Next week, Galveston will welcome more than 150 birders from all over the state for the winter meeting of the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS). We at Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council (GINTC) are hosting the group from Thursday through Jan. 27 and showcasing some of the area’s best winter birding. Registered attendees will spread out across six coastal counties with local guides to observe as many species of birds that can be located.

TOS has been in existence since 1953 and was founded to provide a unifying organization for birdwatchers residing in the state. More specifically, it promotes the discovery and dissemination of knowledge of birds and encourages the observation, study and conservation of birds across Texas. It also serves to stimulate cooperation among professional ornithologists. The highlights of the organization’s activities are the annual winter and spring meetings when members gather at a regional site in Texas to bird together.

Shelia Hargis, current president of TOS, recently commented, “Texas is an amazing place for birds and birders. To see all of them, birders have to visit different parts of the state, since some birds are found only in certain areas. That’s why TOS members are very excited to visit the Galveston area and the diverse habitats and birds it supports. GINTC has put together a wonderful itinerary to provide us the best opportunity to see many of the amazing birds that call the Upper Texas coast home during the winter months.”

We welcome the TOS to Galveston and look forward to showcasing the wonderful birds that call our island their winter home. Wildlife viewing now exceeds hunting in the state of Texas as an economic resource, and Galveston is a major nature tourism destination. Many people don’t realize that Galveston is a birding destination year round, and winter birding can be as enjoyable and productive as the spring migration.

In addition to the daily field trips, there will be educational and entertaining afternoon and evening presentations. Evening programs will feature four local speakers. Fred Collins and Bob Honig will give a presentation titled “Birding Then & Now in Galveston” showcasing historic birding locations and how they’ve changed over time. Glenn Olsen will present “Winged Winter Wonders” focusing on the diversity of birds that spend their winter here on our coast. The keynote speaker will be Richard Gibbons, conservation director for Houston Audubon, presenting “How Birds and Citizen Scientists Can Save the World.” In addition to the evening presenters, there will be afternoon presentations showcasing the research being conducted by graduate students through local universities and an informative workshop on gull and tern identification.

Several of the presentations are open to the public, but require an RSVP to allow us to adequately determine interest and ensure seating. If interested, visit www.galvestonnaturetourism.org/winter-nature-program. If interested in the Texas Ornithological Society, visit www.texasbirds.org.

Greg Whittaker is a board member of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council and Houston Audubon Group, and chair of the Galveston County Audubon Group.

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