Vintage Birding Course

What would it be like to immerse yourself in the life of a birder        100 years ago?

How did these early naturalists do it?

What clothing and equipment did they use?  

What techniques were they implementing that made them such talented naturalists and nature artists?



What would it be like to allow yourself the space to become intimate with the birds you are observing because you actually have the time to do so?


Desert DAWN’s Vintage Birding Course provides you the means, the time and the instruction for such an excursion back in time and back into nature.  



Vintage Birding 2.jpgThe late 19th and early 20th century was the heyday of camping and nature connection. People came in droves to the forests, mountains and deserts for respite from an increasingly urban and industrial culture. They sought to reconnect to their not-so-distant forbears, and to be reacquainted with the wilderness. One of the pastimes that sprang from this movement was bird watching. Birders of the time followed in the footsteps of John Audubon, Merriweather Lewis and William Clark

Boulder Mountain, Utah ~ May 6th – 12th, 2018


Vintige birding photo.jpgIn addition to immersing yourself in the ambiance and romance of this time period, gaining hands-on experience using the skills and equipment of the early birding camps, you will come away having gained effective time-honored tools to enhance your proficiency in birding, nature observation and nature artistry.

We will leisurely explore the high-desert landscape learning how to identify a bird by its song, and then we will picnic with our fellow naturalists as we scour the field guides, all along with a dedicated mentors by your side.

Bird Watching

Whether you are brand new to the world of birding or already have a strong base knowledge, you will quickly improve your skills of identification, expand your awareness and build your repertoire of bird calls.

  • The 7 Questions to Mastering Bird Identification and The Art of Questioning and Observation, the keys to identifying a bird by the flick of its tail, the signature swoop it makes in flight or its distinctive silhouette atop a far-off tree.
  • You will also become adept at the skills of deep bird language, bird behavior, habitat coding, field-mark identification, bird tracking, and bird song.

Nature Artistry

  • Explore the pleasures of drawing nature, learning from an art instructor who uses techniques that are quick to master.
  • Spend the afternoon sketching birds under the tutelage of a seasoned artist.
  • Fashion a traditional quill pen, the likes of which your ancestors may have used, and discover the techniques of using the quill pen as you record the days events in your nature journal.

Nature Observation

  • Experience reading the landscape to locate, observe and identify birds and other natural activities;
  • Discover the art of nature journaling, which will allow your mind to return to the experience years later.  Your nature journal will help you recall not only what you saw but also what your other senses experienced.
  •  You will be amazed at the things that were previously were overlooked.  Your new perspective will heighten all your future excursions into nature.

Woodcraft Camping

  • Cooking dinner over the campfire is rich with history, back to the time when the human species was young.   The techniques of campfire cooking are about learning to make a smokeless fire, learning to control the heat so as not to scorch the meal and learning how to enjoy the experience of cooking
  • Sleep under the stars (or inside the comfort of a canvas tent) on a cozy bed you made from natural materials.

All Skill Levels Are Welcome.


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Lower Bowns Reservoir is located in the transition zone between the Ponderosa Forest and the Pinon & Juniper Forest, a perfect blend of Upper Desert and Montane Eco-systems.

We will have our basecamp within the beautiful and diverse Dixie National Forest, at an elevation of 7,200 ft.  The camp is located near a lake with various other riparian zones within a short hike from camp.  The camp is graced with expansive vistas.  We will enjoy extensive views toward Boulder Mountain as well as the desert valleys, which are surrounded by Redrock mesas and Navajo Sandstone domes.Our camp will be in the transition zone between high desert and mountain ecosystems.  This location will provide us with the opportunity to experience various wildlife habitats such as pinyon/ juniper forest, sagebrush flats, lush riparian canyons and montane forests.

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Canvas tents and a campfire for cooking the foundation of a cozy woodland basecamp.

Traditional woodcraft base camps of the early 1900’s where designed for “smoothing it” rather than “roughing it”.   Campers took respite to nature to relax, enjoy and reenergize.  Naturalist activities surrounding the camp engaged the campers with the natural environment, with the affect of cleansing the mind, body and soul.  Desert Dawn basecamps are modeled on these early camps.  We use canvas tents, within which a person can stand.  We prepare the meals over the campfire, which enhances not only the flavor but the experience as well.   You sleep on soft mattresses, which are made from natural materials, so you awake refreshed and ready for the day’s experiences.

Discover the True Naturalist within Yourself.

Sample Daily Schedule 

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The Bird Sit, a rare opportunity to slow down and observe.

