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!

Florida in Winter

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

White Ibis at Lagoon

White Ibis at Lagoon

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Alligator in Pond

Alligator in Pond

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

In Florida we enjoy an outdoor lifestyle year round.  Although it may get chilly from time to time when winter cold fronts blow through from the north, the weather usually warms back up to 70°F within a few days.  That means we go outside and enjoy the beach, gardens, and wildlife. 

Florida is home to over 500 species of birds, which makes it one of the top birdwatching destinations in the world.  Our local birding and wildlife festival is the largest in the nation!  Info about the festival is at:  http://www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org/   Come on down and enjoy nature in the Sunshine State!  

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

Our Florida Yard in Fall

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Red Passion Flower

Red Passion Flower

Goldfish Vine

Goldfish Vine

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Here are scenes from our Florida yard in November.  So many beautiful flowers blooming all the time, and the baby raccoons are adorable!

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: 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!

Screech Owl Dad to 50 Babies!

Gonzo the Screech Owl

Gonzo the Screech Owl

Gonzo Profile

Gonzo Profile

Fuzzy Owlet in Nesting Gourd in Our Backyard

Fuzzy Owlet in Nesting Gourd in Our Backyard

Baby Screech Owl (our mascot)

Baby Screech Owl (our mascot)

Fluffy Owlets in Yard

Fluffy Owlets in Yard

Baby Screech Owl Snuggled Next to Teddy Bear

Baby Screech Owl Snuggled Next to Teddy Bear

Gonzo the Eastern Screech Owl has lived at the Florida Wildlife Hospital for the past 12 years. Since he could not be released back into the wild, he has become a local ambassador for wildlife. He is especially busy during nesting season, because he acts as a foster parent and role model for rescued baby owls. This past year Gonzo set a record by acting as a surrogate Dad to over 50 babies! Gonzo feeds the fluffy owlets, and they observe and learn from him the behaviors that will help them survive in the wild. All of Gonzo’s adopted babies this year were successfully released back into nature. More info about the Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary is at:  http://www.floridawildlifehospital.org/   

We’ve hosted several screech owl families in our Florida backyard (two pictures above are reposted favorites).  Owls are the absolute cutest!

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/

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: 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: 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/

Florida: Artistic Sea Turtle Statues

“Stormy” at Orchid Fire Station
“Stormy” at Orchid Fire Station
“Ridley in the Garden” at Rock City Gardens

“Ridley in the Garden” at Rock City Gardens

“Reflections” at McKee Botanical Garden

“Reflections” at McKee Botanical Garden

“Ethel” at Environmental Learning Center
“Ethel” at Environmental Learning Center

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!  A list of the statues is at:  https://verovine.com/news/turtle-trax/

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.

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!

Around the Yard

Deer Walking Across Lawn

Deer Walking Across Lawn

Close-up of Deer's Antler Buds

Close-up of Deer’s Antler Buds

Mama Turkey with Her One Surviving Chick

Mama Turkey with Her One Surviving Chick

Sandhill Crane Feeding Young Chick

Sandhill Crane Feeding Young Chick

Sandhill Crane Chick and Daisies

Sandhill Crane Chick and Daisies

Sandhill Cranes Walking Away in Step

Sandhill Cranes Walking Away in Step

Lubber Grasshopper Sitting in Stapeliad Starfish Flower

Lubber Grasshopper Sitting in Stapeliad Starfish Flower

Lubber Grasshopper Babies

Lubber Grasshopper Babies

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly by Pond

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly by Pond

Fragrant Frangipani Flowers are used in Hawaiian Leis

Fragrant Frangipani Flowers are used in Hawaiian Leis

Queen Butterfly on Fireworks Gomphrena Flower

Queen Butterfly on Fireworks Gomphrena Flower

One of our favorite things to do is to take a walk around the yard.  We never know what surprises we will see!  Do you have a favorite sighting in your yard?

Beautiful Deer Visits Yard

Deer Hello

Deer Hello

Deer Eating Corn for Turkeys

Deer Eating Corn for Turkeys

Deer Portrait

Deer Portrait

What a nice surprise out our home office window – a beautiful deer was walking around our yard!  She had wandered in since I had left the gate open.  I had been hoping to get a picture of a deer in our area, because our neighborhood is called “Deer Run”. She is expecting, so maybe we’ll see a little fawn soon!

Florida: Pink Spoonbills are Nesting!

