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: Cute Baby Sandhill Crane

Baby Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane Family

Look who showed up at our house this week – the sandhill crane family.  The baby crane is so cute!

 

Florida: Epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch!

Author Pam with Bill Nye “The Science Guy”

Apollo / Saturn V Center

Space Shuttle Runway

Commemorative Launch Brochure

3-2-1 Ignition Take-off

Falcon Heavy Launch into Space

Close-up of SpaceX Rocket

Twin Side Boosters Returning to Earth

SpaceX Tweeted Photo of Tesla Roadster in Space

On Tuesday I watched an epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  It was incredible!   I had purchased the “Feel the Heat” package to view liftoff from the closest public viewpoint at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at KSC (only 3.9 miles from launch pad 39A across the Banana River).  We could hear and feel the rumble of takeoff when the engines ignited and everyone wildly cheered!

While we waited in the viewing stands, we were entertained by Bill Nye “The Science Guy”.  Earlier we got the chance to walk on the shuttle runway.  The runway is so long (~3 miles) that you can’t see from one end to the other because of the curvature of the Earth.  Locals call it a “gator tanning facility”, because alligators like to warm up in the sun on the concrete. 

This launch was the historic demonstration flight of the world’s most powerful rocket.  It launched from the same pad used by the Apollo moon missions.  Nestled inside the rocket was Elon Musk’s personal red Tesla roadster, including a dummy driver named Starman in a SpaceX astronaut suit.  Usually demonstration flights include demo payloads like a block of cement as weight, but Elon Musk wanted to make it more interesting.  And he certainly did, based on camera images beamed from the roadster!  My favorite one, which simply looks unreal, is a picture of the car after payload release showing Starman driving the bright red cherry roadster through space with Earth in the background.  Until the batteries give out, the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie will play on the car’s stereo.  A display panel in the Tesla says “Don’t Panic” – a reference to the sci-fi classic book “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  Ultimately the Tesla roadster will endlessly loop around the sun for billions of years in an orbit past Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, just as thrilling was to see the twin side boosters simultaneously descend to Earth and land on target at Cape Canaveral.  Their speed was so great they generated double sonic booms.  The third core stage was set to return to the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean offshore.  Unfortunately the core crashed into the water near the platform.  But that was a minor hiccup in an otherwise flawless and amazing spectacle.  WOW!

The space center seems to be booming lately with private enterprise, and it is exciting to see new projects in the works.  Hopefully these launches capture people’s imaginations about future possibilities!  A great article about the launch is at: https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/02/07/spacex-debuts-worlds-most-powerful-rocket-sends-tesla-toward-the-asteroid-belt/

If you would like to visit Kennedy Space Center (highly recommended), learn more at:  https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge for more detail.

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 Manatees in Winter

Mother and Baby Manatees at Homosassa Springs

Mother Manatee Nursing Baby Underwater

Manatee at Crystal River

Manatees Have Good Eyesight

Manatees Have Sensitive Bristles on Body and Breathe Through Two Round Nostrils

Manatees Have Flexible Lips to Grab Sea Grass

Manatees Drink Fresh Rainwater

Manatees Have Round Paddle-like Tails

Florida manatees are easy to spot in winter because they congregate in springs and canals to stay warm.  Famous places to see them include the Three Sisters Spring at Crystal River (http://www.threesistersspringsvisitor.org/) and Blue Spring State Park (https://www.savethemanatee.org/manatees/manatee-webcams/).

Sea cows live 40-60 years and are related to elephants.  They weigh up to 1200 pounds and use their flexible, sensitive snouts to graze on sea grass. Their whiskers can feel water ripples that are smaller than a human hair!  They surface frequently to breathe air through two round nostrils.  Manatees do not have eyelashes, and close their eyes in a circular motion like the aperture of a camera.  Manatees move through the water by pumping their round paddle-like tails up and down.  They communicate with a series of chirps, whistles, and squeaks.  Kids especially love these slow moving, gentle giants.  Fun info and activities for kids is at (https://www.savethemanatee.org/manatees/education-materials/student-resources/.   Learn more at:  https://www.savethemanatee.org/

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