Birding & Nature Festival

Photo by Willis Peterson

A GAMBEL's quail is among the species to be sought during the Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival.

The Nature Festival provides hands on opportunities to learn about everything from the basics of birding to outdoor survival from local experts. Vendors offer all the necessary tools for skilled and beginning outdoor enthusiasts.

On Friday, April 23, local school classes visit the park to participate in nature activities. The popular "Essay Contest" comes again this year for local students. Winners receive binoculars and a field trip to the Birding and Nature Festival for all of their classmates.

On Saturday, April 24, award-winning author Craig Childs, naturalist, adventurer, and commentator is this year's featured keynote speaker. His books on the Grand Canyon and the ecology of the desert have won accolades all over the west. Childs has written for Audubon, Sierra, Backpacker, Arizona Highway, Fine Cooking, and High Country News and wrote six books on natural history and travel. The keynote reception and raffle is open to the public.

April 24 is the official "Family Day" with special recreational and educational activities including games, crafts and workshops scheduled throughout the day just for children, but moms and dads are welcomed too. These activities are available without festival registration.

This year's Nature Festival includes a special "Taste the Verde" opening reception on Thursday evening, April 22.

Field trips also start on Thursday with the Tavasci Marsh Tour. The marsh, along with the adjoining Verde River Greenway, received designation as an Audubon Important Bird Area. From birds to butterflies, rock hounding to wildlife watching, the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival explores nature at her best.

The tours and trips are designed for all level of birders but also thrill folks with an interest in visiting the natural wonders of Central Arizona. The festival welcomes several new field trip opportunities this year including a catered trip led by naturalist-poet-guide Curt Fultz of Goshawk Tours. You can also lead a llama to lunch along a canyon creek or catch a cultural tour to various state parks around the valley. The Verde Canyon Railroad Eagle Watch, Mingus Mt. and Page Springs field trips are returning favorites.

On Saturday, April 24, visitors can experience the way early naturalists explored bird life while joining "A'Birding on a Bronco" field trip or can enjoy trips to Arizona's highlands and other birding hotspots throughout the Verde Valley. The exciting "Cadillac Canoe Brunch" returns on Saturday and Sunday.

Take part in a daylong bus trip to the Grand Canyon on April 25 to check out the regal California condor in the wild. This popular trip costs only $60. Visitors can also signup for a trip to the Agua Fria National Monument or an all-day, hard-core birding trip to the Prescott area.

Registration for the entire four-day Nature Festival is only $10 per adult. Field trips range from $10 to $60. Most include transportation from Dead Horse Ranch State Park, the festival's central location. Nature Festival and field trip costs remain affordable even with the continuing small group sizes.

For information and a registration booklet, call (928) 634-8437 or check out the Nature Festival Web site at www.birdyverde.org.

Included in the registration fee is the park entrance, exhibits, and presentations from local experts on various nature related topics.

Partnerships with the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, Arizona State Parks, and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society originally brought this exciting Nature Festival to the area. Fourteen new organizations signed on to support this and other nature related projects in the Verde Valley.

The Verde Nature Tourism Alliance consists of the three founding organizations plus Arizona Game and Fish, Prescott and Coconino National Forests, the Cities of Cottonwood, Camp Verde and Sedona, the Cottonwood Parks and Recreation Department, the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce, the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments, the Verde Natural Resource Conservation District, the Bureau of Land Management, Yavapai College, Cliff Castle Casino and Lodge, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

Join rangers for camping, fishing, and mild weather perfect for those looking to discover a variety of recreational and cultural resources.

All 27 State Parks are open!! For information about the State Parks, see the calendar of events at http://ww.pr.state.az.us or call (602) 542-4174 or (800) 285-3703).

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