Tiny they may be, but hummingbirds know how to live large. Dazzling colors, “singing” feathers, big brains, voracious appetites, continent-spanning migrations, and sometimes scandalous sex lives are just a few of the qualities that have earned these miniature marvels a devoted following far beyond the birding community. Includes a sneak peek at the forthcoming revised edition of the Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America.
Sheri Williamson – After more than 20 years of general birding and hawk watching, Sheri L. Williamson’s life got hijacked by hummingbirds when she and her husband and colleague Tom Wood moved to Arizona to manage The Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve. A quarter century later, Sheri currently serves as Director of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory and is working on a revision of A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America in the Peterson Field Guide Series, originally published
Since May 2013, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen the growth and expanding potential of a nascent citizen-science movement: grass-roots bio-blitzes. A Bio-Blitz occurs when volunteers organize and conduct an intensive survey of the biological diversity of a park or other natural area. Participants record observations of as many different organisms as possible, across all taxa. The event lasts from a few hours to a day or two. Jennifer will discuss running a Bio-blitz, as well as explaining how eBird and iNaturalist can complement one another. She will also discuss the cutting-edge program underway between Sequoia Audubon, California Academy of Sciences, iNaturalist, Nerds for Nature, and the San Mateo County Parks, to conduct multiple bio-blitzes over the next few years to maximize this activity and provide a baseline survey of the flora and fauna of the local area.
Jennifer Rycenga, past president of Sequoia Audubon Society, is an avid birder, with a North American Life List of 701 species, and over 1300 species worldwide. Ask her about your backyard visitors and encounters with birds that go bump in the night!
The Olive Sparrow is one of several species that birders come to the Valley to see. Common enough, they can usually be seen with some patience, as they kick through leaf litter on the forest floor or come out to the edge of a trail. Since they are non-migratory, Olive Sparrows must endure drought and high temperatures, as well as sometimes chilly, wet weather, and also avoid nest depredation and brood parasitism by two species of cowbirds. Come learn what is known of their life history and successful adaptations to challenging ecological conditions.
Tim Brush is a professor of biology at the University of Texas-Pan American. Not born in Texas, it took him 35 years to get here. During his time at UTPA, he has enjoyed studying birds of the riparian woodlands, focusing on tropical species whose range in the USA is limited to South Texas. He has also studied shorebirds along the Lower Laguna Madre. He is currently studying the effectiveness of habitat restoration for bird communities along the lower Rio Grande.
Mark Conway is a bird-bander and teacher from Harlingen Texas. He teaches biology at Harlingen South High School and is an adjunct instructor at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen. He moved to the Lower Rio Grande Valley eighteen years ago and has been banding birds in many locations in the Valley since he arrived.
Birds aren’t people, but just how different are they from us? They have the same basic requirements we do: food, shelter, reproduction. And they can do some amazing things! Approaching bird behavior from new and surprising angles, Noah Strycker explores the astonishing homing abilities of pigeons, extraordinary memories of nutcrackers, self-image in magpies, life-long loves of albatrosses, particle physics of starling flocks, and other mysteries—revealing why birds do what they do, and how we can relate. With humor and wit, and drawing deep from cutting-edge science and anecdotes from the field, Strycker’s presentation will leave you with renewed inspiration about our close connections with birds.
Noah Strycker is Associate Editor of Birding magazine, and is a well-known writer and “bird man.” His photography and articles have appeared in all major bird magazines as well as in books and other media; he writes regularly for the American Birding Association’s blog. Strycker has studied birds on six continents with field seasons in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Australia, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, and the Farallon Islands. He also works as a naturalist guide on expedition cruises to Antarctica and Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, literally spreading the inspiration of birds from pole to pole. His first book, Among Penguins, was published in 2011 (Oregon State University Press). Strycker’s latest project, Bird World, a book about the fascinating behaviors of birds, was released in March 2014 (Riverhead Books).
Most birders know somebody who has found a rare bird, or they may have found one themselves. It’s always fun to see something different, be it a Chilean Elaenia on the Texas coast, an Amazon Kingfisher in the Rio Grande Valley, or Brown Shrike in Nova Scotia. But why and where do rare birds show up? Vagrancy isn’t random, but it may seem so when you hear about a Lesser Frigatebird in Michigan, a flock of Ruddy Shelduck in Arctic Canada, a Sungrebe in New Mexico, or a Xantus’s Hummingbird in British Columbia. Illustrated with stunning plates by Ian Lewington from the recently published Rare Birds of North America (co-authored by Will Russell, Ian, and Steve), this illuminating and entertaining talk explores why rare birds show up in North America, where they show up, and where they come from.
STEVE N. G. HOWELL is a research associate at PRBO Conservation Science and a staff leader with WINGS, an international bird tour company. His books include Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide, Petrels, Albatrosses, and Storm-Petrels of North America; and The Amazing World of Flyingfish. He has recently co-authored Rare Birds of North America with Ian Lewington and Will Russell.
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 including 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) called themselves birdwatchers!
In addition, Kirsten Sweet, Senior Editor at Birds and Blooms magazine will speak on etiquette in the field. Her topic is going to be “Dos and Don’ts of Birding in the Field. Kirsten is a fairly new birder, having only been birding in the field for about 3 years, despite working at Birds & Blooms for almost 8 years. She will share a few humorous stories about the etiquette of being in the field.”
