RGV Birding Festival Gets Underway Nov. 4 - 8


Each year millions of winged creatures return to the sunny clime of the Texas Rio Grande Valley, their annual wintering grounds.


Over 500 varieties of birds can be found in the Rio Grande Valley, a virtual birding paradise. As the birds come, so come the birders, many having traveled from the other side of the world, each armed with binoculars, cameras, tripods and field books, visiting such birding hot spots as the World Birding Center’s many RGV outlets, the Atascosa, Sabal Palm Sanctuary and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, as well as many other other natural areas up and down the Valley including the Rio Grande Valley Bosque.


Each fall the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival treats the most dedicated of birdwatchers to a five day birding feast - perhaps we should call it a fest.


You're invited to join in Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival to be headquartered in Harlingen Nov. 4 - 8 at the Municipal Auditorium. A wide array of events will be hosted across some of the most pristine and beautiful nature areas in the Rio Grande Valley. This year's Festival promises to be as rewarding and memorable as ever! With a combination of field trips, workshops, seminars, keynote lectures, children's programs, and a trade show, there is no doubt that there is something for everyone.


The event includes a a series of lectures by some of the top birding experts in the world, and combines plenty of opportunities to visit the birding hot spots of the region. Remember to bring plenty of film/batteries.


One of the highlights of the festival are the many guided birding trips to locations across the Valley, and even into Mexico. Not only can birders visit the real hot spots of the region, but be led by some of the most renowned guides in the birding world. And the participant to guide ratio is one of the best in the nation!


A few of this year’s trip leaders include:


Jon Dunn

Jon Dunn  has been a tour leader for Wings since 1977 and leads tours widely in North America and Southeast Asia. He has written numerous articles on distribution and identification and has co-authored National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and their Birding Essentials, Warblers, Gulls and Birds of Southern California, Status and Distribution. He is a member of the California Bird Records Committee, the American Birding Association’s Checklist Committee and the American Ornithologists’ Union Committee on Taxonomy and Nomenclature. He serves as a board member to Western Field Ornithologists’ and lives in Bishop, California.


Greg Miller

Miller was one of three persons to see more than 700 species in 1998 in North America. Pulitzer Prize winning Denver Post writer Mark Obmascik documented their stories in his 2004 nonfiction book, The Big Year. The book was converted to a Hollywood movie which was released in 2011 and starred Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. Greg was portrayed by the Jack Black character. He was also the Bird Consultant for the movie. Greg is currently a member of the American Birding Association’s Recording Standards and Ethics Committee and is an active tour guide for Wildside Nature Tours


Shawneen Finnegan

Shawneen began birding in Northern California as a young woman. Being passionate about bird identification led to a career that included leading and managing tours for WINGS, being the Range Data Editor for Santa Barbara Software’s Bird Area for 23 years, and is Photo Editor for Birding Magazine. Shawneen is also an accomplished artist with her work published in many books, magazines, catalogs, on clothing, and held in private collections. Cape May was home for years (where her heart remains) and later Tucson. Since moving to Portland, Oregon in 2007 for family reasons, she completed a B.S. in Geography at Portland State University, conducted bird surveys and currently teaches several classes for Audubon Society of Portland. She recently took over Tony White’s State Checklist Newsletter for AviSys Software. She is a member of Oregon and Washington Bird Records Committees, and ABA’s Record Standards and Ethics Committee.


Dale Rosselete and Kevin Karlson

Kevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer who has published many bird and nature related articles for magazines, books, and journals over the last 20 years. He is a regular presence at Bird and Nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations and workshops on bird identification and appreciation, as well as photo instruction. His photos can be seen in numerous locations, including his website Kevin is a co-author of The Shorebird Guide(Houghton Mifflin Co. 2006), and the author/photographer of a two photography books titled The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography(Schiffer Publishing, 2010, 2012). His most recent book with wife and co-author Dale Rosselete, Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds was released in May 2015 in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers.


Dale Rosselete is vice president for education for New Jersey Audubon and oversees the statewide public and school-based education programs as well as the organization’s center operations. She has extensive experience teaching children and adults in both classroom and informal education settings for over 30 years. In her capacity with New Jersey Audubon she has authored and co-authored four natural history curriculum guides as well as the book Wild Journeys: Migration in New Jersey. She is past president for the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education and chairs the governor-appointed New Jersey Commission for Environmental Education. She has received the 2012 Women in Wildlife Award as well as the Pat Kane Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Education. She is a co-author of Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) with her husband Kevin Karlson.




