FIELD TRIPS 2016
The RGVBF has long been renowned for its low ratio of participants to leaders and for the quality of its leaders. This year is no exception. On one of our field trips you might find yourself in the company of Jon Dunn or Kevin Karlson, or maybe Michael O’Brien or Neil Hayward, or perhaps Steve Shunk or Dave Irons. And the list doesn’t end there – just look at the biographies of our 80+ leaders.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON TRIPS !
Please stay in or near Harlingen during the Festival. Trips cannot be met at the sites.
Scopes and camera are fine on most trips. Icons just designate a better opportunity.
For special trips for photographers, see the PhotoTrack section.
Be prepared for sun and bugs on all trips. Water and water bottles provided.
Vegetarian lunches available – choose when registering online.
Bus/van designation may change. We reserve the right to make adjustments as needed. Keep in mind that, because of their limited seating, van trips tend to sell out quickly.
Trip departure times have been staggered this year – double check yours.
* Designates a special trip -new offering, distinctive leader or only conducted this year.
Check out the “Wondering Which Field Trip is Right for You” under FAQ for special interest trip recommendations.
Always refer to this website for latest trip updates.
Friend us on FACEBOOK to keep up with latest announcements.
*AUDUBON ISLANDS of LAGUNA MADRE
with Stephanie Bilodeau
Fee $85 / Friday 6:30am – 12:30pm
This is a wonderful opportunity for a small group to go out on the Bay with Stephanie Bilodeau to view some of the spoil islands of Laguna Madre. The islands were created from materials dredged during the construction of the Intracoastal Waterway and, under the protection of the National Audubon Society, are now invaluable habitat for nesting, feeding and roosting waders, shorebirds and larids. Stephanie is the Conservation Biologist with the Coastal Bend and Estuaries Program, which has for many years studied and monitored the bird populations of the islands.
Note: Although there will be photo opportunities, please only bring hand-held cameras. Most of the morning will be on a small powerboat without restroom facilities. Can be cool on boat in mornings – don’t forget your jacket.
Targets: Close views of herons and egrets, gulls and terns and, with luck, Mangrove Warbler.
*BAHIA GRANDE (LAGUNA ATASCOSA NWR)
Fee $60 / Saturday 6:30am – 12:30pm
The ongoing restoration of the Bahia Grande is the most significant environmental success in South Texas in recent years. Over 21,000 acres were acquired as part of Laguna Atascosa NWR in 2000. At that time, because construction of the Intracoastal Waterway had severed its connections to the Bay, Bahia Grande was an arid wasteland with only ephemeral wet areas. New channels have now been excavated restoring the natural tidal flow. On this trip we’ll have an opportunity of witnessing the dramatic results and the privilege of birding an area not generally open to the public.
Note: there are no on-site restroom facilities.
Targets: Waders, Shorebirds, Gulls and Terns, Aplomado Falcon, White-tailed Hawk, wintering sparrows.
BENTSEN – RIO GRANDE STATE PARK
Fee $60 / Saturday, Sunday 6:30am – 12:30pm
With its 760 acres of land and bird list of 358 species, it’s not surprising that this oldest of South Texas state parks was chosen as the headquarters of the World Birding Center complex. The woodlands are home to many of the Valley’s specialties, the hawk-watch tower gives uninterrupted views of the skies, and the gardens surrounding the green-designed Visitor Center are a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Targets: Plain Chachalaca, Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, Green Kingfisher, White-tipped Dove, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole.
BIG DAY VANS
Fee $90 / Wednesday 6am – 4:30pm
Ever hear about Big Days and wonder what they would be like? Here’s your chance to get in on the action on one of our most talked-about trips. Some call it ‘whirlbirding’–fast and furious fun. Prepare to be flexible, as routes will be chosen by your skilled leaders, exercise those speedy get-on-it skills – and wear your fast shoes! Several vans will go out bound for lots of birds and friendly competition. A great choice for Festival returnees or the adventurous first-timer.
