Scenic Golden Gate Bridge is the Best!

Golden Gate Bridge Approach Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge and Surfer as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site (also location of famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Vertigo)

Golden Gate Bridge in Infrared as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site

Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center Viewpoint

Golden Gate Bridge Walkway Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge Panorama of San Francisco Bay Area (click to enlarge)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower’s Art Deco Style

Golden Gate Bridge Art Deco Lightposts

Close-up of Golden Gate Bridge’s Art Deco Lamp

Golden Gate Bridge Historic Plaque

Golden Gate Bridge Span Cable and Wire Statistics

Close-up of Single Golden Gate Bridge Cable

Golden Gate Bridge as Viewed from the Water Looking North (tours from Pier 39)

Golden Gate Bridge Span as seen from Marin Headlands Looking South (at Battery Spencer)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower as seen from Marin Headlands (at Battery Spencer)

Richard and Pam (author) at Marin Headlands by Foggy Golden Gate Bridge

Whimsical Golden Gate Bridge and Dinosaurs Card

In February this year we made a return visit to San Francisco, California.  We left just before the Pandemic and lockdown occurred.  We look forward to the day when life returns to normal.  Meanwhile we’ll enjoy thinking about the good times we had and more to come (note all pictures can be clicked to enlarge).

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge first opened on May 27, 1937.  This suspension bridge is an engineering marvel that is 1.7 miles long and contains 80,000 miles of steel wire – enough to circle the Earth three times!  Painting the bridge is a never-ending job.  Read a fascinating story about it at:  https://www.citylab.com/life/2015/04/the-fascinating-neverending-job-of-painting-the-golden-gate-bridge/390453/

The U.S. Navy originally wanted to paint the bridge black with yellow stripes.  Others wanted to paint it aluminum grey to evoke the beauty of a dirigible airship.  Architect Irving Morrow decided to keep the bridge the same color (International Orange) as the original red primer on the steel.  He thought it blended well with the nearby hills, ocean, and sky throughout the seasons. 

San Francisco is famous for its fog.  It forms most often in summer when warm air flows over the cool Pacific Ocean.  Some visitors never see the bridge because of the dense fog!  Poets have described the fog as “moving art”.  Our time-lapse video of fog streaming past the Golden Gate Bridge can be viewed at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/our-best-video-of-the-golden-gate-bridge-and-fog-time-lapse-10x-speed/

San Francisco is consistently voted one of the top ten cities in the world by travelers. The “City by the Bay” has inspired the following quotes:

Billy Graham: “The Bay Area is so beautiful that I hesitate to preach about Heaven while I am here.”

Walter Cronkite: “Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible.”

Julia Child: “It is simply a very romantic place…you couldn’t be anywhere else.”

Larry King: “The ultimate for me would be one perfect day in San Francisco. There’s no city like it anywhere.”

Rudyard Kipling: “San Francisco has only one drawback…it is hard to leave.”

Frank Sinatra: “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

And on a funny note, a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain is: “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.”

You can read about the history and features of the Golden Gate Bridge at:  https://www.goldengate.org/bridge/history-research/

Huell Howser of California’s Gold has a must-see video about the Golden Gate Bridge and the men who work there – an absolute classic and one of my favorites:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1993/12/10/golden-gate-bridge-californias-gold-407/

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: 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/

Wild Water Patterns

Water Patterns

Water Patterns

If you ever take a close look at river water, you might be surprised by the wild patterns created by sun and wind.  This picture was taken at the St. Sebastian Buffer Preserve Manatee Overlook, Florida.  It is truly nature’s art!

