Each year millions of winged creatures return to the sunny clime of the Texas Rio Grande Valley, their annual wintering grounds.
Over 500 varieties of birds can be found in the Rio Grande Valley, a virtual birding paradise. As the birds come, so come the birders, many having traveled from the other side of the world, each armed with binoculars, cameras, tripods and field books, visiting such birding hot spots as the World Birding Centerís many RGV outlets, the Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, and other natural areas up and down the Valley including the Rio Grande Valley Bosque.
Each fall the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival treats the most dedicated of birdwatchers to a five day birding feast - perhaps we should call it a fest.
You're invited to join in the 14th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival to be headquartered in Harlingen Nov. 7-11 at the Municipal Auditorium. This year's Festival promises to be as rewarding and memorable as ever! With a combination of field trips, workshops, seminars, keynote lectures, children's programs, and a trade show, there is no doubt that there is something for everyone.
The event includes a a series of lectures by some of the top birding experts in the world, and combines plenty of opportunities to visit the birding hot spots of the region. Remember to bring plenty of film/batteries.
One of the highlights of the festival are the many guided birding trips to locations across the Valley, and even into Mexico. Not only can birders visit the real hot spots of the region, but be led by some of the most renowned guides in the birding world.
A few of this yearís trip leaders include:
Backstrom was born and raised in Minnesota, where he cut his "birding teeth." A former member of the Minnesota Ornithological Records Committee, Parker moved to Tucson, Arizona in the 1995 to work for the birdwatching tour company WINGS, but relocated to central North Carolina in 2004. Aside from leading birding trips throughout the U.S., his professional birding background includes stints (pun intended) in the western Aleutian Islands, where he did research on seabird populations, in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, where he conducted breeding bird surveys, and in Duluth, Minnesota, where he worked as hawk counter for Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. Although his current work for the State of North Carolina's Department of Cultural Resources places him behind a desk during the week, weekends find him traversing the mountains, piedmont, and coast learning about a new variety of birds, butterflies, and other natural wonders of his richly varied new home state.
Gavin developed a very early interest in birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles and has steadily pursued these interests while growing up in British Columbia, Virginia Beach, Great Britain and Denmark. Gavin graduated from the University of Victoria with a degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. He studied for one year at the University of Southern Mississippi where he collaborated with their Migratory Bird Study Group. Gavin has worked as a field assistant on a variety of ornithological research projects including studies of the wintering ecology of Henslow's Sparrows, the breeding biology of Interior Least Terns, and the stopover ecology of Swainson's Thrushes and Gray Catbirds. In addition he conducted point counts for the National Park Service in Arizona and New Mexico. He has traveled extensively through Western Europe, North and West Africa, Bolivia, Peru, Panama, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, and Alaska.
Bob spent 22 years leading birding tours and assessed sites for five of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and Great Texas Wildlife Trail maps, the World Birding Center, and trails in Virginia, Maryland, Kansas and West Texas. During the last seven years, Bob has been a presenter and field trip leader for birding, dragonfly, and butterfly festivals and workshops in Texas, Arizona, and California. He has authored or co-authored more than 40 popular and scientific papers concerning fishes, birds, dragonflies, and butterflies in the U.S. and Latin America.
Jeff has been active as a research biologist and professional tour leader for over 22 years. As a professional research biologist, Jeff worked across the country and finally landed in Alaska, where he guided professionally for 6 years. He served as a contributing author for the ABA Bird-finding Guides to Alaska, as well as Florida where he now resides. For the past three years, Jeff has worked as the Product Specialist to the Birder/Naturalists Markets for Leica Sport Optics. In this capacity, Jeff travels the country leading trips and presenting on a variety of wildlife topics at bird and nature festivals throughout the year. He writes many feature articles on birds and birding for various publications including a regular column in WildBird magazine summarizing birding adventures with his 8 year-old son, Austin.
SEMINARS THIS YEAR
Thursday, Nov. 8, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
TThe Gray-headed Chickadee (a.k.a. Siberian Tit) is the most difficult North American resident to see. Little is known of this small bird within its North American range, which is our continent's most remote and roadless regions. You must go deep into Alaska's wilderness to see it, into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of oil politics fame. See how far a group of Texans will go for a new bird, relive with us an expedition into spectacular country to find the elusive Chickadee and the experiences, sights, and birds encountered along the way.
Speakers: AARON LANG, BOB DITTRICK and LISA MOOREHEAD
What's In a Name
Thursday, Nov. 8, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
From Avocet to Yellowlegs, from accipiter to zenaida ÖÖ..who deemed these words to be the correct bird names? What do they mean? Where did these words come from and why were they chosen? Are they always a perfect fit? Are they politically correct? We will also take a look at the whimsical, strange and occasional fantasy connection behind the origins of some bird names.
