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April 30, 2013 8:06 am

Spring into Yellowstone

Written by Gib Mathers

A May festival will focus on the birds and the wildlife that make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so unique.

“Spring into Yellowstone: Cody Birding and Wildlife Festival,” runs May 15-19.

The event is the first organized bird-watching festival in Wyoming, but the primary objective is to highlight the abundant public land and wildlife that surround Cody.

“I think we’ve got quite a program put together,” said Barbara Cozzens, an event organizer and northwest Wyoming director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

The festival kicks off with a reception at 6 p.m. May 15 at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, where internationally renowned raptor biologist Charles Preston will talk about raptors.

The reception also recognizes the Cody opening of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s “Visions of the Absaroka-Beartooth Front: Stewardship and Collaboration,” a photographic exhibition celebrating the culture, lands and wildlife of northwest Wyoming.

Thursday, May 16 programs include:

• Realm of the Golden Eagle — Big Horn Basin Bird and Wildlife Ecology Tour.

• Grizzly Bears of the Shoshone National Forest.

• Spring in Yellowstone Photo Tour.

• McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Management Area Tour.

• McCullough Peaks Badlands Hike.

Friday, May 17 programs will be:

• Greater Sage-Grouse and other Sagebrush-Obligate Species.

• Wild Mustangs and McCullough Peaks Photography Workshop — Sunrise.

• Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area

• McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Management Area Tour.

• Clark’s Forks of the Yellowstone River Hike: Natural and Cultural History

• “Rock On,” a seminar focused on the geology underlying bird habitat.

Saturday, May 18 programs will include:

• Grizzly Bears of the Shoshone National Forest.

• Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.

• McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Management Area Tour.

• Northwest Wyoming’s Important Bird Areas.

• Birding Basics for Young Birders and Families.

• Spring into Yellowstone Family Fun Day.

• Live Raptor Program: Survival Strategies of Birds of Prey.

Sunday’s final program is “Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area.”

There will be a trade show with bird watching-related gear throughout the duration of the festival.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department will also have its “Bear Aware” booth on display. The organizers’ goal is for every festival goer who visits bear country to carry bear repellent spray, Cozzens said.

A children’s program Sunday will instruct them on making bird feeders, designing a wildlife journal, a scavenger hunt and more.

“There is something for everybody,” Cozzens said.

She said the Chicago Tribune recently placed a story about the Cody festival next to its piece about the Cannes Film Festival. That generated a lot of telephone calls and requests for information. Many people from southeast Wyoming and from Colorado are planning to attend as well.

But Cozzens said the festival also is for locals to discover nearby attractions they may not be aware of and to learn about Wyoming’s wildlife from experts.

“We really really want local folks to be as engaged as people from outside the area,” she said.

Organizers plan to hold the event annually. Cozzens said she was pleased to see all the different organizations collaborating to organize the festival.

Some of the field trips and seminars are free, while others charge a fee.

The Holiday Inn will serve as the festival’s base. For more information and to peruse all the programs, go to www.springintoyellowstone.org or call the chamber at 307-587-2777. Festival-goers also may call the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce for directions to specific programs or outings.

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