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/

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!

Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park: Amazing Animals!

Elk Crossing Road

Elk Crossing Road

Mother Pronghorn and Twins

Mother Pronghorn and Twins

Bison Grazing

Bison Grazing

Bison Face

Bison Face

Mother Bison and Calf

Mother Bison and Calf

Flock of Bighorn Sheep

Flock of Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep Looking at You

Bighorn Sheep Looking at You

Bighorn Sheep Sticking out Tongue

Bighorn Sheep Sticking out Tongue

Bull Moose with Spectacular Rack

Bull Moose with Spectacular Rack

Female Moose Eating Willow Leaves

Female Moose Eating Willow Leaves

Mother Grizzly Bear

Mother Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear Family

Grizzly Bear Family

White-Tailed Deer with 8-Point Antlers

White-Tailed Deer with 8-Point Antlers

Uinta Ground Squirrel Resting

Uinta Ground Squirrel Resting

Uinta Ground Squirrel's Gnawing Teeth

Uinta Ground Squirrel’s Gnawing Teeth

National Park Service Mule

National Park Service Mule

Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is the best place to view wildlife!  It is amazing how many animals you can see by simply driving the loop road through the park.  Our favorite times to visit are late spring and early Fall.  More info is at:  http://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm

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).

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.

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

Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park: Spectacular Mountain Scenery!

Spectacular Tetons in Fall

Spectacular Tetons in Fall

Snowy Tetons and Rustic Fence

Snowy Tetons and Rustic Fence

Tetons and Snake River

Tetons and Snake River

Frozen Jackson Lake

Frozen Jackson Lake

Snowy Teton Peaks

Snowy Teton Peaks

Snow-Covered Trees

Snow-Covered Trees

Bare Aspen Trees in Winter

Bare Aspen Trees in Winter

Orange Aspen Trees in Fall

Orange Aspen Trees in Fall

Preserved Reed Moulton Barn and Tetons

Preserved Reed Moulton Barn and Tetons

Lonely Reed Moulton Homestead on Historic Mormon Row

Lonely Reed Moulton Homestead on Historic Mormon Row

Preserved Thomas A. Moulton Barn on Mormon Row (100th anniversary in July 2013)

Preserved Thomas A. Moulton Barn on Mormon Row (100th anniversary in July 2013)

Elk Antler Arch over Bench in Jackson

Elk Antler Arch over Bench in Jackson

Grand Teton National Park is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery!  The views are stunning and ever-changing throughout the year. The Teton mountains rise over a mile above the valley floor, and make quite an impression.  The pristine ecosystem contains numerous bodies of water, including the Snake River and Jackson Lake.  Historic churches and Mormon settlements are also located within the park.  There is much to see and do, and we highly recommend a visit to this beautiful place!

Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park: Scenic Historic Churches

Chapel of the Transfiguration and Rustic Fence

Chapel of the Transfiguration and Rustic Fence

Chapel of the Transfiguration Entrance

Chapel of the Transfiguration Entrance

Chapel of the Transfiguration Interior

Chapel of the Transfiguration Interior

Chapel of the Transfiguration Altar Window in Fall

Chapel of the Transfiguration Altar Window in Fall

Chapel of the Transfiguration Altar Window in Spring

Chapel of the Transfiguration Altar Window in Spring

"Winter" Stained Glass

“Winter” Stained Glass

"Summer" Stained Glass

“Summer” Stained Glass

Chapel of the Sacred Heart Entrance

Chapel of the Sacred Heart Entrance

Chapel of the Sacred Heart Interior

Chapel of the Sacred Heart Interior

"Sacred Heart" Stained Glass

“Sacred Heart” Stained Glass

Quaking Aspen

Quaking Aspen

There are two historic churches within Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming.  The Chapel of the Transfiguration is an Episcopalian church that is located near the main Visitor Center for the park.  It was built in 1925 out of lodge pole pines, with pews made of quaking aspen that was cut in the valley.  The window behind the altar perfectly frames the Cathedral Group of the Teton mountain peaks.  The beautiful stained glass windows featuring winter and summer were created by artist Jessie van Brunt.  This church is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Chapel of the Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic church that is located on the south shore of Jackson Lake.  It was built in 1937 and features a rustic wood interior with a stained glass window of the Sacred Heart.  Both historic churches are popular places for weddings and photography.

