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!

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: 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/

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.

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 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! 

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)

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: 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: Night Blooming Cactus!

Cactus Blooms Ready to Open

Cactus Flower Extravaganza at Night

Blooms on Snake Vine Climbing up Palm Tree

Night Blooming Cactus Pair of Flowers

Our night blooming cactus was in its full glory this week – 30 HUGE flowers opened at once!  It was spectacular!   In the old days of Florida people would have parties in the evening centered around the blooms.  Our snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus – Princess of the Night) was grown from a cutting planted only 6 years ago!

Cute Baby Raccoons

Baby Raccoon Climbing Tree

Baby Raccoon in Bird Feeder

Baby Raccoon Face

Mama raccoon in our Florida backyard now has four little babies – what a handful!  The babies play, wrestle, and roll around together.  They are like puppies, except they climb.  One time I caught them swinging in the hammock at night for fun!  I was surprised to go outside recently and see this baby raccoon inside the bird feeder.  Even so, they are really cute.

UPDATE JUNE 2018:  A raccoon made the national news because she climbed a 25 story skyscraper in Minnesota!  Read about it at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/us/mpr-raccoon-building-climb.html

Purple Martin Nesting Time!

Purple Martin Gourd Rack by Pond

Five Eggs in Nest

Ten Eggs in Nest!

Six Newly Hatched Martins Hugging Egg

Five Newly Hatched Martins

Bird’s Eye View of Babies in Nest

Babies are Hungry!

Older Hatchlings Darken as Feathers Grow In

Our purple martins are nesting now.  So many birds – it is the best year ever!!!  Purple martins are here in Florida from about January to July, and spend the rest of the year in Brazil.  Current totals are 20 nests containing 63 babies, 50 eggs, and 42 adult birds (one pair is on the verge of laying eggs) — grand total 155!  Wow!  Many of the babies are in the process of hatching, and a couple of nests contain older nestlings.  The tiniest babies are called pinkies, for obvious reasons.  One stumper is the nest containing 10 eggs; normal is 4-6.  We don’t know if it is a re-nesting attempt after the first eggs didn’t hatch, or another bird laid in there too.  Love this time of year!  More info is at:  https://www.purplemartin.org/

Florida: Our Orchid Collection

Purple Phalaenopsis Orchid

Orange and Yellow Sunset Phalaenopsis Orchid

Yellow and Purple Golden Phalaenopsis Orchid

White and Purple Tiger Stripe Phalaenopsis Orchid

Pink, White, and Yellow Brilliant Smile Dendrobium Orchid

White and Purple Angel Moon – Love Letter Dendrobium Orchid

Lady Slipper Atticus Orchid

Fragrant Fringed Star Orchid

Recently we became very interested in orchids and now have a collection on our back porch here in Florida.  Orchids are fascinating on many levels and produce the smallest seeds in the world.  Besides the tropica flora already on our porch, we recently added a tree rose to the area and will soon add a fragrant gardenia.  Our goal is to turn the pool deck into a beautiful lush atrium and relaxing retreat!  A great article about orchid collecting in the Wall Street Journal (Feb 18, 2019) is at:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/roses-are-red-orchids-are-addictive-11550516025?mod=flipboard

Florida: Mama Owl is Nesting!

Eastern Screech Owl

Yellow Rose

Mama screech owl has been in her nest box all week – she is here to stay.  Nesting season has arrived – it is spring in Florida!

Florida: Backyard Wildlife at Christmas

Deer and Raccoons

Deer Eating Corn

Two Deer Together

Deer Looking at You

Turkeys Inspecting Deer Statue

Male Turkey with Wattle

Sandhill Crane Portrait

Ducks Waddling By

Bunny Snack Time

Raccoon Gathering

Smiling Raccoon Family

Mama Raccoon with Tiny Triplets

Mama Raccoon Baby Kisses

We’ve been seeing lots of wildlife in our backyard this Christmas – deer, raccoons, sandhill cranes, turkeys, and bunnies.   We hope you have a wonderful holiday season full of great surprises!  Best Wishes!  Pam and Richard

Florida: Fall Around the Garden

Pink Rose with Rain Drops

Fragrant Yellow Rose

Floating Flower Bowl 1

Floating Flower Bowl 2

Bat Flower

Banana Magnolia (strong fragrance – a favorite!)

