FIELD TRIPS 2017
The RGVBF has long been known for its low ratio of participants to guides and for the quality of its leaders. Check out the Trip Leaders section for a summary of this year’s guides. We have an outstanding group of talent this year to guide our field trips, and several new destinations including new pre-festival and post-festival trip destinations. Also new this year is the Young Birders track plus a series of trips for mobility-challenged birders.
While we have kept the classic field trips that define our Festival, we have also added a few new locations, and a few twists on old favorites. Click on Schedule for a simple overview of the daily trips. Below is a more detailed daily description of the activities offered, with access to the specific information in each box.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON TRIPS !
Please stay in Harlingen during the Festival – trips leave early and cannot be met at the sites.
For special trips for photographers, see the PhotoTrack section.
Vegetarian lunches available – choose when registering online.
Keep in mind that, with their limited seating, van trips tend to sell out quickly.
* Designates a special trip -new offering, distinctive leader or only conducted this year.
Be prepared for South Texas sun and bugs on all trips. Chiggers live here, so stay on paths when on field trips and avoid tall grasses. Bring appropriate remedies if chiggers love you.
Water and water bottles provided.
Check with driver to be sure your scope and tripod will fit on vans. On bus trips, tripods may need to be stored in luggage area of bus.
Hand-held cameras are fine on most trips; icons just designate a better opportunity.
Cameras with long lenses and tripods cannot be accommodated on van trips other than PhotoTrack. For special trips for photographers, see the PhotoTrack section.
Bus/van designation may change. We reserve the right to make adjustments as needed.
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.
*ARROYO COLORADO UNIT
with Anthony Henehan
Fee $65 /Wednesday, Thursday 6:30am – 12noon
This is a rare opportunity to visit the Arroyo Colorado Unit of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This Wildlife Management Area is closed to visitors, but we’ve arranged a special tour for the festival. In recent years, this area of thornscrub near the Arroyo Colorado has had a variety of rarities including Blue Bunting and Rose-throated Becard.
Targets: White-tipped Dove, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Carolina Wren, Long-billed Thrasher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Olive Sparrow.
*AUDUBON ISLANDS of LAGUNA MADRE
with Stephanie Bilodeau
Fee $95 / Wednesday, Friday 6:30am – 12:30pm
This is a wonderful opportunity for a small group to go out on the bay 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 Bays 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 (restrooms at dock). It can be cool on the boat – don’t forget your jacket.
Targets: Close views of herons and egrets, gulls and terns and, with luck, Mangrove Warbler.
*BAHIA GRANDE UNIT
Fee $75 / Wednesday, Thursday 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. We will have a restroom stop before and after our birding.
Targets: Herons, egrets, shorebirds, gulls and terns, Aplomado Falcon, White-tailed Hawk, wintering sparrows.
BENTSEN – RIO GRANDE VALLEY STATE PARK
Fee $65 / Wednesday, Friday, 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 the 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 $110 / Saturday 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 outbound for lots of birds and friendly competition. This is a great choice for Festival returnees or listers. A prize will be given to the participants of the van with the longest list!
Goals: Racking up an impressive day list – Valley specialties, anything, everything!
*BIKING for BIRDS
with Dorian Anderson
Fee $80 / Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 7am – 1pm
Friday – 7:30am – 12:30pm
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.
These trips will all be limited to eight participants. We will 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. These trips continue to be popular, so we’re trying some new sites.
Thursday – Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park (4 miles of paved trails)
Friday – Resaca de la Palma State Park (8 miles of paved and dirt trails)
Saturday – Southmost Preserve of The Nature Conservancy, biking on dirt roads at this normally closed preserve
Sunday – Laguna Atascosa NWR, biking on paved and dirt roads including some areas rarely seen by park visitors
Goals: Enjoying a morning’s ride through some of the Valley’s most productive birding areas, while encouraging green birding, taking in fresh air, and building a great list.
with Mark Conway
Fee $75 / 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.
