Open in App
  • U.S.
  • Newsletter
  • The Denver Gazette

    Bird Call: Popular Colorado Springs-area festival takes advantage of spring migration

    By Jennifer Mulson,


    The third week in May is to bird lovers what fall is to pumpkin spice fanatics.

    Spring migration is upon us. What birdie will show up this year? Who will be blown off-course and spend a few days recuperating in the Pikes Peak region? Nobody knows until a tiny, yellow-rumped warbler is spotted picking through twigs and leaves in a random backyard.

    The Pikes Peak Birding & Nature Festival once again will celebrate our winged creatures with dozens of field trips, seminars and workshops. Volunteer birders from around the region will guide field trips to locations such as Rainbow Gulch, Chico Basin Ranch, Kettle Creek Lakes, Mueller State Park, Brett Grey Ranch and Bluestem Prairie Open Space.

    “They’re going to find you all the birds,” said Fountain Creek Nature Center Supervisor Jessica Miller. “Birds are funny. They don’t pop up in some pristine park. They could be in some strange place like your backyard.”

    Registration is open now for the May 16-19 festival. One flat fee ($15-$35) covers most events, but there are a few field trips and events with additional fees. Some of the more popular trips are full. Registration closes April 28. New this year are college student scholarships for ages 18-25. Go online to for details.

    “It’s like this every year — at 10 a.m. on the morning of registration it was like concert tickets or college classes,” Miller said. “One hundred plus people were at their computer and things were filling up before our eyes. Choose second options and have a good attitude. There are birds everywhere.”

    Seminars and workshops touch on topics such as learning how to use the birding website eBird, bird photography, gardening for wildlife and raptor identification. People also can RSVP for Birds, Brews and Bites on May 18 at Bear Creek Regional Park Pavilions, with food, drinks, raffles and the chance to exchange tales about everyone’s favorite topic.

    One big perk for festival attendees is the ability to visit private spaces, such as Horse Creek Ranch and Fountain Valley School, that are otherwise off-limits to the public.

    “Will you see better birds? I don’t know,” Miller said. “Will you experience a new place? Yes.”

    Last year’s festivalgoers clocked 216 species, 15 of which were lifers, meaning they hadn’t been reported at previous festivals, including a Baltimore oriole in Fountain Creek Regional Park and a blue-winged warbler at Brett Gray Ranch. Miller also remembers fanfare about a stilt sandpiper at Horse Creek Ranch and Nature & Wildlife Discovery Center’s Raptor Center of Pueblo. Two festivals ago, a white ibis showed up a few days before the festival and took off directly afterward.

    “Every day is a surprise. It’s a great way to see what’s coming here to nest for the summer or nesting further north,” Miller said, “or the little weirdos from the East who got blown off-course and are confused.”

    One of those bewildered birds might fly over Brett Gray Ranch, a 50,000-acre ranch leased and managed by Round River from the Colorado State Land Board in Lincoln County, look down and see an oasis of blue and green ideal for R&R. Those little paradises are called migrant traps. Birds will stay for a day or even a week before recalibrating their course and heading out.

    “This festival is the cheapest I’ve ever seen,” Miller said. “We want this to be accessible and for people to know birding is for them. Nature is for all of us. It’s so important we all spend some time outside. Birding is part of that. Maybe this can hook someone into the outdoors. It might make them stewards of the environment and that’s a wonderful cycle.”

    Contact the writer: 636-0270

    Expand All
    Local Colorado State newsLocal Colorado State
    Most Popular newsMost Popular
    Comments / 0
    Add a Comment

    Comments / 0