Goodwin Marsh

Goodwin Marsh

Rookery Island

Rookery Island

Spoonbill Landing on Nest

Spoonbill Landing on Nest

Young Spoonbill Being Fed

Young Spoonbill Being Fed

Close-up of Feeding Time

Close-up of Feeding Time

Young Spoonbill Takeoff

Young Spoonbill Takeoff

Adult Spoonbill Flying by Fledgling

Adult Spoonbill Flying by Fledgling

Colorful Adult Spoonbill Flying

Colorful Adult Spoonbill Flying

Critical Wildlife Area Sign – Respect the Nest

Critical Wildlife Area Sign – Roseate Spoonbill Nest

It is spoonbill nesting time here in Florida!  We enjoy seeing spoonbills nesting in spring on the Rookery Island at Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area – Stick Marsh Critical Wildlife Area near Fellsmere, Florida.  Love those beautiful pink birds!

Best Caterpillar Ever!

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

This past weekend I was working in the flower garden and found this Tersa sphinx moth caterpillar under our tapioca bush. Sphinx/hummingbird moths come out at dusk to drink flower nectar. They especially love pentas. I couldn’t get over the realistic eye spots on the caterpillar – I think it was pretending to be a snake so that birds wouldn’t eat it. It had gold spots on its body, along with delicate shades of pink and blue.  After taking pictures, and I carefully placed it back outside exactly where it was when I found it. What a spectacular caterpillar!

Screech Owls are Nesting!

Screech Owl in Nest Box

Screech Owl in Nest Box

Screech Owl with Erect Feather Tufts

Screech Owl with Erect Feather Tufts

Screech Owl's Round Yellow Eyes

Screech Owl’s Round Yellow Eyes

Screech Owl Wink

Screech Owl Wink

I did some gardening yesterday after work, and had a wonderful surprise.  I looked up and saw mama screech owl watching me!  She moved into her nest box right on schedule for spring.  Amazingly she continued to pose while I took pictures.  Lucky day!  Eastern screech owls pair up and remain together for life.  Other posts about screech owls are at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=screech+owl 

Florida: Sea Glass and Ocean Gems Symposium

Melbourne Beach

Melbourne Beach

Boardwalk at Barrier Island Center

Boardwalk at Barrier Island Center

Entrance at Barrier Island Center

Entrance at Barrier Island Center

Signpost

Signpost

White Bowl of Sea Glass

White Bowl of Sea Glass

Blue Bowl of Sea Glass

Blue Bowl of Sea Glass

Red Bowl of Sea Glass

Red Bowl of Sea Glass

Sea Glass on Table

Sea Glass on Table

Old Auto Headlight Sea Glass Fragment

Old Auto Headlight Sea Glass Fragment

Our Recent Sea Glass Find (5 inches long)

Our Recent Sea Glass Find (5 inches long)

On Saturday we attended the First Sea Glass and Ocean Gems Symposium at the Barrier Island Center in Melbourne Beach, Florida.  The Center is located in the heart of Archie Carr Refuge, a major nesting site for sea turtles. The festival celebrated not only sea glass, but also sea life and all treasures found at the beach.   There were educational displays, along with arts and crafts on the back deck overlooking the ocean.  The sea glass displayed was collected on local beaches over the past 40 years – some of it washed in from ancient shipwrecks! More info about the Center is at:  https://www.facebook.com/BrevardCountyBarrierIslandCenter/   and  https://www.brevardfl.gov/EELProgram/Sanctuaries/BarrierIslandSanctuary

Purple Martin Update

Purple Martin Update, Winter 2015, Back Cover

Purple Martin Update, Winter 2015, Back Cover

Purple Martin Update, Winter 2015, Front Cover

Purple Martin Update, Winter 2015, Front Cover

We are pleased to see the Winter 2015 issue of Purple Martin Update magazine has our sunrise photo on the back cover!  It shows our nesting gourd rack silhouetted against a dramatic pink sky (taken in mid-December 2014).  The front cover of the magazine shows a purple martin with a geolocator tag.  The miniature tag allows scientists to track the birds to their migratory home in Brazil, and thus help with conservation.  The first purple martins arrived in our yard for nesting season on February 3. Now the purple martins are going in and out of the gourds and singing all the time.  Spring has arrived here in Florida!  If you would like to host martins, more info is at:  http://www.purplemartin.org/

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.

Florida: Pretty Turkeys!

Turkey Pair

Turkey Pair

Turkey's Iridescent  Feathers

Turkey’s Iridescent Feathers

Male Turkey Walking

Male Turkey Walking

Wild turkeys are displaying now in Florida.  These pictures were taken in our backyard this past week.  Male turkeys puff up and fan their feathers to impress the females.  They also stamp their feet and turn around in circles.  Usually the females pretend to be unimpressed and pointedly ignore them.  Turkey feathers are beautiful and shimmer with colors in the sun (bronze, gold, purple, and green).  A turkey’s gobble can be heard over a mile away, and is unique to each one.  They are intelligent  social animals that form lasting bonds.  Baby turkeys flock with their mother all year.  I am always surprised by how fast they can run and fly.  What a treat to see them every day! 

