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A v e 9 l 1 d a n v a i r t g s e f Rio g th

n i d bir

White-tailed Hawk Buteo albicaudatus By John Schmitt

No v e mb e r

7 - 11

2 0 12

Harlingen, tx

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Atascosa Outlook B&B, Bobby & Robin Farris, Boggus Ford, Canopy Tower and Lodge/Panama, Golden Palms Health & Retirement Center, Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kowa Optimed, Opticron, Valley Transit Company, Vanguard Optics


President – Danny Hoehne Treasurer – Wanda Greenhill

Vice President – David Schibi Secretary – Norma Friedrich

Chair – Marci Fuller Kay Baughman Claire Baker Cheryle Beck F.P. (Tony) Bennett Bob Binney Erny Colunga Nick Consiglio Mark Conway Dan Cravens David Friedrich Liz Gordon Sue Griffin

Mary Gustafson Joyce Hamilton Gene Hanvy Susan Hoehne Huck Hutchens Lupita Lucio Liisa Mattson Diana Miller Diane Moore Phil Nelson Morgan Pate Irma Pye

Barbara Rapstein Kenny Salazar Beto Silva Mona Sizer Susan Stapleton Stan Sterba Billy Snider Dorothy Timm Marilyn Vincent Fran Wolpin John Yochum Robin & Troy Zurovec

*A very special THANKS to: Courtney Junkin, Sonny Martinez, and Hope Davó of the Harlingen Convention and Visitors Bureau. Also, the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Harlingen. You are the wind beneath our wings. 02

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© Larry Ditto

The Green Jays and Kiskadees are calling you…

…to the 19th annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Make this the year that you find out for yourself just why this granddaddy of nature events is held in such high esteem. Topnotch leaders and speakers, warm and affordable Harlingen, and of course, the biggest concentration of unique species in the U.S. Join us! –Bienvenidos! From the Volunteers of the RGVBF


Field Trips ………...…....….......…........… . . . . . . . . 4 -15, 18 -19 Schedule …..…….....…....…....…......... . . … . . . . . . . . . . . 16, 17 Special, Pre- and Post - Festival Trip ………… … … . . . . . . . . . 20,21 Seminars / Keynotes …………….…....….... . . . . . … . . . . . . . . . 22-27 S p e cial Events / Trade Show / Family Activities … . . . … . . . 2 8 - 29 FA Q ’s: How to Register / Area Informati o n … … … . . . … . . . 30 Artist: We’re calling it The Year of the Raptor here at the RGVBF, and are proud to feature White-tailed Hawk as our year’s bird and John Schmitt as our chosen artist. His fine work has enriched National Geographic Field Guide to Birds, Field Guide to Raptors of Europe, Middle East, and North Africa, Living Bird, and more. Photographers: The stunning images scattered throughout the brochure are the work of our two Festival photography professionals, Ruth Hoyt and Larry Ditto. If you’re a photo buff, check out their trip and workshop offerings in Field Trips.


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© Larry Ditto

The RGVBF has long been famed for its low ratio of participants to leaders, and, also, the quality of its leaders. You may find yourself in the field with Jon Dunn, National Geographic Field Guide, Bill Thompson, BirdWatcher’s Digest, Michael O’Brien and Kevin Karlson, The Shorebird Guide, Bill Clark, Peterson’s Hawks of North America, Jeffrey Gordon, ABA President…and the list doesn’t end there!


TRANSIT walk min. or hrs. each way

slow, but long


at site or on bus

box lunch

scope useful





ebird friendly


Important notes on trips: Scopes and Camera are fine on most trips--the icons just designate a better opportunity for their use. Be prepared for sun and bugs on all trips. The bus/van designation may change, as we reserve the right to make adjustments as needed. Be aware than a van trip means a limited space trip, and one that probably sells out quickly. A * designates a special offering—a trip that’s new or a trip with a distinctive leader or a trip that might be offered only this year. Also, check out the sidebars for special interest trip recommendations. Always, refer to for the latest trip updates. Please stay in or near Harlingen during the Festival. Trips can not be met at the sites.


ALVARO’S ADVENTURE Fee: $75 / Wed, Fri, 6a – 12n

A chance to be in the field with Alvaro Jaramillo, author of BirdWatcher’s Digest Identify Yourself column and Princeton’s Birds of Chile, international leader and expert on gulls and Latin American species! Plus a return to the famous Brownsville Dump (weather permitting) and a visit to the well-loved tropical Sabal Palm Sanctuary! Put these all together and it’ll be a trip not-to-be-missed. Targets: Garbage and Sabal palms a guarantee, fun and information also guaranteed. Otherwise some great birding, and maybe even some gulls. Related Offerings: Check out Alvaro’s two Seminars.


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Look above and beyond the picnic tables and the playground—Anzalduas will surprise and delight. You’ll understand why this riverside area’s fame goes beyond its county park status, and why it’s one of Bird Watcher’s Digest editor Bill Thompson’s favorite Valley spots. The mature ash and live oak can hold quite a variety of species, both resident and rare. Time permitting, we’ll include some waterbird-watching at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands World Birding Center. Targets: Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Zone-tailed Hawk (rare), Gray Hawk, Hook-billed Kite (rare), wintering warblers, kinglets, Green and Ringed Kingfisher. Related Offerings: Bill’s two Seminars.

BENTSEN-RIO GRANDE STATE PARK Fee: $50 / Fri, Sat 6a – 12n

A mere state park? Nope. As the headquarters for the World Birding Center, Bentsen breaks its bounds into world renown, both for birds and butterflies. The forests are home to many of the Valley’s bird specialties, the ramped tower gives great views into the skies, and the gardens surrounding the green-designed Visitor’s Center sport exciting butterfly sightings as well. Targets: Plain Chachalaca, Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, White-tipped Dove, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole.


BETTER BIRDING w/ JON DUNN Fee: $75 / Thu, Fri 7a – 1p

This is not your standard trip. Jon Dunn, author of the Peterson Field Guide to Warblers and co-author of both the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America and Birding Essentials will lead a limited lucky few for a special inthe-field learning experience at Estero Llano Grande State Park. This exceptional, intimate offering will sell out fast, so don’t miss the chance to meet and learn from one of America’s most esteemed birders. Goals: Learning how to look at birds, a better understanding of classification, and new skills to put to use wherever you go birding.


Trips that are designed with the Photographer’s pace in mind or that feature special shooting opportunities:

• Photo Ops with Ruth Hoyt • South Texas Photo Safari Pre-Fest Trip • Photographing Nature with Larry Ditto • Extreme Raptor Photoshoot • Butterflies-RGV Jewels • Raptor Banding


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© Ruth Hoyt


BIG DAY VANS Fee: $85 / Wed 6a – 4:30p

Ever hear about Big Days and wonder what it would be like? Here’s your chance to get in on the action of one of our most talked about trips. Some call it ‘whirlbirding’--fast and furious fun. Prepare to be flexible, as destinations will be chosen by your skilled leaders, exercise those speedy get-on-it skills, and wear your fast shoes! Multiple vans will go out, bound for birds and friendly competition. A great choice for Festival returnees, or even the adventurous first-timer (though no lingering for lifers!). Goals: Racking up an impressive day list—Valley specialties, anything, everything!