Goals: Racking up an impressive day list – Valley specialties, anything, everything!
Fee $60 / Wednesday, Thursday 7:30am – 1pm
Wednesday – Big Sit will be at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
Thursday – Big Sit will be at Estero Llano Grande State Park.
Join us for either — or both!
These are fun trips for those who just want to take things easy while seeing, and learning a little about, a wide variety of birds. For most of the morning we really will just sit in one place and watch (and count!) whatever species come by. But the place has been carefully chosen so that, with luck, we’ll see as many birds as we would on other Festival trips.
Goals: A relaxed, enjoyable morning of birding.
*BIKING for BIRDS
with Dorian Anderson
Fee $70 / Thursday, Saturday 7am – 1 pm
Friday, Sunday – 7am – 12:00 pm
Dorian Anderson holds an extraordinary record – 617 species seen in the U.S. in one year (2014) and all strictly under his own steam! During the year he biked 17,830 miles, walked 493 miles, and canoed 8 miles – and raised some $50,000 for conservation! Read all about Dorian’s adventures on bikingforbirds.blogspot.com.
On these trips, which will all be limited to eight participants, we’ll have the pleasure of biking for birds with Dorian, but we’ll be travelling to and from the parks sites in a van so we will be cheating a little! Bikes will be available for all participants on site.
Last year’s trips with Dorian were so popular that we’re offering more this year. They are:
Thursday – bike trails of Harlingen (16 miles linking Harlingen Thicket, McKelvey Park, the World Birding Site of Hugh Ramsey Park and the Harlingen Soccer Complex)
Friday – Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park (4 miles of trails)
Saturday – bike trails of Brownsville (16 miles of the Historic Battlefields and Paseo de la Resaca Trails, including the eBird hotspots of Brownsville Events Center and Resaca de la Palma Battlefield)
Sunday – Resaca de la Palma State Park (8 miles of trails)
Goals: Encouraging green birding, enjoying a morning’s ride in some of the Valley’s most productive birding areas.
with Mark Conway
Fee $60 / Sunday 7:30am – 12noon
Join biologist and educator Mark Conway for some close encounters with Valley specialties in the picturesque grounds of Quinta Mazatlan. Mark will be demonstrating the skills of bird banding in the context of the key role it plays in his long-term studies of bird populations in the Valley.
Targets (Both in hand and in field): White-tipped Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Altamira Oriole, Olive Sparrow.
*BIRDING 101 WORKSHOP
with Jennie Duberstein
Fee $60 / Thursday 7am – 3pm
Whether you’re just discovering the joys of birding or seeking to sharpen your birding skills, this is the trip for you. The workshop will be a combination of classroom tips and field trip fun and will be held at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center. It will be led by Jennie Duberstein, an education and outreach specialist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and co-leader of the ABA’s Camp Colorado and VENT’s Camp Chiricahua.
Goals: Developing basic birding skills, learning bird identification, enjoying time in the field.
*BIRDING by EAR
with Michael O’Brien
Fee $85 / Friday 6:30am – 12:30pm
Join well-known guide, author and illustrator Michael O’Brien (Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, The Shorebird Guide, America’s 100 Most Wanted Birds) 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 thornscrub, woodlands and freshwater wetlands, is guaranteed to produce a rich diversity of bird sounds.
Goals: Improving field identification skills, learning the bird calls and songs of the Valley.
BOCA CHICA and SOUTHMOST PRESERVE
Fee $60 / Friday, Saturday 6am – 1pm
Adjacent to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary is a little-known jewel of shared habitat -the Nature Conservancy’s Southmost Preserve. We are being allowed access by special arrangement, so don’t miss the chance to visit this unique area of sabal palms, orchards and riparian woodland, home to many of our Valley specialties. Afterwards we’ll drive to the Gulf of Mexico along Boca Chica Road with its very different but equally productive salt-flat, grassland and thornscrub habitats.
