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Discover the colorful and abundant tropical birds of the border through field trips, seminars, workshops, keynote lectures, children’s programs and a trade show, to be staged Nov. 9-13 in the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium Complex in sunny South Texas. Most importantly, discover and explore the hot spots of birding  in the RGV...



Every November bird enthusiasts from around the globe flock to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to attend one of North America's premiere wildlife events, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. The event, now in it's 12th year, brings world class leaders in the field of birding to what is considered one of the most significant birding regions of the world. Over 250 species of birds have been sighted during the festival and those numbers seem to be growing every  year.

This festival is proving to be a favorite of birders of all interest and skill levels. The expo encompasses a wide scope of activites for both novice birders and bird experts. With seminars, field trips, workshops and lectures to attend, there will be activiies available for just about everyone.

While the hub of activities will be headquartered at the Harlingen municipal complex, the field trips and seminars take place all across the Valley region. These field trips are spectacular. Imagine rafting on a pontoon boat down a river through the massive King Ranch. If you're not a Texan or just haven't heard, the King Ranch was once the largest ranch in the world and sports enough fenceline to reach from New York City to Fargo, North Dakota.

But the Ranch is just one of many field trip destinations that bird lovers will explore and enjoy during the festival.

 
Central to the festival and a favorite of many is the Birder's Bazaar, a perfect place to find the latest gadgets and outdoor gear for nature-watching adventures. With over 60 vendors from across the nation participating this year, you're bound to go home with a special gift or some great new and exciting information or gadget involving the avian world. Children, parents and teachers will really love this market for the many educational products and activities available.

This year's keynote speaker, Tim Gallagher, is a true celebrity among ornithologists. Mr. Gallagher is editor-in-chief of Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Living Bird publication, and an award winning photographer and author. In 2004 he was the first of two qualified observers to see the ivory-billed Woodpecker, who for many years was thought to be extinct. His scheduled address will take you through the events of his adventure and the rediscovery of this elusive bird species.

RVers especially will enjoy participating in the sport of bird watching - and this festival - as you, of all people, experience greater and more frequent birding opportunities, often through the window of your own home on wheels. If you've never been a bird watcher, this is the perfect opportunity to learn about it and add the activity to your list of favorite things to do with your RV.

Don't miss the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival's five days of avian beauty and education, where everyone will find the opportunity to enhance their skills, add to their life-lists, and meet others eager to share the challenge and excitement of birding in deep South Texas.

Other field trip opportunities include:
Anzalduas County Park & Chihuahua Woods
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Sunday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Anzalduas County Park is located on the Rio Grande and contains large bottomland trees, festooned with Spanish Moss. The park is a good place to see kingfishers, possibly all three North American species in one visit, along with the tiny Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet and the somewhat uncommon Black Phoebe. Fee: $35

Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park
Wednesday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Thursday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
The resaca woodlands, floodplain forests, and brushlands at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, headquarters for the World Birding Center, are a haven for many Valley tropical bird species, including favorites like Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and the stunning Altamira Oriole. Even reclusive species such as Olive Sparrow, White-tipped Dove, and Long-billed Thrasher make the park their home. Fee: $35

Brownsville
Wednesday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Sunday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
A visit to the Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary is always interesting, where we hope to see Least Grebe, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Couch’s Kingbird, and Plain Chachalaca. Both Altamira and Hooded orioles are to be found here in winter, and White-tailed Kites are sometimes seen in the regenerating fields outside the palm forest. Fee: $35

Cruise the Arroyo
Saturday, 7:00 a.m.-12 noon
For a family-oriented armchair birding adventure, it's all aboard a 70’ double-deck excursion boat for a ride down the Arroyo Colorado. As you scan the shores for any number of avian specialties, your search may yield such favorites as Green, Ringed, and Belted kingfishers, Green Jay, Green Heron, Reddish Egret, Great Kiskadee, and numerous gull and tern species. You might also catch a glimpse of a dolphin, an alligator, or other wildlife in the water or along the banks.
Fee: $45 adults/$15 youth under 16, accompanied by adult

El Canelo Ranch
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
A pleasant continental breakfast inside the lovely hacienda-style Inn at El Canelo is followed by the chance for a look at the ranch’s famous yard-bird, the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Afterwards, exploration of the grounds might yield South Texas favorites like Wild Turkey, White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Eastern Bluebird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cave Swallow, and a variety of raptors. Upland sparrows are often numerous in fall and may include Grasshopper, Clay-colored, and Cassin’s sparrows. Fee: $55

King Ranch
Thursday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Sunday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Join us for an exciting birding excursion to the Norias Unit of the famed King Ranch, where sandy soil supports alternating patches of grassland, thornscrub, and extensive live oak woodlands. This division of the ranch provides habitat for Wild Turkey, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, and the elusive Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Some of the other birds typically observed include White-tailed Hawk, Olive Sparrow, Vermilion Flycatcher, and the Greater Roadrunner. We may also encounter the Least Grebe, Sprague’s Pipit, LeConte’s Sparrow, and Sedge Wren. These last species are difficult to find at other Festival destinations. Fee: $55

