top of page

2024 summer festival

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. The programs will be held in Lecture Rooms at either the Fairfield Inn & Suites or TownePlace Suites, as indicated. While they are within walking distance to The Mall at Sierra Vista, a complimentary roundtrip shuttle service will be available to attend the presentations. Please make some time to see these free events.




All talks will be held at the Fairfield Inn & Suites OR at TownePlace Suites (TPS) - marked in red.


Wednesday, July 31, 2024


12:00-1:15 PM

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 will tell you about their amazing biology and describe their incredible adaptations and colors.

1:30-2:45 PM 

Bill Cavaliere: Naiche: last Hereditary Chief of the Chiricahua Apaches

Naiche was the youngest son of the famous Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise. He was thrust into the position of chief unexpectedly and was unprepared for this important role. During the period of his leadership, the numbers of white people into his homelands increased, as did the numbers of soldiers in both the American and Mexican armies. Additionally, these armies were equipped with newer technology. And finally, the use of Apache scouts within both the American and Mexican armies further turned the tide against the Chiricahua Apaches.

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, The Outlook: 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 1, 2024

7:00-9:00 AM

Eric Moore: Focus on Optics - Bird Walk Sponsored by Swarovski Optik

Eric is the owner of The Lookout (formerly Jay's Bird Barn) and will lead a guided bird walk. 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. 

Meeting place: Parking Lot at Garden Canyon Linear Park See Map

10:30-11:45 AM

Stephen Vaughn: Bird Photography: It’s not about the gear, or is it?

Each of us has varied objectives when photographing birds. Some aim to meticulously document different bird species, while others seek to enhance their creativity in capturing bird images. There are also those who endeavor to capture specific bird behaviors or moments of peak action. Each of these approaches demands a distinct skill set and, potentially, different photographic equipment. Join Steve as he imparts valuable tips and techniques to elevate your proficiency in bird photography.


10:30-11:45 AM  (TPS)

Mark Johnson: The Tortolita Alliance & Conserving The Tortolita Preserve

The Tortolita Preserve (TP) covers 2,400 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert at the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains in Marana, AZ. TP was established on state land in 2000 as development mitigation land and is under lease by the Town of Marana for 99-years. The Tortolita Alliance (TA) was formed in 2019 when the Town and the Arizona State Land Department proposed to reconfigure and re-zone the land for development. TA was successful in stopping this effort and has since worked with the Marana Parks and Recreation Department on a number of conservation and preserve enhancement initiatives.

12:00-1:15 PM

Rick Wright: Let Me Introduce You: Birds Where We Want Them 

 Starlings, house sparrows, pheasants, lovebirds: Transplanting birds from one part of the world to another is among the most conspicuous ways in which we humans have changed the environment to suit ourselves. As common as the activity is, introducing birds and other organisms into new regions always has consequences, and almost always unexpected consequences. Join Rick Wright of Victor Emanuel Nature Tours to learn more about the sometimes shocking, sometimes humorous history of bird introductions in the United States. 


1:30-2:45 PM

Glenn Minuth: Are You Fart Smart About Animals? 

Yep!  You heard it right.  We are  looking at flatulence in animals. While it might seem like a gag topic, studying animal farts offers valuable insights into animal biology and ecology.  So that begs the question:  Do all animals fart? You’ll be surprised at which ones fart and those that don’t. And you probably guessed it--not all farts are created equal in terms of smell and frequency. So, we’ll look at the many factors that characterize farts after the scientific definitions are laid out.  Then there’s the pseudo and fake farts to consider.  There is a lot to know about expelled gas. Our trip into natural flatulence will take us around the world with the classic examples and then focus in around “home”, but not yours, in particular.


3:00-4:15 PM

Jim Koweek: A Grasslander Takes a Look at the Sonoran Desert

After decades of living in the grasslands near Sonoita, Jim, and photographer Dale Armstrong, decided to create an easy-to-use field guide to the plants of the Sonoran Desert. The uniqueness and survival strategies of the plants there were eye opening. The Sonoran Desert is way more than Poppies and Saguaros.  This presentation will combine examples of plant survival mechanisms, short readings from the book, and some of Dale’s amazing photography. I might even put in a bird photo or two.  (AKA -Jim Pimps His New Book – Sonoran Desert Plant ID For Everyone

3:00-4:15 PM (TPS)

Flyways - a PBS Nature special

This PBS Nature special highlights some of the more spectacular migrations of bird species around the world. Flyways spotlights the migrations of Hudsonian Godwits in the Americas, Far Eastern Curlews in Asia, and Red Knots in Europe. These birds travel hundreds or even thousands of miles every year, often flying non-stop without food or water. But their populations are crashing amidst climate change and urban development. Follow a conservation movement of bird-loving experts and citizen scientists as they mobilize to the challenge of understanding and saving shorebirds.

