Bird fest offers new tours, lectures

New tours at McPhee and Telluride focus on birds of prey

The 10th Annual Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival will bring together birders from across the world including Australia, British Columbia and Hawaii for five days of tours and lectures starting on Wednesday.

For the first time, the tours will be taking participants to look for birds of prey by boat on McPhee Reservoir and on overnight adventures to Telluride and Moab.

“We try very hard to keep it fresh,” said Diane Cherbak, the festival chairwoman.

Many of the tours are sold out, with more than 150 registrants signed up to take part in variety of tours, featuring birds in a range of environments from high desert to alpine forest.

She attributes the international appeal of the festival to Mesa Verde National Park and other well-known attractions.

This year, the festival also attracted more participants from Colorado than in years passed.

A range of lectures at the Cortez Cultural Center offer an opportunity for those who have not signed up for tours to take part.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Rick Taylor, a guidebook author and the founder and director of Borderland Tours in Tucson.

On Saturday evening, Taylor will present the lecture “Six Seasons: A Birding Year in the Land of the Apache.” It will focus on how seasonal changes affect bird populations.

The cultural center will also offer two lectures outside the scope of modern birding.

“The Deep Bird Language” lecture will focus on how to interpret bird behavior to alert you to nearby predators and your own distress.

Kristi Dranginis will cover how common bird postures and calls can alert hikers to predators like cougars. It is a skill that used to be part of survival she said.

It doesn’t rely on knowledge of specific bird calls, but patterns within calls.

“I still believe every human has it in their bones to remember,” Dranginis said. She will also cover how birds can act as emotional barometers for humans by giving off alarms when a distressed human walks by.

Stacey Couch will teach a seminar on Spirit Birding, which will focus on eco-spirituality and how to find the answers to personal problems or questions by observing birds.

“I’m really looking to help people connect on a deeper more personal level with nature,” she said.

For the avid birder, the class offers the opportunity to slow down and come out of the competitive aspect of species counts and appreciate the intangible feeling birding can give you.

Couch has a background in biology and ecology and has worked for the Oregon State University, the National Parks service and U.S. Forest Service. This class will also draw on her experience as a shamanic practitioner.

For a complete schedule of tours and lectures as well as pricing visit: cortezculturalcenter.org.