Clearwater Florida Fun

Clearwater is a beautiful place to visit on the Gulf of Mexico near St. Petersburg, Florida.  Favorites were the sugar sand beaches, plentiful dolphins, botanical gardens, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  Can’t wait to see it again!

Spectacular Orange Sunrise!

Spectacular Orange Sunrise!

Snowy Egret Walking by Beach Shell Pile

Snowy Egret Walking by Beach Shell Pile

Clearwater Seashells Collected

Clearwater Seashells Collected

Clearwater Shell Beach at Hotel

Clearwater Shell Beach at Hotel

Clearwater Hotel Looking Towards Sand Key Park

Clearwater Hotel Looking Towards Sand Key Park

Clearwater's Sand Key Park Beach Waves

Clearwater’s Sand Key Park Beach Waves

Sand Key Sailboat - Pastels of White Sugar Sand and Blue Gulf of Mexico

Sand Key Sailboat – Pastels of White Sugar Sand and Blue Gulf of Mexico

Pelican at Marina

Pelican at Marina

Dolphin Jumping Seen on Clearwater Fun Boat Ice Cream Tour

Dolphin Jumping Seen on Clearwater Fun Boat Ice Cream Tour

Florida Botanical Gardens Entrance and Travelers Palms

Florida Botanical Gardens Entrance and Travelers Palms

Great Egrets Nesting and Orchids

Spring nesting season is in full swing here in Florida.  The great egret feather displays are exquisitely beautiful!  In perfect timing, our Egret / Fringed Star Orchid (Epidendrum ciliare) is blooming now too!  This lovely orchid is very fragrant at night.

Nature in the New Year

Best wishes for the New Year – hope it brings magical moments in time!  Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, and drink the wild air!”

Get out and enjoy nature – it’s good for your health!

Florida “Snowman” on Beach

Warm wishes to you for the holidays from our Florida “Snowman”!

Florida "Snowman" at Sebastian Beach on Central Atlantic Coast

Florida “Snowman” at Sebastian Beach on Central Atlantic Coast

Our Florida Yard in Fall

The weather lately is perfect and we’re enjoying our home on the central east coast of Florida.  Lots of flowers are blooming, rainbows and rocket launches are a treat, and it’s a lovely time for a walk at the beach!

Dragonfly Friend

I had a surprise recently when a green regal darner dragonfly landed on my hand while I was walking in our Florida yard.  What a beauty!  It stayed there while I admired its colors and how the wings were golden in the sunlight.  The dragonfly was so happy on my hand that I needed to gently coach it onto a plant before I headed inside.  What a special nature moment!

Green Regal Darner Dragonfly on Finger

Green Regal Darner Dragonfly on Finger

Green Regal Darner Dragonfly on Hand

Green Regal Darner Dragonfly on Hand

Green Regal Darner Dragonfly's Golden Wings

Green Regal Darner Dragonfly’s Golden Wings

Tersa Sphinx Moth Surprise!

In late November we rescued this Tersa sphinx moth caterpillar from the top of our trash can.  How it got there I’ll never know.  We placed it in a safe big aquarium with lots of leaves and sticks.  It turned into a pupa shortly thereafter and emerged last week.  We released it into the garden and it flew away at dusk. This moth (Xylophanes tersa) is a kind of hawk or hummingbird moth that drinks nectar at night.  What a beauty!

Florida Yard in January

Here is a look around our Florida Yard in January.  The sandhill cranes are getting ready for nesting season.  Mama raccoon always stops by for snacks leftover for the birds.  Our orchids are blooming – they never stop year round.  And the new koi pond on our back porch is a joy – so much fun!

Sandhill Crane in Yard

Sandhill Crane in Yard

Raccoon Eating a Snack

Raccoon Eating a Snack

Indoor Display of Blooming Orchids

Indoor Display of Blooming Orchids

Purple and Yellow Cattleya in Bloom

Purple and Yellow Cattleya in Bloom

New Koi Pond on Back Porch at Night

New Koi Pond on Back Porch at Night

Flying Over an Iceland Volcano!

In late July 2021 we managed to squeak in a summer trip to Iceland when it was safe between waves of COVID‑19.  We had the thrill of a lifetime when we flew in a helicopter over the erupting Fagradalsfjall volcano!  It was incredible seeing bubbling lava and the creation of new Earth right before our eyes.  It was our first helicopter ride and was so smooth.  The volcano was only a short 15-minute trip from Reykjavik.  We were surprised when our pilot said she had gotten her training near our home in Florida.  Every night we watched volcanic lava fountains from our AirBnB (15 miles away).  Sometimes the fountains shot up to 30 stories tall!  The eruption stopped just 6 weeks after our visit, so we feel fortunate that we had that experience when we could.  Incredible landscape and scenery!  Click on the pictures if you wish to enlarge.  For a nature lover, Iceland is the best!