6:20 – 7:00 – Bird Sit

7:00 – 7:30 – Recap of morning sit

7:30 – 9:00 – Breakfast & Tending to camp

9:00 – 9:30 – Activity

9:30 – 12:00 – Lessons

12:00 – 1:00 – Lunch

1:00 – 2:30 –  Siesta / Projects

2:30 – 4:30 – Lessons

4:30 – 6:00 – Snack & Art

6:00 – 7:00 – Dinner

7:00 –7:30 – Evening Bird Sit

7:30 – 8:00 – Recap of evening sit

8:00 – 9:00 – Campfire Stories & Leisure Time

Early to BED


Boulder Mountain, near Boulder, Utah


May 6th – 12th, 2018


1 Monumental Location

4 Professional Instructors

6 Amazing Days in Nature


Tuition includes:

Birding, Artistic, Naturalist and Woodcraft Camping Lessons by Professional Instructors

Art and Nature Journal Supplies

Completely Outfitted Basecamp 

All Meals and Snacks

(You simply bring your clothes and a few items of gear.)                                                   See the Clothing & Gear List


_____ $2,250 _____


The vintage birding course is a collaboration between Desert DAWN and the BirdMentor.   Follow this link to the BirdMentor’s site for the course.

You may Click to Register through the BirdMentor’s site.

You may Contact Desert DAWN to register by phone.

Do you have questions about the course?

Our instructors are happy to hear from you and excited to help with your questions.

If you have questions regarding:

Camp life – camp supplies, food, tents, location details, etc.

Contact Jeff Sanders at Desert DAWN

Birds – binoculars, who we might see, what you can expect to learn, etc

Contact Kristi Dranginis at Bird Mentor

Art  – what medium we’ll be working in, what you can expect to learn, etc

Contact Mark Edwards by email at



The Vintage Birding Course brings together four instructors who are accomplished in their respective fields of birding, nature art, nature observation and woodcraft camping to provide this unique experience exploring nature.

Kristi Dranginis 

Kristi has been a birder for 25 years. She is the founder of where she teaches advanced birding skills, bird language and deep nature connection to people all around the world.  She is known for igniting curiosity, child-like passion and building confidence in her students.

She leads birding courses at primitive skills events like Rabbit Stick, Winter Count, Saskatoon Circle, The 4 Corners Earth Skills gathering and for organizations like the Boulder Outdoor Survival School & The Powerhouse Science Center.  Kristi is also a Field Ornithologist, Naturalist, Herbalist, and Photographer.

Kristi is a conspirator on the Dipper Project, a research project established in 2015 to study the effects of the Gold King Mine spill on the avian world.  She also leads birding tours for the Mesa Verde Bird Festival, the Durango Bird Club and private groups around the 4 corners region.

She has volunteered at bird banding projects on Great Gull Island, focusing on the Roseate & Common Terns, as well as migratory birds at Oxbow Preserve and hummingbirds at Mesa Verde National Park.

Mark Edwards 

Mark started life in a wall tent, born into a subsistence community in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains of Washington. His earliest memories involve traveling with his family throughout the state picking seasonal fruit, netting candlestick fish on the Columbia River, and gathering firewood and timber with hand saws and Percheron work horses.

Mark credits his love of the natural world to his father,  a classically trained fine artist and avid naturalist.

Mark currently works as an arborist and an art teacher, splitting his time between the upper canopy of the Pacific Northwest and working with adults and youth on the forest floor.

Over the last 15 years he has worked for a host of schools and organizations focusing his teachings on nature-based art projects and awareness building, including Eco-Art sculpture and observation week-long workshops with The Overlake School, youth-lead mural projects with InterMountain Americorps, a nature awareness workshop with the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute, and nature and art immersion through the week-long programs offered at PYE Global.

Matt Furches

Matt found his love of nature as a child growing up in rural Southeastern Pennsylvania, this region is Amish country, where self-sufficiency and an inter-dependent lifestyle are the tenants of life.  In addition to where he lived, a tattered birding field guide illustrated by John J. Audubon – found while perusing an antique store at age 12 – and a pair of binoculars became the beginnings of Matt’s naturalist studies.

After college Matt spent 8 years working as a zookeeper, which provided a rare opportunity to learn more about animals and their ways, he became a teaching assistant with Tom Laskowski of Midwest Native Skills Institute and Tony Nester of Ancient Pathways and now works as a senior guide at Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS).

Currently Matt lives with his wife Pam in a “tiny house” in Boulder, UT where he gets to use his camp craft skills every day.

Jeff Sanders

Jeff started working in the outdoor industry in 1993 and began his guiding career in 1998 as a hiking and biking guide in Alaska.   He then became an instructor and eventually Program Director at Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS), one of the premier survival schools in the country.

In 2012 Jeff chose to follow his passion and founded Desert DAWN to focus on teaching woodcraft camping skills using basic gear items and the resources that nature provides.

Jeff lives a rural lifestyle with his wife and daughter in south central Utah.  It is here that they enjoy learning through nature in the mountains of their backyard – Boulder Mountain – and the desert and canyons of their front yard – the Escalante River canyon system.


Join us for this Unique Old-time Naturalist Experience.

Boulder Mountain, Utah ~ May 6th – 12th, 2018

Contact Desert DAWN to Register or for Additional Information