I don’t consider myself a “Birder.” When I think of a Birder, I think of someone who can ID just about any bird AND can say if the bird is ambiguous enough that it can’t be identified. If it’s a little woodland bird or a little shorebird, I pretty much can’t give a positive ID, ever. Which is perfectly OK with because those are not the birds I enjoy watching. My favorite birds are big, colorful, and full of personality.
I began to learn and love birds while in undergrad at LSU. One of my favorite classes (Ecology of Louisiana Wildlife) brought us into the field for wildlife-watching and whatever we spotted in the field we had to learn and be quizzed on (by photos or calls) later in the classroom. Outside of class I found I really enjoyed knowing birds. I could IS an ibis and a roseatte spoonbill in the Atchafalaya basin. I could hear “peter-peter-peter” and say “Tufted Titmouse!” while walking on campus. Combined with my minimal knowledge of trees from Dendro, I enjoyed impressing people with my knowledge of the natural world. In Arkansas, I liked seeing the delicate Tufted Titmouse at my feeder in the winter. And the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds battle for territory during migration. But I haven’t really expanded my desire to learn the nitty-gritty details of birding, or to travel specifically to see a certain bird. I continue to be enraptured by everyday ducks, wading birds, and hawks on powerlines.
Now I live in the Rio Grande Valley (also known as the RGV or the “Valley”) which is one of the USA’s birding hot spots. Tourists come from around the nation and around the world to spot a bird they won’t be able to see anywhere else in the country. I’m lucky to work at a World Birding Center where I have learned about and seen many of our specialty birds and can share the experience with birders, non-birders, tourists, and locals.
Many local people have no idea what a rich resource is contained in our small portion of Texas. Coming from Louisiana and Arkansas where if you see a hawk it’s probably a Red-tailed, I still get a thrill seeing a beautiful but fairly common Harris’s Hawk on my drive home from work. If I were a “lister,” I would’ve made several life-checks since I moved down here last year but what really makes me happy is watching Chachalaca parents corral their young as they run across the floor of the thornforest.
Sometimes living in the Valley has its drawbacks but going out to a wetland and watching Cinnamon Teal forage and rest has a way of reminding me to slow down and appreciate this tropical world that surrounds me every day. When we move to begin another part of our lives, the birds of the RGV will always have a special place in my memories. Here are some more of my South Texas favorites…