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

California: Long Beach Aquarium

Bicolor Anthias

California Moray Eel

Clown Fish

Clown Triggerfish

Rockmover or Dragon Wrasse

Leafy Sea Dragon

Giant Green Anemones

Strawberry Anemones

Moon Jellies

Spotted Lagoon Jellies

Zebra Shark

Fin Whale

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

The Aquarium of the Pacific is a gem in Long Beach, California.  The displays are wall to ceiling and cover a variety of habitats.  You can also go out on whale watching excursions by aquarium naturalists from the dock outside.  An exciting expansion of the aquarium is currently underway.  We definitely will return again!  More info is at:  http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/

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/

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!

Monterey Bay Aquarium is Great!

Striped Pyjama Squid

Scrawled Filefish

Sea Gooseberry

Orange Sea Nettles

Baja Tropical Reef Tank

Orange Garibaldi

Sea Otters Sleeping on Beach Nearby at Moss Landing

Sea Otters Returning to Water

Sea Otter and Sea Gull

Raft of Sea Otters

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful place to visit – it is one of the top aquariums in the country!  It is located on the beautiful California coast south of San Francisco.  Up to 2,000 gallons per minute of fresh sea water constantly flows through the exhibits.  

We especially enjoyed seeing a recent display featuring the striped pyjama squid.  These shy cuttlefish have never been shown in the United States before now.  More info is at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/138692614238/were-geeking-out-over-the-newest-addition-to-our

Animators from Pixar Studios visited the aquarium before animation began on the movie “Finding Dory”.  They studied octopus, sea otters, and shorebirds in detail.  That attention to detail shines through in the film, and hopefully inspires a new generation of children to love the ocean too!

Iceland: “Pompeii of the North” Museum

Ferry Approach to Island of Heimaey

Ferry Approach to Island of Heimaey

Cliffs at Entrance to Harbor

Cliffs at Entrance to Harbor

Wall Mural Near Ferry Terminal

Wall Mural Near Ferry Terminal

Ash-Filled House on Display at Eldheimar Museum ("Pompeii of the North")

Ash-Filled House on Display at Eldheimar Museum (“Pompeii of the North”)

1973 Photograph of Fissure of Fire By Town

1973 Photograph of Fissure of Fire By Town

1973 Photograph of Church and Erupting Volcano

1973 Photograph of Church and Erupting Volcano

Nature Display at Saeheimar Aquarium

Nature Display at Saeheimar Aquarium

Mineral Chalcedony at Saeheimar Aquarium

Mineral Chalcedony at Saeheimar Aquarium

Permanent Resident Toti, Rescued Puffin at Saeheimar Aquarium (nonbreeding colors)

Permanent Resident Toti, Rescued Puffin at Saeheimar Aquarium (nonbreeding colors)

Wild Puffin Landing at Cliffside Nesting Colony

Wild Puffin Landing at Cliffside Nesting Colony

Sheep Grazing in Volcanic Landscape

Sheep Grazing in Volcanic Landscape

If you travel to Heimaey in the Westmann Islands off the south coast of Iceland, you can visit the Eldheimar Museum.  It is known as the “Pompeii of the North” because it displays houses that were buried by volcanic ash in 1973.  For months before the eruption began, a little girl told everyone in the village that she dreamed an eruption was coming.  Her mother told her that was ridiculous because the volcano had not erupted in over 5,000 years.  On January 23 at 2 am, though, her mother looked out the window and saw a fissure of fire on the ridge above the house.  The lava was coming!  Fortunately there had been poor weather earlier that day so all the fishing boats were in port. The people were quickly evacuated and the fight was on to save the town.  One man’s crazy idea to spray sea water on the advancing lava to divert its flow actually worked, and the harbor was saved. 

We enjoyed our visit to Heimaey and highly recommend the trip (30 minute ferries to the island are available in summer).  Highlights were the Eldheimar Museum (http://eldheimar.is/en/), a spectacular puffin colony (http://visitwestmanislands.com/page/birdwatching-in-vestmannaeyjar-iceland), and of course the island’s abundant natural beauty (http://www.visitvestmannaeyjar.is/).

