Welcome to South Padre Island, the Tropical Tip of Texas! Enjoy live cam views of our beautiful beaches with the South Padre Beach Cam™, the surf in the Gulf of Mexico with the South Padre Surf Cam™, and the sunset over the Laguna Madre with the South Padre Bay Cam™! Check live South Padre weather conditions and forecasts, pictures, video, and daily updated surf and beach report. Book South Padre hotels, condos, and vacation rentals, check out South Padre real estate listings, watersports and activities, dolphin watch, parasailing, restaurants, RV parks, or charter a fishing trip. Plan your family vacation, South Padre Island beach wedding, or Spring Break to South Padre Island on Spadre.com! For fast loading mobile pages click here.
The only web cam that sees it all! With user controls to view the beach, surfing area, jetties, Boca Chica, Dolphin Cove, Queen Isabella Causeway, Laguna Madre, sunrise and sunsets over the Bay and Gulf, even 24hr night views of the Island and surf.
Check the South Padre Beach Cam TM and other Island web cams from your cell phone, iPhone, Blackberry or other mobile device! New fast loading mini mobile pages with all cams, beach and surf report, buoys, weather forecast, news, and other essential data.
South Padre Island Beach and Surf Report now available in RSS. Subscribe to the feed, or embed the RSS feed on your website, blog, MySpace, Facebook, etc.
Get a copy of the
Travel Guide to South Padre Island for free visitor information by mail.
SPI Bike RallySept. 30 - Oct. 1
The South Padre Island Bike Rally is a two (2) day event for all kinds of riders and motorcycle enthusiasts to come together and enjoy great live music, bike shows, activities and much more!
South Padre Island TriathlonOct. 2
The South Padre Island Triathlon is a wonderful course at a great venue for the seasoned veteran or the first timer. With both Olympic and Sprint distance courses, there's bound to be something for everyone!
Sand Castle DaysOct. 6 - 9
The City of South Padre Island and Sandcastle Days founders Walter McDonald and Lucinda Wierenga are proud to welcome you to the 29th annual Sandcastle Days.
Walk for WomenOct. 7 - 9
13th Annual Walk for Women Breast Cancer Awareness Walk
Open Water FestivalNov. 5
Open Water Planet takes over South Padre Island to offer a weekend full of activities including a kids 500 yrd sprint, a one mile open water bay swim, a 5 kilometer open water bay swim, a special screening of the Olympic movie “The Last Gold”, OWP Vendor Village and much much more.
SPI MarathonNov. 12
The ultimate Runcation weekend! The SPI Marathon and Half-Marathon begin at the historic Port Isabel lighthouse, crosses the crystal waters of the Laguna Madre, to the sun-soaked shores of South Padre Island. White sand beaches, sandcastles, palm trees and enthusiastic spectators line the route to your finish line at the largest beach bar in Texas!
Farmers MarketFresh produce, fresh eggs, fresh seafood! Healthy shopping for healthy foods. Located at 'The Shores' 8605 Padre Blvd. north of the Convention Centre. Every Sunday 11am - 1pm
SpaceX is Coming to South Texas!The world's first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions will be just on the other side of the South Padre Island jetties at Boca Chica Beach.
Spectacular viewing of up to 12 launches annually from South Padre Island. Visit SPadre.com for SPaceX launch schedule and information on booking SpaceX Launch Tours.
Spring Break PhotosSpring Break Photo Gallery.
Check out spring break pictures featuring all of the hottest spring break action on South Padre Island.
Texas ClipperThe Texas Clipper is a multi-level dive, there are opportunities for experienced, advanced, and entry level divers to explore to their level of comfort. We recommend entry level divers consider professionally guided dives.
Hatchling ReleasesSea turtle education, research, rescue and rehabilitation center. We are open to the pubic Tuesdays - Sundays from 10am - 4 pm. Located next to the Convention Center
SPI Birding CenterSouth Padre Island Birding and Nature Center in South Padre Island, Texas. Dune meadows, salt marsh, and intertidal flats are all represented here, along with thickets of native shrubs and trees that are irresistible to migrating birds in their season.
Coastal Studies LabThe Coastal Studies Laboratory public displays contain representative species of fauna and flora from the immediate area of the Lower Laguna Madre and South Padre Island. The displays are open to the public and to organized groups.
Beach SafetyRip current and beach safety information. South Padre Island's new Beach Patrol will be keeping watch over you and your family this summer! Check out important beach safety information.
Visitors GuideGet a copy of the free Travel Guide to South Padre Island for visitor information by mail, or read it online.
Before you jump into the waves, take a few minutes to read
this important water
safety information and discuss it with your family and friends,
it may save your life!!
1. WEAR A LIFEJACKET IF
YOU DON’T SWIM WELL
2. LEARN TO SWIM
3 . BE AWARE OF RIP CURRENTS
4 . OBEY WARNING SIGNS AND FLAGS
5 . HAVE AN ADULT CHECK CONDITIONS FIRST
6 . DON'T SWIM ALONE
7 . STAY IN SHALLOW WATER DURING HIGH SURF
8 . NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED
9 . DO NOT SWIM NEAR THE JETTY
10 . DON'T USE INFLATABLES IN THE SURF
11. DON'T OVERESTIMATE YOUR SWIMMING ABILITY
12. DON'T DRINK AND SWIM
NO GLASS BOTTLES ARE ALLOWED ON THE BEACH.