Mahoe (Sea Hibiscus)

Tapioca Plant (used to make pudding)

Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo

Stapeliad (Starfish) Flower

Blue Dragonfly at Pond

Kingfisher at Pond

Female Quail

We are starting to get our first cool breezes of Fall here in Florida, which makes it great for walking and working in the garden.  Plants love this time of year and grow like crazy!  Click on pictures for more details about the flowers.

Dragon Fruit Cactus

Dragon Fruit Cactus Flowers

Huge Size of Blooms

Pink Ripening Dragon Fruit

Sliced Dragon Fruit Ready to Eat

Sphinx Moth Pollinator (day and night)

Our dragon fruit cactus finally produced fruit! It opened two dinner plate-sized flowers at night in early September.  Each bud was over a foot long!  In the tropics the plant is pollinated by bats, but here in Florida it is pollinated by moths.  Happily I did see two Sphinx moths flying around the flowers in the dark.  

This week we enjoyed eating its beautiful pink dragon fruit.  It tastes something like a slightly sweet pear with poppy seeds.  Our home-grown fruit was much sweeter than the commercial fruit available in the market.   Some great looking recipes are at:  http://www.tfgsf.com/?page_id=546, and an especially promising chocolate cupcake with dragon fruit buttercream frosting recipe is at:  https://sugarandcharm.com/2013/09/chocolate-cupcakes-with-dragon-fruit-buttercream.html

Florida: Fantastic Waterlilies

Lavender Waterlily with “Sunflower” Center

Lovely White Lotus

Yellow Waterlily

Purple Waterlily with Red Center

Red Hibiscus

Vintage Movie: Woman Feeding Deer

Vintage Movie: Chimps Eating at Table

Summer is peak waterlily time at McKee Gardens in Vero Beach, Florida.  Lots of waterlilies are in bloom, along with many other beautiful flowers. There is always something new to see!  The park first opened as McKee Jungle Gardens in 1932 as one of Florida’s earliest roadside attractions.  At that time the park was much bigger and monkeys roamed the garden.  A vintage eight minute movie from 1939 named “A Man-Made Jungle” is always on display and fun to watch.  You can see it yourself at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zY7SZT1B-c    More info about McKee Gardens is at: http://www.mckeegarden.org/

Nature Outside My Window

Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Group of Cactus Flowers

Cactus Wrapped Around Sabal Palm

Wildlife Cam: Raccoon Trio

Wildlife Cam: Deer Peekaboo

Wildlife Cam: Tom Turkey

Wildlife Cam: Mother Turkey (right) and Chick (left)

Wildlife Cam: Mottled Duck

Wildlife Cam: Cardinals, Blue Jay, and Woodpecker

It is amazing how much nature is visible outside my home office window.  Since it is summer, we are enjoying a spectacular show of cactus flowers every night.  The automatic wildlife camera captured these raccoons playing beside the flowers.  During the day the female white-tailed deer was caught visiting the same spot, as well as wild turkeys, mottled ducks, and many other birds.  I always have handy a flashlight, binoculars, and camera to look at and capture any surprises I might see.  

Great Crested Flycatchers are Nesting

Great Crested Flycatcher in Nest Box

Raccoon Enjoying Fruit Tray

Raccoon Looking at Snake Skin

A pair of great crested flycatchers recently moved into the woodpecker/screech owl nest box in our backyard. These birds with lemon bellies have very unique calls – usually you hear them before you see them (listen at: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Crested_Flycatcher/sounds).  

