Birding Festival: Tour Leaders

Jump to Events Scheduled for:

Registration Opening Soon

Tour Leader Bios

    Aimee Way has spent the last 15 years conducting environmental work in Colorado, the last 10 years in the Four Corners Area. She is currently a Biologist and Natural Resource Specialist at ERO Resources in their Durango, Colorado office. Her bird experience ranges from the eastern plains of Colorado to the southwestern deserts. This is her fifth year leading a tour for the Mesa Verde Birding Festival.
    Chip Clouse is the Manager of the Front Range Birding Co in Littleton, CO. Originally enamored with tooth and claw predators, his fascination with birds started by volunteering with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor Peregrine Falcon nest sites while an undergraduate and was cemented once he saw his first Western Tanager while working for the Peregrine Fund in Oregon. With 20 years of bird research and project management experience in 9 states and the Caribbean nation of Grenada, a Masters in Conservation Biology from Colorado State, 5 years with the American Birding Association, 3 years as a rep with Opticron optics and Novagrade Digiscoping adapters and stints guiding at 15+ different US birding festivals, Chip is excited to share his love of birds and habitat in his 2nd visit to the Ute Mountain/Mesa Verde Birding Festival.
    Chuck Haspels has a BS and MS in Biology, as well as a DDS. He was a science teacher in the U.S., Korea, and Ethiopia, and developed materials for Ethiopian schools on nature and conservation. Chuck was a dentist in Cortez from 1985 to 2008, and now enjoys photographing orchids in the mountains, searching for ancient rock art in the canyons and “birding with a camera.”
    Coen Dexter & Brenda Wright – 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.
    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 land owners.  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.
    Fred Blackburn is one of the founders of the Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival. He coordinated the Cortez Christmas Bird Count for several years. Fred has led several UMMV birding tours including overnight tours into the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, to Bluff, Utah, and the 2014 tour to Telluride. His work experience and interests include a wilderness ranger, teacher, author, local historian and rancher.
    Gabi Morey is the Education Outreach Director for San Juan Mountains Association in Durango, CO. She has been in the environmental education field for over 15 years, and especially enjoys seeing the wonders of nature through children’s eyes.
    Ilyse Gold worked for the BLM & Forest Service for about 30 years; with a great deal of time spent out in the field birding. She conducted numerous owl surveys with Marilyn Colyer plus inventories for Northern Goshawk and American Peregrine Falcon. Ilyse also completed US Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican spotted owl and southwestern willow flycatcher protocol trainings and conducted many habitat assessments for federally listed species as well as for federal agency sensitive species. Her master’s degree is on black-tailed prairie dogs, which gave her many close visits with burrowing owls!
    Jason St. Pierre is a biologist residing in Durango, Colorado.  In June of 2015 Jason, his wife Amanda and their cattle dog Josie moved to Durango from San Jose, CA, though they are Michigan natives.  In 2014 and 2015 he was a waterbird biologist for San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. He has worked as a waterbird counter at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and as an avian field technician for Point Blue Conservation Science, Michigan State University, Northern Arizona University, and Copper Country Audubon in northern Michigan. He is a data reviewer for eBird in SW Colorado, and is currently a compiler for the Cortez, CO Christmas Bird Count.  In 2016 he completed a big year in La Plata, County, Colorado with 230 species, and he is passionate about finding interesting and rare birds in southwestern Colorado.
    Jim Beatty is 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.
    Jim Ramakka is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and Fellow of The Wildlife Society. He received his BS in Wildlife Science from Cornell University (1969) and his MS in Wildlife Management (1971) from the University of Maine. Before retiring in 2013, he worked across the West and in Washington DC as a wildlife biologist for the BLM. In retirement, he continues to assist the BLM Farmington Field Office in monitoring Golden Eagle nests as part of a long-term raptor monitoring program he initiated in 1981. Over the years, Jim has published peer reviewed journal articles on the biology of Woodcock, Eared Dove, Sandhill Crane and Ferruginous Hawk. He was also a contributing author to the chapters on Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon in the 2010 book, Raptors of New Mexico.
    John Bregar is a retired oil & gas exploration geologist/geophysicist, who has lived in Durango for over 10 years. He has been an active birder since 1977 and has led trips in Texas, Alberta, Canada, as well as in Colorado. He is also a botanist and chairman of the Southwest Chapter of the Colorado Native Plant Society, plus he loves climbing mountains and is an ex-Chairman of the San Juan Group of the Colorado Mountain Club.
    Kristi Dranginis has been a birder for more than 20 years. She is the founder of where she teaches advanced birding skills, bird language and deep nature connection to people all around the world. She is known for igniting curiosity, child-like passion and building confidence in her students in her eight month course: “Advanced Skills for Beginning Birders.” Kristi is a conspirator on the Dipper Project, a research project established in 2015 to study the effects of the Gold King Mine spill on the avian world. She worked as a research assistant for the American Museum of Natural History’s Roseate Tern banding project on Great Gull Island, NY and Mesa Verde’s migratory hummingbird banding project. She is also a Naturalist, Herbalist, and Photographer.