PICK UP SOME TRASH THAT ISN'T YOURS.
911 first for any emergency.
South Padre Island EMS (956) 761-5454
Cameron County Park System (956) 761-5494
U.S. Coast Guard Station South Padre Island (956)
Cameron County Parks Police (956) 761-5283
Rip Current Index
Currents & Tides
Currents are common, be aware!
(mistakenly called rip tides or undertows) are common
and can be found almost daily on all South Padre
Island Beaches. RIP CURRENTS KILL SWIMMERS EVERY
YEAR HERE AT SOUTH PADRE ISLAND. Rip currents occur
around the world at "surf" beaches, including
both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Great
Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico including South Padre
Island. Rip currents are also the #1
cause of drownings. If you are caught
in one, how you respond could make the difference
between life and
death. Unlike undertows, rip currents
are shallow water processes that do not pull a person
under. They form when water, piled against the shore,
begins to return to deeper water. Typically, strong
wind and swell waves push water over a sandbar allowing
excess water to collect. Eventually, the excess
water starts to return seaward through low areas
in the sandbar, "ripping" an opening. Rip currents can be readily seen from the shore.
You can spot a rip current by looking for objects
or foam moving steadily seaward. Wave heights are
also lower and choppier in rip currents. Since rip
currents are NOT undertows, you can be pulled
away from the shore but not pulled under the water. The most common mistake drowning victims make
is to panic and try to swim directly toward the
shore. Even the best Olympic swimmers are not able
to successfully swim toward shore in the strongest
rip currents.If caught in a rip current,
simply remain calm and swim or paddle to the side
and the surf will push you back towards shore. Do
not hesitate to call for assistance.
Rip Current Index Rip Current Outlooks use the following, three-tiered
set of qualifiers:
Risk- Wave Heights 0-2' and/or
Wind Speed less than 10 kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions are not expected
to support the development of rip currents; however, rip currents can sometimes
occur, especially in the vicinity
of groins, jetties, and piers.
Moderate Risk- Wave
Heights 3-5' and/or Wind Speed 10-20 kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions support stronger
or more frequent rip currents. Only experienced
surf swimmers should enter the water. Use a
lifejacket, bodyboard or flotation device.
High Risk - Wave Heights 6'+ and/or
Wind Speed greater than 20kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions support dangerous
rip currents. Rip currents are life-threatening
to anyone entering the surf. Stay in waist deep
water or less!
currents are NOT undertows, you can be pulled away from
the shore but not pulled
under the water.
caught in a rip current, simply
remain calm and swim or paddle to the side and the surf will push
you back towards shore.
is a concern mostly for weak swimmers or the
unfortunate non-swimmer. An undertow occurs
when a wave is about to break on a shallow
sandbar where a swimmer might be standing.
The water will suck underneath the wave as
it breaks. This "undertow" can sweep
a weak swimmer off of their feet and into
deeper water, and he may panic as the wave
crashes over his head. The undertow disperses almost immediately
until the next wave approaches, then the cycle
starts again. An undertow can drown a person
just feet from safety.
Riptides are found in channels, passes and cuts through which
large volumes of water travel from the bay to the
surf during the tidal exchange. Normally swimmers
are not found in these areas. Rip currents are commonly
and mistakenly called riptides.
Currents are simply the current that moves
along the beach, usually in the direction that the
wind is blowing or the waves are breaking. You will
notice the longshore current as you enter the water,
causing you to drift along the beach. These currents
can run as fast as 3mph. Not a hazard for swimmers,
unless there is a north wind, the longshore current
will sweep you towards the jetty where it will become
a rip current sucking out to sea.
tide plays an important factor in water depths in
the surf. The tide range, or difference between high
and low tide varies between 1 to 3 feet. High tide
will cause more powerful waves to break closer to
shore and deeper water near shore. A
low or outgoing tide can greatly increase the rip
the rocks are wet from waves,
DO NOT walk any further!
Jetties - Located at the southern
tip of the island in Isla Blanca Park, the jetties
are not designed for public access, although it is
near the jetty. Many people have been
swept off the rocks and injured or swept out to sea
in the strong rip next to the jetty while attempting
to walk out the jetty during high surf. The granite
boulders are barnacle encrusted and urchin infested. Always bring some type
of flotation device to be used for rescue in case
someone falls into the surf. There is a strong rip
current located next to the jetty. This rip current
is the strongest and most dangerous on the entire
Texas coast, and on big days it can suck you out to
the end of the jetty into the "pit" where
the biggest waves will break, and likely wash you
back onto the rocks. If you get caught in the rip, simply remain calm and swim or
paddle to the side away from the jetty and the
surf will push you back towards shore. Do not hesitate
to call for assistance.
Flag Advisory System
de aviso con bandera
to moderate water
-does not mean safe water
calmada a moderada
-no asuma agua segura
venemous marine life
vida marina venenosa
of flag does not assure safe water
La ausencia de banderas no asume
condiciones de agua segura
911 for emergency
Marque el 911 para urgencias
you enter beaches you will notice the Flag Advisory
South Padre Island Beach Information
About Our Beaches
South Padre Island - the best beach in Texas!
