California: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Author Photographing Sardines at Open Seas. “The sea is as near as we come to another world.”

Sea Pen Display

Chambered Nautilus (cousin of the octopus)

Green Moray Eels

Bigfin Reef Squid

Lookdown Fish

Stone Scorpionfish (looking left)

Orange Cup Coral

Southern Sea Otter

Avocet (at least 26 years old)

Marbled Godwit (at least 21 years old)

Black Oystercatcher ( at least 24 years old)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (at least 20 years old)

Beautiful California Coast South of Monterey

We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the end of February.  It is always a delight – one of the best aquariums we’ve ever seen!  It is extra special because of its beautiful location on the central California coast.  Although temporarily closed now because of the pandemic, you can visit virtually through these live cams:  https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

Some of the birds at the aquarium are quite old  (https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/stories/the-aviarys-amazing-senior-citizens).  Each one was found injured and unable to be released back into the wild.  They have been happily living their lives in the aviary ever since.  I read that birdwatching and nature is good for the soul and health – agreed!  https://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-of-bird-watching/

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! 

Iceland: Magical Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Mount Stapafell (Home of Elves). Rocky Point on Top is called Fellskross – a Viking Sign of Holy Powers

Svodufoss Waterfall

Icelandic Sheep in Meadow

Northern Coast of Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Seagulls on Cliff Overlooking Ocean

Arnarstapi Cliff Nesting Birds

Black-Legged Kittiwake Eggshell Dropped on Land

Ondverdarnes Lighthouse at Western Tip of Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Striking Skardsvik Golden Sand Beach in Black Volcanic Landscape

Snaefellsjokull Volcano and Orange Sky at Midnight in June

Snaefellsjokull with Dramatic Clouds

Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula is an enchanting place.  We find more places to go every time we visit.  The birds – the sky – the coast – and the ever-present Snaefellsjokull volcano make for a magical place.

In the Sjominjasafn Maritime Museum we saw a display with a beautiful quote by Halldor Laxness, World Light:

“Where the glacier meets the sky, the land ceases to be earthly, and the earth becomes one with the heavens; no sorrows live there anymore, and therefore joy is not necessary; beauty alone reigns there, beyond all demands”.

 

UCSC Arboretum: Unusual Flowers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird at Bridal Heath

Pink Poker Grevillea

Clusters of White Eucalyptus Flowers

Common Pagoda

Grevillea Robyn Gordon

Rose Coneflower

Bishop Tutu Protea

Allens Hummingbird on Protea Bud

The diversity of plants at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum is amazing!  There are unusual flower shapes that you could never imagine.  The hummingbirds are especially abundant too – it is a photographer’s playground.  It is well worth a visit.  More info is at:  https://www.santacruz.org/a-stroll-through-the-arboretum/

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

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: 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: 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

Warm Florida Beaches

Sebastian Beach Waves

View of Sebastian Beach from Pier

Seagull with Mouthful of Fish

Sanderling Running with Waves

Shell Pile-up Near Pier

Brown Pelican Flying

Inlet Side Opposite Beach

Two-Tone Water where Indian River Meets Atlantic Ocean

Gopher Tortoise Eating Grass

The weather is perfect here in Florida!  Migrating birds have arrived, and it is a beautiful time for a walk at Sebastian Inlet State Park.

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.

Tetons: Beautiful Historic Church

Historic Chapel of the Transfiguration

Interior of Log Cabin Chapel

Chapel’s Altar View

Winter Stained Glass

Close-up of Winter Stained Glass

Summer Stained Glass

Close-up of Summer Stained Glass

Solar Eclipse Church Service

Watercolor of Chapel in Winter

 

Grand Tetons on a Summer Day

Trumpeter Swan in Park

While we were in Jackson, Wyoming for the solar eclipse, we stopped at Grand Teton National Park and saw the Chapel of the Transfiguration (built in 1925).  This historic church’s spectacular location is a popular place for weddings in summer.  A special service was held there in the morning before the solar eclipse featuring a reading from Genesis (“Let there be light…..and God made two great lights – the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night and stars – and it was good”).   Perfect reading for the day!

There are two beautiful stained glass windows by Jessie van Brunt inside the log cabin church featuring both winter and summer.  Behind the altar is a window looking out at the Cathedral Group of the Teton Mountains.  What an inspiring place to visit!  More info is at:  https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/index.htm

 

Florida: Cocoa Beach in Summer

Summer Walk on Cocoa Beach

Morning Waves

Sanderling Running

Ghost Crab

Florida in summer is a land of ocean breezes, afternoon showers, and warm nights.  A walk on Cocoa Beach in the morning is perfect!

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!  

Palm Springs: Top 10 U.S. Places to Travel

Greater Palm Springs Area

Desert Oasis

Looking Up at Oasis Fan Palms

Golden Barrel Cacti

Roadrunner in Desert

Close-up of Roadrunner Face

Anna’s Hummingbird at Mexican Honeysuckle in Desert Garden

Greater Palm Springs was voted one of the top ten places to travel in the United States by Lonely Planet in 2017.  We visited in early spring and loved it as usual!

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!

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/  

 

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

Neighborhood Peacocks

Peacock's Fanned Tail

Peacock’s Fanned Tail

Peacock with Train

Peacock with Train

Peahen (female) and Peacock (male)

Peahen (female) and Peacock (male)

Peafowl Family on Florida Neighborhood Wall

Peafowl Family on Florida Neighborhood Wall

Peachick

Peachick

Peacock's Corona Feathers on Head

Peacock’s Corona Feathers on Head

Peacock and Hyacinths

Peacock Preening

Stunning Peacock Tail Feather "Eyes"

Stunning Peacock Tail Feather “Eyes”

Some neighborhoods near us in Florida are home to free roaming peacocks.  Some people love them, and some think the birds are a tad bit noisy.  At any rate, I always enjoy seeing these spectacular birds!  