Important!: There is a U.S. Border Patrol Check Station on Boca Chica Road.
Make sure you have your driver’s license or other official photographic ID with you: participants without proper identification will not be permitted to board. If you are not a U.S. citizen, please contact Michael Marsden at 956-276-4409 before booking.
Targets: Snowy Plover, Reddish Egret, White-tailed Kite, Harris’s and White-tailed Hawks, Gull-billed Tern, Aplomado Falcon, Groove-billed Ani, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Cassin’s Sparrow, Altamira Oriole.
*BREAKFAST WITH THE BIRDS AT THE INN AT CHACHALACA BEND
with Neil Hayward and Steve Shunk
Fee $80 / Sunday 7am – 12noon
Come and enjoy Texas hospitality and a buffet breakfast in the delightful grounds of the Inn at Chachalaca Bend. Set in some 40 acres adjoining a picturesque Resaca, the Inn offers birding opportunities both during breakfast and afterwards with its extensive trails and birding stations. An ideal way to relax and unwind on this last day of the Festival!
Targets: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Plain Chachalaca, Neotropic Cormorant, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Altamira Oriole.
*BUTTERFLIES – RGV JEWELS
Fee $75 / Friday 9am – 2pm
Over 300 species of butterflies have been recorded in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, making it by far the richest butterflying area in the U.S. And this tour, led by lepidoptera experts from the Festival, is to our most productive site- the National Butterfly Center at Mission, the flagship of the North American Butterfly Association.
Targets: Silver-banded Hairstreak, Red-bordered Pixie, Zebra Heliconian, Malachite, Band-celled Sister, Mexican Bluewing, Guava Skipper, Potrillo Skipper, rarities.
*CACTUS CREEK RANCH
Fee $85 / Wednesday, Thursday 6:30am – 1pm
Join this tour to witness an inspiring example of how an enlightened private landowner can contribute to habitat restoration, wildlife conservation and environmental education in South Texas. Since acquiring Cactus Creek Ranch in 1995, Mary Jo Bogatto has worked closely with the Nature Conservancy of South Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife to restore and enhance its 400 acres with extensive plantings of native vegetation and the creation of wetlands.
Targets: White-tailed Kite, Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Crested Caracara, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, wintering sparrows. And maybe even that special Texas Horned Lizard!
*CAMP LULA SAMS
Fee $60 / Saturday, Sunday 7am – 12noon
These are timely trips to one of the lesser-known gems of South Texas not usually open to the public. Once a camp for Girl Scouts, Camp Lula Sams has been acquired by a non-profit with the aim of conserving and enhancing its 85 acres of prime thornscrub and woodland habitat as a wildlife refuge and outdoor classroom. There are already birding trails and three photo-blinds with water features. Money is now being raised for a conservation easement to ensure there is no further fragmentation of the land. On the way to the camp, we shall also spend some time birding the ponds and surrounding woodlands of the adjoining TPWD Coastal Fisheries Field Station.
Targets: Wild Turkey, Anhinga, Least Grebe, White-tailed Kite, Groove-billed Ani, Great Kiskadee, Clay-colored Thrush, Cactus Wren, Altamira Oriole.
*COLLEYS’ ‘PRIVATE’ ISLAND
with Scarlet & George Colley
Fee $95 / Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 6am – 1pm
A special version of the South Padre Island trip with Island naturalists Scarlet and George Colley. Scarlet is well-known for her dolphin research and for many years both she and George have been leading advocates for Gulf Coast conservation. Enjoy being out on the bay in their pontoon boats (weather permitting) and exploring the unique ecosystems of the Laguna Madre.
Targets: Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Clapper Rail, Sora, Snowy and Piping Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Marbled Godwit, Peregrine Falcon, Mangrove (Yellow) Warbler. And, of course, dolphins!
