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:  https://filoli.org/

California: Pink Beach!

Short Walk to Pfeiffer Beach through Monterey Cypress Trees

Walk North on Beach

Pink Diamond Patterns in Sand

Pink Sand Around Rocks

Seaweed at Water’s Edge

Sea Stack with Keyhole Arch

Pfeiffer Beach is a real gem tucked away at the end of Sycamore Canyon Road at Big Sur, California (south of Monterey).  This spectacular beach is famous for its pink sand, formed by manganese garnet crystals that have washed down from the cliffs above. Look for ever-changing patterns of increasing pink sand as you walk north along the beach.  A bonus to your walk is the rocky sea arch offshore – watch for the waves to come roaring through its keyhole arch.  Don’t miss this hidden secret!  Learn more at:   https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/pfeiffer-beach-big-sur/  

A previous post about Pfeiffer Beach is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/big-sur-stunning-pink-sand-beach/

Scenic Golden Gate Bridge is the Best!

Golden Gate Bridge Approach Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge and Surfer as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site (also location of famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Vertigo)

Golden Gate Bridge in Infrared as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site

Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center Viewpoint

Golden Gate Bridge Walkway Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge Panorama of San Francisco Bay Area (click to enlarge)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower’s Art Deco Style

Golden Gate Bridge Art Deco Lightposts

Close-up of Golden Gate Bridge’s Art Deco Lamp

Golden Gate Bridge Historic Plaque

Golden Gate Bridge Span Cable and Wire Statistics

Close-up of Single Golden Gate Bridge Cable

Golden Gate Bridge as Viewed from the Water Looking North (tours from Pier 39)

Golden Gate Bridge Span as seen from Marin Headlands Looking South (at Battery Spencer)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower as seen from Marin Headlands (at Battery Spencer)

Richard and Pam (author) at Marin Headlands by Foggy Golden Gate Bridge

Whimsical Golden Gate Bridge and Dinosaurs Card

In February this year we made a return visit to San Francisco, California.  We left just before the Pandemic and lockdown occurred.  We look forward to the day when life returns to normal.  Meanwhile we’ll enjoy thinking about the good times we had and more to come (note all pictures can be clicked to enlarge).

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge first opened on May 27, 1937.  This suspension bridge is an engineering marvel that is 1.7 miles long and contains 80,000 miles of steel wire – enough to circle the Earth three times!  Painting the bridge is a never-ending job.  Read a fascinating story about it at:  https://www.citylab.com/life/2015/04/the-fascinating-neverending-job-of-painting-the-golden-gate-bridge/390453/

The U.S. Navy originally wanted to paint the bridge black with yellow stripes.  Others wanted to paint it aluminum grey to evoke the beauty of a dirigible airship.  Architect Irving Morrow decided to keep the bridge the same color (International Orange) as the original red primer on the steel.  He thought it blended well with the nearby hills, ocean, and sky throughout the seasons. 

San Francisco is famous for its fog.  It forms most often in summer when warm air flows over the cool Pacific Ocean.  Some visitors never see the bridge because of the dense fog!  Poets have described the fog as “moving art”.  Our time-lapse video of fog streaming past the Golden Gate Bridge can be viewed at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/our-best-video-of-the-golden-gate-bridge-and-fog-time-lapse-10x-speed/

San Francisco is consistently voted one of the top ten cities in the world by travelers. The “City by the Bay” has inspired the following quotes:

Billy Graham: “The Bay Area is so beautiful that I hesitate to preach about Heaven while I am here.”

Walter Cronkite: “Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible.”

Julia Child: “It is simply a very romantic place…you couldn’t be anywhere else.”

Larry King: “The ultimate for me would be one perfect day in San Francisco. There’s no city like it anywhere.”

Rudyard Kipling: “San Francisco has only one drawback…it is hard to leave.”

Frank Sinatra: “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

And on a funny note, a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain is: “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.”

You can read about the history and features of the Golden Gate Bridge at:  https://www.goldengate.org/bridge/history-research/

Huell Howser of California’s Gold has a must-see video about the Golden Gate Bridge and the men who work there – an absolute classic and one of my favorites:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1993/12/10/golden-gate-bridge-californias-gold-407/

UCSC Arboretum: Unusual Flowers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird at Bridal Heath

Pink Poker Grevillea

Clusters of White Eucalyptus Flowers

Common Pagoda

Grevillea Robyn Gordon

Rose Coneflower

Bishop Tutu Protea

Allens Hummingbird on Protea Bud

The diversity of plants at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum is amazing!  There are unusual flower shapes that you could never imagine.  The hummingbirds are especially abundant too – it is a photographer’s playground.  It is well worth a visit.  More info is at:  https://www.santacruz.org/a-stroll-through-the-arboretum/

Gorgeous Banksias!

