Desert Art: Mirror House

Mirage House of Polished Steel

Kaleidoscopic Mirrored Interior

View of Palm Springs from Inside the House

Outside of House Reflecting Wind Turbines in Distance

Mirrored House Angles

Mirrored Corner Angles

Recently we enjoyed seeing some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, California (https://www.desertx.org/).  Overall the exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017, but this exhibit will remain open until October 31st.

Artist Doug Aitken created this mirrored home of polished steel called “Mirage”.  Environment and home are blended together in this unique kaleidoscopic structure.  The view is said to be especially stunning at sunset and in moonlight.  This was a favorite and a real treat to see on the last day of our trip!

Desert Art: Mirrored Pillars

Curve of Mirrored Pillars

Pillar Row

Pillars Reflecting Sky

Authors’ Portraits in Pillars

When we visited Palm Springs recently, we were happy to see some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley (https://www.desertx.org/).  The exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017. 

These pictures show a ring of mirrored pillars called “The Circle of Land and Sky” by artist Phillip K. Smith III.  I think it would be fun to have a couple of mirrored pillars at home in the flower garden!

California: Spectacular Filoli Gardens!

Birdbath with Pink Camellia Flowers

Layered Delicate Pink Camellia Flower

White Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Hot Pink Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Red and White Camellia Flower

Bench by Yellow Daffodils and Red Camellia Tree

Yellow and White Daffodil Pair

Orange and White Daffodil

Field of Yellow Daffodils

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree and Bench

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree Flower

Branch of White Magnolia Flowers

White Magnolia Flower Pair

Bunny Statue by Flowering Tulips and Hyacinths

Filoli Gardens (south of San Francisco, California) is spectacular in spring!  The blooming flowers put on a beautiful show.  It is one of the top gardens in the United States and a must-see.  These pictures were taken in February just a week after it opened for the season.  In full bloom already were camellias, daffodils, and magnolia trees.  More info is at:  http://filoli.org/

California Hummingbirds

Male Anna’s Hummingbird’s Spectacular Pink Gorget Feathers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird on Nest

Two Tiny Eggs in Nest

Anna’s Hummingbird at Grevillea Flower

Costa’s Hummingbird’s Purple Gorget

On a recent trip to California we got lucky and saw some spectacular hummingbirds.  They are a favorite!  Hummingbirds are incredibly beautiful and full of personality.  In flight their wings beat at least 50 times per second, which sounds like a buzz when they zoom past you in the garden.  Forward flight speed reaches 30 mph, and dive speeds reach 60 mph! 

Hummingbird nests are constructed of plant material bound together with sticky, stretchy spider webs.  Lichens are attached to the outside of the nest for camouflage.  Mother hummingbirds lay two eggs.  Although each egg is less than ½ inch long and smaller than a jellybean, they represent as much as 10% of her body weight.  These little flying jewels are precious!  More fun facts about hummingbirds are at:  https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-hummingbirds-387106   A live cam on Bella’s current active hummingbird nest is at: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/bella-hummingbird-nest

Florida: Spectacular Oak Tree

Oak Tree in Black and White

Oak Tree in Black and White

This spectacular oak tree was photographed at the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary in Florida.  An entire community of organisms make their home on this tree.  

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!

Florida: Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Yamato-kan

Yamato-kan

Woodruff Memorial Bridge

Woodruff Memorial Bridge

Walk through Shinden Garden

Walk through Shinden Garden

South Gate and Stone Lantern

South Gate and Stone Lantern

Morikami Falls

Morikami Falls

Karesansui Late Rock Garden

Karesansui Late Rock Garden

Hotei, God of Happiness

Hotei, God of Happiness

Chenille Plant (also Caterpillar Plant and Kitten’s Tail)

Chenille Plant (also Caterpillar Plant and Kitten’s Tail)

Recently we visited the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida (http://morikami.org/).  The gardens, named “Roji-en: Garden of the Drops of Dew”, are meant to complement the museum.  It is a beautiful place to visit!

Florida: Sandhill Cranes are Dancing!

