La Feria News

Birders flock to the Valley

Jonathon Wood’s Raptor Project always a popular attraction. Photos: Bill Keltner/LFN

Jonathon Wood’s Raptor Project always a popular attraction. Photos: Bill Keltner/LFN

Discover one of life’s simple pleasures

Bill Keltner

Bill Keltner

The thrill of discovering a rare bird in its natural habitat is attracting more and more enthusiastic birders to the Valley every year. For birders, it’s akin to discovering a new planet in the universe or scaling Mount Everest. Hundreds of these enthusiastic hobbyists will be arriving for the Birding Festival in Harlingen next month. They will be coming from the United States and half a dozen foreign countries. The fact is that these bird lovers have made the Valley a big-time, multi-million dollar industry and a growing, tourist magnet, and the good news is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to join their ranks.

It was reported by Festival officials last year that flocks of avid birders from most of the United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, Japan, France and Mexico were represented during the almost week-long event.

The Harlingen Municipal Auditorium in Harlingen will again serve as the venue for the well-programmed displays, nature lectures and birding excursions. The visitors will also expose visitors to vendors and their displays of the latest electronic and optical telescopes and high-powered binoculars that enhance the growing hobby–there will be something for everybody.

Now the question: Just who are these people? What LA FERIA NEWS learned about this fascinating, pleasurable addiction might just open up a whole new world of interest for you and your family. Who knows, you just might become a birder yourself.

There are all kinds and varieties of bird watchers, and just as many styles–from passionate, intense souls loaded up with the latest technology, to the casual, “laid-back” types enjoying the outdoors with scarcely little knowledge about our winged, feathered friends in the sky or in our backyards. “It will open up a whole new world for you,” said one visiting birder. “You’ll see God’s creation in a whole new way.”

Contrary to what you might think, birding doesn’t have to be a costly hobby. It might be compared to stargazers, people who love the universe and can tell you more than you want to know about stars, constellations, and planets–and don’t own a telescope! Others own every known, optical device available to map the heavens; they may have their own observatory or planetarium. “To each his own,” as they say.

Exhibition of telescopes for advanced birders.

Exhibition of telescopes for advanced birders.

Novice Valley birders have the advantage of living in one of the prime, “must-see” locations in the world for observing native and migrating birds. That is why birders from a dozen or more countries regularly visit the Valley. There are species here in the Valley, year-round, that are not visible in other parts of the world. Now, a little background:

The designation of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in 1979 set the wheels in motion for connecting the remaining fragments of the original, native habitat left along the last 275 miles of the Rio Grande’s meandering journey to the Gulf of Mexico. That victory for conservationists was all that stood between the preservation or its destruction, by developers, of one of nature’s richest havens–The Rio Grande Valley birding paradise.

That designation opened the way to protect places like the Santa Ana Refuge, Laguna Atascosa, the Bird Watching Center on South Padre Island, and the just up-graded, unique Valley Nature Center in Weslaco, and other National Wild Life Refuges in the Rio Grande Valley. Armies of refuge volunteers and nonprofit friends of the Wildlife Corridor have worked diligently to maintain these powerful magnets for birdwatchers and other naturalists from around the world. Information about the refuges is available at (209) 227-8423.

We are living in a bird watchers paradise—The annual Birding Festival will start on November 2, 2016. But bird watching lasts all year long in the Valley. So, partner, if you haven’t been bitten by the birding bug so far, you might want to give it some thought, but be warned, it is contagious.

If you would like more information about the event, you are invited to visit the ARROYO COLORADO AUDUBON SOCIETY at or email


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