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



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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 

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


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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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SPI to Host Annual GLBTQ Festival “SPLASH” Starting Thursday

The largest beach festival for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer community in Texas, "Splash South Padre Island," will be held starting on Thursday, April 24, and continue through Saturday night.
The party kicks off with a “Rainbow Room Meet and Greet” from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, April 24, at Casablanca Lounge. The daytime fun goes from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, April 25, at Comfort Suites Beach Access, for the “Splash Fun ‘N’ Sun Beach Party.” The celebration is BYOB, so coolers, cans and plastic are welcome — just not glass. When night falls, it’s time for “Wonderland” at 9 p.m. at Tequila Sunset South Padre.
Saturday’s festivities kick off with the “Splash Pool Bash” from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at The Inn at South Padre. Then, at 9 p.m. at Louie’s Backyard, the festival will culminate with hours of dancing at “A Night in White.” White attire is encouraged but not required. All shows will be hosted by high-profile members of the GLBTQ community, and various disc jockeys, including DJ Mandi, DJ Kendrick H and DJ Anxel.
Tickets are $20 per day for minors; $15 per day for those 21 and older. VIP 2-day passes are $50 for minors and $45 for those 21 and older. They’re available online at


For more information and a full schedule of events, visit

WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday, April 24; 9 p.m. Friday, April 25; 1 p.m. Saturday, April 26
WHERE: Various
COST: $20 per day, minors; $15 per day, 21 and older; $50, VIP 2-day pass, minors; $45 VIP 2-day pass, 21 and older


Posted by: Madeleine Smither

April 22, 2014

The Monitor


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Washburn students use spring break to protect sea turtles

Picking up trash seemed like the perfect way to spend spring break to a group of 13 Washburn students. It didn’t hurt that the trash was on beaches in South Padre Island, Texas, and the work helped protect a critically endangered species of sea turtle. 

Judy Scherff, an adjunct instructor in biology, and 11 members of the Washburn Saves Sea Turtles club traveled to South Padre to work directly with Sea Turtle Inc. The organization is focused on preservation of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. 

“People don’t know how many species are standing on the edge of the planet ready to fall off, metaphorically,” Scherff said. “It’s an honor for me to be involved in trying to save this turtle.” 

Washburn students cleared beaches of debris left a week earlier by spring break visitors from Texas universities. Nesting season for the Kemp’s ridley turtle begins April 1 and without a clean beach, the odds would be even worse that an egg would become a turtle that makes it to the ocean. 

As the eggs are laid, Sea Turtle Inc. carefully moves them to a special corral for their incubation period and releases the turtles after each is hatched, weighed and measured. The group works closely with a binational effort between the U.S. and Mexico to get as many of these turtles as possible to the sea. 

The alternative spring break project — a first for Washburn — was open to any student who joined the sea turtle club. Scherff said they are all biology majors by coincidence. Rachel Beiker, a junior from Rossville, was part of the sea turtle club, which left March 14 and returned March 23. 

“My hope is these 13 people will all have a love affair that has begun with the turtles and that their experience will be such that the trips will continue,” said Scherff, who teaches courses in the human impact on the environment. “It’s so important for land-locked universities to make a connection to the sea. I’m so glad Washburn has made that connection.” 

Students chronicled their work on Twitter under the handle @WUSeaTurtles. 

Two mass-media students, Michael Goehring of Silver Lake and Linnzi Fusco, traveled to Texas on their own to film the work of the Washburn Sea Turtle club and Sea Turtle Inc. and will produce a documentary after returning to Texas in June for the release of the turtles into the ocean. 

“No matter what happens, it’s going to be a really great experience,” Goehring said. “It’s going to be cool to be sharing the experience with the biology department.”


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New SPI manager takes charge

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The new city manager here is ready for a big change from his previous job in Rhode Island.

“I’ll have to get used to warm weather,” said William DiLibero, 56, who will assume his new post as city manager on Tuesday.

DiLibero had been town administrator in Charleston, R.I., and town manager of Hopkinton, R.I., with about three years in each town.

“I think it was 18 degrees this morning,” he said Thursday. “Spring has come but spring hasn’t come. We had snow yesterday, so I’m really looking forward to some nice weather.”

DiLibero, a native of Milford, Mass., earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Worcester State College and a master’s degree in environmental policy at Clark University, both in Worcester, Mass. He later earned a second master’s degree in urban and regional planning at the University of Miami, and, in 1991, a law degree from New England School of Law in Boston.

DiLibero said his son is studying industrial design in California and his daughter will graduate from high school next year in Rhode Island. He had been applying for positions in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona, where the weather is a little warmer, he said.

In 1982 he worked on farming projects in Costa Rica for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I like the Latin culture and used to be fluent in Spanish,” he said. “I’m hoping to get that back fairly quickly.”

He said his wife is a marketing director for a technology firm so she’s able to work from home. Once their daughter begins college, his wife will join him here.

While there are some dramatic differences between the Islands — Rhode and South Padre — there are some similarities.

“I think some of the similarities that made me of interest to the City Council was that the last community I managed in Rhode Island was a tourist community,” DiLibero said. “So I was familiar with dealing with businesses that were trying to make it through a tourist season. Our tourist season was much shorter than South Padre’s tourist season.”

He also knows how to deal with natural disasters like Hurricane Dolly that hit the Rio Grande Valley in 2008. After Hurricane Sandy hit New England in October 2012, he helped business owners in the coastal town of Westerly, R.I., get back on their feet.

“I have done a lot of permitting work,” he said. “I went in to serve as a zoning official to issue zoning certificates for four months to help people get back in operation after the storm. There were many buildings that were damaged by the storm that needed to be rebuilt, so I was making sure that their proposal was in conformance with the local zoning ordinances.”

Another similarity is dealing with beach erosion. The beaches where he lived in Rhode Island are on the open Atlantic Ocean while South Padre is a barrier island.

“We did a dredging project while I was there, and the dredge materials we used to renourish the beach,” he said.

During his visit with city officials here, he visited the beach.

“It looks like there’s a need to do some sort of nourishment there,” he said.

He said dredge material from the ship channel could be used to renourish the beach at South Padre Island.

“If you’re dredging the channel, it makes sense to put the material somewhere where it replenishes the beach,” he said.

One big difference between his previous job and the work he’ll do here is the lack of collective bargaining.

“I spent a lot of time negotiating union contracts in Rhode Island, and pretty much every police, fire, clerical staff, even some of the department heads,” he said of negotiations between the towns and their employees.

The government structures are different here from his experience in Rhode Island.

Charlestown, he said, doesn’t have a mayor.

“We had a town council, and there was a town council president, so you know it was similar that the town council president had the figurehead role, that the mayor has out on South Padre,” he said. “Likewise, it really depends on the council. You try and have a council that pretty much agrees on things. It works best when the councils work well together.”

He said South Padre Island seems like a smaller, more tight-knit community and he looks forward to helping improve the quality of life for its year-round residents.

“There’s the old city hall and there’s been discussion of turning that into a senior or community center,” he said. “I’d like to bring in some music programs or some art programs.”

He also said he’d like to develop some exercise programs for Island residents.

He likes the way a city manager can work directly with people.

“I like managing staff,” he said. “I think it’s a place where you can be most effective in government,” he said. “People can come directly to your door and come in and visit you, and it’s a hands-on job.”


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