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 2, 2024


7:00-8:45 AM

Kathe Anderson: Introduction to Birdwatching - Bird Walk Sponsored by Swarovski Optik

This is an introduction to local birds, geared for beginning adults who are interested in what may be showing up in their backyards.  As we stroll the area 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

Meeting place: Parking Lot at Garden Canyon Linear Park See Map

9:15-10:15 AM

Kathe Anderson: Hummingbirds

Following her early morning Bird Walk at Garden Canyon Linear Park, Kathe's presentation at the Fairfield Inn & Suites at the Mall will feature a 30 minute video created in Southeast Arizona, the US Hummingbird Capital. This class will review the different kinds of hummingbirds found in Arizona, and their behaviors. In addition, see a hummingbird, a hummingbird nest and a hummingbird feather up close, and learn about their unique anatomy and lifestyle.


10:30-11:45 AM

Glenn Minuth: New Birds Names Are in the Spotting Scope - To Achieve Racial Inclusion

Our relationship with nature fundamentally originates from a name. It functions as a starter that conveys something about that animal or plant, like twin spotted rattlesnake, canyon tree frog, or red-tailed hawk. In numerous cases, that organism's name offers no view into its natural history, but only represents a legacy of a human name. America is attempting to come to terms with its problematical reckoning for its racial past by changing the names of its institutions, ranging from military bases to national monuments to collegiate/professional athletic league teams.  Currently, there’s dynamism to transform the names of several living monuments — birds. Find out what every bird watcher wants to know:  Why and how this is happening and on what scale nomenclature changes will occur, including its perceived impacts to the birding community and people of color. This may significantly affect you as a birder/naturalist.

12:00-1:15 PM

Allen Dart: The Antiquity of Irrigation in the Southwest

Before 1500 CE, Native American cultures took advantage of southern Arizona’s long growing season and tackled its challenge of limited precipitation by developing the earliest and most extensive irrigation works in all North America. Agriculture was introduced to Arizona more than 4,000 years before pre-sent, and irrigation systems were developed there at least 3,500 years ago – several hundred years before irrigation was established in ancient Mexico. This presentation by archaeologist Allen Dart provides an overview of ancient irrigation systems in the southern Southwest and discusses irrigation’s implications for understanding social complexity.

12:00-1:15 PM (TPS)

Flyways - a PBS Nature special

This PBS Nature special highlights some of the more spectacular migrations of bird species around the world. Flyways spotlights the migrations of Hudsonian Godwits in the Americas, Far Eastern Curlews in Asia, and Red Knots in Europe. These birds travel hundreds or even thousands of miles every year, often flying non-stop without food or water. But their populations are crashing amidst climate change and urban development. Follow a conservation movement of bird-loving experts and citizen scientists as they mobilize to the challenge of understanding and saving shorebirds.

1:30-2:45 PM

Karen Krebbs: The Exciting Night Life of Bats!

Karen Krebbs worked at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for more than 26 years and now works independently as a contractor for the National Park Service. She has extensive knowledge of birds, mammals, deserts, and animal adaptations and behavior. Karen has researched bats in the United States and Mexico for more than 40 years. Karen has participated in natural history learning trips in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Mexico, Baja, Costa Rica, Africa, Galapagos, and Ecuador. Karen’s latest books include Desert Life: A Guide to the Southwest’s Iconic Animals and Plants & How They Survive; Desert Life of the Southwest Activity Book; Explore Tucson Outdoors; and Bat Basics: An Introduction to the Life of Bats in the United States & Canada & Their Many Benefits.


Karen will lead a car caravan field trip to Ramsey Canyon to view nectar bats feeding at 7:00 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

Jillian Cowles: The Thief in the Web and Other Stories

Who doesn’t like a good heist caper? You don’t have to go to the movies to see one; it might be happening right on your front porch. No… I’m not talking about those folks who steal packages delivered to other people’s front porches. I am referring to the tiny kleptoparasitic spiders, Argyrodes pluto, that reside in the webs of the western black widow. They must accomplish the dangerous task of stealing the precious egg sacs from the refuge of the formidable and protective mother black widow spider. Please join me to hear about this tiny thief spider, as well as a few other arachnid puzzles.


4:30-5:45 PM

Jennie MacFarland: Desert Purple Martins - Star Birds of the Arizona Monsoon

Charismatic, large swallows, Purple Martins are a beloved and iconic nestbox species in the eastern half of the United States. Did you know they can be found here as well? The Desert Purple Martin (Progne subis hesperia) is a distinct subspecies that times its nesting to monsoon abundance and nests almost exclusively in saguaros or other large columnar cacti. These are “wild” martins that use naturally occurring cavities, while the eastern subspecies is said to be entirely reliant on human-made nestboxes. Desert Purple Martins are extremely understudied with large gaps in knowledge about their nesting, migration, and wintering grounds. Tucson Audubon launched the Desert Purple Martin project in 2020 and has learned so much about these intriguing birds. Very recent discoveries and data results will be shared along with lots of video and audio that showcases the charming and fascinating Desert Purple Martin. 

