Joshua Tree National Park – A Favorite!

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Mojave Mound Cactus

Mojave Mound Cactus

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks

Close-up of Rock Formation

Close-up of Rock Formation

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

We always enjoying visiting Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of California – it is one of our favorites! 

The spiny Cholla Cactus Garden is a wonderful place to take a careful walk (no sandals or flip-flops allowed). We got extra lucky when we visited because a sun ring formed in the sky above us – amazing!  More info on how sun halos form is at: http://earthsky.org/space/what-makes-a-halo-around-the-moon  

Joshua trees are fun to see because they come in so many shapes and sizes as a result of the environment. They are a member of the lily family. The rocky landscape is quite scenic, and is criss-crossed by multiple earthquake faults.  The San Andreas Fault forms the southern boundary of the park. More info about these faults is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/faults.htm   More info about visiting Joshua Tree National Park is at: http://www.joshuatree.org/

 

Anza Borrego: Galleta Meadows Sky Art

Grasshopper and Scorpion Pair

Grasshopper and Scorpion Pair

Infrared Grasshopper

Infrared Grasshopper

Infrared Scorpion

Infrared Scorpion

Merriam's Tapir

Merriam’s Tapir

Infrared Desert Landscape

Infrared Desert Landscape

Giant Tortoise

Giant Tortoise

African Elephant

African Elephant

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Gold Miner and His Mule

Gold Miner and His Mule

Willys Jeep

Willys Jeep

Sand Verbena

Sand Verbena

Flowering Opuntia Cactus

Flowering Opuntia Cactus

Epic Desert Flower Bloom in Spring 1998

Epic Desert Flower Bloom in Spring 1998

Every time we visit Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California, we always make time to see more of Ricardo Breceda’s metalwork creations at Galleta Meadows.  He carefully considers the placement of each statue in the landscape for best effect.  New “Sky Art” is constantly being added to the desert plain.  A driving tour map is at: http://www.galletameadows.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=69.   Previous posts about the sculptures are at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=galleta

Pink Florida “Snow”

Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Pink Large Flower Pusley

Pink Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Flying to Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Flying to Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Sticking Head into Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Sticking Head into Large Flower Pusley

Green Bee on Large Flower Pusley

Green Bee on Large Flower Pusley

Great Egret Sitting in Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Great Egret Sitting in Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Wood Stork Standing in Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Wood Stork Standing in Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Right now we see fields of pink “Florida Snow” when driving around town.  These fields are composed of Large Flower Pusley, which is also known as Mexican Clover (species Richardia grandiflora). The honeybees are crazy for it, so never run barefoot through these flowers.  We see bees sticking their heads far into the flower cups to drink the sweet nectar, and also collecting balls of white pollen.  These flowers are a delightful treat in winter!

Florida: Spectacular Sunrise and Hole Punch Clouds

Spectacular Florida Sunrise

Spectacular Florida Sunrise

Purple Martin Gourds and Sunrise

Purple Martin Gourds and Sunrise

Hole Punch Clouds and Trail

Hole Punch Clouds and Airplane Trail

National Weather Service Satellite View and Explanation of Hole Punch Clouds

National Weather Service Satellite View and Explanation of Hole Punch Clouds

We had a spectacular sunrise here in Florida yesterday – the colors were amazing!  The peak only lasted a few minutes.  There were also “hole punch” clouds in the sky.  They form when an airplane passes through a supercooled cloud layer. Since the cloud’s water droplets are chilled even more by passing over the wings, the droplets freeze into ice and fall out of the sky (thus leaving a hole if the plane punched through the cloud layer, or a trail/tunnel if it flew through it).

Iceland: Magical Landscapes

Stunning Low Altitude Rainbow in Landscape

Stunning Low Altitude Rainbow in Landscape

Low Altitude Rainbow Close to Ground

Low Altitude Rainbow Close to Ground

Close-up of Low Altitude Rainbow

Close-up of Low Altitude Rainbow

Glacial Mountain with Field of Lupines

Glacial Mountain with Field of Lupines

Close-up of Fragrant Lupines

Close-up of Fragrant Lupines

Farm with Hay Bales in Field (looks like giant marshmallows), Northern Iceland

Farm with Hay Bales in Field (looks like giant marshmallows), Northern Iceland

Dalvik Peninsula Mountains with Glacial Stream, Northern Iceland

Dalvik Peninsula Mountains with Glacial Stream, Northern Iceland

Tabletop Mountain Formed When a Volcano Erupted Under a Glacier, Northern Iceland

Tabletop Mountain Formed When a Volcano Erupted Under a Glacier, Northern Iceland

Old Volcanic Plug, South Coast

Old Volcanic Plug, South Coast

Volcanic Cone, Northern Iceland

Volcanic Cone, Northern Iceland

Bjarnaflag: Country's First Geothermal Power Station, Northern Iceland

Bjarnaflag: Country’s First Geothermal Power Station, Northern Iceland

Volcanic Moonscape Used for Training Apollo Astronauts, Near Reykjavik

Volcanic Moonscape Used for Training Apollo Astronauts, Near Reykjavik

Three Rock Pillars Said to be Trolls Turned to Stone at Sunrise, South Coast

Three Rock Pillars Said to be Trolls Turned to Stone at Sunrise, South Coast

Laufskalavarda: Tradition Calls for Travelers to Pile Up Rock Cairns to Bring Good Luck on Journey, South Coast

Laufskalavarda: Tradition Calls for Travelers to Pile Up Rock Cairns to Bring Good Luck on Journey, South Coast

Isolated Home with View of Snowy Mountains, Northern Iceland

Isolated Home with View of Snowy Mountains, Northern Iceland

Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall

Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall

Close-up Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall Windows

Close-up Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall Windows

Departure:  Fly-Over Greenland's Glaciers

Departure: Fly-Over Greenland’s Glaciers

Iceland is one of the top places we have ever visited – we can’t wait to visit again someday!  We were constantly surprised by the stunning natural beauty of this magical land.  And the people are truly wonderful too – they have been voted the friendliest in the world.  It was a great trip all around!

