Birding Festival: May 18, 2024 Events

17th Annual


May 15 - May 19, 2024

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Events Scheduled for Saturday, May 18, 2024
Lucy's Warbler have often been spotted at the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Charles Haspels
Only 1 Space Remaining!

TOUR #18

Ismay’s Yellow Jacket Canyon
Melissa May, M.S., Mountain Studies Institute Executive Director

5:30 am – 3:00 pm; $55
Yellow Jacket Canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument 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. Additionally, there will be a visit to a private property within McElmo Canyon’s red bluffs. Summer Tanager, Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock’s Oriole, hummingbirds, a variety of warblers and Cooper’s Hawk are possibilities. (54 species in 2023) Easy with up to a mile hiking; warm temps likely (80s). Lunch provided. Approximately 80 miles round trip.
Only 1 Space Remaining!

TOUR #19

Upper Dolores River and Twin Spruce Ponds State Wildlife Area
Ryan Votta, Asst. Manager, Durango Fish Hatchery, Colorado Parks & Wildlife

5:45 am – 3:00 pm; $55
Begin birding at the Dolores Ponds, one of the best places to bird in Montezuma County and an eBird hotspot. The diverse habitat offers riparian areas where the Dolores River meets McPhee Reservoir, pinyon-juniper, red-rock cliffs and a series of shallow ponds. Scan for waterfowl, listen for a singing Canyon Wren and hope to spot interesting migrants like American Pelican. Continue north on scenic Hwy 145 with several stops along the way. Lunch at Twin Spruce Ponds State Wildlife Area. Target species include Empidonax flycatchers, waterfowl and Spotted Sandpiper. Ruby-crowned & Golden-crowned kinglets, American Dipper, Black Phoebe, Belted Kingfisher and Canada Jay also are potential species. (62 species in 2023) SWA pass included. Moderate amount of walking, with about 7-8 stops throughout the day. Lunch provided. Approximately 100 miles round trip.
Western Tanager, seen at the Birding Festival, photo by Diane Cherbak

Photo courtesy of Diane Cherbak
Only 1 Space Remaining!

TOUR #20

Among the Ancients
Brenda Wright and Coen Dexter, Colorado Birding Atlas II

6:00 am – 3:00 pm; $55
High desert and sage landscapes surrounding remnants of ancient dwellings offer bird-rich habitats. Open fields around Lowry pueblo are ideal for spotting buteos, eagles, falcons, Horned Lark and bluebirds. Intermittent pinyon-juniper and cottonwood stands, and rocky side-canyons entice Say’s Phoebe, Gray Vireo, woodpeckers, titmice, wrens, flycatchers, warblers, towhees, Black-throated, Vesper, Lincoln’s & White-crowned sparrows and perhaps a Loggerhead Shrike or Cassin’s Kingbird. Possible stop at a private ranch with riparian and pinyon-juniper habitats. (51 species in 2023) Easy. Lunch provided. Approximately 75 miles round trip.
Having lunch at the Birding Festival

Photo courtesy of Diane Cherbak
Only 1 Space Remaining!

TOUR #21

Montezuma Land Conservancy

Birding Echo Basin

Steve and Emilee Tarnowski, Montezuma County Birders

6:15 am – 3:00 pm; $55
Bird scenic Echo Basin and up to higher altitudes. With a broad habitat diversity of gently rolling hills, meadows, ponderosa pine forest, spruce/fir forest, riparian areas and a significant pond, sightings might include waterfowl, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-naped Sapsucker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Purple Martin, Olive-sided Flycatcher, warblers, vireos, bluebirds, jays, nuthatches and swallows. Weather permitting, explore the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout and Transfer Park. (55 species in 2023) Easy to moderate with some hiking. Lunch provided. Approximately 50 miles round trip.
Only 1 Space Remaining!