If you would like to see some unbelievably gorgeous macrophotographs of iridescent peacock feathers, go to:  http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2016/03/macro-peacock-feather-photography/  

Florida: Sandhill Cranes are Dancing!

"Braided" Feathers Under Sandhill Crane Eye

“Braided” Feathers Under Sandhill Crane Eye

Sandhill Crane Looking at You

Sandhill Crane Looking at You

Sandhill Crane Back of Head

Sandhill Crane Back of Head

Sandhill Cranes Dancing

Sandhill Cranes Dancing

Sandhill Cranes Bill Clack

Sandhill Cranes Bill Clack

Sandhill Crane Feathers Display

Sandhill Crane Feathers Display

We know it is spring here in Florida when the sandhill cranes start dancing!

Warm Wishes from Florida

Sebastian Beach and Birds

Sebastian Beach and Birds

Birds in Surf

Birds in Surf

Pair of Willets

Pair of Willets

Trio of Sanderlings

Trio of Sanderlings

Shells on Sand

Shells on Sand

Shell Bits on Beach

Shell Bits on Beach

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2015

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2015

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2016

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2016

Warm wishes from Florida for a new year filled with peace, love, and happiness.

BEST Wildlife Cam Surprise Ever!!!

BOBCAT SURPRISE!!!

BOBCAT SURPRISE!!!

Merry Christmas Raccoons

Merry Christmas Raccoons

Raccoons Climbing on Santa

Raccoons Climbing on Santa

Raccoon and Santa

Raccoon and Santa

Opossum and Santa

Opossum and Santa

Bunnies and Santa

Bunnies and Santa

Cardinal and Painted Bunting by Santa

Cardinal and Painted Bunting by Santa

Mourning Dove Flash

Mourning Dove Flash

Cardinal Flying

Cardinal Flying

Wild Turkeys and Mottled Ducks

Wild Turkeys and Mottled Ducks

Sandhill Crane and Raccoon

Sandhill Crane and Raccoon

We had the BEST surprise on our automatic wildlife camera EVER!!!  A bobcat walked right in front of our Santa outside!  Wow!  I about fell off my chair when I was looking over the pictures from the night before.  Some of our other recent pictures are here too, including Merry Christmas raccoons.  Have a great holiday!

Iceland: Arnarstapi Bird Cliffs and Dramatic Lava

Mountainous Landscape

Mountainous Landscape

Pebbly Beach with Whale Bone and Driftwood

Pebbly Beach with Whale Bone and Driftwood

Arnarstapi Bird Cliffs on Old Volcano

Arnarstapi Bird Cliffs on Old Volcano

Kittiwakes with Newly Hatched Chick

Kittiwakes with Newly Hatched Chick

Cliff Walk over Lava Cave

Cliff Walk over Lava Cave

Columnar Lava at Ocean's Edge

Columnar Lava at Ocean’s Edge

Seaweed Covered Rocks at Low Tide

Seaweed Covered Rocks at Low Tide

Guardian Spirit of Mount Snaefell

Guardian Spirit of Mount Snaefell

Mount Stapefell ("Home of Elves")

Mount Stapefell (“Home of Elves”)

Beautiful Home by Harbor with Snaefellsjokull Glacier in Background

Beautiful Home by Harbor with Snaefellsjokull Glacier in Background

Arnarstapi Harbor

Arnarstapi Harbor

Birds Nesting on Rock Offshore

Birds Nesting on Rock Offshore

Cafe with Turf Roof

Cafe with Turf Roof

Path through Lava to Djupalonssandur Beach

Path through Lava to Djupalonssandur Beach

Siberian Driftwood Log on Beach

Siberian Driftwood Log on Beach

Heavy Lifting Stones to Determine Strength

Heavy Lifting Stones to Determine Strength

Lifting Stones Descriptive Sign

Lifting Stones Descriptive Sign

"Elf Church" Rock Formation Nearby

“Elf Church” Rock Formation Nearby

Longrangar Lighthouse on Coast

Longrangar Lighthouse on Coast

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula northwest of Reykjavik is one of our favorite places in Iceland.  The landscape is spectacular!  Gorgeous mountains and glaciers sit next to beaches where we saw driftwood, polished stones, and even old whale bones washed ashore.  In June the Arnarstapi bird cliffs have an amazing amount of nesting activity and cacophony of sound (turn up the volume and listen to video below).  Lava flows in some places there are condensed into dramatic pillars and columns.  Nearby stands a statue of stone that commemorates the Guardian Spirit of Mount Snaefell.  The town sits at the base of Mount Stapefell (known as the “Home of Elves”, composed of pillow lava and green olivine) and in the shadow of Snaefellsjokull Glacier.  The Arnarstapi harbor is particularly scenic, and the town café serves the best hot chocolate!

A bit further west is Djupalonssandur Beach, which is famous for its protected black pebbles and remains of a British trawler shipwrecked there in 1948.  Iceland has very few trees, so driftwood there floats all the way from Siberia!  Four large stones on the beach were used in the past to test the strength of fishermen.  If you couldn’t pick up the largest stone, you weren’t allowed on the boat!  Just picking up the smallest stone is quite an effort for the average person.  Nearby are Longrangar Lighthouse and a lava rock formation known as the “Elf Church”. 

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