South Padre Island, the gem of the Texas coast boasts miles of tropical beach front resort shoreline and a warm family friendly atmosphere that is perfect for your beach vacation. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico make your action packed vacation a dream come true. At the southern tip of the 600 mile stretch of Texas beaches, the warmest waters of the entire Gulf of Mexico meet the tropical climate of the South Texas coast, making South Padre beaches a great destination year round. And with planned activities and events such as surfing competitions where you can watch the states best surfers effortlessly ride the waves, sand castle days where the worlds top sand castle builders meet to battle it out with amazing artistic creations you can not only watch but join in on the fun with amateur sand castle competitions and free sand castle lessons. The ever popular Bike Fest also known as Roar by the Shore where you'll see thousands of Harleys and other decked out motorcylces parade down the boulevard, some of the nations biggest fishing tournaments including TIFT and LKT, pirate days, kite fest, sporting events, market days, and other seasonal events - there's always something going on in South Padre Island.
Seaside you can enjoy a dolphin watch or a narrated cruise and eco tour of the surrounding Gulf waters of South Padre Island and the Laguna Madre bay. And when you come ashore, visit Sea Turtle Inc, the sealife and dolphin research center, or the coastal studies lab and marvel at the aquatic life of the South Texas Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Ocean. While enjoying the ocean waters, waves, and sand dive into some popular water sports in South Padre include surfing lessons, windsurfing, kayaking, kite boarding, and jet skiing, parasailing, banana boats, and fishing. Beach side activities feature sand castle lessons, horseback riding, atvs and more. While off of the beach you can indulge in some of the freshest seafood (if you've never had the lobster sized Gulf Coast Shrimp you really ought to try!) or Island shopping. Nightlife is plentiful featuring beach front cabanas or bayside tropical bars where you can have a cocktail and watch the sunset, dance, join in for some karaoke, or watch your favorite sports at the local sports bar. Each year during the month of March, the small quiet seaside town of 2,400-population fills in with ten times that many college girls and boys as the beaches of South Padre Island has become one of the most popular Spring Break destinations in the nation.
Isla Blanca Beach Park, a great family beach features 2 large pavilions, complete with a playground, snack bar, bait stands, umbrella and chair rentals, and surfing lessons. The park has a new boat ramp, rv park, tent camping area, and a long rock jetty offering great fishing. Local catches include snapper, flounder, red fish, trout, grouper, snook, tarpon, and kingfish. The dolphin and sea turtles are plentiful and make daily appearances around the jetty in the ship channel. Watching the shrimp boats cruise in and out of the safety of the calm bay waters as they venture offshore is magical. Watching the boats and fisherman come back in safely can be even more beautiful. The Christo de los Pescadores statue is a shrine built to memorialize those brave fishermen that were lost at sea and proudly stands with arms outreached at 30 ft tall. Traveling to the north side of the Island, there are miles of even more beautiful beaches stretching for 28 miles of unspoiled sandy coastline. The national seashore feature the barrier Island beaches that offer incredible shelling, camping, and is the perfect setting for a romantic evening, spectacular sunset and private strolls up the beach. At the end of the stretch of empty coastline lies another jetty and small boat pass where it is said that a couple of Spanish Galleons where known to have sunk close to shore and treasure hunters have lucked into some incredible finds. Stop by the local Beachcombers Museum and you can see various treasures found along the beaches of South Padre Island. Along with some of the most popular beaches in the country, you can explore some of the nation's best bird watching sites at the new world birding center, learn about endangered sea turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc. the local sea turtle hospital and research facility. Across the Bay and just a few mile drive from the shores of South Padre lies the old port town of Port Isabel where you can still visit and climb the historical Port Isabel lighthouse. Driving across the Queen Isabella Causeway you'll catch a breathtaking view of the city and bay. Or for golf enthusiasts if a golf course is what you are searching for then don't worry as the South Padre Island Golf Club is the finest in the Rio Grande Valley.
There really is something for everyone in South Padre Island!
Offshore, A Small Deep Water Shark Causes Injury to Dolphin by Scarlet Colley
One of the smallest sharks on earth can be a real pest to other sea creatures including dolphins. This little shark, part of the dogfish family, with the scientific name of Isistius plutodus, is just under twenty inches in length. The males are about four inches smaller than the larger female. They live in the Gulf of Mexico and other parts of the world in deeper water and it is thought that they can go up to two miles deep in search of food. This little monster is called a cookie cutter shark and a little monster it is to its prey. The reason for this odd name is its tactics to obtain its food. This shark is almost invisible from the underside, using luminescents, except for a dark spot on its throat. The rest of its long, thin cigar like body disappears, blending in with the light from above. It is very much like putting on an invisible cloak, with just a small shape showing dark. The fish see it as a smaller fish and as the fish attacks, the shark counter attacks and goes in for the meal. Its teeth are set up just perfect to allow it to grab the side of the fish, clamp down, spin around and take a round chunk of meat away with it as it swims off. It does not kill the fish but leaves a nasty cookie cutter shaped hole that will eventually heal.
Twenty or so huge, razor sharp teeth line the lower jaw of its small mouth and the shark will swallow its own teeth when in need of calcium. Its lips also act like a suction cup to help insure its grip while the upper teeth are tiny allowing it to spin around. Using its upper teeth to hold the chunk of flesh, it then scoops out the meal with its lower teeth after making its spin. This little menace can cause our dolphins to have a nasty little hole in their sides and undoubtedly it is painful. We know our dolphins have taken a jaunt off shore to come home with this type of injury, for the Cookie Cutter shark likes deeper water and therefore is no menace in the bay or inshore waters. Sometimes we have offshore dolphins that come into the bay area for a few days and you can see that they have more healed bites on them than our inshore dolphins have.
