Purple Martin Nesting Season 2021

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

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

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

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

Spectacular SpaceX Crew-2 Launch!

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

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

Goodwin Marsh in Spring

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

Cute Fuzzy Baby Sandhill Crane Chick!

Cute and Fuzzy Baby Crane Chick Walking

Sandhill Crane and Baby Chick by Sabal Palm Tree

Sandhill Crane Feeding Baby Chick a Kernal of Dried Corn

Sandhill Crane and Baby Chick Walking Together

Sandhill Crane Family in Yard

Sandhill Crane Face Portrait

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

Seashell Valentine

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

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

Florida: Birds at Our Feeder

Two Male Painted Buntings

Male and Female Painted Buntings

Male Cardinal and Male Painted Bunting

Male Cardinal

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal and Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Goldfinch (winter colors)

Catbird

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

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

Florida: Protected Malabar Scrub Sanctuary

One of Several Ponds at Sanctuary

Moorhen (Common Gallinule) on Pond

Trail Lined with Scrub Oaks

Christmas Lichen (Cryptothecia rubrocincta) on Scrub Oak

Powder Puff Lichen (Cladina evansii)

Author Pam Photographing Sandy Goldenaster-Lined Trail

Coastalplain Goldenaster (Chrysopsis scabrella)

Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) Pink Bell Flower

Rusty Staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea)

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

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

Sandhill Crane

Florida Scrub Jay (vulnerable species)

Gopher Tortoise at Underground Burrow (vulnerable species)

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

Florida: Our BIG Plants!

Pam with Pachypodium

Richard with 16 Foot Tall Agave Spike

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

Orchid’s Flower Head (Laelia moyobambae)

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

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

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

LEGOS at McKee Gardens Holidays 2020

LEGO Polar Bear and Cubs

LEGO Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

LEGO Jeweled Chameleon

LEGO Baby Sea Turtle Hatching

LEGO Snow Leopard

LEGO Coral Reef

LEGO Coral Reef – Close-up of Seahorse

LEGO Whooping Crane on Nest of Eggs

LEGO Zebra

LEGO Hummingbird Feeding from Trumpet Flower

Bushes as Elves in Garden

Holiday Angel Display

Maroon and Yellow Cattleya Orchid in Bloom

Purple Waterlily Blooming in December

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

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

See Sean Kenney’s tour schedule by Imagine Exhibitions at:  https://www.seankenney.com/portfolio/nature_connects/  See more of his work at:  https://www.seankenney.com/exhibits/

Bok Tower Gardens Holidays 2020

Lying on the Ground Looking Up at Bok Tower

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

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

Origami Decorated Christmas Trees in Lobby

Christmas Presents with Origami Bows

Creamy White and Red Poinsettias with Raindrops

Alligator Statue with Christmas Holiday Bow

Tiled Bench in Front of Historic Pinewood Estate

Tree Covered with Resurrection Ferns

Round Outdoor Pot Covered with Colorful Lichens

Balloon Plant Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) Host Plant for Monarchs

Monarch Caterpillar Eating Balloon Plant Milkweed Leaves

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

Stunning Purple Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Gorgeous Dark Pink Camellia with Yellow Center

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

Astronauts Launched to Space!

SpaceX Astronauts Launched to ISS

A full SpaceX crew launched tonight at 7:27 pm EDT here in Florida.  Four astronauts are on their way to the International Space Station!  WOW – what a spectacular view and achievement!!!  Such a beautiful warm evening – the rocket lit up the whole sky.  This was the view from our backyard pond in Palm Bay, Florida.  Watch full coverage of the Crew-1 mission on NASA TV at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21X5lGlDOfg&feature=emb_logo OR on SpaceX at https://www.spacex.com/

Around the Yard

Bees Made Honeycombs

Sandhill Crane (4 feet tall)

Cottontail Rabbit

Mushroom Fairy Ring

Ladies Tresses (native orchid growing in lawn)

Blooming Agave Spike at Sunset

Pink Hidden Ginger

Sunshine Mimosa Flower

Purple Passion Flower

Front View of Plumeria Flowers

Back Candy-Stripe View of Plumeria Flowers

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

SpaceX Rocket Launch – WOW!!!

