Rare sighting of Variegated Flycatcher draws birders to South Padre Island

A Variegated Flycatcher made a rare appearance in South Padre Island this week. Photo by Chuck Lorenz
A Variegated Flycatcher made a rare appearance in South Padre Island this week. Photo by Chuck Lorenz

 

Birders are flocking to South Padre Island today in hopes of catching a glimpse of a rare South American bird that showed up there this week.

The Variegated Flycatcher lives in South America, but migratory populations occasionally make navigation errors and end up outside their usual territory. That’s happened at least four other times, when the bird showed up in Maine, Ontario, Tennessee and Washington.

It’s the first-time known appearance for the species at Padre, where birders from around the country are now congregating.

The migratory bird is drawing birders from all over the country. Photo by Chuck Lorenz
The migratory bird is drawing birders from all over the country. Photo by Chuck Lorenz

“It’s my first time here – definitely the Variegated Flycatcher got us running here,” North Carolina birder Sherry Lane told South Padre Island officials. She had planned to bird in the upper Rio Grande Valley, but changed plans when she received an alert about the rare sighting.

Officials are waiting for the Texas Bird Records Committee to accept the report of the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center Naturalist Javier Gonzalez said he is confident that will happen, according to a press release.

“A lot of good photos have been taken and I think we have enough proof,” Gonzalez said.

Bike or run at Livestrong Challenge on Oct. 16

honor5k

Livestrong is gearing up for its 20th annual Livestrong Challenge in a few weeks, and this year’s event includes both a bike ride and a 5K run.

Cyclists can choose from routes of 20, 45, 65 or 100 miles. The courses start and finish at the Palmer Events Center at 900 Barton Springs Road downtown, and wind south and west through the Hill Country. Cyclists who tackle the 100-miler will loop through Driftwood, Wimberley and San Marcos, stopping to refuel at themed support stops stocked with Nuun hydration and snacks.

Thinking of riding? Look for me on the 65-mile route. I ride a blue Trek, and take my time.

The rides all start at 7:30 a.m., and cancer survivors get a yellow rose at the end of the ride. A party afterward will include food, music and beer.

Don’t feel like pedaling? Runners and walkers can sign up for a 5K race instead. The run, open to all ages and fitness levels, starts at 8:15 a.m. at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road.

Registration for the ride is $95 through Friday ($105 from Saturday through event day.) Registration for the run is $35 through Friday ($45 from Saturday through event day. Use code HONOR5 for a $5 discount.) Proceeds will benefit the new LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes at the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.

To sign up go here.

Want to run far? Trans-Pecos Ultra covers 163 miles in six stages

Sometimes, a marathon doesn’t cover enough miles. And sometimes, an urban race feels wimpy.

For those times, we present the Trans-Pecos Ultra, set this year for Oct. 23-29.

The six-stage, 163-mile race takes athletes across soft sand, up rocky cliff sides, through river beds and along packed gravel roads at Big Bend Ranch State Park in West Texas. It’s hilly, too, with a cumulative 15,000 feet of elevation gain.

Don’t think you can run that far? Staggering is allowed.

This year's Trans-Pecos Ultra starts Oct. 23 at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Photo by Gary Nored/Trans-Pecos Ultra
This year’s Trans-Pecos Ultra starts Oct. 23 at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Photo by Gary Nored/Trans-Pecos Ultra

“Remember, this event is open to everyone: you can run, walk, or even crawl, just don’t give up,” the website says.

Participants can even stop in Lajitas to have their photo taken with Clay Henry III, the resident beer-drinking celebrity goat and mayor.

Athletes from as far away as Australia and France have registered for the self-supported, multi-stage race. They’ll carry their own food and equipment over the rugged terrain, but gather each night to camp.

For more information, go here or email info@trans-pecosultra.com.

The race covers 165 miles in six stages. Photo by Gary Nored/Trans-Pecos Ultra
The race covers 163 miles in six stages. Photo by Gary Nored/Trans-Pecos Ultra

Free admission to Barton Springs on Wednesday

Admission to Barton Springs is free on Wednesday. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Admission to Barton Springs is free on Wednesday. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

Want to take a free dip in Barton Springs and learn something from science experts about the city’s glittering gem of a spring-fed swimming pool while you’re there?

The public is invited to participate in Barton Springs University, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the pool, 2201 Barton Springs Road. The event will include snorkel tours and live music.

