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.
6:00am: Upper Dolores River and Twin Spruce Ponds SWA
Ryan Votta, Asst. Manager, Durango Fish Hatchery, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Begin birding at the Dolores Ponds, one of the best places to bird in Montezuma County and an eBird hotspot. The diverse habitat offers riparian areas where the Dolores River meets McPhee Reservoir, pinyon-juniper, red-rock cliffs and a series of shallow ponds. Scan for waterfowl, listen for a singing Canyon Wren and hope to spot interesting migrants like American Pelican. Continue north on scenic Hwy 145 with several stops along the way. Lunch at Twin Spruce Ponds State Wildlife Area. Targeted sightings include Empidonax Flycatcher, waterfowl and Spotted Sandpiper. Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets, American Dipper, Black Phoebe, Belted Kingfisher and Canada Jay also are potential species. (57 species 2019) Moderate amount of walking, with about 7-8 stops throughout the day. Lunch provided.
6:15am: Birding Echo Basin
Ilyse Gold, Wildlife Biologist, Four Corners Biological Consultants, LLC
Bird scenic Echo Basin and up to higher altitudes. With a broad habitat diversity of gently rolling hills, meadows, ponderosa pine forest, spruce/fir forest, riparian areas and a significant pond, sightings might include waterfowl, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-naped Sapsucker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Purple Martin, Olive-sided Flycatcher, warblers, vireos, bluebirds, jays, nuthatches and swallows. Weather permitting, explore the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout and Transfer Park. (50 species 2019) Easy to moderate with some hiking. Lunch provided.
6:30am: Bradfield Bridge
Brenda Wright and Coen Dexter, Colorado Birding Atlas II
Situated on the Dolores River in a migratory corridor below McPhee Dam, the Bradfield Bridge area offers river habitats that entice a broad array of species including Black Phoebe, Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-breasted Chat, Canyon Wren, Lazuli Bunting, Wild Turkey and Belted Kingfisher. Swallows, warblers, raptors, woodpeckers, waterfowl and shorebirds add to the mix. The scenic sandstone canyon may even offer a sighting of river otters. Tours within this region historically have brought some of the UMMV Birding Festival’s highest species tallies. (83 species 2019) Easy. Lunch provided.
Ponderosa pines surround Summit Lake and make great viewing for the Birding Festival
6:45am: Middle McElmo Creek Corridor
Diane Cherbak, Citizen Scientist and Chairman, UMMV Birding Festival
Perennial McElmo Creek courses often overlooked prime birding areas near the heart of Cortez. A meandering stream, oxbow ponds, wetlands, clay bank gullies, arroyos and a narrow floodplain offer diverse habitats for raptors, owls, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Bullock’s Oriole, Wilson’s Snipe, Black Phoebe, bluebirds, jays, swallows, warblers and sparrows. (50 species 2019) Easy. Lunch provided.