From Tropic Winds Resort – Harlingen, TX
A drive to South Padre Island (SPI) was on the agenda for today. We were to start our day meeting friends David & Judi at Sea Turtle, Inc. and then spend the rest of the day exploring more of the island. Today was our third fun visit with David & Judi since their arrival in the area but Friday they will be leaving and traveling west to Arizona. Sure hope our paths cross again down the road as we have really enjoyed our visits and their friendship.
Sea Turtle, Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Loetscher from Iowa. Before her fame as “The Turtle Lady” of South Padre she was one of the first women pilots and friend of Amelia Earhart. It was in 1965 Ila was recruited to work at a principal nesting site of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle in Mexico. At 61 years of age she willingly volunteered and her love of these sea turtles and their protection began.
Sea Turtle, Inc still today remains a non-profit all volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation of endangered sea turtles living in the Gulf of Mexico. They have at the center four of the five endangered sea turtle species represented…….Atlantic Green, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley and Loggerhead. The missing species is the Leatherback.
In addition to the many large tanks and pools filled with injured rescued turtles in various stages of rehabilitation the center offers visitors educational talks on the dangers to the sea turtles and what needs to be done to assure these gentle giant creatures continue to survive. The goal of the center is to rehabilitate as many rescued turtles as possible and return them to their ocean home. However some have injuries preventing their release back into the sea and for these a home in a zoo is hoped for and if not they remain at the rescue center.
Efforts of this rescue center are showing results as once the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world but today it is the fastest recovering species thanks to efforts begun in the 1960s. However the ability to recover endangered sea turtle species is a long, long road as less than 1% survives their first year. Those that do it can take up to 15 to 40 years for them to reach maturity and produce offspring depending on the species.
I had always heard of “The Turtle Lady” and her loving efforts towards sea turtles, but seeing her work carried on with the same love by so many volunteers has made a lasting impression. A “tip of my hat” to all involved in this endeavor.
This rescue center is worth a visit if you ever find yourself on South Padre Island. We came away with so much more knowledge about these reptiles after the “turtle talk” and then just talking and listening to the volunteers caring for those turtles who presently need the love and care this center offers.
Next we followed the Kruses to their trailer at Isla Blanca County Park where we enjoyed a wonderful “burger lunch”. Judi also prepared an awesome potato and green bean salad as well as a kiwi fruit salad to go along with the hamburgers David grilled. We also got to meet Callie the Beagle they adopted in December from the Livingston, TX SPCA……….what a cutie! However with our visiting and eating realized when we got home we had not taken a photo of Callie to share in the post!
While at the county park Rudy & David took Callie for a walk on the beach and returned with a photo of the El Cristo de los Pecadores Memorial. This memorial was given to the Shrimp Producers Association by the De la Lastra family who lost two family members to fishing accidents out at sea.
Around the base of the statue of Jesus is an inscription in both Spanish and English…………”Father! Receive the souls of these brave fishermen who have sailed through this pass and never returned”. In the base of the memorial are inserted plaques with names of other fishermen who have never returned from fishing the sea.
Following our delicious lunch and some good old outdoor visiting we made two quick photo op stops on our way to another South Padre Island attraction. First stop was the SPI Welcome Center home to one of the largest year round indoor sand castles. Maintained by the Sons of the Beach Sand Castle Wizards this sand castle changes with the season. Next photo op stop was the SPI Convention Centre where a stunning mural by the acclaimed environmental artist Wyland graces the building. This artist wanted to show homage to whales and other sea creatures by using his talent to paint 100 walls across the world.
His “Whaling Walls” serve to capture the grandeur of his subjects since drawing these giant creatures on canvas limited his expression and love for whales. The mural on the SPI Convention Centre is the 53rd life size canvas for the Wyland project and the first of its kind along the entire Gulf Coast.
We then went just next door from the Convention Centre to the newest of the birding centers in the RGV World Birding Center……………..South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. This center boasts a 5-story observation tower where visitors can view the Laguna Madre, beaches and dunes that line the Gulf of Mexico and the South Padre Island skyline. There are also about a mile of boardwalks that lead to and from seven bird blinds and other observation areas.
Located at the southern tip of the world’s longest barrier island this area is a crucial first landfall, a lifesaver for birds making an arduous cross Gulf migration from Southern Mexico and Northern Central America. The center’s 50 acres lies on a slender piece of land between the shallow Laguna Madre and the rolling Gulf of Mexico giving it a very unique ecology system. A perfect environment for visitors to see all types of fish, birds, waterfowl and reptiles while waking the maze of boardwalk pathways through a tidal basin then out to one of only five hypersaline lagoons in the world (1 ½ to 3 times as salty as the ocean) and back around a fresh water pond.
What a delightful walk and a lot of photo opportunities presented themselves however not many came out at National Geographic quality or even close but have shared the better ones with you from here at the Birding Center as well as the Turtle Rescue Center………hope you enjoy.
Our day on South Padre Island ended enjoying some “Happy Hour” specials and more visiting with David & Judi at the Sea Ranch Restaurant…………….1/2 pound peel and eat shrimp for $2.99 and 6 wings for $1.99! Total bill with drinks was a little less than TEN BUCKS!! We then said our good-byes to our new friends after a wonderful day of exploring yet another small area of this wonderful country we are proud to call home.