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Weslaco Meeting from a First Time Attendee

By Karen Carpenter, Dallas

Sunday, May 5


I write this as I’m frantically researching new county target lists on eBird, counting all the new birds I saw for my Texas list as I reach for 500, and plotting which counties I can get over 100 on our way home.  Today is the last day of my first TOS meeting in Weslaco, an experience I won’t soon forget.  One of my birding friends, Kelley Miller, told me about the Texas Century Club and introduced me to these gatherings last year.  I can’t decide if I’m mad at her for this yet!  When I learned that my local Dallas birding hero, Christian Walker, would be there, the decision was made and off we went, birding our way down to the Rio Grande Valley.


I started birding several years ago, just enjoying the birds that I could identify, and wondering what all the others were.  A volunteer at High Island once told me, after I asked him how do you remember all these different warblers, you just learn them one by one.  And so I began my birding quest, one bird at a time.  As I checked off new species that I had seen, puzzled over juvenile raptors passing through, and started recognizing the intricate field marks that differentiate the sparrow species in winter, this new challenge of county listing triggered my collector gene and I was hooked.


The TOS meeting in Weslaco offered all the obsessive birding a newbie like me could ask for.  County listing success, check (Willacy county from 0 to over 100 in a single day, thanks Lisa Edwardsand Laura Wilson).  Meeting other people who don’t glaze over as I recount the tales of the birds I had seen that day, check (Thanks Christine Turnbull for the great new attendee orientation where I met more of “my people”, fellow newbie Lisa Madry and her mom, Karen).  Keeping my husband interested in birding alongside me, check (Thanks Bill Clark for the raptor search field trip where my husband could chase his favorite birds all day).  Meeting ornithologists who readily shared their knowledge on hybridization and species concepts, check (Thanks Chris Butler, who was trapped riding with me in the backseat to Willacy County).  Great birds in sketchy new locations I hadn’t visited, check (Watching for drug dealers at the gravel pits in Brooks County, thanks Lynn Thompson and Crystal Ledezma).  Learning at a great keynote address why the two cemeteries we visited this week contained so many birds, check (Thanks Jennifer Bristol, for a presentation filled with beautiful bird photos).  Advice on which birds to prioritize of the many species I could chase the last day, check (Go for the Yellow-green Vireo, you can always find a Black-billed Cuckoo in Spring, thanks Byron Stone and Randy Pinkton)!  A chance to support birding conservation and protection of habitat, check (Thanks TOS for sites like Paradise Pond and Magic Ridge, which I visited on the way home).  And the obligatory Nana’s feast when in the RGV, check (Thanks, Nana)!  


Now, I just need to get that first Quarter Century listing pin.  You can bet I’ll be working on it over the next year, hoping to be ready for January 2025 in Beaumont!  I’ll see you there.  


And yes, I did finally get a Black-billed Cuckoo on the way home. 



Fashionista, Randy Pinkston, dressed in theme as a Yellow-green Vireo to help find one on the last day Rarity Round-up, with Kelley Miller, who couldn’t resist a lifer even though she had a long drive home that day.

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