We see Remora’s, which are a fish that latch on with a suction cup to the dolphins, but cause them no harm and are just an aggravation. We have never seen a Cookie cutter shark in the bay but have seen plenty of Remora’s attached to our dolphins. We are not sure if other dolphins in the family group help out the dolphin being attacked by a Cookie cutter shark but we feel that looking at the wound and the way it healed on this dolphin that the shark may have been dislodged before it could make its get away with the entire plug of flesh. It looks as if some of the flesh remained and healed over. The size of the holes is about the size of a small biscuit. It also looks like this could be a cookie cutter shark that may have ridden in with this dolphin. It was so long and thin, almost tubular looking compared to the remoras shape that we usually see.
The remoras are so quick that other dolphins attempting to dislodge the pesky fish just end up playing tag with it. We have seen many dolphins leap into the air and belly flop in an attempt to dislodge a remora.
Scarlet and George Colley of South Padre Island's "Fins
to Feathers" have been filming and documenting
their dolphins for eight years. They operate a tour business
on the Island and write seven articles a month for local papers
on the nature of the Island.
More Nature Report Articles by Scarlet and George Colley of the South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Center
Billy the Octopus
Everyone is talking about the octopus using the coconut to get around in, his little space ship in the sea, so to speak. Having raised a baby octopus to adulthood and spend his whole life with him, I am not surprised at this find in the least. When I first laid eyes on our octopus, Billy, he was no bigger than a dime. A tiny glob lay on the deck of a bay shrimp boat that I was observing by catch on and I reached down to pick it up only to have two tiny black eyes look up at me and stretch out eight smidgen of legs. It was love at first sight for me. And little Billy, seemed to be saying to me, water , water please. I grabbed my coffee mug, rinsed it out and filled it with fresh sea water and in went Billy, who immediately showed how pleased he was with a little puff of ink.
At the time I was volunteering at the Pan Am Coastal Studies lab, taking care of their aqua exhibits. Now how was I going to take care of this dime sized infant of an octopus. I remembered raising baby live bearing freshwater fish when I was a child, so why not use a tiny tank that hangs on the side of a big one, and now what would he eat? I knew of some tiny hermit crabs, so tiny , in the tiniest of shells and thought I would try that. So as I dipped little Billy in his new home, he scurried to the little shell I put in with him for his house. He checked it out first, to be sure it was safe, and with one of his tentacles he felt around inside. He disappeared inside of it and I then added some of the itty bitty hermit crabs.
All I could do now is wait to see if he would eat. The next day I rushed to his little home and there was no sight of him, but all around his shell house , were empty little shells , so I now knew I could feed him. Now that he was eating, there was a good chance he might survive. He had neatly stacked the little shells just in front of his little house and I would now have the job of finding enough food for a growing baby octopus.
I also put things in his tank such as small shells I would find with things growing on them such as sea weed and each day he would arrange them how he liked. I also noticed that if his little house was moved by moi, he would move it back where he liked it to be, in the right hand back corner of the tank. He would rearranged the things I put in the tank for him to amuse himself with and feel more at home. I wish now I had filmed the whole sequence.
But Billy was so shy, I never saw him. Not until one evening, just as I was getting ready to leave, I took one more look at his tank and he peaked out at me from his shell. I was elated. He had grown to the size of a nickel. Wow. I would now find larger hermit crabs and tiny baby blue crabs for him. About every three days I would clean his tank and knew that soon I would have to move him to bigger one. And I would have to find a bigger shell for him to live in too. Now I was feeding Billy twice a day and one day I thought I might try to give him a little bigger hermit crab. I held it in front of his shell and tapped the side of the glass gently. He reached out his little tentacle and grabbed the hermy from me , taking it into his house to eat alone.
If you would like to be amazed by the tiniest of super heroes of this area, come meet our pistol shrimp, Pete, who can create a burst of light to equal that of the sun, or the many other super heroes of the sea at the Sea Life Center located at 110 N Garcia in Port Isabel next to Pirates Landing. Open daily from 10-4 and closed on Tuesday. Enjoy a guided tour with local naturalist and watch the sea life being fed. Call 956-299-1957 for more info. from the desk of Scarlet Colley , see our website at spisealife.org
Valley is rich in the diversity of its mammals, including
the smaller inshore dolphins of South Padre Island. They
live in the rich waters of the Laguna Madre Bay and the
inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico, along the beach
of South Padre. They breathe air and nurse their young.
Not a fish but a kindred spirit of the water, they are
the Bottlenose Dolphins of the Rio Grande Valley, Tursiops
Truncatus. These dolphins have adapted to the shallow
waters of the Laguna Madre and are therefore
smaller than their offshore cousins which can reach lengths
of 12 feet. Inshore dolphins grow only seven to nine feet in
length, making it easier for them to get around in the shallows.
Their weight is considerably less as well, averaging about 400
pounds, in comparison to their offshore compatriots, which can
weigh as much as 600 pounds.