Florida: Beautiful Butterfly World

Butterflies of the World Display in Insect Museum

Butterflies of the World Display in Insect Museum

Piano Key Butterfly

Piano Key Butterfly

Malachite Butterfly

Malachite Butterfly

Birdwing Butterfly

Birdwing Butterfly

Giant Owl Butterfly

Giant Owl Butterfly

Jaboticaba Fruit Tree

Jaboticaba Fruit Tree

Tropical Rhododendron

Tropical Rhododendron

Passion Flower:  Passiflora Royale

Passion Flower: Passiflora Royale

Monkey's Brush Tree

Monkey’s Brush Tree

Queen's Wreath Flower

Queen’s Wreath Flower

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Lady Gouldian Finch (male)

Lady Gouldian Finch (male)

Yellow-Legged Honeycreeper

Yellow-Legged Honeycreeper

Esmerelda Clear-Winged Butterfly in Insect Museum

Esmerelda Clear-Winged Butterfly in Insect Museum

Butterfly World is the largest butterfly park in the world!  This attraction is located in Coconut Creek, Florida (north of Miami).  The park contains 10 acres of botanical gardens, aviaries, and research facilities.  A minimum of 3,000 butterflies (of at least 50 different species) fly year-round inside the botanical gardens, and most of them were raised on-site.  The park also contains the country’s largest free-flight hummingbird aviary, and one of the largest collections of passion flower vines in the world.  Top missions are conservation and education.  This place is a true delight!  More info is at:  http://www.butterflyworld.com/

Wyoming: Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte National Monument Entrance

Fossil Butte National Monument Entrance

View of Sagebrush Desert at Top of Butte

View of Sagebrush Desert at Top of Butte

Visitor Center Museum Mural

Visitor Center Museum Mural

Fossil Stingray (female)

Fossil Stingray (female)

Fossil Gar

Fossil Gar

Fossil Snake

Fossil Snake

Fossil Palm Frond

Fossil Palm Frond

Fossil Leaves

Fossil Leaves

Fossil Turtle with Crocodile Bite Marks on Shell

Fossil Turtle with Crocodile Bite Marks on Shell

13-Foot Fossil Crocodile

13-Foot Fossil Crocodile

Fossil Butte National Monument, near Kemmerer, Wyoming, is known as “America’s Aquarium in Stone”.  The area contains the largest deposit of freshwater fish fossils in the world!   We particularly enjoyed the fossil display at the Visitor Center.  Many of the fossils were animals familiar to us; the weather in Wyoming 50 million years ago was similar to Florida today.  This windswept landscape has a rugged beauty all its own.  More info is at:  http://www.nps.gov/fobu/naturescience/fossils.htm

Great Salt Lake: Antelope Island State Park

Wild Sunflowers Lining Road

Wild Sunflowers Lining Road

Sunflower Blowing in Wind

Sunflower Blowing in Wind

Bison Crossing Salt Flats

Bison Crossing Salt Flats

Color Bands at Great Salt Lake

Color Bands at Great Salt Lake

Avocets on Lake

Avocets on Lake

Lake and Sky Reflections

Lake and Sky Reflections

Dramatic Storm in Distance

Dramatic Storm in Distance

Patterns in Dried Mud Flats

Patterns in Dried Mud Flats

Male Pronghorn Antelope

Male Pronghorn Antelope

Female Pronghorn Antelope

Female Pronghorn Antelope

Coyote Crossing Road

Coyote Crossing Road

White Buffalo Statue (Sacred Dreams)

White Buffalo Statue (Sacred Dreams)

Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake (northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah).  It is famous for its natural beauty.  Visitors can expect to see incredible vistas of lake and sky, along with abundant wildlife and seasonal wildflowers.  We especially enjoyed seeing the pronghorn antelope and bison.  Over 5 million migratory birds (250 species total) depend on the lake, making it one of the most important bird conservation areas in North America (http://www.fogsl.org/resources/about-the-lake/birds-of-great-salt-lake).  Info on visiting the Great Salt Lake is at:  http://www.visitthegreatsaltlake.com/

