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 - 4:00pm: Whirlwind of Warblers
Glenn Dunmire, Field Biologist
This whirlwind Tour’s goal is sighting all 10 nesting warbler species documented in SW Colorado. Bird among numerous habitat types: desert canyon, riparian corridor, wetland, pinyon-juniper forest, Ponderosa forest and oak dominated understory. Target species are Lucy’s, Grace’s, MacGillivray’s, Black-throated Gray, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Virginia’s, Orange-crowned and Wilson’s warblers and Common Yellowthroat. Yellow-breasted Chat possible. Other spring migrants include vireos, tanagers and flycatchers. Moderately difficult with a strenuous hike, lots of driving and numerous stops. Lunch provided.
5:45am: Lower Dolores River Canyon
Ted Floyd, Editor “Birding” Magazine
Explore the slightly warmer micro-climate of the Dolores River’s dramatic lower canyon about 15 miles downstream from Bradfield Bridge at Box Elder Campground. Beneath red rock cliffs, walk through riparian habitat filled with early arriving spring migrants and resident species. The locale is ideal for hearing and seeing Golden Eagle, Swainson’s and Red-tailed hawks, sparrows, swifts, swallows, thrushes, vireos, warblers, wrens and falcons. (40 species 2010) Easy. Lunch provided.
Having lunch at the Birding Festival
6:00am: Montezuma Land Conservancy
RSL Ranch in Lost Canyon and the Lakes at Summit Ridge
Jim Beatty, Past President, Colorado Field Ornithologists
Lost Canyon lies tucked between Haycamp Mesa and the flat lowlands north of Mesa Verde. This riparian corridor, which served early ranchers and loggers as the historic route for a narrow-gauge railroad and the Galloping Goose, attracts passerines and flycatchers. The beautiful stands of ponderosa forest are home to Grace’s Warbler, nuthatches, woodpeckers and accipiters. Summit Lake SWA and Puett Reservoir attract waterfowl and shorebirds. The willows and trees surrounding the lake harbor warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, bluebirds and more. (64 species 2019) Easy road and trail hiking. Lunch provided.
6:15am: Boggy Draw
Eric Hynes, Professional Guide, Field Guides Tour Company
Participants in this year’s UMMV Birding Festival have the unique opportunity to help establish a baseline of bird sightings within Boggy Draw. The mixture of habitats incorporates mature and young Ponderosa Pine forest, mixed Scrub Oak/mountain shrub understory, wet lands and mountain meadows. Anticipated bird species include Red Crossbill, Western Tanager, Pygmy Nuthatch, Virginia’s Warbler, Western Wood Pee-wee, Western Bluebird, Brown Creeper, House Wren, Lewis and Hairy woodpeckers, Mountain Chickadee, Dusky Grouse, Sharp-shinned Hawk and who knows what else. Easy road and trail hiking. Lunch provided.
Burrowing owls are often seen during the Birding Festival
6:30am: Ute Mountain Tribal Park
Linda Martin, Supervisory Interpretive Park Ranger, Mesa Verde National Park, Retired
Combine birding with experiencing Mancos Canyon’s archaeological sites. Saltbush and sage bottomlands invite Sage Thrasher, Burrowing Owl, Scaled and Gambel’s quails and Lark, Sage and Black-throated sparrows. Willows and cottonwoods along the streambed attract Yellow-breasted Chat, tanagers, warblers, Indigo and Lazuli buntings and Blue Grosbeak. Glyph-inscribed cliffs provide habitat for raptors, swifts, wrens and owls. Black Phoebe may nest under a bridge. Vireos and flycatchers frequent pinyon-juniper uplands. (35 species 2019) Easy. Lunch while overlooking ancient cliff dwellings.
6:45am: Montezuma Land Conservancy
At the Foot of the Mesa
Vern Gersh Naturalist Ranger, Bureau of Land Management, Retired; Terry McLaughlin, Naturalist, Northern Arizona University
The iconic RSL Ranch, registered as a Centennial Farm since the 1980s, has a rich heritage. Having homesteaded just north of this property in 1874, the Lee family represents a long lineage of local farmers and ranchers in Montezuma County. Back-dropped by Mesa Verde NP, the ranch holds 1060 acres of scenic sagebrush rangeland. Help add to the bird survey for this historic property that encompasses critical wildlife connectivity areas. Flycatchers, Pinyon Jay, N. Mockingbird, Chipping, Brewer’s, Lark and Black-throated sparrows, raptors, waterfowl and swallows are possible. (40 species 2019) Easy. Lunch provided.
Thomas Preserve provides prime birding habitat
DINNER, SILENT AUCTION, KEYNOTE SPEAKER — Cortez Conference Center
5:30pm – Social Hour and Silent Auction Opens
6:15pm – Dinner
7:15pm – Silent Auction Closes
7:30pm – Keynote Speaker: Ted Floyd, “Thoughts on Birding and Nature Study in the Digital Era”
Many birds are colorful and some are brilliant. Their songs can be enchanting. Their migrations are often stirring. And they can FLY, for crying out loud. Those are all amazing avian attributes, but are they really what attract us to birdwatching? While all of those may be part of the appeal, Ted Floyd thinks there’s something grander, deeper and more beautiful about bird watching.