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/

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/

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

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/

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\

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/

California: Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach - Long Exposure

Pebble Beach – Long Exposure

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Pebbles and Sea Glass

Pebbles and Sea Glass

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:   https://www.kqed.org/quest/19198/geological-outings-around-the-bay-pebble-beach

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Owl Painting

San Francisco MOMA Owl Painting

San Francisco MOMA Owl Painting

When we visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I fell in love with one piece of art in particular by Joseph Cornell from 1957. The painting features an owl and is called “For Sale”.  The delightful text reads:
“FOR SALE. Sequestered bower – numerous compartments, look-outs, guest rooms, cozy nooks (feather-lined), pine-scented lounge, ivy-covered observatory for early dawn views and romantic sunsets, cheese cellar, moss-lined alcoves with dripping water and large variety of snails, cool storage, chalet-view of valley, bird’s eye view of old chateau inhabited by storks, aquarium in base of trunk with rare deep forest specimens, salamander’s crannies, violet-banked approaches, musical waterfalls, natural mineral specimens, and easy walking distance to enchanted lake.”

Hawk Migration Hotspot near San Francisco

Red-Shouldered Hawk

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

The Marin Headlands (north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) are a hotspot for Pacific coast migration in Fall.  Hawks and other raptors funnel through the Headlands on their way south to wintering grounds in California, or even further destinations in Baja or Argentina.  Even Monarch butterflies funnel through the Headlands on their way south to wintering roosts along the California coast.  Yesterday’s raptor count by the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory was 459, and the 2012 season total so far is over 20,000 birds.  Visitors are welcome to participate at Hawk Hill.  Daily totals and more info are at:   http://www.ggro.org/events/hawkwatchToday.aspx

California: Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Farms

Halloween-Theme Painted Horse at Lemos Farm

Arata Pumpkin Farm

Mini Pumpkins

Pumpkin Path at Bob’s Pumpkin Farm

Half Moon Bay is known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World”.  The area produces more than 3,000 tons of pumpkins every year and ships them worldwide. Every October, Half Moon Bay hosts a popular Art and Pumpkin Festival that includes a pumpkin weigh-off contest.  This year’s winning pumpkin topped the scales at 1,775 pounds!  The Halloween-theme painted horse stands in front of the Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay.  It is repainted regularly to reflect the seasons.  Pictures of past designs are at the bottom of the page at:  https://www.lemosfarm.com/seasonal

Our Past Earthquake Experiences

Real-Time Earthquake Map of California and Nevada on October 17, 2012

Offset Fence along San Andreas Fault

Cracks in Earth Formed by 1964 Alaska Earthquake

Book on Stories from the 1964 Alaska Earthquake

October 17th is the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area.  We’ve had several personal encounters with earthquakes.  First listed below are useful earthquake links:

California Real Time Earthquake Map (like first picture above):  http://scedc.caltech.edu/recent/index.html

Northern California Earthquake Data Center:  http://www.ncedc.org/bdsn/quicklook.html

List of Worldwide Earthquakes:  https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/

USGS California Earthquake General Info and Links (zoom to area of interest and settings layer “terrain”):  

https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/

“Did you feel it?” reports:  https://earthquake.usgs.gov/data/dyfi/

Seismological Laboratory:  Earthquake Education and Info for Kids: http://www.seismolab.caltech.edu/gen_eq_info.html

Tsunami Warning Center Links:  https://www.tsunami.gov/

In California, strain builds up on the San Andreas fault because the Pacific Plate is moving faster than the North American Plate.  Eventually stress fractures the crust and an earthquake occurs. In general, earthquakes that are Richter Magnitude 3 and smaller are not felt unless the epicenter is beneath you.  Magnitude 4 is a little shake.  Magnitude 5 is a noticeable shake, and is 10 times stronger than  4.  Magnitude 6 is a significant shake, and is 100 times stronger than 4.  Magnitude 7 is widespread damage, and is 1,000 times stronger than  4.  Magnitude 8 is catastrophic, and is at least 10,000 times stronger than 4.0.  Magnitude 9 is extremely destructive, and can have worldwide reverberations.   

