Florida: Manatee Love

Manatee Swimming Offshore Sebastian Beach

Manatee Swimming Offshore Sebastian Beach

Manatee Mating Herd in Shallow Water

Manatee Mating Herd in Shallow Water

Mating Manatees (3 males and 1 female)

Mating Manatees (3 males and 1 female)

Manatee Named "Barney"

Manatee Named “Barney”

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

In Florida, manatee mating activity peaks in spring and early summer. When wildlife societies receive calls about beached manatees this time of year, they explain that it is natural behavior and manatee love is in the air. A female manatee will usually be pursued by several males into shallow water, and that forms a mating herd.  Florida’s West Indian manatee is an endangered species, so it is a real privilege to witness such an event. Best of all, a baby manatee will arrive a year later! At Sebastian Inlet State Park today, we saw 8 manatees off the pier in the ocean, and a mating herd of 4 on the lagoon side.  A manatee named “Barney” swam beside the jetty (named by surfers for the barnacles on his skin). 

Springtime Around Our Florida Yard

Foggy Sunrise

Foggy Sunrise

Eastern Screech Owl in Nest Box

Eastern Screech Owl in Nest Box

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Brown Anole

Brown Anole

Armadillo

Armadillo

Cuban Tree Frog

Cuban Tree Frog

Squirrel on Porch Screen

Squirrel on Porch Screen

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Pink Hibiscus

Pink Hibiscus

There is plenty of activity in our Florida yard in spring.  We just never know what we’ll see next!  Hope the wildlife and plants are doing well in your yard, too.

 

Purple Martin Babies are Hatching!

Purple Martins Resting Above Nesting Gourd Rack

Purple Martins Resting Above Nesting Gourd Rack

Five Purple Martin Eggs in Leaf-Lined Nest

Five Purple Martin Eggs in Leaf-Lined Nest

Newly Hatched Purple Martin Babies

Newly Hatched Purple Martin Babies

Purple Martin Baby's Face (eyes still closed)

Purple Martin Baby’s Face (eyes still closed)

Purple Martin Baby - Side View

Purple Martin Baby – Side View

Purple Martin Babies Sleep Huddled Together for Warmth

Purple Martin Babies Sleep Huddled Together for Warmth

Our first purple martin babies of spring are hatching!  We currently have 6 nests with a total of 20 babies and 9 eggs, and more on the way.  Our martins returned to Florida for nesting season on January 28. These large swallows spend half the year in North America, and the other half in Brazil.   East of the Rockies, they are the only bird species dependent on people to provide nesting sites.  As far back as the 1700s, Native Americans put up natural nesting gourds for the martins to use (http://www.purplemartin.org/update/Indigenous.html).  The partnership was of mutual benefit, so it has continued over generations.  Now the birds prefer to nest in backyards in human-supplied housing.  They don’t mind nest checks by purple martin “landlords”, who keep a close eye on the birds for problems.  Just about everyone who has hosted purple martins misses them when they migrate back to Brazil – they are such cheerful birds to have around.   If you might like to host martins yourself, more info is at:  http://www.purplemartin.org/  Other posts about our purple martins are at:  http://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=martins 

 

Lionfish in Florida

Lionfish in Aquarium

Lionfish in Aquarium

Lionfish are now seen frequently in Florida waters. These beautiful fish are native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. DNA evidence suggests that all lionfish here can be traced back to 6-8 female lionfish that were released into the Atlantic Ocean. The first reported lionfish in Florida waters was caught by a fisherman offshore Dania in October 1985. The next report was of 6 red lionfish seen swimming in Biscayne Bay shortly after Hurricane Andrew washed an aquarium off a seawall there in 1992. Since each female lionfish can lay up to 2 million eggs per year, their numbers can grow quickly! Fishermen are being encouraged to catch them, since they are non-native and unbalance the natural ecosystem. Many restaurant owners have now added lionfish to their menus (the meat is firm and white and tastes like grouper). If you catch a lionfish, don’t touch the spines – they are venomous and will sting you.