There are five major family groups of about 25 members apiece
of these inshore dolphins, each led by a wise matriarch. The
matriarch plays an important role in leading the group, using
the experience and knowledge passed on to her by a previous
matriarch. The matriarch dictates what the group will do at
different times of the day, whether it be feeding, sleeping
Protected by the Federal Government these wild dolphins lead
their lives safely in the bay and gulf waters. They are “fishatarians”
eating a variety of fish such as mullet, sheepshead, ribbonfish
and many others. They consume up to 10 percent of their body
weight in fish per day. Dolphins
are big-brained animals, as are we, and can learn to adapt to
changes in their environment. They populated Valley coastal
waters long before the arrival of humans and must have led a
much quieter life with no sounds of human activity on their
waters. But they have learned quickly with each successive generation
to adapt to the new creatures in their world and also to the
new threats they bring with them (such as wave runners). Now
their daily activities even include playing with these two-legged
interlopers. After all, they share
something very special with their human counterparts…emotions.
They react to people reacting to them. And they have had years
to get to know the people on their waters.
A unique feature of inshore dolphins is their more highly developed
ability to use echo location when compared to most offshore
dolphins. Bay waters are often murky and inshore dolphins cannot
use their eyes to see as the offshore dolphins are able to do
in the clear blue water of their environment. Echo location
serves as sonar that allows the inshore dolphins to see much
as we see on a sonogram. Quite often they will feed in the murky
water in preference to the clear water nearby because, while
the fish cannot see them, they can “see” the fish
using their echo location.
These amazing creatures
live up to 40 years in the wild. Since they have only
one set of teeth during their lifetime, their age can
be determined by counting the rings on a half section
of one of their teeth, similar to counting the rings of
a tree stump. They have a great memory base as humans
do and have learned to recognize different boats and even
the people that spend time with them. We can easily recognize
individual dolphins by the dorsal fin on their
backs. They can range in color from white
to black. The mothers and babies stay together while the young
males of four years old and up band together and are taught
how to behave together by the older male bulls. The matriarchs
share their wisdom with matriarchs in training so that knowledge
can be passed down from generation to generation.
Mothers keep their babies at their sides for three to four years
before they have another baby. The gestation period is 11 months,
and, if the first baby is a female, she will help her mother
raise the next baby, learning to become a mother herself someday.
If the baby is a male he will go on to the male group. A mother
and baby can often be seen alone together, spending a little
quality time away from the main group, but later they join re-join
the other family members.
The babies have much to be taught as they grow, not unlike the
time spent raising a human baby. One dolphin year counts as
two human years, making an eight-year-old dolphin similar in
age to a sixteen-year-old human. Dolphins will have as many
as five or six children in their lifetime. The females raise
the children while the males lead separate lives in their own
groups as they reach maturity which is about seven or eight,
but they will still intermingle with their family groups, visiting
mothers and siblings. Nacho, a white female, brought her baby
up to the boat the day he was born. Nacho’s son Titan
is now six years old, and even though he is officially in the
male group led by Frosty, he still spends time with his mother
now and then. He has been filmed and documented since the day
he was born. It is illegal to
feed, touch or swim with dolphins in the wild, but interacting
with humans by sharing emotions is both legal and welcome. They
react to human emotions of joy and, if they are not sleeping,
eating or on a mission at the time, they will share emotions
through play. They don’t have to bring their eyes out
of the water to breathe, so when they do they are looking at
their onlookers. They recognize people and enjoy seeing reactions
to their play. They will tussle around, much like schoolboys
on a playground. They even play
with things in the water such the Cabbage Head Jelly fish and
Sargasso Seaweed or even their food. Throwing fish around is
not an uncommon sight.
Mothers will give their babies permission to play when they
are old enough, too. It is a joy indeed to see the babies playing
together under the watchful eyes of their mothers.
The joy that Dolphins bring to humans is very special, and there
is no question that the bond between humans and dolphins is
on the emotional level. Here is a species of mammal that shares
the same emotions with their family and friends as humans do
as the human families of the Valley go about their daily
business, so do the dolphins of the Laguna Madre Bay.
They spend their whole lives here and matriarchs such
as Can Opener, Dottie and Jasmine, have enjoyed long and
prosperous lives leading their families. Frosty, the male
bull, leads the younger males, Sharkey, Nicky, Titan and
many others by sharing the knowledge
gained during his long life. Having been
out on the water with these dolphins for eight years filming
and documenting them has been a wonderful experience, and they
have become very much a part of our family. There are five major
family groups that we recognize and have come to know well.
One thing is certain; they are a part of the Valley’s
nature ecosystem of which we can all be proud.
man-o-war and Portuguese man-o-war fish in the fish
bowl. These fish live in the tentacles of the
man-o-war and are immune to its sting.
The moon jelly ( Aurelia aurita) also washes ashore in large
groups and look like a flat clear pancake with a pink four
leaf clover shape inside of it, which is its stomach. They
have very short tentacles and are not as harmful as the sea
nettle. The sea nettle is a jellyfish that has long tentacles
and can give quite a sting. There are tiny hyperdermic type
needles called nematocysts, along the tentacles, which fire
off on contact and inject a substance that would normally
incapacitate a fish. For the human flesh it stings like fire.
Another jellyfish that packs a wallop is a sea wasp (Chiropsalmus
True to its name it is like being stung by wasps when coming
into contact with its tentacles. Some
jellies light up and are luminescent. The sea walnut (Beroe
ovata) is the size of a large pecan and if put in a cup of
water and watch carefully, the beautiful rows of colored lights
glow in a wave up and down the sides of the creature. They
are easily overlooked they are so clear and small.
