This year, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival celebrates its 20th year, and takes place in Harlingen, Texas from November 6 – 10th.
“You REALLY ought to get the Rio Grande Valley Birding festival, Laura,” said a friend of mine years ago. “It’s one of the biggest festivals of the year, it attracts great people, and the BIRDS down there are fabulous.”
Having since attended the festival (cool story here), I can’t say it any better.
The Rio Grande Valley in Texas is one of the top birding destinations in the United States. This is due in large part to its subtropical climate, which supports a unique avifauna not found anywhere else in the United States. This includes birds such as Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Audubon’s Oriole, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Olive Sparrow, Clay-colored Thrush, Great Kiskadee, Common Pauraque, and several others.
The birding alone is enough reason to venture to southern Texas, but top birding talent is another. Participants get to bird with some of the most knowledgable birders in the country (and the world). These are the authors and editors of your favorite books and publications as well as the movers and shakers in science, conservation, and education.
As always, a full slate of field trips to key sites will bring birdwarchers a large number of Texas specialties. Locations include: South Padre Island, Upper Rio Grande, Estero Llano State Park, Weslaco, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, King Ranch, Sabal Palm Sanctuary, and more.
On these trips, visitors will reach for target birds such as Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe, Hook-billed Kite (rare), Groove-billed Ani (rare), Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbird, Hooded and Altamira Oriole, American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Snowy and Piping Plovers, Willet, Rose-throated Becard (rare), Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (rare), Vermillion Flycatcher, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, and of course, American alligator. See the link to a full species list (below)
This year, major speakers include Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson, authors of the break-through volume, “The Warbler Guide,” the estimable Kenn Kaufman, retired USFWS biologist Steve Thompson, speaking on Aplomado Falcons, and the ever-insightful Victor Emanuel of VENT Bird Tours, speaking about the allure of birds through the ages.
In addition, fantastic seminars and workshops will be held:
- Birding By Ear, with Michael O’Brien
- Get Started Birding, with Norma Friedrich, Richard Walton, Ben Lizdas, and Kay Baughman
- The Plume Hunter, with Renee Thompson
- The Psychology of Bird Identification, with David Allen Sibley
- Hummers of Texas, with Cliff Shackelford
- Adventures of the Urban Birder, with David Lindo
- How and Why Manakins Rock, with Kimberly Bostwick
And, of course, no Valley fest is complete without the Great South Texas Birding Quiz show, hosted by Jeff Gordon, president of the American Birding Association. In fact, that statement alone deserves bells and flashing lights.
Nature Travel Network thoroughly recommends this festival… The combination of warm weather, exotic habitats, tropical birds, and great people make this an editor’s pick if there ever was one. For a full run-down of varied activities visit their website at rgvbf.org. Hurry, field trips fill up quickly!
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