Bok Tower Gardens in December

Christmas Garden by Historic Home

Christmas Garden by Historic Home

Red and White Poinsettias Around Fountain

Red and White Poinsettias Around Fountain

White Holiday Table

White Holiday Table

1940s Toys under Tree

1940s Toys under Tree

Teddy Bear Christmas Tree

Teddy Bear Christmas Tree

Orange Babies Painting by Juan Ferrándiz in Historic Home

Red and Yellow Striped Chrysanthemums

Red and Yellow Striped Chrysanthemums

Green Ferns and Moss on Tree

Green Ferns and Moss on Tree

Dark Red Camellia

Dark Red Camellia

Pink Azaleas in Bloom

Pink Azaleas in Bloom

Colorful Caladium Leaf

Colorful Caladium Leaf

Blooming Display Table

Blooming Display Table

Top of Bok Tower

Top of Bok Tower

Pink Marble Water Jar Carving

Pink Marble Water Jar Carving

Gold Door of Bok Tower Reflected in Pond

Gold Door of Bok Tower Reflected in Pond

Bok Entrance Quote

Bok Entrance Quote

 

We always try to visit Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, in December.  The historic home is decorated beautifully for the holidays and the garden is always in bloom.  This year’s theme was a 1940s Christmas.  

Bok said:  “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to  you.”  It is our favorite garden in Florida!  More info about Bok Tower at Christmas is at:  https://boktowergardens.org/christmas/    All of our posts about Bok Tower Gardens are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=bok

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!

Florida ICE Sculptures: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Snoopy on Doghouse

Snoopy on Doghouse

Snoopy and Christmas Decoration Contest

Snoopy and Christmas Decoration Contest

Snoopy and Lucy Ice Skating

Snoopy and Lucy Ice Skating

Lucy and Charlie Brown

Lucy and Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown, Linus, and Little Tree

Charlie Brown, Linus, and Little Tree

Charlie Brown and Snoopy Around Decorated Tree

Charlie Brown and Snoopy Around Decorated Tree

Life Size Nativity in Crystalline Ice

Life Size Nativity in Crystalline Ice

Nativity with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus

Nativity with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus

Close-up of Baby Jesus

Close-up of Baby Jesus

Camel

Camel

12-Foot Tall Angel

12-Foot Tall Angel

Even though it is 80 degrees outside here in Florida, it is only 9 degrees inside the ICE sculpture exhibit at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando.  This year’s theme is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  Although the theme changes every year, the finale to the exhibit is always a life-size beautiful crystalline nativity.  A month before the exhibit opens around Thanksgiving, artisans are flown in from Harbin, China, to carve the ice.  The ice comes in three colors:  crystal clear, white, and colored with nine dyes.  The process is fascinating – you can read more here: http://www.marriott.com/hotel-info/mcogp-gaylord-palms-resort-and-convention-center/gaylord-christmas/csyr9pd/the-making-of-ice.mi  The last thing you see before exiting the exhibit is a stunning 12-foot-tall angel.  If you are in the area, it is well worth a visit!

Merritt Island Holiday Boat Parade

Boat Parade 1

Boat Parade 1

Boat Parade 2

Boat Parade 2

Boat Parade 3

Boat Parade 3

Boat Parade 4

Boat Parade 4

Boat Parade 5

Boat Parade 5

Boat Parade 6

Boat Parade 6

Boat Parade 7

Boat Parade 7

Boat Parade 8

Boat Parade 8

Boat Parade 9

Boat Parade 9

Boat Parade 10

Boat Parade 10

Boat Parade 11

Boat Parade 11

Saturday evening was the annual Merritt Island Holiday Boat Parade on Sykes Creek in Florida.  It is one of our favorite events of the year.  The colorful lights, reflections, and decorations of 87 boats were fun to see!  (Click on pictures to enlarge for detail.)  More info is at:  http://cffw.org/events/holiday-parades-and-parties/

Beauty in a Bubble

Bubble Rainbow

Bubble Rainbow

Bubble Group

Bubble Group

Bubble "The Fly"

Bubble “The Fly”

Bubble Streamers

Bubble Streamers

Have you ever stopped to notice how beautiful the colors are in a soap bubble?  They truly are spectacular!  