Strawberry Banksia

California Quail on Showy Banksia

Anna’s Hummingbird by Silver Banksia

Golden Acorn Banksia

Teddy Bear Banksia

Candlestick Banksia

Popcorn Banksia

Popcorn Banksia Seedpod

“Hairy” Banksia Man Seedpod

Naughty Banksia Men Illustration in Australian Children’s Book by May Gibbs

Carved Popcorn Banksia Seedpod Vase

The banksias at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are gorgeous!  These Australian native wildflowers attract wildlife, and the woody seedpods are carved into vases and other gifts.  Popcorn banksias smell exactly like buttered popcorn!  Banksias range in size from shrubs to full grown trees.  More info is at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/visit/garden/australia/index.html

Monterey Bay Aquarium is Great!

Striped Pyjama Squid

Scrawled Filefish

Sea Gooseberry

Orange Sea Nettles

Baja Tropical Reef Tank

Orange Garibaldi

Sea Otters Sleeping on Beach Nearby at Moss Landing

Sea Otters Returning to Water

Sea Otter and Sea Gull

Raft of Sea Otters

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful place to visit – it is one of the top aquariums in the country!  It is located on the beautiful California coast south of San Francisco.  Up to 2,000 gallons per minute of fresh sea water constantly flows through the exhibits.  

We especially enjoyed seeing a recent display featuring the striped pyjama squid.  These shy cuttlefish have never been shown in the United States before now.  More info is at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/138692614238/were-geeking-out-over-the-newest-addition-to-our

Animators from Pixar Studios visited the aquarium before animation began on the movie “Finding Dory”.  They studied octopus, sea otters, and shorebirds in detail.  That attention to detail shines through in the film, and hopefully inspires a new generation of children to love the ocean too!

California: Spectacular Filoli Gardens!

Birdbath with Pink Camellia Flowers

Layered Delicate Pink Camellia Flower

White Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Hot Pink Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Red and White Camellia Flower

Bench by Yellow Daffodils and Red Camellia Tree

Yellow and White Daffodil Pair

Orange and White Daffodil

Field of Yellow Daffodils

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree and Bench

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree Flower

Branch of White Magnolia Flowers

White Magnolia Flower Pair

Bunny Statue by Flowering Tulips and Hyacinths

Filoli Gardens (south of San Francisco, California) is spectacular in spring!  The blooming flowers put on a beautiful show.  It is one of the top gardens in the United States and a must-see.  These pictures were taken in February just a week after it opened for the season.  In full bloom already were camellias, daffodils, and magnolia trees.  More info is at:  http://filoli.org/

California Hummingbirds

Male Anna’s Hummingbird’s Spectacular Pink Gorget Feathers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird on Nest

Two Tiny Eggs in Nest

Anna’s Hummingbird at Grevillea Flower

Costa’s Hummingbird’s Purple Gorget

On a recent trip to California we got lucky and saw some spectacular hummingbirds.  They are a favorite!  Hummingbirds are incredibly beautiful and full of personality.  In flight their wings beat at least 50 times per second, which sounds like a buzz when they zoom past you in the garden.  Forward flight speed reaches 30 mph, and dive speeds reach 60 mph! 

Hummingbird nests are constructed of plant material bound together with sticky, stretchy spider webs.  Lichens are attached to the outside of the nest for camouflage.  Mother hummingbirds lay two eggs.  Although each egg is less than ½ inch long and smaller than a jellybean, they represent as much as 10% of her body weight.  These little flying jewels are precious!  More fun facts about hummingbirds are at:  https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-hummingbirds-387106   A live cam on Bella’s current active hummingbird nest is at: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/bella-hummingbird-nest

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Wild Baby Sea Otter Born in Outdoor Tidepool

Holiday e-Card by Monterey Bay Aquarium

Holiday e-Card by Monterey Bay Aquarium

A wild baby sea otter was born in the outdoor tidepool at Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, on December 20, 2015.  The cutest present to the Aquarium ever!  The mother and pup have direct access to the ocean and are free to come and go as they please.  Links and adorable pictures are at:

http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135606363553/the-squee-heard-round-the-world

http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135726438723/wild-otter-mom-and-pup-update

