Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival Nov. 4-8, 2015

The famed Rio Grande Valley, at the southernmost tip of Texas, boasts the largest concentration of tropical birds in the U.S. Its diverse habitats are home to birds and wildlife seldom seen in one place, and the area is well known to birders around the world. If you’ve never been there, it might be hard to know where to begin to see it all. Fortunately for you and me, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival (RGVBF) puts it all together for us.

Now in its 22nd year, the RGVBF is known for its down-home, friendly feel. Started by a group of dedicated volunteers in 1994, this 5-day event is a well-oiled machine, but has never lost its sense of community. I remember heading off to my first RGVBF with Eagle Optics in 2011. My coworkers were always buzzing about RGVBF, and after my inaugural trip, I understood why. Everyone who attends is made to feel like family.

Just today, RGVBF staff member Sue Griffin told me registration opened earlier this week, and 200 people have already registered. That means field trips are beginning to fill.  See what I mean? RGVBF is approaching quickly, and participants are eagerly anticipating that warmTexas hospitality, meeting new friends, and seeing amazing birds. Sound good to you, too?  Check out registration info here.413463_10150668010308847_59781802_o

The host city, Harlingen, sits between the Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, and is the perfect stepping-off point for the numerous field trips available to attendees. But, good luck making your choices! The myriad of offerings include bird and raptor banding, butterfly viewing, birding by river pontoon, shorebird ID, a quest for parrots, (whew!) and more. You can download the 2015 brochure here. Choose from trips to Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park and World Birding Center, King Ranch, Boca Chica, South Padre Island, and the numerous nearby preserves and sanctuaries. There are also pre-festival and post-festival trips planned to make the most of your visit.
While some trips have limited space due to early registrations, there is still good availability left. Not sure which field trips are right for you? The website makes recommendations for first-timers, families, and those who prefer minimal walking. Time to make your decision, folks. You don't want to miss this opportunity!

Altamira Oriole by RGVBF 2015 Artist, Gerald Sneed
You’re probably getting the idea of the depth of activities on the docket. Find yourself engaged in one of the many seminars. Sit in on the Big Sit or ride along in a chase van! Study shorebirds, bird photography, learn birding by ear,  and discover the rare seedeater or Aplomado Falcon.  Shop for optics, artwork, books, and related products at the Birders Bazaar trade show.

Don't miss the gracious receptions and happy hour gatherings, and have your books signed, Make a bid at the silent auction, take a family bird walk, and thrill to The Raptor Project's free demonstrations. You’ll be walking with, listening to, and learning from the leading experts in birding. This 22nd annual RGBF welcomes speakers and personalities well-known in the birding industry: ABA Prez Jeff Gordon, Kevin Karlson, Dale Rosselete, Shawneen Finnegan, Greg Miller, Karl S. Berg, and Dorian Anderson.

No matter what your level of expertise, there are field trips, events, and seminars for everyone at RGVBF. That includes beginner to advanced birders, butterfliers, Spanish speakers, photographers, artists, and children.  Also, you won't want to miss RGVBF's famous TV-style Quiz Show on Saturday night!  The organizers have made sure that the welcome mat is wide and welcoming, and the excitement is palpable from beginning to end.

Come to south Texas! Enjoy the Rio Grande Valley and its hosts, and bring your Life List. You’ll be sure to create memories that will last for years to come. See you there!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

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