Birding Festival: May 12, 2018 Events

15th Annual


May 8 - May 12, 2019

We're excited about the 2019 Birding Festival! Mark the dates on your calendar: May 8 - May 12, 2019. For an idea of the kinds of tours, lectures and bird sightings available, take a quick tour through our 2018 events.

Take a look at the events from last year's Festival:

Events Scheduled for Saturday, May 12, 2018
Lucy's Warbler have often been spotted at the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Charles Haspels
Yellow Jacket Canyon and Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch
Linda Martin, Supervisory Interpretive Park Ranger, Mesa Verde National Park, Retired

5:30 am; $60
The habitat of Yellow Jacket Canyon in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument consists of permanent riparian desert corridors with big cottonwoods and understory unique to southwest Colorado – the only known location in Colorado for nesting Lucy’s Warbler. Travel to the Canyon of the Ancients historic guest ranch located in a Sedona-like red rock setting. More than 5,000 archaeological sites are documented in this beautiful area. This popular tour has offered sightings of Summer Tanager, Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak, hummingbirds, other warblers and Cooper’s Hawk. (34 species, 2017) Moderate hiking of approximately two miles; insect repellant might be handy; warm temps likely (80s). Catered lunch with locally sourced food provided.
Lone Mesa State Park
Nate West, Wildlife Biologist

5:45 am; $45
Lone Mesa is a new state park in the making, as yet not officially open to the public. 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, American Pipit, Yellow-rumped Warbler, raptors, jays, waterfowl, sparrows, bluebirds and wrens. (45 species, 2017) Moderate with some hiking. Lunch provided.
Having lunch at the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Diane Cherbak
Bradfield Bridge
Glenn Dunmire, Field Biologist

6:00 am; $40
Situated on the Dolores River in a migratory corridor below McPhee Dam, the Bradfield Bridge area offers river habitats that entice a broad array of species including Black Phoebe, Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-breasted Chat, Canyon Wren, Lazuli Bunting, Wild Turkey and Belted Kingfisher. Swallows, warblers, raptors, woodpeckers, waterfowl and shorebirds add to the mix. The scenic sandstone canyon may even offer a sighting of river otters. This annual tour has been one of the Birding Festival’s most successful for species count. (60 species, 2017) Easy. Lunch provided.
Montezuma Land Conservancy

Trail Canyon

Erik Hendrickson, National Park Service Engineer, Retired

6:15 am; $40
Trail Canyon, an isolated oasis in Montezuma County, comprises privately owned, historic homesteader ranches now protected with an easement held by the Montezuma Land Conservancy. Located north of McElmo Creek, the dramatic geography includes sheer canyon walls and a beautiful waterfall. The riparian, juniper, cottonwood and sage prairie habitats lie within a migratory path and provide opportunities for seeing a variety of flycatchers, vireos, several species of warblers (Yellow, Wilson’s, Orange-crowned, Yellow-breasted Chat & maybe MacGillivray’s), Lazuli Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, American Kestrel and the occasional Golden Eagle. (42 species, 2017) Moderate with a hike of up to three miles round trip. Lunch provided.
Burrowing owls are often seen during the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Charles Haspels
6:30 am; $60
Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch
Brenda Wright and Coen Dexter, Colorado Birding Atlas II

Accompanied by a tribal member from the Ute Mountain Ute Wildlife Resources Division, the tour will emphasize two areas: first, the Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch Enterprises; second, an isolated reservoir. Travel between these areas covers a segment of the Colorado Plateau that makes up the majority of the reservation. Watch for several species of raptors including Burrowing Owl, American Kestrel, several buteos and possibly Barn Owl. Horned Lark, White-crowned, Black-throated & Sage sparrows, Gray Vireo, Gray Flycatcher and buntings also should be present. Target birds for this trip are Greater Roadrunner, Scaled & Gambel’s quails, Loggerhead Shrike and Scott’s Oriole. Both migratory and summer residents at the reservoir may include rails, phalaropes, stilts, gulls, herons, geese and several duck species. (48 species, 2017) Easy. Lunch provided.
McElmo Canyon and Wine Tasting
Kylan Frye, Biologist, Ecosphere Environmental Services

6:45 am; $45
McElmo Canyon’s scenic red sandstone cliffs cradle sagebrush flats, pinyon-juniper hills, hayfields, pastures, historic orchards and vineyards. This varied habitat invites warblers, bluebirds, Lazuli Bunting, quail, Golden Eagle, Western Wood-Pewee, swallows, nesting orioles, White-throated Swift and hummingbirds. After visiting a bird-rich private ranch, proceed to Guy Drew Vineyards for more birding, wine tasting and a hot lunch. Local label wines will be available for purchase. (48 species, 2017) Easy.
Thomas Preserve provides prime birding habitat

Photo courtesy of Carla Fox
Beginning Birding ½ Day
Donna Thatcher, Director, Riverside Nature Center at the Farmington Museum

7:00 am – 12:00 pm; $10
Join a fun, hands-on introduction to developing bird-watching skills. Become familiar with choices in field guides and binoculars and the ways to use them. Learn the first steps to identifying birds at feeders and in the wild. Travel by van to Thomas Preserve to practice your birding skills in varied habitats. (31 species, 2017) Easy. Bring a sack lunch for a picnic at nearby Denny Lake. No Registration Fee required.
Family Outing: Nature Center at Butler Corner
Gabi Morey, Director of Education and Outreach, San Juan Mountains Association

8:30 am – 11:00 am; FREE
Calling all young birders! This family friendly activity encourages kids to become aware of their surroundings while developing bird-savvy. Parents are encouraged to join their children in a 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. FREE – no registration fee required.


Dinner, Silent Auction, Keynote Speaker at Cortez Elks Lodge

5:30 pm – Social Hour and Silent Auction Opens
6:15 pm – Dinner
7:15 pm – Silent Auction Closes
7:30 pm – Keynote Speakers: Emily Davenport & Amelia Gazzo, “Caring for Pint-Sized Predators: An intimate look into rehabilitating Colorado’s injured and orphaned swallows”

Swallows pack huge personality and tenacity into their pint-sized package. When an orphaned or injured swallow is brought into a wildlife rehabilitation center it takes a specialized knowledge of their life history to provide the attention these little birds need in order to be released back into the wild. Join us for an intimate behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to care for some of the world’s smallest carnivorous birds and celebrate with us as we share a unique look into their 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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