The picture above was posted online by the Aquarium on Christmas Day:  http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135916080178/may-your-holiday-season-be-warm-and-bright-thank

UPDATE March 5, 2016:  Another wild mother sea otter gave birth in the Monterey Bay Aquarium tidepool!  Read about it and watch video at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/140578637168/welcome-to-the-world-little-otter

Charles M. Schulz Museum: Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Peanuts

Charlie Brown at Entrance to Schulz Museum

Charlie Brown at Entrance to Schulz Museum

Drawing Studio of Charles “Sparky” Schulz

Drawing Studio of Charles “Sparky” Schulz

Charles Schulz Nursery Wall for Daughter in 1951

Charles Schulz Nursery Wall for Daughter in 1951

Close-up of Charlie Brown and Snoopy on Nursery Wall

Close-up of Charlie Brown and Snoopy on Nursery Wall

Close-up of Tiger on Nursery Wall

Close-up of Tiger on Nursery Wall

22-Foot-Tall Peanuts Tile Mural Composed of Individual Comic Strips

22-Foot-Tall Peanuts Tile Mural Composed of Individual Comic Strips

Close-Up of Mural

Close-Up of Mural

Snoopy Comic about Nature Time

My Favorite: Snoopy Imitations

Snoopy Comic about Space Program

Snoopy as Safety Mascot for NASA

Snoopy as Safety Mascot for NASA

Snoopy as First Beagle on the Moon

Snoopy as First Beagle on the Moon

Snoopy at Kennedy Space Center

Snoopy at Kennedy Space Center

Snoopy Project Apollo Recovery Team Patch

Snoopy Project Apollo Recovery Team Patch

Snoopy and Woodstock Bench

Snoopy and Woodstock Bench

Snoopy Ice Cream and Cookies Sign

Snoopy Ice Cream and Cookies Sign

Stained Glass Featuring Snoopy

Stained Glass Featuring Snoopy

Poster Featuring Evolution of Snoopy and Charlie Brown

Poster Featuring Evolution of Snoopy and Charlie Brown

Snoopy Dog Lips Painting

Snoopy Dog Lips Painting

Lucy as Mona Lisa Painting

Lucy as Mona Lisa Painting

U.S. Postal Service Peanuts Commemorative Stamps

U.S. Postal Service Peanuts Commemorative Stamps

Snoopy with Authors Pam and Richard Digitized into Peanuts Characters

Snoopy with Authors Pam and Richard Digitized into Peanuts Characters

The Charles M. Schulz Museum is located in Santa Rosa, California (north of San Francisco).  It is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the art of Charles Schulz and the characters of Peanuts.  Displays at the museum include Schulz’ drawing studio, nursery wall, tile mural, and comic strip art (click on pictures for more details – especially the nursery wall and tile mural).  Our favorite Peanuts characters are Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy.  Snoopy is so popular that NASA has used him as a safety mascot since 1969.  The Apollo 10 lunar module was named Snoopy, and the command module was named Charlie Brown.

Every December we watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” television special.  It first aired on December 9, 1965, and half of the country tuned in to watch. The U.S. Postal Service recently issued stamps to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary.  On current exhibit at the museum is a display about the new “Peanuts Movie” that debuted in November 2015.  In conjunction with the movie was a website that allowed you to digitize yourself into Peanuts characters.

A wooden sign at the museum sums up our feelings nicely:  “The characters of Peanuts are magically real to us all.  We are captivated by the familiar quirks of their distinct personalities.  As we come to know them, the comics come alive, and we are forever fans.”  More info about the Schulz Museum is at:  http://schulzmuseum.org/

Monarchs Avoid Hurricane

Monarchs Clustered on Branch in Winter in California

Monarchs Clustered on Branch in Winter in California

Wintering Monarchs on Eucalyptus Tree

Wintering Monarchs on Eucalyptus Tree

Monarch Metamorphosis Sign

Monarch Metamorphosis Sign

Monarch Caterpillar About to Pupate

Monarch Caterpillar About to Pupate

Stunning Monarch Chrysalis (jade with gold-like line and dots)

Stunning Monarch Chrysalis (jade with gold-like line and dots)