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

SpaceX Booster Return Rocket Trail

On Saturday morning in the predawn hour of 5:21 am SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here on Florida’s east coast.  The sight was spectacular – WOW!!!  The rocket trail was illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon. The glow in the bottom picture is from the booster return landing on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” offshore, which at that point was 350 miles away!  Fifty-eight Starlink satellites and 3 Planet SkySats were sent into orbit.  Read about it at:  https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-8-planet-satellite-launch-rocket-landing-success.html  and https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-8-launch-amazing-twitter-photos.html

Huge Night Blooming Cactus Flowers!

Close-up of Cactus Flower

Three Cactus Flowers

Cactus Flowers on Sabal Palm

Daytime Before Blooms Open at Night

It’s that time of year here in Florida – our Queen-of-the-Night cactus is blooming every evening!  This unassuming snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus), which is unremarkable for most of the year, steals the show in early summer.  It is easily propagated because there are rootlets all along the plant.  Each bloom opens and lasts only one night.  The flowers are the size of dinner plates – wow!  

Great Crested Flycatcher Nest!

Great Crested Flycatcher on Nest Box

Great Crested Flycatcher with Dragonfly for Babies

Inside the Nest Box (Babies Hunkered Down)

Flycatcher Baby Fledgling After Leaving Nest

We are so excited to have a pair of great crested flycatchers nesting in our yard! For identification, look for the bird’s pretty lemon-yellow belly.  The picture inside the nest box was taken with our tiny Insta360 ONE camera.  We could see 3 babies in the nest at the bottom (middle).  Surrounding the babies are the flycatcher’s unique nesting materials – lots of feathers and even a bit of black and white fur (upper right).  Flycatchers are well known for weaving snakeskins into their nest, and this one has one too – how exciting!  The nest also has two round white empty mud dauber pots (top).  I wish we had gotten a picture of the eggs – they are creamy brown with purple squiggles on them.  Maybe next year!  A previous post about flycatchers is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/great-crested-flycatchers-are-nesting/

Florida in Spring: Nesting Herons and Other Dark Birds

Great Blue Heron Pair on Nest

Great Blue Heron Nest Building on Tree Tops

Male Anhinga’s Beautiful Green and Blue Eye Colors in Spring

Fuzzy Anhinga Babies in Nest

Double Crested Cormorants Have Turquoise Blue Mouths During Breeding Season

Beautiful Iridescent Colors of Glossy Ibis

Green Backed Heron in Marsh

Yellow Crowned Night Heron in Tree with Spanish Moss

Juvenile White Phase of Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron Transition from White Phase to Adulthood Plumage

Adult Little Blue Heron’s Dark Feather Colors

Tricolored Heron’s Crest Feathers

Adult Tricolored Heron’s Beautiful Blue Color During Breeding Season

Juvenile Tricolored Heron’s Funny Face

Tricolored Heron Baby Hello!

Paired with my other post about Florida’s egrets and other white birds in spring, this post is about herons and dark feathered birds during nesting season.  These colorful birds and their babies make me smile! 

Florida in Spring: Nesting Egrets and Other White Birds

Snowy Egret Breeding Feather Plumes

Snowy Egret Funny Face

Snowy Egret Plumed Head Feathers

Snowy Egret Golden Slipper Feet

Snowy Egret Face Breeding Colors

Snowy Egret Babies

Cattle Egret Breeding Colors

Cattle Egret Face

Great Egret Face Breeding Colors

Great Egret Feather Plumes

Great Egret with Outstretched Wing

Great Egret Babies

Great Egret Baby Hello

White Ibis Face Breeding Colors

Wood Stork on Nest

Wood Stork Family (3 babies)

We love our Florida birds, especially in spring.  This post shows egrets and other white birds during nesting season, when feathers are plumed and colors are bright.  If you are lucky, you will see great egrets, snowy egrets, and cattle egrets together in one big breeding colony – it is quite a sight!  Sometimes wood storks and white ibis nest there too!

Purple Martin Babies!

