May 10, 2013 2 Comments
McKee Gardens is especially gorgeous in May. What a beautiful time of year in Florida!
Nature Photography by Pam & Richard
May 2, 2013 4 Comments
This year marks the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida (“Land of Flowers”). In celebration, a replica 16th century Spanish tall ship named El Galeon is stopping at ports along the state’s Atlantic coast. It is on a path similar to that taken by the explorer. The ship is currently at Port Canaveral from May 1-12. It is a real beauty! The ship is 170 feet long and weighs 495 tons. The anchor alone weighs over one ton. The ship has 6 decks, and 3 masts with 7 sails. Most striking is the wood, which is found throughout the ship and is gorgeous in scale and detail. Below deck are interpretive displays. Tour info is at: http://www.vivaflorida.org/About-Viva-Florida/Viva-Florida-500-Galeon-Tour
April 14, 2013 12 Comments
The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been called one of the most beautiful museums in the world! The building opened in 2011 and was designed by architect Yann Weymouth. This hurricane-proof fortress features 18-inch thick walls, a 12-inch thick concrete roof, and impact-resistant glass. Dali’s priceless art is protected behind storm doors and a vault on the upper floors.
The most striking feature of the building is the glass. It forms two free-style bubbles named Enigma and Igloo that project out from the side of the building. The bubbles are composed of 1,062 unique triangular pieces of glass. Visitors look out of Enigma’s glass bubble as they climb a helical staircase to the art galleries on the third floor.
Salvador Dali had a fascination with spirals and the double-helix structure of DNA. He described himself as a fish swimming between “the cold water of art and the warm water of science”. The unusual shape of the museum perfectly complements his surrealistic art. This collection is the largest one in the world outside of Dali’s hometown museum in Spain. More info is at: http://thedali.org/home.php
April 3, 2013 Leave a comment
The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse was built in 1875. The top of the tower was sheared off during a fierce storm in 1949. Afterward an automated beacon was placed on top of the shortened tower and it was returned to service. Currently the lighthouse is undergoing restoration. Visitors can only access the lighthouse grounds by guided tour. Especially popular is the “Sunset and Whale Watching Tour” every March.
March 20, 2013 12 Comments
Elephant seals are fun to watch! They are one of our favorite animals. Ano Nuevo and Piedras Blancas in California are the only two places in the world where elephant seals come onto the mainland to have pups (elsewhere they breed on islands). The pupping season runs from December until March. The Piedras Blancas colony began in November 1990 when a dozen northern elephant seals came ashore near San Simeon (at the south end of Big Sur near the Hearst Castle). Now the Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony has over 16,000 adults and 2,500 pups!
Elephant seals can grow up to 16 feet long and weigh up to 2 tons each. Males have trunk-like noses that grow up to 2 feet long. Their vocalization sounds like an outboard motor trying to start. Alpha males battle for dominance and gather up harems of females on the beach.
The babies are born with black wrinkled coats of fur. The black fur allows them to absorb warmth from the sun, and the wrinkled coat gives them room to gain weight quickly. Mother elephant seals lose one-third of their body weight while nursing. Their rich milk is as thick as mayonnaise! Babies grow from 80 pounds at birth to 300 pounds in 3 weeks. When the babies are 4 weeks old, mother elephant seals return to the sea to feed. Meanwhile the young “weaners” are left on the beach to play and swim. At 6 weeks of age the babies’ black fur is replaced by a silver coat.
Elephant seals have big round eyes that help them search for prey in the deep ocean. Dives for squid and fish last from 30-60 minutes, with only a 2-3 minute break at the surface. These mile-deep feeding trips go on continuously for months. Elephant seals return to the beach twice a year to either molt or breed. While on land they do not eat, and they often sleep to conserve energy.
Elephant seals maintain a body temperature of 100 degrees, which is quite a feat in the chilly Pacific Ocean. Their blubber keeps them so warm that they quickly overheat in the sun. They flip sand over themselves to cool down.
Elephant seals have one of the longest animal migrations in the world. Tracking devices have revealed that California elephant seals travel in a big loop that extends far west into the Pacific, north to Alaska, and then south back to the beaches they were born on.
The Piedras Blancas and Ano Nuevo elephant seal rookeries are well worth a visit. The animals are entertaining, and the scenery is fantastic! An excellent website by Friends of the Elephant Seal (including a calendar of activity) is at: http://elephantseal.org/
A live cam of the Piedras Blancas rookery is at: http://www.elephantseal.org/livecam.htm
February 20, 2013 8 Comments
Recently I attended a special member’s only tour of the Founder’s Room on the first floor of Bok Tower. The Founder’s Room was created as Mr. Bok’s private study. It was exciting to finally go inside the tower! Access to the top of the tower is extremely limited, but we were told that a man had just proposed to his fiancé there, and she said yes!
The only entrance to the Founder’s Room is the golden brass door. The color was chosen to enhance the glory of the 32 Biblical scenes of Creation on the door. The door weighs 1,000 pounds and is polished monthly. A cutout tree on the door serves as a peephole, and a giant brass key opens the door. Notice the small square of white flowers in the grass in front of the door. That is Mr. Bok’s gravesite situated at the base of his beloved tower.
