Forty Countries' Folks Meet Forty Bird Species
by Keith Hackland (email@example.com)
published June 2016
The lure of birding the Lower Rio Grande
Valley is strong. It amazes us, but really should
not, that birders from so many countries hear
about the Valley and make their way here, binoculars
and cameras in hand.
During April we at Alamo Inn B&B, Gear
and Tours had a busy month, typical of spring
time. A young couple showed up in early April
from Japan. Shy and full of smiles, they knew
all about birding the Valley, and enjoyed a great
time. They were out early and back late, filled
with bird sightings and stories of loving it.
Early in April our group of 8 highly focused
German birders made the Valley their home for
a while. We guided them to see 265 bird species,
many of them migrants, and returned the
birders to Houston's International Airport for
their flight home.
Darren, a notable artist from Scotland guided
a tour from Great Britain. His tour seemed relaxed
and to move at slower rate, but appearances
can be deceptive. By the time they were
done and returned to Houston via the Texas Hill
Country, their bird species count was 300, a remarkable
In mid-April thirteen birders from Denmark
checked in and took over one wing of our hotel.
They were very interesting people, and also
very successful at spotting birds. We enjoyed
getting to know them. Our staff birding guide,
Mary Beth, and a mutual friend Pat, provided
them with top-notch guiding particularly identifying
unseen but heard birds by their calls.
The Danes loved eating Texas steaks and TexMex
foods. Their memory banks were packed
full when they drove north form the Valley, full
of our birds and food and laid back culture.
Birders from Norway, Maine, Washington,
Canada, Texas, California, and a dozen other
U.S. states stayed with us during April for anything
from one night to two weeks each. They
loved the fall outs of small birds on South Padre
These fall outs occur when winds blowing
from the north blow out into the Gulf of
Mexico. The song birds that migrate over the
Gulf, flying into head winds all night become
exhausted. They flop down onto any land they
see, which often turns out to be South Padre
Island. Here birders love that they can see these
beautiful birds close up (ten to thirty feet).
Because the birds are exhausted, they drop out of the sky to rest in shrubs and trees, becoming
instant celebrities to the gathered photographers
and birders. Water and food are
provided by kind South Padre Island and Port
The birds start arriving about 11 am and stay
one to three nights, gathering their strength to
continue their journey to our Northern states
and Canada, where they go to nest.
The Valley welcomes birders, having recorded
visitors from forty different countries including
places like: Sweden, France, Netherlands,
South Africa, Australia, Moldova (look it up,
adjacent to Ukraine), Bulgaria, and New Zealand.
We similarly welcome birds from Central
and South America, little hummingbirds and
tanagers, cuckoos and orioles, as well as raptors
such as Broad-winged Hawks and Mississippi
Kites. Probably a good forty species for
a birder who spends a week at peak migration
counting species at fall outs.
All these bird species and birders from all
those countries meet up in the Valley in spring.
What a party. What excitement. Local birders
post to Facebook on a site called Rio Grande
Valley Birding. It is fun monitoring the site
through the spring as excited birders post their
notes and photos of brilliant birds at their best
in breeding plumage.
It is fun to read all about it on Facebook, surpassed
of course by the fun of experiencing it.
Make a plan to go out birding next April and
May. If you cannot make it to South Padre Island,
any patch of Valley trees is likely to support
its share of migrants. As you photograph
and admire the forty abundant, tame bird species,
listen to the accents of the birders from
forty different countries and from forty different
states . . .