EASY (BUT NOT LESS!) BIRDING TOUR
Fee $60 / Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 8am – 1pm
Prefer less walking? These are the trips for you. Bird from trams or electric carts that leisurely loop the wildlife drives and back roads of famous Valley refuges. And they’ve become so popular, we’ve added extra days and sites!
Thursday – Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park
Friday – Resaca de la Palma State Park
Saturday – Estero Llano Grande State Park
Sunday – Santa Ana NWR
Note: Getting on and off vehicles and some walking at site still necessary. Restrooms available at site, but not on vehicles.
Targets: See target listing for each of the destinations of the sites.
Fee $60 / Wednesday, Friday 7am – 1pm
Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and the San Juan Wetlands are inspiring examples of how enlightened local communities can conserve and enhance urban and suburban areas for the benefit of wildlife and the environment. Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, one of the World Birding Centers, has birding trails, feeding areas, butterfly gardens, observation platforms and a modern interpretative center set in some 40 acres of native vegetation and wetlands. The San Juan Wetlands are one of the lesser known birding gems of the Valley (and a new destination for the Festival) – a complex of six ponds created as a natural filtration system for waste water but now an oasis for both wetland and migratory birds.
Targets: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Green Parakeet, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole.
Fee $60 / Friday, Sunday 6:30am – 12:30pm
An in-depth exploration of one of the World Birding Center network’s most productive sites. Reclaimed wetlands, marshes and ponds, all contiguous to the Arroyo Colorado, are ideal habitats for shorebirds, waders, waterfowl – and alligators! Add boardwalks, birding trails through woodlands and thornscrub, butterfly gardens and a green-design visitor center and you’ll see why Estero Llano Grande SP has skyrocketed to deserved fame.
Targets: Cinnamon Teal, Least Grebe, Anhinga, Roseate Spoonbill, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Eastern Screech-Owl, Vermilion Flycatcher, wintering warblers and sparrows.
with Homer Hansen
Fee $85 / Friday 6:30am – 1pm
This new trip is intended as an introduction to the identification of the more common flycatchers of the Valley while also learning about their ecology and behavior. It will be led by Homer Hansen, who has conducted many similar workshops throughout the U.S. and is the course instructor for Tucson Audubon’s Moving to Mastery program. It’s recommended that those on the trip should also attend Homer’s Festival talk on flycatchers Wednesday afternoon.
Targets: Great Kiskadee, Couch’s & Tropical Kingbirds, Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher and other late migrating or wintering flycatchers.
*GOLD SERIES TOURS
Fee $95 / Friday 6:30am – 1pm / Thursday, Saturday 7am – 1pm
Every accomplished birder has his or her distinctive approach to birding and bird identification. It’s something that can’t be learned just from the books. It’s developed over years of experience of critical observation of birds in the field and absorbing information about them and their environment from a myriad of sources. The purpose of the Gold Series is to give Festival-goers a chance of short-cutting that process, at least a little, by experiencing time in the field in small groups with some of the leading birders of our day -including Jon Dunn (Peterson Field Guide to Warblers, Peterson Reference Guide to the Gulls of the Americas, National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America and Birding Essentials) and Kevin Karlson & Dale Rosselet co-authors of Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing & Identifying Birds.
The tours are:
Thursday, Saturday – Estero Llano Grande State Park with Jon Dunn
Friday – Birding by Impression with Kevin Karlson and Dale Rosselet.
Goals: Developing a deeper understanding of birds and bird identification and honing field-craft skills.
with Tom Langschied
Fee $95 / Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday 6am – 1pm
Join us for an exciting excursion to the famed King Ranch, one of the largest ranches in the world (larger than Rhode Island!) where sandy soils support extensive areas of grasslands, thornscrub and oak woodlands – and more Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls than anywhere else in the U.S.!
Targets: Wild Turkey, White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Greater Roadrunner, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Vermilion Flycatcher, Sprague’s Pipit, Cassin’s Sparrows, Audubon’s Oriole.