The Barton Springs University event includes classes, music and snorkel tours. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
The Barton Springs University event includes classes, music and snorkel tours. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

Admission is free and the public is invited. Experts on the science, use and management of Central Texas waters will lead informational classes.

About 800 high school students from Austin and Dripping Springs will also attend.

Here’s the schedule:

  • 9-9:45 a.m. – Student buses arrive.
  • 10 a.m. – Welcome for students and public.
  • 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Learning sessions, speakers and snorkel tours.
  • noon – 1:30 p.m. – Lunch Keynote: “Get Eel Austin! The Whole Truth About the Weirdest Fish in Town,” by Dean Henrickson, PhD., Curator, Ichthyology, University of Texas Department of Integrative Biology.
  • 3 – 6 p.m. – Break and swimming.
  • 6-9 p.m. – Live music and evening keynote: “How Do We Do It? Protecting Our Home Waters as Population Doubles,” by Andy Sansom, executive director of Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.

For more information about Barton Springs, go here.

http://www.bartonspringsuniversity.org/images/BartonSpringsUniversitySchedule.pdf

Scheduling conflict forces The Running Event to skip Austin this year

Shoe manufacturers unveil their newest models at The Running Event, which is skipping Austin and heading to Orlanado this year. Photo courtesy therunningevent.com
Shoe manufacturers unveil their newest models at The Running Event, which is skipping Austin and heading to Orlanado this year. Photo courtesy therunningevent.com

 

For 10 of the last 11 years, running-crazed gear manufacturers and buyers have converged in Austin every fall for their annual industry show.

Shoe companies, accessory manufacturers and makers of nutritional items unveiled their latest and greatest, in hopes of getting their goods stocked in stores that cater to the 51 million runners who live in the United States. Buyers got to peek at products that wouldn’t appear on store shelves until the following spring.

The Running Event has taken place at the Austin Convention Center for most of the past decade. Photo coutesy therunningevent.com
The Running Event has taken place at the Austin Convention Center for most of the past decade. Photo coutesy therunningevent.com

But this year, the Running Event is skipping Texas and heading instead to Florida.

Show organizers say they had to move the show – just for a single year, they insist – because of a scheduling conflict at the Austin Convention Center. The 2016 convention is scheduled for Nov. 29-Dec. 2 in Orlando, but will return in 2017.

“Moving to Orlando was not done by choice,” said Mark Sullivan, president of Formula4 Media in New York, which puts on the trade show. “We were pre-empted by an event in the Austin Convention Center we were told occurs once every eight years.”

The invitation-only show is a coveted ticket here in the fitness capital of Texas.

Besides the trade show, the event features running races for show participants. Photo courtesy therunningevent.com
Besides the trade show, the event features running races for show participants. Photo courtesy therunningevent.com

Last year, 307 exhibitors participated in the Austin show, which attracted more than 800 running store owners and executives. The show also drew 87 journalists from both running and mainstream print, electronic, and social media outlets.

Shoes always take center stage, with manufacturers like Nike, Reebok, Asics, Mizuno, New Balance and Saucony in attendance. But accessories, clothing, energy snacks, drinks and other items got attention, too. In 2014, wearables earned big buzz; last year, anything to do with obstacle racing was hot.

Besides gear heads, the show brings in running stars like Boston Marathon champ Meb Keflezighi, Olympic runner Kara Goucher and ultra runner Hal Koerner, who mingle with participants. The event includes a lineup of runs and races, too.

“Thanks in part to its running-friendly community, ease of access, and great food and entertainment, we owe much of our success to Austin,” Sullivan said. “You can rest assured that we’ll be back in Austin for three years starting in 2017 when the dates are Nov. 28-Dec. 1.”

For pastor Bobby Clemons, Chicago Marathon is more than a running race

Bobby Clemons, an ex-con who became a pastor, will run the Chicago Marathon in memory of a Marine friend who died in Vietnam. File photo by Tom McCarthy for AAS
Bobby Clemons, an ex-con who became a pastor, will run the Chicago Marathon in memory of a Marine friend who died in Vietnam. File photo by Tom McCarthy Jr. for AAS

 

When Bobby Clemons heads to Chicago in a few weeks to run a marathon, he’ll also make good on a promise he made 48 years ago.

Clemons, an ex-con who served years in prison before cleaning up his life and becoming a pastor, will visit the grave of his friend and fellow U.S. Marine Kenneth Campbell.