Colorful Parrots

Blue and Gold Macaw

Blue and Gold Macaw

Buffon's Macaw

Buffon’s Macaw

Catalina Macaw

Catalina Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Hyacinth Macaw

Hyacinth Macaw

Sulfur Crested Cockatoo

Sulfur Crested Cockatoo

Yellow Crowned Amazon Parrot

Yellow Crowned Amazon Parrot

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet

Wild Lorikeet in Australia

Wild Lorikeet in Australia

Closeup of Colorful Feathers

Closeup of Colorful Feathers

Parrots are among the top ten intelligent animals.  People are drawn to them because they are so beautiful and can mimic human speech.  One of our favorite memories is the time we had “breakfast with the birds” in the rainforest of eastern Australia.  Rainbow lorikeets landed on our picnic table and helped themselves to apples as we ate!  In Sydney, we saw flocks of cockatoos flying around the Botanical Gardens.  If you like birds in the parrot family, the best places in the world to see them are Australia and Brazil.

California: Beautiful Yosemite National Park

Yosemite's Granite Mountains

Yosemite’s Granite Mountains

Granite Boulders on Mountaintop

Granite Boulders on Mountaintop

Tree Growing in Crack of Rock (Half Dome in Background)

Tree Growing in Crack of Rock (Half Dome in Background)

Ancient Stunted Juniper Tree

Ancient Stunted Juniper Tree

Deer at Tuolumne Meadows

Deer at Tuolumne Meadows

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Yosemite Fall Color

Yosemite Fall Color

Vintage Firefall Postcards

Vintage Firefall Postcards

Yosemite National Park is one of our country’s oldest and most beautiful parks.  Its 1,200 square mile wilderness is famous for soaring granite mountains, spectacular waterfalls, and giant sequoias.  Glaciers shaped and polished the granite rocks long ago.  This park is a real treasure – it is one of our nation’s best! 

Summer visitors at Yosemite between 1872-1968 watched the dramatic Firefall Show at Camp Curry every evening.  A fiery “waterfall” was created by slowly and continuously pushing glowing wood embers off Glacier Point to the valley below.  The experience of watching that flowing river of fire while listening to the Indian Love Call song was unforgettable!  Even President Kennedy came by to watch.  Visitor remembrances of the Firefall are at:  http://firefall.info/readers.html.   A fun show about the Firefall by Huell Howser on “California’s Gold” is at:  http://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1996/01/08/firewall-californias-gold-706/  Info about visiting Yosemite is at:   http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

Amazing Hummingbirds

Female Allen's Hummingbird

Female Allen’s Hummingbird

Male Allen's Hummingbird

Male Allen’s Hummingbird

Female Anna's Hummingbird

Female Anna’s Hummingbird

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbird

Wings of Anna's Hummingbird

Wings of Anna’s Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are known as “flying jewels” because of their beautiful iridescent feathers.  They are the only birds that can rotate their wings in a circle.  They can hover and fly forward, backward, and even briefly upside down.  They are among the smallest of birds, and only live in the Americas.  Their tiny nests are 1.5 inches in diameter – just big enough for two jellybean-size eggs.  Spider silk is used to stick lichens onto the nest for camouflage.  Hummingbirds eat small insects and drink nectar from up to 1,000 flowers per day.  They are a favorite of mine – what sweet little birds!  More fun info is at:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/humm/funfacts.html

Nature at Alcatraz Island National Park

Unusual Low Fog Covering Alcatraz

Unusual Low Fog Covering Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island  - "The Rock"

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock”

Western Gull

Western Gull

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Pigeon Guillemot

Pigeon Guillemot

Beautiful Peach Rose

Beautiful Peach Rose

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Succulent Garden

Succulent Garden

Alcatraz Island National Park is San Francisco’s number one tourist attraction.  Most people visit “The Rock” to learn about its role as a Federal Penitentiary housing criminals such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly (1934-1963).  But some visitors come for a different reason – they come to see its historic gardens and nesting sea bird colonies in spring. 