Fee $95 / Thursday, Saturday 6am – 4:30pm
One of the delights of Kleberg County, particularly in years of above average rainfall such as this, is its myriad of fresh and brackish wetlands. On this trip we’ll be visiting the most productive and, after a picnic lunch at the headquarters of the King Ranch, we’ll also bird some of Kingsville’s hotspots. The trip will be limited to eight participants.
Important! : There is a U.S. Border Patrol Check Station on U.S. 77. Make sure you have your driver’s license or other official photographic ID with you: participants without proper identification will not be permitted to board. If you are not a U.S. citizen, please contact Michael Marsden at 956-276-4409.
Targets: Waterfowl, waders, shorebirds, sparrows.
LAGUNA ATASCOSA NWR
Fee $60 / Thursday 6:30am – 12:30pm
Which National Wildlife Refuge has more bird species recorded than any other? Laguna Atascosa, of course! Its vast and varied landscape embraces woodlands to wetlands, lomas to lagoons. Around the Visitor Center are feeding stations and blinds for prime photo-ops. And keep your eyes open for Javelina, Bobcat, Coyote, White-tailed Deer, Nilgai and, if you’re exceptionally lucky, Ocelot. This trip will be one of the last permitted by the Refuge before the 15 miles of Bayside Drive are closed to allow work to start on the new tour route.
Targets: American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Snowy and Piping Plovers, Groove-billed Ani, Green Jay.
LEADER’S CHOICE VANS
Fee $75 / Sunday 6:30am – 1pm
Want to chase that rare bird found on one of our trips? Missing some target birds? Hop on to one of our Leader’s Choice Vans, and hang onto your hat! Call it a chase van, call it a 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. Leave your requests at the Registration Desk by 7pm on Friday and then check the clipboards after 5pm on Saturday to choose your trip!
Targets: Whatever’s hot! No guarantees!
MARTIN REFUGE – see listing in Photo Track section.
OLD PORT ISABEL ROAD – APLOMADO ALLEY
Fee $60 / Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 7am-1pm
Aplomado Falcons disappeared from South Texas in the 1950s, but a successful Peregrine Fund reintroduction program was begun in earnest in 1993. Now around 30 breeding pairs grace the coastal prairies, and Old Port Isabel Road cuts right through this area. Join the search to see this beautiful species, and often a good variety of sparrows as a bonus!
Note: If the road is impassable because of wet weather, we’ll seek the falcons elsewhere.
Targets: Aplomado Falcon, Long-billed Curlew, White-tailed Kite, White-tailed and Harris’s Hawks, Crested Caracara, Cactus Wren, Cassin’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, wintering sparrows.
Fee $40 / Thursday, Friday, Saturday 4pm – 6pm
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.
Fee $90 / Friday 6:30am – 4pm
This trip will be an exploration of parts of Willacy County – the least birded county in the Lower Rio Grande Valley – as well as an opportunity to learn a little of its history and culture. On our way to Port Mansfield we’ll be stopping at the Grace Heritage Ranch, where Brian and Mary Schalk and their family have created a self-sustaining homestead on some 100 acres with heritage animal breeds and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. The Schalks are in the process of creating a wildlife refuge on their land and we’ll have the opportunity of birding their new nature trail. We’ll then head through Sacahuista Flats for a picnic lunch by the bay in Port Mansfield and take advantage of the newly improved birding boardwalks and viewing platforms. On the way back in the afternoon, we’ll concentrate particularly on the many freshwater wetlands in the area.
Targets: Ducks, Waders, shorebirds, raptors, Cassin’s Sparrow, wintering Sparrows.
