Birding Festival: Tour Leaders

16th Annual


May 13 - May 17, 2020

We're excited about the 2020 Birding Festival! Mark the dates on your calendar: May 13 - May 17, 2020. For an idea of the kinds of tours, lectures and bird sightings available, take a quick tour through our 2019 events.

Jump to Events Scheduled for:

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.
    Byron Greco has a BS in Forestry. He worked in the lumber industry for 15 years, in the construction trades for 7 years, then 17 years for La Plata Electric Co-op. He served on the Archuleta 50 Jt. School Board for 10 years and also was an EMT for 12 years. His interest in birds started as a youth, studying for the birding merit badge. Since retiring in 2009, he began birding with real enthusiasm. His camera is a real help, as the pictures allow him to study and identify the birds.
    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.
    Chris Schultz has been a Wildlife Biologist with the US Forest Service for 22 years. The past 18 years have been spent on the San Juan NF after previously serving on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison NF’s. His primary area of research and management experience, and personal interest, is migratory birds including raptors, owls and songbirds. For 8 years as the Center of Excellence for Migratory Birds for the 5-state Rocky Mountain Region of the USFS, Chris helped develop and implement Colorado’s state-wide interagency bird monitoring partnership program. Led by Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, that program continues monitoring the status and trends of Colorado’s birds each year. For the past 10 years, he also has been the wildlife program leader for the Columbine Ranger District, stationed in Bayfield, CO. Chris holds a BS in Wildlife Biology from the Univ. of Vermont and a Master’s Degree in Ecology from Utah State Univ. His research experience includes 20 years of banding migrating raptors at Cape May Point, NJ; 10 years of monitoring and managing nesting peregrine falcons in CO and other western states, Alaska and Greenland; and a number of species-specific projects focused on boreal owls, black swifts, northern goshawks and cavity-nesting birds.
    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.
    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. This is her eighth year as chairman of the planning committee. She has been in 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.
    Donna Thatcher is an 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.
    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!
    Erica Tucker is the Education Director for Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, UT. She was an ornithology interpretive ranger in Acadia National Park with coleader Melinda McFarland and also led bird walks in Yosemite National Park and at Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierra. Erica was the MC of the popular Bird Calling Contest at the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua for 4 years, though she can only imitate a canyon wren’s song. She enjoys meeting new desert species and is back for her second year with the Festival.
    Erik Hendrickson is a retired National Park Service engineer, now living in Cortez. His Park Service assignments included Crater Lake, Gateway (in New York and New Jersey), Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone and Denali. He spent as much time as possible birding in all those places. He has been birding at most of the locations featured in the movie “The Big Year” (and got sea-sick on pelagic trips out of Monterey, CA). Erik has been a regular visitor to Montezuma County since 1963 and has birded in the County since 1993.
    Gabi Morey has a background in wildlife biology and environmental education. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster in Ohio and a Master’s degree in wildlife biology from Michigan State University. Her Master’s degree involved a biodiversity study of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians and plants in various habitat types in northern Minnesota. However, research wasn’t her cup of tea so she moved from biology to environmental education, working in South Carolina, California, Illinois and Utah before coming to Colorado. Gabi has been working for San Juan Mountains Association since September 2004, starting out as the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (CANM) Stewardship Coordinator, then moving into the Education Outreach Director position. Gabi coordinates field trips, classroom presentations, teacher workshops and conservation education special events, among other things, as part of her job. She especially enjoys seeing the wonders of nature through children’s eyes.
    Glenn Dunmire is a field Biologist who has worked on numerous raptor and owl projects. He is working on the Second Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas. The Dolores River Canyon is Glenn’s backyard and he looks forward to these yearly outings to share the local birds. Glenn and accidental birding spouse, Carolyn, often spend vacations birding out of the country.
    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!
    John Bregar is a retired oil & gas exploration geologist/geophysicist, who has lived in Durango for over 12 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.
    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 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.
    Lynn Wickersham has over 20 years of experience as an Avian Ecologist, with an emphasis on reproductive ecology of Neotropical migratory birds. She is the co-founder and Senior Avian Ecologist of Animas Biological Studies (Durango, CO). Lynn received a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University and an M.S. in Biology from Arkansas State University, where she studied post-fledgling survival and habitat use of Yellow-breasted Chats. In her professional career she has completed extensive surveys and habitat evaluations for Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive species such as Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Mexican Spotted Owl, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Mountain Plover. She also co-directed a nearly decade-long study of Gray Vireo habitat use and breeding ecology on public lands and military installations in New Mexico and Colorado. Lynn is a Master Bird Bander and has operated two Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship banding stations in the Southwest. Lynn is extremely proud of her recent role as the Statewide Coordinator and Editor for Colorado’s Second Breeding Bird Atlas.
    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 17 and a junior 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 5 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 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), Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Birding Association. He attended Camp Avocet in Delaware and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in 2017. In addition, Martin has a number of other interests, including basketball, banjo, band, bass and books…more B things! Martin is excited and honored to be leading a tour at this year’s festival!
    Melinda McFarland has worked seasonally for the National Park Service as an interpretive ranger for the past seven years. When picking a spot to work a season with the NPS, birding is always a factor and she has encountered some amazing species across the country. Melinda spent three summers at Acadia National Park as an Ornithology Ranger, where she met Erica Tucker, leading bird walks and specializing in their raptor programs. Melinda’s favorite species are raptors due to a life changing season banding and counting migrating raptors on the Goshute Range. Most recently, Melinda worked at Mesa Verde National Park and is excited to join the bird festival to celebrate the birds of the four corners region!
    Paul Morey has worked in the wildlife field for 15 years, researching and managing for a wide array of animals including songbirds, raptors, coyotes and wolves. He is currently a wildlife biologist 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.
    Ryan Votta, originally from northwest New Jersey, became fascinated by birds at a very young age. On his seventh birthday he received his first pair of binoculars and his first bird book, Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Birds. After this, he was hooked and has been passionate about birds ever since!  Career wise, Ryan started with New Jersey Fish & Wildlife working at the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery. The hatchery was an amazing hot spot for birds, with diverse habitat and a series of over 100 freshwater ponds. Working with NJ Fish & Wildlife, he had the opportunity to assist with Golden-winged Warbler mist netting surveys, waterfowl surveys along the Jersey shore and an annual Canada Goose banding project. In April of 2015, he accepted a job offer from Colorado Parks & Wildlife to become the new Fisheries Technician at the Durango State Fish Hatchery. Since his move to Durango, he has recorded 242 bird species in La Plata County, with some of his favorites including; Lewis’s Woodpecker, Western Tanager, Pygmy Nuthatch, Steller’s Jay and American Dipper. His birding claim to fame is finding the first La Plata County record Pacific Wren!  He enjoys meeting folks that share his enthusiasm for birds and looks forward to the Christmas Bird Count each year. In his spare time, besides birding, he enjoys most outdoor activities including; fishing, camping, kayaking and hiking. Currently he is the Assistant Manager at the Durango Hatchery, where he is fortunate to live on site adjacent to the Animas River. The hatchery is a hot spot for birds and he is lucky to have had several rarities in his yard including; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Harris’s Sparrow. He loves living in Durango and loves the diversity of the avian friends it provides!
    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.
    Vern Gersh started his career as a bird watcher 25 years ago when a friend showed him a nesting Red-tailed Hawk. Once bitten by the birding bug, bird watching blossomed beyond a hobby into a passion for Vern. His passion has taken him all over the world, seeking out obscure species. He is proud to have misidentified birds on six continents!

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.

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