Now that I’ve shared a glimpse into just how special the birds of the Rio Grande Valley are, I feel compelled to mention the people. This is probably because I fell in with such spectacular individuals. After all, a birding festival is as much about birders as it is about birds, and the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival is undoubtedly one of the most important birding festivals in the United States. It’s one of the friendliest, too, thanks to local organizers and enthusiasts like Jan and Danny, who ensured that every visitor had the best time possible by bringing a warmth and professionalism to each moment of the day, no matter how early.
This festival was quite special for me because I had the privilege of staying with some truly exceptional folks. Marci and Terry Fuller are not only among the most gracious hosts you’d ever want to meet, but their deep passion for and knowledge of the flora and fauna of Texas, Mexico, and points south is nothing less than inspirational. Their home, apparently the spiritual heart of the Rio Grande Valley nature community, is affectionately termed the Fuller Eco Lodge, with very good reason. I spied my first Buff-bellied Hummingbird amidst the verdant splendor of their backyard, where Yellow-crowned Night Herons roost at night and rare butterflies light to sup on orange slices. Thanks, guys!
I owe my good fortune in this regard entirely to my friends Jeff and Liz Gordon. I spent the festival with Jeff, a dangerously skilled birding guide, and Liz, who’s just plain dangerous, along with other dynamic Delaware denizens Jim White and Sharon Lynn. Throw in Bill Thompson III, otherwise known as the consort of Julie Zickefoose, and Robert Kirk of Princeton University Press and you’ll get a sense why each day was filled with relentless, and I mean relentless, adventure and hilarity.
And the insanity didn’t stop there, not with characters like Jeff Bouton of Leica, Mike Freiberg of Nikon, Clay Taylor of Swarovski, Katie and Kristin of Eagle Optics, and a murderer’s row of birding authors, guides, and industry insiders. For every person I’ve named, I’ve left about 10 out but no slight is intended. If you’ve ever attended a major birding festival, you’ve probably met some of these sterling individuals and enjoyed every minute of it. No matter who you encounter, chances are they feel the same goofy, geeky excitement you do about the good birds!
Thanks to the inimitable industry of Sharon Stiteler– the ebullient Birdchick — this year’s Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival was the setting for the Second Annual Bird Blogger Conference. Sharon really took the bird blog bull by the horns both in leading a seminar on blogging and organizing a blogger confab. Mark my words, when the mainstream birding community begins to finally grasp what birding blogs are all about, Sharon will deserve much of the credit (or blame!)
We bloggers had a typically thought-provoking conversation. In attendance in no particular order were myself, Sharon, Jeff, Liz (on blogging hiatus!), Kristin, and the following luminaries:
- Amy of WildBird on the Fly
- John of Born Again Bird Watcher and Nature Blog Network
- Eva of The Flying Mullet
- Grant of The Birder’s Library
- Hugh of Round Robin
- Catherine of Birdspot
- Steve of Birdwatchradio.com
Obviously, you should have been there too! So now that you know the cast of characters, I can finally regale you with tales of ridiculous Rio Grande Valley birding. Stay tuned…