BIRDING 101 WORKSHOP Fee: $50 / Sat 8a – 4p

Get hooked on this fast-growing and widespread hobby. Learn or refresh the basics of birding—both visual and sound identification—in a combination of classroom tips and field trip fun. All this at Laguna Atascosa, the nation’s birdiest wildlife refuge, with top Valley birder Brad McKinney, A Birder’s Guide to the RGV and A Checklist of Lower RGV Birds. His co-leaders are none other than Jon Dunn, author of the Nat Geo Field Guide, and Kim Eckert, veteran leader with Victor Emmanuel Nature Tours. Goals: Developing basic birding skills, learning how to identify birds on your own, and seeing a nice variety of birds in the field.


BIRDING by EAR w/ MICHAEL O’BRIEN Fee: $75 / Thu, Fri 6a – 12n

Join well-known guide and author Michael O’Brien (Flight Calls of Migratory Birds CD-ROM, The Shorebird Guide, Peterson Field Guides) in this workshop designed to develop and improve your ability to describe and identify bird songs and calls. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, with its mix of Texas thorn-scrub, freshwater marsh, and adjacent farm fields, will provide a rich diversity of bird sounds. Goals: To improve your field identification skills, and recognize many of Santa Ana’s common bird sounds by the end of the morning.


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FIELD TRIPS BREAKFAST w/ the BIRDS at RIO COSTERO RANCH Fee: $50 / Sun 7a – 12n Special Guests Julie Zickefoose, Bill Thompson and family, and Al Batt! Come enjoy true Texas hospitality and a delightful breakfast in a tranquil setting. The new owners of this 1,000 acre ranch near Laguna Atascosa are working with local, state and federal experts, energetically converting it from a historic hunting ranch to an ecologically balanced wildlife habitat, and will be proud to welcome you to their classic ranch. We suggest this trip for those that will enjoy some light birding, see conservation work in progress, learn area natural history, and unwind with a mimosa breakfast on this last day of the Festival. Related Offerings: Check out the seminars and keynotes by Julie, Bill, and Al.


Adjacent to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary is a little-known jewel of shared habitat— the Nature Conservancy’s Southmost Preserve. Festival-goers are being allowed access by special arrangement, so don’t miss the chance to visit this unique area, home to many of our specialties. Plus, a drive toward the Gulf on Boca Chica Road will offer a completely different habitat, one of coastal lagoons and oak motts. Targets: Least Grebe, White-tailed Kite, Aplomado Falcon, Groove-billed Ani, Buffbellied Hummingbird, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Cassin’s Sparrow, Hooded and Altamira Oriole. Important: There is a US Border Patrol Check Station on Boca Chica Road. Make sure you have your official ID along. Participants without proper identification will not be permitted to board. If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, please contact us.


Let’s be students for a bit and start our birding trip at the University of Texas in Brownsville. An interesting wild resaca (oxbow) of the Rio Grande curves through campus, sheltering waterbirds and songbirds. Plus the palms in this area are wellknown as a prime place to search for both parrots and parakeets. Then on to the nearby and relatively new Resaca de la Palma World Birding Center, the largest tract in the WBC system, where several semi-tropical habitats should yield Valley species as well. Targets: Least Grebe, waterbirds, White-tailed Kite, White-Tipped Dove, Green Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot, Groove-billed Ani, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Great Kiskadee, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Bewick’s Wren, wintering songbirds.


For those that need minimal walking:

• Breakfast with the Birds • Easy, But Not Less • Parrots of the Area • Raptor Banding • River Pontoon


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© Larry Ditto

BUTTERFLIES — RGV JEWELS Fee: $75 / Sat 9a – 2p

South Texas natural treasures are not just avian--lepidoptera (butterflies) also offer fascinating and unique species here in the Valley. Did you know that the list of recorded butterfly species for just one of our parks goes beyond that of most entire state lists? Join our lep experts and visit the epicenter of American butterflying, the unique National Butterfly Center park and gardens. Targets: Mexican Bluewing, Bordered Patch, Texas Crescent, Guava Skipper, Potrillo Skipper, Mazan’s Scallopwing, Malachite. Note: Lunch now included.


CANOE the ARROYO COLORADO Fee: $75 / Fri 7a – 1p

How about a bit of adventure? Want to see a Valley river as the Snowy Egret does? Can you paddle and handle a canoe, or want to learn? Then join us in a downstream journey which promises to be an exciting, productive, and unusual birding experience. Targets: Neotropical Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Green and Ringed Kingfisher, Great Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, plus hawks and waders. Note: Bank climb remotely possible. Moderate to intense boating. Restrooms available at site, start and end. Much sun. Wear shoes, clothing that can get wet. Conducted by Friends of Santa Ana.


First trip to the Valley? Here are the famous not-to-be-missed sites:


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• Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park • Estero Llano Grande State Park • King Ranch • Laguna Atascosa NWR • Santa Ana NWR • South Padre Island • Upper Rio Grande

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FIELD TRIPS CHASE VAN Fee: $50 / Sun 6a – 12n/1p

Want to chase that rare bird found on one of our trips? Missing some target birds? Hop on to one of our Chase Vans, and hang onto your hat! Call it ‘Leader’s Choice,’ call it the ‘Clean-up Van,’ but be prepared to be flexible and have fun. Vans will divide up and head to various destinations in search of species chosen during the event from up-to-the-minute reports and field trip checklists. Check the clipboards that will be at the Registration Desk on the day prior. Targets: Whatever’s hot! No guarantees!


Beginners are always welcome on all trips. Some sites are easier for new birders to spot birds and enjoy their trip. We recommend:


• Birding 101 • Bentsen State Park • Field Artistry • Laguna Atascosa NWR • River Pontoon • Santa Ana NWR • Weslaco

COLLEY’S ‘PRIVATE’ ISLAND Fee: $85 / Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun 6a – 1p

A special version of the South Padre Island trip, with island naturalists Scarlet and George Colley of Fins2Feathers. Scarlet is well-known for her years-long dolphin research, and the Colley’s are strong voices for Island and surrounding Gulf areas conservation. Enjoy being out on the Laguna Madre bay in one of their two pontoon boats (weather permitting) and exploring the unique coastal lagoon eco-systems. Targets: Dolphins, Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, Sora, Snowy and Piping Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Marbled Godwit, gulls, terns, and possible Mangrove (Yellow) Warbler.


EASY (BUT NOT LESS!) BIRDING TOUR Fee: $50 / Thu, Fri, Sat 7a – 1p

Prefer or need less walking? This trip is designed for you. Bird from pleasant trams or electric carts that leisurely loop the wildlife drives and back roads of three different, famous Valley refuges. The line-up is:

• Thursday--Bentsen State Park • Friday--Estero Llano Grande State Park • Saturday--Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Therefore, this is a trip that can be taken all three days. Targets: See listings for each of these sites, in descriptions above and below. Note: Entering and exiting vehicles and some walking at site still necessary. Restrooms available at site, but not on vehicles. These trips are made possible by the generosity of Valley Nature Center, Santa Ana NWR, and the World Birding Centers.