If flycatchers find a snakeskin, they always weave it into their nest.  We got lucky and found one, so we placed it on a tray along with fresh fruit for the birds.  The flycatchers ignored the goodies, but the raccoon thought it was the best treat ever!  

Springtime in Our Florida Yard

Deer by Pond

Deer and Turkey Eating Together

Mottled Ducks in Flight at Pond

Tricolor Heron at Pond

Pink Tropical Waterlily at Pond

Newly Hatched Purple Martin Babies

Martin Babies Waiting to be Fed

Newly Fledged Purple Martin Baby

Martin Bringing Food to Babies

Purple Martin with Painted Skimmer Dragonfly for Babies

Spring is our favorite time of year here in Florida!  So many baby birds, flowers blooming, and sunny warm days.   Here are a few recent scenes around the yard.

Unique “Bird” Cloud

Bird-Shaped Cloud

Australian White Ibis Flying Right

Anna’s Hummingbird Looking Left

Recently I saw a cloud here in Florida that looked like a bird.  After showing it to friends, I realized it could be interpreted two different ways – either as an ibis flying right or a hummingbird flying left.  Keep looking up!

Disney’s Epcot Flower Festival: 30 million blooms!

Pluto Topiary at Entrance by Spaceship Earth

Lakeside Flower Beds and Floating Mini-Gardens

Buzz Lightyear Topiary by Mission Space

Pooh and Red Balloon Topiary

Piglet and Eeyore Topiaries by Flower Tower

Tigger Topiary

Scarlet Passion Flower

Yellow Poppies

Queen Butterfly on Milkweed Flower

Lady and the Tramp Topiaries

Bambi and Friends Topiaries

Fantasia’s Dancing Hippo Topiary with Bromeliad Skirt

Panda Topiaries at Chinese Pavilion

Spinning Lettuce Hydroponics Garden at The Land Pavilion

Bioluminescent Anemone at The Living Seas Pavilion

The 2017 Epcot International Flower Festival at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is a total delight to the senses!  There are over 30 million blooms on display!  Visitors can view 100 topiaries, 240 floating mini-gardens, dozens of flower towers, and lakeside flower beds containing 70,000 plants.  A video about preparation for the annual festival is at:  http://www.icflorida.com/entertainment/attractions/channel-9-goes-behind-the-scenes-of-epcots-flower-and-garden-festival/511547714  Planning for next year’s festival has already begun.  More info is at:  https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/epcot-international-flower-and-garden-festival/  Details about some of the most popular topiaries are at:  http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/garden-styles-and-types/31-magical-walt-disney-world-topiaries-pictures

Purple Martin Babies!

Purple Martin Babies #1

Purple Martin Babies #2

Purple Martin Babies #3

Purple Martin Babies #4

Purple martin babies are hatching here in Florida!  We have 23 active nests in 24 gourds.  Definitely putting up a new rack next year.  Our totals are 43 eggs, 64 babies, and 46 adults, for a grand total of 153 purple martins!  You can watch our live cam video clip of the tiny babies being fed at:  https://ring.com/share/3017928363  The top two pictures show the youngest birds, and the bottom two pictures show slightly older hatchlings.  Notice how the older birds have more defined eyes and pinfeathers starting to grow in.  The youngest birds are affectionately called “pinkies” by purple martin landlords.

Purple Martin Eggs!

Peeking in Round Gourd Entrance at 6 Eggs

Another Nest with 6 Eggs

A Record 7 Eggs in Nest!

Another Nest with 7 Eggs!

Lots of Activity at Purple Martin Nesting Gourds

Just in time for Easter, we have plenty of eggs in the purple martin nesting gourds with even more to come!  We did a nest check today and counted 70 eggs in 12 nests.  This promises to be our best nesting season yet!  You can learn more about purple martins and how to set up your own site at:  https://www.purplemartin.org/  

 

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