Article and all photos by Cathy Kozmary.
I attended my first, but certainly not last, Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival in Cottonwood, AZ. Held at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. I learned about this festival whilst attending the Hummingbird Festival in Sedona, AZ which is just 20 miles away. The motto of the festival was “Migration Madness” and it certainly lived up to that.
Although many of the attendees said that this year’s bird numbers were lower than in previous years, I found the birds to be plentiful on my field trips and personal outings. My list topped 50 species over 4 days. I can’t wait to experience a year with higher than average numbers and I will start with 2018! The event is incredibly well organized starting with the website : www.birdyverde.org – next year’s dates are already available : April 26th – 29th 2018. Registration will probably open up on February 1st, 2018. (Early bird registration is available for VRVNO – Verde River Valley Nature Organisation) members – www.vrvno.org/membership/. ) The registration process is easy and there are a multitude of field trips and workshops to choose from. The entire event has a flat fee and each of the fieldtrips and workshops too. There is a huge variety to choose from and something for everyone.
The Cottonwood area extending to Prescott and Flagstaff, are blessed with a huge variety of diverse vegitation and wildlife. And of course the Verde River! Surrounded by pine-covered mountains, canyons, grassland and chaparral, the area is a huge attraction for birds as it is on a major flyway.
I found the leaders of each event that I attended extremely knowledgeable with regards to the topic they led. Each one had taken the time to check out the specific area a few days before the event in order to know what kind of birds to expect and where. This proved to be very valuable indeed. On the first day, I attended a workshop and the leader pointed out an area right in the middle of the Dead Horse Ranch where a pair of nesting Vermillion Flycatchers are known to hang out.
True to form the leader spotted the flycatchers as we returned to the main tent. I immediately went back to the area (near the lagoon across from the stables) and had the pleasure of observing them for a long time. Highlights seen included the Great Blue Herron, Red Winged Blackbirds, Lark Sparrows, Ospreys, Violet Green Swallows, Long-tailed Grackles, Summer Tanagers, Phainopeplas, Northern Flickers and many more.
I’m looking forward to returning next year and trying a few different fieldtrips. They range in 2 hour to half day and even full day trips. Many were directly in the event area or close to Cottonwood. Others were within 15 to 20 minutes drives and some as far as Prescott and Flagstaff. Most were during the day but a few such at the “Bat Patrol” and “Owl Prowl” took place starting at dusk into the night.
Again I can highly recommend this birding festival for many reasons!