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Current Sightings: Tiny jewels of the spring migration

 

One of the most exciting components of the spring neo-tropical bird migration is the mass movement of warblers through the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Of the 57 warblers that breed in North America, many pass through the area along the Central Flyway on their way to nesting grounds in more northern parts of the United States and Canada.
The warbler migration is one of nature’s great spectacles. They are like ornaments that adorn trees and bushes with their bright colors, nervous dispositions and big appetites. They are among the most beautiful birds in North America.
I once read a story about a woman who was asked what her favorite warbler was. She replied “the last one I see.” I think a lot of birders and bird photographers can relate to that.
At various times, my favorite warbler has been the cerulean, or the Cape May, or the Blackburnian, or maybe the prothonotary, or possibly the golden-winged. Tomorrow, it may be the bay-breasted, or the black-and-white, or the magnolia. You get the picture.
A few have special significance that go beyond their beauty.
For example, the yellow warbler is the first wood warbler I remember seeing and that came many years ago at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The first one I photographed was a yellow-throated warbler, and that was at South Padre Island. Another warbler that has special significance is the prothonotary because it nests in the part of Texas I’m from.
It’s one of nature’s great miracles that these tiny birds are able to navigate 600 miles or so across the Gulf of Mexico at night and arrive in the Valley. Many are so fatigued they are unable to keep out of harm’s way.
I remember an incident several years ago during the spring migration on South Padre Island. I was getting ready to call it a day when I noticed a Tennessee warbler landing on a bush in front of me. I could tell it had just crossed the Gulf and was completely exhausted. I decided to watch the warbler for a few minutes to make certain it was going to be OK.
Shortly thereafter the sun set and the warbler found just enough energy to drop to the ground and slip under a railroad tie to spend the night. The next morning, I checked to see if the warbler was still there but it wasn’t. I would like to think the bird made it through the night, regained its strength and eventually continued its northward journey.
As tough as that Tennessee warbler had it, nothing compares to the journey of the Blackpoll warbler, which frequents the Valley during the migration. This striking warbler winters in Brazil and travels several thousand miles to nesting grounds in Canada and Alaska. That’s nothing short of miraculous.
But then that shouldn’t surprise me. Warblers, after all, are incredible birds and prove that beauty can be found in even the smallest package.

 

Visit the SPI Birding & Nature Center

 

Steve Sinclair

The Coastal Current 

May 5, 2014

 


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SPI Jail Break - Sandy, Wet Challanges Face Adventure Racers

 

Adventure racers will be getting down and dirty and wet Saturday, May 3 on South Padre Island as the third annual Jailbreak Beach Escape covers more than three miles of sandy terrain.
Referred to as an “off-the-grid” adventure run, the beach course includes more than 18 obstacles along the beach to challenge racers in sand and water. Organizers expect as many as 3,000 racers to compete.
Jailbreak is made up of a series of races throughout the day, with the first one scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The races start and end on the beach in front of Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill. The course heads to the north and returns to the starting point.
New events have been added this year, with one just for children.
The Dirty Rascals Adventure Run is an obstacle course for age groups 4-6 and 7-13, designed to help youngsters build confidence and self esteem as they conquer the various obstacles.
The Road Less Traveled is an optional bonus section of the course, covering more than a mile of “grit-testing” obstacles.
While this is the third race on the Island, Jailbreak Race Events was founded in 2010 with a single event in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This year Jailbreak events will also be held in San Antonio, El Paso, DFW and Houston in addition to the Island.
The events also raise money for local charities, with a portion of the Island proceeds benefiting the Stars Scholarship Fund in the Valley.

 


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Tons of Trash Picked Up During Beach Clean Up

 

A lost or discarded love letter was among the items found on South Padre Island during the Texas General Land Office Adopt-A-Beach Spring Cleanup.
A total of 7,334 volunteers hauled more than 121 tons of trash off Texas beaches on April 28 during the cleanup.
“That’s more than 22,002 hours of labor — all volunteer — working to keep Texas public beaches clean. What an amazing effort,” said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
“That’s nearly half a million dollars worth of work and a great example of how Adopt-A-Beach is one of the most successful volunteer efforts in the nation.”
Aside  from the usual cigarette butts, beer cans and diapers, some pretty odd and interesting items were found, including a $100 bill found by a Cub Scout at Quintana Beach, a used pregnancy test kit on Cameron County beaches, false teeth in Galveston and a burned up purse and wallet at Boggy Creek Nature Park in Calhoun County.
Five miles of Cameron County beaches were cleaned by 897 volunteers who picked up a total of 24,220 pounds of trash.