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© Larry Ditto

eBIRD—The TRIP Fee: $75 / Wed 7a – 3p

It’s eBird’s Tenth Anniversary and what an amazing addition to the birding world— for both hobbyist and scientist birders, blurring the lines between them. Bird and eBird with project leader Brian Sullivan of the famed Cornell Lab of Ornithology at the myriad and productive park offerings in Weslaco. The day will conclude with sightings entry. Goals: Compile a good day list of Valley specialties and learn how to use eBird— what it can do for you and you can do for it. Related Offering: eBird-Global Tools, in Seminars


An in-depth exploration of one of the World Birding Center system’s hottest sites. Reclaimed wetlands, marshes, and ponds--all part of the Arroyo Colorado--are fine habitats for shorebirds, waders, waterfowl, and beyond (keep your eyes out for the gator!). Add in boardwalks, trails through mature woodlands and thornscrub, active butterfly gardens, and a green-design visitor center--and you’ll see why ELG has skyrocketed into deserved eco-fame. Related offering: Weslaco trip, below. Targets:Cinnamon Teal, a wide variety of herons and egrets, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Eastern Screech-Owl, Rose-throated Becard (rare), Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (rare), Vermillion Flycatcher, Sedge Wren, Black-throated Gray Warbler, alligator.

FIELD ARTISTRY Fee: $75 / Wed 7a – 3p

Ever felt like some birders see more detail on birds than you do? Ever wanted to rise to that next level of observation skill? A way to accomplish this is by sketching birds in the field, which forces a much more critical attention to detail than standard observation. This outing will take place at Weslaco’s famed Estero Llano Grande, where an abundance of wading birds, waterfowl, and feeder birds will provide ample subject. An indoor segment may be included. Learn a variety of tips and tricks from four nationally-known bird artists. Some artistic ability is helpful, but not required. It is not the outcome, but rather the process that heightens observation skills. Note: Bring pad, pencils, eraser, and eyes. 10

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FIELD TRIPS KING RANCH NORIAS Fee: $85 / Thu, Fri, Sun 6a – 1p

The Valley is separated from the rest of Texas by mile after mile of grass-oak-thornscrub ranchland, and it’s mostly the famed King Ranch, one of the largest ranches in the world (larger than Rhode Island!). This popular trip will give you access to the Norias Unit, one of the state’s first wildlife reserves and established by the famed Kleberg family. Special species from this special region await. Targets: Wild Turkey, Least Grebe, White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Greater Roadrunner, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Vermilion Flycatcher, Sprague’s Pipit, Olive and Cassin’s Sparrows, Audubon’s Oriole.



A special version of our already-popular King Ranch trip, above. Beyond the unique avian offerings, this more northerly section is special for three reasons. First, Festival access to the infrequently birded Santa Gertrudis Division (named after the original Spanish land grant purchased by Captain King), which has an abundance of both wetland and upland habitats. Second, American Birding Association President Jeffrey Gordon personally leads. And third, a ‘ranch-style’ lunch for fun! Targets: Masked Duck (very rare), Least Grebe, White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Say’s Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Sprague’s Pipit. ! Note: Ferruginous Pygmy¬-Owl is not possible on this portion of the ranch. Important: There is a US Border Patrol Check Station at Sarita. Make sure you have your official ID along. Participants without proper identification will not be permitted to board this trip. If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, please contact us.

Important: King Ranch Santa Gertrudis, Brownsville East, & Whooper trips: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Check Stations are involved with these trips. Each vehicle is subject to a quick inspection and basic questions. The process is routine, most stops are brief. All passengers need to carry one piece of proper identification (Drivers License, Passport, Student ID card) to verify U.S. Citizenship. Foreign nationals must have all appropriate documentation to avoid delay or detainment. Border Patrol agents are required to determine the immigration status of every traveler. Participants without proper ID will not be permitted to board vehicles. Start meeting your fellow Festival-goers! Join up on the RIO GRANDE VALLEY BIRDING FESTIVAL pages of Facebook and Twitter!


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© Ruth Hoyt

LAGUNA ATASCOSA NWR Fee: $50 / Fri, Sat, Sun 6a – 12n

Which National Wildlife Refuge has more bird species recorded than any other? Yup, this one. Its vast and varied landscape offers up habitats from woodlands to wetlands, lomas to lagoons. Plus the exceptional Visitor Center feeding stations and blinds are the place for potential up-close sightings and prime photo-ops. Keep your eyes open for javelina here, too. Targets: American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Snowy and Piping Plovers, Willet, Groove-billed Ani, Green Jay.


LEND A HAND TRIP Fee: $25 / Sat 7a – 1p

Here’s your chance to give back! Festival trips make full use of the Valley’s forests, but did you know that only a mere 7% of previous natural woodlands exists? The Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge system has ongoing work in the revegetation of tracts in high priority areas. Join US Fish and Wildlife staff planting trees and adding significantly to the Valley’s conservation efforts. A couple hours of shovel-wielding and then the reward—a chance to bird normally closed-to-the-public refuge tracts! Goals: Playing a part in critical conservation efforts, plus birding Valley specialties.



A new, raptor-focused trip! Aplomado Falcons disappeared from South Texas in the 1940’s, but a successful Peregrine Fund reintroduction program was begun in earnest in 1993. Now, 32 breeding pairs grace the coastal prairies, and Old Port Isabel Road cuts right through this area. Join the search to see this beautiful species. Targets: Aplomado Falcon, Long-billed Curlew, White-tailed Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Crested Caracara, White-tailed Kite, Sprague’s Pipit, plus wintering sparrows likely. Note: Old PI Road becomes impassable in wet weather, so other productive routes will be chosen.


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FIELD TRIPS PARROTS OF THE AREA Fee: $30 / Thu, Fri, Sat 4p – 6p

With the nesting season concluded, parrots and parakeets play hide-and-seek with us. Use your eyes and ears and join the search, while these colorful and countable tropical icons choose their nightly roost around our local urban areas. Targets: Green Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot.


PHOTO OPS RANCH STYLE w/ RUTH HOYT Fee $250 (2 parts, 1 session, 1 fee) Thu 1:30p – 3p & Fri 6a – 2p or Sat 1:30p – 3p & Sun 6a – 2p

If you are a birder who believes a camera is as vital to carry as binoculars, this special trip is designed for you. Led by professional photographer Ruth Hoyt, a select group will enjoy the privilege of not only benefiting from her experience and knowledge, but also doing so at a premier private South Texas ranch that is set up for professionallevel photography with photoblinds and waterholes for stellar shooting opportunities. This unique offering filled up immediately last year, so register now! Important: In two parts on paired days–both included for the one price. In the afternoon, meet Ruth in class at the Harlingen Municipal Complex , site of the Festival, for instruction on equipment choice and use, exposure techniques, etc. The in-field ranch section occurs the next morning. Outhouse restroom available. No electricity on site. Designed for the advanced amateur and above. Related Offerings: The pre-Fest trip South Texas Photo Safari and Photographing Nature with Larry Ditto (Field Trips); Extreme Raptor Photoshoot (Seminars).