Presenters: Norma Friedrich, Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society President; Sheri Williamson, author, Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America. Ben Lizdas, Eagle Optics Sales Manager and Kirsten Sweet, Senior Editor of Birds and Blooms Magazine
Birding can become a lifelong pursuit. One can easily focus on the finer points of identification or the quest for life birds without seeing the big picture. In this presentation, Louise will talk about birds within their natural habitats, shared with other organisms. Learning more about the context within which we see birds will heighten one’s awareness of how birds live and improve birding skills.
Louise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in Cape May, New Jersey, where she is a popular field trip leader teaching birding workshops as an Associate Naturalist with New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. Farther afield, she travels extensively leading for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and at birding festivals where she is known for her enthusiasm for all natural history subjects. Louise and her husband, Michael O’Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and conferences for many years. In addition to leading, Louise is coordinator of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, compiler of the Cape May Christmas Bird Count, and proprietor of Swallowtail Studio at West End Garage in Cape May. An honors graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, she enjoys working as a freelance artist and her illustrations have been widely published.
Over the years David’s presentations have captivated audiences across the country, but this is the first time he has brought his Radar Love to the Rio Grande Valley! David’s presentation will provide you with the history of using radar to understand bird migration, and give you the tools necessary to become your own radar ornithologists with freely available online radar data and a little understanding of how to interpret what you’re seeing. This is a presentation not to be missed!
David La Puma is the Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, in Cape May, NJ. David has over a decade of research experience on topics ranging from using radar to quantify stopover habitat for migrating birds, to conservation of the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in the Florida Everglades. David is the former Product Specialist, Birding & Nature Markets, for Leica Sport Optics, USA.
In 2010, Catherine gave away most of her possessions and left her apartment in New York City to draw and study birds while traveling across North, Central, and South America. On the road now for four years, she has set up her studio in wildlife refuges, in the backyards of strangers, in urban centers and in research stations. Come hear Catherine recount her many adventures as a Bird Artist.
Catherine Hamilton began drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil. The daughter of a neuroscientist and a rocket scientist, her childhood was steeped in natural history and scientific inquiry. Her father, a birder, took her on many trips to look for birds, and she started her first ornithological notebook at the age of seven.
Pursuing the fine arts in lieu of science, Catherine earned a BA from Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters from Bennington College. She taught at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1997-2003. She was obsessed with oil painting, and exhibited her work in group and solo exhibits from 1992-2003, but ultimately developed severe allergies from the chemicals involved in oils. In 2004, after her second anaphylactic episode, she left teaching and quit oil painting for good. Faced with this unwelcome change, she became fascinated with the lives and identification of birds and immersed herself in their visual representation.
Catherine has developed a body of work that crosses the boundaries between artistic and scientific. Her work was recently published in the Princeton University Press book The Warbler Guide and in the scientific journal Nature. Catherine is also featured in the 2012 HBO documentary “Birders: The Central Park Effect.”
The RAPTOR PROJECT PROGRAM
Free! / Saturday 11a – 12n
See Family Activities page for full rundown of this great offering. Everyone welcome!
A new wave of excitement is on the rise for birding urban areas. From New York and Chicago, to major epicenters overseas, local birding opportunities in cities and towns absolutely abound and diversity can be surprisingly stunning! Join Jen Brumfield to take an inside look into the joys and adventures of birding urban areas – the surprises are many!
Jen Brumfield is an outdoor educator/naturalist for Cleveland Metroparks, bird illustrator, author of several natural history field guides, and rep with Leica’s Birding Optics Prostaff team. Currently residing in Cleveland, Ohio, she runs dozens of specialized birding workshops throughout the Great Lakes region, including Lake Erie pelagics to hunt down jaegers and rare gulls. She eagerly combines her passions for extreme birding, field studies, outdoor education and detailed scientific illustration into a truly “wild” career.
For most birds there’s a multi-colored blob in some field guide that gives us some idea of how that particular bird lives its life; where it winters, breeds and how it makes its way in between. Have you ever thought about your own personal range map? Where do you live? Where do you bird? Are there places you avoid or that present danger to your birder being? Asking these questions and thinking about how we find comfort in this place or that is crucial if birding is to continue its upward trending status. In this presentation you’ll discover your own patterns of birder being; where you find “optimal” habitats and maybe the “suboptimal” ones, too.
J. Drew Lanham, a native of Edgefield S.C., is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and holds a B.A. and M.S. in Zoology and a PhD in Forest Resources (wildlife ecology) from Clemson University where he is currently a Master Teacher and Alumni Distinguished Professor teaching and conducting research in the area of wildlife management, land and conservation ethics, hunting ethics/philosophy and field and conservation ornithology. Drew is the co-host of the popular Your Day “Birding and Nature” radio show which airs internationally as live-streaming audio/video and on the South Carolina ETV radio network. Drew’s recent contribution to Orion Magazine’s “9 Rules for the Black Bird Watcher” was also featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition of All Things Considered
The encores keep getting louder and louder! This offering has been so popular that it’s now in its sixth season. Join our quizmaster, ABA President Jeffrey Gordon and his lovely “First Lady”, in a TV-style game show format, a multimedia production 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, made possible by the generous support of Eagle Optics.
Jeffrey A. Gordon is President of the American Birding Association, a non-profit organization that inspires all people to enjoy and protect wild birds (www.aba.org/join). 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 Texas-based Victor Emanuel Nature Tours.
Liz Gordon is one of the founders of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. She served on the board, ran the children’s program, worked with the artist and designed the festival graphics, and did anything else necessary to support the festival. Liz no longer lives in Harlingen, but she remains active with the festival, serving as Seminar Chair and Artist Liaison. Liz is now married to Jeffrey Gordon ABA President.