Padre Island is a barrier island located off of the east coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is named for Padre Nicholas Balli who built the first permanent settlement on the south tip of the island. Today South Padre Island is a tourist city located at the south tip of Padre Island. Most people associate South Padre with beaches and spring break but for nature freaks like me South Padre is a paradise of photo opportunities.
On the west side of the island, in between South Padre and the Texas coast sits Laguna Madre Bay. This shallow bay provides a protected habitat to many different species of waterfowls, waders, and shorebirds. The South Padre Birding and Nature Center is located on the western shore with access to the Laguna Madre Bay and a variety of other managed wetlands. Besides waterfowl and shorebirds, the island is also a good place to look for migrants during migration. Some species, such as the scarlet tanager above, often cut across part of the Gulf of Mexico on their way north. During the long flight over the water they burn up a lot of their fat reserves and need to find food to replenish their energy. South Padre is usually the first bit of land that they hit. So in the spring it is quite normal to find migrating bird hunting on the island while the birders and hunting new birds to add to their life list or photo portfolio.