*QUINTA MAZATLAN and MCALLEN NATURE CENTER
Fee $60 / Thursday, Saturday 7am – 1pm
These sites are two of McAllen’s flagship conservation initiatives. Quinta Mazatlan, part of the World Birding Center complex, is a wonderfully restored adobe hacienda set in 15 acres of sub-tropical gardens and native woodlands with birding trails, feeding stations and water features. The Nature Center has been completed only recently and is a new destination for the Festival. With its extensive trails and bird-feeding areas, it is proving to be one of the most productive 20 acres in the Valley with a list already of almost 200 species of birds. Together they offer a relaxed morning of leisurely birding ideally suited for novice birders, families and first-time visitors to the Valley.
Targets: Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Eastern Screech-Owl, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Green Parakeet, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole.
*RANCHO LOMITAS AND LAS ESTRELLAS
Fee $90 / Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 5:30am – 4pm
This is a very special trip for birders, botanists, butterflyers, and anyone with an interest in the history of the Valley. We’ll initially visit Las Estrellas, a Nature Conservancy preserve near Rio Grande City, not generally open to the public. It is best known for its flora, including the endangered Star Cactus, but it also has many of the typical bird species of the area. We’ll then head to Rancho Lomitas to meet Benito Treviño, the owner of the ranch and the leading ethno-botanist in the region. After a picnic lunch, Benito will take us on a tour of his ranch, identifying the plants of the Tamaulipan thornscrub and the uses made of them by the early settlers and their families. We’ll also have time to bird the ranch trails and relax by the many feeders.
Targets: Scaled Quail, Crested Caracara, Greater Roadrunner, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Audubon’s Oriole.
with Bill Clark
Fee $85 / Saturday 8am – 2pm
A great opportunity for close encounters with birds of prey (prime photo ops!) with Bill Clark, one of the world’s leading raptor experts and author of the Peterson Field Guide to Hawks of North America and A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors. 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.
Notes: Restroom stops intermittent.
Targets (both in hand and in field): Cooper’s Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel and more!
*RESACA DE LA PALMA STATE PARK and UNIVERSITY RESACAS
Fee $60 / Thursday 7am – 1pm
Resaca de la Palma State Park comprises some 1200 acres of protected land, including the largest tract of native thornscrub and woodlands in the World Birding Center network and some particularly attractive wetlands. It’s one of the less birded reserves in the Valley and every visit still has the feel of an adventure. We’ll also visit a very different area in Brownsville – the resacas on the attractive campuses of the University of Texas and Southmost College – but equally one that has not been as thoroughly birded as it deserves.
Targets: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Least Grebe, White-tailed Kite, Groove-billed Ani, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Green Parakeet, Great Kiskadee, Tropical & Couch’s Kingbirds, Black Phoebe, Bewick’s Wren, wintering passerines.
RIVER PONTOON and ANZALDUAS
Fee $85 / Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 6am – 1pm
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. A visit to Anzalduas County Park will show the river from another perspective and you’ll understand why this riverside area’s fame goes beyond its county park status. The mature ash and live oak trees can hold a wide variety of species, both resident and rare.
Note: Can be cool on boat in mornings. Don’t forget your jacket.
Targets: Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Black Phoebe, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrashers, Olive Sparrow, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Altamira Oriole, wintering warblers.
SABAL PALM SANCTUARY
Fee $60 / Thursday, Saturday 6:30am – 12:30pm
The Sabal Palm Sanctuary is now managed by the Gorgas Science Foundation and they have done a wonderful job of enhancing the already outstanding habitats and restoring the historic Rabb Plantation House, now the Sanctuary’s impressive headquarters. The forest of native sabal palms is the last major remnant of an ecosystem once much more widespread in the Valley and is unique in the U.S. Its shady depths and managed waterways shelter a remarkable diversity of wildlife. There’s a bird-feeding area that’s great for photo-ops and active enough to sport a live cam!
Targets: Least Grebe, Plain Chachalaca, Groove-billed Ani, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Clay-colored Thrush, Hooded and Altamira Orioles, Olive Sparrow, wintering warblers.
