Florida: Night Blooming Cactus Time!

Single Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Single Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Four Cactus Flowers

Four Cactus Flowers

Seven Flowers Open at Once

Seven Flowers Open at Once

Cactus Flower Buds During the Day

Cactus Flower Buds During the Day

The night blooming cactus flowers are opening up in the evenings now in Florida.  The flowers are as big as dinner plates!  Spectacular!

Purple Martin Nests and Babies!

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

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

Hungry Babies

Hungry Babies

Baby Ready to be Fed - Still Partially in Shell!

Baby Ready to be Fed – Still Partially in Shell!

Hatchling Hug

Hatchling Hug

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

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

Leaf-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Bark-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Bark-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Cedar Chip Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Cedar Chip Nest Containing 5 Eggs

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

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

Frog on Nesting Gourd

Frog on Nesting Gourd

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

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

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

Big Fuzzy Anhinga Babies!

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Female Anhinga

Female Anhinga

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

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

Stunning Rainbow Spider Web!

Rainbow Spider Web

Rainbow Spider Web

Colorful Banded Radius Thread

Colorful Banded Radius Thread

Sticky Spiral Threads

Sticky Spiral Threads

Close-Up of Sticky Spiral Threads

Close-Up of Sticky Spiral Threads

Spiral Threads with Round Sticky Droplets

Spiral Threads with Round Sticky Droplets

Magnified Close-Up of Web's Diffraction Pattern

Magnified Close-Up of Web’s Diffraction Pattern

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

Vultures are Important, Too!

Black Vulture Portrait

Black Vulture Portrait

A "Committee" of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

A “Committee” of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

Black Vulture Pair

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

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

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

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

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

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

Florida: We Like Alligators

Young Alligator Face

Young Alligator Face

Big Gator in Swamp

Big Gator in Swamp

Pair of Alligators: Foot on Face

Pair of Alligators: Foot on Face

Alligator Hug

Alligator Hug

Toothly Face in Pile of Alligators

Toothly Face in Pile of Alligators

White Leucistic Alligator

White Leucistic Alligator

Albino Alligator

Gator Torso Vibration During Mating Display

Gator Torso Vibration During Mating Display

Egret Riding an Alligator

Egret Riding an Alligator

Vintage Postcard: Big Joe Alligator

Vintage Postcard: Big Joe Alligator

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Quartette Singing

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Quartette Singing

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Chorus

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Chorus

Vintage Alligator Orange Fruit Crate Label

Vintage Alligator Orange Fruit Crate Label

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

Florida: Orlando Eye Complex

Orlando Eye Observation Wheel

Orlando Eye Observation Wheel

View at Top of Wheel

View at Top of Wheel

View East with Lockheed Martin in Foreground. On a clear day without haze you can see east to Atlantic Coast and VAB at Kennedy Space Center.

View East with Lockheed Martin in Foreground. On a clear day without haze you can see east to Atlantic Coast and VAB at Kennedy Space Center.

View of Big and Little Sand Lakes Looking West Toward Orlando Theme Parks

View of Big and Little Sand Lakes Looking West Toward Orlando Theme Parks

View Looking West with Round Dome of Spaceship Earth Visible at Disney's Epcot

View Looking West with Round Dome of Spaceship Earth Visible at Disney’s Epcot

Zebra Moray Eel at SEA LIFE Aquarium

Zebra Moray Eel at SEA LIFE Aquarium

Wolf Eel Guarding Ball of 10,000 Eggs

Wolf Eel Guarding Ball of 10,000 Eggs

Green Moray Eel

Green Moray Eel

Queen Triggerfish

Queen Triggerfish

Lookdown Jack

Lookdown Jack

Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper

Grey Reef Shark

Grey Reef Shark

Giant Pacific Octopus

Giant Pacific Octopus

Green Anemone in Pacific Rock Pool

Green Anemone in Pacific Rock Pool

Moon Jelly

Moon Jelly

Steve Jobs Figure at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Steve Jobs Figure at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

At 400 feet tall, the Orlando Eye is the tallest observation wheel on the East coast of the United States. It opened in 2015 and offers a beautiful 360 degree view of Central Florida. Thirty glass enclosed air-conditioned capsules are suspended from the wheel and slowly rotate at 1 mile per hour, completing the circle within 20 minutes. The wheel is lit up by 64,000 LED themed lights at night.