Saturday, August 3, 2024

7:30-9:00 AM

Gordon Lam: Beginner Birders Fun-damentals! Bird Walk Sponsored by Swarovski Optik

"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 to get some fresh air, meet likeminded people, learn how to use binoculars, and maybe even identify a few birds!

Meeting place: Parking Lot at Garden Canyon Linear Park See Map

9:00-10:15 AM (TPS)

Flyways - a PBS Nature special

This PBS Nature special highlights some of the more spectacular migrations of bird species around the world. Flyways spotlights the migrations of Hudsonian Godwits in the Americas, Far Eastern Curlews in Asia, and Red Knots in Europe. These birds travel hundreds or even thousands of miles every year, often flying non-stop without food or water. But their populations are crashing amidst climate change and urban development. Follow a conservation movement of bird-loving experts and citizen scientists as they mobilize to the challenge of understanding and saving shorebirds.

10:30-11:45 AM

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

We consider the avian nervous system to consist in the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system.  In the whole, these system elements are charged with the coordination and control of functions including movement, behavior, digestive and sensory processes, and reproduction. A bird's nervous system is uniquely evolved to enable them to fly, with a larger higher brain mass to body mass ratio than other animals, together with a significantly larger reliance on sight and hearing. These adaptations empower birds to familiarize themselves within their environment while executing complex behaviors, such as catching food and migration. The importance of these adaptations facilitates special abilities to allow birds to survive and adapt while literally “on the fly.”

12:00 - 1:00 PM (at the STAGE Inside The Mall at Sierra Vista)


Tamela Birdle: Ballads, Birds and Adventure!

A fun, interactive musical performance for young explorers! Join Tamela Birdle's expedition on a quest for hidden treasures and the discovery of birds through songs, stories, and poems. 

12:00-1:15 PM

Greg Homel: Specialty Birds of the US/Mexican Borderlands - where to find them and their statuses on both sides of the border Delve into the fascinating treasure trove of peripheral Mexican species inhabiting the US/Mexican borderlands region… while learning where to safely find them in the heart of their ranges in Mexico.

12:00-1:15 PM (TPS)

Deb Liggett: National Park Nerds: Things to Know and Tell

Amaze your friends, influence politicians, be in the know. Join retired park superintendent Deb Liggett (the horse’s mouth) as she reveals important things to know and tell about the national parks. Have fun, test your knowledge, but learn the things you need to know to be the best advocate for parks (and the birds that live there.)  Fair warning: Deb once set her pants on fire at a an evening program — true story — but she has learned fire safety in the intervening years. 

1:30-2:45 PM

Charles Melton: Wings and Stings - Ground-nesting Wasps of Arizona

Wasps are often feared and avoided because of their stinging nature. This ability is used not only for defense but also to paralyze hosts to feed their young. The video and photos in this program will reveal the fascinating lives of these secretive insects. We will follow the construction of nesting burrows, the capture of prey, and the development of young for a variety of species. We will also see how these wasps deal with predators such as ants and flies.

1:30-2:45 PM (TPS)


Callie Caplenor: Birds and Bats of Southeast Arizona

They both fly, but just how similar are birds and bats? Join National Park Service ranger Callie Caplenor for a family-oriented program comparing these amazing two-winged creatures. Together we will observe different parts of their anatomy and talk about the behaviors and characteristics of birds and bats that come through the Sky Island region. There will also be an arts and crafts activity with the opportunity to create your own bird or bat and a story reading at the end.


3:00-4:15 PM

Mark Hart: Borderlands Jaguars

Southeast Arizona has the greatest biologic diversity in a state that arguably has the greatest biologic diversity of the lower 48. Doubters need look no further than the presence of four cats in the wild here: jaguar, ocelot, mountain lion and bobcat. This presentation examines the largest and charismatic of the four. Here and southwest New Mexico are the only locations in the United States where jaguars have been sighted in the past twenty years. In late 2016, two jaguars were present in the region, one in the Huachuca Mountains and the other in the Dos Cabezas. Earlier that year a video surfaced of a third jaguar in the Santa Rita Mountains. The video caused an international sensation, but that jaguar returned to Mexico, as did the Huachucas jaguar. Meantime, the Dos Cabezas jaguar has persisted south of Willcox since, and a new individual was sighted in the Huachucas and the Whetstone Mountains in 2023. This presentation examines how having this endangered species in the region poses unique challenges for wildlife and land managers, and how they have made even more popular among the general public trail camera technology.

3:00-4:15 PM (TPS)

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. 

Presenter Bios
bottom of page