Birding Festival: Tour Leaders

We are excited about the 2024 Birding Festival! Save these dates:

May 15 - May 19, 2024

For an idea of the tours, lectures and bird sightings available, take a quick tour through our 2023 events.


16th Annual


May 17 - May 21, 2023

Jump to Events Scheduled for:

Tour Leader Bios

    Amanda B. White studied ornithology under Ernie Szuch at the University of Michigan in 2009, and has been hooked on birding ever since. She obtained her Doctorate of Physical Therapy, but she has been voraciously learning as much as possible about the natural world in her free time. She currently is completing the CSU Master Gardener s program, and enjoys identifying plants and birds. Amanda appreciates the Four Corners area for its incredible diversity of microhabitats, and loves high alpine birding. She has been birding the Four Corners Region since 2015, has a La Plata list of over 200 species, is co-Vice-President of the Durango Bird Club, and looks forward to sharing the Boggy Draw area with those on her trip.
    Carolyn Gunn is a retired small animal veterinarian and also served as the Aquatic Veterinarian for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. She has participated professionally and as a citizen scientist in Black Swift research since 2000.
    As a coauthor of “Birds of Western Colorado Plateau and Mesa Country” (2004), Coen Dexter knows his birds. Coen and his wife Brenda Wright have seen and recorded more of the birds in this area than just about anyone, being long-time teachers and residents of the Colorado Plateau. They have also birded most of North America and in more than 30 foreign countries.
    Dave Ross is a wildlife biologist who has spent more than 20 years building partnerships towards restoring habitat of all kinds with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Dept. of the Interior. He loves Lewis’s Woodpeckers, warblers, Canyon Wrens, etc., etc, as well as amphibians and native plant communities.
    David P. Faulkner has a BS from BYU in botany with an emphasis in ecology and natural resources. He did Master’s work in Range Ecology from Oregon State University and research in applying remote sensing to natural resources. Most of his career has been as a natural resource consultant to such diverse organizations as NASA, EPA, United Nations FAO, BLM and USFS, BIA, Lakota Sioux, Ute Mountain Ute and Navajo tribes and several energy companies and private landowners. He has lived in the Cortez area for 40 years and has served with several community organizations including county planning board and the Friends of Hawkins Board. He has also taught classes in plant identification for the Native Plant Master’s program under the Master Gardner and CSU Extension Service. He has conducted several threatened and endangered plant studies and range ecology surveys in the Four Corners area. Since retiring as a Natural Resource Biologist, he is pleased to be able to devote more time to birds and their habitats.
    Diane Cherbak has a background in food science and engineering, but has been birdwatching for more than 20 years. Her passion grew after moving to Mancos in 2010 and joining the Birding Festival planning committee. She has been chairman of the planning committee since 2012. She has been involved with Cornell’s Project FeederWatch as a citizen scientist for more than ten years. She became part of the NestWatch network in 2016 and monitors nine nest boxes on her property during breeding season.
    Don Marsh has a degree in Wildlife Management, but spent most of his working career in Information Technology in California. After retiring early and moving to Ridgway, Colorado in 2019, he joined the Board of Directors for the Black Canyon Audubon Society, the Colorado Field Ornithologists and the Western Field Ornithologists. In addition to those activities, he stays busy leading birding field trips, conducting breeding bird surveys and volunteering at Ridgway State Park. He is an eBird reviewer for five western Colorado counties and one California county. His birding highlight for Colorado (so far) is finding the first state record for Varied Bunting.
    Donna Thatcher is a recently retired education specialist with the Farmington Museum and the Director of the Museum’s Riverside Nature Center. A lifelong birder, she initiated and leads weekly bird walks in Farmington’s riverside parks, as well as other birding and outdoor education activities. Donna has been a leader for the Birding Festival since its beginnings.
    Emilee Helton and Steve Tarnowski are local birders in Montezuma County who like to bird all
    throughout the Four Corners area. Emilee has a graduate degree in Biology and has been a park ranger
    at Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks, as well as Aztec Ruins National Monument. Stephen is
    an attorney who shares Emilee’s passion for the natural world, particularly birds.
    Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn and Arizona Field Optics located in beautiful Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid bird watcher for over 50 years and enjoys teaching classes on bird identification, leading bird walks to help individuals create a connection to nature and equipping individuals with birding gear including quality optics and field guides. Birding is more than a hobby, it is a passion, perhaps even an obsession!
    Erik Hendrickson s a retired National Park Service engineer, and is pleased to call Cortez and Montezuma County his home. His Park Service assignments included Crater Lake, Gateway (in New York and New Jersey), Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone and Denali. He has birded from Unalaska to the Everglades, from the Rachel Carson NWR in Maine to San Diego.  He enjoys searching for Black Swift at waterfalls in southwest Colorado and for Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the southeast United States.
    My naturalist father showed me a Snowy Owl when I was 3 years old. The next 56 years have been a blur of bird/wildlife observations for pleasure and work. I have been guiding at this birding festival since the early years and love to show people birds. After 35 years observing the birds of SW Colorado, I am still excited for every chance to see what has flown in! Walk out the door with your binoculars to see what is in your neighborhood; if you run out of daylight that is just an opportunity to go owling! Work, birding trips and climbing expeditions have taken me to 7 continents, most recently to New Guinea to observe Birds-of-Paradise. We live on a planet filled with amazing life forms; get outside to observe them every chance you get!
    Jim Beatty is an active eBirder in SW Colorado and has served as the sub-regional editor for southwest Colorado for “North American Birds” published by the American Birding Association, and for “Colorado Birds” published by the Colorado Field Ornithologists, for their News from the Field articles.  Jim has traveled throughout the US and Canada, including three trips to remote Alaska.  His ABA area life-list is over 700 species.  He retired to Durango in 1998 from Cincinnati and now concentrates most of his birding in SW Colorado.  Jim is past President of the Colorado Field Ornithologists.
    Kristina Kline, a Colorado native, received her B.S. in Environmental Biology from Fort Lewis College in 2010. Shortly after, she worked as a biologist for a private company conducting avian surveys and threatened and endangered species surveys in SW Colorado. Along the way, she assisted with the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas II, volunteered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) working on black bear-human conflicts and became a naturalist, leading students on nature hikes. Kristina finished her M.S. in Wildlife Ecology at Oregon State University in 2016. Now back in SW Colorado she is a wildlife biologist for Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. She partners with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), CPW and landowners out of the Durango NRCS office to implement wildlife habitat conservation projects on private lands.
    Linda Raczek is a retired naturalist, children’s author and attorney. She trained as a raptor/bird rehabilitator with the National Audubon Society and obtained a wildlife rehabilitation permit when she moved to Cortez in 1988. She managed the Hawkins Preserve for the Cortez Cultural Center for several years and has been involved in the Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival since it began in 2005. The Festival is what makes living in Cortez great!
  • MELISSA MAY Melissa May is an enthusiastic birder who has been living and birding in the Four Corners region for 11 years. She has an MS in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Penn State, where she ironically did not take a single ornithology class despite it being her main passion. As Executive Director for the Mountain Studies Institute, she has the pleasure of promoting environmental research, restoration, and citizen science in the San Juan Mountains, and is excited for this opportunity to connect more people with the beautiful habitats and birds of southwest Colorado.
    Paul Morey has worked in the wildlife field for 25 years, researching and managing for a wide array of natural resources with four different land management and wildlife agencies (NPS, BLM, USFS, USFWS). Paul is Chief of Natural Resources for Mesa Verde National Park.