Once inside the Founder’s Room, you notice the soaring pink marble walls, intricate marble windows (each one carved in place from a single block of stone), hanging wrought iron lanterns, massive marble fireplace with Florida mural above, and elaborate tile floor.
The nature theme of the garden and tower are continued throughout the room. The wrought iron lanterns have birds encircling the top, and spider webs on the bottom. The wrought iron stairway leads to a second level, and from there an inner stairway ascends the tower. Alternatively, an original 1928 Otis elevator (the oldest in Florida) escorts people to the top. The eight levels of Bok Tower are (1) Founder’s Room at ground level; (2) Chao Research Center (archival room); (3) Storage and Mechanical Equipment Room; (4) Maintenance Workshop; (5) Carillon Library; (6) Carillon Player’s Office; (7) Carillon Bells and Soundproof Keyboard Playing Cabinet (bells are too loud to play directly beside them); and (8) Roof Top (statues, finials, and lightning rods).
The soaring ceiling is bricked over with a capstone in the middle. This marks the spot where the heavy carillon bells were hoisted up through the tower. Since the bells were too large to fit through the brass door, they entered the tower through the side. That location is now marked by the fireplace on the inside, and the sundial on the outside. The fireplace mantel contains a marble engraving of bell ringers beneath a quote by Bok’s grandmother, “Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it”. An elaborate mural over the fireplace shows an engraving of the State of Florida with Bok Tower in the middle, a sunrise above, flamingoes and alligator below, a figure blowing the wind and compass star on the left, a Spanish galleon on the upper right, and Neptune riding his horses in the sea at the bottom. Spectacular tiles cover the Founder’s Room floor. At the center of the colorful floor is the Star of Life. The six points of the star are said to symbolize the six days of Creation in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Surrounding it are various kinds of animal tiles.
One visit per year to the ground floor Founder’s Room is granted by appointment to sustaining members of Bok Tower Gardens. It is well worth the trip! A video tour of the inside of the tower is at: http://www.youtube.com/user/boktowergardens?feature=watch
All of our posts on Bok Tower are at: http://naturetime.wordpress.com/category/florida/gardens-florida/bok-tower-gardens-gardens/
January 25, 2013 6 Comments
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located along the scenic San Mateo coast south of San Francisco. The lighthouse was built in 1872, and is named after the clipper ship “Carrier Pigeon” that went down off the point. The ship even had a gilded pigeon as its figurehead. Pigeon Point’s original name was Whale Point, because whales are frequently seen offshore.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest active lighthouses on the west coast (150 feet above sea level). Its Fresnel lens flashes a rotating beam of light once every 10 seconds. The lens has 1,008 glass prisms, and weighs over 4 tons!
Sometimes light stations use fog horns in addition to light signals to warn ships away from the coast. Early settlers around Pigeon Point Lighthouse described the fog horn as sounding like “an asthmatic old bovine” or “stuck hog”. The light station’s dock was used by rumrunners and bootleggers during Prohibition in the 1920’s. Tens of millions of dollars in whiskey were brought ashore during that period.
The lighthouse is currently undergoing an $11 million restoration. The first step (completed) was to remove the Fresnel lens from the tower and put it on temporary display in the Fog Signal Building. The second step (underway) is to stabilize the tower. The future third step will be complete restoration of the tower, which will begin once funding is secured. Progress updates are available at: http://www.calparks.org/programs/improving/pigeon-point-lighthouse.html
January 21, 2013 4 Comments
Dragonflies are amazing! They are one of nature’s fastest flying insects. They can fly up, down, and backward, and even hover like a helicopter. They only eat while flying, and can catch hundreds of mosquitoes per day. Their eyesight is exceptional. Their eyes have 30,000 lenses each, and they can see in almost every direction. Although modern dragonflies have a wing span of less than 8 inches, fossilized dragonflies had a wingspan of up to 2 feet. The details of the wing pattern are incredible!
January 9, 2013 13 Comments
Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach (south of San Francisco) is famous for its tafoni rock and pebble-covered beach. The lacework tafoni rock is soft sandstone that has been eroded by the wind and waves. The colorful pebbles are composed of various rocks including green jade, red chert, white agate, jasper, moonstones, and petrified wood. The rocks are washed in from an offshore Pleistocene-era gravel bed. Many geological field trips come to this unique location. More info is at: http://science.kqed.org/quest/2011/03/03/geological-outings-around-the-bay-pebble-beach/
January 7, 2013 7 Comments
The Morse Museum (north of Orlando) has the most comprehensive Tiffany collection in the world! Objects on display include glass, pottery, jewelry, and paintings. Of special interest is the complete Byzantine chapel interior that was created for the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893. A personal favorite of mine is a stained glass window called “Feeding the Flamingoes”.