Jellyfish are not
too much of a problem here on South Padre but do watch
out for the purple bubble the Portuguese Man O War.
Its long purple tentacles sting with no mercy. It’s
best to just look and not touch these beautiful creatures.
We don’t want to have close encounters of the
stinging kind when around the ocean, but jellyfish are
wonderfully beautiful and mysterious creatures of the
Portuguese Man-O-War Photo Nancy Patterson
( note: first aid for jellyfish - rinse with fresh water,
in most cases the sting may be treated with vinegar and unseasoned
meat tenderizer mixed in a paste, applied directly to the
sting. Reactions vary in individuals.)
The Sargasso Seaweed is wonderful and is a floating city when
out on the water. It is a city for a variety of marine life
and sea turtles. As it is blown into the Gulf of Mexico on
the north winds, it eventually ends up on the beach and in
the bay. Most of the fish have enough sense to swim out to
more of it as the seaweed hits the breakers. Some of the little
creatures cling on for dear life and end up on the beach where,
to the delight of the shore birds, they pick thru it and eat
the little shrimp and crabs that didn’t bail out in
time. The Seaweed then becomes a great natural way to keep
the beach in place as it sinks down into the sand and helps
to hold the beach in place. Sweeping it up to please the beach
goers in the long run may have the beach goers crying “where
is the beach” as the beach slowly erodes away. This
seaweed has piled up on these beaches for hundreds, even thousands
of years and helps to renourish the fragile beach ecosystem.
The creatures that live in the Sargasso are very unique and
have adapted well to their floating city. Most of them are
the same orange color of the seaweed itself.
The Sargasso fish is perfectly at home being the same color
and having adapted foot like fins that crawl thru the seaweed
looking for a meal. It can consume a fish the same size as
The Sargasso File fish uses its file like fin to hold itself
in the seaweed.
The Sargasso Seahorse and its relative the Pipefish are also
that great golden orange color.
There are nudibranchs and
anemones, Sargasso crabs and shrimp.
Nudibranch blending into the sargasso seaweed
Other creatures also use the Seaweed as a nursery for their
young such as Southern Hakes and Butterfish and many exotic
fish such as tiny flying fish are found in this unique Sargasso. The reason this seaweed floats is that it has hundreds of
tiny air filled sacs that you can pop like bubble wrap. If
you pick it up on the beach just as it floats in and give
it a shake you can see the little shrimp and crabs that are
hiding in it. If you take a small cup to the beach with you
and fill it with sea water, then shake the freshly beached
sargasso over it the tiny creatures will fall into the water
and you can enjoy seeing them.
Also you can help save wildlife by picking up trash on the
beach and disposing of it in the trash cans provided by the
city and county.
If you would like to see the creatures that live in this unique
seaweed and learn more about how to help save wildlife call 956-454-4799 to visit the South Padre Island Dolphin Research
and Nature Center, a non profit organization dedicated to
helping save wildlife of South Padre Island through education.
Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center
South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center has now opened on South Padre Island. The Non Profit Organization is located at 105 W. Pompano. The research and nature center will be open everyday at 1:00. At 1:00 we will feed the sea creatures and discuss their unique habitat. Children can help with the feeding. All the dolphins in the area are in the wild and the eight year research of South Padre Island’s Bottlenose dolphins will be on display in the form of photo’s, videos, books and presentations by the research team. Trips by boat with the research team to visit their wild dolphin study group are available thru the research center daily.
Tours of the facility can be arranged for large groups at other times of the day. The nature center has hands on touch tank tidal pools for everyone to experience live marine life and learn about live shells, hold a starfish and hermit crab and other invertebrates. Educational displays will help inform all on how to save wildlife and protect it.
The center will serve as a birding information center for all birders to report sightings or to answer questions about local birds in general. A birding rehab program is also in the works. There is an eco-friendly gift shop meaning no marine life will be put to death to sell as souvenirs. The gift shop will help raise funds to operate the Research Center. There will be plenty of dolphin related gifts, jewelry and photos in the gift shop area.
An Adopt-a-Dolphin Program is in place to help raise funds for the Research Center and donations and members are needed to get this new non-profit organization up and running. Quarterly news letters will keep members informed on latest news on our dolphins and nature of South Padre Island and the Laguna Madre.
There will be educational programs set up and scholarships given as the center raises the funds. The opportunity to learn about nature with a view of conservation and future needs of wildlife will be a focus. There will be story telling hours so everyone interested can get together and share stories about their nature experiences such as fishing, shelling, dolphin encounters, birding, and many other topics. Also this center will serve as a nature report center for any sighting or events seen, from a deceased animal to injured animal or abusive behavior to wildlife. Ultimately this center will be a place everyone can share their love for the nature of the area and learn how to help take care of it. The phone no. is 956-454-4799 or 956-761-7178. This research and nature center, Sea Turtle Inc. and the University of Texas Pan Am Coastal Lab provide South Padre Island with three very informative and educational centers on the nature of South Padre Island to help create eco friendly and informed tourists and visitors and residents.