UPDATE JUNE 2019:  A new outdoor beluga whale sanctuary and museum was constructed here in the Westman Islands.  The Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary is the first of its kind in the world!  Two beluga whales named Little White and Little Grey were rescued from a small concrete aquarium in Shanghai and arrived in Iceland on June 19, 2019:  https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/news/2019/06/20/beluga_sisters_have_arrived/  They are adjusting well to their new home.  These “sea canaries” will live life in an open sea pen in the harbor, with access to an enclosed pool if weather conditions temporarily warrant it.  Their lives will be greatly improved under the best possible conditions, since they could never survive in the wild.  You can follow updates about them at:  https://belugasanctuary.sealifetrust.org/en/

Beluga whales are extremely intelligent, calm, inquisitive, and social animals.  Sea Life Trust boat tours will take visitors to see the bay where the belugas live, so we hope to see them next time we visit Iceland!

Florida: Beautiful Beach Weather!

Waves at Sebastian Beach

Waves at Sebastian Beach

Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

Manatee Snort

Manatee Snort

Spotted Ray

Spotted Ray

Snook Surrounded by Tiny Greenies

Snook Surrounded by Tiny Greenies

Needlefish

Needlefish

Orange Boring Sponge

Orange Boring Sponge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Beautiful Turquoise Water

Beautiful Turquoise Water

We make frequent trips to Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida, to walk out on the fishing pier and stroll on the beach.  The water is especially pretty right now, and there is always lots to see!  You can view a live cam at:  http://www.sebastianinletcam.com/

Florida: Gorgeous Beach Day!

Boardwalk to Beach

Boardwalk to Beach

Summer Day at Sebastian Beach

Summer Day at Sebastian Beach

Marked Sea Turtle Nest Sites

Marked Sea Turtle Nest Sites

Sea Turtle Nest Caution Sign

Sea Turtle Nest Caution Sign

Sea Turtle Nest Totals

Sea Turtle Nest Totals

Today was a gorgeous day at Sebastian Beach, Florida.  The weather and water are warm, and the sea turtles are busy nesting at night.  In fact as of today, the area has recorded the second highest count ever of documented sea turtle nests.  Scientists rope off the nest sites to keep the eggs safe until the turtles hatch.  Great time of year!

UPDATE:  Final sea turtle nesting totals at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on August 27, 2016, are:  Loggerhead – 20,376; Green – 1,295; Leatherback – 72, and Kemp’s Ridley – 1.

Florida: Orlando Eye Complex

Orlando Eye Observation Wheel

Orlando Eye Observation Wheel

View at Top of Wheel

View at Top of Wheel

View East with Lockheed Martin in Foreground. On a clear day without haze you can see east to Atlantic Coast and VAB at Kennedy Space Center.

View East with Lockheed Martin in Foreground. On a clear day without haze you can see east to Atlantic Coast and VAB at Kennedy Space Center.

View of Big and Little Sand Lakes Looking West Toward Orlando Theme Parks

View of Big and Little Sand Lakes Looking West Toward Orlando Theme Parks

View Looking West with Round Dome of Spaceship Earth Visible at Disney's Epcot

View Looking West with Round Dome of Spaceship Earth Visible at Disney’s Epcot

Zebra Moray Eel at SEA LIFE Aquarium

Zebra Moray Eel at SEA LIFE Aquarium

Wolf Eel Guarding Ball of 10,000 Eggs

Wolf Eel Guarding Ball of 10,000 Eggs

Green Moray Eel

Green Moray Eel

Queen Triggerfish

Queen Triggerfish

Lookdown Jack

Lookdown Jack

Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper

Grey Reef Shark

Grey Reef Shark

Giant Pacific Octopus

Giant Pacific Octopus

Green Anemone in Pacific Rock Pool

Green Anemone in Pacific Rock Pool

Moon Jelly

Moon Jelly

Steve Jobs Figure at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Steve Jobs Figure at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

At 400 feet tall, the Orlando Eye is the tallest observation wheel on the East coast of the United States. It opened in 2015 and offers a beautiful 360 degree view of Central Florida. Thirty glass enclosed air-conditioned capsules are suspended from the wheel and slowly rotate at 1 mile per hour, completing the circle within 20 minutes. The wheel is lit up by 64,000 LED themed lights at night.

