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Chris, et al:

I've just returned from a too-short--3-day--visit to the RGV (short- 
hand for Rio Grande Valley).

For the past decade Jerry and I have spent the last week of December/ 
first week of January in the RGV.  I've made additional quick trips  
down to see several "ABA firsts"--amazing first-time visitors from  
Mexico.

Note:  We love southeast Arizona, San Diego Co. California, south  
Florida and many other places, but the RGV is #1, especially for  
birders fairly new to the obsession (uh, I mean, avocation).

We've been to various parts of Texas on many occasions--Hill Country  
(Black-capped Vireo/Golden-cheeked Warbler), High Island (hoping for  
a fall-out, but pleased with what we found), Galveston/Bolivar Flats  
(shorebirds & a Kelp Gull), Big Bend and vicinity (Montezuma Quail,  
Colima Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler), Lake Balmorhea (Clark's Grebe,  
etc.), San Bernard NWR, Christmas Bay, Quintana jetty (Seaside  
Sparrows, Horned Grebe, Purple Sandpiper etc.),  Hagerman NWR (Buff- 
breasted Sandpipers, geese, ducks, Harris's Sparrow), Baffin Bay  
(Groove-billed Anis, Sandhill Cranes, etc.).

Obviously, we have a long-standing love affair with Texas birding,  
developed en route to a Texas species list of more than 400 as those  
special birds were sought for their beauty and novelty in the ABA area.

All that said, there is no place in the US for birders like the Rio  
Grande Valley:  Working west from South Padre Island (SPI), to the  
mouth of the Rio Grande at Boca Chica, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Sabal  
Palm Grove, UT Brownsville campus, Frontera Nature Center, Santa Ana  
NWR, Quinta Matzatlan, Anzalduas County Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande  
State Park, Roma, Salineno, Falcon State Park and Falcon County Park   
(and several other sites along the way).

This is BIRD CANDYLAND.  One of the greatest pleasures I get in  
birding is watching birders on their first visit to the RGV!

When to go:  November through March.

What you'll see:  Minimum 30 lifers--probably 50 plus.

Species unique for the US in RGV or at least not typically found in  
MO (incomplete list):  Least Grebe, Northern Gannet, Anhinga,  
Magnificant Frigatebird, Reddish Egret, White Ibis, Roseate  
Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck,  
Cinnamon Teal, Mottled Duck, Masked Duck, Hook-billed Kite, White- 
tailed Kite, Gray Hawk, Common Black-hawk, Harris's Hawk, White- 
tailed Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Plain Chachalaca,  
Clapper Rail, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Red-billed  
Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, White- 
tipped Dove, Green Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot, Groove-billed Ani,  
Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird,  
Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker,  
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Trannulet, Black Phoebe,  
Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Couch's Kingbird, Tropical  
Kingbird, Chihuahuan Raven, Green Jay, Cave Swallow, Black-crested  
Titmouse, Cactus Wren, Rock Wren, Bewick's Wren,  Clay-colored Thrush  
(formerly Clay-colored Robin), Long-billed Thrasher, Curve-billed  
Thrasher, Sprague's Pipit, Phainopepla, Tropical Parula, White- 
collared Seedeater, Olive Sparrow, Cassin's Sparrow, Botteri's  
Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Lark Bunting,   
Blue Bunting, Hooded Oriole, Altamira Oriole, Audubon's Oriole,  
Lesser Goldfinch.

Drooling?  Well, any trip might luck into one of these rarities:

Northern Jacana, Roadside Hawk, Green Mango, Elegant Trogon, Social  
Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Brown Jay, Tamaulipas Crow, Black- 
headed Nightengale-Thrush, Blue Mockingbird, Gray-crowned  
Yellowthroat, Golden-crowned Warbler, Crimson-collared Grosbeak

Of course, not all of even the "regularly occurring" species will be  
seen on any one trip (that's one reason RGV birding becomes addictive).

I have a lengthy site description/directions/comments list for most  
of the RGV sites, and suggestions for eateries and accommodations.   
I'll email it to anyone on request.

Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
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