The gardens were important to everyone living on the island.  Park rangers say the gardens demonstrate the importance of plants to the human spirit.  More info is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/index.php   A self-guiding brochure of the gardens is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/pdf/AZ%20Garden_05_12.pdf

Sea birds nest on the island from February – September.  Birds that breed on the island include California and Western Gulls, Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt’s Cormorants, Black-Crowned Night Herons, and Snowy Egrets.  A brochure on the “Waterbirds of Alcatraz” is at:  http://www.nps.gov/alca/naturescience/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=388749

Capture the Color 2013 Photo Contest Entries

COLOR RED:  Golden Gate Bridge and Cargo Ship, San Francisco, California

COLOR RED: Golden Gate Bridge and Cargo Ship, San Francisco, California

COLOR WHITE:  Lick Observatory at Summit of Mount Hamilton, California

COLOR WHITE: Lick Observatory at Summit of Mount Hamilton, California

COLOR YELLOW:  Rabbitbrush Surrounding Old Ghost Town Bodie's Jail, Mono Lake Area, California.

COLOR YELLOW: Rabbitbrush Surrounding Old Ghost Town Bodie’s Jail, Mono Lake Area, California.

COLOR BLUE:  Sailing among Humpback Whales, Santa Barbara, California.

COLOR BLUE: Sailing among Humpback Whales, Santa Barbara, California.

COLOR GREEN:  Alligator Swimming in Duckweed, Christmas, Florida.

COLOR GREEN: Alligator Swimming in Duckweed, Christmas, Florida.

Gallivance invited us to participate in the Capture the Color 2013 Photo Contest sponsored by TravelSupermarket.com.  We were asked to publish a blog post with five travel photos featuring the colors red, white, yellow, blue, and green.  After looking through our archives, we selected these entries. 

Killdeer Nest at Matanzas Creek Winery and Lavender Gardens

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Lavender Flowers

Lavender Flowers

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

Killdeer nests are a simple depression scraped out of the ground with added bits of sticks, grass, rocks, or shells.  If a predator gets too close, killdeer perform a distraction display.  We knew we were near a nest when this mother killdeer pretended to have a broken-wing – the performance was quite convincing!  We didn’t want to upset her, so we quickly walked away in the other direction.  Just like that she “recovered” and ran back to the 4 eggs safely tucked in her nest.  She couldn’t have picked a more scenic place to raise her family – right in the middle of the lavender gardens at the Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma County, California.  Info on visiting is at:  http://www.matanzascreek.com/

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!

Star Shapes in Nature

Purple Pacific Sea Star

Purple Pacific Sea Star

Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus

Orange Pacific Sea Star

Orange Pacific Sea Star

Stapeliad "Starfish" Flower

Stapeliad “Starfish” Flower

Orange Bat Stars

Orange Bat Stars

Flowering Vine

Flowering Vine

Pink Bat Star

Pink Bat Star

Marsh Pink Flower

Marsh Pink Flower

Mottled Bat Star

Mottled Bat Star

Morning Glory Flower

Morning Glory Flower

Recently I saw a flower that got me thinking about the 5-point star pattern in nature.  Besides the obvious starfish in the sea, I’ve noticed the star pattern frequently in flowers.  How many “stars” have you seen today?

Point Lobos: Sea Lion Point and Cypress Grove Trails

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Solid Rock "Beach" at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Solid Rock “Beach” at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Sea Lion Point Trail is one of the most popular places to walk at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey, California.  The trail follows a natural stone staircase down to the Pacific Ocean.  Sea lions can often be heard barking on the rocks offshore.  And if it’s not too foggy, you might even see them too!  Sedimentary rocks along the trail are part of the Carmelo Formation and are over 60 million years old.  Details about the rocks are at:  http://www.pointlobos.org/sites/default/files/The_Rocks.pdf 