Long Beach: Art Deco Queen Mary

Queen Mary Beside Modern Day Cruise Ship (left)

Queen Mary Beside Modern Day Cruise Ship (left)

View on Top Deck of Ship

View on Top Deck of Ship

Queen Mary's Triple Stacks

Queen Mary’s Triple Stacks

Vintage Luggage Label

Vintage Luggage Label

Shipyard Room:  World's Longest LEGO Model Ship

Shipyard Room: World’s Longest LEGO Model Ship

Polished Brass Equipment of Helm

Polished Brass Equipment of Helm

Hydraulic Steering Wheel Turns 40-Ton Rudder

Hydraulic Steering Wheel Turns 40-Ton Rudder

Wireless Room (note antique microphone and inset rotary dial telephone)

Wireless Room (note antique microphone and inset rotary dial telephone)

Ship of Woods (56 species)

Ship of Woods (56 species)

Green Onyx Art Deco Style Clock

Green Onyx Art Deco Style Clock

Vintage Queen Mary Doll

Vintage Queen Mary Doll

Vintage Cunard Race Card (Neptune with his Trident Keeping Score)

Vintage Cunard Race Card (Neptune with his Trident Keeping Score)

Russian Attack Submarine Scorpion (berthed for tours beside ship)

Russian Attack Submarine Scorpion (berthed for tours beside ship)

The Queen Mary is an iconic ship that was built in 1934.   At the time she was the fastest and most luxurious ship in the world!  The beloved ocean liner sailed from 1936-1967 and is now permanently docked at Long Beach, California. Famous stars on her passenger list included Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, and Walt Disney.

The Queen Mary’s nickname is the “Ship of Woods”.   Fifty-six different kinds of wood are on display throughout her decks, including six that are now extinct.  Her grand art deco style makes her the perfect location to host the region’s annual Art Deco Festival: http://www.queenmary.com/events/art-deco-festival/.

A big celebration is planned today, May 26, 2016, for the 80th anniversary of Queen Mary’s maiden voyage:http://www.queenmary.com/events/80th-anniversary-celebration/.   

In April 2016 big plans were announced to bring her back to her former glory: 
http://la.curbed.com/2016/4/20/11467598/long-beach-queen-mary-renovation and to rejuvenate the entire area: http://la.curbed.com/2016/3/24/11299792/aquarium-pacific-long-beach-expansion.   Can’t wait to see the results! 

Los Angeles: Beautiful Getty Villa

Centerpiece of Collection:  Temple of Herakles Room

Centerpiece of Collection: Temple of Herakles Room

Intricate Yellow Floor Composed of 4,000 Separate Pieces of Marble

Intricate Yellow Floor Composed of 4,000 Separate Pieces of Marble

Mosaic Floor's Spinning Shield Motif with Head of Medusa in Center

Mosaic Floor’s Spinning Shield Motif with Head of Medusa in Center

Cube Design of Trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) Flooring

Cube Design of Trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) Flooring

Illusionist Vanishing Point Colonnade

Illusionist Vanishing Point Colonnade

Colonnade Ceiling Featuring Carved Wooden Flowers

Colonnade Ceiling Featuring Carved Wooden Flowers

Mosaic Circular Seating in Outer Peristyle Garden by Reflecting Pool

Mosaic Circular Seating in Outer Peristyle Garden by Reflecting Pool

Mosaic and Shell Fountain in East Garden

Mosaic and Shell Fountain in East Garden

Close-up of Shell Fountain

Close-up of Shell Fountain

Stemmed Cup with Seashells

Stemmed Cup with Seashells

Roman Fish Flask

Roman Fish Flask

Greek Pitcher with Lions and Panthers

Greek Pitcher with Lions and Panthers

Greek Mixing Vessel with Horses and Youths

Greek Mixing Vessel with Horses and Youths

Roman Gold Coin Belt with Emeralds, Garnets, and Sapphire

Roman Gold Coin Belt with Emeralds, Garnets, and Sapphire

Blue and Burgundy Ribbed Bowls with White Trails

Blue and Burgundy Ribbed Bowls with White Trails

Roman Tombstone Honoring Pet Dog Helena (150-200 AD)

Roman Tombstone Honoring Pet Dog Helena (150-200 AD)

