Yuma Bird, Nature and History Festival


January 10-12, 2020 in Yuma, Arizona
By Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid


This episode of Big Blend Radio features Nancy Meister, President of the Yuma Audubon Society and organizer of the 2nd Annual Yuma Bird, Nature and History Festival, held in Yuma, Arizona on Jan. 10-12, 2020.

Known as the Gateway to the Great Southwest, Yuma, Arizona is located along the lower Colorado River, between Tucson and San Diego. It’s an historic, cultural and outdoor adventure destination with attractions that include the Colorado River, Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Yuma Territorial Prison, Colorado River State Historic Park, Yuma Art Center & Historic Yuma Theatre, and a charming historic downtown district that bustles with an eclectic array of shops and restaurants.

With Yuma’s diverse habitats that range from desert farmlands to the lower Colorado River wetlands, around 400 species of birds make the region a seasonal stop or year-round home. From garden walks to hikes and canoe trips, the Yuma Bird, Nature & History Festival will immerse you in all of the region’s natural beauty. This time of year is prime for viewing raptors and waterfowl. There’s also Yuma’s thrilling aviation and military history, Native American cultural heritage, and Colorado River and tourism history to connect with.

We attended the inaugural event and look forward to this upcoming festival that has another fantastic line up of activities and presentations, plus a trivia night, beer tasting and the Craven Raven festival cocktail. Here’s a glimpse of some festival highlights, and note that most of the activities are limited in attendance so it’s good to get your tickets and register as soon as possible.

Bird & Nature Walks, Gardens Tours & Wetland Wanderings


RJ Moody Garden Demonstration Garden: Janine Lane, horticulturist with the University of Arizona, will be your guide in the garden which is planted in native and desert adapted plants. Janine will help you with suggestions on plants for your garden and answer questions about water and fertilizing issues in the desert southwest.

East Wetlands Birding: Vianey Avila, will lead a birding tour in the East Wetlands Park.  Expect to see Abert’s towhees, spotted sandpipers, hummingbirds, flycatchers, woodpeckers, verdins, and perhaps some warblers.

Bird & Nature Walk at Sunrise Park: Chase Choate, Environmentalist Director for the Quechan Tribe, will lead a bird and nature walk along the bank of the Colorado River. Learn more about the uses of native plants and the importance of the river to the original inhabitants of the area.

Wildlife and Native Plants: Val Morrill, biologist with a special interest in plants, will lead a tour through the unique Yuma Conservation Garden.  Val will share not only the names and how to identify plants but will also talk about the medicinal and food uses of them.  You may even get to do a little tasting.


West Wetlands Park: Karen Reichhardt, botanist, will teach you how to identify native and desert adapted plants in the Hummingbird Garden in the West Wetlands Park.  Bring binoculars just encase you see a hummingbird, a thrasher, or perhaps a family of quail.

Presentations on Yuma’s Diverse History & Cultural Heritage

Wings Over Yuma: Bruce Gwynn, a native of Yuma and member of the historic Sanguinetti Family, will entertain you with stories of the first airplane landing in Arizona, that happened in Yuma, Yuma’s role in training pilots for WWII, and of course the extraordinary flight of Bob Woodhouse and Woody Jongeward that began August 24, 1949, and ended October 10, 1949.

Mysteries of Yuma:
Yanna Kruse, Arizona Historical Society Rio Colorado Division Director, will regale you with delightful stories from Yuma’s very colorful history. Meet at the Sanguinetti House.

Colorado River History: Tammy Snook, City Historian, will present the story of the past, present, and future of the Lower Colorado River, and Yuma’s unique role in the settlement and development of the Southwest.

Casa de Coronado Museum: Yvonne Peach will provide a free tour of the Casa de Coronado Museum, located by the office at Coronado Motor Hotel. The Museum showcases the history of tourism in Yuma, the growth of Yuma as a city, and the development of the Best Western brand and the historic Coronado Motor Hotel over the last 80 years. It features historic tourism pamphlets and brochures about Arizona and Yuma, travel guides, furniture and appliances from the early 1900s, and historic photos.

Cocopah Museum & Fry Bread Tasting: A tour of the Cocopah Tribe Museum and Cultural Center on the West Reservation, led by tribal members will be followed by a cooking demonstration where participants will make their own Cocopah style fry-bread.  You may also get to try the ancient recipe for screwbean mesquite tea and learn the names of various birds in the Cocopah language.

Birds, Bats and Outdoor Adventures

Canoe Trip:
City of Yuma staff will lead an afternoon canoe trip down the lower Colorado River.

Bat Viewing: Gary Hovator will lead the group to a former mine where hundreds of bats will soar overhead as they leave the opening to begin their evening feast in the winter sky.

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge: Al Borgardt will give you a behind-the-scenes tour of the refuge. Expect to see ducks and shorebirds and listen for rails. At the refuge headquarters is a viewing tower, desert tortoise enclosure and several hummingbird feeders.

Muggins Mountains Hike: Raymond Castro will lead a 5 mile challenging hike in the Muggins Mountains wilderness area.

Mittry Lake & Vicinity: Wayne Bowers will lead a birding tour of some of the most reliable birding spots near Yuma. Expect to see many kinds of ducks and shore birds as well as desert and oasis passerines.  Look for phainopeplas, flycatchers, wrens, and hawks overhead.

Betty’s Kitchen: Jan Swarm will lead the group to an area that historically was a shanty town complete with a restaurant.  Now the area includes the spillway of the oldest dam on the Colorado River, a nature trail, fishing dock, cottonwood restoration area and a peek into the lower end of Mittry. Expect to see ducks, shorebirds, gnatcatchers, quail and perhaps some pelicans.

Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge:
Wayne Bowers and Chris Schoneman, Manager of this California Refuge, will meet your van at Unit 1. Expect to see thousands of snow geese, sandhill cranes pelicans, ducks, shorebirds and hawks.  The next stop will be at the Refuge Headquarters where Chris will lead an easy one mile walk along ponds full of ducks and geese.  On the way expect to see desert birds such as quail, verdins, and flycatchers.  At the shoreline of the sea, enjoy the peeps, stilts, avocets, and other shorebirds probing in the mud.  At the end of the trail, there is a hill providing a great overlook of the area and its interesting geology.

Senator’s Wash: Biologist Daniel Steward will lead the tour to Senator’s Wash in hopes of spotting a loon.  Stops along the way include Imperial Dam and West Pond.  Birds to be expected include ducks, grebes, egrets, herons, vermilion flycatcher, and shrike.

For the full schedule, tickets and registration details, visit www.YumaBirdNatureHistoryFestival.com.

Yuma Landing


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