Cypress Grove Trail heads north from the Sea Lion Point parking area.  This trail is famous for its extremely rare Monterey cypress trees.  Their striking appearance is the result of constant buffeting by the wind and salt spray.  These trees grow naturally along Monterey Bay at Point Lobos and 17-Mile Drive’s Cypress Point.  A beautiful and interesting quarterly magazine about Point Lobos is at:  http://www.pointlobos.org/general-info/magazine

Cactus Flower Opening Mini-Movie

Night blooming cereus cactus flowers are so beautiful!  They open at night in summer here in Florida.  This year I decided to make a movie of a flower opening.  I used the Wingscapes’ Timelapse PlantCam (http://www.wingscapes.com/timelapse-cameras/timelapse-plantcam) to take consecutive 1-minute pictures of the bloom all night.  Afterward the PlantCam automatically stitched the photos together into a movie.  Then I used Windows Media Player to speed up the movie 4X into a 15-second film (Apple’s iMovie works too).  It was a fun project, and there are endless other ways to use the timelapse feature for nature photography.

Cactus Flower Movie Setup

Cactus Flower Movie Setup

Night Blooming Cereus Cactus Flowers Blooming

Night Blooming Cereus Cactus Flowers Blooming

 

 

 

Florida: World’s Biggest Gator Buildings

Swampy, "World's Largest Gator"

Swampy, “World’s Largest Gator”

Gator at Entrance to Closed Jungleland Zoo

Gator at Entrance to Closed Jungleland Zoo

Gator Jaws Entrance to Gatorland

Gator Jaws Entrance to Gatorland

Florida is famous for its alligators!  We like them so much that we model some of our buildings after them.  The “World’s Largest Gator” is Swampy, a 200-foot-long structure in Christmas, Florida.  It is part of the entrance to Jungle Adventures.  Another alligator building sits in front of the now-closed Jungleland Zoo in Kissimmee.  It features a gator biting a jeep with a man hanging in mid-air. The most-photographed structure is the gator jaws entrance at Gatorland in Orlando.  People used to walk through the open jaws to enter the park.  During a fire in 2006, flames actually shot out of the mouth!  The jaws amazingly survived, and it is now the first stop for pictures at the park.

Daisies Magnified by Water Drops

Daisy Magnified by Water Drops on Glass with     Sky Blue Background

Daisy Magnified by Water Drops on Glass with Sky Blue Background

Daisy Magnified by Water Drops on Glass with Grass Green Background

Daisy Magnified by Water Drops on Glass with Grass Green Background

Daisies Magnified by Water Drops Hanging from Plant Stem

Daisies Magnified by Water Drops Hanging from Plant Stem

Red Daisy Magnified by Water Drops on Flower Stem

Red Daisy Magnified by Water Drops on Flower Stem

I think it is fascinating what beauty surrounds us if we simply stop and take a closer look.  For example, next time you are in the garden after it rains, take a real close look at the water drops.  Images are there!  Each water drop acts like a magnifying lens for whatever is behind it.  This type of photography requires very fine focusing with a tripod and good lighting.  It works best with symmetrical flowers like daisies, because magnification turns the image upside-down.  These flower photos are exactly as seen and not computer-generated. 

California: Scenic Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Pacific Sea Star

Pacific Sea Star

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Mercedes-Benz Car Commercial Being Filmed

Mercedes-Benz Car Commercial Being Filmed

Recently we visited Jalama Beach (north of Santa Barbara, California).  The geology of the area is very interesting.  Walking along the beach it is possible to see sandstone, travertine onyx, and agates.  On a super lucky day you might even see petrified whale bone or fossilized fish.  Naturally-occurring black tar coats a few of the rocks on the beach.  It seeps from oil–bearing rocks along fault lines of the Miocene Monterey Formation.  The seeps can be both onshore (La Brea Tar Pits) and offshore, and are a source for oil and gas production in Southern California.  In the past, native Chumash people used the tar to waterproof their boats.  We saw lots of sea life on the beach, including dozens of starfish, a clump of orange club sea squirts, and several kinds of seaweed.  The road to Jalama Beach (west of Solvang) winds through rolling hills past several wineries.  The landscape is so beautiful that we were momentarily delayed while a Mercedes-Benz C250 car commercial was being filmed in the area!