Chrysalis Clears Before Emergence

Chrysalis Clears Before Emergence

Monarch Pumps Fluid into Wings after Emergence

Monarch Pumps Fluid into Wings after Emergence

Beautiful Monarch Butterfly Ready for First Flight

Beautiful Monarch Butterfly Ready for First Flight

Close-up of Monarch Wing

Close-up of Monarch Wing

Scientists have confirmed that the Eastern North America population of Monarch butterflies successfully avoided Hurricane Patricia last week during their migration to Mexico.  The butterflies sensed the wind and humidity of the hurricane, and detoured east to take shelter in mountainous ravines.  The butterflies are healthy and are currently en route to their wintering grounds in the forests of Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (a World Heritage Site).  Monarchs cluster there in the trees to keep warm from October to March.  Monarchs living west of the Rocky Mountains winter along California’s Pacific Coast in isolated colonies from San Francisco south to San Diego.  Monarchs are the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration. You can track news and status maps of Monarch migration at: http://learner.org/jnorth/monarchs   You can help Monarch butterflies by planting flowers to provide nectar and native milkweed to lay their eggs on.

California Beach Treasures

California Coast South of San Francisco

California Coast South of San Francisco

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Rocky Ledge on San Mateo Coast

San Mateo Coast: “Pig” Rock

San Mateo Coast: Tafoni Rock

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Tafoni Rocks

Tafoni Rocks

Interesting Rock Patterns

Interesting Rock Patterns

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Abalone Shell on Pebble Beach

Close-up of Abalone Shell

Japanese Fishing Float

Japanese Fishing Float

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Clear Spiky Gelatinous Shells of Corolla Sea Butterflies and Seaweed

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

Green Anemone in Tidepool

Green Anemone in Tidepool

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

The California coastline south of San Francisco is very rocky and scenic. At low tide there are all sorts of interesting things to see on the beach and in the tidepools.  Surprisingly turban snails can live up to 30 years! Sometimes you find jellyfish, salp, and pyrosomes washed in from Monterey Bay.  A day at the ocean is always fun!  (Click on the pictures above for additional stories and links.)  Great info with amazing pics of jellies and salp/siphophores is at: 

https://www.jellywatch.org/

https://roaring.earth/giant-deep-sea-worm-discovered/

Monterey Bay Aquarium is the Best!

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle Swimming

Sea Turtle Swimming

Spotted Comb Jelly

Spotted Comb Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Fluorescent Coral

Fluorescent Coral

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has the best exhibits!  It has been rated best in the nation for kids.  Ocean life is rich and diverse, and the creatures that live there are utterly fascinating.  I can never get enough!  All of our posts featuring Monterey Bay Aquarium are at:   https://naturetime.wordpress.com/category/california/northern-california/monterey-bay-area/monterey-bay-aquarium/

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Fantastic Tentacles Exhibit!

 

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles "Myths Prevailed" Display

Tentacles “Myths Prevailed” Display

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie "It Came from Beneath the Sea"

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie “It Came from Beneath the Sea”

Tentacles "Early Influences" Display

Tentacles “Early Influences” Display

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

"Night of the Ammonites", Ray Troll, 1998

“Night of the Ammonites”, Ray Troll, 1998

"Colossal Octopus" Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

“Colossal Octopus” Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

"Gamochonia" Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

“Gamochonia” Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Mechanical Octopus Display

Mechanical Octopus Display

Bigfin Reef Squid

Bigfin Reef Squid

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Chambered Nautilus

Chambered Nautilus

Squid Eggs

Squid Eggs

Richard's Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

Richard’s Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

We just got back from a visit to California, and tremendously enjoyed seeing the new Tentacles Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The exhibit features animals in the cephalopod family, including octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and nautilus.  They are masters of disguise and quick color change artists – it has to be seen to be believed!(http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/how-octopuses-and-squids-change-color)

Octopus are known for their intelligence (https://orionmagazine.org/article/deep-intellect/), and are said to be as smart as cats.  Each one has its own unique personality.  Octopus recognize and greet their favorite people (and sometimes they deliberately squirt people they do not like).  A link to one of my favorite pictures posted last year by the aquarium is at:  http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/17955182992/why-were-so-attached-to-the-giant-pacific 

A few years ago one of the night watchmen at the Monterey Bay Aquarium saw an octopus crawling on the floor.  Apparently at night it would leave its tank and travel to other tanks for a midnight snack!  That solved the mystery of the missing fish.  More info about the Giant Pacific Octopus is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/octopus-and-kin/giant-pacific-octopus 

The Tentacles Exhibit is the best!  More info about these amazing animals is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/exhibits/tentacles  As usual, click on any of the pictures in the post to enlarge and get more detailed information.