A combination class and field one-day workshop with an esteemed pro whose work has appeared in many national publications. Enjoy one of the Valley’s premier wildlife parks while learning. Come with a basic working knowledge of your camera, and bring telephoto and/or macro lenses, tripod, plenty of flash cards, spare battery, and, most importantly, your camera manuals! Goals: Improve composition skill; learn appropriate f-stop, shutter speeds and ISO settings; understand your camera’s controls and custom functions; learn how and when to use flash; discover how to get sharp, pleasing, successful photos. Related offerings: Photo Ops with Ruth Hoyt (Field Trips); Extreme Raptor Photoshoot (Seminars).


Trips that are designed with the Photographer’s pace in mind or that feature special shooting opportunities:

• Photo Ops with Ruth Hoyt • South Texas Photo Safari Pre-Fest Trip • Photographing Nature with Larry Ditto • Extreme Raptor Photoshoot • Butterflies-RGV Jewels • Raptor Banding


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RAPTOR BANDING w/ BILL CLARK Fee: $75 / Sun 8a – 2p

A great opportunity for close encounters with birds of prey (prime photo ops!) with Bill Clark, author of Peterson Field Guide to Hawks of North America. Join Bill in his research on Harris’s Hawks and White-tailed Hawks--marveling as he captures, measures, and bands these and other magnificent raptors of South Texas. Targets: In hand and in field: Cooper’s Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and more! Note: Box lunch included. Restroom stops planned, intermittent. Related Offerings: Valley Raptors trip; Neotropical Raptors and Extreme Raptor Photoshoot seminars.

RIVER PONTOON & QUINTA MAZATLAN Fee: $75 / Thu, Fri, Sat 6a – 1p

Step aboard the large and comfortable Riverside Dreamer, and see the Rio Grande in a new way. The wooded banks on either side can yield many of our area’s exceptional species and other exciting possibilities, too. As if this isn’t enough, we’ll then visit Quinta Mazatlan, the McAllen wing of the World Birding Center—with its truly gracious and historic hacienda, grounds, and trails. Targets: Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, Sora, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Black Phoebe, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrashers, Olive Sparrow. Note: Can be cool on boat in mornings. Don’t forget your jacket.

SABAL PALM SANCTUARY Fee: $50 / Thu, Sat 6a – 12n

It’s back! After being closed for nearly two years, the famous Sabal Palm Sanctuary is open again, under the management of the Gorgas Foundation. This forest of native palms is a remnant ecosystem that once lined the Rio Grande, and is unique to the U.S. Its shady depths and managed waterways shelter an interesting array of special Valley plants and animals. Targets: Least Grebe, White-tailed Kite, Plain Chachalaca, Groove-billed Ani, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbird, Hooded and Altamira Oriole, Olive Sparrow.


Trails that wind through Cedar Elms, moss-draped and towering, make for a magical memory. Widely famous and justly so, with the second highest bird count (after Laguna Atascosa, above!) in the entire US NWR system, the riparian woodlands and cattail-lined waterways of Santa Ana are a great place to experience many of the Valley’s compelling species. A plus is the 40’ hawkwatch tower and suspended walkways, offering rare looks out over the forest canopy. Targets: Ducks, Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe, waterbirds, Hook-billed Kite (rare), Long-billed Dowitcher, Groove-billed Ani (rare), Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Olive Sparrow. 14

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© Larry Ditto

SEEDEATER SOJOURN Fee $95 / Wed, Thu 5a – 4:30p

Let’s get right to it: White-collared Seedeaters. Often, but not always seen, this tiny tropical species roosts in the giant cane along the river, but forages afield during the day. We’ll go where our current scouting and recent reports indicate the best chances for finding this sought-after species. But beyond Seedeaters, many other birds are worth the long trip (about 3 hrs each way) to this distinctive region of drier, desert-like brushlands and villages steeped in regional history. Targets: Scaled Quail, Red-billed Pigeon (rare), Vermilion Flycatcher, Chihuahuan Raven, Cactus and Bewick’s Wrens, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (rare), White-collared Seedeater, Olive and Black-throated Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxia, Audubon’s Oriole.


Field Session

SHOREBIRD ID w/ KEVIN KARLSON Fee $75 / Thu, Sun 6a – 1p

How about a trip with one of the authors of The Shorebird Guide? And a trip to study that group that often confounds and befuddles? Join Kevin on this in-depth field trip, which emphasizes a more complete approach to shorebird identification using both non-changeable physical impressions and details of plumage and feather patterns. Suitable for birders of all levels, but limited space will give a lucky intimate group a great experience. Targets: Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Clapper Rail, Sora, Snowy and Piping Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Marbled Godwit, gulls including Franklin’s, Forster’s, Royal, and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmer. Note: For the best experience, take in conjunction with the in-class workshop Shorebird ID on Wednesday (see Seminars).

Trips continued on p.18

BEEN BEFORE? Interesting choices beyond the famous parks:

• Alvaro’s Adventure • Big Day Vans • Canoe the Arroyo Colorado • Colley’s ‘Private’ Island • King Ranch Santa Gertrudis w/ Jeff Gordon • Sparrow Workshop w/ Michael Retter • Texas Tropicals w/ Steve Howell


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SCHEDULE Registration Hours:

Tue 1p - 5p at Fair Park Complex l Wed 5a - 5p

5a 5:30a 6a 6:30a 7a 7:30a 4-7 NOV

8a 8:30a 9a 9:30a 10a 10:30a 11a 11:30a

















12-14 NOV



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SCHEDULE Thu 5a - 6:15p l Fri 5a - 6:15p l Sat 5a - 6:15p l Sun 5a - 5p 12n 12:30p 1p 1:30p


2:30p 3p 3:30p 4p 4:30p 5p 5:30p 6p



























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© Ruth Hoyt

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND Fee $75 / Thu, Sat 6a – 1p

Sure, Spring Breakers migrate here in mid-March, but the birds make full use of this sub-tropical paradise year round. Explore boardwalks in coastal marshes, check out the concentrated woodlots, and enjoy a cruise on the lovely Laguna Madre (get it? Father Island, Mother Lagoon). Always a popular trip, so sign up early. Targets: Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, Sora, Snowy and Piping Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Marbled Godwit, gulls including Franklin’s, Forster’s, Royal, and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmer, Marsh Wren, lingering migrant songbirds. Related offerings: Colley’s ‘Private’ Island and Shorebird ID with Kevin Karlson.


Field Session


Finally, the trip that’s been clamored for! Join Michael Retter, editor of ABA’s Winging It newsletter and pro leader, for a great day in the field sorting out this subtle but beautiful family of birds. Destinations will include the special Valley Salt Lakes area, with its grasslands and mesquite scrub, and wherever else pre-Festival scouting determines likely and productive. Targets: Black-throated, Cassin’s, Chipping, Clay-colored, Lark, Lincoln’s, Swamp, Vesper. Note: Best paired with the auditorium segment by the same name, see Seminars.

TEXAS TROPICALS w/ STEVE HOWELL Fee $75 / Thu, Sun 6a – 12n

A very special version of the Laguna Atascosa trip with leader Steve Howell, author of the indispensable and justly famous Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. A van trip, giving a fortunate small group of participants an intimate experience in a unique Valley habitat with one the world’s great tropical experts. Targets: American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Snowy and Piping Plovers, Willet, Groove-billed Ani, Green Jay.