"Braided" Feathers Under Sandhill Crane Eye

“Braided” Feathers Under Sandhill Crane Eye

Sandhill Crane Looking at You

Sandhill Crane Looking at You

Sandhill Crane Back of Head

Sandhill Crane Back of Head

Sandhill Cranes Dancing

Sandhill Cranes Dancing

Sandhill Cranes Bill Clack

Sandhill Cranes Bill Clack

Sandhill Crane Feathers Display

Sandhill Crane Feathers Display

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

Florida: Glorious Sunrises

Golden Sunrise

Golden Sunrise

Palms and Pink Sunrise

Palms and Pink Sunrise

Purple Martin Nesting Gourds and Pink Sunrise

Purple Martin Nesting Gourds and Pink Sunrise

We’ve had the most spectacular and glorious sunrises the past week here in Florida.  What a way to start to day!

Dinosaur-like Green Iguana

Green Iguana Eye

Green Iguana Eye

Green Iguana Sunning on Rock

Green Iguana Sunning on Rock

Green Iguana in Garden

Green Iguana in Garden

We saw this adult male green iguana on a recent day trip to South Florida.  He is stunning!  Looking at his eye feels like looking at a living dinosaur.  What an amazing creature!  These Florida exotics originate from South America.  They can reach 6 feet long (look at that striped tail!) and weigh up to 18 pounds. 

Warm Wishes from Florida

Sebastian Beach and Birds

Sebastian Beach and Birds

Birds in Surf

Birds in Surf

Pair of Willets

Pair of Willets

Trio of Sanderlings

Trio of Sanderlings

Shells on Sand

Shells on Sand

Shell Bits on Beach

Shell Bits on Beach

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2015

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2015

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2016

Our Photo on Sebastian Inlet Holiday Card 2016

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

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!

Happy Town of Christmas, Florida

Welcome to Christmas Postcard

Welcome to Christmas Postcard

Permanent Christmas Tree Display

Permanent Christmas Tree Display

Close-up of Christmas Tree

Close-up of Christmas Tree

Sign Beside Christmas Tree

Sign Beside Christmas Tree

Nativity next to Christmas Tree

Nativity next to Christmas Tree

Christmas Post Office

Christmas Post Office

Christmas Postmark

Christmas Postmark

Letters are Mailed to Christmas, Florida, from Around the World

Letters are Mailed to Christmas, Florida, from Around the World

Letters to Santa Mailbox

Letters to Santa Mailbox

The town of Christmas, Florida, is very popular this time of year!  People travel from all around to have their mail postmarked at the community’s single post office.  The town is located east of Orlando, and has a Christmas display set up year round.  The sign beside the Christmas tree reads: “The permanent Christmas tree at Christmas, Florida is the symbol of love and good will – the Christmas spirit every day in the year.”  Santa jokes that it is much warmer in Florida than in the town of North Pole, Alaska.  A bulletin board inside the post office is decorated with letters to Santa from around the world.  This happy town is a fun place to visit!  And if you like hiking and bird watching, the Orlando Wetlands is located nearby (http://orlandowetlands.org/about.php).

Click Here to Read Article about Christmas Florida

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/

McKee Gardens: Nature-Themed LEGO Art

Mallard with Ducklings and Egg

Mallard with Ducklings and Egg

 Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed Flower


Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed Flower

Giant White Triumphator Lily

Giant White Triumphator Lily

Hummingbird at Trumpet Flower

Hummingbird at Trumpet Flower

Milk Snake and Field Mouse

Milk Snake and Field Mouse

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

 Pileated Woodpecker


Pileated Woodpecker

Bluebird on Feeder with LEGO Birdseed

Bluebird on Feeder with LEGO Birdseed

Bluebird on Sundial (really works!)

Bluebird on Sundial (really works!)

Garden Worker

Garden Worker

Rototiller

Rototiller

Currently on display at McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, Florida, is the exhibit “Nature Connects:  Art with LEGO Bricks” by artist Sean Kenney (www.seankenney.com).  His goal is to inspire creativity.  These nature-themed LEGO sculptures are quite impressive!

