The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center was our favorite among the 9 facilities linked to each other and devoted to birds, butterflies, and the native fauna in the Rio Grande Valley. Unique in several ways, it is, for example, the only one Ruth & I visited that was on a major body of water, Laguna Madre Bay. The Gulf of Mexico was on the other side of South Padre Island. Its widest point measures only half a mile.
This island is also rather unique. There are 300 barrier islands on the East Coast. Being 113 miles in length, Padre is the world’s longest barrier island. It extends all the way north to Corpus Christi. There are, according to one guide only 5,000 residents, and they are concentrated in the town at its extreme southern end where the Birding and Nature Center is. Most of the island is uninhabited national seashore. That’s probably why it was a candidate for the 1st atomic bomb test. White Sands was selected instead. When Texas was ruled by Spain, this island was owned by a priest, Padre Ballí, He ran a ranch on it.
The Queen Isabella Causeway connects the only town on the island to the mainland. This community is all about tourism in a place where the average February temperature is 70°. Fishing and birding are both big lures. The birding center is there because this is one of the best places in the United States to see lots of bird species. More than 350 have appeared so far. Many of them fly over the Gulf of Mexico before heading north during migration.
We saw lots of birds during our visit, and determined birders keep track of those spotted by adding bird names to an ongoing public list. When we were there, it had about 40 species on it. It’s especially easy to see birds at the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center because it has more than 3,300 feet of boardwalk that take those interested to bird blinds and into many different environments. One even extended out over the bay. There’s also a cool observation tower, a butterfly garden, guest lecturers, etc.
This center is definitely a place to linger. It’s the kind of attraction where you instinctively want to do as many activities as you can before you become saturated. It was a day for peregrine falcons, so Ruth and I had to wait to see a Roseate Spoonbill at another of the nine fine facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.