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2023 summer festival AugUST 2-5

free program

Thanks to the generous support of Dutch Nagle

All of these programs are absolutely free and open to everyone. No registration is required. We hope that many people will attend and learn about this amazing place, southeastern Arizona. Some lectures are associated with field trips, for which there is a registration fee and a charge. Please see the Field Trip Section for details.  All programs will be held at Cochise College Library. Please make some time to see these free events.

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All talks will be held in the Horace Steele Room in the Cochise College Library apart from a few which will be held in Room 901 (marked).


Wednesday, August 2, 2023


12:00-1:15 PM

Deb Liggett Park Ranger 101 -- Why National Parks?

Pretend for a moment that you are a new National Park Service seasonal and hear what the superintendent might want you to know to begin employment for the summer. This nuts and bolts of national parks is the orientation that Deb used to give her employees and often shared with park visitors. Also enjoy as Deb reads from her new memoir: Pilgrim, Paddler, Poet: The Ranger Chronicles which will be available for purchase.


1:30-2:45 PM 

Mike Foster: San Pedro River Beavers

Beavers were returned to the San Pedro River in 1999 by the Arizona Game and Fish on BLM property. Since then Mike Foster has been doing surveys on the 45 miles of the San Pedro River National Conservation Area near Sierra Vista. In the last few years this survey has been picking up steam with Cochise College and Watershed Management Group from Tucson joining the cause. In the last year this became an international effort with numerous Mexican conservation groups joining the cause in the first international beaver survey. The uppermost San Pedro is in Mexico. Some reservoirs on ranches there appear to have become repositories for beaver populations. 

3:00-4:15 PM

Priscilla Brodkin: Butterflies for Birders

Take a virtual field trip identifying and photographing the butterflies of SE Arizona. We will concentrate on butterflies in taxonomic order with emphasis on food & nectar plants plus behavior and defense mechanisms! Join the co-author of Butterflies of Arizona for this special trip filled with the BEAUTY of nature and remember, when the birding is slow, butterflies emerge to fill out your day.


4:30-5:45 PM

Eric Moore, Owner, Jay's Bird Barn & Arizona Field Optics: Optics 101 Workshop

 Confused by optics jargon such as eye-relief, exit-pupil, interpupillary distance, objective lens, field of view and color fidelity? Want to know what those numbers mean on a pair of binocular, such as 8x42, 10x42? Eric Moore will lead a discussion on optical equipment covering both binoculars and spotting scopes designed for birders. This will be a hands-on class where you will have the opportunity to try out different models of Vortex and Swarovski Optik products. 

Thursday, August 3, 2023

7:30-9:00 AM

Eric Moore: Focus on Optics Bird Walk

Meet in front of Room 901

Eric is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn and Arizona Field Optics, and will lead a guided bird walk on the Cochise College campus and in the surrounding desert. This bird walk will focus (no pun intended) on the basics of optical equipment designed to enhance a bird watcher’s experience in the field. Loaner pairs of both Vortex and Swarovski binoculars and spotting scopes will be available for participants to use at no charge. The bird walk will include a demonstration and instruction on digi-scoping - taking digital pictures using the latest spotting scope technology. 


9:00-10:15 AM

Glenn Minuth: The Tanks of the Mammal World:  Fossil Glyptodonts of Arizona

Glyptodonts became extinct during the decline of the last ice age along with many other megafaunal species. The glyptodonts were grazing herbivores the size of modern automobiles. They were armored like turtles.  Besides a tortoise-like body armor suit, one species possessed a large mace-like spiked tail that it would have used to defend itself from predators. The presence of such heavy defenses certainly hints at the presence of a large, effective predator.  When they lived, the apex predators were a family of giant flightless carnivorous birds. The extinction of the glyptodonts corresponded to the arrival of early humans in the Americas and evidence implies that these humans utilized the animal's armored shells. Find out why Arizona is glyptodont fossil headquarters for the U.S.


10:30-11:45 AM

Jim Koweek: Are Plants More Interesting Than Birds? 

A look at some unique plants in the grasslands and maybe even some from the Sonoran Desert. Jim promises no mind-numbing technical stuff.  This will be in a workshop/plant talk format and attendees are welcome to bring in samples to ID. Jim will have his book Grassland Plant ID For Everyone – Except Folks That Take Boring Technical Stuff Too Seriously available for purchase. 