Other activities at the Orlando Eye Complex include the SEA LIFE Aquarium and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The aquarium is active in the local community with marine conservation, rescue, and protection. Madame Tussauds’ brand has been in business for over 200 years. Each wax figure in the museum takes up to 8 months to complete, and is accurate down to the placement of each hair on the head. Clothes that the figures wear are either donated by the celebrities or accurately reflect what the celebrity owns. It is a fun place to visit, especially with guests. More info is at: https://www.officialorlandoeye.com/

Catalina Island: Flying Fish!

Historic Catalina Flying Fish Tour Boat Blanche W

Historic Catalina Flying Fish Tour Boat Blanche W

Vintage Spotlights

Vintage Spotlights

Vintage Flying Fish Spotting Postcard

Vintage Flying Fish Spotting Postcard

Vintage Catalina Flying Fish Postcard

Vintage Catalina Flying Fish Postcard

Summer Flying Fish Festival Logo

Summer Flying Fish Festival Logo

1915 Postcard Featuring Child Feeding Old Ben the Sea Lion at Dock

1915 Postcard Featuring Child Feeding Old Ben the Sea Lion at Dock

The waters offshore Catalina Island deliver a special treat to visitors in summer – the chance to view flying fish at night. We went out on the historic wooden boat Blanche W. built in 1924. The boat was named after chewing gum magnate William Wrigley’s first granddaughter, and features open air mahogany benches in the back. Spotlights (vintage World War One, 40-million candle-power) mounted on the front of the boat were used to scan the water for fish. At one point we watched a pelican join in the fun by diving for fish when they jumped out of the water. What a memorable night! A wonderful TV show about Catalina’s flying fish by Huell Howser of “California’s Gold” is at:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1999/08/01/flying-fish-californias-gold-1009/

Catalina Island: Underwater Tour

Semi-Submersible Tour

Semi-Submersible Tour

Underwater Viewing

Underwater Viewing

Abundant Fish by Windows

Abundant Fish by Windows

Kelp Bass

Kelp Bass

Bright Orange Garibaldi

Bright Orange Garibaldi

Santa Catalina Island Kelp Forest Creatures Identification Guide

Santa Catalina Island Kelp Forest Creatures Identification Guide

When we visited Catalina Island, we went on an underwater semi-submersible tour (other ways to view sea life include snorkeling, diving, and glass bottom kayaking). Numerous marine preserves surround the island and protect vast numbers of fish. Our favorite fish was the orange garibaldi – they are very feisty and often approach divers (learn more at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/garibaldi). The fun part of the tour was never knowing what we’d see next!

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Wild Baby Sea Otter Born in Outdoor Tidepool

Holiday e-Card by Monterey Bay Aquarium

Holiday e-Card by Monterey Bay Aquarium

A wild baby sea otter was born in the outdoor tidepool at Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, on December 20, 2015.  The cutest present to the Aquarium ever!  The mother and pup have direct access to the ocean and are free to come and go as they please.  Links and adorable pictures are at:

http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135606363553/the-squee-heard-round-the-world

http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135726438723/wild-otter-mom-and-pup-update

The picture above was posted online by the Aquarium on Christmas Day:  http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135916080178/may-your-holiday-season-be-warm-and-bright-thank

UPDATE March 5, 2016:  Another wild mother sea otter gave birth in the Monterey Bay Aquarium tidepool!  Read about it and watch video at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/140578637168/welcome-to-the-world-little-otter

Florida: Gorgeous Beach Weather in Fall

Beach Morning Glory Vines Covering Sand

Beach Morning Glory Vines Covering Sand

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Sanderling

Sanderling

Ghost Crab and Shells

Ghost Crab and Shells

Juvenille Ghost Crab

Juvenille Ghost Crab

Moon Jelly over Acorn Barnacles

Moon Jelly over Acorn Barnacles

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

White Ibis

White Ibis

Wood Stork Portrait in Black and White

Wood Stork Portrait in Black and White

Fall weather is great in Florida for long walks at the beach.  We often visit Sebastian Inlet State Park.  The views all around are a constant delight!

California: Blue Whales!