SANTA ANA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Fee $60 / Friday, Saturday 6:30am – 12:30pm
Widely famous and justly so, with the second highest bird count (after Laguna Atascosa!) in the entire U.S. 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. An added attraction is the 40’ hawk-watch tower and suspended walkway, offering rare views of birds and their habitat from above the forest canopy.
Targets: Mottled Duck, Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe, Long-billed Dowitcher, Groove-billed Ani (rare), Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Northern Beardless -Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Olive Sparrow.
with Kevin Karlson
Fee $95 / Sunday 6am – 1pm
How about a trip with one of the authors of The Shorebird Guide to study a group of birds that often confounds and befuddles? Join Kevin on this in-depth field trip, which emphasizes a comprehensive approach to shorebird identification based on overall impressions as well as plumage details. Suitable for birders of all levels. Space is limited but with a small group lucky participants will have an unforgettable experience. Always a popular trip, so sign up early.
Attending Kevin’s seminar on Thursday is recommended..
Targets: American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied, Snowy, Wilson’s, Semipalmated and Piping Plovers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Stilt, Least, Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers, Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND and BAY CRUISE
Fee $85 / Thursday, Saturday 6am – 1pm
Sure, spring breakers migrate here in mid-March, but the birds make full use of this sub-tropical paradise year round. Explore boardwalks over coastal marshes, check out the concentrated woodlots and enjoy a cruise on the lovely Laguna Madre. Always a popular trip, so sign up early.
Note: Don’t forget your jacket.
Targets: Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, Sora, Snowy and Piping Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Marbled Godwit, Forster’s, Royal, and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmer, Marsh Wren, lingering migrant songbirds.
SUNSETS, BIRD, AND BEERS – see listing in Phototrack section.
UPPER RIO GRANDE
Fee $85 / Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 5am – 2pm
Luckily for us, birds don’t recognize our international borders. 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. Cognize our international borders. The river’s wooded edges and the arid uplands of Starr County are rich with riparian, sub-tropical and desert southwest species.
Targets: Muscovy Duck (rare), Scaled Quail (rare), Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk (rare), Red-billed Pigeon (rare), Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Cactus Wren, Verdin, White-collared Seedeater, Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Hooded, Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles.
with Bill Clark
Fee $95 / Wednesday 6:30am – 4pm
Many birders have a special fondness for raptors, and judging by the number nesting in, migrating through or wintering in the Valley, raptors seem to have a similar feeling for the Valley. On this trip, led by Harlingen resident and world-authority raptor expert Bill Clark (Peterson Guide to Hawks, and A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors), we’ll try our best to see as wide a variety of species as possible in the time available.
Targets: White-tailed Hawk, Hook-billed Kite (rare), Gray Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon.
Fee $60 / Friday 7am – 1pm
On this leisurely tour, we’ll visit two little urban gems in Weslaco – the 15 acres of Frontera Audubon Thicket and the 6 acres of the Valley Nature Center. But don’t be misled by their size – both have attracted an impressive array of Mexican vagrants, including a Crimson-collared Grosbeak found on a previous Festival tour. And with their wonderful mix of thornbrush, wetlands and butterfly gardens, they provide nesting habitat for many of our Valley specialties and a haven for wintering passerines.
Targets: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Plain Chachalaca, Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrashers, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole, Lesser Goldfinch.
*WHERE THE LOCALS BIRD
Fee $65/ Wednesday, Sunday – Cameron County with Michael Marsden & John Yochum 6:30am – 1pm
Thursday, Saturday – Hidalgo County with Dan Jones & Huck Hutchens 6:30am – 1pm
Every birder has those out of the way, known only to a few, locations that are close to home and sure to yield a productive day of birding. If you are lucky enough to live in the Rio Grande Valley, these secret jewels become as familiar as your own backyard. Join some of our leading local birders as they share with you a rare opportunity to bird the less traveled roads of Hidalgo or Cameron County.
Note: There are no target lists but a variety of habitats will be visited on each trip and participants (no more than eight on each trip) will see many Valley specialties and perhaps a surprise or two.