 

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: National Elephant Center

National Elephant Center Open House

National Elephant Center Open House

Elephant Trunk in Air

Elephant Trunk in Air

Elephant Eating a Pumpkin

Elephant Eating a Pumpkin

Elephant Picking Up Grass with Trunk

Elephant Picking Up Grass with Trunk

Elephant Enrichment Sign

Elephant Enrichment Sign

Hurricane-Proof Elephant Barn

Hurricane-Proof Elephant Barn

Elephant Chow

Elephant Chow

Elephants Love Oranges

Elephants Love Oranges

Elephant Treat:  Marshmallow Bliss

Elephant Treat: Marshmallow Bliss

Elephant Portrait in Black and White

Elephant Portrait in Black and White

The National Elephant Center opened its doors to elephants in May 2013 in Fellsmere, Florida (only 4 miles south of our home). The center provides both short and long-term care for elephants in need, and is dedicated to advancing elephant care in North America. An open house was held recently, which was a real treat since visitors are not usually permitted. The next open house will be held in summer 2015 (for members only – join at http://www.nationalelephantcenter.org/).

African elephants are the world’s largest land mammal (the biggest on record measured 13 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed 12 tons). Elephants are very intelligent and have excellent memories. They are social creatures that exhibit a wide range of emotion. Their soft feet and 7-foot trunks are exquisitely sensitive, and can be used to detect subsonic rumbles from elephants several miles away. Their hearing is excellent too; they can even flap their ears during hot weather to stay cool.

Trunks play a vital role in the life of elephants. A trunk is so strong that it can push over a big tree, and so delicate that it can pick up a small berry. The trunk is essentially an elongated nose and upper lip that is used for smell, taste, and even as a breathing snorkel underwater. The trunk is also used for eating and drinking. For eating, elephants use their trunks to pick up food and bring it to their mouths. For drinking, elephants use their trunks to suck up water and squirt it in their mouths. The trunk can also be used to spray water or dust onto the skin to protect it from sunburn and biting insects. Trunks can even be used to trumpet alarm calls to the herd. But most endearingly, trunks are twined together during greetings or used for caresses (elephant “hugs”). Mother elephants use their trunks to stay in constant touch with their babies – helping them, bathing them, and even picking them up to go over obstacles. A baby elephant sometimes follows its mother by using its trunk to hold onto her tail. Baby elephants have to learn how to control their trunks, and can only make little squeaks with it when they are small. And just as human babies get comfort from sucking their thumbs, elephant babies get comfort from sucking their trunks – too cute!

Currently the center has two elephants living on the 225 acre site. Twenty acres are now fenced, and the hurricane-proof barn can hold up to 9 elephants. Over the long term the facility could be expanded to hold up to 70 of these magnificent animals (it is even possible that rhinoceros could be added to the mix). Elephants at the sanctuary are free to forage and roam on the land, which includes a watering hole and mud wallow. Their natural diet is supplemented with nutritious pellets and fruit. Every day an elephant eats 165-330 pounds of food, and drinks 20-50 gallons of water.

Keepers tell a wonderful story about the first time the elephants found the abandoned orange grove on sanctuary land. The matriarch female pulled down her first orange and tasted it. She got a look of utter joy on her face, and then started gobbling down oranges as fast as she could. Orange season just started here again in Florida, so the elephants are happy!

Elephants are taught to come over to the vet daily at the barn for health inspection, and when they do so, they are given a special treat. We were told that an elephant’s idea of utter bliss is to eat a big mouthful of soft marshmallows.  Me too!  A news video by NBC’s Today Show about the National Elephant Center is at: http://www.today.com/video/today/53380016#53380016   A touching story by the PBS show “Nature” about elephant emotion is at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/echo-an-elephant-to-remember-elephant-emotions/4489/

Florida: Birds Pretty in Pink!

Spoonbill Walking

Spoonbill Walking

Spoonbill Pose

Spoonbill Pose

Spoonbill Feeding

Spoonbill Feeding

Spoonbill Wing Stretch

Spoonbill Wing Stretch

Flamingo Light Pink

Flamingo Light Pink

Flamingo Light Pink Closeup

Flamingo Light Pink Closeup

Backlit Flamingo

Backlit Flamingo

Flamingo Dark Pink

Flamingo Dark Pink

Flamingo's Dark Pink Feathers

Flamingo’s Dark Pink Feathers

Flamingo Face

Flamingo Face

Flamingo Feeding

Flamingo Feeding

Florida has two large pink birds that you might see when visiting – spoonbills and flamingos. Both get their pretty pink color from carotenoids in the shrimp and algae they eat.  The more carotenoids they eat, the pinker they get!  Flamingos are pink all the way through – even their skin, blood, and egg yolks are tinged pink!  