Blue Whale Surfacing (click any pictures to enlarge)

Blue Whale Surfacing (click any pictures to enlarge)

Notice Two Small Dark Remora Fish Hanging On Near Blue Whale's Small Dorsal Fin

Notice Two Small Dark Remora Fish Hanging On Near Blue Whale’s Small Dorsal Fin

Blue Whale Blowhole and Back

Blue Whale Blowhole and Back

Close-up of Blue Whale Blowhole for Breathing

Close-up of Blue Whale Blowhole for Breathing

"Footprint" of Smooth Water Left Behind When Blue Whale Dives

“Footprint” of Smooth Water Left Behind When Blue Whale Dives

Hammerhead Shark Fins

Hammerhead Shark Fins

Sea Lions on Dana Point Marina Buoy

Sea Lions on Dana Point Marina Buoy

Red Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser

Double Crested Cormorant

Double Crested Cormorant

Our Welcome Back Sign

Our Welcome Back Sign

Recently we visited southern California.  We wanted to see blue whales – the largest creature to ever live on Earth!  Blue whales are bigger than the largest dinosaur.  They can reach up to 100 feet long and weigh up to 200 tons.  Their heart is the size of a small car, and their largest blood vessel (the aorta) is large enough for a person to crawl through.  Blue whales eat 2-4 tons of tiny shrimp-like krill per day during feeding season.  They are the loudest animal on the planet – their songs can be heard over 1,000 miles away!  Baby blue whales weigh 2-3 tons at birth, and gain 200 pounds per day for the first year.  Their life span is 80-110 years.  

Blue whales are endangered – only 10,000-25,000 remain.  The California coast in summer has the highest concentration of blue whales in the world.  Best places to see them are the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, and the Farallon Islands off San Francisco.  We went on a whale watching tour with Captain Dave at Dana Point (his Dolphin Safari whale watching tours are the best, and he is a leader in whale rescues).  We were thrilled to see two blue whales!  Awesome!    Included below is a 28-second timelapse video of the Dana Point Marina at Dusk.  A previous post about Captain Dave’s Whale Watching Tours is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/southern-california-best-whale-and-dolphin-watching-at-dana-point/

Florida: Sebastian Beach and Fishing Jetty

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Black Skimmer on Beach

Black Skimmer on Beach

Beach Morning Glory

Beach Morning Glory

We always enjoy visiting Sebastian Inlet State Park.  The beach is beautiful, and we never know what we’ll see from the fishing jetty.  More info is at: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Sebastian-Inlet

Florida: Artistic Sea Turtle Statues

“Ethel” at Environmental Learning Center

“Stormy” at Orchid Fire Station

“Ridley in the Garden” at Rock City Gardens

“Reflections” at McKee Botanical Garden

Painted sea turtle statues can be found throughout the arts community of Vero Beach, Florida. The statues were auctioned off years ago by Turtle Trax to raise money for mental health awareness.  The theme was “Overcoming Hurdles with Turtles”.  I am impressed by the artistic talent and effort that goes into each one of these decorated statues!

The sea turtle nesting season is going very well here so far at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Sebastian, Florida. As of July 11, 2015, current local totals are 10,550 loggerhead nests, 5,561 green turtle nests, and 55 leatherback sea turtle nests.

Fossil Seashells: Hidden Beauty

Florida Fossil Seashells Under Normal Light

Florida Fossil Seashells Under Normal Light

Fossil Seashells Under UV Light

Fossil Seashells Under UV Light

Similar Shells Today

Similar Shells Today

A recent scientific article describes how hidden patterns can be revealed by viewing fossilized seashells under UV light. I had to try this myself! I dug out our box of Florida fossils and looked at the chalky white seashells under a UV blacklight. Like magic – the patterns appeared! Nature is truly amazing. The detailed article on glowing shells is at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0120924.

California Beach Treasures

California Coast South of San Francisco

California Coast South of San Francisco

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Rocky Ledge on San Mateo Coast

San Mateo Coast: “Pig” Rock

San Mateo Coast: Tafoni Rock

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Tafoni Rocks

Tafoni Rocks

Interesting Rock Patterns

Interesting Rock Patterns

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Abalone Shell on Pebble Beach

Close-up of Abalone Shell

Japanese Fishing Float

Japanese Fishing Float

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Clear Spiky Gelatinous Shells of Corolla Sea Butterflies and Seaweed

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

Green Anemone in Tidepool

Green Anemone in Tidepool

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

The California coastline south of San Francisco is very rocky and scenic. At low tide there are all sorts of interesting things to see on the beach and in the tidepools.  Surprisingly turban snails can live up to 30 years! Sometimes you find jellyfish, salp, and pyrosomes washed in from Monterey Bay.  A day at the ocean is always fun!  (Click on the pictures above for additional stories and links.)  Great info with amazing pics of jellies and salp/siphophores is at: 

https://www.jellywatch.org/

https://roaring.earth/giant-deep-sea-worm-discovered/

Monterey Bay Aquarium is the Best!