Iceland: Best Bird Sightings

Puffin with a Beautiful Colorful Bill

Puffin with Colorful Bill

Puffin Pair on Water

Puffin Pair on Water

Arctic Terns (baby eel in bill)

Arctic Terns (baby eel in bill)

Arctic Tern Calling

Arctic Tern Calling

Arctic Tern Flying

Arctic Tern Flying

Arctic Tern Chick

Arctic Tern Chick

Black Tailed Godwit

Black Tailed Godwit

Greylag Goose and Buttercups

Greylag Goose and Buttercups

Male Eider Duck

Male Eider Duck

Female Eider Duck with Chicks

Female Eider Duck with Chicks

Red Shank on Post

Red Shank on Post

Red Shank and Lupines

Red Shank and Lupines

Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher

Mating Pair of Whooper Swans

Mating Pair of Whooper Swans

Whooper Swan Sitting on Nest

Whooper Swan Sitting on Nest

Golden Plover

Golden Plover

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

White Wagtail on Volcanic Rock

White Wagtail on Volcanic Rock

Great Auk Memorial (stands 5 feet tall)

Great Auk Memorial (stands 5 feet tall)

Birds on Roadway Caution Sign

Birds on Roadway Caution Sign

We visited Iceland the last 2 weeks of June, and the bird watching was incredible! Half of the world’s Atlantic puffins breed there in summer. One of the easiest ways to see puffins is take a short boat ride out of Reykjavik Harbor to a nesting colony offshore. Arctic terns are abundant along the coast. The 4 ounce birds have the longest annual migration of any animal. They travel from the north to south poles round trip every year – over 40,000 miles!  Arctic terns live up to 34 years, so over a lifetime a bird has flown the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back!  A website about arctic tern migration is at: http://www.arctictern.info/  Golden plovers are famous among Icelanders for heralding spring.  Many bird sightings can be made simply in the course of driving around. This country is a must-do for bird watchers!   A handy website on the most commonly seen Icelandic birds is at: http://www.iceland-nh.net/birds/background_birds.html  

Iceland: Beautiful Historic Churches

Vidimyrakirkja (Turf Church), Northern Iceland

Vidimyrakirkja (Turf Church), Northern Iceland

Vidimyrakirkja Entrance

Vidimyrakirkja Entrance

Glaumbaejarkirkja  (Glaumbaer Church), Northern Iceland

Glaumbaejarkirkja (Glaumbaer Church), Northern Iceland

Glaumbaejarkirkja  (Glaumbaer Church) Inside

Glaumbaejarkirkja Inside

Glaumbaejarkirkja  (Glaumbaer Church) Wooden Pipe Organ

Glaumbaejarkirkja Wooden Pipe Organ

Thingeyrarkirkja (Stone Church), Northern Iceland

Thingeyrarkirkja (Stone Church), Northern Iceland

Thingeyrarkirkja Stone Entrance

Thingeyrarkirkja Stone Entrance

Thingeyrarkirkja Historic Altar

Thingeyrarkirkja Historic Altar

Thingeyrarkirkja Blue Ceiling with Gold Stars

Thingeyrarkirkja Blue Ceiling with Gold Stars

Hallgramskirkja, Reykjavik

Hallgramskirkja, Reykjavik

Kalfatjarnarkirkja, Near Reykjavik

Kalfatjarnarkirkja, Near Reykjavik

Kalfatjarnarkirkja View of Whale Bone and Coast

Kalfatjarnarkirkja View of Whale Bone and Coast

Utskalakirkja, Near Reykjavik

Utskalakirkja, Near Reykjavik

Utskalakirkja Cemetery Ship's Propeller Memorial

Utskalakirkja Cemetery Ship’s Propeller Memorial

Utskalakirkja Cemetery Ship's Wheel Memorial

Utskalakirkja Cemetery Ship’s Wheel Memorial

Hvalneskirkja, Near Reykjavik

Hvalneskirkja, Near Reykjavik

Hvalneskirkja Side View

Hvalneskirkja Side View

Hvalneskirkja Entrance

Hvalneskirkja Entrance

Strandarkirkja (Beach or Miracle Church), South Coast

Strandarkirkja (Beach or Miracle Church), South Coast

Strandarkirkja Inside

Strandarkirkja Inside

Strandarkirkja Star Patterned Ceiling

Strandarkirkja Star Patterned Ceiling

Strandarkirkja Beaded Angel Tapestry

Strandarkirkja Beaded Angel Tapestry

Strandarkirkja Foot-High Elf Houses

Strandarkirkja Foot-High Elf Houses

Vikurkirkja, South Coast

Vikurkirkja, South Coast

Every town in Iceland, no matter how small or isolated, seems to have its own historic church. Usually it is perched high on a hill or overlooking the water. We loved the attention to detail and beauty of these unique churches. Some of the buildings are made of concrete or colorful corrugated iron to withstand the harsh weather and winter wind; others are made of stone or turf (sod).  Christianity was adopted in this country around 1000 AD, and 80% of the population is Lutheran. That said, Icelanders are free thinking and embrace people of all faiths.  “Kirkja” at the end of a word means “church” in Icelandic.   Click on any of these pictures to bring up further details and traveling advice.

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