Bobby Clemons is a pastor at St. James Missionary Baptist Church. Pam LeBlanc/AAS
Bobby Clemons is a pastor at St. James Missionary Baptist Church. Pam LeBlanc/AAS

Clemons and Campbell made a foxhole promise in Vietnam that they would visit each other’s home towns when they returned from the war.

Fate intervened, however. Campbell was injured in a Feb. 1, 1968 attack. A few days later, Clemons was wounded and sent to the hospital. When he returned to his company, he learned that Campbell had died from his injuries, along with seven others in the unit.

“When I heard (Kenneth) had died, I kind of lost it there and then. I don’t think my life was right ever since,” Clemons said.

After the war, Clemons was in and out of trouble until 1990, when he found a Bible behind a commode in a holding cell at a California jail. He decided then and there to devote his life to God. He also took up running, and a prison guard encouraged him to one day run a marathon.

Clemons eventually became a pastor and now serves at St. James Missionary Baptist Church in East Austin.

He has run more than 50 marathons in honor of Campbell. Now he’s located his friend’s family, and plans to visit his friend’s gravesite with them while he is in Illinois to run the Chicago Marathon.

Bobby Clemons will meet with the family of a soldier who died in Vietnam when he is in Chicago. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AAS
Bobby Clemons will meet with the family of a soldier who died in Vietnam when he is in Chicago. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AAS

“I’m going to talk to his bones and tell him I hope his soul is with the lord and I’ll see him one day,” Clemons said.

He’s not sure of everything he’ll tell Campbell, but this much he knows he’ll say – “I’ve finally come to Chicago and I sure hate that we can’t fellowship together. I hope you made the right choice and accepted the lord and we’ll gather again one day.”

Clemons, 68, also has some business on the race course, too

Clemons, who is founder of the St. James Missions 5K, trains with Team Mac. He’s built up to about 50 miles a week in preparation for the Chicago race. He’s aiming to finish the marathon in under 5 hours.

“I think I’m going to run with the wind,” he said.

Read a story about Clemons’ life at http://tinyurl.com/zpty96j.

Schlotzsky’s Bun Run set for Sunday at The Domain

The 2016 Schlotzsky's Bun Run takes place Sunday at The Domain. Photo courtesy Schlotzsky's
The 2016 Schlotzsky’s Bun Run takes place Sunday at The Domain. Photo courtesy Schlotzsky’s

 

The city’s oldest 5K gets winds its way through The Domain this Sunday.

The Schlotzsky’s Bun Run moved from spring to fall and switched from a downtown route to the North Austin shopping center in 2014. Participation dropped from about 2,300 to less than 800 that first year, but the race appears to be slowly rebounding.

The Bun Run raises money for JDFR, which fights Type 1 diabetes. Photo courtesy Schlotzsky's
The Bun Run raises money for JDFR, which fights Type 1 diabetes. Photo courtesy Schlotzsky’s

Registration climbed in 2015 and is tracking ahead of last year in 2016, organizers said Wednesday.

This year’s Bun Run includes a 5K timed race, plus a Kid’s K for kids age 12 and under, a competition for Fastest Dog in Austin, and a team challenge. The certified course is fast and flat. Top male and female finishers win $250 each.

Since 2012, the event has raised more than $800,000 for JDFR, which works to improve the lives of those living with Type 1 diabetes and find a cure for the disease.

The race is part of a Step Up! Campaign at the sandwich shop. Customers who donate $1 for JDFR get a coupon for $1 off their next purchase.

Entry fee is $30 for the 5K (or $35 onsite Sunday morning), $15 for the Kid’s K and $10 per dog. Register online by Thursday here or in-person at packet pickup.

The Kid’s K starts at 8 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8:30 a.m. at 11401 Century Oaks in The Domain.

Austin ranks seventh on list of best cycling cities

***Update***

And now Nathan Wilkes with the City of Austin’s Active Transportation Department provides a more accurate update – “More than 10 percent of Austinites who live within an 8-square-mile area around downtown now commute by bike.”

 

 

***Update***

Writer Ian Dille clarifies that more than 10 percent of Austinites who live in an 8-square-mile section of downtown – not within 8 miles of downtown Austin – commute by bicycle. The figure comes from the City of Austin’s Active Transportation department. He says the error will be corrected on the magazine’s website.