UPDATE:  An amazing video and pictures of squid egg cases are at this link:  http://deepseanews.com/2015/03/whats-this-viral-video-mystery-blob-hint-its-not-a-pyrosome/

An outstanding book to read is by Sy Montgomery – “The Soul of an Octopus:  A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness”, 2016.

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 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

Fog Bank Flowing Over Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island - "The Rock" Front Side

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock” Front Side

Alcatraz Island - "The Rock" Back Side

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock” Back Side

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

Sea Lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Sea Lion Statue at Pier 39

Sea Lion Statue at Pier 39

Sign Pointing to Sea Lions

Sign Pointing to Sea Lions

Sea Lions on Floating Docks

Sea Lions on Floating Docks

Sea Lions Sleeping

Sea Lions Sleeping

Sea Lion Hello

Sea Lion Hello

Sea lions are quite a tourist attraction at San Francisco’s Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf.  The animals first showed up in 1989, and have made their home there ever since.  Sea lion numbers rise and fall with the seasons and food supply.  Activity is lowest in summer, when most of the sea lions migrate south for breeding season.  The animals are endlessly entertaining.  Visitors always laugh when they watch them!  Imagine yourself there with the cool fog on your face,  the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, and these raucous sea lions in front of you.  Adding to the ambiance are the deep booms of a fog horn and sea gulls calling overhead – what fun!  A live cam is at:  http://www.pier39.com/home/the-sea-lion-story/sea-lion-webcam/   

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/

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    Another link with a drop-down box to sounds in the sea is at:  http://www.dosits.org/audio/marineinvertebrates/snappingshrimp/?CFID=4294156&CFTOKEN=80301649\

Point Lobos: Harbor Seals at China Cove

View of Seals at China Cove from Bird Island Trail

View of Seals at China Cove from Bird Island Trail

Mother and Baby Harbor Seals on Beach

Mother and Baby Harbor Seals on Beach

Harbor Seals Swimming

Harbor Seals Swimming

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (near Monterey, California) is an excellent place to view wildlife.  Hikers on Bird Island Trail can see mother and baby harbor seals on the beach at China Cove every spring.  The patterns of spots on each seal are unique and do not change over time.  A fun fact is that harbor seals can sleep underwater.  

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.  

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.  More info about Point Lobos is at: https://www.pointlobos.org/

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Closeup of Ocean Sunfish

Closeup of Ocean Sunfish

Monterey Bay Aquarium occasionally has an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) on display in the Open Sea Exhibit.  These fantastic fish have fins at the top and bottom, and a flattened tail at the back.  They can get up to 10 feet long and weigh over 5,000 pounds.  They increase their weight by 60 million times over their lifetime!  Fast growth means that each ocean sunfish at the aquarium is only on display for about a year.  At that point the fish must be airlifted out of the tank by helicopter to its freedom in Monterey Bay.  Adult females can produce over one million eggs per spawning season!

Ocean sunfish are related to pufferfish, and feast on jellyfish in the deep ocean.  After diving they like to float sideways at the surface, basking in the warmth of the sun. They are famous for being very curious and approaching divers, and are found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide.  More info is at: http://www.oceansunfish.org/index.php

Monterey Bay Aquarium: An All-Time Favorite!

Monterey Bay Aquarium Entrance

Monterey Bay Aquarium Entrance

Open Seas Exhibit

Open Seas Exhibit

Sardines in Kelp Forest

Sardines in Kelp Forest

Grass Rockfish

Grass Rockfish

Pacific Marine Life

Pacific Marine Life

Strawberry Anemone

Strawberry Anemone

Pacific Seahorse

Pacific Seahorse

Leafy Sea Dragon

Leafy Sea Dragon

Blue Spotted Jelly

Blue Spotted Jelly

Sea Nettles

Sea Nettles

Back Deck Overlooking Pacific

Back Deck Overlooking Pacific

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the world!  It is a place that we return to again and again.  It is mesmerizing watching the sea creatures on display.  A wonderful quote at the aquarium says “The sea is as near as we come to another world”.  I highly recommend a visit – it never fails to impress.  More info about the aquarium is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/ 

More of our posts and pictures on the Monterey Bay Aquarium are at:  http://winegarpics.com/category/california/northern-california/monterey-bay-area/monterey-bay-aquarium/   

Info on a surreal and fascinating jellyfish new to science found in 2016 near the Mariana Trench (the deepest part of the ocean) is at:  http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2016/05/video-surreal-deep-sea-jellyfish-near-mariana-trench

California Sea Glass – History in Your Hands

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

This unique piece is chicken wire embedded in textured striated glass (used for reinforcement and safety glass in cabinets, plus windows at schools and fire stations). This is a hot new vintage glass being recreated for current products. A piece of sea glass half this size was recently posted for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $69.99.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern - perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern – perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

Sea Glass Collected in February 2020.