Richard was a young child when the great Alaska earthquake occurred on Good Friday, March 27, 1964, at 5:36 pm local time.  The USGS lists the 1964 earthquake as Magnitude 9.2.  Most earthquakes last less than 30 seconds, but this one lasted 3-5 minutes!  Try counting out 3 minutes – it is a very long time for catastrophic shaking.  Loss of life was minimized since it was a holiday and most schools and businesses were closed.  It was the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America, and the 2nd largest in the western hemisphere (after the Magnitude 9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960). 

One couple said that the 1964 Alaska earthquake shook for so long that they sat on the couch to ride it out.  Sandy soil liquefied and rolled like 3-foot-high ocean waves.  Richard’s Dad saw his neighbor working beneath a car.  As the Earth rolled in waves, the car bounced up on a crest.  His friend rolled away before the car crashed back down.  Many people had just finished eating their evening meal.  Pots fell off the stoves and refrigerators toppled over.  Richard’s brother was yanked away from a falling television set.  Cracks split the ground open and then closed back up again.  Trees whipped back and forth.  Boats hit mud bottom as the ocean drained out, and then were pushed inland when the water came back.  A tsunami roared across the Pacific and hit Hawaii and California.  Ocean levels changed around the world, and led to minor flooding in Texas and Louisiana.  Interesting Alaska earthquake stories and pictures are at:  http://www.vibrationdata.com/earthquakes/alaska.htm   A vintage 4 1/2 minute earthquake video from a television show Richard watched as a child is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGhYMM2xeEo

In comparison, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was Magnitude 7.0.  It struck at 5:04 pm on October 17th during the middle of the World Series in San Francisco.  The shaking lasted 10-15 seconds.   Loss of life was greater than Alaska because of the dense population and collapse of the Bay Bridge.  We were just getting ready to leave work at the University of California, San Francisco, when it hit.  We felt the building pitch up and down, and grabbed the railing for support.  Security alarms went off all around the city.  Smoke billowed in the distance and meant the damage was significant.  Everything at home had fallen down in the same direction (east).  Vigorous shaking had spilled all of our toilet’s water onto the floor.  Our balcony was deemed unsafe.   It took many weeks before normalcy returned.  For a long time afterward, people were always thinking about where they would run if the shaking returned.  Now millions of people participate in mock earthquake drills every year:  http://www.shakeout.org/

Rain Lilies

Pink Rain Lily

White Rain Lilies

Rain Lilies bloom in Fall in the San Francisco Bay Area.  They are also known as Pink Fairy Lilies, Surprise Lilies, or Naked Ladies (because of their bare stems).  These fragrant flowers in the Amaryllis family are very beautiful!

San Francisco: Lombard Street

Lombard Street Looking Down

Lombard Street Looking Up

Cars Driving Down Lombard Street’s Tight Curves

Lombard Street Christmas Card

San Francisco’s Lombard Street has been called the “Crookedest Street in the World”.  One of the homes was filmed as Jimmy Stewart’s residence in the movie Vertigo.  The block’s extremely tight eight curves were designed to slow down traffic on the steep slope.  Tourists love to come and drive or walk down this famous hill!

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Cable Car Ride to Museum from Fisherman’s Wharf

Cable Car Museum Entrance Sign

Cable Pulley Winding Machinery (Sheaves)

Illustration of Cable Car Barn and Powerhouse

Cable Car on Display

Cable Car Bell

Cable Car Grip for Braking

Antique Penny Arcade Machine

Vintage Cable Car Souvenirs

Cable Car Logo on Rice-A-Roni

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is a fun place to visit.  On display are antique cable cars and equipment, along with a viewing platform overlooking active machinery running the cable car lines.  Cable cars are a symbol for San Francisco, and are famous around the world.  They are so popular that they are featured on boxes of Rice-A-Roni, “The San Francisco Treat”!  Cable cars are our nation’s only mobile national monuments.  Every summer a bell-ringing contest is held for the incredibly strong gripmen who operate the cable cars by hand.  More info is at:  http://www.cablecarmuseum.org/index.html

Point Reyes: Ladybugs at the Beach!