    Kylan Frye holds a BS in Zoology from the Ohio State University and a Master’s of Environmental Management from Duke University. Her major interests are in landscape ecology and avian biology, with special focus on raptors and landscape-scale ecological health. Prior to joining Ecosphere Environmental Services, she was a conservation biologist with HawkWatch International, where she was integral in several studies that determined raptor response to landscape change, creating continent-wide models of raptor migration corridors and identifying declines in golden eagle nesting populations in Utah. She also has several seasons’ experience with Mexican spotted owls, songbird ecology and rangeland vegetation health inventories. When she’s not working, she enjoys whitewater boating, mountain biking and hiking.
    Linda Martin, Retired Supervisory Park Ranger in the Division of Interpretation & Visitor Services, Mesa Verde National Park, has led tours for the bird fest since 2006. She and Marilyn Colyer worked on Park bird surveys for over 25 years, trying to keep the files updated and the information current and accurate. Birdwatching is an avocation for her, as it is for millions, but her 36 year association with the Park gives her a solid knowledge of the birds and habitats of Mesa Verde.
    Mark Franklin, an avid birder who is familiar with hotspots and species in the Durango area, serves as the Colorado Director for the Old Spanish Trail Association.  Mark has led field activities related to the Old Spanish National Historic Trail and organized OSTA’s 2013 conference in Cortez.  He has scouted the historic route in SW Colorado and eastern Utah and is familiar not only with landmarks and trail traces but also with birds that frequent habitat along this early 19th C. trade route.
    Martin Cuntz was born in Louisville, Kentucky on St. Patrick’s Day in 2002, and moved to Durango with his family when he was 3-years-old. He became interested in birds when he was 9-years-old after watching “The Big Year,” a movie that kick started his passion for Ornithology. Now, having just turned 15, and a freshman at Durango High School, his development of bird watching has grown immensely over time. From leading small bird outings and counts, to being a volunteer for a MAPS (bird banding) project in Durango the past 3 summers, to receiving a Weminuche Audubon Society scholarship to attend Camp Colorado (an American Birding Association youth camp) in Estes Park in 2015, to conducting annual Christmas and spring bird counts with the Durango Bird Club (for which he is a member) and was just named the Club’s Youth Ambassador…His dedication to this special interest has added up significantly! He has current memberships with the American Ornithological Society, formerly the Cooper Ornithological Society (Martin is a descendent of namesake James Graham Cooper), and also the American Birding Association (He will be attending Camp Avocet in Delaware this summer), and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (where he and his family will be visiting this spring). In addition, Martin has a number of other interests, including basketball, banjo, bass, and books…more B things! Martin is excited and honored to be leading his first ever teen bird outing at this year’s festival!
    Mike Jensen is the Spring Creek Basin herd manager for the Bureau of Land Management.
    Mike Schmidt graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2008 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Biology. After Fort Lewis, he felt lucky to get a job in Dolores, Colorado working as a Wildlife Technician for both the San Juan National Forest and the BLM Tres Rios Field Office.  After slowly working his way up the ranks over the last 7 years, he is now a wildlife biologist for the BLM out of the same office in Dolores. Over the years, he has worked with a variety of bird species, but spent the majority of his career focused on Gunnison Sage-grouse.  One of the most memorable projects that he worked on was transplanting grouse from the largest population in Gunnison, Colorado to very small populations in Dry Creek and Dove Creek in an attempt to bolster dwindling populations.   He has also worked with Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, waterfowl, and hummingbirds.
    Tim Reeves moved to San Juan College in Farmington, NM, in 1990 and taught computer science there for 23.5 years. He has been a bird photographer since the 7th grade and has had 4 magazine covers. He has given numerous presentations on birds including annual presentations at the New Mexico Ornithological Society meetings for two decades. He served on the Board of Directors for NMOS for 6 years. He wrote two bird books, Birds of the B-Square Ranch (1996) and Birds of Morgan Lake (1996). He authored or coauthored several bird checklists for San Juan County, NM, from 1999 to 2016. He also coauthored the San Juan County chapter in the 3rd edition of the New Mexico Bird Finding Guide (2002). As owner of the company Reeves Bio-consultants, he has conducted bird surveys for BLM in all Four Corners states. His photography has been shown at the Riverside Nature Center and San Juan College in Farmington, NM.
    TJ Holmes is a mustang advocate and lifelong horse lover. She lives in Disappointment Valley, where she cares for rescued mustangs at a private sanctuary and is a volunteer who partners with BLM to keep Spring Creek Basin’s wild horses wild.

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.

For Birding Festival information email

Connect with Ute Mountain-Mesa Verde Birding Festival on FacebookConnect with the Birding Festival on Facebook!