Speaker: ADRIAN BINNS is a naturalist and field ornithologist who grew up in Morocco and was educated in England.
Natural History of the Rio Grande Valley
Thursday, Nov. 8, 7:00 p.m.
Birders know Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley as the home of chachalacas and green jays, of great kiskadees and ringed kingfishers. However, the Valley teems with other flora and fauna found nowhere else in the United States. The trees and shrubs, mammals, butterflies and moths, and reptiles and amphibians also add interest to any birding day afield. Meet many of these unusual species through the Tvetens' color images and learn of the treasures that await an observant visitor to the tip of Texas.
Speakers: JOHN and GLORIA TVETEN are full-time freelance naturalists, writers, and photographers.
Watching Birds Naked
Friday, Nov. 9, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Are birds really "bird brains"? Do they taste "good"? Can eagles see farther than humans? Why are most owls as blind as we are on a dark night? How does a kestrel use ultraviolet light to catch mice? Which birds smell the best? These are just some of the questions answered in this humorous but educational slide show on the sensory ecology of birds. Remove those beautiful coats of feathers and you'll discover that birds have some of the most incredible physical and physiological adaptations to keep them in tune with their environment and with each other. You'll never look at birds in the same way again.
Speaker: DR. DAVID BIRD is a professor of Wildlife Biology and Director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Birding Association, and an elected member representing Canada on the prestigious International Ornithological Committee.
Warblers of North America
Friday, Nov. 9, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Warblers at times can be difficult to identify but the challenge is well worth it! Join us as we learn of distinguishing marks, behavior and characteristics that help us sort through these amazing and popular birds.
Speaker: JON DUNN needs little, if any, introduction! He is the author of the Peterson Field Guide to Warblers and chief consultant for the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Jon has extensive knowledge of the identification and distribution of North American birds, is on committees of ABA, the AOU and the California Bird Records Committee and is a senior leader for WINGS, Inc.
The Lighter Side of Birding
Friday, Nov. 9, 7:00 p.m.
Journey around the world as we enjoy a light hearted look at some intriguing observations and amusing tales (that appeal to my twisted sense of humor) that I have witnessed or been part of while leading tours to many wonderful birding destinations.
Speaker: ADRIAN BINNS is past president of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC), one of the oldest bird clubs in the country and a member of the Nikon/DVOC World Series of Birding Team and Nikon Pro Staff, Adrian is an accomplished avian illustrator and photographer as well as being a regular contributor to Ponds Magazine.
Hawks in Flight
Saturday, Nov. 10, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Using the book Hawks In Flight, the Flight Identification of North American Raptors as a basis, we will focus on the holistic method of hawk identification, where ID's are made on silhouette, shapes, behavior, and movement, a method which goes far beyond the standard field marks. Not only will basic raptor ID be covered, but there will be an emphasis on South Texas species - expected specialties and rarities. This focused review will draw from the soon to be published Second Edition of Hawks in Flight. This in-depth look will be the perfect primer for hawk watching anywhere in South Texas and the American West.
Speaker: CLAY SUTTON is a life-long resident of Cape May, where he has worked as an Environmental Planner, Environmental Program Administrator, Vice-President of an environmental consulting firm specializing in threatened and endangered species.
How to Spot Butterflies in South Texas and Elsewhere
Saturday, Nov. 10, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
South Texas, with its sub-tropical climate boasts over 300 species of butterflies! We will uncover mysteries about their life cycles, relationships to the plant world, odd behaviors, survival in a world filled with hungry predators, the migration of some species, restricted ranges of others, specialties of South Texas, and of course how and where to "spot" butterflies. Backed by much of this knowledge and understanding, difficult identification begins to fall into place. The North American Butterfly Association's 100-acre "International Butterfly Park" near Mission, Texas, and the many other famous South Texas butterfly hotspots will be highlighted.
Speaker: PAT SUTTON lives near Cape May, New Jersey, the world renowned migratory crossroads famous for its hawk, owl, songbird, shorebird, and Monarch butterfly migration.
Past, Present, and Future
Saturday, Nov. 10, 7:00 p.m.
A story of past lessons learned from days growing up in the wild British birding scene, from travels around the world to living in Cape May. Told in a Yorkshire brogue through a Camera lens that loves color and art. But what of birding in the future - perhaps this will change your thoughts!
Speaker: RICHARD CROSSLEY is an Englishman who traveled the world studying birds but fell in love with Cape May and its incredible birding and where he now resides. He became seriously obsessed with bird photography while co-authoring the critically acclaimed The Shorebird Guide published in Spring 2006. His background gives him a unique perspective of the World and Birds.