The beautiful Getty Villa features antiquities of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria (6,500 BC – 400 AD).  It is tucked into a canyon along the California coast at Malibu/Pacific Palisades.  The Villa’s design was inspired by a 2000-year-old Roman country house that overlooked the Bay of Naples near Pompeii.  Many of the plants, trees, and fragrant flowers in the garden are the exact same cultivars that grew in the first century after Christ.  We visited the Getty Villa on the last day of our vacation and are so glad we did.  The artifacts and location are stunning – it makes for a wonderful day.  And the Café serves delicious Mediterranean food!  More info is at:  http://www.getty.edu/visit/villa/

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! 

Catalina Island’s Crown Jewel: 1929 Casino

Walkway to Casino

Walkway to Casino

Entrance to Casino

Entrance to Casino

Close-up of 18-foot-tall Catalina Tile Mermaid

Close-up of 18-foot-tall Catalina Tile Mermaid

Black Walnut Paneled Lobby with Seashell Theme Chairs

Black Walnut Paneled Lobby with Seashell Theme Chairs

22-Karat Gold Leaf Stars on Ceiling

22-Karat Gold Leaf Stars on Ceiling

Art Deco Avalon Theater (seats 1,154 people)

Art Deco Avalon Theater (seats 1,154 people)

Looking Toward Entrance Doors Inside Theater

Looking Toward Entrance Doors Inside Theater

1929 Exotic Peacock Mural in Theater

1929 Exotic Peacock Mural in Theater

California Desert Landscape Mural with Stylized Leaping Antelopes in Theater

California Desert Landscape Mural with Stylized Leaping Antelopes in Theater

Reproduction in 22-Karat Gold Leaf of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Above Stage

Reproduction in 22-Karat Gold Leaf of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Above Stage

Close-up of Intricate Design of Proscenium Arch Above Stage

Close-up of Intricate Design of Proscenium Arch Above Stage

1929 Page Pipe Organ in Theater (one of three in world and still in use today)

1929 Page Pipe Organ in Theater (one of three in world and still in use today)

Theater Projectors / Original Editing Room where Cecil B. DeMille Viewed Daily Island Movie Shoots

Theater Projectors / Original Editing Room where Cecil B. DeMille Viewed Daily Island Movie Shoots

Benny Goodman Poster

Benny Goodman Poster

World’s Largest Circular Ballroom (can hold over 6,000 people and has no support beams)

World’s Largest Circular Ballroom (can hold over 6,000 people and has no support beams)

Looking Straight Up at Tiffany Chandelier in Ballroom

Looking Straight Up at Tiffany Chandelier in Ballroom

Riding a Dolphin Design in Sterling Silver Leaf in Ballroom

Riding a Dolphin Design in Sterling Silver Leaf in Ballroom

Romance Promenade Overlooking Avalon Harbor

Romance Promenade Overlooking Avalon Harbor

Casino Fish Bar

Casino Fish Bar

Lyrics to Avalon, Sung by Al Jolson in 1920

Lyrics to Avalon, Sung by Al Jolson in 1920

Catalina’s historic Casino is the crown jewel of Avalon, California. Its name means “gathering place” or “entertainment” in Italian (it never hosted gambling). The Casino was built in 1929 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley and features the world’s largest circular ballroom. Benny Goodman’s Big Band music was broadcast live from there to a nationwide audience in the 1930s and 1940s. Movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Cary Grant, and more visited the Casino during that era. The ballroom is still in use today.  

The Casino reflects its island location through designs and furnishings with sea themes. The murals were painted over 3 months’ time by John Gabriel Beckman in 1929 (he had previously worked on murals at Grauman’s Chinese Theater). Murals outside above the main entrance feature ocean life, kelp forests, and an 18-foot tall Catalina tile mermaid. Murals inside the art deco Avalon Theater reflect California’s early history and environment. The Avalon Theater was used as a model to design the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The architecture of the Casino is amazing, and the setting is stunning!    (Click on any image for enlargement and more detailed information.)