UPDATE July 2014:  It was recently reported that lionfish can survive in low salinity water and might impact freshwater ecosystems in Florida.

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Spring

Prairie Wetlands

Prairie Wetlands

Alligator Sunning on Bank

Alligator Sunning on Bank

Pond Turtle

Pond Turtle

Green Heron Fishing

Green Heron Fishing

Green Heron Plunging for Fish (yes he pulled himself back up on perch)

Green Heron Plunging for Fish (yes he pulled himself back up on perch)

Crayfish Burrow

Crayfish Burrow

Spanish Moss Draped Oak Tree

Spanish Moss Draped Oak Tree

Pickerelweed in Pond

Pickerelweed in Pond

Duck Potato

Duck Potato

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Daisy Fleabane

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Daisy Fleabane

Open land stretches to the horizon at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (south of Orlando, Florida). Spring is an especially good time to visit. If you look closely, you can see all kinds of wonderful plants and animals. A previous post about this special park is at: http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/florida-kissimmee-prairie-state-park/     More info is at: http://floridabirdingtrail.com/index.php/trip/trail/Kissimmee_Prairie_Preserve_State_Park/

Baby Raccoon Licking Bottlebrush Flowers

Baby Raccoon Running Bottlebrush Flowers Through Hands

Baby Raccoon Running Bottlebrush Flowers Through Hands

Baby Raccoon Licking Bottlebrush Flowers

Baby Raccoon Licking Bottlebrush Flowers

Baby Raccoon Sitting in Weeping Bottlebrush Tree

Baby Raccoon Sitting in Weeping Bottlebrush Tree

Now this was a sight that I never thought I would see in our garden.  I looked out the front window before dusk and saw baby raccoon licking bottlebrush flowers!  He was running the soft red flower stamens through his hands and licking the “brushes” like popsicles.  Precious!  Bottlebrush is in the genus Callistemon, which means “beautiful stamens”.  This showy small tree attracts plenty of wildlife, including bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and warblers.

Florida Snapping Turtle Laying Eggs

Florida Snapping Turtle Digging Hole for Eggs in Sand with Back Feet

Florida Snapping Turtle Digging Hole for Eggs in Sand with Back Feet

Florida Snapper - Top View of Head and Shell

Florida Snapper – Top View of Head and Shell

Florida Snapper - Back View Laying Eggs

Florida Snapper – Back View Laying Eggs

Sometimes you just get lucky! This Florida snapping turtle was laying eggs along a trail at the Orlando Wetlands right before a thunderstorm rolled through last weekend. Notice the spiny tubercles on her neck and tail. Snappers lay 5-50 eggs, grow up to 18 inches long, and weigh up to 35 pounds. Interestingly, these turtles have wormlike growths on their tongues that they wiggle to attract fish.  Never touch one – they are called snappers for a reason!

Spectacular Silk Floss Tree!

Thorny Trunk of Tree

Thorny Trunk of Tree

Tree in Early Spring

Tree in Early Spring

Close-up of Branches and Pods

Close-up of Branches and Pods

Pod Bursting Open to Reveal Silk

Pod Bursting Open to Reveal Silk

Cottony Silk Ball on Tree

Cottony Silk Ball on Tree

The Silk Floss Tree is spectacular year round!  It is native to Brazil and Argentina, and can be quickly recognized by its spiny trunk.  In Fall the tree drops its leaves and becomes covered with clouds of pink flowers.  The lily-like flowers produce rich nectar and attract abundant butterflies.  By early spring (before leafing out) it is covered with avocado-like seed pods filled with cottony silk.  This exotic tree puts on quite a show!  It grows well in mild climates like Florida and California.  I want to plant one soon!