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle Swimming

Sea Turtle Swimming

Spotted Comb Jelly

Spotted Comb Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Fluorescent Coral

Fluorescent Coral

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has the best exhibits!  It has been rated best in the nation for kids.  Ocean life is rich and diverse, and the creatures that live there are utterly fascinating.  I can never get enough!  All of our posts featuring Monterey Bay Aquarium are at:   https://naturetime.wordpress.com/category/california/northern-california/monterey-bay-area/monterey-bay-aquarium/

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Fantastic Tentacles Exhibit!

 

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles "Myths Prevailed" Display

Tentacles “Myths Prevailed” Display

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie "It Came from Beneath the Sea"

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie “It Came from Beneath the Sea”

Tentacles "Early Influences" Display

Tentacles “Early Influences” Display

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

"Night of the Ammonites", Ray Troll, 1998

“Night of the Ammonites”, Ray Troll, 1998

"Colossal Octopus" Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

“Colossal Octopus” Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

"Gamochonia" Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

“Gamochonia” Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Mechanical Octopus Display

Mechanical Octopus Display

Bigfin Reef Squid

Bigfin Reef Squid

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Chambered Nautilus

Chambered Nautilus

Squid Eggs

Squid Eggs

Richard's Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

Richard’s Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

We just got back from a visit to California, and tremendously enjoyed seeing the new Tentacles Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The exhibit features animals in the cephalopod family, including octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and nautilus.  They are masters of disguise and quick color change artists – it has to be seen to be believed!(http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/how-octopuses-and-squids-change-color)

Octopus are known for their intelligence (https://orionmagazine.org/article/deep-intellect/), and are said to be as smart as cats.  Each one has its own unique personality.  Octopus recognize and greet their favorite people (and sometimes they deliberately squirt people they do not like).  A link to one of my favorite pictures posted last year by the aquarium is at:  http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/17955182992/why-were-so-attached-to-the-giant-pacific 

A few years ago one of the night watchmen at the Monterey Bay Aquarium saw an octopus crawling on the floor.  Apparently at night it would leave its tank and travel to other tanks for a midnight snack!  That solved the mystery of the missing fish.  More info about the Giant Pacific Octopus is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/octopus-and-kin/giant-pacific-octopus 

The Tentacles Exhibit is the best!  More info about these amazing animals is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/exhibits/tentacles  As usual, click on any of the pictures in the post to enlarge and get more detailed information.

UPDATE:  An amazing video and pictures of squid egg cases are at this link:  http://deepseanews.com/2015/03/whats-this-viral-video-mystery-blob-hint-its-not-a-pyrosome/

An outstanding book to read is by Sy Montgomery – “The Soul of an Octopus:  A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness”, 2016.

Happy New Year from Florida!

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull

Sebastian Beach, Florida

Sebastian Beach, Florida

Cannonball Jellyfish

Cannonball Jellyfish

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Happy New Year!  Warm wishes for a year ahead filled with peace, beauty, and joy.

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: Whale Watching Near the Arctic Circle

Scenic Dalvik Marina

Scenic Dalvik Marina

Arctic Ship with Snowflake Design

Arctic Ship with Snowflake Design

Wooden Boat in Harbor

Wooden Boat in Harbor

House Nestled in Valley

House Nestled in Valley

Fjord's Snowy Mountains

Fjord’s Snowy Mountains

Humpback Tail

Humpback Tail

Humpback Surfacing

Humpback Surfacing

White Beaked Dolphins

White Beaked Dolphins

Icelandic Whales Poster

Icelandic Whales Poster

Icelandic Fish Poster

Icelandic Fish Poster

Iceland is a great place for whale watching in summer!  Marine wildlife commonly seen includes humpback whales, minke whales, white beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises. We went whale watching out of Dalvik in late June (at the edge of the Arctic Circle – 30 miles north of Akureyri).  The day of our tour seemed to be one of the best weather days of the year – temperature was 65°F with sunny skies, calm winds, and flat seas.

