Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival celebrating 25th anniversary

HARLINGEN — One of the Valley’s high-flyers is about to turn 25 this year.

Organizers of the 25th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival believe they will top the previous year’s festival with even more attractions for world birders.

This anniversary year, says festival chair Sue Griffin, will be “the big bang-up.”

“We are just completing all of our field trip plans and getting the pricing on those and getting those into our web page,” she said recently.

“We’ve got some really good speakers this year, and it’s going to be our 25th anniversary,” she added, “so we’re looking forward to bringing back a lot of our former participants and speakers and honoring them, along with our former board members and committee chairs.”

The festival runs from Nov. 7 to 11.

The field trip postings on the birding festival’s website at www.rgvbf.org are eagerly anticipated by people intending to travel to Harlingen for the event.

Since the trips are first-come, first-served when it comes to registration, some of the more exotic or interesting trips fill up quickly.

This year a pre-trip is scheduled for Laredo, and a guided post-festival trip will be available to El Cielo, Mexico, to the biosphere preserve just south of Ciudad Victoria.

“We have a couple of new trips this year,” she said. “One is called ‘Battlefields and Birds,’ and it’s going to be led by some distinguished guides who are also history buffs.”

She said the 25th festival also will continue making itself amenable to people with mobility issues.

“We’re going to continue that this year,” she said. “We welcome anyone with a wheelchair, a mobile device or even just a walker.

“We feel they can’t get around as well as the other birders that would be on field trips so therefore we have a special small group that will meet at the site,” she added. “They can transport their own chair or their own device and meet the guides at the site.”

Griffin has been affiliated with the festival practically from its beginning, for 21 or 22 years, she said. This will be her fifth year as chair of the festival which is based in Harlingen but extends across the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.

“It has just been a phenomenal success,” she said.

Last year, 600 participants signed up for the guided birding tours, and she estimates another 2,500 to 3,000 people visited the Municipal Auditorium Complex to visit with vendors and purchase birding gear like field glasses and spotting scopes.

“We hire between 80 and 90 guides, and then you’ve got another 100 volunteers who are there for either the entire year as a volunteer, or a number of our volunteers just come and work one shift one day or they work for a couple of hours every day,” Griffin said.

“We have a good participation from the Winter Texan community around Harlingen,” she added, “and we have a really good rapport with the city, and the Chamber and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. All of those are extremely helpful in putting on the festival.”