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January 2024 TOS Meeting in Weslaco


The 2024 winter meeting of the Texas Ornithological Society will take place in Weslaco on January 11-14, 2024.  The Rio Grande Valley is one of the best birding locations in North America, even in winter. The weather is usually mild, and the hospitality is congenial, so this should be a fun experience.

The planning committee has worked with Hollie Johnston, board member of the  Valley Nature Center (VNC) in Weslaco, to create unique field trips in the area, where we can expect to see not only winter migrants but also a variety of Valley specialties such as Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, Gray Hawks and Aplomado Falcons.  There are chances to see Mangrove Warblers on a special boat trip, and we have scheduled a visit to King Ranch.  Field trips offer excellent birding on private ranches, in state parks, and at local hot spots, with six Century Club trips.

Our meeting speakers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights will introduce us to the flora and fauna of the Lower Rio Grande Valley so please do attend these exciting talks. Prior to the Friday and Saturday evening programs we will share stories and interesting sightings from the day’s birding efforts.

On Friday evening there will be an option for an informal self-guided trip to view the parrots and parakeets in Oliveira Park in Brownsville at sunset, as flocks of these tropical birds come to roost for the evening.  Directions provided at the meeting.

We will conduct the event check-in at our host hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in Weslaco.  They offer a special nightly rate of $98 plus tax.  Registration information appears below. DEADLINE TO REGISTER AT THE HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS IS DEC. 18, 2023.

At the VNC we will conduct a silent auction, with the opportunity to bid on birding experiences with some of our board members. These were a hit several years ago, and we know the bidding will be spirited! Our TOS merchandise will also be on sale.

Field trip departures, evening speakers, and our Saturday banquet will also be held at the VNC.

We eagerly look forward to seeing you at this meeting in the beautiful Rio Grande Valley.

  • Christine Turnbull, TOS Past-President/Planning Committee Chair


EVENT REGISTRATION:  Online registration will open on December 4, 2023 at 6:00 a.m., and will close on Jan. 3, 2024 at 11:55 p.m.  You will receive a confirmation email once your payment is complete. Details in Registration Information below.

The fee for the event is $100 per TOS member. It is $135 for non-members, which includes a one-year membership.  Students may attend for free. There is a $10 increase in price on Dec. 30, 2023. An administrative fee of $35 will be deducted from refunds made between December 30, 2023, and January 5, 2024.  No refunds can be made after January 5, 2024.

LUNCH SELECTION: Attendees may pre-order lunches, which will be distributed each morning at the VNC. See Lunches section below. Must be submitted by Dec. 29, 2023. No refunds after this date.

BANQUET SELECTION:  Meal choices, including a vegetarian, gluten-free option, are offered on the online registration form and must be submitted by Dec. 29, 2023. No refunds after this date.

FIELD TRIP DEPARTURE:  Caravans to field trip sites will leave from the parking lot of the VNC, 301 S. Border Ave., Weslaco 78596. Please be prepared to carpool to birding locations.  Our evening presentations and Saturday banquet will also be held at the VNC.

COVID Safety During the Meeting

For the health and safety of everyone, TOS asks that participants comply with guidelines set by private businesses and municipal entities.

Hotel and Breakfast

Our host hotel and location of event check-in is the Holiday Inn Express at 421 S. International Blvd., Weslaco, TX 78596.

You must make hotel reservations BY DEC. 18, 2023.  Use code BG1 for the special group rate of $98 plus tax.  You may call them at 956-973-2222 to reserve your room, or reserve online. To enter the code online, click the Rate Preference drop-down menu and enter the code under Group Rate.

Breakfast is included in that price and will be available at 5:30 a.m. daily. Breakfast grab-and-go bags will be available at 5:00 a.m. for early trip participants on Friday and Saturday.


Event attendees and field trip leaders may pre-order box lunches which will be distributed at the VNC each morning. The cost is $11.00 per meal and your order must be submitted by Dec. 29, 2023. No refunds will be given after that date.

The menu with payment portal appears HERE.

Saturday Night Banquet

We will offer a South Texas Mexican buffet for our Saturday banquet. A gluten-free/vegetarian option will be available.  MAKE YOUR SELECTION WHEN YOU REGISTER FOR THE MEETING ONLINE. ORDERS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY DEC. 29, 2023.  No refunds will be given after that date.

Meeting Agenda

Thursday, January 11, 2024

4:00-6:00 PM            Event check-in at the Holiday Inn Express/silent auction opens at the VNC

6:15 PM                     First time meeting attendee reception at the VNC

6:30 PM                     Welcome/Introductions/Announcements at the VNC (Lots of useful information is given during this time, so please attend.)

7:00 PM                     Byron Stone, TOS President – Welcome and Meeting Information

7:30-8:00 PM            Speaker Ryan Rodriguez – Specialties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Friday, January 12

All Day                      Birding – caravans leave from the VNC between 5:30 and 7:00 a.m.

4:00-5:00 PM            Event check-in at the Holiday Inn Express

Sunset                        OPTIONAL TRIP: Parrots & Parakeets in Brownsville (45 minutes from Weslaco)

6:30 PM                     Announcements/Birding Reports at the VNC

7:00-8:00 PM           Speaker: Tom Langschied - The Birds of King Ranch: Reflecting on the 30+ years of exploring the avifauna of this legendary place.