McClure’s Beach

Yellow Bush Lupine

Tule Elk in Fog

Tule Elk at Tomales Point

Isolated Pocket Beach

Ladybugs Covering Driftwood

Hundreds of Ladybugs at Beach

Acorn Weevil Among Ladybugs

Closeup of Ladybug

McClure’s Beach is a wild and remote beach at the northern tip of Point Reyes National Seashore (north of San Francisco).  In spring and early summer the hills are covered with yellow bush lupine flowers.  Tule Elk graze on the bluffs at Tomales Point.  The San Andreas Fault runs through the center of the park.  At the Visitor Center you can see an offset fence that was ripped 20 feet apart by the 1906 earthquake! 

McClure’s Beach is an excellent place for tidepooling.  A narrow trail leads through the rocks at low tide to an isolated pocket beach on the other side.  This pocket beach has a special secret – at times it is swarmed by ladybugs!  In summer ladybugs migrate from California’s hot Central Valley to cooler areas along the coast.  Sometimes they swarm a beach in search of salt and minerals, but there is no predicting where or when.  Many people think that ladybugs bring good luck.  We think it’s true – it was our lucky day at the beach!

Filoli Gardens: Spectacular Knot Garden

Filoli Knot Garden Lavenders

Filoli Knot Garden Patterns

Filoli’s Knot Garden is spectacular!  It contains many different types of lavenders, along with lollipop-shaped rosemary bushes.  The patterns, colors, and textures of the garden are especially amazing in summer.  Specific details are at (click once and then click again):  Filoli Knot Garden

San Francisco: Japanese Tea Garden

Entrance to Japanese Tea Garden

Temple Gate at Japanese Tea Garden

Buddhist Pagoda at Japanese Tea Garden

Cloud-Pruned Tree and Stone Lantern at Japanese Tea Garden

Blooming Cherry Tree at Japanese Tea Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden is located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  It is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.  Makoto Hagiwara ran the garden from 1895 to 1942.  He served the first modern fortune cookie in America at the Tea Garden in the 1890s or early 1900s.  More info is at:  https://www.japaneseteagardensf.com/

San Francisco: Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco

Conservatory of Flowers Building Close-Up

Conservatory of Flowers “Flower Clock”

Conservatory of Flowers High-Altitude Orchid

The Conservatory of Flowers is located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  The building is the oldest Victorian greenhouse in North America.  It was built in 1878 and is modeled after the Palm House at London’s Kew Gardens.  Of special interest is the Conservatory’s rare collection of high-altitude orchids. 

Our Best Video of the Golden Gate Bridge and Fog (time lapse 10X speed)

Since today is the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, here is our best video of the Golden Gate Bridge and fog.  The original 6 1/2 minute video has been speeded up to play in 39 seconds.  Enjoy!

Pretty Eucalyptus Flowers and Seed Pods

Eucalyptus White Flowers

Eucalyptus Yellow Flowers

Eucalyptus Red Flowers

Eucalyptus Seed Pod

Cover of “The Story of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” by May Gibbs

Eucalyptus trees grow throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and bloom in spring.  The blooms are featured as flower people in a popular children’s book in Australia called “The Story of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” by May Gibbs.  After it rains, Eucalyptus trees smell just like a Hall’s cough drop!

Hummingbird Taking a Bath

Anna’s Hummingbirds at Cherub Fountain

Anna’s Hummingbird With Yellow Pollen on Bill

Anna’s Hummingbird Dipping Head into Fountain

Hummingbirds enjoy baths.  Sometimes they will flit in and out of the spray from a garden hose.  One time we watched an Anna’s hummingbird bathe in a cherub fountain at Filoli Gardens.  She dipped her head in the water to wash off the yellow flower pollen.  How sweet!

Sea Lions and Seals Have Sensitive Whiskers

Sea Lion at San Francisco

Sea Lion at Moss Landing

Harbor Seal at Moss Landing

Harbor Seal at Monterey

Scientists have discovered that sea lions and seals have whiskers that are much more sensitive than previously thought.  They found that the animals can find and track fish from hundreds of feet away!  The whiskers (vibrissae) detect eddies left by the fish as they swim.  Harbor seals are thought to have the most sensitive whiskers all the animal kingdom.  Each whisker has up to 1,600 nerve fibers per single hair!

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