Why Birders Flock to the Lower Rio Grande Valley – Lists and Photographs

Post #2 of The Great South Texas Birding Adventure Series
Link to Post #1 The Great South Texas Birding Adventure Begins

Why would the three amigos from The Great South Texas Birding Adventure choose South Texas as their destination for this grand escapade?
Two things, Lists and Photographs!

Astronomical Growth of Birdwatching

Huge numbers of people are bird-watchers; the United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that something like forty-eight million Americans watch birds. In fact, birding is one of (if not the) fastest-growing outdoor hobbies in the country.  Birdwatching is the second most popular hobby in the US (behind gardening) and has become the fastest growing recreational activity among young people in the United States.

Waiting for the Elf Owl @ Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP, TX

What’s the difference between birdwatching and birding?

So, although the interest is the same, what separates birdwatching from birding is the level of commitment. While birdwatchers may have a field guide and pair of binoculars to identify yard birds, birders are slightly more obsessed and are prone to actively travel distances (sometimes great) to see a new bird to add to one or more of their lists. Birders are obsessive about keeping a life list, and often maintain country lists, state lists, county lists, and even zoo and tv lists of the birds they have seen or heard.

Birding the Rio Grande River – eBirder Extraordinaire – Jim Rowoth

Advent of the Photobirder

On the birdwatchingdaily.com website is a story about how birding has changed in the 2010s. In his article “How birdwatching changed in the 2010s“, Matt Mendenhall lists bird photography as the number one factor that changed birding the most.

On the Geographical website Paul Jepson shares that bird photography is broadening public engagement with birds and is central to the design and development of social media and Web 2.0. Blogs, in particular, also create connections between bird-photographers and birders.

Photographing a Common Pauraque family from a safe distance, Estero Llano Grande SP, TX

Just as there is a distinction of dedication between the birdwatcher and birder; there are different inclinations in bird photographers. Bird-photographers, or photobirders come in different flavors and distinctions.

Jim Rowoth and Rich Brown digitally shoot birds at the Laguna Vista Nature Trail, TX

Photobirder Type 1 – the Photo-IDer
While in the field recently, I overheard a photographer comment: “I am a photographer first, birder second. I photograph a bird I see it, and then ID it later while editing my photos with the field guide next to my computer.

I feel sorry for true birders that have to ID the bird in the field without the benefit of a dozen photos to confirm the ID.

Photographer’s comments in the field

Photobirder Type 2 – the Photo-Lister
The Photo-Lister tries to get a photo of every species and is not too concerned with quality

Photobirder Type 3 – the Trophy-Hunter
The Trophy-Hunter is looking to get an outstanding action shot with the best photographic composition and exposure possible.

What’s so Special About the Lower Rio Grande Valley?

#1 Birding Destination in the US

The Lonely Planet

Top 10 Best Spots for Bird Watching in the U.S.

Condé Nast

Nowhere else in the United States can the pulse and excitement of spring migration be felt more keenly than in South Texas! Birds funneling up from the Tropics to their summer breeding grounds pass through coastal South Texas in numbers and varieties that stagger the imagination. Adding to that excitement are almost two dozen Mexican northern limit species, plus a slew of regional desert and plains birds.

Santa Ana NWR, TX

The second-largest U.S. state boasts a whopping 639 bird species, and perhaps the hottest birding hot spot in North America: The Rio Grande Valley. In South Texas, you can expect to see many species at the northern limits of their global range.

  • Lower Rio Grande Valley Specialty Birds
    Species at the northern limits of their global range
    • Plain Chachalaca
    • White-tipped Dove
    • Groove-billed Ani
    • Common Pauraque
    • Buff-bellied Hummingbird
    • Green Kingfisher
    • Ringed Kingfisher
    • Aplomado Falcon
    • Great Kiskadee
    • Couch’s Kingbird
    • Green Jay
    • Long-billed Thrasher
    • Clay-colored Thrush
    • Olive Sparrow
    • Altamira Oriole
    • Audubon’s Oriole
  • Southern US Resident Birds – includes birds typical of the Gulf coast, plains and desert habitats found across the southern US. This includes beautiful birds such as Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Verdin, Crested Caracara, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren and so on.
  • Migrating Neotropical Birds – includes dozens of species of birds passing through on their visits to/from Mexico, Central and South America.

Next week’s post – What a Dump!

2 thoughts on “Why Birders Flock to the Lower Rio Grande Valley – Lists and Photographs”

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