Other activities at the Orlando Eye Complex include the SEA LIFE Aquarium and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The aquarium is active in the local community with marine conservation, rescue, and protection. Madame Tussauds’ brand has been in business for over 200 years. Each wax figure in the museum takes up to 8 months to complete, and is accurate down to the placement of each hair on the head. Clothes that the figures wear are either donated by the celebrities or accurately reflect what the celebrity owns. It is a fun place to visit, especially with guests. More info is at: https://www.officialorlandoeye.com/

Florida in Winter

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

White Ibis at Lagoon

White Ibis at Lagoon

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Alligator in Pond

Alligator in Pond

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

In Florida we enjoy an outdoor lifestyle year round.  Although it may get chilly from time to time when winter cold fronts blow through from the north, the weather usually warms back up to 70°F within a few days.  That means we go outside and enjoy the beach, gardens, and wildlife. 

Florida is home to over 500 species of birds, which makes it one of the top birdwatching destinations in the world.  Our local birding and wildlife festival is the largest in the nation!  Info about the festival is at:  http://www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org/   Come on down and enjoy nature in the Sunshine State!  

Florida: Fun LEGO Exhibit at Vero Beach Museum of Art

LEGO Exhibit

LEGO Exhibit

LEGO Boy Looking at Reflection

LEGO Boy Looking at Reflection

LEGO Colorful Skulls, Arm with Pointing Finger, and Baseball Player

LEGO Colorful Skulls, Arm with Pointing Finger, and Baseball Player

LEGO Man with Heart

LEGO Man with Heart

LEGO Couple Kissing

LEGO Couple Kissing

LEGO Man Peeking Out

LEGO Man Peeking Out

LEGO Dog

LEGO Dog

Recently we enjoyed viewing the LEGO exhibit at the Vero Beach Museum of Art, Florida.  This award-winning traveling exhibit is called “The Art of the Brick”, and was created by New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya.  If you would like to know more about the artist and the exhibit’s worldwide schedule, go to:  http://www.brickartist.com/schedule.html

Florida: McKee Gardens During the Holidays

Florida Christmas Decorations at Historic Hall of Giants

Florida Christmas Decorations at Historic Hall of Giants

Natural Tree with Birdhouse Ornaments

Natural Tree with Birdhouse Ornaments

Presents with Natural Decorations (dried lotus pods and wasp nests)

Presents with Natural Decorations (dried lotus pods and wasp nests)

Snowman on Luminaria Pathway

Snowman on Luminaria Pathway

Fabric Pandas Playing in Bamboo Forest

Fabric Pandas Playing in Bamboo Forest

Fabric Panda Standing Beside Bamboo

Fabric Panda Standing Beside Bamboo

Entrance Pond with Floating Flowers, Goldfish, and Bullfrog

Entrance Pond with Floating Flowers, Goldfish, and Bullfrog

Orange Fabric Goldfish and Flowers

Orange Fabric Goldfish and Flowers

Fabric Goldfish and Inflatable Bullfrog on Pond

Fabric Goldfish and Inflatable Bullfrog on Pond

Giant Inflatable Bullfrog on Pond

Giant Inflatable Bullfrog on Pond

Orange Fabric Goldfish at Pond

Orange Fabric Goldfish at Pond

Glass Ball Sculpture and  Floating Orange Fabric Flowers

Glass Ball Sculpture and Floating Orange Fabric Flowers

Floating Pink Fabric Flowers and Grasses

Floating Pink Fabric Flowers and Grasses

Purple Orchid and Pink Ginger

Purple Orchid and Pink Ginger

Balloon Plant

Balloon Plant

Zebra Longwing Butterfly on Red Salvia

Zebra Longwing Butterfly on Red Salvia

We always enjoy visiting McKee Gardens in Vero Beach, Florida, over the Christmas holidays.   The decorations are beautiful in December, and the flowers are always blooming!