Florida: Spectacular Rocket Launch Tonight!

30 Second Exposure of Rocket Trail

30 Second Exposure of Rocket Trail

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 other 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&ll=64.70735820733395%2C-19.523818050000045&z=7  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.  I put together an Iceland travel guidebook illustrated with our best pictures here (PDF – click twice): ICELAND SLIDESHOW updated July 2019

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.  One-third of the world’s golden plovers nest in Iceland!  https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/nature_and_travel/2019/05/09/

 Click on any images to enlarge for greater detail.

Iceland: Colorful Lighthouses and Coastal Scenery

Twin Gardskagaviti Lighthouses

Twin Gardskagaviti Lighthouses

Statue of Fisherman’s Lady Looking out to Sea

Statue of Fisherman’s Lady Looking out to Sea

Orange Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Field of Buttercups

Orange Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Field of Buttercups

Reflection of Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Tidepool Nearby

Reflection of Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Tidepool Nearby

Unusual Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Unusual Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Fish Themed Murals on Warehouse attached to Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Fish Themed Murals on Warehouse attached to Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Fisherman with Fish Mural

Fisherman with Fish Mural

Fisherman with Eider Duck Mural

Fisherman with Eider Duck Mural

Fishermen in Boat Mural

Fishermen in Boat Mural

Ladies Processing Fish Mural

Ladies Processing Fish Mural

Lighthouse Theme on Vitinn Seafood Restaurant Sign

Lighthouse Theme on Vitinn Seafood Restaurant Sign

Longrangar Lighthouse

Longrangar Lighthouse

Reykjanes Lighthouse on Hill

Reykjanes Lighthouse on Hill

Gunnuhver Fumerole at Reykjanes “Smokey Point” Geothermal Area

Gunnuhver Fumerole at Reykjanes “Smokey Point” Geothermal Area

Richard by Life-Size Great Auk Statue

Richard by Life-Size Great Auk Statue

Akranes Lighthouse

Elves at Entrance

Photography Exhibit Inside

Steps to the Top

Lantern Room at Top

View from Top

Akranes: Poster on Display of Lighthouses of Iceland

We love lighthouses, and we enjoyed seeing a variety of them in Iceland.  Some lighthouses have bright colors for best contrast with the landscape.  All sit in beautiful locations by the sea.  The Reykjanes Lighthouse is particularly scenic because it sits in a geothermal area known as “Smokey Point”.  The Gunnuhver fumerole there produces a surprising amount of steam.  A life-size great auk statue stands nearby, marking the location where the last great auk lived in 1844.  A recent article discusses the possibility of using DNA to bring the great auk back from extinction:  http://www.earthtouchnews.com/all-articles/2016/september/01/can-the-great-auk-return-from-extinction/.

The Akranes lighthouse is fun because we think it looks like a rocket ship (we may be biased because we live on the Space Coast of Florida and see launches all the time).  There is a wonderful photography/poetry exhibition inside by Mak Jurgen called “I Miss the Days Chasing Lights”.  He also plans to publish a book called “Vitar” (lighthouse in Icelandic) by 2020. The view from the top is spectacular!

Mr. Ingvar Hreinsson has repaired all of Iceland’s 104 lighthouses spread out over 3,000 miles of coastline.  A recent article about him is at:  http://grapevine.is/mag/feature/2016/08/26/shine-a-light-the-icelander-who-repaired-every-single-lighthouse-in-the-country/

All of our posts about Iceland’s lighthouses are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=iceland+lighthouse.  “Viti” in Icelandic means lighthouse.