DisneyWorld: 2014 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower Beds and Floating Gardens

Epcot Flower Beds and Floating Gardens

Flower Beds near Future World Pyramid

Flower Beds near Future World Pyramid

Flower Beds Around Lake

Flower Beds Around Lake

Great Blue Heron on Floating Garden

Great Blue Heron on Floating Garden

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Dog Pluto Topiaries

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Dog Pluto Topiaries

Donald Duck Swatting Bee Topiary

Donald Duck Swatting Bee Topiary

Bambi, Thumper, and Skunk named Flower Topiaries

Bambi, Thumper, and Skunk named Flower Topiaries

Butterfly Topiaries

Butterfly Topiaries

Lady and the Tramp Topiaries

Lady and the Tramp Topiaries

Kermit and Miss Piggy Topiaries

Kermit and Miss Piggy Topiaries

Norway Troll Topiary

Norway Troll Topiary

Cinderella and Prince Charming Topiaries

Cinderella and Prince Charming Topiaries

There are currently over 100 topiaries on display at the 2014 Disney World Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.  Over 70,000 flowers surround the lake, and 220 mini-gardens float on the water.  The effect  is quite stunning!  Spring is here, and the weather is warm and sunny in Florida.  More info is at:  http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/guides/epcot/events/ep-flower-garden.htm

 

Florida: Viera Wetlands – So Many Birds!

Viera Wading Birds

Viera Wading Birds

Over 50 White Pelicans!

Over 50 White Pelicans!

White Pelicans Fishing - One Swallowing a Carp

White Pelicans Fishing – One Swallowing a Carp

Great Blue Heron Chicks are Hatching Now

Great Blue Heron Chicks are Hatching Now

Male Anhinga in Breeding Plumage

Male Anhinga in Breeding Plumage

Female Anhinga with Chicks on Nest

Female Anhinga with Chicks on Nest

Adult Little Blue Heron with Fluffed Feathers

Adult Little Blue Heron with Fluffed Feathers

Green Herons use Tools as "Bait" to Attract Fish

Green Herons use Tools as “Bait” to Attract Fish

Ospreys (Fish Hawks) are Nesting Now

Ospreys (Fish Hawks) are Nesting Now

Hooded Mergansers Erect Head Feathers as a Crest

Hooded Mergansers Erect Head Feathers as a Crest

Northern Shovelers have Largest Duck Bill

Northern Shovelers have Largest Duck Bill

Purple Gallinules use Long Toes to Walk on Lily Pads

Purple Gallinules use Long Toes to Walk on Lily Pads

We’ve seen so many birds at the Viera Wetlands lately!  This water reclamation facility is a favorite stop for birdwatchers and visitors at the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival:  http://spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org/  Recent bird sightings are posted by Friends of the Viera Wetlands at:  http://friendsofvierawetlands.blogspot.com/  General info and maps are at:  http://www.brevardcounty.us/NaturalResources/EnvironmentalResources/Wetlands

Great Egrets are Nesting Now in Florida!

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage

Great Egret Courtship Display

Great Egret Courtship Display

Great Egret Breeding Pair

Great Egret Breeding Pair

Great Egret "Gator Surfing"!

Great Egret “Gator Surfing”!

Beautiful great egrets have started nesting now in Florida!  We love birds, so nesting season is our favorite time of year.  Egrets are 3 feet tall, so they make quite an impression.  The oldest known great egret lived to be 22 years old.

Florida: A Very Wiggly River Otter

Otter Wiggling in Sand

Otter Wiggling in Sand

Otter Resting

Otter Resting

Otter in Grass

Otter in Grass

We saw this very cute river otter yesterday wiggling in the sand to dry off after hunting in the water.  Adorable!

Spectacular Atlas 5 Rocket Launch Tonight!

Timed Exposure of Atlas 5 Rocket Launch on January 23, 2014

Timed Exposure of Atlas 5 Rocket Launch on January 23, 2014

We had a spectacular rocket launch tonight here on the Space Coast of Florida.  NASA launched a 3.8 ton Atlas 5 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral at 9:33 pm Eastern Standard Time.  What an awesome sight!  This picture is a 2 minute timed exposure of the launch as seen from our home in Palm Bay (about 40 miles south of the Space Center).  Notice the reflection of the rocket trail in the pond (click on the picture to see details and star colors).  Updates and coverage of all worldwide rocket launches is available at http://www.spaceflightnow.com/.