Purple Martin Nesting Gourds

Martins Collecting Pine Needles for Nest

Bird’s Eye View from Inside Gourd

 

Five Eggs in Nest

Newly Hatched Babies (Pinkies)

Growing Purple Martin Babies

Older Babies with Pinfeathers

Parents Bring Bugs to Growing Babies

Babies Waiting to be Fed

Hungry Baby with Mouth Wide Open

Rainbow Over Purple Martin Gourds

We have so many purple martin babies!  Did a backyard count here in Florida and the grand total for our nesting colony is 201 purple martins (107 babies, 22 eggs, and 72 adults).  Ages range from eggs to newborn pinkies to older babies with pinfeathers.  Love this time of year!  Learn more from the Purple Martin Conservation Association at:  https://www.purplemartin.org/

UPDATE May 16, 2020:  Lots of babies fledging this week!  Constant activity at the nesting gourds – great time of year!

Florida: Backyard Wildlife

Male Painted Bunting and Cardinal

Female Painted Bunting

Male Wild Turkey with Beard Feathers

Sandhill Crane

Peahen (female peacock)

Whitetail Deer

Armadillo

Raccoon Babies at Door

 

We love the variety of wildlife in our backyard here in Florida.  So much fun! 

Orchids and Vanilla

Group of Orchid Flowers

Purple-Speckled Phalaenopsis Orchid

White and Yellow with Purple Spots Phalaenopsis Orchid

White, Pink, and Yellow Dendrobium Orchid

Unique Purple and White Dendrobium Orchid

Purchased Vanilla Bean

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Bowl of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Did you know that vanilla flavor comes from an orchid?  Each bean pod of Vanilla planifolia contains thousands of tiny black seeds – these are the black specs in vanilla bean ice cream!  Pure vanilla extract in your spice cabinet comes from vanilla beans mixed with water and alcohol.  In nature, Vanilla planifolia flowers can only be pollinated by hummingbirds and special bees.  For commercial production, the orchids must be pollinated by hand.  Orchids get more interesting all the time!  Now who is hungry?  Read more at:  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/vanilla-comes-from_n_5021060

Merry Christmas from Florida

Warm wishes from the beach here in Florida for a wonderful holiday and happy new year!

Driftwood Tree at Sebastian Beach

Spectacular Dawn Rocket Launch!

Long Exposure of Rocket Trail Illuminated by Sunlight Below Horizon

Close-up of Rocket Plume

Rocket Trail “Space Art” as Seen from our Backyard Pond in Palm Bay, Florida

We watched a stunning rocket launch yesterday at dawn here on the Space Coast of Florida!  An Atlas V rocket blasted off at 6:13 am and successfully placed a communications satellite into orbit.  Sunlight from below the horizon lit up the rocket’s exhaust plume and ice particles formed from it at high altitudes.   The resulting effect was spectacular space art in the sky – WOW!

Snoopy and NASA in Iceland

Snoopy at Iceland’s Moon Training Grounds

Snoopy at the Blue Lagoon

Snoopy Surfing at Diamond Ice Beach

Snoopy Napping on Black Lava Sand Beach at Jokulsarlon

Vintage 1969 Snoopy NASA Safety Poster

Snoopy’s “Greetings from Mars” T-Shirt at Kennedy Space Center

Snoopy (by Charles Schulz of “Peanuts”) is famous as being a safety mascot for NASA.  Since Snoopy was “First Beagle on the Moon”, he went to Iceland with us in June to see where the astronauts trained for the Apollo moon missions.  NASA is working in Iceland now testing the latest Mars Rover for the upcoming 2020 mission.  Astronaut Snoopy will be a featured balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade this Fall.

Happy 50th Apollo Moon Landing Anniversary from all of us here on the Space Coast of Florida!

If you want to see what Neil Armstrong’s parents said on the day he was confirmed as an astronaut, you can watch a sweet vintage 5 minute video from “I’ve Got a Secret” at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd7eWKCOk-A&t=16s

Spectacular Night Blooming Cactus Flowers!