Iceland: Beautiful Historic Churches on Reykjanes Peninsula

Kalfatjarnarkirkja is Iceland’s largest rural church (built 1891)

Kalfatjarnarkirkja is Iceland’s largest rural church (built 1891)

Cherub covered with orange lichens in Kalfatjarnarkirkja cemetery

Cherub covered with orange lichens in Kalfatjarnarkirkja cemetery

Beautiful Geologic Gravestone with Agates in Cemetery at Kalfatjarnarkirkja Church

Utskalakirkja sits by the sea (built 1863)

Utskalakirkja sits by the sea (built 1863)

Colorful painted design on traditional house beside Utskalakirkja

Colorful painted design on traditional house beside Utskalakirkja

Hvalneskirkja was built with locally collected lava rock (outside) and salvaged driftwood (inside)

Hvalneskirkja was built with locally collected lava rock (outside) and salvaged driftwood (inside)

Entrance to Hvalneskirkja cemetery

Entrance to Hvalneskirkja cemetery

Kirkjuvogskirkja is one of three Icelandic churches painted black (built 1860)

Kirkjuvogskirkja is one of three Icelandic churches painted black (built 1860)

Anchor from shipwrecked American schooner Jamestown beside Kirkjuvogskirkja

Anchor from shipwrecked American schooner Jamestown beside Kirkjuvogskirkja

There are several historic churches you can visit on the scenic Reykjanes Peninsula (home of Keflavik International Airport and the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, Iceland).  Each church is unique and has a beautiful simplicity and history of its own.  “Kirkja” at the end of a word means “church” in Icelandic.   

Kalfatjarnarkirkja Church is Iceland’s largest rural church and is picture-postcard perfect.  Utskalakirkja Church sits by the sea and is near the twin Gardskagaviti lighthouses.  Many shipwrecks occurred in the area, so its cemetery contains gravestones dedicated to mariners and fishermen.  Earthen walls marked property boundaries there in the past, so the town’s name is Gardur (which means garden or earth). Beautiful Hvalneskirkja Church was built with locally collected lava rock (outside) and salvaged driftwood (inside).  It sits near the bright orange Stafnes Lighthouse.   Kirkjuvogskirkja Church is one of three Icelandic churches painted black.  Next to it is an anchor from an 1881 shipwreck of the American schooner Jamestown.  The wood and cargo of lumber salvaged from the abandoned “ghost ship” were of great value to this treeless community.  An interesting article about the fate of the ship is at: http://www.leoemm.com/jamestown_english.htm.  More info about the interesting sights that can be seen on a day trip from Reykjavik to the Reykjanes Peninsula is at:  http://www.visitreykjanes.is.   All of our posts about Icelandic churches are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=iceland+church

Iceland: Fragile Moss Fields and Tiny Wildflowers

Moss Covered Lava Field

Moss Covered Lava Field

Moss Covered Lava Ridge

Moss Covered Lava Ridge

Alpine Mouse Ears in Moss

Alpine Mouse Ears in Moss

Sea Campion

Sea Campion

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage Close-up

Moss Campion (cushion pink; lambagras)

Moss Campion (cushion pink; lambagras)

Angelica Flowers

Angelica Flowers

Fragrant Lupines

Sea Pink (Thrift)

Close-up of Sea Pink

Meadow Buttercups

Sea Mayweed (Icelandic Chamomile)

Wood Crane’s Bill

In Iceland there are vast areas of pillow-like moss covering the black lava landscape.  This unique moss is rare outside Iceland and extremely fragile.  It grows less than an inch per year, so you must never step on it.  Walking on it would be hazardous anyway, because the moss covers up lava with unseen crevices and jagged edges. 

Wildflower peak is in June and July.  Many of the flowers are tiny and grow close to the ground in response to the arctic climate.  Fields of lupines in early summer are spectacular! 