Florida: Holiday Boat Parade

Boat Parade Santa with Reindeer

Boat Parade Santa with Reindeer

Boat Parade Christmas Story Lamp

Boat Parade Christmas Story Lamp

Boat Parade Merry Christmas Penguin

Boat Parade Merry Christmas Penguin

Boat Parade Santa with Sunglasses

Boat Parade Santa with Sunglasses

Boat Parade Lights with Bell

Boat Parade Lights with Bell

Boat Parade Lights with Palm Tree

Boat Parade Lights with Palm Tree

Boat Parade Festive Decorations

Boat Parade Festive Decorations

Boat Parade Polar Bear

Boat Parade Polar Bear

Colorful Boat Parade in Canal

Colorful Boat Parade in Canal

Boat Parade Santa Fishing

Boat Parade Santa Fishing

Boat Parade Snoopy

Boat Parade Snoopy

Boat Parade Dolphins Pulling Sleigh

Boat Parade Dolphins Pulling Sleigh

Boat Parade Blue Light Reflections

Boat Parade Blue Light Reflections

Boat Parade Lights with Wreath

Boat Parade Lights with Wreath

Recently we enjoyed the annual Merritt Island Holiday Boat Parade on Sykes Creek, Florida.  We sat on the dock and watched over 70 Christmas-themed boats sail by.  Each one was covered with up to 1,000 colorful lights.  Some participants added to the fun by throwing candy.  The lights and reflections on the water were magic!  More info is at:  http://www.cffw.org/events/

Unusual Stinkhorn Mushrooms

Stinkhorn Mushrooms in Flower Bed

Stinkhorn Mushrooms in Flower Bed

Stinkhorn Mushrooms Emerge from Egg-Like Bulbs

Stinkhorn Mushrooms Emerge from Egg-Like Bulbs

Cross Section of Stinkhorn Egg

Cross Section of Stinkhorn Egg

Cross Sections of Agate and Stinkhorn Egg Look Similar

Cross Sections of Agate and Stinkhorn Egg Look Similar

Close-up of Stinkhorn Stalk

Close-up of Stinkhorn Stalk

Hollow Tube of Stinkhorn Mushroom Stalk

Hollow Tube of Stinkhorn Mushroom Stalk

Stinkhorn Mushroom with Curly Cap

Stinkhorn Mushroom with Curly Cap

Close-up of Curly Cap with Hole in Top

Close-up of Curly Cap with Hole in Top

Horse Fly Attracted to Stinkhorn

Horse Fly Attracted to Stinkhorn

Close-up of Fly's Compound Eyes

Close-up of Fly’s Compound Eyes

Recently we were walking down the sidewalk in front of our Florida home and wondered what that unpleasant smell was.  Turns out it was stinkhorn mushrooms!  They must have come in with the last batch of mulch.  The mushroom emerges from an egg-like bulb.  Sometimes you can find a “nest” of eggs the day before a cluster of stinkhorns emerge.  Some people consider stinkhorn eggs edible, but only with considerable caution.  The stalk of the mushroom is a hollow tube, and the cap is covered in stinky slime.  Flies are attracted to the cap’s smell, and they spread the mushroom’s spores. These mushrooms are considered beneficial to the soil, and each one lasts only a day. You never know what you’ll see in the garden!  A web page featuring an unbelievable variety of stinkhorn mushrooms is at:  http://www.mushroomexpert.com/stinkhorn_fame.html

Our Florida Yard in Fall

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Red Passion Flower

Red Passion Flower

Goldfish Vine

Goldfish Vine

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Here are scenes from our Florida yard in November.  So many beautiful flowers blooming all the time, and the baby raccoons are adorable!

Florida: Gorgeous Beach Weather in Fall

Beach Morning Glory Vines Covering Sand

Beach Morning Glory Vines Covering Sand

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Sanderling

Sanderling

Ghost Crab and Shells

Ghost Crab and Shells

Juvenille Ghost Crab

Juvenille Ghost Crab

Moon Jelly over Acorn Barnacles

Moon Jelly over Acorn Barnacles

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

White Ibis

White Ibis

Wood Stork Portrait in Black and White

Wood Stork Portrait in Black and White

Fall weather is great in Florida for long walks at the beach.  We often visit Sebastian Inlet State Park.  The views all around are a constant delight!