Save our Ocean Wildlife
Keeping an eye on nature is for the most part an uplifting and fun part of l my life, but there are times when it can be very sad to be out in nature. It is hard to see how a few from the human race can be, well, I guess I just can't put down the words I would use to describe this type of person or persons. Recently a friend of ours was walking out on the jetty to observe a rare sandpiper. This is the jetty in Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island. It is usually full of people fishing almost all the way out to the end. Our friend found his bird and spoke with another couple out there looking for this purple sandpiper. Then John sees something that turned his stomach. Three severed flippers of a sea turtle just lying there. He looked around for the turtle but did not see it. When he got home he sent me the photo he took of them. He left them there, not sure what to do with them. I called Gibb at the coastal studies lab to tell him about the atrocity and he said he recently picked up a turtle that was reported on the beach close to the jetty. It had green twine around its neck and three flippers severed completely off. Everyone on sight agreed it looked like a clean knife cut. The sight was sickening to everyone. Gibb does turtle rescue and there was no saving this one. He took it to the coastal studies lab where it will be picked up by Fisheries. We all agreed that there are not too many people around in this time and age that do not know that sea turtles are protected. We came very close to living in a world with out them if we had not stepped in to protect them from being slaughtered into extinction by our own kind. Knowing the rules of fishing for individual areas fished is so important. I see so many people on the jetty taking baby mangrove snappers. Why? because they look like the sun perch up north that never get big. Mangrove snappers get huge. Every one should be aware by now with shows like animal planet and national geographic, that taking the babies will diminish the entire population. I saw this women keep a mangrove snapper less than five inches long. Just a baby. There are no guidelines on the mangrove snappers yet but someday there will have to be if we want to keep a population of any significance around. Let's save our ocean life. Not destroy it. We need a master of the jetty. Let us all help by picking up any fishing line or trash we see when walking the jetty and beach. Each and everyone of us can make a difference in saving wildlife.
Protecting the Treasures of the Beach
What beach treasure is special to you? A relaxing walk on the beach will usually always yield something to stir the emotions or wonderment of the mind. There is always the anticipation of what lies ahead and what will wash up next. What will the sea spit out on the sand?
Perhaps the joy of a beautiful shell found unbroken such as a murex or cockle, a scotch bonnet or a flame auger. Finding a sea bean such as a hamburger bean or a sea heart to add to sea treasures will make the walk a memorable one. A beautiful piece of drift wood washed ashore inspires an idea of what to do with it. An odd creature lying on the sand and not knowing what it is may inspire a desire to learn more about what the sea yields. Is it a piece of yellow string lying there or is it the sea creature whip coral?
Perhaps the despair of finding an animal that died at sea and washed up to the shore stirs the heart strings and emotions run deep with this creature. Did it have a full life? How did it die?
Creatures that have been caught in the waves and don’t have the strength to escape the waves force, such as jellyfish, end up on the beach to fascinate us with their beauty and ability to cause us pain. To see a purple bubble slowly wiggling on the sand both awes us but makes us wary. They will disappear into the sand thru the day. Sadly no more sand dollars can be found on South Padre due to over collecting. Many of the shells may have hermit crabs in them and should be left to live and do their job in the eco system. They will not live out of the water and if you purchase a land crab as a pet it will not live if let go on the hostile beach environment.
If an injured marine mammal, sea turtle or injured bird is seen on the beach this should be reported immediately to local authorities and don’t despair if it takes a few calls to get thru to the right people to help for that certain area. Many of these animals can be saved if helped soon enough. Some of the places to call are the Coastal Studies Lab at 956-761-2644, Sea Turtle Inc. at 761-4511, the Sea life Nature Center at 761-7178 or the police at 761-5454. It is best not to touch the injured creature and try to keep anyone with dogs away.
The many stories and finds while taking a walk on the beach are vast and fun to share. Some finds are real treasure like coins and artifacts and some are treasures of nature such as a rare shell or a shark’s tooth. Some finds are very disappointing such as the vast amounts of trash washing up in the form of plastics and glass. Light bulbs, tires, bottles, floats, wood, plastic bags, rubber gloves, boots, food wrappers and the list goes on as far as the beach itself. But some trash can be made into treasure like old flip flops carved into toys, cans recycled, and trash turned into works of art. And of course everyone can help save wildlife by picking up plastics on the beach.
Everyone finds their own treasure of some kind on the beach walk and sometimes it is just the walk itself that is the real treasure, being at one with the sea and sand and air. It is good for the soul, mind and heart.
If you find something on the beach you want to learn more about bring it by the South Padre Island Nature center.
To learn more about sea life visit the Dolphin Research and Sea life nature center at 105 W. Pompano.
There is a 1:00 program daily. See our website at Spinaturecenter.com or call 956-761-7178.
1. Poor Hermy, the land hermit crab, was found abandoned on the beach at South Padre. He is an imported land crab sold in local shop to keep as pets. He needs freshwater and fruit to survive. He was about to be eaten by gulls that pecked thru his thin shell and was rescued by an passerby and lives at the nature center now.
2. All forms of Trash as seen here impact our sea turtles. Please help save our turtles and other wildlife.
3. This poor Ruddy Turnstone is tangled in fishing line and will ultimately loose its leg. Fishing line is something that should be picked up and disposed of to protect wildlife from this type of injury and quite often death.
4. Stay away from this beauty, the Portuguese man o war. Their tentacles have stinging cells that will inflict tremendous pain to those who come in contact with them.