 


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SPI Incentive Policy

Incentive Policy


The South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation and the City of South Padre Island have approved an Incentive Policy in order to assist qualified new and existing businesses and to benefit the economic climate on the Island. Businesses can apply for property tax abatements as well as sales tax abatements for improvements that will contribute to the economy of South Padre Island. The City and the EDC will evaluate the applications to determine if they meet the established criteria for the programs. You can find a link to the policy, guidelines and applications on both the City web page (www.myspi.org) and the South Padre Island EDC web page (www.southpadreislandedc.com)

For more information, contact Darla Lapeyre, South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation Executive Director, at (956) 243-8416 or email spiedc@aol.com; or Dr. Sungman Kim, City of South Padre Island Development Director, at (956) 761-8113 or email SKim@MySPI.org.

 


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Antshrike’s Bird Blog Birding in the Rio Grande Valley and sometimes elsewhere.

South Padre Island, Sargassum Birds, 4/25/14


After a few hours of looking at pretty passerines at south Padre Island yesterday, I decided it was time to drive the beach and look for rare stuff like Black Turnstones and Wandering Tattlers (I like to think big!) However the beach was loaded with tons of Sargassum and driving was very difficult so I didn't get as far as planned.  This time of year the south east winds blow the floating Sargassum seaweed onto the beach where it provides lots of food for migrating shore birds.  I saw close to 200 Ruddy Turnstones while driving only ten miles.

Black-bellied Plovers were scattered along the beach.

I found a neat flock of twenty migrating Willets but my inept camera skills caused me to miss the photos. Here's a single.

Hundreds of egrets, mostly Cattle Egrets, moved north.

When there's Sargassum seaweed, there's also the Sargassum Fish, Histrio histrio.  This member of the frogfish family is a voracious little predator in the floating beds of Sargassum.  It comes equipped with its own little fishing pole that lures unsuspecting prey into its cavernous mouth.  This Laughing Gull is proudly showing off the Sargassum Fish he caught. Not so fast buddy!

The proud victor.  And for the Sargassum Fish, what goes around comes around.  Though not a puffer, the fish has the ability to gulp air and enlarge to make things difficult for the would be predator.

A real surprise on the beach were passerines feeding in the Sargassum weed.  Here's a bright Yellow warbler.

And a late Louisiana Waterthrush.  At least that was my ID based on jizz.  I also saw one that was clearly a Northern Waterthrush.

"Hey, have I got something for you!"
"Just leave me alone."

After ten miles of bouncing on the rough beach, I decided against fifteen more miles to the Port Mansfield Channel so I turned around and headed for home.  Guess I need to get an early start and try again.

 


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SPI Maintenance Crews Work Overtime to Handle Seasonal Seaweed Influx

 

City of South Padre Island beach maintenance crews are working extra hours to continue to provide visitors one of the best and cleanest beaches in Texas. The City is increasing efforts and seeking additional equipment to try to stay ahead of the seasonal influx of seaweed washing ashore all along the Texas coast that happens as ocean currents change in the spring. Staff is on the beach since early morning, throughout the day and extra hours during the weekend to mechanically rake the beach as weather permits.  Tractors cannot be on the beach to rake when the tide is so high that it severely reduces the beach path.

Still, the sometimes-pesky seaweed, or sargassum, that washes ashore plays a vital role in our area's natural ecosystem by providing rich nutrients to numerous life forms, including birds, small crustaceans and microscopic organisms. The City's beach raking guidelines that aim to strike a balance between maintaining an aesthetically pleasing beach and the City's primary goal of protecting and preserving life and property also provide for the use of seaweed to help strengthen the dune system.