Florida: Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Faint Ring Around Full Moon

Faint Ring Around Full Moon

Reddish Hue of Moon During Eclipse

Reddish Hue of Moon During Eclipse

Firefly Trail Over Camera Lens

Firefly Trail Over Camera Lens

We set up a time lapse camera to capture the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse on Sunday night, September 27, 2015.  Although the weather started off iffy, in the end we did record the beautiful sight.  A list of worldwide eclipses over the next 10 years is at:  http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/list.html 

Individual pictures above are pulled from the video.  As you watch the video, you’ll first see a faint ring around the moon.  Then the moon disappears completely as it is darkened by the eclipse and is covered with clouds, before reemerging as a red dot during totality of the eclipse.  Next the moon brightens as it becomes full again while tracking right (west) across the sky.  Sporadically you’ll see bugs flying over the camera lens, including a firefly that flew close above it.  The clouds switch directions over time, and at the end you’ll see bright planet Venus rising on the left side (east) before sunrise fills the sky.

Screech Owl Dad to 50 Babies!

Gonzo the Screech Owl

Gonzo the Screech Owl

Gonzo Profile

Gonzo Profile

Fuzzy Owlet in Nesting Gourd in Our Backyard

Fuzzy Owlet in Nesting Gourd in Our Backyard

Baby Screech Owl (our mascot)

Baby Screech Owl (our mascot)

Fluffy Owlets in Yard

Fluffy Owlets in Yard

Baby Screech Owl Snuggled Next to Teddy Bear

Baby Screech Owl Snuggled Next to Teddy Bear

Gonzo the Eastern Screech Owl has lived at the Florida Wildlife Hospital for the past 12 years. Since he could not be released back into the wild, he has become a local ambassador for wildlife. He is especially busy during nesting season, because he acts as a foster parent and role model for rescued baby owls. This past year Gonzo set a record by acting as a surrogate Dad to over 50 babies! Gonzo feeds the fluffy owlets, and they observe and learn from him the behaviors that will help them survive in the wild. All of Gonzo’s adopted babies this year were successfully released back into nature. More info about the Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary is at:  http://www.floridawildlifehospital.org/   

We’ve hosted several screech owl families in our Florida backyard (two pictures above are reposted favorites).  Owls are the absolute cutest!

Florida: Huge Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower 1

Cactus Flower 1

Cactus Flower 2

Cactus Flower 2

Cactus Flower 3

Cactus Flower 3

Cactus Flower 4

Cactus Flower 4

Apple-like Fruit of Cactus

Apple-like Fruit of Cactus

Inside of Cactus Fruit

Inside of Cactus Fruit

Our night blooming “Apple Cactus” flower opened around midnight one evening last week (Cereus peruvianus monstrose). Common names for the many different varieties of night blooming cacti include “Queen of the Night” and “Princess of the Night”.   I dug out our camera gear and photographed the flower for about an hour, while fighting off hordes of mosquitoes. The apple cactus is native to South America, and is named after its edible red fruit (a similar fruit available in the grocery store is the “dragon fruit”).  The delicate white petals of the cactus flower remind me of feathers. This huge 6-inch flower is a real beauty!

Florida: Spectacular Sunset!

Florida Sunset Pink Sky

Florida Sunset Pink Sky

Florida Sunset Orange Sky

Florida Sunset Orange Sky

Our sunset last night was spectacular! Here in Florida we get the best sunsets after stormy weather. Afterward the frogs were busy croaking all night.

Florida: Spectacular Dawn Rocket Launch Today!

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

We had an absolutely spectacular Atlas 5 rocket launch this morning of a Navy MUOS communications satellite into orbit.  The 20-story tall rocket lifted off at 6:18 am.  The dawn sky brightened as the rocket took off and rose up.  Then we saw something we had never seen before – the white rocket plume brightened into an enormous tadpole-like cloud of mist as the rocket arced east across the Atlantic.  The phenomenon was caused by the perfect combination of sun angle below the horizon and high humidity.  The white cloud of water vapor (not smoke) was formed when the rocket’s hot exhaust gases hit the air.  It was an amazing sight, and one of the top two launches we have ever seen!

Florida: Sebastian Beach and Fishing Jetty

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Black Skimmer on Beach

Black Skimmer on Beach

Beach Morning Glory

Beach Morning Glory

We always enjoy visiting Sebastian Inlet State Park.  The beach is beautiful, and we never know what we’ll see from the fishing jetty.  More info is at: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Sebastian-Inlet

Florida: Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (blue background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (blue background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (white background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (white background)

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar  Face

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Face

Black Swallowtail Butterfly on Pink Zinnia Flower

Black Swallowtail Butterfly on Pink Zinnia Flower

We were so happy to find black swallowtail caterpillars in our flower bed last weekend.  We knew caterpillars are very hungry, so we went out and bought more fennel plants for them to eat.  They are growing fast, and will soon turn into beautiful butterflies!