12:00-1:15 PM

Rick Wright: Sex, Science, and the Way We Bird Today

For more than a century, American birding has focused almost exclusively on field identification. There was nothing inevitable about that concentration, which turns out to be the result of an intentional effort in the early twentieth century to make amateur bird study "scientific" and to gender it male, after nearly 50 years in which the field was dominated by women. Join Rick Wright for a new—and provocative—exploration of how we got to where we are today. 


1:30-2:45 PM

Bill Cavaliere: The Kiowa-Apaches: Cousins to the Chiricahuas 

This power point centers on the little-known Kiowa-Apache tribe, a group of Athabascan-speaking people whose ancestors originally migrated from the north about 10,000 years ago. They arrived in Apacheria to eventually separate and become the Chiricahua, Mescalero, Navajo, Western, Lipan, and Jicarilla Apaches. For unknown reasons, this small group continued east, taking refuge with the Kiowas, an unrelated Plains tribe, who offered them protection. Although they assimilated into the Kiowas, the Kiowa-Apaches never took their language and rarely intermarried. This presentation answers such questions as what this tribe's original name was, who were some notable Kiowa-Apaches, and where the Kiowa-Apaches are today.

4:00-5:30 PM

Rich Bailowitz: Another Glimpse at the Dragonflies of Southeast Arizona

This presentation will cover characteristics of members of the order ODONATA, which comprises both damselflies and dragonflies, what we see and what we don't. More than 100 species are known from Cochise County where our Festival is located, and many are featured in this discussion.

Friday, August 4, 2023


7:30-9:00 AM

Kathe Anderson: Introduction to Birdwatching Bird Walk

Meet in front of Room 901

This is an introduction to local birds easily seen in and around campus, geared for beginning adults who are interested in what may be showing up in their backyards.  We stroll the grounds we’ll talk about common species, vocalizations and behaviors.  At about 8:45am we will head indoors to go over a list of what we’ve seen and answer questions.  Walking Difficulty: Easy

8:00-8:30 AM

Faith-Boice McCabe : The Boice legacy at Arizona's Empire Ranch 

The historic Empire Ranch, located in the heart of the 45,000 acre Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, was established in 1876.  Learn about the Boice family's role in the Empire Ranch's historic past and evolving future.

8:30-11:30 AM

Empire Ranch Field Trip - Carpool to the Empire Ranch, including one-hour docent led tour

Meet after above talk at 8:30 AM at Cochise College Student Union, Bldg 1000 and carpool to the Empire Ranch (45 mins). 

Enjoy the one-hour docent-led tour of Empire Ranch. Afterwards enjoy the ranch and its wildlife at your leisure, return to Cochise College or continue elsewhere on your own.  

9:00-10:15 AM

Jim Heffelfinger: Road to Recovery - The Mexican Wolf Story 

The wild Mexican wolf population in the southwestern United States has been growing an average of 14% annually since 2009, with a 23% surge in the last year. We now have twice the number of wolves in Arizona and New Mexico as does Yellowstone National Park. The 2022 survey represented all-time records in minimum numbers of wolves (241), number pups produced (121), pups recruited into the population (81), number of packs that produced pups (31), and adult wolves (160) in the wild. Close and productive international efforts are working to grow the second population in northern Mexico. The recovery plan and population model are far more complex and realistic than previous versions and provide a roadmap for successful Mexican wolf recovery in its historical range. We are well on the road to successfully returning this small wolf subspecies to play its ecological role in the American Southwest and Mexico. This talk will cover the interrelated issues of Mexican wolf historical range, the geography of current recovery efforts, genetic management, human coexistence, and the path to full recovery. 


10:30-11:45 AM

Glenn Minuth: The Neotropical Migrant Bird’s Vital Decision-Making Process—For Where to Refuel?

Ever wonder how migrating birds determine where to stop and find food?  Some scientists finally wanted to learn that also and studied the behavior of 28 species of neotropical migrant songbirds along the in southern Arizona from 2001 to 2004. We’ll discuss:  the zoogeographic regions of the Neotropics and Nearctic realms; the importance of stopover sites; their research methods; and future implications.  You might be surprised to find out their research conclusions for what these birds relied on to make the crucial decision to stop for refueling.  Gaining a better understanding where and why migrant birds stop will help land managers better protect key habitats used by these tiny travelers.

