CODY, WYO. — Each spring, a diverse range of migratory birds return to the greater Yellowstone area, and tourism promoters in Cody are hoping to capitalize on their migration as a way of luring tourists to the area as well.
The second annual Spring Into Yellowstone Birding and Wildlife Festival is scheduled for May 14-18, with a focus on attracting out-of-state visitors interested in seeing the area before the crowded summer season.
Registrations so far are running ahead of last year’s inaugural event, which saw about about 150 participants from 14 states and three foreign countries, said Tia Brown, events coordinator for the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce.
Organizers are targeting photographers, nature lovers, bird watchers and geotourists who want to be among the first to visit Yellowstone National Park and the Cody area as spring is just arriving.
The Chamber is partnering with a number of government agencies, nonprofit groups and businesses to offer more than 30 events, tours and activities.
“A lot of the people that are coming for this festival have never been here before and may not know much about the area,” Brown said. “So it’s a way for us to show how spring is a great time to see wildlife before things get so busy.”
Spring and fall have always been favorite times for locals to venture into Yellowstone or other wild and scenic places around the park.
Now, the regional tourism industry is increasingly focusing on building the so-called “shoulder seasons.” Business owners see the move as a way to stretch the summer operating window and offer a quieter, more leisurely experience for visitors looking to avoid crowds or take advantage of cheaper travel rates.
In fact, some of the Spring Into Yellowstone events are free, and many have only a nominal fee. Local experts will offer tips and insight on their favorite places to find birds, spot wildlife or capture a scenic photograph.
All three of those options are part of a May 16 photography workshop and nature hike along Bald Ridge that will be led by freelance photographer Kathy Lichtendahl of Clark, Wyo.
“It’s such a spectacular time of year, and that particular area is pretty amazing, especially for seeing migrating birds,” Lichtendahl said. The five-mile hike will offer good opportunities for spotting cranes, curlews, orioles, geese and other birds, along with a chance to see other wildlife, she said.
“I get into that area as often as I can, and it’s closed as winter range until May 1, so this will be one of the first chances to go in this year,” she said.
Yellowstone National Park ranger Katy Duffy will lead a May 18 driving tour of birding spots in the park’s Northern Range.
While Yellowstone’s Northern Range is known as home to a variety of large mammals, Duffy said in an email that it “also provides essential habitat for myriad bird species during migration and for nesting.”
The tour offers good chances for seeing herons, American white pelicans, shorebirds, sandhill cranes and a variety of songbirds and raptors.
Bird migration through the Yellowstone region “is an amazing process,” Duffy said.
“Some of the birds we will see have returned from as far away as Mexico, while others wintered nearby,” she said.
The nonprofit wild horse advocacy group Friends of a Legacy will host three days of wild mustang tours May 15-17 on public lands in the McCullough Peaks.
“We expect to see wild horses on the herd management area, and it’s probable that we will see pronghorn antelope and a few birds like a golden eagle, or perhaps even a burrowing, owl along the way,” said FOAL board member Marshall Dominick.
“It’s an extremely colorful herd” Dominick said. “That time of year, the studs may be doing some battling occasionally, and there are dynamics going on with the herd structure. So there’s a possibility we may see some stallions sparring.”
Several other tours and outings are scheduled as part of Spring Into Yellowstone, along with film screenings, lectures, a trade show and more.
Many of the festival’s tours are designed for small groups, and some are already sold out, Brown said, so participants should book early to ensure available space.
If you go…
The Spring Into Yellowstone Birding and Wildlife Festival runs May 14-18 in Cody, Wyo. For more information, visit the festival website at springintoyellowstone.com.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].