The humpback whales were impressive to see!  Interestingly, humpbacks are widely known for protecting other animals from orcas.  Between 1951-2012 there are 115 scientifically documented cases of humpbacks shielding from killer whale attack various species including Weddell seals, gray whale calves, dolphins, sea lions, and ocean sunfish.   There is even a documented case of a humpback protecting a diver from a shark.  Dolphins are also well known for aiding other species.  The sea holds many secrets and surprises! 

After watching humpback whales and white-beaked dolphins in the fjord, we stopped to fish on the way back. Within 10 minutes there was enough pollack and cod to feed everyone on the boat. That fresh-grilled fish dripping in butter back at the harbor was unbelievably delicious!  This area was one of our favorite places of the entire trip – it is unbelievably scenic!  Info on Arctic Sea Tours is at:  https://www.arcticseatours.is/

Florida: Manatee Love

Manatee Swimming Offshore Sebastian Beach

Manatee Swimming Offshore Sebastian Beach

Manatee Mating Herd in Shallow Water

Manatee Mating Herd in Shallow Water

Mating Manatees (3 males and 1 female)

Mating Manatees (3 males and 1 female)

Manatee Named "Barney"

Manatee Named “Barney”

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

In Florida, manatee mating activity peaks in spring and early summer. When wildlife societies receive calls about beached manatees this time of year, they explain that it is natural behavior and manatee love is in the air. A female manatee will usually be pursued by several males into shallow water, and that forms a mating herd.  Florida’s West Indian manatee is an endangered species, so it is a real privilege to witness such an event. Best of all, a baby manatee will arrive a year later! At Sebastian Inlet State Park today, we saw 8 manatees off the pier in the ocean, and a mating herd of 4 on the lagoon side.  A manatee named “Barney” swam beside the jetty (named by surfers for the barnacles on his skin). 

Wild Orcas Live Long Lives

Trio of Wild Orcas in Alaska

Trio of Wild Orcas in Alaska

Wild Orca Pair

Wild Orca Pair

Close-up of Wild Orca

Close-up of Wild Orca

An orca estimated to be 103 years old was spotted returning to the Vancouver/Seattle area of the Pacific Northwest this week.  The matriarch known as “Granny” looked healthy and was seen leading a pod of 25 other family members.  Orcas are known for the strong bonds they form with their offspring, and often stay together for life.  Amazing story!  More info is at:  http://blog.seattlepi.com/bigscience/2014/05/12/oldest-living-orca-granny-visits-nw-over-mothers-day-weekend/#9102105=0&9399107=0&12348103=0&23307101=0   

We took these wild orca pictures when we visited Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, many years ago.

Southern California: Best Whale and Dolphin Watching at Dana Point!

Gray Whale Close to Beach

Gray Whale Close to Beach

Gray Whale Spout

Gray Whale Spout

 

Back Bumps (knuckles) of Gray Whale

Back Bumps (knuckles) of Gray Whale

Group of Mother, Baby, and Adult Escort Whales

Group of Mother, Baby, and Adult Escort Whales

Dolphin (left) and Gray Whale (right) Playing Together

Dolphin (left) and Gray Whale (right) Playing Together

Sea Lions on Buoy

Sea Lions on Buoy

Common Dolphin Jumping

Common Dolphin Jumping

Dolphins Swimming

Dolphins Swimming

We recently returned from a trip to Southern California. Our favorite day was spent whale watching off Dana Point (between Los Angeles and San Diego).  We went out on Captain Dave’s special catamaran named Manute’a that has 2 glassed-in underwater viewing pods.  I can’t say enough about his whale and dolphin watching tours – they are the BEST!

The weather on April 21 was perfect – sunny, warm, and the seas were calm. Dana Point is a landmark for the gray whales during their annual migration between Alaska in summer and Mexico in winter (where mother whales give birth in Baja’s calm lagoons). In spring mother whales hug the coast with their new babies as they travel north, thus making them easy to spot. As a bonus during the trip, Captain Dave released a drone to film unique behavior he had never seen before – mother whales were teaching their babies how to sift mud off the bottom for food.  We ended up seeing 7 gray whales, 1 fin whale, and over 200 common dolphins.  It was especially sweet watching the dolphins playing with the whales!

