Los Angeles: Beautiful Getty Villa

Centerpiece of Collection:  Temple of Herakles Room

Centerpiece of Collection: Temple of Herakles Room

Intricate Yellow Floor Composed of 4,000 Separate Pieces of Marble

Intricate Yellow Floor Composed of 4,000 Separate Pieces of Marble

Mosaic Floor's Spinning Shield Motif with Head of Medusa in Center

Mosaic Floor’s Spinning Shield Motif with Head of Medusa in Center

Cube Design of Trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) Flooring

Cube Design of Trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) Flooring

Illusionist Vanishing Point Colonnade

Illusionist Vanishing Point Colonnade

Colonnade Ceiling Featuring Carved Wooden Flowers

Colonnade Ceiling Featuring Carved Wooden Flowers

Mosaic Circular Seating in Outer Peristyle Garden by Reflecting Pool

Mosaic Circular Seating in Outer Peristyle Garden by Reflecting Pool

Mosaic and Shell Fountain in East Garden

Mosaic and Shell Fountain in East Garden

Close-up of Shell Fountain

Close-up of Shell Fountain

Stemmed Cup with Seashells

Stemmed Cup with Seashells

Roman Fish Flask

Roman Fish Flask

Greek Pitcher with Lions and Panthers

Greek Pitcher with Lions and Panthers

Greek Mixing Vessel with Horses and Youths

Greek Mixing Vessel with Horses and Youths

Roman Gold Coin Belt with Emeralds, Garnets, and Sapphire

Roman Gold Coin Belt with Emeralds, Garnets, and Sapphire

Blue and Burgundy Ribbed Bowls with White Trails

Blue and Burgundy Ribbed Bowls with White Trails

Roman Tombstone Honoring Pet Dog Helena (150-200 AD)

Roman Tombstone Honoring Pet Dog Helena (150-200 AD)

The beautiful Getty Villa features antiquities of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria (6,500 BC – 400 AD).  It is tucked into a canyon along the California coast at Malibu/Pacific Palisades.  The Villa’s design was inspired by a 2000-year-old Roman country house that overlooked the Bay of Naples near Pompeii.  Many of the plants, trees, and fragrant flowers in the garden are the exact same cultivars that grew in the first century after Christ.  We visited the Getty Villa on the last day of our vacation and are so glad we did.  The artifacts and location are stunning – it makes for a wonderful day.  And the Café serves delicious Mediterranean food!  More info is at:  http://www.getty.edu/visit/villa/

Los Angeles: Getty Center and Gardens

Getty Center Campus

Getty Center Campus

Building's Curvilinear Design

Building’s Curvilinear Design

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Flower Bowl Garden

Flower Bowl Garden

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

South Promontory Cactus Garden

South Promontory Cactus Garden

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

When we visited Los Angeles, California, last summer we toured the Getty Center and Gardens.  The $1.3 billion Center opened in 1997 and sits on a hilltop overlooking the Los Angeles basin.  Featured on campus are the Getty Art Museum, outdoor sculptures and fountains, the Central Garden, and the Getty Research Institute.  Buildings are covered in white Italian travertine that comes from the same quarry used to build the Roman Coliseum (look for fossilized plants, marine life, and crystallized bubbles in the stone).  The architecture is stunning.  On a clear day the view extends from the mountains to the sea.  Indoor spaces emphasize the use of natural light.  Masterpiece paintings on display include those by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas.  

The ever-changing Central Garden is so exquisitely planned down to the last detail that it is registered as a piece of art in the Getty collection.  Even the way the soil is tilled is part of the master plan created by artist and designer Robert Irwin.  A fun television show called “California’s Gold” by Huell Howser features details and interviews about the garden: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2008/01/13/getty-garden-californias-gold-10006/

The Getty Center was an all day excursion that far exceeded our expectations – it is a very impressive and amazing place to walk around.  It is a monument to both nature and culture.  And besides the parking fee, the Center is free!   Don’t miss this gem in Los Angeles.  More info is at:  http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/­­­­­

Purple Martin Nests and Babies!

Adult Male Purple Martin Looking Out Nesting Gourd Entrance Hole (note iridescent purple feathers)

Adult Male Purple Martin Looking Out Nesting Gourd Entrance Hole (note iridescent purple feathers)

Hungry Babies

Hungry Babies

Baby Ready to be Fed - Still Partially in Shell!

Baby Ready to be Fed – Still Partially in Shell!

Hatchling Hug

Hatchling Hug

Looking through Gourd’s Entrance Hole (love the “lips”)

Looking through Gourd’s Entrance Hole (love the “lips”)

Leaf-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Bark-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Bark-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Cedar Chip Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Cedar Chip Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Cedar Chip Nest Containing 3 Eggs (probably a first-time nester)

Cedar Chip Nest Containing 3 Eggs (probably a first-time nester)

Frog on Nesting Gourd

Frog on Nesting Gourd

Silhouette of Purple Martin Gourd Rack and Sky:  All Tucked-In for Night (click to enlarge for details)

Silhouette of Purple Martin Gourd Rack and Sky: All Tucked-In for Night (click to enlarge for details)

Last weekend we did a nest check of our two purple martin gourd racks.  So far we have a total of 11 nests containing 49 babies and eggs!  There are also 4 more early nests that may or may not progress on to eggs within the next 2 weeks.  One nest contained a baby that wriggled out of its egg as we watched.  The baby even opened its mouth to be fed while it was still partially in the shell!  The birds seem to have their own individual nest styles. Some martin parents gather lots of leaves, some add hard red bark to the nest, and others simply lay eggs on the cedar chips provided as a base.  Each nest usually contains 3-6 eggs.  Love this time of year!  If you would like to host your own purple martins, more info is at:  https://www.purplemartin.org/education/75/getting-started/.

