Strycker enlisted the enthusiastic support of local birders to tick more than 6,000 species. This humorous and inspiring presentation about Strycker’s epic World Big Year brings new appreciation for birds and birders of the world.

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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