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: 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/

Long Beach, California, Scenery: Real and Fake

Point Fermin Lighthouse

Point Fermin Lighthouse

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Lions Lighthouse for Sight

Lions Lighthouse for Sight

Lions Lighthouse for Sight at Night

Lions Lighthouse for Sight at Night

Parker Lighthouse Restaurant

Parker Lighthouse Restaurant

Whale Mural on Long Beach Arena

Whale Mural on Long Beach Arena

Fake Oil Island

Fake Oil Island

Oil Island "Condo" Tower to Conceal Rigging

Oil Island “Condo” Tower to Conceal Rigging

We enjoyed our visit to Long Beach, California, in August.  Some of the scenery was real, and some of it wasn’t what it appeared to be.  All of it was fun to see!

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is located 9 miles north of Long Beach.  This Victorian home is one of the oldest lighthouses on the West coast.  It was restored in 2002, and the house and colorful garden are open for tours.  Eight miles north, the Point Vicente Lighthouse sits on a cliff edge on the Pacific Ocean.  This now-automated and functioning light station was built in 1926.

At Long Beach Harbor are two unofficial lighthouses.  The scenic tower of the Lions Lighthouse for Sight is a symbol for fundraising activities for the blind.  It is lit up with colorful floodlights at night.  Another unofficial light sits in a tower at the top of Parker’s Lighthouse Restaurant.   Both functioning lights act as private aids to navigation.

Not to be missed nearby is the whale mural (Wyland Whaling Wall) on the Long Beach Arena.  It stands 10 stories tall, and was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest mural when it was painted in 1992.  The whales on it are life-size.

Long Beach is famously known as one of the top five oil fields in the nation.  Fake “islands” were created there in 1965 to conceal offshore oil drilling rigs and to enhance the natural beauty of the area.  The closest THUMS island (Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil, and Shell) is located ½ mile offshore.  These unique islands were designed by Disneyland architect Joseph Linesch.  Each one contains fake buildings to conceal oil rigging machinery and real flowing waterfalls to obscure sound.  Each island contains about 300 palm trees and 300 oil wells, and a wealth of marine life surrounds it underwater.  The overall effect is so convincing that visitors regularly ask how they can stay there. The islands were named after the four astronauts who died in a capsule fire on a NASA launch pad in 1968 (Grissom, White, Freeman, and Chaffee).  The islands celebrated their 50th anniversary of operation in October 2015.  You can watch an interesting television show about the islands by Huell Howser of California’s Gold at: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2008/01/10/oil-islands-californias-gold-10002/

Monarchs Avoid Hurricane

Monarchs Clustered on Branch in Winter in California

Monarchs Clustered on Branch in Winter in California

Wintering Monarchs on Eucalyptus Tree

Wintering Monarchs on Eucalyptus Tree

Monarch Metamorphosis Sign

Monarch Metamorphosis Sign

Monarch Caterpillar About to Pupate

Monarch Caterpillar About to Pupate

Stunning Monarch Chrysalis (jade with gold-like line and dots)

Stunning Monarch Chrysalis (jade with gold-like line and dots)

Chrysalis Clears Before Emergence

Chrysalis Clears Before Emergence

Monarch Pumps Fluid into Wings after Emergence

Monarch Pumps Fluid into Wings after Emergence

Beautiful Monarch Butterfly Ready for First Flight

Beautiful Monarch Butterfly Ready for First Flight

Close-up of Monarch Wing

Close-up of Monarch Wing

Scientists have confirmed that the Eastern North America population of Monarch butterflies successfully avoided Hurricane Patricia last week during their migration to Mexico.  The butterflies sensed the wind and humidity of the hurricane, and detoured east to take shelter in mountainous ravines.  The butterflies are healthy and are currently en route to their wintering grounds in the forests of Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (a World Heritage Site).  Monarchs cluster there in the trees to keep warm from October to March.  Monarchs living west of the Rocky Mountains winter along California’s Pacific Coast in isolated colonies from San Francisco south to San Diego.  Monarchs are the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration. You can track news and status maps of Monarch migration at: http://learner.org/jnorth/monarchs   You can help Monarch butterflies by planting flowers to provide nectar and native milkweed to lay their eggs on.