The Wonderful World of Color
The Wonderful World of Color is especially brilliant under the sea in the world’s many coral reef communities. But here on South Padre Island, surrounded by the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico and the shallows of the Laguna Madre Bay, the colors take on a different look. The greens of the grass beds are filled with a diversity of marine life that is unique and fascinating. There are no coral reefs here so any form of structure creates an artificial reef, such as the jetties or sunken objects. The rich grass beds of the bay form a virtual nursery for many species. When a colorful creature is seen it is a real treat around here. Most of the seahorses we find here are brown so that they blend in with their surroundings better, but occasionally an orange or yellow seahorse is found. They are a favorite with everyone and it is hard to think of them as a fish. They seem more like a little marine mammal. They thrive in an aquarium setting as long as they are fed and maintained properly, so we do have them on exhibit at the SPI Sealife Center.
Here we can use their exhibit to learn about them and to help promote conservation on their behalf. Seahorses are under great threat of becoming endangered thru out the world, so we have to help their plight. One way we can help is not to buy dried sea horses as souvenirs. There have been many times we have picked up a dried sea horse in a souvenir shop and seen the dried babies in a dried male’s pouch. Over two hundred babies died for the sake of a few dollars. One of the missions of the Sealife Center is to promote eco friendly gift shopping so we as tourists do not put demands on marine life to be killed to sell to us a souvenirs. If we don’t buy them there is no reason to kill the sea life. Snorkeling, diving and aquariums allow us to view them alive. Of course some things are eaten and that is different, for eating is part of nature. But when it comes to Octopus, they have stolen my heart and after having them for friends I cannot bring myself to eat them. We also have them on exhibit at the center and they become part of the family. They all have different personalities and they also have different food preferences. Some will love to eat hermit crabs and others refuse to touch them. Some are aggressive and others quite shy. It is fun to watch them eat as they delicately take the food from our hands, feeling the difference between the hand and food with their many suction cups.
Enjoying the nature of South Padre Island is half the fun of visiting here. The South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Center is located at 5009 Padre Blvd #12 and have a daily educational program at 1:00.
The Coastal Studies Lab is located in Isla Blanca Park and is open to the public from 1:30 to 4:30 every day except Saturday.
Sea Turtle Inc. is located north on the Island and is open from 10 to 4 everyday except Monday.
Schlitterbahn also has a sea life exhibit and encounter and the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville is a great place to visit as well.
Asking for Faces With My Dolphins
Today we went out on a short trip to visit our dolphins and within minutes the young four to eight year old males were all together wandering up the shipping channel. Most of their mothers are with new babies this year. As Angel, Buddy, Gumdrop, Scar, and others were playing I was whining to them that I had missed a wonderful photo op last night with two youngsters showing their faces at the same time, a photo I have still to manage after ten years with them. I laughed with them as they rubbed their tummies along the pontoon hulls of my research vessel and begged them for a great shot as my camera was ready. The couple that joined us on the boat looked at me with disbelief as I spoke to my wild dolphin study group. Then there it was , and here it is, the few seconds they gave me. They are incredible... and more blog tomorrow on new babies!!!! Oh and we had a great rare bird yesterday at the South Padre Island Convention Center too. A Black Whiskered Vireo!! See that photo on ournature center site...
Our baby dolphins have a great life here in the Laguna Madre Bay. I have come to realize that the baby boys are much more fiesty than the baby girls for sure. We are fortunate to get to know these babies and their mothers and watch them grow up. The males play with us much more than the females. We have two new babies so far this year but I have yet to spend time and film them. It is very windy on the water this time of year and my reseaserch vessel is being worked on right now. But there is no hurry and the mother's need their time with the newborns. They will start bringing them to meet me in a few weeks. It will be fun to see the first year mothers that were just little girls when I met them. Some of the young females remind me of the teenage human mothers we see, as if they should still be growing up instead of having a baby! These babies will have fun being raised here in the bay learning from their family and friends what to eat, learn their liquid language, how to use their echo location capabilities, how to stay safe around all the human water activities, how to get along with one another and how to stay healthy. Living up to forty five years in the wild they have a long life of learning. Here is mom playing with her baby.
The Ink fish, the sea hare, the sea slug,
the aplaysia, all one creature and one that makes its
appearance now for many too observe. We are seeing them
from our boating tours, some see them as they gaze to
the water from the shoreline or boat docks or the fishing
piers and some see them washed ashore. Once the sea
hare is on shore it lays there just a glob, oozing purple
ink. The ink will not hurt you but the sea hare does
use it for defense when being pursued as a meal. And
you wonder what would eat that unchewable gummy bear?
A cow nosed ray will. They will make a meal of it with
no problems. I often have wondered if the dolphins interact
with them or maybe use them as chewing gum! One day
alpha male Frosty actually brought one up in his mouth
right in front of our boat and made it ink by twicking
it with his teeth. Pretty neat to see.
The ink fish are on display at the Sealife Center and
range in size from baby ones to large adults. They move
along like sea cows and graze on greens. They have tiny
pin point dots for eyes and just barely remnants of
a shell left which they have evolved away from. They
are beautiful to look at up close as they remind me
of a starry night. They have a simple nervous system
which has prompted studies by various universities.
When you find these blobby sea creatures lying on the
beach, it is better to put them in a bucket and bring
them to the sealife center or release them on the bay
side from a dock. They can not swim back out the surf
against the waves and will just rewash ashore.
The life of the inkfish is spent mostly swimming and
grazing and laying eggs. At the end of the summer after
they have layed millions of strands of eggs they simply
disappear perhaps clinging down in the grasses no longer
having the urge to swim around to meet mates. They look
like angels swimming along in the bay and we always
are reminded of the season when they appear. Summer