Florida Beach in Winter

Sebastian Beach Waves

Sebastian Beach Waves

Scotch Bonnet Shell

Scotch Bonnet Shell

Fishing Jetty

Fishing Jetty

Tidal Cove

Tidal Cove

9 Armed Sea Star

9 Armed Sea Star

Willet Eating a Crab

Willet Eating a Crab

Snowy Egret (notice the bright yellow feet)

Snowy Egret (notice the bright yellow feet)

Black Skimmers and Beach Sunflowers

Black Skimmers and Beach Sunflowers

Royal Terns (male displaying to unimpressed female on right)

Royal Terns (male displaying to unimpressed female on right)

Herring Gull Sleeping

Herring Gull Sleeping

Florida beaches are delightful in winter.  Occasionally a sweater is needed, but otherwise it is great weather for being outside and walking on the sand.  These pictures were taken at Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s central Atlantic coast (east of Orlando).

Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom

Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom

Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom

The most incredible mushroom is growing in our backyard here in Florida – the octopus stinkhorn.  As you can imagine, it lives up to its “stinky” name, and has arms like an octopus.  When I first saw it, I thought it looked like a red starfish with its arms closed together.  Now that I know what it is, I need to keep an eye on it and get a better quality photograph than this one taken with my cell phone.  The octopus stinkhorn mushroom originally came from Australia, and probably got exported with sheep’s wool.  What a neat plant!  More info and pictures are at:  http://www.kuriositas.com/2013/10/fungtopus-incredible-fungus-that-looks.html.

Beautiful White Pelicans

White Pelican Swimming

White Pelican Swimming

White Pelican Wing Stretch

White Pelican Wing Stretch

White Pelican Pouch and Knob on  Bill

White Pelican Pouch and Knob on Bill

White Pelican Flying

White Pelican Flying

Flock of White Pelicans Soaring

Flock of White Pelicans Soaring

White pelicans are one of North America’s largest birds.  Their 9 foot wingspan is second only to the American Condor.  They are true snow birds – they spend winter along our southern coasts and head inland and north in summer.  During nesting season, they grow temporary knobs on their bills and have bright yellow around their eyes.  They feed by dipping their pouches into the water, and sometimes work together to corral and scoop up fish.  It is always a treat to see these magnificent birds!

Amazing Pelican Pouch

Brown Pelican Pouch Open

Brown Pelican Pouch Open

Brown Pelican Face On

Brown Pelican Face On

Brown Pelican Head Down

Brown Pelican Head Down

Brown Pelican Stretching

Brown Pelican Stretching

Brown Pelican Pouch Inside Out

Brown Pelican Pouch Inside Out

Brown Pelican Looking Left

Brown Pelican Looking Left

Brown Pelican's Expanded Pouch with Fish Inside

Brown Pelican’s Expanded Pouch with Fish Inside

Pelicans have incredible pouches.  The expandable pouches are used to scoop up food, and can hold up to 3 gallons of water and fish!  Brown pelicans are the only pelicans that are plunge divers.  They drop from the air with a big splash, and then scoop up the stunned fish.  We watched this funny brown pelican stretching at Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida.  In the process, we got a great look at its amazing pouch.

Vintage Space Art Christmas Cards at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum

Card 1 Missile Land Florida.

Card 1 Missile Land Florida.

Card 2 Cape Canaveral

Card 2 Cape Canaveral

Card 3 Kennedy Space Center

Card 3 Kennedy Space Center

Don Mackey Newspaper Biography

Don Mackey Newspaper Biography

Card 4 Atlas Santa Claus

Card 4 Atlas Santa Claus

Card 5 Peace

Card 5 Peace

Card 6 Shuttle Launch

Card 6 Shuttle Launch

These vintage space art Christmas cards are currently on display at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  They are part of the personal collection of the museum’s Director, Emily Perry.  I have always enjoyed the whimsical space art of Don Mackey from the 1960s and 1970s.    Look closely for details in his work that will make you smile.