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FIELD TRIPS UPPER RIO GRANDE Fee $85 / Thu, Fri 5a – 2p

Lucky for us, birds don’t recognize our international border. The river’s wooded edges and the arid uplands of Starr County are rich with both riparian sub-tropical and desert southwest species. Visit the birding places with the famous names: Salineño, Chapeño, and Falcon Dam. Targets: Muscovy Duck, Scaled Quail (rare), Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Red-billed Pigeon (rare), Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Hooded, Altamira, and Audubon’s Orioles.


Note: Brown Jay was present last winter! If it returns, we’ll spend time looking for it!

VALLEY RAPTORS w/ BILL CLARK Fee $95 / Wed 6a – 4p

It’s the Year of the Raptor at the RGVBF, and we’re happy to offer this all-day workshop. Soak up the encyclopedic birds-of-prey knowledge of Bill Clark, author of Peterson Field Guide to Hawks of North America and A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors. Bill has traveled the globe and studied many of the world’s raptors, but now calls the Valley home and that is a testament to the special species this area offers. Targets:White-tailed Hawk, Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon.


Related offering: Raptor Banding trip; Neotropical Raptors and Extreme Raptor Photoshoot seminars.

WESLACO w/ JULIE ZICKEFOOSE Fee $50 / Sat 6a – 1p

Pronounce it WES-luh-co and sound like a local. This mid-Valley town boasts prominent birding spots. The World Birding Center’s Estero Llano Grande State Park offers boardwalks through reclaimed wetlands and tropical woodlands. Frontera Audubon Thicket has historically been a hotbed of vagrants. If time permits, Valley Nature Center will be visited as well—an urban oasis where a Crimson-collared Grosbeak was found during a previous Festival. All these parks have productive butterfly plantings. Enjoy it all with Julie Zickefoose, author, artist, NPR commentator! Targets: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Harris’s Hawk, Stilt Sandpiper, Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrashers, Summer Tanager, Lesser Goldfinch, butterflies. Related offerings: Estero Llano Grande, above. Plus Julie’s Friday Keynote, Seminars.


Families are welcome on any trip, and the following would be a special experience:

• Birding 101 • Lend a Hand • Parrots

• Raptor Banding • River Pontoon • South Padre Island


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© Ruth Hoyt

SOUTH TEXAS PHOTO SAFARI Fee: $1275 / Sun 4 Nov. – Wed 7 Nov.

The RGVBF is proud to offer this unparalleled preFestival adventure with Ruth Hoyt, professional nature photographer, tour leader, and author of The Nature Photographer’s Guide to the RGV of South Texas ebook. She has selected three of the finest shooting locations around the Rio Grande Valley, and two of them allow private access to premier South Texas ranches. Sunday afternoon, meet your group and travel together to a local state park with a wonderful wetland to get acquainted, go over equipment use, ask questions, and experience a variety of photo opportunities. Then to the first of two private historic ranches with lodging, well-designed photography blinds, and productive waterholes. After a final dinner together Wednesday evening, return to the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium Complex in time to join the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival with its full complement of wonderful trips on the next day, Thursday. Important Facts: Limited to 8 lucky participants. Designed for the advanced amateur and above, using DSLR and 300mm lens or longer for birds. Included: All transportation from the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium Complex and back, experienced leader, meals, 3 nights lodging (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday). Please note that ranch lodging is very comfortable, but restricted to 4 doubles. Sharing of bedrooms and bathrooms necessary—all part of the adventure! (Singles discouraged, but possible by special arrangement and at significant additional cost). A complete itinerary and detailed information will be sent to you upon registration. A certain number of participants is required, so please check with us before making airline arrangements. Not included: Lodging in Harlingen before and after. *Questions: Ruth Hoyt:



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SPECIAL TRIPS WHOOPERS! The NORTH of SOUTH TEXAS Fee: $550 / Mon 12 Nov. – Wed 14 Nov.

Whooping Cranes are one of the rarest of the world’s birds, and among the most majestic. The bulk of the current population winter in Aransas NWR (last year, numbering 245 birds), just a few hours drive northeast of the Valley. Their return to Texas from their breeding grounds in northern Alberta begins about mid-October. Round out your South Texas experience by traveling with us on a post-Festival journey to see this magnificent and important species. We’ll travel north through the fascinating King Ranch country, take a coastal waters cruise aboard the famous Skimmer, visit other birdy places in the vicinity, and stay in the lovely Rockport/Fulton area--a prime base for exploring the north of South Texas. Important Facts: Group size will be limited to 16 participants, with 2 leaders. Included: All transportation from the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium Complex or Country Inn & Suites and back, experienced guides, meals, 2 nights lodging. Fee based on double occupancy. Single Supplement $100. A complete itinerary and detailed information will be sent to you upon registration. Not included: Lodging in Harlingen pre- and post-tour, Sunday and Wednesday nights. Alert!: Read note regarding US Customs Check Station. ID required. A certain number of participants is required, so please talk with us before making airline arrangements.

*Questions: Louise Zemaitis

ABA/LEICA YOUNG BIRDER TRACK at the RGVBF Ages: 13-18 Fee $450 / Thu 8 Nov – Sun 11 Nov

The American Birding Association, Leica Sport Optics, and the RGV Birding Festival have teamed up to offer a stellar opportunity for young naturalists. This first-ever Young Birder Track will be conducted in conjunction with the Festival, utilizing its resources and events, but with custom trips and programs for young birder participants. Learn about the natural history and ecology of the region, find out about careers in birding and conservation, and meet other young birders from around the country, as well as pro leaders, authors, and artists. All while seeing the Rio Grande Valley’s unparalleled birds, butterflies, habitats, and more. Young Birder Track participants do not need an accompanying adult in order to participate (although adults are very welcome to attend the Festival!). ABA’s wonderful Young Birder Liaison, Jennie Duberstein, is the commander-in-chief. Contact her directly for details:


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SEMINARS SPARROW WORKSHOP w/ MICHAEL RETTER - Class Session Fee: $10 / Wed 1p - 2:30p Finally, the class that’s been clamored for! Join Michael Retter for an immensely helpful offering on how to tackle this subtle but beautiful family of birds. A special emphasis will be placed on the ‘generic approach’ to sparrow ID. Note: Best paired with the trip by the same name – see Field Trips Michael Retter spent all of his college vacations traveling around Mexico and became so hooked on the birds (and Oaxaca cheese) that he pursued a tourleading career. He now guides for Tropical Birding anywhere from Canada to Ecuador, and also in Australasia. When at home in the Midwest, Michael serves on the Indiana Bird Records Committee and lends his interests in bird distribution and taxonomy to the ABA as the editor of Winging It and a Technical Reviewer for Birding. He lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with his partner, Matt, two cats, and eighty orchids.