12:00-1:15 PM

Stan Cunningham: Marvels of Bird Migration

Stan will discuss both the difficulties and somewhat unbelievable adaptations birds have that allow them to migrate both small and very long distances.  The material covered will include: 1) why they do it 2) The energetic costs of flying, especially long distances 3) How do the birds know when to go and 4) How do they know where to go and navigate while flying. Like most things in ecology, the answers are many and variable, and much of what happens each year “depends”.  Since so many North American avian species must migrate, the conservation aspects of the need for “stopovers” and international conservation efforts are discussed.

1:30-2:45 PM

Karen Krebbs: The Exciting Night Life of Bats!

Karen has studied bats for more than 30 years. Learn about this exciting and unique nocturnal mammal and how it is so successful as a predator and pollinator. There are more than 1,100 species of bats that occur worldwide. Bats are an important part of our ecosystems and deserve our respect and admiration. Echolocation allows a bat to fly in total darkness to locate, chase, and capture flying insects. Bridges and other human structures are important roost habitat for many species of bats. Nectar bats visit and pollinate columnar cactus and succulents in our area. Learn about the 28 species of bats that live right here in Arizona.


Karen will lead a car caravan field trip to Ramsey Canyon to view nectar bats feeding at 6:30 PM on Friday. Limit of 10 participants. This is a paid trip, please book via the field trip registration page.


3:00-4:15 PM

Kathe Anderson: Southeast Arizona Specialty Birds

Southeast Arizona is considered one of the top hotspots in the country to find unusual birds. Find out why this area attracts such rare birds, where to go, and what unique species you might see. Learn about the Arizona Woodpecker, Elegant Trogon, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Mexican Chickadee, some of those pesky sparrows found mainly in Arizona, and more.


4:30-5:45 PM

Homer Hansen: Grassland Bird Workshop

Semi-desert grasslands surround the base of many of our Sky Island mountain ranges and are particularly well developed in the localities around the Huachuca Mountains.  This habitat is home to a wide diversity of bird species, including numerous sparrows and other passerines, as well as raptors, their predators.  This workshop presentation will provide an introduction to identification of our grassland bird species, such as Lark Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Horned Lark, and Swainson’s Hawk, and also includes challenging species identification such as Cassin’s versus Botteri’s Sparrows and Western versus Chihuahuan Meadowlarks. 

Saturday, August 5, 2023

7:30-9:00 AM

Gordon Lam: Beginning Birders Fun-damentals! – CAMPUS BIRD WALK

"Hey – what are you folks looking at?" Have you ever wandered through a park, saw a bunch of people all dressed alike in khaki-colored clothes, and wondered what the heck are they looking at?  Well, it’s time to find out!  Whether you’re experienced or novice, young or old, or own an old pair of opera glasses or the latest in optics, we invite you to join our favorite NY transplant Gordon Lam for a free, 90-minute stroll around the campus to get some fresh air, meet likeminded people, learn how to use binoculars, and maybe even identify a few birds! 


9:00-10:15 AM

Stephen Vaughan: Maximizing Your Birding and Bird Photography Experience 

Birding and bird photography have been experiencing rapid growth in recent years, which has been further accelerated by the rise of social media. While this growth can bring many benefits, it also has its drawbacks. In this series of questions and discussions, Steve will explore our role in the field of birding and bird photography, and how we can work to minimize our impact in the field through the use of best practices. By considering our field practices and minimizing our footprint, we can enhance the quality of our field experiences and improve our photography.


9:00-10:15 AM (ROOM 901)

Glenn Minuth: How Birds’ Systems Work:  The Avian Muscular System

This presentation is part of a series on “How Birds’ Systems Work”.  Last year we examined birds’ skeletal systems.  This second in the series, looks at how the avian muscular system works.  Most birds have approximately 175 different muscles, mainly controlling the wings, skin, and legs, but also their feet, tongue, eyes, ears, neck, lungs, sound-producing organs, body wall and skin. Flight is an essential skill for most birds while also thrilling to observe for birdwatchers. Their power of flight requires muscles so enormous; they can represent a quarter or more of a bird’s body weight. We will explore how bird evolution drew on naturally selected favored traits for flight enhancements and the other muscles contained in birds.  You will also walk away with a clearer understanding of why there is a difference in “white meat” and “dark meat” musculature.