Big Fuzzy Anhinga Babies!

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Female Anhinga

Female Anhinga

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

Anhinga babies are so fuzzy!  The birds are nesting in the treetops now at the Viera Wetlands, Florida.  Anhingas are also known as water turkeys or snake birds (because of the way they stick their long necks above water when hunting for fish).  The babies sleep by tucking their heads over their backs and down into their feathers.  Their parents have quite a time feeding them.  Neat birds! 

Stunning Rainbow Spider Web!

Rainbow Spider Web

Rainbow Spider Web

Colorful Banded Radius Thread

Colorful Banded Radius Thread

Sticky Spiral Threads

Sticky Spiral Threads

Close-Up of Sticky Spiral Threads

Close-Up of Sticky Spiral Threads

Spiral Threads with Round Sticky Droplets

Spiral Threads with Round Sticky Droplets

Magnified Close-Up of Web's Diffraction Pattern

Magnified Close-Up of Web’s Diffraction Pattern

Have you ever seen rainbow colors in a spider web?   We NEVER had until now.  Richard photographed a spider web from below using a zoom lens already on the camera.  Sunlight was hitting the spider web from above, and the web was silhouetted against a dark background.  Magic!  (Click images to magnify for full effect.)  Rainbow colors appeared in the silk strands of the web.   When magnified later on the computer, the effect was stunning!  The colors result from the way sunlight is scattered by the spider web strands (it acts like a prism).  Diffraction patterns result from interference of the sun’s rays with the web’s sticky silk droplets.  Truly amazing and unique!

Vultures are Important, Too!

Black Vulture Portrait

Black Vulture Portrait

A "Committee" of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

A “Committee” of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

Vultures are generally underappreciated birds in Florida. Two species live here – the black vulture and the turkey vulture. Both fill a very important role in the ecosystem as nature’s clean-up crew! These birds help stop the spread of disease, and their bodies actually neutralize biotoxins.

Both have featherless heads, which helps keep them clean when eating carrion. The black vulture is named for its black head, and the turkey vulture is named for its red head (reminiscent of the American wild turkey). Black vultures locate carrion by sight and often feed in groups along the road. Turkey vultures locate carrion by smell (up to a mile away!) and feed alone.

Both species are monogamous and form long term pair bonds. They have no vocal chords and communicate by a series of hisses, grunts, and woofs. Black vultures do not build nests and sometimes lay eggs directly on the ground; they take care of their babies for up to 8 months. Turkey vultures build rough nests in cooler out-of-the-way places; their babies disperse within 3 months.  

A group of vultures spiraling together is called a “kettle”. Turkey vultures have been known to soar up to 20,000 feet on air thermals without even flapping their wings. Although turkey vultures migrate, black vultures tend to stay put.

Ancient Egyptians revered the vulture and protected it from harm. Egyptian headdresses and jewelry often feature a vulture image to symbolize maternal shelter and protection.

Florida: We Like Alligators

Young Alligator Face

Young Alligator Face

Big Gator in Swamp

Big Gator in Swamp

Pair of Alligators:  Foot on Face

Pair of Alligators: Foot on Face

Alligator Hug

Alligator Hug

Toothly Face in Pile of Alligators

Toothly Face in Pile of Alligators

White Leucistic Alligator

White Leucistic Alligator

Gator Torso Vibration During Mating Display

Gator Torso Vibration During Mating Display

Egret Riding an Alligator

Egret Riding an Alligator

Vintage Postcard:  Big Joe Alligator

Vintage Postcard: Big Joe Alligator

Vintage Postcard:  Alligator Quartette Singing

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Quartette Singing

Vintage Postcard:  Alligator Chorus

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Chorus

Vintage Alligator Orange Fruit Crate Label

Vintage Alligator Orange Fruit Crate Label

In Florida we live with the largest reptile in North America –the American alligator.  I was surprised to learn that a published study in 2013 documented their use of tools.  It was found that during nesting season some alligators balance sticks on their heads to lure birds looking for nesting material.  Mid-April to May is prime mating season.  Courtship displays include head slapping, torso vibration, and bellowing (the sound travels for quite some distance).  Alligator mothers are devoted to protecting their eggs, and stay with their young for up to a year.  Their toothy “smiles” contain about 80 teeth.  Worn teeth are replaced with new ones, so an alligator can go through 2,000 teeth in a lifetime!  Occasionally an alligator visits our pond, but eventually it moves on to a new gator hole.  Alligators have always attracted the interest of tourists, and their images have been used for logos, mascots, and throughout pop culture.    Alligators are an important part of our Florida ecosystem, and we enjoy having them around. 

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