Birding Festival: Tour Leaders

15th Annual


May 8 - May 12, 2019

We're excited about the 2019 Birding Festival! Mark the dates on your calendar: May 8 - May 12, 2019. For an idea of the kinds of tours, lectures and bird sightings available, take a quick tour through our 2018 events.

Take a look at the events from last year's Festival:

Tour Leader Bios

    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.
    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 Hynes has been fascinated by birds and passionate about birding since he first heard the ghostly wailing of a Common Loon at summer camp in Maine more than 30 years ago. Upon completion of his B.S. at the University of Vermont where he studied environmental studies and wildlife biology, Eric began a serious endeavor as a bird hobo that lasted more than a decade. His travels ranged across the U.S. with a number of trips to Central America as well. During this quest, Eric did everything from monitoring breeding raptors in the Snake River Canyon, to guiding for two summers in Alaska on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs, to ground squirrel rustling in Montana, to owl banding and hawk counting in Pennsylvania.

    Getting married to Christine helped settle Eric into a full time position at Maine Audubon, but not until after a birding trip to Panama cleverly disguised as their honeymoon. As the staff naturalist and adult education coordinator, Eric taught numerous bird identification workshops and led field trips locally and abroad for Maine Audubon. His positive energy and infectious enthusiasm for all things wild has drawn many a convert to birding and conservation. Eric served several terms on the Maine Bird Records Committee.
    Eric and his family recently relocated to Telluride, Colorado where he focuses on tracking down Gunnison Sage-Grouse and rosy-finches as a scout in-residence for the Colorado Grouse tour.

    Erica Tucker leads educational programs with Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, UT. She was an ornithology interpretive ranger in Acadia National Park 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 four years, though she can only imitate a canyon wren’s song. After time in Maine and California, she enjoys meeting new desert bird species.
    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.
    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 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!
    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.
    John Koshak is a Colorado native and has been an avid birder since 1971. He has worked as a teacher, park naturalist, nature center supervisor, and State Park Ranger. As the Watchable Wildlife Coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Southeast Region from 1998 until retiring in 2014, John assisted with several wildlife festivals in the SE region of the state. His job also focused on the development of the Colorado Birding Trail in SE Colorado. John and wife Jane now migrate between their home in Penrose and a historic family cabin in Hillside, CO.
    John Rawinski has enjoyed the study of birds and birding since his early school days. The joy of birds was initiated during a 6th grade school field trip to Wachusett Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Massachusetts where a Northern Goshawk dove repeatedly at the students in the group. That incident made a lasting impression.

    Since that time, John has birded and done bird photography in South America, Mexico; and in North America from Alaska to Florida, Maine to California. He has been keeping bird records in the San Luis Valley for over 32 years.

    John has served on the Colorado Field Ornithologists Board of Directors and on the Colorado Records Committee. He serves as a committee member for the Colorado Important Bird Areas project. John contributed to both Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas projects. He has led field trips for ABA, Audubon trips and many birding trips in the San Luis Valley. He has organized a number of birdathons which have raised funds for local food banks and conservation organizations. He is the developer of the San Luis Valley Birding Network, which promotes bird conservation and sharing of bird sightings in the San Luis Valley.

    In 2008, John published a book titled Birding Hotspots of South-central Colorado which is a do-it-yourself guide to the best birding hotspots in the San Luis Valley.

    While he shares a love of all kinds of birds, he has specialized in the study of owls and has been co-author on a number of publications regarding Boreal Owls. He documented the first Boreal Owls in the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado, and co-discovered the first record for Boreal Owl in New Mexico, taking the first photographs ever of Boreal Owls in New Mexico.

    John has presented numerous environmental education programs to school children, civic groups and organizations promoting the conservation and protection of owls. John is a retired soil scientist for the US Forest Service and lives in the San Luis Valley with his wife Lisa and two daughters.

    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.
    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, served 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 16 and a sophomore 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 attended Camp Avocet in Delaware and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in summer of 2017. 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 a tour at this year’s festival!
    Michelle Hanington started out as a volunteer at Mesa Verde NP working with Marilyn Colyer in 2006 conducting owl and bat surveys.  This opened up a whole new world for her and has been a great avenue to grow and expand into birding.  She’s been fortunate enough to meet knowledgeable birders and ecologists along the way. In 2012 she began to volunteer at the Dunton Hummingbird banding site and has been hooked ever since. A great group of people at both the Dunton and Mesa Verde sites further challenged and grew her birding knowledge.

    Now that her two children have flown the nest to pursue their own dreams, she pursued hers by going back to school. In 2017 she earned a Bachelor of Environmental Science degree through Ashford University.  She is complementing this degree with more field-oriented courses at San Juan College, such as Geology, Botany, Horticulture, GIS and torturing herself with Algebra. This semester she hopes to be able to continue her volunteer work in the college herbarium.

    Through a friend, she has been able to test her knowledge out in the field doing a few environmental consulting jobs.  This has enabled her to appreciate the work our pollinators and birds do each and every day.  It is an honor to be able to share this knowledge with each of you.  With still so much to learn, she’s looking forward to this opportunity of leading a tour for the UMMV Birding Festival.

    Nate West graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelors degree in Wildlife Biology and Management in 1999.  Since then he has worked for the Forest Service and the BLM.  In 2006, Nate started full time as a Wildlife Biologist for the BLM Newcastle Field Office in Newcastle, Wyoming.  He then moved to Colorado in 2012 to work as the Wildlife Program Lead for the Tres Rios Field Office and is living in Lewis, Colorado with his wife and 4 children.  Nate enjoys working with raptors, sage-grouse, bats and bighorn sheep.
    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.
    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.

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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