Florida Beaches are Gorgeous in Fall!

Here in Florida the beach looks different every day.  My favorite of all is when the water turns this stunning aqua blue.  Makes for a great beach walk on our Space Coast!

Space Coast Beaches - Surf Fishing

Space Coast Beaches – Surf Fishing

Space Coast Beaches Shoreline

Space Coast Beaches Shoreline

Space Coast Beaches - Waves Coming In

Space Coast Beaches – Waves Coming In

SpaceX Launch – BEST Launch Ever!

What a spectacular launch tonight!  SpaceX launched their first all-civilian crew into space at 8:02 pm Eastern Daylight Time this evening.  The Inspiration4 mission is part of a fundraising effort to raise over $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (they provide care to children at no cost to families).   Everything about this mission is great.  If that wasn’t enough – it was a perfect evening here in Florida and the view was AMAZING!!! 

Florida: Sebastian Beach in August

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida, is a favorite of ours year round. In summer we especially enjoy walking out on the pier. It’s a great way to see the wildlife and enjoy the breeze. Great birds we’ve seen include royal terns, osprey carrying a black sea bass, and a rare black tern.

Night Blooming Cactus

It’s that amazing time of year when our night blooming cactus flowers open – what a sight! We forget about the snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus) most of the year, until it makes its presence known every June. Flowers cover our one palm tree from top to bottom. It never gets old!

Huge Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Purple Martin Nesting Season 2021

Male Purple Martin Sitting on Eggs
Five Eggs in Nest Lined with Green Pepper Tree Leaves

We’ve had a great year for purple martins! Nesting season is now coming to an end, with only a couple of nests remaining with babies. Here in Florida the season starts in January and ends in June. The total colony count this year was 176 birds including 28 nests (56 adults) containing 120 babies. Very soon the flock will leave, gather with others into roosts, and then migrate back to South America for the rest of the year.

Purple martins are so nice and cheery to have around. We miss them when they are gone!

This 4 1/2 minute video includes camera footage taken from inside one of the nesting gourds. We had never realized that purple martins collect green pepper tree leaves for the nest to act as a natural insect repellent. I have no idea how such tiny babies eat such big dragonflies!

Spectacular SpaceX Crew-2 Launch!

SpaceX launched four astronauts of the Crew-2 mission into space at 5:49 am this morning (April 23, 2021).  It was a spectacular sight here on the Space Coast of Florida – a magical moment of wonder!  As I watched the rocket arc into the sky, I could hear the predawn birds calling and an alligator bellowing. A short time later the roar of the engines reached me at our backyard in Palm Bay.  The crew will dock at the International Space Station on early Saturday morning for a six month stay.  Learn more at:

Liftoff of SpaceX Crew-2 Mission
Rocket Arc of SpaceX Crew-2 Launch
Misty Rocket Trail “Ball” of SpaceX Crew-2 Launch
Rocket Trail Mist Covering Sky of SpaceX Crew-2 Launch
SpaceX Crew-2 Rocket Trail Dips Below Horizon

Goodwin Marsh in Spring

Goodwin Marsh near our home in Palm Bay, Florida, is a wonderful place to see birds in spring.  So much beauty to see!

Cute Fuzzy Baby Sandhill Crane Chick!

Cute and Fuzzy Baby Crane Chick Walking

Sandhill Crane and Baby Chick by Sabal Palm Tree

Sandhill Crane Feeding Baby Chick a Kernal of Dried Corn

Sandhill Crane and Baby Chick Walking Together

Sandhill Crane Family in Yard

Sandhill Crane Face Portrait

One of the joys in Florida is having sandhill cranes living in your neighborhood.  We were thrilled this week when “our” sandhill crane pair brought their new fuzzy baby chick to our yard for a visit.  So cute!

Seashell Valentine

Valentine Seashell Heart formed by Atlantic Giant Cockle Shells, Sebastian Beach, Florida

Warm wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day from Florida!

Florida: Birds at Our Feeder

Two Male Painted Buntings

Male and Female Painted Buntings

Male Cardinal and Male Painted Bunting

Male Cardinal

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal and Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Goldfinch (winter colors)


Purple Martin Pair Inside Nesting Gourd (visitor peeking in on left)

For Christmas Richard got me a BLINK automatic outdoor security camera.  Instead of using it for security, we use it to take wireless videos of the birds that visit our feeder.  We also put one inside our purple martin nesting gourd.  I extracted screenshots from the videos to post here.  Love the variety and color of birds right outside our door here in Florida!