Misc Sea Glass Finds including Hand Painted Ceramic Piece with Orange Poppies, Baby Blue Piece of Tile, and Others.

This round bottom was made by Glass Containers Inc. between 1933-1960s. It may have been from a decorative liquor bottle. On the upper left are what looks like two interlocking diamonds, which are actually the initials GC.

This Mission Dry Corp Round Glass Bottom is from a Mission Royal Punch Cola Bottle from the 1940s/1950s.

Advertisement for Mission Royal Punch Cola in the 1940s/1950s. Matches the Mission Dry Corp Round Glass Bottom.

Recently we found amazing sea glass at Seaside Beach, California (near Monterey). We found some of the pieces on the beach, but Richard noticed that the best pieces were out at the surf line. After I saw a piece I just HAD to have, I took off my shoes and socks and went into the 50 degree ocean water – brrrrrrrr! Although I got soaked, it was worth it. Each piece of glass tells a story – it is like holding a piece of history in your hand. All of the sea glass is worn smooth and pitted by ocean weathering, so it is at least 50 years old. If you recognize or know more about any of these pieces of glass, please let me know.

UPDATE:  We returned to collect sea glass at Seaside in February 2020.  Still lots to find!  Our new favorites include the hand painted ceramic piece with orange poppies, baby blue piece of tile, the GC round glass bottom from an ornate liquor bottle, and the Mission Royal Punch Cola bottle bottom (the camel advertisement from the time is fantastic!).  

Point Lobos: Nesting Brandt’s Cormorants

Brandt's Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Brandt’s Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Male Brandt's Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Male Brandt’s Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Brandt's Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt’s Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt's Cormorant Mating Display

Brandt’s Cormorant Mating Display

Pair of Brandt's Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Pair of Brandt’s Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Brandt's Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt’s Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt's Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

Brandt’s Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

Brandt’s cormorants are nesting now along the China Cove Trail at Point Lobos State Park near Monterey, California. These sea birds have spectacular blue throat pouches and turquoise eyes during breeding season. The nesting material consists of seaweed and plants collected by the males. This year some of the birds decided to nest right beside the trail, so it is a real treat for photographers!

Monterey: Scenic Lover’s Point

Scenic Lover's Point

Scenic Lover’s Point

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Brewer's Blackbird and Ice Plants

Brewer’s Blackbird and Ice Plants

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover's Point

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover’s Point

We’ve just returned from a trip celebrating our anniversary along the California coast. One of the most scenic places we visited was Lover’s Point at Monterey, California. The pink ice plants are particularly stunning this time of year!

California: Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

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.

Elephant Seals are Fun to Watch!

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Alpha Male Elephant Seal

Alpha Male Elephant Seal

Mock Battles among Young Male Elephant Seals

Mock Battles among Young Male Elephant Seals

Scuffle among Young Male Elephant Seals

Scuffle among Young Male Elephant Seals

Female Elephant Seal Face

Female Elephant Seal Face

Elephant Seal Family

Elephant Seal Family

Mother and Baby Elephant Seals

Mother and Baby Elephant Seals

Very Young "Weaner" Elephant Seals Playing

Very Young “Weaner” Elephant Seals Playing

Elephant Seal's Big Eyes

Elephant Seal’s Big Eyes

Trio of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Trio of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Backs of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Backs of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Elephant Seal Flipping Sand to Cool Down

Elephant Seal Flipping Sand to Cool Down

Elephant Seal Watching an Oystercatcher

Elephant Seal Watching an Oystercatcher

Silhouette of Young Male Elephant Seals

Silhouette of Young Male Elephant Seals

Piedras Blancas is Named after White Rocks Offshore

Piedras Blancas is Named after White Rocks Offshore

Beautiful Piedras Blancas Coastline

Beautiful Piedras Blancas Coastline

Advice from an Elephant Seal

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).  As of 2018 the Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony had grown to over 25,000 seals!

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/view.htm

California: Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point's Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point’s Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Back of Lighthouse with Flowers by Fence

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point's Ocean View

Pigeon Point’s Ocean View

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Fogbow Nearby

Fogbow Nearby

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

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/whatwedo/improving/pigeon-point/

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