After a disappointing 2020 season where in-person Birding with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension programs had to be canceled due to COVID-19, the 2021 birding season is shaping up to be bigger, better and busier than ever, according to Emily Grant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Val Verde County.
Grant said space is extremely limited for both Birding the Border, which runs April 29-May 2, and Rio Diablo Birding Camp, which is May 29-June 5 and geared for youth ages 14-18. Both events use Del Rio as a home base, with day trips throughout prime birding locations on public and private lands in Southwest Texas.
Birding events will comply with all local, state and AgriLife Extension guidelines related to COVID-19 at the time of the events and follow procedures to keep participants safe and healthy, Grant said.
Birding the Border
Birding the Border is a three-day event that takes participants through a wide variety of unique habitats in the Edwards Plateau, South Texas Plains and the Chihuahuan Desert to find target species such as golden-cheeked warblers, black-capped vireos and Morelet’s seedeaters, as well as varied, indigo and painted buntings and tropical parulas.
April 12 is the registration deadline, but Grant said it may fill up sooner since limited spots remain. Registration is available at https://bit.ly/2PnjzFR; the cost is $50. Once registered, participants can pick from individually priced tours and events ranging from $100-$145 each. There is also a virtual learning option on May 1 for $10, which allows access to Migratory Bird Nutrition and Bird and Ecosystem Health talks.
“We look forward to taking people to some of the best birding spots in Val Verde and Kinney counties, including public, private and restricted-access properties,” Grant said.
Participants may choose from one of five locations each day to go birding with a professional guide and local “birding buddies.” Each day also features a photography-centered trip among the choices.
Other activities scheduled are a welcome social at Val Verde Winery, the Birds, Bats and Owls Benefit Dinner at Kickapoo Caverns State Park, a Birding with Extension dinner featuring guest speaker Laura Keene, and a “Birds and Beer” at Mesquite Creek Outfitters.
Rio Diablo Birding Camp
The Rio Diablo Birding Camp is a week-long immersive nature camp that will take youth on hikes and explorations throughout the southwestern region of Texas.
Campers can expect to see iconic birds of the region, including golden-cheeked warblers, black-capped and gray vireos, tropical parula, Colima warbler, green jay, great kiskadee, elf owl, varied and painted buntings, black-tailed gnatcatcher, common black hawk, ringed and green kingfishers, and Rivoli’s and Lucifer hummingbirds.
“Campers will experience and learn about more than just birds, though,” said Grant. “Afternoon talks and workshops from camp leaders and guest speakers will cover a range of topics including astronomy, geology and ancient peoples to conservation and careers in wildlife. Structured downtime will also allow for independent exploration.”
Other wildlife Grant said campers may see include millions of Mexican free-tailed bats as they emerge from a cave, white-tailed deer, javelina, black bear, many species of snakes, spiny lizards and over four dozen species of butterflies.
The cost of the camp is offset by donations, and the most it will cost any camper is $900. Prospective participants should apply immediately at http://bit.ly/BirdingCamp due to limited availability.
Learn to Bird
Learn to Bird is the fall program of Birding with Extension and geared toward the novice birder. Participants do not have to have any previous experience with formal birding, Grant said.
The Learn to Bird program will be offered twice this year. Learn to Bird West will take place Oct. 8-11 on the McKenna Ranch in northern Val Verde County. The new Learn to Bird East will be Oct. 13-15 at Long Acres Ranch in Fort Bend County, just outside Richmond.
“We are excited to be having a program in East Texas for the first time,” said Grant. “These programs are designed to get new birders the basic skills they need and for beginning birders to take their skills to the next level.”
Space is limited to 11 participants for each region. Texas Master Naturalists may be eligible for advanced training hours.
Both programs will feature focused birding trips lead by a professional birding guide and educational presentations by AgriLife Extension faculty.
Because additional details are still pending, check the Learn to Bird website for updates. Contact Grant at email@example.com for further information or at 830-774-7591.