*BIRD SOUNDS DECODED
with Nathan Pieplow
Fee $95 / Friday, Saturday 6:30am – 12:30pm
What better way to build on Wednesday’s workshop than spending some time in the field with Nathan Pieplow putting your new knowledge into action. We will practice listening to birds in the field, and learn to use your Smartphone to make and then interpret spectrogram. Be sure to bring your copy of Nathan’s Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America (available at the Birder’s Bazaar) to get the most out of this trip!
Goals: Put skills learned in Wednesday’s Becoming an Expert Listener workshop into practice in the field, including how to make a spectrogram on your Smartphone, and how to interpret it.
*BIRDING 101 WORKSHOP
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, a former education and outreach specialist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and co-leader of the ABA’s Camp Colorado and VENT’s Camp Chiricahuha.
Goals: Developing basic birding skills, learning bird identification, enjoying time in the field.
Fee $65 / Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 6:30am – 12noon
We’ll explore Boca Chica Road all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. This area of coastal prairie has interesting areas of salt flats, grasslands 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 notify Tamie Bulow at [email protected] or (956)423-5565. No restrooms on site, but restroom stops before and after.
Targets: Snowy Plover, Reddish Egret, White-tailed Kite, Harris’s and White-tailed Hawks, Gull-billed Tern, Aplomado Falcon, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Cassin’s Sparrow.
*BREAKFAST WITH THE BIRDS AT THE INN AT CHACHALACA BEND
with Noah Stryker
Fee $85 / Sunday 7am – 12noon
Come and enjoy Texas hospitality and a buffet breakfast on the delightful grounds of the Inn at Chachalaca Bend. Set in some 40 acres adjoining a picturesque resaca, the Inn offers birding opportunities before, during and after breakfast with its extensive trails and birding stations. This is 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
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 in 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!
*COLLEY’S “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.
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. Restrooms at dock. It can be cool on boat in mornings – don’t forget your jacket.
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!
DIGISCOPING FROM THE DECK – see listing in Photo Track section.
EASY (BUT NOT LESS!) BIRDING TOUR
Fee $70 / Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 7am – 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.
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.
*eBIRD TIPS AND TRICKS
with Ian Davies
Fee $65 / Wednesday, Sunday 6:30am – 12:30pm
Want to learn how to get the most out of eBird’s free birding tools? Join Ian Davies of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird team in the field for insider tips and tricks on becoming a better eBirder (and birder). Bring your Smartphone with the free eBird Mobile app downloaded and join Ian on a birding trip with a side of eBirding! Ian will also share tips on estimating flock size, how and when to use breeding codes, and more. Your local eBird reviewer will love you for it. We’ll visit the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a great venue for a small group with many of the Valley’s specialty birds and the chance for a rarity!
Goal: Learn how eBird can help you track your sightings, find more birds, and how to become a better eBirder!
Fee $70/ Wednesday, Saturday 6:30am – 1pm
Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and Quinta Mazatlan are World Birding Center sites and 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 has large ponds and smaller water features, birding trails, feeding areas, butterfly gardens, observation platforms and a modern interpretative center set in some 40 acres of native vegetation and wetlands. Quinta Mazatlan 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.
Targets: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Eastern Screech-Owl, 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 $65 / Wednesday, Saturday, 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.
*IDEA CAMP RIO
Fee $70/ Saturday, Sunday 7am – 12noon
IDEA Camp Rio at Historic Camp Lula Sams is a former Girl Scout camp that is now an outdoor classroom for IDEA Schools during the week. IDEA Schools in coordination with the Valley Land Fund are conserving and enhancing Camp Rio’s 85 acres of prime thornscrub and woodland habitat as a wildlife refuge and outdoor classroom. We’ll explore the birding trails through native habitats in this normally closed area, and if time allows, we will visit the small blinds with water features. After visiting the camp, we will spend some time birding the ponds and surrounding woodlands of the adjoining Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s 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.
with Tom Langschied
Fee $110 / 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!). The Norias division is the second largest section of this ranch and is the most southeastern of the four divisions. The sandy soils of Norias support extensive areas of grasslands, thornscrub and live oak woodlands – and more Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls than anywhere else in the U.S.!
