The 2018 Desert Birding Festival will be held March 14-16.  Registrations will be taken after January 1, 2018.
The agenda below is from the 2017 festival.  The 2018 agenda will be published after January 1.
If you would like to be notified as soon as registrations begin please sign up for our email list.

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Wednesday March 15
Time Program Description
1:00 - 2:30 P.M. Registration

Registration, ABDNHA Activity Room.  Check in, pick up your badge, t-shirt (if pre-ordered), check your schedule of birding trips.

1:00 p.m. - 3:00  p.m. Informal Social Time

Social time, in the ABDNHA Garden adjacent to the Activity Room.  Meet your fellow birders, enjoy light refreshments, and stroll the garden with its native plants, birds, and butterflies; and take a look a birding books, maps, gifts, and a variety of information about the area in the Borrego Desert Nature Center.

3:00 - 4:00
Up Close & Personal

Presentation - Open to all Registrants

By the Raptor Institute
View live birds while learning about raptor biology, habitats, natural history, and conservation. Guest raptors are expected to include a Great Horned Owl, Merlin, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Peregrine Falcon.
Note:  The Borrego Hawk Watch has been listed in Audubon Magazine as one of the eight best hawk watch sites for photographers in the US.
~ 4:15 

Time of field trip to be announced
Swainsons Hawks:
Our Long Distance Visitors

Short Program & Field Trip - Open to all Registrants

By Hal Cohen

Short Presentation by Hal Cohen on t
he Borrego Valley Swainsons Hawks:
- Where do they come from?
- Why are they here?
- Where are they going?

Plus Field Trip: Time and details of field trip to be announced at the presentation.

Thousands of Swainsons hawks pass through the Borrego Valley each year. Join with Hal Cohen, founder of the Borrego Valley Hawk Watch, as he leads our group to the evening watch site to see what's in the skies today.
Dinner on your own
7:30 - 8:30 p.m. A Preview of Expected Festival Birds 2017

Evening Presentation by Hal Cohen

Open to all registrants

Join long time birder, sometimes called Professor Bird Brain,  Hal Cohen, as he takes a look at the many birds that may be seen during our festival, across the many different habitats that we will cover.  


Thursday March 16    
Time Program Description
Recommended for all of the field trips: Carry water, binoculars, wear long sleeves (or bring a long-sleeve shirt or light jacket as a cover-up), long pants, sturdy close-toed shoes.  Hat, sun glasses, sunscreen highly recommended.
8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. Desert Birds & Migrants

Led by Laura Webb - 10 max
We will be looking for local desert birds and migrant warblers, orioles, and flycatchers at Tamarisk Campground and nearby Yaqui Well in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Meet at ABDNHA parking.
6:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Birding the Higher Elevations

Led by Hal Cohen - 15 maximum
Journey to Barrel Springs on the Pacific Crest Trail to find birds at the 4000 foot level.
8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m Intro to Desert Birding
Transition Zones

Led by David Lasley and Larry Gilstrap - 20 max
Join David Lasley and Larry Gilstrap to explore some of the best birding locations in Borrego Springs,  the transition zones between the desert environment and the irrigated greenery of Club Circle.  Meet at ABDNHA 
7:45 a.m. - 9:30 a.m History & Evolution of
the Hawk Watch

Led by Joe Hopkins - 15 max
Learn about the history of the Borrego Hawk Watch, observation techniques, the hawk count and how it is run, while on a field trip to a morning viewing location.
7:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Borrego Valley
Birding Hotspots

Led by Paulette Ache - 10 max.
Join us as we search for ducks, doves, hummingbirds, finches and early warblers.  We will attempt to identify birds in the field by sight, song and call.  Area ponds and water sources where birds tend to congregate will be visited.  Meet at the ABDNHA parking lot.


1:30 - 2:45 p.m. Optics for Birding

Presentation - Open to all Registrants

By Steve Sosensky from Optics4Birding

Steve has been a birder for more than 20 years and has been in the optics business for 13 years.  In this program he will discuss the things to look for when selecting the right optics, such as field view, lens quality, coatings, both close and far focus, waterproofing, and what all those numbers mean when you select your birding glass.  Steve will also have some equipment on hand to show and explain.
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Improve Your Bird Images

Presentation - Open to all Registrants

By Tom Blackman

Why do some images you view "pop out" and strike you as a cut above other images viewed?  It seems like every birder today has a DSLR and is taking pictures and posting them.  Why are some outstanding?  This talk will go beyond the act of capturing the image to the art of making the image the best it can be.  Techniques and tools to maximize your images will be described and explained.

Tom currently serves as President of Western Field Ornithologists and is Past-President of San Diego Field Ornithologists.  His work has been published in periodicals, magazines and scientific papers, and can be viewed at  

Dinner on your own
7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Birds of the Salton Sea

Presentation - Open to all Registrants

By Kurt Leuschner
Over 420 bird species have been recorded at the Salton Sea, a vitally important habitat that lies along the Pacific Flyway. In this program Kurt Leuschner will discuss some of the more interesting, colorful, and unusual birds that are found at the Sea as well as the extreme challenges that dropping water levels are presenting to the species that depend upon California's largest body of water.