***

 

Arlene Mav, of Australia, left, and Jane Jones, of the United Kingdom, right, stop along the hike and bike trail below the Lamar Boulevard Bridge to take a picture of a goose hanging out in the shade of the bridge on Monday. (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / RODOLFO GONZALEZ)
Arlene Mav, of Australia, left, and Jane Jones, of the United Kingdom, right, stop below the Lamar Boulevard bridge to take a picture of a swan on Monday. (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / RODOLFO GONZALEZ)

 

Take a bow, Austin. You rank near the top when it comes to bicycling and swimming according to recent national polls.

Last week Austin was named the fourth best swim city in America. Today Bicycle Magazine named us the country’s seventh best bicycling city.

That’s up four positions from 2014 in the magazine’s “America’s 50 Best Bike Cities” list, which is released every two years. (See my blog from 2014 here.)

It also puts us ahead of Fort Collins, Colorado. I spent a few days in Fort Collins earlier this year, and the city’s bike-centric personality impressed me. Cyclists can easily ride to the city’s popular breweries, use a bike share system, listen to a radio program about bikes and brews, and find out about bike-themed activities through one big umbrella organization.

A couple of comments from the magazine’s editors about Austin gave me pause, though. One, they wrote that “more than 10 percent of Austinites who live within 8 miles of downtown commute by bike.” Two, they noted an upcoming bond issue that includes millions for trails and bike lanes.

Whoa. Really?

According to a report from the U.S. Census released in 2014, Portland, Oregon topped a list of American cities as far as percentage of bike commuters. It’s 6.1 percent included all commuters, not just those living downtown. Still, Austin as a whole didn’t even rank in the top 15, and the average percentage of commuters across the country was 0.6 percent. (Read more here.)

I checked with Mercedes Feris, executive director of Bike Austin, a non-profit organization that promotes biking in Austin and offers regular group rides. Feris raised her eyebrows at the commuter number, but said that the city’s ranking pleased her.

“Bike Austin is excited to hear that Austin is now in seventh place, up from 11th from last year,” Feris told me. “Protected bike lanes are proven to make our city safer for bicycling and encourage a more diverse population to take up bicycling as a mode of transportation. We applaud our city leaders who recognize this and thank them for their support.

“Now, let’s get Proposition 1 passed so we can become number one.”

Which brings me to the magazine’s comment about that bond issue. We don’t know yet if it will pass or fail, so why does the magazine think it makes us a better bike city? What if it fails?

The story makes no mention of Austin’s summer heat, either. They’ve probably never ridden up Lamar Boulevard at 6 p.m. on an August afternoon like I have.

According to a press release, magazine editors based their rankings on data from the U.S. Census and Department of Transportation. They also consulted with experts from People for Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists, and spoke with cycling advocates and everyday riders. Then they put wheels to the pavement and pedaled their way through the cities for a first-hand experience.

No matter how accurate the results, I’m happy to see Austin making steady progress.

Here’s to more.

For more information on top-ranking cities, go here.

America’s 50 Best Bike Cities (Complete List)

1. Chicago, IL

2. San Francisco, CA

3. Portland, OR

4. New York, NY

5. Seattle, WA

6. Minneapolis, MN

7. Austin, TX

8. Cambridge, MA

9. Washington, D.C.

10. Boulder, CO

11. Denver, CO

12. Fort Collins, CO

13. Indianapolis, IN

14. Salt Lake City, UT

15. Philadelphia, PA

16. Madison, WI

17. Boston, MA

18. Eugene, OR

19. New Orleans, LA

20. Pittsburgh, PA

21. Oakland, CA

22. Tempe, AZ

23. Tucson, AZ

24. Los Angeles, CA

25. Arlington, VA

26. San Jose, CA

27. Boise, ID

28. Long Beach, CA

29. Gainesville, FL

30. Chattanooga, TN

31. Louisville, KY

32. Saint Paul, MN

33. Grant Rapids, MI

34. Alexandria, VA

35. Albuquerque, NM

36. Cincinnati, OH

37. Sacramento, CA

38. Tallahassee, FL

39. Columbus, OH

40. Miami, FL

41. Cleveland, OH

42. Columbia, MO

43. Atlanta, GA

44. Lincoln, NE

45. Tampa, FL

46. Milwaukee, WI

47. Salem, MA

48. Scottsdale, AZ

49. Thousand Oaks, CA

50. Detroit, MI

Women and backpacking: Do bears care if you’re on your period?