Florida: Protected Malabar Scrub Sanctuary

One of Several Ponds at Sanctuary

Moorhen (Common Gallinule) on Pond

Trail Lined with Scrub Oaks

Christmas Lichen (Cryptothecia rubrocincta) on Scrub Oak

Powder Puff Lichen (Cladina evansii)

Author Pam Photographing Sandy Goldenaster-Lined Trail

Coastalplain Goldenaster (Chrysopsis scabrella)

Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) Pink Bell Flower

Rusty Staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea)

Florida Paintbrush (Carphephorus corymbosus) (member of sunflower family)

Rare Rosemary Scrub (look closely and you will see a crab spider in middle)

Sandhill Crane

Florida Scrub Jay (vulnerable species)

Gopher Tortoise at Underground Burrow (vulnerable species)

Malabar Scrub Sanctuary is a protected rare scrub habitat in Brevard County, Florida.  It is part of the Space Coast’s Environmentally Endangered Lands program.  Visitors come to see rare plants and animals in a beautiful setting.  It’s a great place to hike!

Florida: Our BIG Plants!

Pam with Pachypodium

Richard with 16 Foot Tall Agave Spike

Richard with 6 Foot Tall Orchid Flower Spike (Laelia moyobambae)

Orchid’s Flower Head (Laelia moyobambae)

Close-up of Orchid’s Flower Head (Laelia moyobambae)

Previous Year’s Orchid Flower Spike that was 5 Feet Tall (Laelia moyobambae)

We like to grow BIG plants at our home here in Florida.  Eight years ago this Pachypodium was only 6 inches tall when we planted it.  Now it towers above me!  Our agave recently shot up a HUGE flower spike that is over 16 feet tall!   Bees love the flowers.  Our rare orchid (Laelia moyobambae) has grown a flower spike for over 5 months now, which has peaked at 6 feet tall!  It is tied to a frame for stability and raised a bit off the ground for root aeration.  The flower head at the top has individual flowers a pretty bronze and purple color.  Not much is known about this variety of orchid other than it comes from Peru (  WOW – we love plants!

LEGOS at McKee Gardens Holidays 2020

LEGO Polar Bear and Cubs

LEGO Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

LEGO Jeweled Chameleon

LEGO Baby Sea Turtle Hatching

LEGO Snow Leopard

LEGO Coral Reef

LEGO Coral Reef – Close-up of Seahorse

LEGO Whooping Crane on Nest of Eggs

LEGO Zebra

LEGO Hummingbird Feeding from Trumpet Flower

Bushes as Elves in Garden

Holiday Angel Display

Maroon and Yellow Cattleya Orchid in Bloom

Purple Waterlily Blooming in December

We especially enjoyed the LEGO art on display at McKee Gardens over the holidays.  It was great to see such creative sculptures by talented artist Sean Kenney in “Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks”. 

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge and see details about how many LEGO bricks are in the sculpture and how many hours it took to create it.  For example, the Polar Bear with Cubs sculpture is the most complex – it is composed of 133,263 LEGO bricks and took 1,048.5 hours to build.

See Sean Kenney’s tour schedule by Imagine Exhibitions at:  See more of his work at:

Bok Tower Gardens Holidays 2020

Lying on the Ground Looking Up at Bok Tower

Bok’s December Entrance with Holiday Flowers (red impatiens and poinsettias, and white Snow Flake Bush (Euphorbia leucocephala)

Flowers in Bloom Display (Make of it the most beautiful spot on earth where the bird and human can rest and find themselves)

Origami Decorated Christmas Trees in Lobby

Christmas Presents with Origami Bows

Creamy White and Red Poinsettias with Raindrops

Alligator Statue with Christmas Holiday Bow

Tiled Bench in Front of Historic Pinewood Estate

Tree Covered with Resurrection Ferns

Round Outdoor Pot Covered with Colorful Lichens

Balloon Plant Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) Host Plant for Monarchs

Monarch Caterpillar Eating Balloon Plant Milkweed Leaves

Apricot Sun Bromeliad (Aechmea blanchetiana Orange) by Saw Palmetto Frond

Stunning Purple Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Gorgeous Dark Pink Camellia with Yellow Center

We visited Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, in December 2020.  Lucky for us it is only a day trip from home and it was easy to walk around in isolation.  It felt oh-so-good to visit such a beautiful place during the Christmas holidays.

California: Carmel Mission Church

Carmel Mission Basilica (note Moorish-style dome on left)

Entrance Door. The Star of Bethleham window is oriented so the sun streams into the sanctuary during the summer solstice.