SHOREBIRD ID with KEVIN KARLSON – Class Session Fee: $10 / Wed 3p - 4:30p Take your shorebird ID skills to the next level using an impressionbased approach paired with field mark analysis. Explore common shorebird ID challenges with photographic examples using digitized, side-by-side comparisons. Kevin’s photos will also show how this approach can be applied to other bird families. Kevin Karlson, one of the authors of the acclaimed The Shorebird Guide, is currently finishing his new book, Birding by Impression, which will be published in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series. This book shares an approach to bird identification that encourages an initial field evaluation utilizing impressions, then supplemented by traditional ID methods. Note: Best paired with the field trip by the same name – see Field Trips.

EXTREME RAPTORS PHOTOSHOOT Fee $125 / Thu 7a - 9a Photographers! An outstanding opportunity! Join Master Falconer and photographer Jonathan Wood of Raptor Project Inc. and his collection of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls in outdoor natural settings, with both perching and free-flight premium shooting situations. Attendance for this unique and popular event will be limited. Sign up early! Jonathan Wood, Master Falconer, is also licensed as a Wildlife Rehabilitator, Raptor Propagator, and Endangered Species Handler. He’s made many national TV appearances, including National Geographic Explorer and Animal Planet, and regularly consults for movies, documentaries, books, and zoos. He’s a Nikon ProStaffer and is the founder of the non-profit Wildlife Embassy.


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SEMINARS INTRO to BIRDING in SPANISH / OBSERVANDO AVES en ESPANOL Free! / Thu 11a - 12n In this informative seminar, given completely in Spanish, discover the fun and excitement of birding in our unique sub-tropical corner of the U.S. Topics will include general identification tips and basic birding howto’s, as well as an introduction to the special birds of the Valley. Este interesante y divertido seminario será presentado en el idioma español, en donde podrán aprender, disfrutar y descubrir lo especial que son la aves del bosque tropical. A la vez aprenderemos reglas básicas para la identificación de las aves especiales que podemos observar en el Valle. Carlos Bethancourt was born and raised in the forests around the Canal Zone. He studied ornithology in the U.S., and is currently Senior Bird Guide at Panama’s famous Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge. Carlos has traveled extensively birding and promoting eco-tourism. His reputation and prowess grow, and his passion shows.

ID YOURSELF – RGV EDITION Fee $10 / Thu 1:30p-2:30p Neotropical or Double-crested? Tropical or Couch’s? Long-billed or Curve-billed or Brown? This seminar sheds light on those avian head-scratchers. And who better to do it than Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, and Alvaro Jaramillo, writer of BWD’s regular feature, ID Yourself—a double billing of two great personalities and birders. Sure to be essential and entertaining. See bios for Bill and Alvaro at their Saturday seminar listings, below.

TROPICAL TOPICS: NEOTROPICAL RAPTORS Fee: $10 / Thu 3:30p - 5p The RGVBF’s Tropical Topics series is proud to have this year’s installment tied into our ‘Year of the Raptor’. Get an advance look at Bill Clark’s new in-progress raptor field guide for Mexico and Central America, featuring previously unseen field guide plates by Festival artist John Schmitt. Start out with the special birds of prey of the sub-tropical Rio Grande Valley, then move south and discover this hemisphere’s fascinating raptor species. William Clark, author of Hawks of North America in the Peterson Field Guide series and Photographic Guide to North American Raptors, is a long-standing name in the U.S. and world raptor scene. His banding and research has spanned decades. It is a testament to the singular nature of the Valley that he now calls it home.


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SEMINARS WHY IS THAT BIRD LAUGHING? Fee $15 / Thu 6:15p Lower your mortgage rates, blood pressure, and cholesterol while raising the SAT scores of future generations by taking a charming look at birds. Inspired storytelling by this nationally-known humorist. Listen to snippets from a life gone to the birds, and find wings of joy, a generous dose of merriment, and a peek at the strange birds that can roost in a mind. Al Batt, of rural Hartland, Minnesota, is a writer, speaker, storyteller, humorist, birder. Al writes four weekly newspaper columns, does three weekly radio station shows, and produces nationally syndicated popular cartoon strips. He has written for movies, magazines, and books, including Minnesota Bird Watching and Chicken Soup for the Soul. He is a trustee of the American Bald Eagle Foundation, and has received a whole wall-full of awards and recognitions. Al speaks to anyone who will listen. His mother thinks he is special.

GET STARTED BIRDING Free! / Fri 10:30a – 12n So what’s this birding thing all about? What are all these happy people doing? The RGVBF would like to share its passion with you. Enjoy a tag team of national and local experts that will cover topics ranging from an introduction to birding, how to use binoculars, how to use a field guide, basic identification tips, and concluding with slides of special Valley birds. Find out for yourself why 48 million Americans (USFW study) call themselves birdwatchers! Presenters: Jeffrey Gordon, President of the American Birding Association; Ben Lizdas, sales manager at Eagle Optics; Richard K Walton, Peterson Field Guide series author; Kay Baughman, Arroyo Colorado Riverblog author.

eBIRD - GLOBAL TOOLS FOR BIRDERS Fee $10 / Fri 1:30p-2:30p It’s eBird’s tenth anniversary! If you are not eBirding yet, learn what is all about and what it can do for you. Checklist and birdlist tracking, bird observation recording, and information about birds in the Rio Grande Valley, the U.S., or anywhere around the world. Your observations can be shared with both the birding and scientific communities, and adds to this powerful tool for the crucial understandings of distribution and abundance. Watch fascinating visualizations of continent-scale bird migration based on your data! Brian Sullivan is eBird Project Leader at the famed Cornell Lab of Ornithology, photo editor for Birds of North America Online and the American Birding Association’s journal North American Birds, and a coauthor on the upcoming and much anticipated Princeton Guide to North American Birds.


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SEMINARS HAWKS IN FLIGHT and HOW TO SPOT AN OWL Fee $10 / Fri 3:30p - 5:00p Two great programs merged into one, by two great presenters. Clay Sutton is one of three authors, along with Pete Dunne and David Sibley, of the landmark book Hawks In Flight, the Flight Identification of North American Raptors, updated and newly released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Learn the holistic method of hawk identification, with an emphasis on South Texas specialty species. Keeping on the raptor theme, discover How to Spot an Owl with both Clay and Pat. Having studied owls in the wild for 30 years, they’ll remove the mystery of non-invasive owl finding, and share their knowledge on owling basics, owl habitats, helpful equipment, backyard owling, and owling etiquette. Bring your binocs, so you can find some hidden owls in the program! Clay and Pat Sutton from Cape May, New Jersey, are well-known and experienced naturalists. Clay is an environmental consultant, field biologist, and instructor for ABA’s Institute for Field Ornithology. Pat is a free-lance writer, photographer, and wildlife garden consultant, maintaining her own famed ‘teaching garden’. Together they have published many books, including How to Spot Butterflies, How to Spot Eagles and Owls, How to Spot an Owl, and Birds and Birding in Cape May. More at

