This tour takes folks by bus along the Valley’s wide-open landscape, where it’s easy to spot birds of prey: Cooper’s Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Kestrels, Golden Eagles, Prairie Falcons, Northern Harriers and even nesting Great-horned Owls. The tour follows public roads that go through rural areas and agricultural fields as well as the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge and three state wildlife areas. The tour is conducted by experts from Hawks Aloft, a raptor rehabilitation and public education organization out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tour leaders work intimately with injured raptors to rehabilitate them for release back into the wild—and their knowledge of birds of prey is both fascinating and endearing. “One of the best things about these tours is learning from the leaders as you drive,” says previous tour participant Deb Callahan. Hawks Aloft also brings a dozen or so hawks, owls and falcons to the festival’s nature and craft fair. The birds cannot be released back into the wild because of permanent injuries, says the nonprofit’s director Gail Garber. It was an educational bird of prey who first sparked her interest in raptors many years ago. She went from being a stay-at-home mom to founding Hawks Aloft. “It never occurred to me that I could be that close to a red-tailed hawk,” she says. “It changed my life.”
*Tours are Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – noon, and leave promptly form the Ski Hi Building at 2389 Sherman Avenue in Monte Vista. Wear cold-appropriate clothing and bring binoculars, water and snacks if desired. Bathrooms will be available at certain stops. Be sure to visit the Hawks Aloft booth at the festival vendor fair!