Card #1 Missile Land Florida by Don Mackey features Santa on a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (including Rudolph).  The reindeer are wearing space helmets and have air canisters on their backs.  There is an alien in Santa’s sack, and two more aliens on the back of the sleigh.  Banners say “Merry Christmas from Missile Land Florida” and “Happy New Year Moon”.  Two astronauts are waving from orbit.

Card #2 Cape Canaveral by Don Mackey shows a Moon station receiving Christmas carols from Earth with the banner “Merry Christmas from Cape Canaveral”.  Outside the glass window, a whimsical alien family sings carols, while the youngest alien makes funny faces.  An astronaut points toward Earth while standing next to mountains on the Moon.

Card #3 Kennedy Space Center by Don Mackey is a simple black and white drawing of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center with a Christmas tree in the center, and a banner that says “Merry Christmas from Kennedy Space Center, Florida”. 

A newspaper article from Florida Today dated 12/11/08 gives a brief biography of artist Don Mackey (click on the picture to read details).

Card #4 Atlas Santa Claus shows an old photograph of an Atlas rocket decorated like Santa Claus for Christmas, with the description:  “An Air Force Museum tradition for the Christmas Season, the Atlas Santa Claus.  Once a weapon for defense of the U.S., the Atlas Missile now serves mankind in an entirely different role, the peaceful exploration of space.”  I am guessing that this picture was taken in the 1970s at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Card #5 Peace features a drawing of the moon and an American flag with the Earth and star in the distance, with the caption “We came in peace for all mankind”. 

Card #6 Shuttle Launch by artist Bernard P. shows Santa on a sleigh with his reindeer watching a space shuttle launch from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. 

More information about the Air Force Space and Missile Museum is at:  http://www.afspacemuseum.org/

A previous post with more Christmas cards by space artist Don Mackey is at:  http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/vintage-space-art-christmas-cards/

Florida Christmas: Bok Tower Gardens

Bromeliad Wall at Christmas

Bromeliad Wall at Christmas

Staghorn Fern and Poinsettias

Staghorn Fern and Poinsettias

Poinsettia Balls and Spanish Moss

Poinsettia Balls and Spanish Moss

Big Pots and Poinsettia Walkway

Big Pots and Poinsettia Walkway

Entrance to Historic Pinewood Estate

Entrance to Historic Pinewood Estate

Hibiscus Wreath

Hibiscus Wreath

Santa Sleigh

Santa Sleigh

Family Room

Family Room

Cookies and Milk for Santa, and Carrots for Reindeer

Cookies and Milk for Santa, and Carrots for Reindeer

Christmas Treats Table

Christmas Treats Table

Vintage Living Room

Vintage Living Room

Study (insect decorations on tree)

Study (insect decorations on tree)

Bedroom with Window Wreaths

Bedroom with Window Wreaths

Peacock Theme Bedroom

Peacock Theme Bedroom

Twin Bedroom with Swan Paintings

Twin Bedroom with Swan Paintings

Flowers Blooming at Christmastime

Flowers Blooming at Christmastime

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, is decorated beautifully this time of year.  The historic Pinewood Estate has vintage Christmas decorations on view in every room.  It is a delightful place to visit.  More info is at:  http://boktowergardens.org/christmas/

Florida: River Otters in our Pond!

Florida River Otter Face

Florida River Otter Face

Florida River Otter Side View

Florida River Otter Side View

Florida River Otter Eating Crayfish (tail visible)

Florida River Otter Eating Crayfish (tail visible)

We were surprised and pleased to see a pair of river otters in our backyard pond this past week!  They are very shy, so I had to hide behind a tree to take these pictures.  River otters use their sensitive whiskers to find fish, crayfish, and other food in the pond.  They swim with an up and down movement using their tails as rudders, and can travel up to 1/4 mile without a breath of air.  They generally weigh about 17 pounds and grow up to 4 feet long.  River otters are very playful and fun to watch, so we are hoping they come back again soon!  More info is at:  http://floridaswater.com/raleighsden/meet_raleigh_otter.html