More info about Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari is at:  http://www.dolphinsafari.com/    His beautiful 5 minute viral video is at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo_f8mV5khg&feature=youtu.be&hd=1  (you can skid the ad).  Not only is Captain Dave an award-winning filmmaker, he is also licensed to rescue whales that are in trouble. This trip was so amazing that we hope to return again sometime in summer to see the blue whales – the largest living creatures on Earth.  Life in the ocean is incredible!  Below is our one minute cell phone video of dolphins – footage was taken both above deck and below (in the underwater viewing pod).

 

Lionfish in Florida

Lionfish in Aquarium

Lionfish in Aquarium

Lionfish are now seen frequently in Florida waters. These beautiful fish are native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. DNA evidence suggests that all lionfish here can be traced back to 6-8 female lionfish that were released into the Atlantic Ocean. The first reported lionfish in Florida waters was caught by a fisherman offshore Dania in October 1985. The next report was of 6 red lionfish seen swimming in Biscayne Bay shortly after Hurricane Andrew washed an aquarium off a seawall there in 1992. Since each female lionfish can lay up to 2 million eggs per year, their numbers can grow quickly! Fishermen are being encouraged to catch them, since they are non-native and unbalance the natural ecosystem. Many restaurant owners have now added lionfish to their menus (the meat is firm and white and tastes like grouper). If you catch a lionfish, don’t touch the spines – they are venomous and will sting you.

Florida Beach in Winter

Sebastian Beach Waves

Sebastian Beach Waves

Scotch Bonnet Shell

Scotch Bonnet Shell

Fishing Jetty

Fishing Jetty

Tidal Cove

Tidal Cove

9 Armed Sea Star

9 Armed Sea Star

Willet Eating a Crab

Willet Eating a Crab

Snowy Egret (notice the bright yellow feet)

Snowy Egret (notice the bright yellow feet)

Black Skimmers and Beach Sunflowers

Black Skimmers and Beach Sunflowers

Royal Terns (male displaying to unimpressed female on right)

Royal Terns (male displaying to unimpressed female on right)

Herring Gull Sleeping

Herring Gull Sleeping

Florida beaches are delightful in winter.  Occasionally a sweater is needed, but otherwise it is great weather for being outside and walking on the sand.  These pictures were taken at Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s central Atlantic coast (east of Orlando).

Noisy Fish

Sausalito Marina

Sausalito Marina

Sausalito (north of San Francisco) is famous for its humming toadfish.  In July and August the fish create quite a din under houseboats in the marina.  Each mating call is droned in perfect A flat for at least an hour at a time.  Toadfish hum, growl, and grunt by vibrating the muscles above their swim bladders at 6,000 times per minute – twice the speed of a hummingbird’s wings!  A funny article about a Humming Toadfish Festival there in 1989 is at:  http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/26/us/sausalito-journal-voice-of-the-turtle-no-toadfish-love-song.html

Fish have disturbed residents in other places too, such as black drum in Cape Coral, Florida, and cusk eel in Block Island, Rhode Island.  Each time it happens, residents express disbelief that fish could possibly make that much noise!  A delightful article with sound links of various fish is at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/08/science/08fish.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1    Another link with a drop-down box to sounds in the sea is at:  http://www.dosits.org/audio/marineinvertebrates/snappingshrimp/?CFID=4294156&CFTOKEN=80301649\

Fantasea the Manatee Mermaid

Fantasea the Manatee

Fantasea the Manatee

Fantasea's Seashell Hat

Fantasea’s Seashell Hat

Fantasea's Seashell Tail

Fantasea’s Seashell Tail

Fantasea's Delightful Portrait

Fantasea’s Delightful Portrait

Fantasea the Manatee greets travelers at Melbourne International Airport, Florida.  She was created as part of a series of manatee statues called “Sea Cows on Parade” to promote awareness and conservation of Florida’s manatees.  A sign beside her says, “Fantasea the Manatee, the mermaid of the sea, beckons you to live your dreams, and swim away with me”.

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