THE BLUEBIRD EFFECT Fee $15 / Fri 6:15p Sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Julie Zickefoose’s new book, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds is about what happens when, by virtue of raising it when it’s orphaned or helping it when it’s hurt, you are taken into the confidence of a wild bird. It’s about the unexpected mental and emotional capacities of birds, especially songbirds, which we tend to underestimate and overlook. Everyone knows that crows, ravens and parrots are intelligent, but have you thought about hummingbirds? Julie has a unique perspective, having been mother to six. Plus chimney swifts, cedar waxwings, rose-breasted grosbeaks, to name only a few. Join her for an intimate, eye-opening look at the rich mental and emotional landscape of birds. And bring your book, or buy one there, because a book signing follows! Julie Zickefoose’s talents as an artist and a writer are wide-ranging, and her experience varies from Nature Conservancy field biology to NPR All Things Considered commentary to Bird Watcher’s Digest cover art (21 of them!). Her new book, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds With Common Birds, was quickly chosen as Book of the Week on and is receiving wide acclaim for its blend of science, storytelling, humor and art, with a starred review in Library Journal and a rave from Kirkus. It follows her first book of illustrated essays, Letters from Eden. Julie’s popular blog entertains thousands. She and her family (Bill Thompson III, Phoebe, Liam and Boston terrier Chet Baker) live at Indigo Hill in the western Appalachians, which has everything Julie needs to keep writing and drawing for a very long time.


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© Larry Ditto

The RAPTOR PROJECT PROGRAM Free! / Saturday 11a - 12n See Family Activities page for full rundown of this great offering!

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: BIRDS as a DOORWAY into NATURE Fee $10 / Sat 1:30p - 2:30p

Sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Bill’s kids, Phoebe and Liam, love watching TV and playing on the computer. Like other parents, he worried that they weren’t getting outside enough, that they were losing their connection with nature. Fortunately, there are things we can do and luckily, kids are fascinated by birds. Bill spent five years working with his kids’ elementary-school classes to create the ideal beginning field guide. The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America, part of the Peterson Field Guide Series, gives young people ages 8 to 12 an introduction to the world of birds in a way they can appreciate and enjoy. Find out how the book was created, hear stories about Bill’s own adventures as a young birder, and gain insight on countering the growing trend of “nature deficit disorder.” Bill Thompson III is the editor/co-publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest, America’s longest-running popular magazine for birders. He’s the author of numerous books, including Bird Watching For Dummies, Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Bird Identification Challenges, Identifying & Feeding Birds, and the just-published Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America. He writes a weekly blog, Bill of the Birds ( and hosts a podcast called This Birding Life. Bill regularly speaks, guides, and performs at birding festivals across North America, consults internationally on ecotourism marketing, and has watched birds in 47 states and 28 countries. In his spare time, he’s the leader of the country-rock band The Rain Crows.

HOW DO I CONTACT THE RGVBF? Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival P.O. Box 3162 / Harlingen, TX 78551 1.956.423.5440 / 1.209.22RGVBF


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SEMINARS BIRD TAXONOMY for DUMMIES Fee $10 / Sat 3:30p - 4:30p Ever wonder why the bird world is regularly turned upside-down and backwards with name changes? Why the birds are in different places in the book? And who are these clowns that do this, wrecking the average birder’s life? Now’s your chance to get those questions answered and maybe find out that there are real reasons for all this. But then again, perhaps they really are trying to wreck your life! Alvaro has written bird books, been on taxonomic committees, and is currently describing a new bird to science. So he may be one of the clowns, but also claims to be one of the dummies. Alvaro Jaramillo was born in Chile but began birding in Toronto, where he lived as a youth. Studies in ecology, evolution, and, in particular, bird behavior, led to research forays and backpacking immersion into the riches of the Neotropics. He is the author of the authorative Birds of Chile and the Helm guide, New World Blackbirds, and the Identify Yourself column in Bird Watcher’s Digest. His birding and nature tour company, Alvaro’s Adventures, focuses on fun, learning a thing or two, and truly enjoying nature. He lives with his family in Half Moon Bay, California where he loves the gull watching!

GREAT SOUTH TEXAS BIRDING QUIZ SHOW Free! / Sat 6:15p Sponsored by Eagle Optics

The encores keep getting louder and louder! This offering has been so popular, it’s now in its fourth season. Join our quizmaster, ABA President Jeffrey Gordon in a TV-style game show format of birding trivia and friendly competition. You’ll be laughing, cheering, learning, and seeing a different side of some of your favorite birding personalities, authors, and leaders. Audience participation with great prizes, and all made possible by the generous support of Eagle Optics. Jeffrey A. Gordon is President of the American Birding Association. His birding career as a writer, naturalist, and speaker includes Field Editor for Bird Watcher’s Digest, interpretive naturalist at National Parks and at the Valley’s own Santa Ana NWR, and speaking engagements at festivals and organizations across the country. He spent 12 years leading birding tours worldwide for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and authored 11 of the chapters in Identify Yourself.


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SPECIAL EVENTS / TRADE SHOW / FAMILY ACTIVITIES THE WELCOME KICK-OFF RECEPTION Wed 5p - 7p Let’s launch this Festival and get it flying right! The Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum is the grand host for this fun reception. Meet your fellow participants, plus the leaders, speakers, vendors, and the Festival folk that make it all happen. Located conveniently right near the airport at 2425 Boxwood St. (see map online). Hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided. Don’t miss it! KISKADEE KORDIAL Thu, Fri, Sat 5p - 6p You are kordially invited: Come one, come all to the Birder’s Bazaar for fun conversation, light appetizers, and, of course, kordials! Wines will be poured for this popular and perfect prelude to the evening’s keynote presentation immediately following. Meet and mingle, chat and sip with your fellow Festivalgoers and your leaders, the speakers, and…well…everyone! BIG SIT! Sat 6a - 6p Does counting birds for twelve hours from within a 17’ circle sound like fun? You bet! Join a rotating group of optics reps, field trip leaders, and Festival-goers for a comeand-go casual event on the Fair Park complex grounds. Sit for a bit and be eligible for a prize drawing! AUTHOR SIGNINGS Thu following Raptors talk: William Clark Fri Following Keynote: Julie Zickefoose Sat 2:30p-3:30p: Bill Thompson III, Alvaro Jaramillo, Clay Sutton, and a host of others – check signage during the event The quality of the leaders and speakers at the RGVBF is high, and many of these talented people are authors of and contributors to your favorite bird books. So bring your copies (or buy in our Birder’s Bazaar!) and meet the people behind the covers. A (partial) list of titles: The Bluebird Effect, Letters from Eden, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America, Birds of Chile, Hawks in Flight (new edition!), Nat Geo Birds of N.A, The Shorebird Guide, Peterson Series (including Birds of N.A., Hawks, Gulls, Warblers), ID Yourself, Good Birders Don’t Wear White, Photographic Guide to Hawks, Guide to Birds of Mexico and Central America. WINTER TEXAN DAY Friday has been declared Winter Texan Day at the RGVBF, with several special things planned. See Seminars section for the Get Started Birding! program. Then visit the Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society booth in the trade show and show your Park Badge for some special giveaways and discounts (while supplies last). Catch the Raptor Project live birds of prey flights shows,1p or 3p. All free! AMERICAN BIRDING ASSOCIATION MEMBERS SUNDOWNER Tue 4p – 6p ABA is throwing a party! We’ve invited all the birds! Come join us and mingle with the chachalacas, ABA members, and friends at the lovely Los Ebanos estate and nature preserve, only minutes south of Harlingen. Enjoy a little birding and butterflying, refreshments, hors d’oeuvres, and ABA camaraderie. Festival trips kick off the next morning! Contact Liz Deluna Gordon at the ABA (800.850.2473 or elizabird@aba. org) for more information about this special event.