Targets: Wild Turkey, Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Greater Roadrunner, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Vermilion Flycatcher, Sprague’s Pipit, Audubon’s Oriole.
Fee $95/ Thursday, Saturday 6am – 4:30pm
One of the delights of Kleberg County, particularly in years of above average rainfall, is its myriad of fresh and brackish wetlands. On this trip, we’ll be visiting the most productive wetlands 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. Stops will be made at public restrooms.
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 notify Tamie Bulow at [email protected] or (956)423-5565.
Targets: Waterfowl, waders, shorebirds, sparrows.
LAGUNA ATASCOSA NWR
Fee $65 / Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 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. The fifteen miles of Bayside Drive are closed to the public; this trip is an opportunity to visit that area and other closed areas of the refuge.
Targets: American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Snowy and Piping Plovers, Groove-billed Ani, Green Jay.
MARTIN REFUGE – see listing in PhotoTrack section.
*MCALLEN NATURE CENTER AND SAN JUAN WETLANDS
Fee $65 / Wednesday 7am – 1pm
The McAllen Nature Center has quickly become a local favorite. We’ll explore the trail system through native brush, and spend some time watching the feeders. Next, we’ll explore the San Juan Wetlands, with reclaimed marshes and a host of wetland birds.
Targets: Waterfowl, Plain Chachalaca, Green Kingfisher, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Clay-colored Thrush, Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrashers, Olive Sparrow.
OLD PORT ISABEL ROAD – APLOMADO ALLEY
Fee $65 / Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 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 33 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. Restrooms are limited.
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.
*ORNITHOLOGY AND MORE
with Jon Dunn
Fee $95/ Thursday, Friday 7am – 1pm
Join Jon Dunn for this special trip to Estero Llano Grande State Park. Jon’s interest in taxonomy and the history of ornithology are common subjects in his guided tours. This special tour will give you a different way to use a field guide as well as insights into ornithology. The birdy Estero Llano Grande State Park is a wonderful site for this field workshop.
Goals: Developing a deeper understanding of birds and bird identification and honing field-craft skills.
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.
Note: Guides will not keep an eBird list for this trip, but you are welcome to keep your own.
Targets: Green Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot.
PHOTOGRAPHING VALLEY SPECIALTIES – see listing in PhotoTrack section
PHOTOGRAPHY ON SPI – see listing in PhotoTrack section
Fee $95 / Wednesday, 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 Sacahuistale 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. Stops will be made at public restrooms.
Targets: Waterfowl, herons and egrets, shorebirds, raptors, Cassin’s Sparrow, wintering sparrows.
*RANCHO LOMITAS AND LAS ESTRELLAS
with Rich Kostecke
Fee $95 / Wednesday, Friday 5:30am – 4pm
This is a very special trip for birders, botanists, butterfly enthusiasts, 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.
*RESACA DE LA PALMA STATE PARK and UNIVERSITY RESACAS
Fee $65 / 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 campus of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – 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 (rare), Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Green Parakeet, Great Kiskadee, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Black Phoebe, Bewick’s Wren, wintering passerines.
RIVER PONTOON and ANZALDUAS
Fee $90 / 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 $65 / Friday, 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 (rare), 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 $65 / Thursday, 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.
*SANTA MARGARITA BLUFFS
Fee $115 / Wednesday, Saturday 5am – 2pm
This special edition of our Upper Rio Grande trip will visit the nearby Santa Margarita Bluffs on a private ranch overlooking the Rio Grande. We will walk on uneven and sometimes steep ground a short distance to the bluffs. The vista provided by this scenic bluff gives us a better chance for some difficult species including Muscovy Duck, Red-billed Pigeon, and raptors. After we’ve had our fill of this very scenic spot, we’ll head to Salineño for a riverside view and the well-stocked feeding station.
