On Saturday, April 17, birders of all ages, skill levels, and physical prowess will hit the roads and trails of the Lower Rio Grande Valley to spot as many different species of birds as possible.  There will be fun.  There will be competition.  And certainly, there will be money earned through pledges and donations to benefit a worthy cause … the sustainability of Weslaco’s 15 acre urban habitat and birders’ hotspot:  Frontera Audubon.

This event has some loose rules.  Birders must register and pick up pledge sheets at Frontera Audubon, 1101 S. Texas Blvd.  Birding happens between 7a.m. and 7p.m. on April 17.  Participants may form their own team with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.  Or, several expert birders have volunteered to join your team to help you see more birds than you would have thought possible.  Have fun, see lots of birds, gain field identification tips in an intimate setting, raise money for Frontera … all in one day!

Teams may choose the geography they wish to cover.  A team may bird the three Weslaco sites:  Frontera’s Thicket, the Valley Nature Center, and Estero Llano Grande.  Another team may choose to spend the day at Laguna Atascosa or Santa Ana.  Some teams may carefully plot a meticulous route and schedule to absolutely maximize the number of species seen.  Other teams may decide to bird for 3 hours and go enjoy lunch!

This event is about the birds; it’s about the environment; but, it’s also about the money.  Frontera Audubon Society has been in existence for 35 years with a mission to conserve the resources that make the Rio Grande Valley unique.  After years of advocacy and meetings in members’ homes, the organization established a physical headquarters in 2002 at the site of the historic Skaggs Home.  The home remains in Frontera’s care having received Texas Historic Landmark status; it awaits the funding necessary to see it restored to its original splendor.  The property has become an urban haven for migrating songbirds and our year-round flock of specialty birds.  Frontera members lobbied for a habitat ordinance in 2003, allowing the parcel to “go native” and be revegetated to a native Tamaulipan thorn forest, making it a huge draw to naturalists and visitors from across the country who wish to observe our native wildlife and plants.  The City of Weslaco has awarded funds from the hotel and motel tax allotment the past three years, but funding is always a challenge at Frontera with its principal budget coming from charitable bingo, a dwindling source.

Recently, Frontera Audubon has embarked on a campaign to increase the organization’s presence in the community with expanded programming, open houses, nature walks, and other events that serve the neighborhood, as well as our winter visitors and wildlife enthusiasts.  In addition, the goal is to become self-sustaining with support coming from membership revenue, gifts, and grants.  In return, Frontera is committed to giving back to the community with activities that emphasize, but are not limited to, the Thicket and its fabulous wildlife habitat.

“We want to be a community resource offering our butterfly gardens, historic home and native plant and animal habitat to our neighbors who live in the Valley and the visitors who come from all over to see just what we have here,” says Frontera’s director, Cindy Willson. “The birds are a huge draw, but that’s not all.  We’ve been attracting more birds as we pay more attention to our feeding stations, and we’ve been attracting more human visitors as we pay more attention to our programs on birding in different parts of the world, our photography workshops, and gardening programs.”

“Our existence as a community gathering spot depends on our growing membership, our active volunteer group, and successful fund drives such as the one we’re working on right now,” Willson says. “The funds raised through the upcoming Birdathon and our annual appeal letter will be targeted to help cover operating expenses of the 15 acre site.  Corporate sponsorships and revenue from special events will finance next year’s slate of programs.”

To learn more about Birdathon 2010 call Frontera at (956) 968-3275 or drop by to register and pick up a pledge sheet.


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