The dunes function as a physical barrier that reduce the impact of storms and wind surges, or the abnormal rise of water over and above the normal tide line. According to the National Hurricane Center, "storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane." The Galveston Bay area saw wind surges of 15-20 feet above normal tide levels during Hurricane Ike in 2008; Ike caused an estimated total of $24.9 billion in damages throughout the Caribbean, Texas and Louisiana.

With summer vacations and the hurricane season fast approaching, the City will continue to balance its goal of providing visitors a beautiful beach experience with its goal of maintaining a safe environment that protects life and property for residents and visitors alike.

 


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Runners to light up beach at Sand Crab 5K & 10k night run

News Center 23

April 23, 2014

Headlamp-wearing runners will dash along South Padre Island beaches in the moonlight at the South Padre Island Sand Crab 5k & 10k Nighttime Beach Run, Saturday April 26. Runners will run either 5k or 10k under the stars, followed by a beach party under the stars with food, live music and fireworks at Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill.

The race features a 5k and 10k event, both beginning at 8:30 p.m., and a special race just for kids: the Kids Beach Mile for children 12 and under, beginning at 8 p.m. Both kids and adult races start and finish on the beach at Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill, 6900 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island. The event benefits Sea Turtle Inc., a South Padre-based non-profit dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of sea turtles.

All 5k and 10k runners will receive a technical race T-shirt and access to the post-race beachside barbecue meal and beer at Clayton's after the run. This chip-timed race features age group awards in 10-year increments, plus overall and masters awards.

All runners and walkers must carry a headlamp or flashlight with them. The out-and-back course will be marked with, lights and signage.

Both the 5k and 10k have a 2-hour course cut-off; all runners must reach their turnaround within one hour. 10k participants will access water stops 4 times; 5k participants will access water stops twice for sports drink and water.

Kids Mile participants receive a cotton shirt, post-race meal and finisher's award. Parents must run with kids under six years of age.

Advance packet pick-up is required. Runners can get their packets at FootWorks running store at 2224 S 77 Sunshine Strip in Harlingen on Thursday April 24 and Friday April 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Packets can also be picked up on race day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at La Quinta Inn and Suites, 7000 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island.

Pre-registration is available through online sign-up or mail. For more information, to register or to download an entry form, go to www.RunInTexas.com

 

 


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Hathcock History: How Padre Got Its Name

Padre Nicholas Balli, for whom Padre Island gets its name, was the first European to bring ranching to the Island.

He and his nephew Juan founded El Rancho Santa Cruz de Buena Vista (later known as the Lost City), where they kept cattle, horses and mules. The actual ranch and outbuildings, located about 26 miles north of the Island’s southern tip, were little more than thatched huts known as jacals. Because of its natural fences of water, the Island was a perfect spot for raising livestock.
For many years before and during Balli’s ownership, the Island was called various names including Amichel, Isla Blanca, La Florida, Isla Malhado, Isla de Boyan, Ysla del Vallin and Isla de Santiago. 
In his will, written in 1811, Padre Balli stated that he owned 1,000 head of cattle. In addition to his large herds of cattle the Padre also built the first church on the Island for the conversion of the Karankawa Indians and for the benefit of the ranch hands and their families.
Ironically, Balli never lived on the Island that bears his name today. He left the day-to-day operations of the ranch to his nephew Juan, who also held title to a sizable amount of the Island. The Padre spent most of his time on the mainland ministering to the spiritual and material needs of his people.
Padre Balli died on April 16, 1829 and was buried near Matamoros. Juan operated the ranch until the storm of 1844, after which he moved to the mainland. The ranch was abandoned, but only a few short years would pass before its new occupants arrived on the scene.
The first reference to the name of Padre Island was in the April 24, 1841 edition of a British publication by the name of “The Old London Newspaper.” In its news from Mexico the editor wrote:
“Notes from Matamoras bring no news of importance. All was quiet there, and the talk of a war for the re-conquest of Texas had ceased. Three Texans who had served with General Canales were killed on Padre’s Island.”
(A force of about fifty men, the entire company of Minute Men of San Patricio, and a few volunteers from Gonzales had staged a surprise raid to the southern tip of the Padre’s Island. A Mexican captain and nine soldiers stationed at a rancho were captured and taken back to San Patricio to await a prisoner exchange for some Texians being held in Matamoros. Statements made by the prisoners and a group of Irish settlers living on the extreme southern tip of the Island confirmed the Mexican forces numbered only 100 regular infantry stationed in Matamoros and a handful posted throughout the interior.)
The name stuck and by 1844 the Island was almost exclusively referred to as Padre Island.
On April 10, 1973 Island residents voted for incorporation. Of the 158 votes cast, 128 were in favor of incorporation while 28 were against. Two ballots were not counted according to said election returns, because of their being illegible, and that therefore, a majority of the votes cast were in favor of incorporation. Thus the Town of South Padre Island was born.
Today, a statue of Padre Balli with outstretched arms stands at the eastern foot of the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway greeting all who arrive.