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.

World’s Oldest Koi – 226 years!

Painting of Colorful Koi

Painting of Colorful Koi

Although it may only be legend, a Japanese koi named Hanako is reported to have lived 226 years! Hanako died on July 17, 1977, after being handed down and cared for by generations of the Koshihara family in Gifu, Japan. Hanako’s age was estimated through microscopic analysis of her fish scales (a process similar to that used for tree growth rings). Although Hanako’s exact longevity may never be known, many koi do live at least 25-50 years. Koi are members of the carp family, and are highly prized as pets. Some fish are worth thousands of dollars. Koi can be trained to eat out of hand and to come when called. Their colors have symbolic meaning. Hanako was scarlet, and her name means “Flower Maid” in Japanese.  A website in which Dr. Komei Koshihara talks about Hanako, “his dear friend”, is at:  http://fishlaboratory.com/fish/koi-hanako-longest-living-fish-ever

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/

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!

Florida: December at Bok Tower Gardens

Christmas Garden by Historic Home

Christmas Garden by Historic Home

Holiday Path to Historic Home

Holiday Path to Historic Home

Red Poinsettias

Red Poinsettias

Pink Poinsettias and Amaryllis

Pink Poinsettias and Amaryllis

Holiday Dining Room in Historic Home

Holiday Dining Room in Historic Home

Silver Holiday Table in Historic Home

Silver Holiday Table in Historic Home

Christmas Tree and Harp in Historic Home

Christmas Tree and Harp in Historic Home

Christmas Tree Decorated with Red Hibiscus and Crocheted Garland

Christmas Tree Decorated with Red Hibiscus and Crocheted Garland

Christmas Tree Decorated with Knitted Red Poinsettia Flowers

Christmas Tree Decorated with Knitted Red Poinsettia Flowers

Close-up of Knitted Red Poinsettia Flowers

Close-up of Knitted Red Poinsettia Flowers

Welcome Pineapple on Door Composed of Sweetgum Seed Pods (also called gum balls or porcupine eggs)

Welcome Pineapple on Door Composed of Sweetgum Seed Pods (also called gum balls or porcupine eggs)

Bromeliad Christmas Tree in Visitor Center

Bromeliad Christmas Tree in Visitor Center

Bromeliad Wall and Poinsettias by Visitor Center

Bromeliad Wall and Poinsettias by Visitor Center

Bok Tower Gardens is especially beautiful in December (located in Lake Wales, Florida).  Plenty of flowers are always in bloom, and each room in the historic home on-site is decorated for Christmas.  It is well worth a visit!  More info is at:  http://boktowergardens.org/christmas/

UPDATE May 2018:  Bok Tower Gardens was recently recognized as one of the ten most romantic places in Florida by “Coastal Living” magazine!  Article here:  https://www.coastalliving.com/travel/gulf-coast/most-romantic-destinations-florida

Florida: Holiday Boat Parade

Boat Parade 1

Boat Parade 1

Boat Parade 2

Boat Parade 2

Boat Parade 3

Boat Parade 3

Boat Parade 4

Boat Parade 4

Boat Parade 5

Boat Parade 5

Boat Parade 6

Boat Parade 6

Boat Parade 7

Boat Parade 7

Boat Parade 8

Boat Parade 8

Boat Parade 9

Boat Parade 9

Boat Parade 10

Boat Parade 10

House with Christmas Lights Reflected in Canal

House with Christmas Lights Reflected in Canal

The Merritt Island, Florida, holiday boat parade was held on Saturday, December 20.  It was especially beautiful this year!  Everyone was happy and cheering all the colorful boats, and the night was warm and calm. 

