Sun, April 05

Ready for take-off
Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival ready to take flight April 26-29

Whether you'd like experience the majesty of a condor soaring over the Grand Canyon, observe bald eagles from a passenger car of the Verde Canyon Railroad, catch a glimpse of a kingfisher while canoeing down the Verde River, or take your kids for an afternoon of nature and conservation activities, this year's 7th annual Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival April 26-29 will have something to whet your appetite. Live hawks will highlight the festival tent and you can even get "up close and personal" with several rattlesnakes at the display provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

But if you're interested, you'd better sign up soon as several of the trips have already filled. "Every year we just get keep getting bigger and better with more bird trips, activities for the kids, and displays by numerous local and national vendors," said Barbie Hart, public interpretive planner for the Arizona State Parks and festival coordinator.

This year some 70 field trips are being offered over the four-day event, many led by nationally recognized experts. Last year 171 different bird species were sighted by the over 600 participants. Along with returning favorite activities, new trips have been added to the schedule including Spotting Sparrows, Fossil Creek and the Camp Verde Riparian Preserve.

"It doesn't matter whether someone just wants to get a taste of what birding is all about or wants to hone their skills to distinguish between a the numerous sparrow species we have, whatever their level of bird watching they can find something that will interest them," Hart added.

Last year's popular Birding and Wine trips will be repeated and even those who don't want to walk will have an opportunity to learn more about birding.

There are several "luxury" trips offered including the Condor Caper where lunch will be provided by the world class El Tovar restaurant; riding in the first class train car­with attached open gondola­on the Verde Canyon Railroad to see the nesting bald eagles; and the Cadillac Canoe Brunch with a catered meal provided at the end.

The festival is not only about birding. There are geology trips, rock-hounding adventures and visits to Sinagua Indian cultural sites.

Highlighting the Family Fun Day Saturday afternoon will be the entertaining and educational speaker, Denny Olson, transformed into a character for children, "Critterman," who will be entertaining at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park Saturday afternoon. There will also be a variety of educational programs including educator workshops and poster and essay contests with opportunities for students to win binoculars.

Workshops during the four days of the event cover a wide variety of topics including nature photography, basic canoeing, building birdhouses and bird feeders. Vendors offer all sorts of outdoor supplies and artwork. There's something for everyone.

This year there has been the exciting addition of a special keynote program Saturday night where Olson will portray Professor Avian Guano. Participants will enjoy the antics of the professor, hear Native American flute music mixed with bird song performed by Joseph Leal, and indulge in rich desserts for only $15.

The $10 registration fee includes park entrance all four days as well as access to the Exhibit Hall and workshops. There is an additional charge for field trips, guided walks, and seminars. Field trips include tours to local birding hot spots: Page Springs, Tavasci Marsh, Oak Creek Canyon, and the surrounding habitats of Prescott and Flagstaff.Gourmet meals are served on special trips.

For more information, visit the Web site at where you can register. You can also stop by or call the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce office to register at 634-7593.

For more information, call Hart at 282-2202.

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