Saturday, January 13

All Day                      Birding – caravans leave from the VNC between 5:30 and 7:00 a.m.

5:00 PM                     Silent auction closes at the VNC

5:00-6:00 PM            Social hour at the VNC – cash bar

6:00-7:00 PM            Banquet/Announcements/Birding Reports at the VNC

7:00-8:00 PM            Speaker: Luciano Guerra – Birding Texas Style in the Rio Grande Valley

Sunday, January 14

All Day                      Birding – caravans leave the VNC between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m.; depart for home.

Registration Information

The registration link will be activated on December 4, 2023, at 6:00 a.m. There are two ways to register:

  1. You may click the link HERE and register.
  2. From the home page of our website, you may log in to your TOS account and register there.

Please have in mind your first and second choices of field trips, as some trips fill fast.  If you would like to be on a waitlist for a trip, contact Judy Kestner at 361-701-1962 or Be sure to mention your name, the trip number and how many spaces you’ll need.

Please also be sure your email address and membership dues payments are up to date. (To confirm, just visit and click Member Login to view your account.)

Once your event fee payment is received by TOS, you will receive a confirmation email showing the trips and banquet meal, if any, that you have selected. Another email will be sent closer to the meeting with further details.

For any questions, or if you do not have access to the internet, you may call Judy Kestner at 361-701-1962 or Frances Cerbins at 512-694-7924 for assistance with registration. If you don’t get an answer, leave a message and Judy or Frances will call you back when they are available. 

Event Prices

The Winter Meeting Package includes three field trips (excluding special entry fees) and three evening presentations.

$100 for TOS members

$135 for non-TOS members (includes a one-year membership)

FREE for all students

The Saturday night banquet is $35 per person, and lunches are available for $11 (see Lunches above).

Registration cost will increase by $10 on December 30, 2023. A $35 administrative fee will be deducted from refunds issued between Dec. 30, 2023, and Jan. 5, 2024. No refunds after January 5, 2024.

Meeting Presentations

Thursday Evening

7:30 PM

Title: Specialties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley 

Presenter: Ryan Rodriguez

Description: Ryan will be talking about the birds and butterflies found mainly in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, accompanied by his fabulous photographs. Many of these species will be seen on our field trips, so this is a wonderful way to prepare for what’s to come!


Bio:  Ryan Rodriguez is a 16-year-old birder and photographer from McAllen, Texas.  Ryan has been birding from a very young age starting in his backyard in McAllen.  He is now guiding across the Valley.  He volunteers as an eBird reviewer for the LRGV region and enjoys volunteering as a hawk counter atop the Bentsen Hawk Tower.

 Friday Evening

7:00 PM

Title: The Birds of King Ranch: Reflecting on the 30+ years of exploring the avifauna of this legendary place.

Presenter: Tom Langschied

Description: Tom started the King Ranch Nature Tour program back in the fall of 1994.  He will cover his experiences with birds and their habitat on the King Ranch, and share guiding anecdotes from his long tenure there.  

Bio: Tom Langschied is former director of the King Ranch Visitor Program and coordinator of King Ranch’s Nature Tour Program. 

Originally from Fort Wayne, IN, Tom came down to South Texas in January of 1991 to get his master’s degree from Texas A&M University- Kingsville and his thesis evaluated seasonal changes in bird communities on King Ranch.  While Tom has worked for King Ranch since 1994, he left his full-time position in the summer of 2005 to work full time as a Research Associate for the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute coordinating a South Texas wintering birds program. 

Then in November 2013 he returned to the King Ranch full time to coordinate the King Ranch Nature Tour Program once again and later to oversee the overall King Ranch visitor program.  

Tom left King Ranch in June of this year to pursue other job opportunities.  Besides his passion for birds and birding, he also has a strong interest in butterflies, moths, dragonflies and discovering other interesting components of nature.  Tom is married and has two grown kids.


Saturday Evening

7:00 PM

Title: Birding Texas Style in the Rio Grande Valley

Presenter: Luciano Guerra

Description:  Get up close and personal to many of the birds that make south Texas their home with “Birding Texas Style in the Rio Grande Valley.” An award-winning photographer and life-long Valley resident, Guerra uses his photography to present a unique, informative, and entertaining program that features hundreds of his bird images displayed in unison with the playing of the different birds’ songs for a complete indoor birding experience. In addition, Guerra shares background information about photos he has captured as well as photography tips that will help photographers of all skill levels improve their photography.

Bio: Mr. Guerra is a life-long resident of Mission, Texas. He has been an avid photographer ever since he was given his first 35mm camera as a teenager. He has developed a passion for nature and wildlife photography over the years and he loves to use his photography to share the incredible diversity of wildlife we are blessed to have in south Texas with others. He has won several awards and contests with his nature and wildlife photography including Best of Contest and the People’s Choice award in the Small Tract Competition of the Valley Land Fund’s wildlife photo contest. His photos have been featured in newspapers, magazines, such as Texas Monthly, calendars, books, advertisements, postcards and on the cover of two different editions of the Valley’s YP phone directory.

For the past nine years Mr. Guerra has been employed as the National Butterfly Center’s staff photographer and outreach coordinator. As a result, his most recent bird and butterfly photography and videos can be seen on the National Butterfly Center’s Facebook page.



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