Florida Hidden Gem: Highlands Hammock State Park

Fern-Lined Trail

Fern-Lined Trail

Boardwalk over Swamp

Boardwalk over Swamp

Narrow Catwalk over Water

Narrow Catwalk over Water

Catwalk through Bald Cypress Trees

Catwalk through Bald Cypress Trees

Bald Cypress Growing over Catwalk

Bald Cypress Growing over Catwalk

Bald Cypress Knees in Water

Bald Cypress Knees in Water

Bald Cypress Tree and Ferns

Bald Cypress Tree and Ferns

Reflections of Bald Cypress in Water

Reflections of Bald Cypress in Water

Fall Webworm Caterpillar on Boardwalk

Fall Webworm Caterpillar on Boardwalk

Hardwood and Ferns on Ancient Hammock Trail

Hardwood and Ferns on Ancient Hammock Trail

Hollowed-Out Base of Live Oak

Hollowed-Out Base of Live Oak

Over 1,000-Year-Old Big Oak

Over 1,000-Year-Old Big Oak

Tree Surgery Visible (center) at Base of Big Oak

Tree Surgery Visible (center) at Base of Big Oak

Highlands Hammock State Park is a hidden gem!  It is located near Sebring, Florida (south of Orlando), and is one of the state’s oldest parks.  It was initially submitted for status as a national park, but was considered too small.  The park first opened to the public in 1931, and the catwalk over the Cypress Swamp was built in 1933. 

Bald cypress trees grow throughout its swamp.  The trees send up fantastic knobby roots (“knees”) above the water line.  Theories about the purpose of the knees range from helping the plant breathe, to providing stability in the water.  One tree was even growing over and onto the boardwalk.  Walk carefully on the narrow catwalk, and watch for alligators.  This lush jungle feels like it is straight out of Jurassic Park! 

Other trails lead through the Ancient Hammock and to some of the state’s oldest trees.  The Big Oak is over 1,000 years old, 36 feet around, and still has some new growth sprouting at the top.  If you look carefully, you can see the Big Oak’s tree surgery in 1930.  At that time people thought you could stabilize and extend the life of a tree by filling the hollow space inside with concrete.  More info about Highlands Hammock State Park is at:  http://www.floridastateparks.org/Highlandshammock/default.cfm

And by the way, Florida just won the National Gold Medal for Excellence in the United States Park System again – the only state to have won three times!

Baby Florida Softshell Turtle

Baby Softshell Turtle on Hand

Baby Softshell Turtle on Hand

Baby Softshell Turtle From Above

Baby Softshell Turtle From Above

Baby Softshell Turtle Beside Penny

Baby Softshell Turtle Beside Penny

Adult Florida Softshell Turtle Face

Adult Florida Softshell Turtle Face

We were so lucky to spot a baby softshell turtle while hiking at Saint Sebastian River Preserve in Florida.  It looked like a flat round seed in the sand!  Softshell turtles are named for their soft leathery shells, and spend much of their time in water.   They have webbed feet and use their noses as a snorkel when they swim.  Adult Florida softshells can get up to 2 feet long!

Turkey Time

Flock of Wild Turkeys in Driveway

Flock of Wild Turkeys in Driveway

Wild Turkey in Backyard

Wild Turkey in Backyard

We were excited to arrive home today and see a flock of wild turkeys in our driveway!  A total of 10 birds were helping themselves to seed left out for doves and quail.  Turkeys are very interesting birds.  Their bald heads and neck wattles reflect emotion by changing color from blue to pink to red.  Their gobbles can be heard up to a mile away.  They are fast too – they can run up to 25 mph, and fly up to 55 mph.  And surprisingly, they spend the night perched up in trees.  We hope our turkeys come back soon!