    Ryan Crouse is a longtime Northern Arizona resident who moved to Prescott from Flagstaff in 2011. He loves Northern AZ because of the people, diversity, outdoor sights and activities. The amazing birds that come through the area are a huge bonus!

    Ryan graduated from Flagstaff High School in 2003 and has never left Northern AZ. He’s lived in Flagstaff, Sedona and Prescott. Prescott certainly has the most pleasant weather in general. His son Braeden is often a companion on birdwatching and traveling adventures. His significant other Alyssa almost always comes along as well. Ryan started working as the Manager for Jay’s Bird Barn in 2013 and has enjoyed every minute there. The business has changed a lot in the short time he’s been a part of it and he’s excited to watch it grow in the years to come.

    Other than birdwatching, he likes playing and watching sports (Go Seahawks & Dodgers!), hiking, other outdoor activities, traveling around the state and spending time with his Family and the great friends he has! He thanks his coworkers and all the great customers at Jay’s Bird Barn.

    Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, the award-winning flagship publication of the American Birding Association. He has written five bird books, including the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America (HarperCollins, 2008) and How to Know the Birds (National Geographic, 2019). Ted is also the author of more than 200 popular articles, technical papers, and book chapters on birds and nature. He is especially interested in analyzing bird vocalizations, in interpreting birds and nature for children and beginners, and in applying new media and emerging technologies toward the appreciation of nature. A graduate of Princeton University (A.B., 1990) and Penn State University (Ph.D., 1995), Ted has taught biology, math, and statistics to everyone from second graders to advanced graduate students. He and his family live in Lafayette, Colorado.

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 4:00 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.

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