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
Wednesday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Thursday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Sunday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
With more bird sightings than any other refuge in the nation, there is no question that Laguna Atascosa NWR is the Valley's most diverse area for specialties. A stop at the Visitors Center feeding station and water garden might produce looks at Green Jay and other resident species. The refuge’s vast and varied landscape yields the best places for finding a variety of waterbirds like herons and egrets, often including such gems as Roseate Spoonbill and Reddish Egret. The White Pelican and Crested Caracara are regularly seen here, and you might catch a glimpse of one of the refuge's Aplomado Falcons. Fee: $35

Local Wildscaping
Friday, 8:00 a.m.-12 noon
Saturday, 8:00 a.m.-12 noon
Join us for a delightful visit to the yards of local nature enthusiasts, many of whom are involved with the Native Plant Project, and have dedicated areas to attracting birds and other interesting creatures. During this tour, you will view gardens that have successfully combined native plants, ornamentals, and water-features to create bird-friendly environments. Fee: $30
Parrots of the Area
Thursday, 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Friday, 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Saturday, 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Brilliant splashes of green, red, and yellow can be seen around the area as Red-crowned Parrots look for their nightly roosting area. Join in the search as we listen and look for these colorful birds along with their smaller sidekick, the Green Parakeet. Fee: $25

River Pontoon Boat & Quinta Mazatlan
Wednesday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Sunday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Take a leisurely look at the mighty Rio Grande aboard the Riverside Dreamer, a large pontoon boat. A check of the surroundings may yield any number of exciting species such as Least Grebe, Green or Ringed kingfisher, or maybe even a Peregrine Falcon. The banks of the river might produce the elegant and elusive Black Phoebe. Afterwards, we will stop at the new World Birding Center site at Quinta Mazatlan in nearby McAllen for looks at some Valley specialties and fall migrants, especially Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Olive Sparrow, Green Jay, Green Parakeets, and Long-billed Thrasher. Fee: $50

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge  
Wednesday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Thursday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Santa Ana NWR, the jewel of the refuge system, offers the chance to see and hear many of the Valley's unique birds in a beautiful, wild setting. Join us for a stroll through a moss-draped woodland of Texas Ebony and Cedar Elm, as the raucous cries of the Great Kiskadees and Plain Chachalacas break the morning silence. Clay-colored Robins are often found around a small woodland pond. Along the shores of Willow and Pintail Lakes, we will scan the shoreline brush, perhaps discovering the secretive Least Grebe, the diminutive Green Kingfisher or its larger counterpart, the Ringed Kingfisher. Fee: $35

South Padre Island  
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Sunday, 6:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Pristine beaches and sparkling waters make this barrier island the sub-tropical paradise of South Texas. We will start at the Laguna Madre Boardwalk, a birder’s dream spanning a brackish wetland, where you could see Least or American bittern along with a variety of rails. Then, we head to the Island’s urban woodlots where lingering migrants may be spotted. Rounding out the visit, we will cruise the bay to produce good views of Black Skimmers, American Oystercatchers, Piping Plovers, Marbled Godwits, and Roseate Spoonbills, along with an always interesting variety of herons, egrets, and shorebirds. Fee: $55

Upper Rio Grande
Thursday, 5:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Friday, 5:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Saturday, 5:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Acting as a natural highway for a rich assortment of birdlife, the Rio Grande winds like a green ribbon amidst the semi-arid hillsides of Starr County. At the tiny village of Salineño, a literal stone's throw from Mexico, enjoy the spectacle of a very different "rush hour". Here, birds like cormorants, pelicans, ducks, raptors, and songbirds travel from nighttime roosts to favored feeding areas. Fee: $40

Valley Salt Lakes & Edinburg Scenic Wetlands
Thursday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Sunday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Stretching over two counties, the Valley Salt Lakes area provides a wide variety of habitats for species as varied as shorebirds, waders, waterfowl, raptors, wintering sparrows, arid-country birds, and a good selection of Valley specialties. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Snowy Plover, White-tailed and other hawks, and Crested Caracara are fairly common here. Fee: $35

Weslaco
Thursday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Friday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-12 noon
This trip will take you to the mid-Valley town of Weslaco. Visit the new World Birding Center Site at Estero Llano Grande State Park., a restoration of agricultural lands that offers a variety of habitats including wetlands, riparian woodlands, and thornscrub. Expect to see shorebirds, waterfowl, migrants, raptors, and lots of Valley specialties including Black-bellied Whistling Duck. Fee: $35

Zapata & San Ygnacio
Wednesday, 5:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Sunday, 5:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
While the chance to see Say’s Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher and Black-throated Sparrow is alluring, the real reason to visit the Zapata area is for a possible look at the White-collared Seedeater. Fee: $45 (Box lunch provided)

Happy Birding & Happy RVing!

For more information on the festival contact the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce, 1-800-531-7346
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