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McAllen, Texas: Birding, fishing and old friends

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BY MARTY MALIN
For those who attended September’s conference in Lake Placid, N.Y., it will be a short turn around for the May 23-25, 2014, annual conference in the “Texas Tropics” of McAllen and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The 2014 annual conference in McAllen, Texas, is just eight months away. It has been 50 years since a Texas city has hosted an OWAA conference and back in 1964 that city was McAllen.
The governor of Texas at that time, John Connally, welcomed those who were in attendance.
The 2014 conference site offers an abundance of outdoor activities. “The Valley” is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. In addition to abundant wildlife viewing, the area offers both freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities. Attendees will also have the opportunity to enjoy a unique and authentic south of the border experience. You can be assured that the weather in May will be a welcome relief for those who wintered in the northern United States.
Bird watchers from around the world flock to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and we are going to catch the last few weeks (tail feathers) of the season with our May conference dates. Nearby Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park serves as the headquarters of the World Birding Center network. With more than 760 acres of rare riparian woodland and native gardens, visitors can glimpse hundreds of bird species as well as other South Texas wildlife, including bobcats and javelinas. More than 325 species of birds and 250 species of butterflies have been recorded in this park.
One species of bird that will have already migrated north for the summer is the snowbird. Thousands of wintering Texans from all over North America frequent the area. If you live in the north and are on the back nine of life, you more than likely have an old high school or college friend who makes this part of Texas home for four or more months a year.
Nearly everyone can claim a friend who lives in Texas, and next May will be a perfect opportunity to renew that friendship. However, just because they live in Texas doesn’t necessarily mean that they live nearby. By car, the conference site is two hours away from Corpus Christi, four hours away from San Antonio, five hours from Austin, six hours from Houston, eight hours from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and forget about it if your friend lives in El Paso or Amarillo. I suggest you plan on meeting them somewhere halfway. Amarillo is closer to eight other state capital cities than it is to Austin.
OWAA’s host hotel will be the Embassy Suites-McAllen, which boasts a $109 per night room rate that includes a daily made-to-order breakfast, a nightly manager’s reception with free drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and a complimentary airport shuttle. This full-service suite hotel is located 3 miles from the state-of-the-art McAllen Convention Center that will host all conference sessions and meals. A shuttle bus to and from the convention center will be provided.
In the months to come, I will provide you with much more information about the area. As a 50-year resident of the state of Texas with the last 20 in South Texas, I look forward to welcoming you to the Lone Star State. McAllen is just a short three-hour drive down the road from my home here in Laredo, and I have a wealth of insider tips for enjoying this area of Texas to the fullest.♦
-A former OWAA board member and an award-winning television producer, writer and photographer, Marty Malin is local chair of the 2014 OWAA conference that will take place May 23-25 in McAllen, Texas. Contact him at  mmalin@stx.rr.com.
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