Florida: Animals Around the Backyard Christmas Tree

Raccoon Family and Tree

Raccoon Family and Tree

Raccoons Lounging by Tree

Raccoons Lounging by Tree

Raccoon Pair and Tree

Raccoon Pair and Tree

Bunny and Tree

Bunny and Tree

Turkeys and Tree

Turkeys and Tree

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!  Best wishes!  Pam and Richard

Florida: Let’s Have Fun!

Walking on Sebastian Beach

Walking on Sebastian Beach

Watching Terns and Skimmers Flying

Watching Terns and Skimmers Flying

Boating on the Indian River Lagoon

Boating on the Indian River Lagoon

Sitting on the Dock at Dusk

Sitting on the Dock at Dusk

Designing our Personal Postcard

Designing our Personal Postcard

♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♫♪♫♪♫

Oh the weather is so delightful,

For Flo-ri-da we’re thankful.

Things to do, we can’t pick just one,

Let’s have fun, let’s have fun, let’s have fun.

♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♫♪♫♪♫

 

Wildlife Cam: Pumpkins, Raccoons, and Turkeys!

Raccoons and Pumpkins 1

Raccoons and Pumpkins 1

Raccoons and Pumpkins 2

Raccoons and Pumpkins 2

Raccoons and Pumpkins 3

Raccoons and Pumpkins 3

Raccoons and Pumpkins 4

Raccoons and Pumpkins 4

Raccoons and Pumpkins 5

Raccoons and Pumpkins 5

Raccoons and Pumpkins 6

Raccoons and Pumpkins 6

Raccoons and Pumpkins 7

Raccoons and Pumpkins 7

Turkeys and Pumpkins 1

Turkeys and Pumpkins 1

Turkeys and Pumpkins 2

Turkeys and Pumpkins 2

Turkeys and Pumpkins 3

Turkeys and Pumpkins 3

Turkeys and Pumpkins 4

Turkeys and Pumpkins 4

What a joy to see what pictures are waiting for us when we download them from the automatic wildlife camera!  It’s such a treat every time.  I placed some pumpkins outside for a Fall theme, and the raccoons and turkeys are having a wonderful time out there.  In fact, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the turkeys have been eating the pumpkin on the right!

Florida: Colorful Giant Land Crabs

Overview of Colorful Land Crab

Overview of Colorful Land Crab

Side View Showing Blue Land Crab’s Giant Claw

Side View Showing Blue Land Crab’s Giant Claw

Female Land Crab Carrying Eggs

Female Land Crab Carrying Eggs

Five Land Crabs Walking

Five Land Crabs Walking

Group of Land Crabs Crossing Sandy Road

Group of Land Crabs Crossing Sandy Road

Side View of Colorful Land Crab

Side View of Colorful Land Crab

Very Colorful Land Crab

Very Colorful Land Crab

Blue Land Crab under Stump

Blue Land Crab under Stump

White Land Crab (probably female)

White Land Crab (probably female)

Two-Inch Long Juvenile Land Crab (claw almost as big as body)

Two-Inch Long Juvenile Land Crab (claw almost as big as body)

Very Young Land Crab (too small to pinch)

Very Young Land Crab (too small to pinch)

Summer and early Fall are the best time to see colorful giant land crabs in Florida. They live along the Atlantic coast from Central to Southern Florida, and are also found along the Gulf coast. We usually see them around the time of the full moon in August and September in the Sebastian/Vero Beach area. Giant blue land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) like to live in wet sandy burrows, and need to be within 5 miles of the ocean to spawn. Only one in a million eggs survives to adulthood. The distinctive brown “fuzz” around the mouth parts of land crabs is actually a net-like pattern of hairs. It works in conjunction with the internal gills to help them “breathe” while on land. Both male and female adult land crabs have one claw bigger than the other.  The crabs can grow up to 6 inches across, and come in a variety of colors including blue, purple, red, orange, brown, and white.  More info about the life history of these fascinating crabs is at: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/blue-crabs/life-cycle/