SHOREBIRD ID WORKSHOP hosted by Kevin Karlson & Dale Rosselete

Wed.,Nov. 4, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m./Fee $12


This interactive indoor workshop shares a different approach to field identification that Kevin calls Birding by Impression, A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, which is the title of his and Dale Rosselet’s new book in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series (April 2015). Covering shorebirds and other bird families, comparative digitized photos from this book encourages the audience to spot differences between similar species in direct side-by-side views. This exciting ID approach concentrates initially on basic impressions of size, shape and behavior to form an accurate mental picture of each bird seen in the field. A similar approach was used in Kevin’s popular book, The Shorebird Guide (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006). Test your birding and observation skills by attending this workshop and guessing the correct species using pertinent ID tips that contribute to your opinion.


Birding Together: How Birding Can Save Your Life and Maybe Save the World

Thursday, Nov. 5, 3:30-5:00 p.m./Fee $12


Join American Birding Association President Jeffrey Gordon for a celebration of the power of birding to heal and transform, not only our own lives but even our world. Those of us who are lucky enough to be birders know what a positive force birding can be. But that message is something that we as a community have had mixed results in conveying. Why is it that with as great a “product” to sell as the redemptive power of a passionate curiosity about nature and belonging to community of some of the most interesting, caring people anywhere, we’ve made relatively little traction with the wider public? Jeff will share stories and insights about how we can build a better world for birders and for birds.


Jeffrey A. Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association, now headquartered in Delaware City, Delaware. Jeff is also a well-known writer, photographer, tour leader, and naturalist. He is a frequent speaker at various birding and nature festivals. For more information on the ABA and on Jeff, visit


The Next Big Thing for Birding hosted by Greg Miller

Thursday, Nov. 5, 1:30-2:30 p.m./Fee $12


Field Guides have empowered birders for years by making valuable identification information available in a format that is easy to use in the field. Field guides have been responsible for a surge in the popularity of birding. They have transformed how we bird. eBird is a Citizen Science project that stores birders’ checklists from around the world in an online database. There are currently over 16 million checklists in this database for North America alone. But how can this help a birder? Many birders are faced with more demanding schedules that allow them less free time. How can a birder make the most out of smaller window of time? The free, online Impatient Birder’s Guide to North America is a good place to start. Your field guides help you with identification. The Impatient Birder’s Guide will help you with the where and when in planning a birding adventure. Greg believes it will transform how we bird in the future just like the introduction of field guides changed birding in the past.



Friday, Nov. 6, 10:30a – 12/Free!


Come join us to find out for yourself why 48 million Americans (USFW study) call themselves birdwatchers! Want to know the names of the birds you are seeing in your backyards, nearby parks, or lake and sea shores? Valuable information from our tag team of speakers on how to use binoculars, books, nature parks and organizations will help you Get Started Birding!



Norma Friedrich, Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society President; Introduction


Jan Dunlap, author of the acclaimed Birder Murder Mystery series, will present her easy instructions on “How to Walk, Talk, and Act Like a Birder (so you won’t feel like a complete idiot your first time in the field. Her newest release, The Kiskadee of Death, takes place here in the Lower Rio Grande River Valley. Jan is from Minnesota and this is her first visit to the Festival.

Jim Foster, outdoor writer who specializes in writing about and photographing nature, the outdoors, travel and adventure travel. The author of Birding Trails Texas Gulf Coast will speak about visiting places to bird that offer educational programs for birders and guided bird and nature walks.


Ben Lizdas, Eagle Optics Sales Manager – will offer tips on how to use binoculars.


While there are many wonderful special trips to choose from during the festival, we have had personal experience with Scarlet and George Colley, you  won't want to miss out on their trip offering and meeting these wonderful people who are dedicated local naturalists.



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 eco-systems 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!



Nov. 7 Saturday 11a – 12/Free!

See Family Activities page for full rundown of this great offering.  Everyone welcome


For this years detailed seminars, trips and events checkout their website at