Tiffany’s life-long inspiration was nature. He described his Favrile glass as having “brilliant or deeply toned colors … iridescent like the wings of butterflies”. At the end of his career he summed up his life as a “Quest for Beauty”. More info on this spectacular collection is at: http://www.morsemuseum.org/
December 10, 2012 11 Comments
Big Talbot Island State Park has the only beach in Florida that is covered in driftwood! The wood comes from trees that have fallen from the eroded bluffs above the beach. Over time the wood is polished by the sand and surf. The bleached-out trunks have given rise to its popular name “Boneyard Beach”. More info on this unique beach north of Jacksonville is at: http://www.floridastateparks.org/bigtalbotisland/
December 2, 2012 2 Comments
Wind and high tide brought spectacular salt spray plumes today to Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island, Florida. In fact, it was hard not to get a bit wet! We had been so excited by a recent visit that we had to return again for more photography.
November 30, 2012 2 Comments
Recently we visited Jupiter Beach, Florida. Conditions had been perfect for shells to wash in. Seashells we found included hawk-wing conch, lettered olives, lion’s paw shells, slipper shells, scallops, shark’s eye shells, bonnets, augers, murex, turkey wing shells, jingle shells, bittersweet clams, spiny jewelbox, giant cockles, and angel wing shells. Coral had washed in too. It’s amazing to think of all the sea life offshore. We can’t wait to go back!
November 24, 2012 8 Comments
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is located south of St. Augustine, Florida. The eastern coastal side of the park is famous for its Peach Beach. The color of the sand comes from iron in the soil. We are looking forward to a future visit at low tide so that we can photograph the beach’s picturesque coquina rock.
November 16, 2012 4 Comments
McKee Gardens currently features a new exhibit by Hans Godo Frabel, who is famous for his flamework glass art. The art in the garden is simply stunning! Frabel is based in Atlanta, and his studios there are open to visitors: http://www.frabel.com/
October 23, 2012 Leave a comment
Magic is the word to describe the feeling you have walking among the oldest trees on Earth! Bristlecone pines grow in the White Mountains of California on white dolomite (limestone) slopes at 10,000-12,000 feet. The oldest (unmarked) tree is “Methuselah”, which is 4,844 years old. Just imagine – this tree was growing when the Pyramids were being built!
The trees are twisted and gnarled by the elements at this high elevation. Blowing wind and ice sculpts and polishes the wood. Sometimes almost all of the pine is dead, except for a single strip of bark connecting a root to a living branch. The trees are named for the bristles or spines on their cones. The pretty purple cones are often covered in sticky sap.
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is only open a few months of the year because of snow and ice. This trip is worth the wait – it is unforgettable. We felt privileged to visit such an awe-inspiring place. More info is at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5129900
October 18, 2012 8 Comments
After lunch today I looked outside and saw a cat’s tail twitching at the edge of our porch screen. I looked closer, and it was a bobcat! The bobcat sat in the shade by the birdfeeder for a minute, and then strolled across the yard and hopped the fence. What a beautiful animal!
October 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Life in the 1800s in Bodie, California, was tough. Winters were long with frequent blizzards, 20-foot snowdrifts, and 100 mph winds. Fierce epidemics claimed many lives. Gold mining was dangerous, and crime was rampant. Many residents perished, and they were buried at the edge of town in Bodie’s fenced-in cemetery. Visitors are welcome to walk through the cemetery and pay their respects to these pioneers of long ago.
October 16, 2012 Leave a comment
Bodie is America’s best and most authentic ghost town! It is located on a high desert plateau north of Mono Lake, California. Walking down the dusty streets is like taking a step back through time. Buildings and their contents are preserved exactly as they were when the gold rush ended. Bodie is now a California State Park. Because of the tough climate, it is best to visit in summer or early Fall.
During its peak in the late 1800s, Bodie’s mines produced $100 million in gold. Lawlessness was rampant – gunfights and stagecoach holdups were frequent events. Saloons outnumbered churches 65 to 2. All supplies had to be transported to the town’s remote location. Despite the hardships, people stayed until the gold ran out. Now people come from around the world to see what life was like in the old Wild West.
October 5, 2012 2 Comments
Devil’s Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes, California, has some of the best rock columns in the world! Over 10,000 years ago, the area was roamed by mammoths, ground sloths, saber-toothed tigers, and camels. Even further back in time – 100,000 years ago – the area was filled with erupting volcanoes and a fiery lava lake. Over time as the lake cooled, cracks formed in the lava and merged into vertical columns. Later on, glaciers scraped over and around the lake and exposed the columns. The symmetrical columns are equally impressive from both the bottom and top of the postpile. Wildlife sightings by hikers at the monument include bear, marmot, and porcupine.
October 4, 2012 4 Comments
The Victoria waterlilies at Bok Tower Gardens are huge! Plants are grown every year from a seed the size of a pea. This year the garden’s two Victoria waterlilies have grown exceptionally well. Each waterlily has over 20 lilypads, and each pad is 5 feet wide! Flowers are large too – up to a foot in diameter. The first night the blooms are white, and the second night they are pink. The plants will grow until cooler weather arrives in November.