Noisy Fish

Sausalito Marina

Sausalito Marina

Sausalito (north of San Francisco) is famous for its humming toadfish.  In July and August the fish create quite a din under houseboats in the marina.  Each mating call is droned in perfect A flat for at least an hour at a time.  Toadfish hum, growl, and grunt by vibrating the muscles above their swim bladders at 6,000 times per minute – twice the speed of a hummingbird’s wings!  A funny article about a Humming Toadfish Festival there in 1989 is at:  http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/26/us/sausalito-journal-voice-of-the-turtle-no-toadfish-love-song.html

Fish have disturbed residents in other places too, such as black drum in Cape Coral, Florida, and cusk eel in Block Island, Rhode Island.  Each time it happens, residents express disbelief that fish could possibly make that much noise!  A delightful article with sound links of various fish is at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/08/science/08fish.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1

Fantasea the Manatee Mermaid

Fantasea the Manatee

Fantasea the Manatee

Fantasea's Seashell Hat

Fantasea’s Seashell Hat

Fantasea's Seashell Tail

Fantasea’s Seashell Tail

Fantasea's Delightful Portrait

Fantasea’s Delightful Portrait

Fantasea the Manatee greets travelers at Melbourne International Airport, Florida.  She was created as part of a series of manatee statues called “Sea Cows on Parade” to promote awareness and conservation of Florida’s manatees.  A sign beside her says, “Fantasea the Manatee, the mermaid of the sea, beckons you to live your dreams, and swim away with me”.

Honeybees Move Into Birdhouse

Honeybees in Birdhouse

Honeybees in Birdhouse

Honeybee and Grape Hyacinth Flower

Honeybee and Grape Hyacinth Flower

Honeybee on Impatiens Flower

Honeybee on Impatiens Flower

Honeybees recently moved into an unused birdhouse in our front yard.  We are happy about it, because honeybees are very important in the garden. One-third of our food supply has been pollinated by bees.  Unfortunately honeybees are in trouble.  Population loss has ranged from 30-50% in the United States in the past year.  This loss is called “colony collapse disorder” and is currently being studied by scientists.  Next time you see a little honeybee in the garden, take a moment to be happy for the fruit, nuts, and grains that you eat.  And remember that honeybees have to visit 2 million flowers and fly 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey!

The past few days I noticed that many of our bees were hanging around the outside of the hive in the afternoon.  I was worried about them until I realized what was happening.  It turns out the bees were hot, and were fanning their wings to cool the hive down.  This process is called “bearding”, and is important in keeping a healthy hive at a constant temperature and humidity.  An article called “A World Without Bees” is featured on the cover of the August 19, 2013 issue of Time magazine.  A previous post about a Honeybee Garden and Research Facility in California is at:  http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/honey-bee-research-facility-and-bee-garden/       Happy National Honeybee Day!

McKee Gardens: Waterlily Beauty in Summer

Glass Balls on Pond

Glass Balls on Pond

White Waterlilies

White Waterlilies

Pink Waterlily

Pink Waterlily

Purple Waterlily

Purple Waterlily

Apricot Waterlily

Apricot Waterlily

Lavender Waterlily

Lavender Waterlily

Lotus Flower

Lotus Flower

Lotus Seed Pod

Lotus Seed Pod

Lotus Leaves with Water Drops

Lotus Leaves with Water Drops

Red Skimmer Dragonfly on Waterlily Bud

Red Skimmer Dragonfly on Waterlily Bud

The waterlilies are at their peak bloom at McKee Gardens in summer. Florida truly is the land of flowers!

Florida: New Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit – Living and Working in Space

Simulated Crawl-Through Module for Space Walk

Simulated Crawl-Through Module for Space Walk

Space Walk Tools

Space Walk Tools

Sleeping in Space Sign

Sleeping in Space Sign

Astronaut Sleeping Compartment

Astronaut Sleeping Compartment

Astronaut Space Toilet

Astronaut Space Toilet

Astronaut Space Toilet Instructions

Astronaut Space Toilet Instructions

Astronaut Kitchen

Astronaut Kitchen

At the new Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, a sign says that:

“Astronauts are some of the most skilled, educated, and highest achieving people in the world.  To live in space they have to go back to nursery school.  They have to relearn how to move across a room, how to use a spoon, and how to sit on a toilet.” 