Event color codes correspond with 28

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SPECIAL EVENTS / TRADE SHOW / FAMILY ACTIVITIES BIRDER’S BAZAAR Thu, Fri, & Sat 12n - 6p / Sun 12n - 5p Free Our Birder’s Bazaar, with free admission and open to the public, is much more than just a trade show. Located within the Municipal Auditorium Complex, it’s the place to hang out after trips and between seminars. Shop the unique vendors (think Christmas!). Learn about birding hotspots. Visit the eBird station. Get your books autographed. Bid on great items in the Silent Auction. Relax at the Kiskadee Kordial. Visit The Raptor Project. All not-to-be-missed and part of the Festival fun. The RAPTOR PROJECT in the BIRDERS BAZAAR Trade Show Hours, above + Flight Shows Thu – Sun at 1p and 3p Free Jonathan Wood and his vast collection of stunning hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons are a star attraction, with many national TV appearances. Jon is a Master Falconer, a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, and along with his wife Susan and his daughter Rachel, are an integral and fascinating part of the Festival. Come on in and get up close and personal with these majestic animals. For even more, keep reading… The RAPTOR PROJECT FAMILY AUDITORIUM PROGRAM Sat 11a - 12n Free Read about Jonathan Wood and The Raptor Project just above and then do not miss this first-ever free offering. Imagine sitting in the Harlingen Auditorium and a hawk with a 4-foot wingspan flies right over your head! Afterward, visit more birds of prey in the Birder’s Bazaar (for a fee you can even hold one and get your picture taken!) and also visit Kiskadee Korner, below. Terrific fun for the whole family. KISKADEE KORNER Sat, Sun 12n - 4p Free Right in the middle of ‘Festival Central’ (the Harlingen Municipal Complex at Fair Park), you’ll find our renowned family area–packed full of fun. Learn all about birds and nature and the cool things that are as close as your own backyard. Enjoy crafts, games, and many other activities geared toward families with children. Combine with a visit to a flight show, the Birder’s Bazaar, and it’s all too great to miss! BIRD WALKS Sat 9a Free Join entertaining Bill Thompson III, author of The Young Birder’s Guide series, on an about-the-auditorium grounds walk. Geared for the novice birder, both young and young-at-heart. Learn the basics of birding, like how to use a field guide and a pair of binoculars (bring ‘em if you have ‘em!). So join us, open your eyes, and be hooked for life. All welcome! TEACHERS CCE WORKSHOP Sat 8a - 2:30p Teachers! The RGVBF is here to serve you! In class + in field components = a fun way to earn your CCE credits. Learn about your Valley’s unique natural treasures and ecology with classroom and field trip opportunities, tie-ins to testing, more! (As with all programs, CCE credits are at the discretion of your prinicipal). For more information, see our website,, Family Page. STUDENT ART & WRITING CONTEST Awards Ceremony Sun 1:30p Draw Valley birds, write about Valley birds, and learn the fun way. Information and registration forms for this contest can be found on our website, The contest is open to students grades 5 –12 Valley-wide! Win great prizes from Eagle Optics and see the winning entries in the Valley Morning Star!

Schedule Spreadsheet on pages 16-17


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FAQ’s- Registration / Area Information / Who We Are HOW DO I REGISTER? Register online: Securely, with a credit card (VI, MC, AX) at, and know immediately that you’ve locked in your desired trips and talks. You can also register by phone during business hours: 1.956.423.5565x223. Deadline: Pre-registration must be completed by 5p CT on Friday 26 October, at which point online registrations will close. During event walk-in registration is possible, but many trips may be sold out. So register early! Registration Packet: Available for pick-up (no tickets will be mailed) beginning Tuesday 6 November at 12n—5p at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium (Festival site), 1204 Fair Park Blvd. After Tuesday, the registration booth opens in time for early morning trips, and is staffed all day. Cancellations and Refunds: Please don’t—we want you to join us! But if you must cancel, call 1.956.423.5565x223 weekdays. Do so by 26 Oct to receive a full refund or by 2 Nov to receive a 50% refund (less the registration fee). After this, cancellations and no-shows will not be refunded. Substitutions: The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival organizers reserve the right to cancel any Festival activity or make qualified substitutions. If a cancellation is necessary, a full refund will be issued, unless otherwise noted. Groups: If you are a group of 8 or more, come on down! We have a special deal for you. Contact Marci Fuller, Chair, Where is the festival site? All Festival events—trip departures, trade show, talks, family programs—are conveniently located at the Fair Park Municipal Complex, 1204 Fair Park Blvd. Harlingen, TX. (One exception: the Kick-off Reception, please see EVENTS). Important: Field Trips leave early, and meeting trip at side is NOT allowed. Please stay in or near Harlingen. How do I get there? By air: Harlingen is well-serviced by Valley International Airport with three major airlines: United, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines. By car: Harlingen is conveniently located at the intersection of US Highways 77 & 83, two hours south of Corpus Christi and four hours south of San Antonio. How do I get around? The Festival does not provide shuttle service between airport, hotels, or Festival activities. Some of the hotels provide limited shuttle service, but in order to best experience the Festival and our unique area, we strongly encourage a car rental booking. Check out Where do I stay? Harlingen offers plenty of rooms in ranges to please any visitor. Please visit for Festival-friendly recommendations, check, or call the Harlingen CVB at 1.209.22RGVBF for a Visitor’s Guide.


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1. Applebee’s 2. Blanquita’s– Mexican 3. Chili’s 4. Colletti’s – Italian 5. Java Cafe 6. La Playa – Mexican 7. Las Vegas Cafe – Mexican 8. New York Deli II 9. Pepe’s – Mexican 10. Rio Grande Grill – BBQ 11. Texas Roadhouse

Harlingen Municipal Auditorium & Casa de Amistad 1204 Fair Park Blvd Harlingen, TX 78550

1. Best Western Casa Villa Suites* 2. Country Inn & Suites* 3. Courtyard by Marriott* 4. Hampton Inn & Suites 5. Holiday Inn Express* 6. La Copa Inn 7. La Quinta Inn 8. Paradise Park 9. Super 8 * * Festival discount rates available

1. Arroyo Park 2. Harlingen City Lake 3. Harlingen Thicket 4. Hugh Ramsey Nature Park 5. McKelvey Park – Hike & Bike Trail


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P.O. Box 3162 Harlingen, TX 78551-3162

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

Non Profit US Postage PAID Pmt 333 78501

19th Annual RGV Birding Fest Guide  

Hello! Thanks for visiting us here at Harlingen’s RGV Birding Festival. Hope that means you’re thinking about joining us for our 19th annual...

19th Annual RGV Birding Fest Guide  

Hello! Thanks for visiting us here at Harlingen’s RGV Birding Festival. Hope that means you’re thinking about joining us for our 19th annual...