Current Sightings: An Education on the Wild Side


Spring is a time of renewal when flowers bloom, trees sprout new greenery, butterflies abound and Rio Grande Valley birds show off their offspring.
I always enjoy seeing and photographing the children of spring. Whenever I see the latest batch of black-bellied whistling ducks, baby gallinules begging mom and dad for food, or day-old black-necked stilts trying to walk on those oversized gangly legs, for a moment it makes me think all is right with the world.
As we all know, however, it’s a jungle out there and the young and helpless are vulnerable, even under mom and dad’s watchful eyes. But nature usually has a way of making certain enough baby birds survive to ensure survival of the species. It doesn’t hurt, however, to have a little help along the way.
Several years ago I found a stilt nest on South Padre Island and observed it every chance I got. It was an outdoor classroom I’ll never forget.
The parents shared incubation duties and while one was on the eggs (there were four eggs), the other was on constant alert. Any bird that came close to the nest, intentional or not, was quickly driven away. In particular, the stilts were constantly chasing laughing gulls.
When the stilts weren’t driving off other birds, there was still plenty of work to be done. Nest maintenance was continuous. In addition, adults would turn the eggs over at certain intervals.
After 23 days the first egg hatched. On day 24 two more eggs hatched. The fourth egg hatched three days later.
If this sounds kind off odd, I’ve been told stilt eggs are laid over several days, which explains the time difference for hatchings.
My schooling on black-necked stilt families didn’t end with the hatchings. If I thought the parents were protective before, they were even more protective now. I recall one day observing two black-necked stilt families come into contact and how the parents were yelping and trying to drive the invading family away. All the while, the baby stilts from both sets of parents went about their business of finding food as if nothing was happening.
As the babies began to grow and look more and more like adults and less like downy chicks, the parents would take them to new feeding areas. After several weeks, I never saw them again.
I have no doubt that most or possibly all the babies became adults.
What I wonder about most, however, was whether the new adults moved on to other parts of the Valley or returned to the Island to eventually raise their young?
I’ll never know the answer to that, but sometimes when I see a stilt on SPI I wonder if this is an old friend.


Steve Sinclair

The Coastal Current


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USS Saratoga Bound for Brownsville


Another U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is coming to the Port of Brownsville for dismantling.
The U.S. Navy announced Friday that it has awarded the contract to ESCO Marine for one penny to dismantle the USS Saratoga.
The aircraft carrier is currently housed at the Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. It is expected to depart this summer and be towed to Brownsville.
The USS Saratoga was decommissioned Sept. 30, 1994, after more than 30 years of service, the U.S. Navy stated in a press release.
Although the Navy tried to donate the ship to a state or non-profit organization for public display or to be used as a museum, no “viable” applications were received.
Navy officials said they had no choice but to put out bids to have the aircraft carrier dismantled.
This is the second ship to be towed to Brownsville to be dismantled in recent months. Earlier this year, the USS Forrestal was arrived in February for disposal by All Star Metals. Officials expect it will take about 18 months to dismantle this ship.
A contract is pending for the dismantling of a third ship, the USS Constellation. If approved, this ship would dismantled by International Shipbreaking Ltd., officials said.


By LAURA B. MARTINEZ The Brownsville Herald


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Mexican boat seized in poaching investigation


The U.S. Coast Guard has seized a Mexican fishing boat and detained its five crewmembers in a poaching investigation off Texas.

Coast Guard officials on Monday announced four other boats fled back to Mexican waters. The incident happened Saturday afternoon north of the U.S. and Mexico maritime border and inside the U.S. exclusive economic zone.

A Coast Guard helicopter spotted five boats about 16 miles north of the border. A Coast Guard boat from South Padre Island intercepted one vessel and found 48 dead red snapper.

The five-person crew was turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for return to Mexico. The catch was disposed of at sea.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has approved an 11-day red snapper season beginning June 1.


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Save the Beach Drink Some Wine

The Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, now in its eighth year, helps keep beaches, rivers and lakes across America “barefoot friendly.”
In 2014, Barefoot Wine and the Surfrider Foundation, along with community volunteers, are embarking on a tour of 15 cleanups and restorations nationwide, stopping in South Padre Island.
The Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter will once again host a day of dune restoration and celebration of efforts to keep Island beaches clean.
Volunteers are asked to turn out at City Beach Access No. 18 for the dune restoration project from 9-11 a.m.
After a morning of planting of vegetation to help stabilize the dunes, the volunteers will head for the Padre Island Brewing Co. for a Surfrider-hosted celebration featuring Barefoot Wine and surf-inspired food.
The events are free and open to the public. For more information visit

#surfriderfoundation #beachcleanup



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The Shores Bay Side Spec Home - The Martinque Waterfront

The Martinque Waterfront is a beautiful three bedroom, four bath house currently near completion at The Shores Master Planned Community. The house has a very spacious living, dining/kitchen area with views of the Laguna Madre and marina in front of the house, making for the perfect place to entertain friends and family. Each of the three bedrooms has its own private bath and dressing area. 

The ground floor provides an elegant entry to the house, a garage, and a large recreation area with a bar and full bath. The recreation room has a glass wall that opens to the pool creating an indoor/outdoor living area. The tile floors, granite counter tops, and quality appliances make this an upscale house at a very reasonable cost.

The Shores is a Master Planned Gated Community and is designed to enhance the tranquility of an unhurried lifestyle and provide the privacy and amenities of a traditional neighborhood. The beachfront and bay front homes are designed with elements of comfort such as high ceilings, soft colors, and broad stately porches. Every home offers panoramic views and is constructed of state-of-the-art storm resisted building materials. Owners in The Shores have access to The Shores Marina Park, which contains a large swimming pool, children's fountain, amphitheater, tennis courts, and a basketball court. The Shores owners also have access to the marina and private beach and bay access.

The Shores is true Island luxury real estate and the Martinque Waterfront is a symbol of luxury at an affordable cost. If you would like more information on Martinque Waterfront, or any of the properties at The Shores, please call us at 956-761-2606.

We look forward to your call!

View the Martinque Waterfront


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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 ( and the South Padre Island EDC web page (

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


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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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