TOUR #22

Chicken Creek & Jackson Gulch Reservoir
Aimee Way, Environmental Specialist, Colorado Department of Transportation

6:30 am – 3:00 pm; $55
The La Plata Mountains are a signature local skyline of the Four Corners area, and the southernmost reach of the Rocky Mountains. This tour will first take participants from the small town of Mancos into the foothills, to explore the Chicken Creek Area, 32 miles of groomed x- country trails in winter and footpaths in the spring. There are also inviting wetlands at the trailhead. Trails wind through aspen, scrub oak, and ponderosa habitats. Dusky Grouse, Purple Martin, Band-tailed Pigeon, Cassin’s Finch, Green-tailed Towhee, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Pygmy Nuthatch, Clark’s Nutcracker and Grace’s Warbler are some of the notable species that may be seen on this leg of the tour. On the return trip, participants will head to Mancos State Park to bird Jackson Gulch Reservoir and surrounding habitat. Various waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, vireos and warblers, Lewis’s and other woodpeckers and jays may be seen. State Park daily pass required for each vehicle. Moderate hike of three to four miles. Lunch provided. Approximately 40 miles round trip.
Only 1 Space Remaining!

TOUR #23

Hartman Draw & Fozzie’s Farm
Kristina Kline, Lead Biologist, SWCA Environmental Consultants

6:45 am – 3:00 pm; $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. Explore uneven terrain on foot. Other likely sightings include Juniper Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Marsh Wren, Wilson’s Snipe, Chipping & Lark sparrows, Ash-throated & Dusky flycatchers, Bullock’s Oriole, Yellow-breasted Chat, Osprey and Wilson’s Warbler. Fozzie’s Farm, donated to the Montezuma Land Conservancy as a preservation and education area, enfolds irrigated pastureland, ponds and wetlands. Target birds include American Pipit, Golden Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Burrowing Owl and Northern Harrier. Also watch for Red-tailed, Ferruginous & Swainson’s hawks, Common Snipe, White-breasted Nuthatch, White-crowned Sparrow, magpies, meadowlarks and bluebirds. Gently sloping, uneven and possibly wet terrain. (43 species in 2023) Moderate hike of three to four miles. Lunch provided. Approximately 40 miles round trip.
Thomas Preserve, photo by Carla Fox

Photo courtesy of Carla Fox
Only 1 Space Remaining!

TOUR #24

Denny Lake & Totten Reservoir ½ Day
Eric Moore, Owner, The Lookout, Prescott, AZ

7:00 am – 11:30 am $30
Some of the best birding around Cortez is close to home. Denny Lake is within City boundaries, and Totten Reservoir is just outside. City parks have always been ideal places to look for birds. At an age when they couldn’t afford binoculars, Roger Tory Peterson and his friends famously climbed trees in New York City’s Central Park before dawn in order to be in position to see migrating songbirds. Ken Kauffman once described the ideal birding hotspot as having a mix of dry uplands, wetlands, a body of water, trees, shrubs, and fields with a wide walking path (all features which attract birds, except the path, which is just nice for birders), and Denny Lake Park has all of these. Totten Reservoir, which dates to 1907, has the record for most species of birds observed in Montezuma County in the eBird database, with 236 species. Denny Lake isn’t far behind, with 196 species. Both Denny and Totten attract birds all year round, but they are especially productive in spring. They are just nice places to go and close to town with lots of fun birds to see. SWA pass included. Easy. Approximately 4 miles round trip.


Tiffany Kersten, UMMV Birding Festival 2024 Keynote Speaker

Tiffany Kersten, UMMV 2024 Keynote Speaker


5:30 pm – Social Hour and Silent Auction Opens
6:15 pm – Dinner
7:15 pm – Silent Auction Closes
7:30 pm – Keynote Speaker: Tiffany Kersten, “Birdie Big Year: Elevating Women Birders”

Tiffany Kersten didn’t set out to do a Big Year, but after a series of unanticipated and serendipitous events, she suddenly found herself amidst one. As a sexual assault survivor, she spent 2021 traveling to all corners of the country, tallying birds and gifting personal safety alarms to women she met along the way. Her goal was to see 700 species, and to raise awareness of women’s safety in the outdoors. She ended up surpassing her goal and setting a new record, with 726 species. In her presentation, Tiffany will lead us through the fear, empowerment, struggles, and healing that all played vital roles in the personal growth she experienced on this wild adventure.


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.
  • Carpools/caravanning will be used for all tours. Drivers will be reimbursed for gas by passengers at the GSA rate of 66 cents per mile, divided among all participants in the vehicle.
  • 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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