RGV Birding Festival offers field trips and more

20121101_GKIS_K_KarlsonYellow Kiskadee This brightly colored Yellow Kiskadee is one of many birds likely to be seen during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.The19th annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival will be held Nov. 7 through 11, with all activities based at the Harlingen Municipal Complex, 1204 Fair Park Blvd.

The festival features a wide range of offerings for birdwatchers and nature lovers, including morning field trips, afternoon seminars, evening keynotes, family programs, social events, authors signings, and a large trade show. More than 700 birders from all over the United States—plus Europe, Africa, and Australia—have pre-registered for the festival. Thousands more are expected to attend.

This year’s event boasts two nationally known keynote speakers. On Thursday evening, humorist, storyteller, comic strip writer, and radio personality Al Batt will entertain with his talk entitled Why is this Bird Laughing?

On Friday evening, writer, artist, and NPR commentator Julie Zickefoose will feature highlights from her new book, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds, which has been lauded by Oprah and Kirkus Reviews.

And then there’s the much-loved hilarity of the Great South Texas Quiz Show, back for an encore performance and a fun free offering Saturday night. Also, festival afternoons are filled with seminars of all flavors. Visit rgvbf.org for all the details.

A highlight and hub of activity is the Birder’s Bazaar Trade Show. More than 60 vendors will be on hand, including top optics companies Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss, Nikon, and Kowa, displaying a wide selection of binoculars and scopes in all price ranges. Also, booths selling jewelry, artwork, birdfeeders, native plants, and many other items make this trade show unique. The festival’s Silent Auction offers deals on a wide variety of optics, travel, artwork, and much more. Think Christmas! At the rear of the trade show Jonathan Wood, wildlife rehabilitator and founder of The Raptor Project in New York, will feature 30 live birds of prey—eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls—some of them movie stars. Hold one and get your picture taken (for a fee). Trade show hours are 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.

The Festival is filled with free family fun. The Raptor Project will also be featured in an auditorium program Saturday morning at 11 a.m.

The festival’s many field trips range from South Padre Island beaches to the Tamaulipan thorn scrub of Falcon Dam and mesquite uplands of King Ranch and back to the bayside of the nation’s birdiest refuge, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Special trips include raptor banding, photographer safaris, “Easy” trips for those that need less walking, boat and canoe trips, teacher’s workshops, a “camp” for teens, and even a Mimosa Breakfast with the Birds. Advance tickets are required for all field trips and most sell out very quickly.

For a full run-down of all the activities and online registration, visit rgvbf.org or call 1-209RGVBF.

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Thu - Mostly Sunny. High: 99 Low: 76
Fri - Mostly Sunny. High: 100 Low: 77
Sat - Sunny. High: 100 Low: 78
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