Iceland: Rainbow Colors of Seltun Volcanic Area and Graenavatn Lake

Seltun Volcanic Area Basin

Seltun Volcanic Area Basin

Seltun Volcanic Area Colors

Seltun Volcanic Area Colors

Seltun Volcanic Area Trail

Seltun Volcanic Area Trail

Seltun Volcanic Area Steaming Creek with Cotton Grass

Seltun Volcanic Area Steaming Creek with Cotton Grass

Graenavatn Lake

Graenavatn Lake

Drive to Seltun Volcanic Area by Kleifarvatn Lake

Drive to Seltun Volcanic Area by Kleifarvatn Lake

Field of Purple Lupines in Volcanic Landscape

Field of Purple Lupines in Volcanic Landscape

Outdoor Fish Drying Racks

Outdoor Fish Drying Racks

South of Reykjavik you can walk on the Seltun Hot Springs Boardwalk through an active geothermal field of hissing steam vents, bubbling mud pots, and boiling hot springs.  This colorful volcanic landscape sits on a fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  Nearby is unusual blue-green Graenavatn Lake, which formed in a crater left by an explosion of overheated ground water over 6,000 years ago.  Its beautiful color is the result of minerals and warmth-loving algae in the water.  Also nearby is Kleifarvatn Lake, which is one of the deepest lakes in Iceland.  Legend says it is the home of a giant serpent. In June the road to this area near Krysuvik passes by fields of purple lupines – it is a gorgeous drive! 

Close to Reykjavik the road passes by huge outdoor fish drying racks  – you can both see and smell it!  Dried fish (hardfiskur) is a favorite snack of Icelanders.

Iceland: Golden Circle Fun

Blue Bubble of Strokkur Geyser Eruption

Blue Bubble of Strokkur Geyser Eruption

Birthplace of Icelandic Parliament in 930 AD

Birthplace of Icelandic Parliament in 930 AD

Outside of Historic Thingvellir Church

Outside of Historic Thingvellir Church

Inside of Thingvellir Church (1683 Pulpit)

Inside of Thingvellir Church (1683 Pulpit)

Silfra Fissure at Junction of Tectonic Plates (popular diving spot in crystal clear water)

Silfra Fissure at Junction of Tectonic Plates (popular diving spot in crystal clear water)

Close-up of Gullfoss Waterfall Gorge

Close-up of Gullfoss Waterfall Gorge

Trio of Beautiful Icelandic Horses

Trio of Beautiful Icelandic Horses

Although we toured Reykjavik’s Golden Circle when we visited Iceland previously in 2014, we decided to revisit the area again to see old favorites and things we missed the last time around.  First stop was the geyser Strokkur, which erupts about every 10 minutes.  Our slow-motion video below shows how it swells into a churning blue bubble before erupting skyward (the first few seconds are amazing!).  Rain or shine it never disappoints. 

We also stopped at Thingvellir National Park.  Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best place in the world to see the junction of tectonic plates.  This location is the birthplace of the Althing, the world’s oldest existing parliament where Icelanders first assembled in 930 AD. 

Within view is beautiful Thingvellir Church.  It was built in 1859 and its pulpit dates to 1683. 

A popular activity in the area is to dive in the Silfra fissure, which straddles the North American and Eurasian continents.  The water is pristine and exceptionally clear (https://www.dive.is/dive-sites/silfra/).

After walking the trail at spectacular Gulfoss waterfall, we stopped for a picnic lunch along the road.  A friendly herd of Icelandic horses kept us company in this scenic landscape.

Iceland: Gorgeous Waterfalls

Seljalandsfoss  Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Flow into Basin

Seljalandsfoss Flow into Basin

Skogafoss Waterfall with Angelica Flowers

Skogafoss Waterfall with Angelica Flowers

Mighty Skogafoss Waterfall

Mighty Skogafoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall with Dandelions and Buttercups

Gullfoss Waterfall with Dandelions and Buttercups

Gullfoss Waterfall: Tourists on Rock Ledge

Gullfoss Waterfall: Tourists on Rock Ledge

Close-up of Gullfoss First Tier Waterfall

Close-up of Gullfoss First Tier Waterfall

Iceland is filled with gorgeous waterfalls – the variety and beauty are amazing!  Our favorite waterfall is Seljalandsfoss (on the south coast).  You can walk behind its curtain of water.  Another favorite nearby is Skogafoss.  A short stroll there leads up to the base of this mighty waterfall.  The most powerful waterfall of all is Gullfoss (along Reykjavik’s Golden Circle Tour).  This waterfall generates more power than Niagara and features a double tier of falls.  Many other beautiful waterfalls can be seen by simply driving around the Icelandic countryside.

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