Roseate spoonbills are named for their spatulate-shaped bills – they are the pink bird you will see in the wild. Spoonbills feed by touch, and swing their bills back and forth through the water to find food. Their sensitive bills instantly snap shut on small fish, insects, and crustaceans. They can be found throughout the state, especially near coastal mangroves in central and southern Florida. Places we’ve seen spoonbills include Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (in the mangroves along Black Point Drive); Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; nesting in the wild at both the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Gatorland (in Kissimmee); and various other places including the Viera Wetlands, Orlando Wetlands, and the Sarasota/Tampa area.

Flamingos are usually seen in formal exhibits, but a wild group of 147 birds was discovered living in western Palm Beach County in May 2014. It is believed they migrated from their native breeding range in the Caribbean and Mexico. Long ago there had been a small breeding population deep in the Everglades, so scientists hope the birds get reestablished in the state.  A flamingo feeds by holding its bristle-lined bill upside down as a scoop to sieve out brine shrimp, algae, and other aquatic organisms from the water. Flamingos are an iconic symbol of Florida, and can be seen at many zoos, wildlife conservation centers, and theme parks (in summer they can be seen on their mud-cup nests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Update March 2015:  The wild flamingos have returned to the Palm Beach County Storm Water Treatment Area 2 west of Miami!  Field trips are hosted by the Audubon Society of the Everglades (http://www.auduboneverglades.org/).

Update March 2018:  Conservationists have documented historical evidence that flamingoes are native to Florida and are on an upswing coming back in the wild!  http://www.audubon.org/news/its-official-flamingos-belong-florida

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!

Fascinating Dung Beetles

Large Florida Dung Beetle in Hand (yes I will pick up just about anything)

Large Florida Dung Beetle in Hand (yes I will pick up just about anything)

Baby Dung Beetle on White Sandy Trail (combed antennae are extremely sensitive to smell)

Baby Dung Beetle on White Sandy Trail (combed antennae are extremely sensitive to smell)

Dung Beetle Doing Headstand Pushing Mushroom Cap Backwards

Dung Beetle Doing Headstand Pushing Mushroom Cap Backwards

Burrowing Owl Family

Burrowing Owl Family

Did you know that Florida has dung beetles? We saw this Canthon species of dung beetle on a sandy trail at the Sebastian Buffer Preserve. “Tumblebugs” are nature’s ultimate recyclers, and they make the world a better place. They push and roll vegetable matter or round balls of dung into a hole they dig underground (thus aerating and fertilizing the soil). They reduce fly populations and disease by burying waste. Without them cattle ranchers would be in a heap of trouble.

Dung beetles push their food backwards with their hind legs, which makes them look like they are doing headstands. They can easily push 50 times their weight, and are one of the few insects that care for their young. They’ve been around since the age of dinosaurs, and can orient themselves using the Milky Way.

Florida burrowing owls often place dung or pieces of rotting fruit around their burrows (which is tool use). It is believed they do this because it attracts dung beetles – their favorite snack! Egyptians considered scarabs (a kind of dung beetle) to be sacred. They believed a scarab pushed the round ball of the sun across the sky.

Automatic Wildlife Camera: Lots of Surprises

Blue Jays Have Beautiful Feathers

Blue Jays Have Beautiful Feathers

Bobwhite Quail with Feathers Fluffed Up

Bobwhite Quail with Feathers Fluffed Up

Bunny Portrait

Bunny Portrait

Blue and Pink Turkey Head

Blue and Pink Turkey Head

Red Bellied Woodpecker Drinking Nectar from White Bird of Paradise Flowers

Red Bellied Woodpecker Drinking Nectar from White Bird of Paradise Flowers

Stunning Boat-Tailed Grackle Feathers

Stunning Boat-Tailed Grackle Feathers

Dove and Red Flowers

Dove and Red Flowers

Wing Blur of Dove Landing

Wing Blur of Dove Landing

Mama Squirrel Eating a Peanut

Mama Squirrel Eating a Peanut

Baby Cardinal with Adult Feathers Growing In

Baby Cardinal with Adult Feathers Growing In

Raccoon Inspecting Peanut

Raccoon Inspecting Peanut

Happy Raccoon Eating Seeds and Nuts

Happy Raccoon Eating Seeds and Nuts

Raccoon Saying Grace

Raccoon Saying Grace

Raccoon Talking

Raccoon Talking

Raccoon Beside Automatic Wildlife Camera Setup

Raccoon Beside Automatic Wildlife Camera Setup

The best thing about using an automatic wildlife camera is being surprised by what you see – it might be new behaviors, interesting perspectives, or even animals you didn’t know lived in your yard. What fun!  A guide to Florida wildlife is at:  http://www.wildflorida.com/index.php

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