Cactus Flowers Surround Palm Trunk

Cactus Flower Trio

Side View of Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Close-up of Night Blooming Cactus Flower

So Many Cactus Flowers

Cactus Climbed Palm Tree (raccoon on lower right)

Our night blooming cactus put on the best show ever on Sunday night – over 60 huge flowers were in bloom!  This snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus – Princess of the Night) is only 7 years old and grew from a tiny cutting.  Moths pollinate the flowers.  What a spectacular sight!  (click any image to enlarge)

Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach Collage

Sebastian Beach Collage

We enjoy going to Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s central Atlantic coast.  It is a spectacular place to visit!  The weather this winter has been especially beautiful.  We made this collage of our favorite scenes at the inlet (click on the picture to enlarge and see details).  Info and live cam links are available at:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/sebastian-inlet-state-park

Eclipse of the Moon!

Moon Before Lunar Eclipse

Peak Totality of Lunar Eclipse

Last night (Sunday), January 20, we watched the “Super Blood Wolf Moon” Eclipse. It was stunning!   It was “Super” because the moon was passing Earth at its closest point in orbit, so it appeared bigger and brighter than usual.  It was a “Blood” moon because it turned coppery-red during the eclipse.  And it was a “Wolf” moon because in January the moon is associated with increased wolf activity and howling.

It was a crystal-clear evening here in Florida and the sky was full of stars.  The eclipse began at 10:34 pm EST, totality started at 11:41 pm, and the peak coppery-red color appeared at 12:10 am.  What a beautiful sight!  The next total lunar eclipse will not be visible in the United States until 2022.

Bok Tower Gardens at Christmas

Bok Tower and Reflecting Pond

Golden Brass Door at Base of Tower

23K Gold Snake Gnomon Timepiece on Sundial

Pinewood Estate 1940s Sparkly Christmas Tree

Holiday Candles

Poinsettia Courtyard

Orange Bowl with Mr. and Mrs. Claus

Bird-of-Paradise “Red Christmas”

Camellia “Sweetie Pie – Red Stripe”

Red Camellia

Orange/Red Camellia

Pink Azalea

Purple “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

Yellow Celosia

Beehive Ginger

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake, Wales, Florida, is spectacular over the holidays!  The decorations are beautiful at the Pinewood Estate, and the camellias and azaleas are gorgeous too (peak bloom time is January and February).  Plus the weather can’t be beat!  More info is at:  https://boktowergardens.org/christmas/

Florida: Rocket Launch this Week

Long Exposure of Night Launch in Florida

We watched a beautiful launch from Cape Canaveral here on the Space Coast of Florida at 12:15 am on Wednesday morning (October 17,  2018).  It was a warm starry night as the ULA Atlas V rocket soared across the sky.  The advanced communications satellite successfully reached orbit about 3.5 hours later.

Florida: Rare Atala Butterfly Sighting

Atala Butterfly on Coontie

Atala Butterfly after Emerging from Cocoon

The Atala butterfly was thought to be extinct in Florida until a small colony was discovered in Miami in 1979.  This beautiful iridescent butterfly was protected and expanded its range over time.  We saw this rare butterfly for the first time in Sebastian a couple of weeks ago.  The Atala’s only native host for its eggs is the coontie – a small palm-like cycad.  If you live in Florida and want to do your part to help the Atala hairstreak butterfly, plant a few low-maintenance coonties in your yard.  The butterflies will travel miles to find these host plants by smell!  Locally, Busy Bee Nursery in Vero Beach sells coonties and regularly holds butterfly gardening seminars:  http://archive.tcpalm.com/specialty-publications/vero-beach/careful-gardener-uncovers-rare-butterfly-species-in-indian-river-county-ep-1233688624-340516281.html

Florida: Spectacular Solar Probe Launch!

Launch of Parker Solar Probe (click to enlarge)

Image of Sun Taken with Solar Filter

We had a beautiful launch of NASA’s new Parker Solar Probe last night.  Only a few hardy souls managed to be up watching at 3:31 am for the second night in a row (first night was scrubbed).  Nevertheless it was spectacular!  The night was very humid with heavy water vapor in the air.  Can’t wait to see what discoveries will be made about the sun!  As a bonus, I saw a Perseid meteor streak by below the arc of the launch.  Wow!  Read about the solar probe at:  https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-ula-launch-parker-solar-probe-on-historic-journey-to-touch-sun

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