Pam LeBlanc got her period recently while backpacking the John Muir Trail. Did the bears care? Chris LeBlanc/Special to the Statesman
Pam LeBlanc got her period recently while backpacking the John Muir Trail. Did the bears care? Chris LeBlanc/Special to the Statesman

I got my period. While backpacking. In bear country.

No kidding.

Looking back, it’s pretty hilarious, considering I’d chuckled about the potential horrors of such an occurrence with my backpacking partners – both very tolerant guys.

Timing looked good, and I figured I wouldn’t start until I reached civilization after 15 days of hiking on the John Muir Trail.

But it did.

Luckily, I’d shoved a small supply of feminine products into my pack “just in case.” Unfortunately, I didn’t bring quite enough, and found myself asking passing hikers for handouts. (Which I got. Yay!)

As you might expect, my first thoughts revolved about bears. What would they think?

When I got back (safely, I might add), I looked it up.

Bears apparently don't care if women are menstruating. That was a good thing for Pam LeBlanc. Chris LeBlanc/Special to the Statesman
Bears apparently don’t care if women are menstruating. That was a good thing for Pam LeBlanc. Chris LeBlanc/Special to the Statesman

According to everything I’ve read, black bears are much more interested in freeze-dried spaghetti, Snickers wrappers, scented lip balm and trash than they are menstruating women.

A study by Lynn Rogers, Gregory Wilker and Sally Scott, published in a 1991 edition of the Journal of Wildlife Management, tallied the reactions of bears to female hikers in various stages of menstruation. It even involved a pack of frozen tampons offered up to a couple of furry beasts.

The study found that free-ranging black bears ignored menstrual odors. Interested? Read more at http://www.bearstudy.org/website/images/stories/Publications/Reactions_of_Black_Bears_to_Human_Menstrual_Odors.pdf)

A different study by Stephen Herrero, published in 1985, reached the same bears-don’t-care conclusion.

That settled, what do you do if you get your period in the back country?

One, don’t just discard or bury the plastic applicators or used tampons or pads themselves. Pack it all out – I know, yuck! – with the rest of your trash. I used an opaque bag from a freeze-dried meal, which I packed into my BV500 bear canister. Adding dry tea bags or crumbled aspirin to the bag can help control odor.

Regulations require backpackers to store their food and trash in a bear vault. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Regulations require backpackers to store their food and trash in a bear vault. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

I haven’t tried it, but you can also buy a reusable flexible cup made of silicone or rubber. Austin REI stores carry them, or you can purchase the Diva Cup online at Target.com. Then you just empty the cup into a cathole when you’re taking care of other business.

And save your bear worries for other things – like the huckleberry necklace around your neck or the trout-scented lotion on your legs.

Read more about why bears do sometimes attack at https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/3872900.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

Race for the Cure set for Sunday

Nancy Meza, 28, Maria Marin, 32, Jenny Soto, 32, and Margarita Soto, 33, left to right, skip up Congress Avenue during the 2014 Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. This year's run is set for Sept. 25. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Nancy Meza, 28, Maria Marin, 32, Jenny Soto, 32, and Margarita Soto, 33, left to right, skip up Congress Avenue during the 2014 Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. This year’s run is set for Sept. 25. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

 

A river of pink will swirl through downtown Austin this Sunday.

The 18th annual Komen Austin Race for the Cure takes place Sept. 25. Proceeds from the event help pay for screenings, treatment, follow-up care and survivorship support to those fighting breast cancer.

Participants can choose from a timed or untimed 5K, or an untimed 1-mile route. The timed race starts at 7:15 a.m. in front of the Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 Congress Avenue. Untimed runners and walkers will start at 7:30 a.m.

Entry fee is $45 for the adult timed race or $35 for the untimed race (students $30, children $25, babies $10, cancer survivors $25). Rather stay in bed? The Sleep in for the Cure costs $75. Register here.

Members of the McNeil high school dance team, Majestics and Sapphires, cheer on participants during the 2014 Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Members of the McNeil high school dance team, Majestics and Sapphires, cheer on participants during the 2014 Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Of the money raised through the, 75 percent stays in Austin to fund community health care grants and educational initiatives; the rest supports national research to find treatment and cures for breast cancer. As of Monday morning, local race organizers had raised about $165,000 – just a third of their $500,000 fund-raising goal.

It’s not all about the race, either. Look for the Tiny Tails to You Petting Zoo, a Memory Wall where participants can leave a message for loved ones, and a Survivor & Fighter Tent offering massages and a photo booth.