Iceland: Charming Glaumbaer Sod Farmhouses/Folk Museum

Glaumbaer Farm-Skagafjordur Folk Museum Complex, Skagafjordur, Northern Iceland

Glaumbaer Farm-Skagafjordur Folk Museum Complex, Skagafjordur, Northern Iceland

Herringbone-Patterned Turf

Herringbone-Patterned Turf

Outside of Three Rooms in Sod Complex

Outside of Three Rooms in Sod Complex

Outside Windows Surrounded by Grass

Outside Windows Surrounded by Grass

Inside Window Looking Out (dandelions growing on roof)

Inside Window Looking Out (dandelions growing on roof)

Main Central Corridor (light beams come from glass skylights)

Main Central Corridor (light beams come from glass skylights)

Inside Closeup of Sod Walls

Inside Closeup of Sod Walls

Cookware on Stone Fireplace

Cookware on Stone Fireplace

Painted Glassware (middle jug features a swallow)

Painted Glassware (middle jug features a swallow)

Colorful Painted Chest (inscription says Year 1859)

Colorful Painted Chest (inscription says Year 1859)

Beautiful Driftwood Bureau

Beautiful Driftwood Bureau

Teapot and Box (inscription says Anna 1796)

Teapot and Box (inscription says Anna 1796)

Traditional Icelandic Instrument called the “Langspil” (similar to a violin)

Traditional Icelandic Instrument called the “Langspil” (similar to a violin)

Sheep Horn Display

Sheep Horn Display

Historic Drawing of Glaumbaer Farm

Historic Drawing of Glaumbaer Farm

The Glaumbaer Farm/Skagafjordur Folk Museum is located next to the Glaumbaerjarkirkja Church in Skagafjordur, Iceland. This charming sod farmhouse complex is preserved as it was used in the 18th and 19th centuries. The houses are built from sod laid in herringbone patterns with a stone base, and reinforced inside by imported lumber or driftwood. The farm complex contains 13 buildings or “rooms” connected by a central corridor leading to sleeping and communal areas, dining room, kitchen, pantry, blacksmith shop, storerooms, and guest rooms. Turf was used as a building material because it was readily available, provided excellent insulation, and could easily last a century. Lumber was used sparingly because it had to be imported (Iceland has few trees).   Volcanic stone was not used because the cost of mortar was too high. The antique furniture and household goods are especially interesting. More info is at: http://www.glaumbaer.is/is/information/glaumbaer-farm/glaumbaer-english-1

 

Florida’s 500th Anniversary Celebration: El Galeon Tall Ship Tour

El Galeon at Port Canaveral

El Galeon at Port Canaveral

El Galeon: Front of Ship

El Galeon: Front of Ship

El Galeon: Wooden Deck

El Galeon: Wooden Deck

El Galeon: Wheel

El Galeon: Wheel

El Galeon: Bell

El Galeon: Bell

El Galeon: Admiralty Anchor

El Galeon: Admiralty Anchor

El Galeon: Cannon

El Galeon: Cannon

El Galeon: Crow's Nest Lookout

El Galeon: Crow’s Nest Lookout

First Official Map of Florida (1584). Note Cape Canaveral is already on map.

First Official Map of Florida (1584). Note Cape Canaveral is already on map.

El Galeon Sailing at Sea (from Visitor Movie)

El Galeon Sailing at Sea (from Visitor Movie)

This year 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida (“Land of Flowers”).  In celebration, a replica 16th century Spanish tall ship named El Galeon is stopping at ports along the state’s Atlantic coast.  It is on a path similar to that taken by the explorer.  The ship is currently at Port Canaveral from May 1-12, 2013.  It is a real beauty!  The ship is 170 feet long and weighs 495 tons.  The anchor alone weighs over one ton.  The ship has 6 decks, and 3 masts with 7 sails.  Most striking is the wood, which is found throughout the ship and is gorgeous in scale and detail.  Below deck are interpretive displays.  UPDATE:  This ship will be featured in the NBC TV show “Crossbones”, and will return to port in St. Augustine in 2015 to celebrate the city’s 450th birthday.  More info is at:  https://www.facebook.com/elgaleonandalucia/

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