Kurt Leuschner, M.S., Wildlife Ecology, is a Professor of Natural Resources at College of the Desert. Leuschner's specialties include: ornithology, entomology, and desert ecology. He has led hundreds of field trips both locally and as far afield as Africa. He teaches natural history courses for the Desert Institute,  UCR Extension, the Living Desert, ABDNHA, California State Parks, the Bureau of Land Management, and many other conservation organizations.

Friday March 17    
Time Program Description
7:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Rancho de la Paz

Led by Ann Keenan - 10 max

Hike at 3000 foot elevation at Rancho de la Paz, a private diverse habitat wildlife sanctuary in the San Felipe Valley.  There is an Indian cemetery and morteros and slicks close by a 100 year old cabin plus running streams  and ponds.   Meet at ABDNHA to carpool. Bring water and lunch. Boots, long pants, and long sleeved shirt are required for this activity.  Meet at ABDNHA.
8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. The Salton Sea

Led by Kurt Leuschner - 20 max

Join Kurt Leuschner for an excursion to the south end of the Salton Sea.  Wintering flocks of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes await, and the always  charming Burrowing Owls are a guarantee. And we might even see a tropical surprise!

6:45 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Desert Sunrise Birding

Led by Terry Hunefeld - 15 max

Terry Hunefeld has recorded 162 species of birds over the past 4 years at Rams Hill Country Club.  He birds his "
patch" at least twice weekly and will lead a 3 mile walk around the course just after sunrise.  Meet Terry just outside the gates of Rams Hill at 6:45 a.m. Friday, March 17 for a 3.5-mile, 2.5-hour birding walk to see what migrating species may have dropped in for a visit. 
8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Intro to Desert Birding
Transition Zones

Led by David Lasley and Larry Gilstrap - 20 max

Join David Lasley and Larry Gilstrap to explore some of the best birding locations in Borrego Springs,  the transition zones between the desert environment and the irrigated greenery of Club Circle.  Meet at ABDNHA 
6:45 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Photography Field Tips
for DSLR Shooters

Led by Sandy Zelaskso

Join Sandy for an early morning walk as we search for resident birds to photograph in their natural habitat. Sandy will be sharing tips on how to improve your avian photography skills, whether in the wild or at your own backyard stage. Bring your longest lens, a tripod, your camera manual and your questions. A lawn chair if you prefer. Maximum 10 participants allows for a more personal experience and instruction.  Meet at ABDNHA.

1:45 - 2:45 p.m. Birds I have Known

Presentation - Open to all Registrants

By Paul Blake

Paul is a photographer who is interested in the things that birds do.  He views his photography as his time with the birds, a private time to observe them and share a little of their world.

Paul particularly enjoys photographing birds that are engaged in interesting behavior, such as feeding, grooming, interaction with their prey, and interaction with other birds. 

3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
The San Diego Bird Atlas


By Phil Unitt
The San Diego County Bird Atlas is one of the most ambitious research projects the San Diego Natural History Museum has ever undertaken. It establishes a new benchmark for knowledge of birds in the region of the United States with more species than any other: 492 natives, migrants, and well-established exotics. 

The atlas addresses all the county's birds—wintering birds, migrants, and exotics, as well as breeding birds. There is at least one map for every regular breeding and wintering species and a chart showing the seasonal distribution of the nesting activity of each nesting species.

Philip Unitt, author of the atlas, is curator for the San Diego Natural History Museum's Department of Bird and Mammals. He is also editor of the journal Western Birds , author or co-author of over 30 scientific papers and reports, and co-author of Birds of the Salton Sea: Status, Biogeography and Ecology , published in 2003 by University of California Press.

5:00 - 8:00 p.m. Closing Dinner
Dinner Program Bird Calls by Nicole Perretta

Presentation - Open to all Registrants & Dinner Guests

By Nicole Perretta

Known as the "Bird Call Lady", Nicole Perretta will be performing Bird Calls and telling stories about her encounters with birds. She can imitate 160 species of birds. She has performed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Ellen Show, and conducts many educational programs about birds and bird calling. 

Dinner Menus

Please select your choice when you register
1. Chicken Marsala
Lightly breaded, tendered oven baked breast and thigh meat panned up with a Marsala reduction sauce of shallots, wild mushroom mix, wild Mt Shasta garlic, sun dried tomatoes, Mediterranean vegetables and herbs in stock and wine. Fresh grated parmesan cheese.

2. Vegetarian entree
Marsala reduction sauce of shallots, wild garlic, wild mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, black olives, zucchini, med. veggies in a vegetable stock and wine with herbs and fresh basil topped with fresh parmesan.

Pasta bowl to accompany both entrees. Tomato, spinach, basil and whole grain fettuccini.

Deep roasted root vegetables, caramelized and layered with blanched and roasted Brussels sprouts, broccoli florets etc.

A high quality bakery bread, sliced with whipped butter or olive oil.

A mixed green salad of seasonal organic greens with a choice of dressings.

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  Festival is Full.
You may still register for the closing dinner and program