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RGV Birding Festival
by Keith Hackland (alamoinn@aol.com)
published November 2015

The 22nd annual birding festival will be held in Harlingen, at the Harlingen Municipal Complex at Fair Park, with events from Thursday, November 5 through Sunday, November 8 (2015). It attracts birders from the Valley and around the world. Field trips, seminars, book signings, and a free trade show keep visitors busy. There are some 540 bird species in the Valley, fifty of which are specialties best seen here in the US. This attracts birders to the Valley and to the festival. This year the Birders Bazaar (trade show) will run Thursday through Sunday, 12 noon to 6 pm every day except Sunday when it closes at 5 pm. This free event offers over 100 exhibits about birding hot spots in the Valley, hot spots to visit around the world, optics and other birding gears, birding tours available, books, cards, native plants, some wonderful art, a cafe, and excellent raptor demonstrations.

At any time during the Birders Bazaar there are raptors perched at one end of the hall, where one can study them and photograph them. Then during the day every few hours there is a great demonstration of raptors by Jonathan Wood. He speaks about them and flies some of them inside the hall. The Trade Show is an event that should not be missed. You can have your photo taken with a live raptor by the staff at the Raptor Project.

One of my favorite events at the Birders Bazaar is the Silent Auction. Here on offer are dozens of birding related items, from accommodations and optics, to art and gear. Folks simply make bids by writing their name, telephone number and amount bid on the sheet. Anyone else can come by and do the same, upping the bid. The auction closes on Sunday at 4 pm when the highest bids get to purchase the item for their bid. The fun is dreaming about buying these items for great prices. Of course the prices rise as the days go by and other folks come by and make a higher bid.

Field trips for birders and seminars in the evening are the core of the festival. There is a great choice of trips, and many of them sell out. However the seminars always have seats available. Check RGVBF.org for more details about these.

The festival offers many different Family Activities. On Saturday Jonathan Wood and the Raptor Project will offer a free raptor show for the whole family in the Harlingen Auditorium for an hour beginning at 11 am. Imagine hearing stories about hawks and owls, then seeing a hawk or falcon fly just above the crowd, skimming over people to circle back to Jonathan who has trained it to fly and perch on his hand. This is falconry at its most impressive. The Raptor Project birds are typically handicapped rescue birds that cannot survive on their own in the wild, and are now engaged in education to make their living.

Kiskadee Korner offers fun for the family. It is also no charge and runs from 12 noon to 4 pm both Saturday and Sunday. It offers crafts, games, and other activities geared toward families with children, many about wildlife that can be found in everyone's back yard here in the Valley. Learn the basics of birding on a fun family (for folks of all ages) bird walk at 9 am Saturday with several expert leaders who will offer information and anecdotes about birding for families while walking through Fair Park watching birds. Also they will talk about and show how to use a field guide and binoculars. There is also a student art and writing contest for grades 5 to 12 being held Sunday at 1:30 pm involving drawing Valley birds and writing about Valley birds.

There are often celebrities walking the Birder Bazaar, and book signings at the end of the day. Check out the schedule online at RGVBF.org.

The author of this column will also be there running an exhibit for Alamo Inn B&B, Gear & Tours. Come meet me and chat about your birding experiences.

To find other nature events this fall, simply google your interests or the name of some wildlife hot spots, or search for them on facebook. Have fun in the fall here in our Valley, enjoying our rich wildlife.