You don't really need a reason to visit the Ute Mountain/Mesa Verde area; the scenery and history are enough to draw thousands of people to the region every year. But if you're looking for a little extra nudge and if you happen to include birding on your list of passions then you should need no further prompting than the third annual Ute Mountain-Mesa Verde Birding Festival.
The extravaganza opens today and runs through Sunday, May 13. Highlights include daily lectures on such topics as birds in rock art, learning bird songs, and bird conservation and management on the San Juan public lands; a bird art show taking place throughout the festival; a keynote speech by Ted Floyd, editor of the American Birding Association's flagship publication, Birding; and guided tours where visitors can spot a range of owls, hawks, hummingbirds, bluebirds, swallows, nuthatches, orioles, finches, ducks, woodpeckers and many others. (Previous festival checklists have counted more than a hundred different bird species.) There are even tours for those who prefer birding by horseback, those who are interested in birding photography, and species-specific tours focusing on raptors, owls and more.