Outside in space, astronauts must learn how to work with tools while wearing a 280-pound space suit.  Inside, astronauts must learn how to live without gravity.

At bedtime, astronauts head to their own personal sleeping compartment and climb into a sleeping bag. The bag must be securely attached to any wall (there is no “up” or “down” in space). Ventilation is extremely important – without it a suffocating cloud of exhaled CO2 air would form around an astronaut’s head!  Astronauts often report seeing bright flashes of light when they are falling sleep. The flashes are bursts of space radiation that the brain “sees” as a flash.

Using the space toilet poses its own challenges for astronauts.  Aim is learned by using cameras during training on Earth.  Don’t forget to strap yourself in!  A sign details the effort required by astronauts to perform this simple task.  This exhibit is very popular –people line up to have their picture taken on the toilet!

Another exhibit shows the astronauts’ kitchen.  Every meal and calorie is planned on Earth months in advance.  Extra calcium is provided to combat bone loss.  Most meals are freeze-dried, and astronauts can’t satisfy a craving by baking cookies or going out for a pizza!  NASA is currently studying the use of 3D printers to create food (http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/home/feature_3d_food.html).  Sounds like the Star Trek replicator to me!

Living in space poses many unique challenges to astronauts, both physical and mental.  Dr. Monsi Roman said that:  “I think working and living on the space station taught us a lot of things.  How much we can miss looking at green trees, having the smells of the ocean.”  It goes without saying that astronauts miss the touch of a loved one.

Space exploration benefits all of us.  An interactive site showing space technology spinoffs in our daily lives is at:  http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/nasacity/index2.htm

Florida: New Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit – Simulators

Docking Station Simulator

Docking Station Simulator

Space Shuttle Landing Simulator:  Lining up the Runway

Space Shuttle Landing Simulator: Lining up the Runway

Space Shuttle Landing Simulator:  Touchdown on the Runway

Space Shuttle Landing Simulator: Touchdown on the Runway

Space Shuttle Landing Simulator:  Score

Space Shuttle Landing Simulator: Score

At the new Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, there is an entire room full of different simulators to try out your skills at flying and working in space. I tried landing the shuttle in Florida. It was much harder to line up the shuttle with the landing strip than I thought. However, no matter how badly you do, the simulator auto-corrects your mistakes and you get a great score!

Florida: New Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit – Orbiter

Entrance to Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit

Entrance to Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit

NASA's Space Shuttle Fleet Sign

NASA’s Space Shuttle Fleet Sign

Space Shuttle Atlantis: Front View

Space Shuttle Atlantis: Front View

Space Shuttle Atlantis: Back View

Space Shuttle Atlantis: Back View

Space Shuttle Atlantis: Underside View

Space Shuttle Atlantis: Underside View

Full Scale Model of Hubble Space Telescope

Full Scale Model of Hubble Space Telescope

Real "Beanie Cap" that Topped Orange External Fuel Tank on Launch Pad

Real “Beanie Cap” that Topped Orange External Fuel Tank on Launch Pad

Fountain at Entrance to Kennedy Space Center

Fountain at Entrance to Kennedy Space Center

The new Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center is awesome!  The multimillion dollar exhibit turns KSC into a must-see destination near Orlando, Florida.  At the exhibit’s entrance, visitors pass underneath a towering 186-foot-tall stack of twin rocket boosters and orange fuel tank.  Once inside, visitors experience a breathtaking unveiling of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.  The shuttle is displayed tilted on her side with the robotic arm extended as if she is flying in space.  Nearby is a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope (famously repaired by Atlantis in 2009).  Atlantis flew 33 missions and over 126 million miles.  Astronaut Rex Walheim called the shuttle “the most graceful, beautiful vehicle we’ve ever had to fly in space”.   The new 5-story building housing Atlantis is full of interactive displays and exhibits.  KSC is the best destination for space tourism in the country – it inspires both adults and children alike.  More info on KSC is at:  http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/   My previous post about Atlantis’ journey to her present location is at:    http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/florida-close-up-view-of-the-space-shuttle-atlantis/