Florida: Summer Clouds, Rain, and Frogs

Sunny Sky over Indian River

Sunny Sky over Indian River

Stormy Sky over Indian River

Stormy Sky over Indian River

Panorama of Isolated Storm over Sebastian Beach (click to enlarge)

Panorama of Isolated Storm over Sebastian Beach (click to enlarge)

Cuban Tree Frog in Grass

Cuban Tree Frog in Grass

Cuban Tree Frog Camouflage

Cuban Tree Frog Camouflage

Cuban Tree Frog's Golden Eye

Cuban Tree Frog’s Golden Eye

Native Southern Toad on Driveway

Native Southern Toad on Driveway

Green Tree Frog in Milkweed Flowers

Green Tree Frog in Milkweed Flowers

Squirrel Tree Frog in Bird-of-Paradise Flower

Squirrel Tree Frog in Bird-of-Paradise Flower

Tadpole

Tadpole

Cuban Tree Frog Transformation (still has tadpole's tail)

Cuban Tree Frog Transformation (still has tadpole’s tail)

In summer in Florida, heat buildup during the day leads to afternoon thundershowers and clearing in the evening. We love hearing the chorus of frogs singing after the rain ends. Later we see frog eggs and then tadpoles in the pond.  Florida has 33 species of frogs and toads.  A list is at: http://www.wec.ufl.edu/extension/wildlife_info/frogstoads/   

You can listen to calls at:  https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/Frogquiz/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.lookup&CFID=6699023&CFTOKEN=a2f85b2c81814818-693ABB52-FE37-1048-AA8EE1A8CE351F01

Our favorite smiling frog picture of all time is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/smiling-frog/

Florida: Artistic Sea Turtle Statues

“Ethel” at Environmental Learning Center

“Stormy” at Orchid Fire Station

“Ridley in the Garden” at Rock City Gardens

“Reflections” at McKee Botanical Garden

Painted sea turtle statues can be found throughout the arts community of Vero Beach, Florida. The statues were auctioned off years ago by Turtle Trax to raise money for mental health awareness.  The theme was “Overcoming Hurdles with Turtles”.  I am impressed by the artistic talent and effort that goes into each one of these decorated statues!

The sea turtle nesting season is going very well here so far at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Sebastian, Florida. As of July 11, 2015, current local totals are 10,550 loggerhead nests, 5,561 green turtle nests, and 55 leatherback sea turtle nests.

Our Florida Pond: Fish Feeding Time

Dock in Fog

Dock in Fog

Feeding Time at Pond

Feeding Time at Pond

Close-up of Bluegill

Close-up of Bluegill

Tame Fish in Hand

Tame Fish in Hand

Tilapia Swimming

Tilapia Swimming

Most every day we enjoy walking down to our Florida pond and feeding the fish. We stock it every spring with bluegill (bream), tilapia, and catfish. Also living in the pond are bass, grass carp, turtles, and crayfish. Wading birds and otters sometimes come to eat the fish. This year’s baby fish have been extra hungry, and swarm to the dock to be fed. What a fun way to relax at the end of the day!

Around the Yard

Deer Walking Across Lawn

Deer Walking Across Lawn

Close-up of Deer's Antler Buds

Close-up of Deer’s Antler Buds

Mama Turkey with Her One Surviving Chick

Mama Turkey with Her One Surviving Chick

Sandhill Crane Feeding Young Chick

Sandhill Crane Feeding Young Chick

Sandhill Crane Chick and Daisies

Sandhill Crane Chick and Daisies

Sandhill Cranes Walking Away in Step

Sandhill Cranes Walking Away in Step

Lubber Grasshopper Sitting in Stapeliad Starfish Flower

Lubber Grasshopper Sitting in Stapeliad Starfish Flower

Lubber Grasshopper Babies

Lubber Grasshopper Babies

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly by Pond

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly by Pond

Fragrant Frangipani Flowers are used in Hawaiian Leis

Fragrant Frangipani Flowers are used in Hawaiian Leis

Queen Butterfly on Fireworks Gomphrena Flower

Queen Butterfly on Fireworks Gomphrena Flower

One of our favorite things to do is to take a walk around the yard.  We never know what surprises we will see!  Do you have a favorite sighting in your yard?