Targets: Muscovy Duck (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, Bewick’s and Cactus Wren, Verdin, White-collared Seedeater, Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Hooded, Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles.
with Anthony Henehan
Fee $50 / Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 8am – 12pm
Fee $70 / Thursday 8am – 12pm
Cannot climb in and out of a van? Do you use a personal mobility device? Still enjoy birding in a group? These are the trips for you. Participants will be given directions to MEET YOUR RGVBF GUIDES ON SITE (due to the transport of your mobility device), which is not allowed on other trips! Only birders using a mobility device (chair, scooter) and their birding companion or spouse are qualified to register for this trip. We’ll take our time and cover less ground, but we’ll enjoy all the birds we see. Small group size. If you are unsure if you qualify, contact us before registering.
Wednesday – Estero Llano Grande State Park
Thursday – private ranch
Friday – South Padre Island
Saturday – Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Sunday – National Butterfly Center
Note: HA restrooms available on site. Times are meeting times at the field trip site – allow for your travel time. Directions to meeting site will be given to participants at registration.
Fee $115 / Wednesday, Thursday 5am – 2pm
The White-collared Seedeater is found in Texas along the Rio Grande from Roma to Laredo. We’ll visit La Laja Ranch, a private ranch with extensive riverfront, in hopes of finding these tiny birds. The White-collared Seedeater is the only true tanager in the contiguous United States after recent taxonomic changes.
Targets: Muscovy Duck (rare), Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk (rare), Red-billed Pigeon (rare), Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Cactus Wren, Verdin, and of course, White-collared Seedeater.
*SHOREBIRD ID FIELD WORKSHOP
with Michael O’Brien Friday, Saturday
with Kevin Karlson Thursday, Sunday
Fee $95 / Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 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 Michael or Kevin on this in-depth field trip to work on shorebird identification with an expert. Suitable for birders of all levels. Space is limited, but with a small group, lucky participants will have an unforgettable experience. While shorebirds are the focus, we’ll look at and enjoy all the birds we see! Stops will be made at public restrooms.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND and BAY CRUISE
Fee $95 / Friday, Saturday 6am – 1pm
Sure, spring breakers migrate here in mid-March, but the birds make full use of this sub-tropical paradise all 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.
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, BIRDS AND BEERS – see listing in PhotoTrack section.
Fee $65 / Thursday, Friday 6am – 12:30pm
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 and riparian woodland, home to many of our Valley specialties.
Targets: White-tailed Kite, Harris’s and White-tailed Hawks, Couch’s Kingbird, Hooded and Altamira Orioles, Olive Sparrow, wintering warblers.
UPPER RIO GRANDE
Fee $90 / 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 and Chapeño. The feeding station at Salineño is always a highlight with a colorful frenzy of orioles, kiskadees and Green Jays. In recent years a small number of White-collared Seedeaters have been present at Salineño, and we’ll look for these shy birds – now the only true tanager in the USA – in the reeds. If time allows we’ll stop at Starr County Park.
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.
WESLACO’S URBAN OASES
On this leisurely tour, we’ll visit two 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. Conditions permitting, we will stop at a local sod farm on the way back.
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 $80 / 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. Ideal for county listers.
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.
Fee $80 / 6:30am – 2pm
Thursday – with Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with Jennie Duberstein and an additional leader
Lucky young birders age 12-20 will join expert guides for exclusive field trips limited to 10 participants. Destinations vary each day as do target species, but sign up every day for a valley-wide experience!
Thursday – with Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis to coastal locations and shorebirds
Friday – with Jennie Duberstein to Weslaco including Estero Llano Grande State Park
Saturday – with Jennie Duberstein to Mission and McAllen including Bentsen-RGV State Park
Sunday – with Jennie Duberstein to Santa Ana NWR and more
Target: See target lists for each site