10:30-11:45 AM

Chris Harbard: Hummingbirds - the Flying Jewels of the Americas

Colorful marvels of the avian world, hummingbirds have captured both our imaginations and our hearts. Sierra Vista may be the Hummingbird Capital of the US, with an unbeaten 15 species, but there are hundreds more of these amazing creatures, from Mexico to the far south of Argentina. Chris Harbard will tell you about their amazing biology and describe their incredible adaptations and colors.

10:30-11:45 AM (ROOM 901)

Callie Caplenor: SPECIAL KIDS EVENT - Fill the Bill!   

Join National Park Service ranger Callie Caplenor for a new family-oriented bird program. What is a national park, and what part does the NPS play in preserving these special places and the wildlife that live there? Together we will observe and compare different bird skulls and talk about the behaviors and characteristics of the birds that come through the Sky Island region. There will also be an opportunity to learn about bird bill adaptations by attempting to harvest food using a variety of tools that represent different beak types. Finally, children will be introduced to the concepts of data collection and migration by conducting a simulation banding activity.

12:00-1:15 PM

Greg Homel: Bad Roads, Good Birds

The joy and excitement of birding and bird photography in Mexico… from someone who lives there.  Separating fact from fiction in this era of sensationalized media. 

12:00-1:15 PM (ROOM 901)

Rick Collins: Quirky Episodes of Death and Danger in the Santa Cruz Valley

The Santa Cruz Valley is a weird place. Rivers flow backwards, giant cow skulls grace restaurants, marijuana factories grow legal weed, and nuclear missile sites are turned into museums. Even death and danger take a strange twist in the Valley. This talk discusses some of those strange and not so well-known stories from the Santa Cruz River. 

1:30-2:45 PM

Mark Hart:  Sky Island Mountain Lions

Secretive and stealthy, mountain lions are rarely seen yet often feared. But they are far more abundant than most residents of southeast Arizona realize. Our region has the best mountain lion habitat in the state, in large part because deer are so plentiful here and also because of the diversity of terrain in the Sky Island mountain ranges. Yet despite their fearsome reputation, there has never been a fatal mountain lion attack in recorded Arizona history. In addition, humans are twice as likely to be harmed by a black bear in Arizona than a mountain lion. This presentation attempts to demystify mountain lions, and help participants learn how to understand their "language." It will also include safety tips on what to do in the rare instance one comes face-to-face with a mountain lion that won't break off its approach, as well as recent case histories about human-mountain lion interactions in southeast Arizona.    


1:30-2:45 PM

Melissa Amarello: Snake Country Survival Guide (ROOM 901)

Worried about snakes? Or just curious about our scaly neighbors? Learn everything you need to know to live, work, and play safely in snake country: why snakes make good neighbors, coexisting with venomous snakes, maintaining a safe and wildlife-friendly yard, and how to ensure encounters with snakes are safe and FUN for everyone. We’ll also show videos of wild snakes that are so cool, you’ll be looking forward to seeing one. It is impossible to avoid snakes in this part of the world, so let’s turn that fear into fascination and appreciate encounters with snakes!

3:00-4:15 PM

Diana Hadley: Jaguar Resilience - The Remarkable Reappearance El Jefe and Its Significance for Jaguar Conservation

Renowned for their power, strength, beauty and grace, jaguars once roamed across much of the southern United States. Today, these magnificent predators are vanishing throughout the Americas. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the U.S. Mexico borderlands. Removed from their historic northern range by poaching and habitat fragmentation, jaguars have all but disappeared from the U.S. portion of their former territory. Yet, jaguars still persist just south of the international border in Sonora, Mexico and occasionally venture northward into former habitat in Arizona and New Mexico. This beautifully illustrated presentation provides information on the Northern Jaguar Project’s work to protect jaguar populations and establish viable wildlife corridors through community environmental education programs and agreements with cattle ranchers. Diana also tells the story of El Jefe, photographed in the Santa Rita mountains who then disappeared for eight years only to reappear in Sonora. 

3:00-4:15 PM

Tomas Miscione: Reptiles of Arizona (ROOM 901)

A look at Arizona's herpetological heritage. From Gila Monsters to Coachwhips and Desert Tortoises to Western Diamondbacks Tomas knows (and has handled) them all. Hear all about them and find out why you have nothing to fear. 

Presenter Bios
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