Purple Martin Babies are Fledging!

Female Martin and Babies Wanting Fed

Female Martin and Babies Wanting Fed

Martin Activity at Nesting Gourds

Martin Activity at Nesting Gourds

Martin Activity Above Gourd Rack (new fledgling is on lower left)

Martin Activity Above Gourd Rack (new fledgling is on lower left)

Martin Babies Grow Fast

Martin Babies Grow Fast

Two of Three Eggs Have Just Hatched in Late Nest

Two of Three Eggs Have Just Hatched in Late Nest

Martin on Gourd Rack with Dragonfly for Babies

Martin on Gourd Rack with Dragonfly for Babies

Closeup of Martin with Green Darner Dragonfly

Closeup of Martin with Green Darner Dragonfly

Our purple martin babies have grown so fast! Many are fledging and taking their first flights this weekend. This year our count is 57 babies and 22 adults for a total of 79 birds. What a joy to see them do so well!

Purple Martin Babies are Hatching!

Three Purple Martin Eggs in Nesting Gourd

Three Purple Martin Eggs in Nesting Gourd

Six New Hatchlings

Six New Hatchlings

Close-up of Hatchlings (love the bird lips!)

Close-up of Hatchlings (love the bird lips!)

Six Babies in Leaf-Lined Nest

Six Babies in Leaf-Lined Nest

Six Hatchlings Starting to get Pin Feathers

Six Hatchlings Starting to get Pin Feathers

Hatchling Face

Hatchling Face

Hatchling Wanting Fed

Hatchling Wanting Fed

Adult Male Purple Martin on Top of Nesting Gourd

Adult Male Purple Martin on Top of Nesting Gourd

Adult Female Martin Diving into Gourd

Adult Female Martin Diving into Gourd

Frog Hiding in Martin Pole Pulley Rope

Frog Hiding in Martin Pole Pulley Rope

Our purple martin babies are hatching! We currently have 11 nests containing 54 babies and 3 eggs – our highest season total ever! It is such a joy hearing the martins’ cheerful songs, along with constant feeding activity in and out of the gourds. The hatchlings are so young that they haven’t even opened their eyes yet. A frog was hiding in the martin pole pulley rope when we lowered the gourds for inspection. If the babies have mites, we change the nesting material for good health. Love this time of year!  Our previous posts about purple martins are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=martins

Beautiful Deer Visits Yard

Deer Hello

Deer Hello

Deer Eating Corn for Turkeys

Deer Eating Corn for Turkeys

Deer Portrait

Deer Portrait

What a nice surprise out our home office window – a beautiful deer was walking around our yard!  She had wandered in since I had left the gate open.  I had been hoping to get a picture of a deer in our area, because our neighborhood is called “Deer Run”. She is expecting, so maybe we’ll see a little fawn soon!

Florida: Pink Spoonbills are Nesting!

Goodwin Marsh

Goodwin Marsh

Rookery Island

Rookery Island

Spoonbill Landing on Nest

Spoonbill Landing on Nest

Young Spoonbill Being Fed

Young Spoonbill Being Fed

Close-up of Feeding Time

Close-up of Feeding Time

Young Spoonbill Takeoff

Young Spoonbill Takeoff

Adult Spoonbill Flying by Fledgling

Adult Spoonbill Flying by Fledgling

Colorful Adult Spoonbill Flying

Colorful Adult Spoonbill Flying

Critical Wildlife Area Sign – Respect the Nest

Critical Wildlife Area Sign – Roseate Spoonbill Nest

It is spoonbill nesting time here in Florida!  We enjoy seeing spoonbills nesting in spring on the Rookery Island at Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area – Stick Marsh Critical Wildlife Area near Fellsmere, Florida.  Love those beautiful pink birds!

Best Caterpillar Ever!

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

This past weekend I was working in the flower garden and found this Tersa sphinx moth caterpillar under our tapioca bush. Sphinx/hummingbird moths come out at dusk to drink flower nectar. They especially love pentas. I couldn’t get over the realistic eye spots on the caterpillar – I think it was pretending to be a snake so that birds wouldn’t eat it. It had gold spots on its body, along with delicate shades of pink and blue.  After taking pictures, and I carefully placed it back outside exactly where it was when I found it. What a spectacular caterpillar!

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