Florida: Spectacular Rocket Launch Tonight!

30 Second Exposure of Rocket Trail

30 Second Exposure of Rocket Trail

Afterglow in Sky

Afterglow in Sky

Raccoon Watching from Tree

Raccoon Watching from Tree

What a spectacular launch tonight!  The payload is a high capacity United States military communications satellite on a Delta 4 rocket.  The first picture is a 30-second exposure of the rocket trail.  The second picture shows the afterglow in the sky after blastoff.  The last picture shows a baby raccoon that was watching me from a nearby tree.  Gorgeous view on a warm night here in Florida! 

San Diego: Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Beautiful View of San Diego from  Cabrillo National Monument

Beautiful View of San Diego from
Cabrillo National Monument

Statue of Cabrillo

Statue of Cabrillo

Point Loma Lighthouse

Point Loma Lighthouse

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Overlook of Gray Whale "Highway"

Overlook of Gray Whale “Highway”

A popular place to visit near San Diego is Cabrillo National Monument.   At the park’s southern end are some of the most accessible tidepools in southern California.  The rocky trails there overlooking the Pacific Ocean are very scenic.  Nearby stands a statue of Juan Cabrillo overlooking beautiful San Diego Bay.  It commemorates his landing there in 1542.  At the top of Point Loma Peninsula stands the old Point Loma Lighthouse.  It was in active service from 1855-1891, but was retired because the light was often above the fog line and was thus invisible.  A short stroll from the lighthouse leads to the Gray Whale Overlook.  It is an excellent place to watch for whale spouts in winter. 

Emma Minter, who lived at the lighthouse as a child in 1878, said:  “What had I for playthings?  The nicest in the world!  Pretty shells, colored stones, kelp babies.  It seems to me that I can remember every day of my young life there.”  

Information on visiting Cabrillo National Monument is at:  https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

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!  

Iceland: Stunning Snaefellsjokull Glacier and Goodbye

Pink Midnight Sunset over Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Pink Midnight Sunset over Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Strawberry Moonrise over Ocean

Strawberry Moonrise over Ocean

Close-up of Strawberry Moon

Close-up of Strawberry Moon

Snaefellsjokull Glacier and Lupines

Snaefellsjokull Glacier and Lupines

Close-up of Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Close-up of Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Icelandic Mountain in Rear-View Mirror

Icelandic Mountain in Rear-View Mirror

The scenery on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is stunning!  The Snaefellsjokull Glacier there dominates the landscape and was the entrance point for scientists in the Jules Verne classic “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.  Jokull in Icelandic means glacier.  

One evening at midnight in June the sunset turned the mountain pink, while a strawberry moon rose over the ocean.  The view from our beachfront cabin was magic!  Making it even better was when three wild horses galloped by on the beach.  Some people think the mountain has high magnetic energy.  Belief is strong in the area that elves and hidden people live in the lava.  Plans are currently underway to draw a map detailing the area’s enchanted and magical places: http://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/news/2016/06/06/belief_in_elves_very_strong_in_west_iceland/

Iceland is an amazing and must-see destination for any naturalist or photographer.  Although it is now in our rear-view window as I plan our next adventure, I am sure we will visit again someday.  I have prepared a custom Google map of places of interest to us in Iceland: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?hl=en&authuser=0&mid=1skvfqsNlWpCilCOaJc2tjreDGnc   Although we didn’t manage to see everything due to time or weather constraints, we did manage to see a majority of places.  Feel free to ask any questions you may have if you are planning your own trip. 

Iceland: Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain and Budakirkja (Church at Budir)

Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain Water Flow to Sea

Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain Water Flow to Sea

Close-up of Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain and Waterfalls

Close-up of Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain and Waterfalls

View from Kirkjufell toward Waterfalls

View from Kirkjufell toward Waterfalls

Close-up of Waterfalls

Close-up of Waterfalls

Kirkjufell and Field of Buttercups along the Sea

Kirkjufell and Field of Buttercups along the Sea

Geological Diagram of Kirkjufell

Geological Diagram of Kirkjufell

Budakirkja (Church at Budir)

Budakirkja (Church at Budir)

Trail from Budakirkja to Coast

Trail from Budakirkja to Coast

Trail from Budakirkja Leads to Volcanic Caldera Nearby

Trail from Budakirkja Leads to Volcanic Caldera Nearby

On the north side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is famous Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain – the most photographed mountain in Iceland!  The mountain’s peak rises up like a steeple.  A diagram of its geological sediments looks like a layer cake.  The lowest part of the mountain contains 1 million-year-old ice age fossils.  This area is especially scenic with its mountain, fjord, and waterfalls. 

An actual church of historic interest is Budakirkja on the south side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  This painted black church in the wild lava landscape was built in 1848. 

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”. 

Iceland: Great for Birding!

Puffin Pair Beside Underground Nest Burrow

Puffin Pair Beside Underground Nest Burrow

Arctic Tern Flying over Field of Buttercups

Arctic Tern Flying over Field of Buttercups

Arctic Terns and Chicks

Arctic Terns and Chicks

Harlequin Ducks in Heavy Surf

Harlequin Ducks in Heavy Surf

Fulmar Pair

Fulmar Pair

Fulmar on Colorful Lava Cliff

Fulmar on Colorful Lava Cliff

Black-Legged Kittiwake Pair

Black-Legged Kittiwake Pair

Rescued Kittiwake Chick

Rescued Kittiwake Chick

Pointed Eggs of Cliff-Nesting Sea Birds

Pointed Eggs of Cliff-Nesting Sea Birds

Whooper Swan Family on Lake

Whooper Swan Family on Lake

White Wagtail on Porch

White Wagtail on Porch

Golden Plover Arrival Signals Start of Spring

Golden Plover Arrival Signals Start of Spring

Iceland is the best for birds!  Nesting there every spring and early summer are 60% of the world’s puffins, and 20-30% of the world’s arctic terns.  Arctic terns have the longest migration ever recorded.  One tern weighing a mere 4 ounces set a record this year (2016) by flying 59,650 miles pole to pole during its twice annual migration!   http://www.audubon.org/news/how-tern-broke-record-longest-known-migration  That adds up to 1.8 million miles of flight over a 30 year lifetime, which equals four round trips to the moon!  Arctic terns are diligent parents and will drive off anyone who gets in their territory.   A video showing the abundance of arctic terns in a nesting area on the Reykjanes Peninsula (southwest of Reykjavik) is below.

We were excited to see our first Harlequin ducks in the rough surf off western Iceland – a life bird for us.  They have the most striking feather pattern.  Iceland is the Harlequin ducks’ only European breeding ground.  Another unusual sea bird we saw was the Fulmar, which has tube-like nostrils to excrete excess salt.  We saw them most often on cliffs nesting next to gulls and kittiwakes.  A fun fact is that many sea birds have pointed eggs that roll in a circle, which stops them from falling off rock ledges.

We particularly enjoyed seeing Whooper swans nesting at marshes and lakes.  Their soft grey cygnets are so fluffy.  White wagtails nest in Iceland in June.  We watched a pair constantly bringing insects to their babies in a nest box on the porch.  The European golden plover is a happy bird in Iceland.  Tradition says that its arrival signals the start of spring.  Click on any images to enlarge for greater detail.

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