Historic Carmel Mission Altar

Carmel Mission Pipe Organ

Original Cross of 1797 that was on Church Tower Dome

Carmel Mission Bell Tower

Carmel Mission Bell

Bougainvillea by Mission’s Thick Stone Walls

Red Hot Pokers in Garden

Mission Flower Garden

Saint Francis of Assisi Statue in Garden

Statue of St. Francis Holding Crucifix with Jesus

Statue of Mary Outside Church (damaged by earthquakes and held together with giant staples)

Abalone Shells Mark Gravesites in Mission Cemetary

Spectacular Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) in Garden

Carmel Mission Fountain

Daytime Carmel Mission Painting

Nighttime Carmel Mission Painting

Mission Carmel is one of our favorite California missions!  Father Junipero Serra founded Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in 1770 in Monterey.  It was moved to a better location in nearby Carmel on August 24, 1771.  The church was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1797. 

It is a National Historic Landmark, the second of 21 California missions, and is still an active Catholic parish.  It is one of only three missions made of stone (the others are San Juan Capistrano and Santa Barbara).

The mission’s buildings deteriorated over time and were also damaged by earthquakes.  It has undergone extensive renovation and restoration.  The Carmel Mission has been visited by people from around the world and is a jewel on the central California coast.  Planning is now underway for the 250th anniversary celebration in Fall 2021!  Read more at:    

If you visit the Carmel Mission, pair it with a stunning coastal walk at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – only a short distance away:

Astronauts Launched to Space!

SpaceX Astronauts Launched to ISS

A full SpaceX crew launched tonight at 7:27 pm EDT here in Florida.  Four astronauts are on their way to the International Space Station!  WOW – what a spectacular view and achievement!!!  Such a beautiful warm evening – the rocket lit up the whole sky.  This was the view from our backyard pond in Palm Bay, Florida.  Watch full coverage of the Crew-1 mission on NASA TV at OR on SpaceX at

Atlas Launch at Dusk

Atlas Rocket Takeoff at Dusk

Atlas Rocket Trail in Sky

Atlas Booster Rockets Dropping Back to Earth

ULA Atlas Mascots

Gorgeous Atlas rocket launch by United Launch Alliance at dusk last night!  The last rays of sunset lit up the rocket’s exhaust trail in the sky.   The satellite was delivered safely into orbit.  Next up is the SpaceX full crew flight to the International Space Station!

Around the Yard

Bees Made Honeycombs

Sandhill Crane (4 feet tall)

Cottontail Rabbit

Mushroom Fairy Ring

Ladies Tresses (native orchid growing in lawn)

Blooming Agave Spike at Sunset

Pink Hidden Ginger

Sunshine Mimosa Flower

Purple Passion Flower

Front View of Plumeria Flowers

Back Candy-Stripe View of Plumeria Flowers

Rain showers made our yard lush and green and the flowers happy. Here is a little tour of what we see every day.

California: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Author Photographing Sardines at Open Seas. “The sea is as near as we come to another world.”

Sea Pen Display

Chambered Nautilus (cousin of the octopus)

Green Moray Eels

Bigfin Reef Squid

Lookdown Fish

Stone Scorpionfish (looking left)

Orange Cup Coral

Southern Sea Otter

Avocet (at least 26 years old)

Marbled Godwit (at least 21 years old)

Black Oystercatcher ( at least 24 years old)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (at least 20 years old)

Beautiful California Coast South of Monterey

We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the end of February.  It is always a delight – one of the best aquariums we’ve ever seen!  It is extra special because of its beautiful location on the central California coast.  Although temporarily closed now because of the pandemic, you can visit virtually through these live cams:

Some of the birds at the aquarium are quite old  (  Each one was found injured and unable to be released back into the wild.  They have been happily living their lives in the aviary ever since.  I read that birdwatching and nature is good for the soul and health – agreed!

California: Filoli Gardens in Early Spring

White Flowering Fruit Tree and Daffodils

Cherub and Daffodils

Yellow Daffodils Blooming

White and Orange Daffodil Blooming

Pink Star Tulips

White Narcissus Flowers and Bird Bath

Majestic Tulip Tree in Bloom

Tulip Tree Flower Close-up

Red and White Camellia

Red Velvet Camellia

It seems like ages ago, but in February we enjoyed a trip to Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California (south of San Francisco).  It is one of the most beautiful gardens in the United States!  It is well worth a visit.  More info is at:

SpaceX Rocket Launch – WOW!!!

Spectacular Sky Show of SpaceX Launch (star sapphire effect!)

SpaceX Booster Return Rocket Trail

On Saturday morning in the predawn hour of 5:21 am SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here on Florida’s east coast.  The sight was spectacular – WOW!!!  The rocket trail was illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon. The glow in the bottom picture is from the booster return landing on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” offshore, which at that point was 350 miles away!  Fifty-eight Starlink satellites and 3 Planet SkySats were sent into orbit.  Read about it at:  and

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