Email Steve Hathcock at steve@southpadre.tv 

The Coastal Current

Steve Hathcock

 


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Award-winning Del Castillo to perform on South Padre Island

Del Castillo will bring its cross-cultural blend of music to the stage at the Hilton Garden Inn on South Padre Island in a concert presented by El Paseo Arts Foundation.
The show will include a special performance section featuring some of the band’s signature hits, and then the floor opens for dancing to the group’s exciting rhythms and eclectic blend of flamenco, rock, Latin, blues and world music.
The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with finger foods and a cash bar and Del Castillo will take the stage at 7:30 p.m.


Between the release of their first CD, “Brothers of the Castle” back in 2001, to their 2006 release, “Brotherhood,” Del Castillo received an astonishing 18 awards including SXSW/Austin Music Album of the Year awards for “Vida” (2002) and “Brotherhood” (2006); Band of the Year in 2003; ASCAP’s Best Independent Group of the Year in 2005; and Austin Music Pundits Best Live Act in 2004.
Film Director Robert Rodriguez attended a Del Castillo concert in 2002 and then enlisted the group to contribute music to the soundtracks of his movies, such as “Spy Kids 3D,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” “Sin City,” and “Grindhouse.”
Rodriguez was so impressed with Del Castillo that he wanted to record with them, so together, they formed Chingnon and recorded an electric rendition of the Mexican classic song “MalaguenaSalerosa.”
Quentin Tarantino loved it so much that he re-did the ending sequence of “Kill Bill Vol. II” to fit the song into his movie.


By 2004, Del Castillo was touring nationwide across the country playing with such diverse acts as Styx, Los Lonely Boys, Ozomatli, Don Henley, Los Lobos, and Willie Nelson. They have performed at three of Willie Nelson’s 4th Of July Picnics and at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival.


Tickets are priced at $25 per person ($20 for El Paseo Arts members) and are available for purchase in South Padre Island at Paragraph’s Book Store, in Port Isabel at The Art Gallery in Lighthouse Square and online at elpaseoarts.org.

 


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Who said that? Ventriloquist brings comedy routine to Island

A colorful cast of characters will take the stage on South Padre Island this weekend as comedian and ventriloquist Marc Rubben performs at Harpoon’s Surf Bar & Grill.
Rubben combines his unique stand-up comedy routine with onstage audience participation as he brings to life his supporting case of wooden performers.
“I enjoy doing a bit of stand-up to break the ice with the audience and allow them to get to know me a bit before I introduce my cast of ventriloquist characters,” he said.
Rubben gives voice to characters like a dirty old grouch, a fortune-telling Swami, a tattoo-clad redneck and others including his newest character Nash the Hippy. There’s also a drawing that magically comes to life.
Members of the audience are invited to join the show wearing a mask that transforms them into a hilarious human dummy.
“I always involve the audience in my show to give them a true live comedy experience and I enjoy improvising whenever possible,” he said.
He is a popular sea-going entertainer on Carnival Cruise Lines and has played large casinos and resorts throughout the country, but his first love in performing in smaller clubs.
“My love is still in the freedom of the club atmospheres,” he said.
“There is something about connecting with a group of regular people in a relaxed atmosphere where everyone is there because they love to laugh.”
During the winter months Rubben often takes his show to the slopes at premier ski resorts in the United States and Canada, where he can also indulge in his passion for snow boarding.
Rubben’s Island performance will be Saturday, April 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at Harpoon’s Surf Bar & Grill on Amberjack St.

 

 

 


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