Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival
The Annual Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival provides a popular venue for visiting southwestern Colorado during the second weekend in May. Nestled between alpine and mesa forests and scenic desert canyons, the Four Corner’s intriguingly diverse landscapes, and mild climate, have drawn people to the region for generations. Ancestral Pueblo farmers dwelled in places now known as Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, and Canyon of the Ancients. Today’s meadows, pastures, cultivated fields, historic orchards, stock ponds and reservoirs establish habitat for a wide-spectrum of migratory and resident birds. Some species, such as Lucy’s Warbler, are found no place else in Colorado.
5:30am - 5:00pm: Pagosa Springs and San Juan River
Mark Franklin, Historian, Old Spanish Trail Association
Begin a full day of birding by heading east from Cortez toward the La Plata River. Check Rafter J in Wildcat Canyon for Acorn Woodpecker and Pygmy Nuthatch. Visit Lake Nighthorse before proceeding to birding hotspots between the Animas River and Pagosa Springs: Zink’s Pond, Pastorius Reservoir, Navajo Lake, Stolstheimer Creek, Piedra River, Bayfield ponds and the San Juan River. Look for Sora, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren, Prothonotary Warbler, Sage Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Gray Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Lazuli Bunting and raptors. Short side-trips off the primary route may offer White-throated Swift, Gray Catbird, Grace’s Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Belted Kingfisher and possibly Northern Saw-Whet and Northern Pygmy owls. Easy. Lunch provided.
5:45am: Yellow Jacket Canyon and Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch
Vern Gersh, Naturalist Ranger, Bureau of Land Management, Retired; Terry McLaughlin, Naturalist, Northern Arizona University
Yellow Jacket Canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients NM 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. Canyon of the Ancients historic guest ranch sits in a Sedona-like setting with more than 5,000 documented archaeological sites. This popular Tour has tallied Summer Tanager, Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak, hummingbirds, a variety of warblers and Cooper’s Hawk. (45 species 2019) Moderate hiking of approximately two-three miles; insect repellant suggested; warm temps likely (80s). Catered lunch with locally sourced food provided.
6:15am: Ute Mountain Ute Farm and Ranch
Erik Hendrickson, Engineer, National Park Service, Retired
Accompanied by a tribal member from the Ute Mountain Ute Wildlife Resources Division, the Tour emphasizes the Ute Mountain Ute Farm and Ranch Enterprises and the settling ponds for the Ute tribal community of Towaoc; an oasis of water in an otherwise desert landscape. Travel between these areas covers a segment of the Colorado Plateau that incorporates most of the reservation. Watch for Burrowing Owl, American Kestrel, several buteo species and possibly Barn Owl. Horned Lark, White-crowned, Black-throated and Sage sparrows, Gray Vireo and Gray Flycatcher also should be present. Target birds: Greater Roadrunner, Scaled and Gambel’s quails, Loggerhead Shrike and Scott’s Oriole. Migratory and summer residents at the reservoir may include rails, phalaropes, stilts, gulls, herons, geese and several duck species. (58 species 2019) Easy. Lunch provided.
6:30am: Hartman Draw
Ted Floyd, Editor “Birding” Magazine
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 and Golden eagles, hawks and other raptors. An uncommon Osprey observed in 2019 carried nesting materials. Explore varying terrain on foot. Other likely sightings: Juniper Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Marsh Wren, Wilson’s Snipe, Chipping and Lark sparrows, Ash-throated and Dusky flycatchers, Bullock’s Oriole, Yellow-breasted Chat and Wilson’s Warbler. (52 species 2019) Moderate hike of three-four miles. Lunch provided.
6:45am: Mesa Verde National Park
Michael Piper, Interpretive Park Ranger, National Park Service
Explore a variety of birding locales in this world-famous national park, well known for archaeological sites and varied pristine habitats. Possible sightings include accipiters, Peregrine Falcon, Downy Woodpecker, Virginia’s and Black-throated Gray warblers, Juniper Titmouse, Ash-throated and Dusky flycatchers, Western Tanager, Western Wood-Pewee, Lazuli Bunting, Green-tailed and Spotted towhees, Rock and Bewick’s wrens, Clark’s Nutcracker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, swifts and hummingbirds. (36 species 2019) Easy to moderate. Lunch provided.
7:00am - 12:00pm: Beginning Birding ½ Day
Donna Thatcher, Director, Riverside Nature Center at the Farmington Museum
Join a fun, hands-on introduction to bird watching. Become familiar with choices in field guides and binoculars and how to use them. Learn the steps in identifying birds at feeders and in the wild. Travel by van to Mancos to practice birding skills in varied habitats. Observe a heron rookery and walk Cottonwood Park. Easy. Bring a sack lunch for a picnic at Boyle Park.
Cost: $15 (no reg fee req’d)
3:00pm – 11:00pm: Montezuma Land Conservancy
East Canyon Ranch and Mancos Owling
Ilyse Gold, Wildlife Biologist, Four Corners Biological Consultants, LLC
Tucked within a narrow canyon shaped largely by water, East Canyon Ranch’s 560 acres encompass the entire canyon floor between Menefee Mountain Wilderness Study Area and BLM lands south of Mancos. The Conservancy-protected ranch hosts Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon. Black-headed Grosbeak, Virginia’s Warbler, Plumbeous Vireo, Northern Flicker, Juniper Titmouse and Western Bluebird might show too. Additionally, bird Scullbinder Ranch at the confluence of Weber and Mancos River Canyons. Within Mancos Valley, hoot and listen for Great Horned, Long-eared, Flammulated, Western Screech, Northern Pygmy, Northern Saw-whet and possibly a Short-eared Owl. (31 species 2019) Easy with some hiking. Catered dinner with locally sourced food provided.
5:30pm – 6:30pm: “Birds of the Southern Ocean”
Terry McLaughlin, Naturalist, Northern Arizona University
The Antarctic continent and South Georgia Island manifest some of the most severe weather on the face of this planet. Storms lash beaches at any time of year; inland temperatures plummet to -80F for weeks; summer lasts for about 4 months. More than 46 species of our feathered friends thrive under these conditions. Examine the sea-based birds with reputations almost as large as their wingspans: albatross, petrels and shearwaters. Then wander ashore to learn about grass-based species such as the beautiful Long-tailed Meadowlark and endemic species such as Cobb’s wren. Of course, no trip to the Southern Ocean would be complete without a treatise on the seven amazingly well-adapted penguin species that bring a smile to the lips of everyone.