Birding Festival: May 15, 2020 Events

The Birding Festival is BACK for 2023! Mark the dates on your calendar: May 17 - May 21, 2023. For an idea of the kinds of tours, lectures and bird sightings available, take a quick tour through our 2020 events, and stay tuned for more information about our 2023 Keynote Speaker, Lectures and Tours.

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Events Scheduled for Friday, May 15, 2020
A chickadee seen during the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Diane Cherbak


Pagosa Springs & San Juan River
Mark Franklin, Historian, Old Spanish Trail Association

5:30 am – 5:00 pm; $65
Begin a full day of birding by heading east from Cortez toward the La Plata River. Check Rafter J in Wildcat Canyon for Acorn Woodpecker and Pygmy Nuthatch. Visit Lake Nighthorse before proceeding to birding hotspots between the Animas River and Pagosa Springs: Zink’s Pond, Pastorius Reservoir, Navajo Lake, Stolstheimer Creek, Piedra River, Bayfield ponds and the San Juan River. Look for Sora, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren, Prothonotary Warbler, Sage Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Gray Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Lazuli Bunting and raptors. Short side-trips off the primary route may offer White-throated Swift, Gray Catbird, Grace’s Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Belted Kingfisher and possibly Northern Saw-Whet and Northern Pygmy owls. Easy. Lunch provided.
Only 2 Spaces Remaining!RETURNINGNEWSOLD OUT!

TOUR #10

Yellow Jacket Canyon and Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch
Vern Gersh, Naturalist Ranger, Bureau of Land Management, Retired; Terry McLaughlin, Naturalist, Northern Arizona University

5:45 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, a variety of warblers and Cooper’s Hawk. (45 species 2019) Moderate hiking of approximately two-three 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
Only 2 Spaces Remaining!RETURNINGNEWSOLD OUT!

TOUR #11

Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch
Erik Hendrickson, Engineer, National Park Service, Retired

6:15 am; $75
Accompanied by a tribal member from the Ute Mountain Ute Wildlife Resources Division, the tour emphasizes the Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch Enterprises and the settling ponds for the Ute tribal community of Towaoc; an oasis of water in an otherwise desert landscape. 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 and Gray Flycatcher 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. (58 species 2019) Easy. Lunch provided.

TOUR #12

Hartman Draw
Ted Floyd, Editor “Birding” Magazine

6:30 am; $55
Rare access to this secluded private property in beautiful Hartman Draw offers a rich birding experience with a diversity of habitats – grassland, marsh, riparian with mature cottonwoods, wetland, wet meadow, pinyon-juniper and sagebrush shrubland. The area attracts Bald & Golden eagles, hawks and other raptors. An uncommon Osprey observed in 2019 carried nesting materials. Explore varying terrain on foot. Other likely sightings: Juniper Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Marsh Wren, Wilson’s Snipe, Chipping & Lark sparrows, Ash-throated & Dusky flycatchers, Bullock’s Oriole, Yellow-breasted Chat and Wilson’s Warbler. (52 species 2019) Moderate hike of three-four miles. Lunch provided.
Only 1 Space Remaining!NEWSOLD OUT!

TOUR #13

Mesa Verde National Park

Bald eagles can be seen during the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Michael Piper, Interpretive Park Ranger, National Park Service

6:45 am; $50
Explore a variety of birding locales in this world-famous national park, well known for archaeological sites and varied pristine habitats. Possible sightings include accipiters, Peregrine Falcon, Downy Woodpecker, Virginia’s & Black-throated Gray warblers, Juniper Titmouse, Ash-throated & Dusky flycatchers, Western Tanager, Western Wood-Pewee, Lazuli Bunting, Green-tailed & Spotted towhees, Rock & Bewick’s wrens, Clark’s Nutcracker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, swifts and hummingbirds. (36 species 2019) Easy to moderate. Lunch provided.

TOUR #14

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

7:00 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 Mancos to practice birding skills in varied habitats. Observe a heron rookery and walk Cottonwood Park. Easy. Bring a sack lunch for a picnic at Boyle Park.
REVISEDNEWSOLD OUT!Only 1 Space Available!

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; $75
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. Additionally, bird Scullbinder Ranch at the confluence of Weber and Mancos River Canyons. 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. (31 species 2019) Easy with some hiking. Catered dinner with locally sourced food provided.


“Birds of the Southern Ocean”
Terry McLaughlin, Naturalist, Northern Arizona University

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
The Antarctic continent and South Georgia Island manifest some of the most severe weather on the face of this planet. Storms lash beaches at any time of year; inland temperatures plummet to -80F for weeks; summer lasts for about 4 months. More than 46 species of our feathered friends thrive under these conditions. Examine the sea-based birds with reputations almost as large as their wingspans: albatross, petrels and shearwaters. Then wander ashore to learn about grass-based species such as the beautiful Long-tailed Meadowlark and endemic species such as Cobb’s wren. Of course, no trip to the Southern Ocean would be complete without a treatise on the seven amazingly well-adapted penguin species that bring a smile to the lips of everyone.

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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