Sea Bean and Beachcomber’s Festival

Glass Floats at Sea Bean Festival

Beachcombing Treasures at Sea Bean Festival

Polished Sea Coconuts at Sea Bean Festival

Jewelry at Sea Bean Festival

The International Sea Bean and Beachcomber’s Festival is held every Fall in Cocoa Beach, Florida.  People come from all over the world to talk about everything that washes onto the beach (including sea beans, sea glass, seashells, fishing floats, and even plastic toys).  Special lectures in the past have been given by oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Dr. Beachcomb.  The displays at the festival are always interesting.  Particularly fun is the “show-and-tell” among participants about the beach treasures they’ve found the past year.  More info is at:

Florida Beach Surprise: Plastic Pigs at Sebastian Inlet

Sebastian Beach, Florida

Sebastian Beach, Florida

Beachcombing Find: White Piggy Bank from Cuba

Beachcombing Find: White Piggy Bank from Cuba

Beachcombing Find: Blue Piggy Bank from Guatemala (looking right)

Beachcombing Find: Blue Piggy Bank from Guatemala (looking right)

Beachcombing Find: Blue Piggy Bank from Guatemala (looking left)

Beachcombing Find: Blue Piggy Bank from Guatemala (looking left)

Sea Pigs Poster

Sea Pigs Poster

June 2, 2012

Last Fall we found a white piggy bank washed in near Sebastian Inlet. After cleaning, the pig’s cute features became visible – she has little flowers, hearts, and horseshoes on her body, a barrette on her head, and a smile on her face. So adorable! Even more impressive is her journey. I got the complete story from Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer at the Sea Bean Festival. This little pig probably floated away from Cuba around 1993-1994. She likely spent many years in the Sargasso Sea, before riding an ocean current to Sebastian Inlet.  Imagine her journey – she must have bobbed on the waves past sea turtles, fish, and dolphins!  Everything at the beach has its own special story.

Update:  December 16, 2012

We found another plastic piggy bank washed in near Sebastian Inlet!  This new pig is blue and is from Guatemala (according to writing on the bottom that says Codeplasa).  He has a soccer ball with stars on one side, and a baseball with stars on the other.  He is also wearing a sports hat.  Apparently he has been riding the waves for quite some time, because his little ears and feet all have fish bites on them!

A link to newsletters that contain a history of plastic pigs that have washed onto beaches throughout the Caribbean,  Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic is at:  [select Vol. 8(3): Dec 2002 and Vol. 10(1): May 2004].   Or just click on the link below (and once again) to see a copy of those newsletters and an Instagram post in December 2017 about a blue plastic pig that washed onto a beach in Oahu, Hawaii.

Click Here for Sea Pig Articles



San Francisco: Japanese Tea Garden

Entrance to Japanese Tea Garden

Temple Gate at Japanese Tea Garden

Buddhist Pagoda at Japanese Tea Garden

Cloud-Pruned Tree and Stone Lantern at Japanese Tea Garden

Blooming Cherry Tree at Japanese Tea Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden is located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  It is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.  Makoto Hagiwara ran the garden from 1895 to 1942.  He served the first modern fortune cookie in America at the Tea Garden in the 1890s or early 1900s.  More info is at:

San Francisco: Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco

Conservatory of Flowers Building Close-Up

Conservatory of Flowers “Flower Clock”

Conservatory of Flowers High-Altitude Orchid

The Conservatory of Flowers is located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  The building is the oldest Victorian greenhouse in North America.  It was built in 1878 and is modeled after the Palm House at London’s Kew Gardens.  Of special interest is the Conservatory’s rare collection of high-altitude orchids. 

Santa Cruz Lighthouse and World’s First Surfing Museum

Santa Cruz Lighthouse is Home to the World’s First Surfing Museum

Surfing Museum Entrance

Surfboard Display at Surfing Museum

1960’s Photograph at Surfing Museum

The Santa Cruz Lighthouse is located at the north end of Monterey Bay.  It was in service from 1870-1948, and had a steady red light to warn mariners of danger.  The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1967, and it is now home to the world’s first Surfing Museum.  The Surfing Museum contains surfboards, photographs, and other memorabilia.  It overlooks “Steamer Lane”, a world class surfing hot spot that was dedicated as a World Surfing Reserve in April 2012.   The earliest surfboards were made of redwood.  The wooden boards could be up to 12 feet long, and weigh over 100 pounds!

Our Best Video of the Golden Gate Bridge and Fog (time lapse 10X speed)

Since today is the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, here is our best video of the Golden Gate Bridge and fog.  The original 6 1/2 minute video has been speeded up to play in 39 seconds.  Enjoy!

Solvang: Danish Fun near Santa Barbara

Solvang Windmill

Solvang Stork Nest on Roof Top for Good Luck

Solvang Danish Bakery

Unique Solvang Clock

Unique Solvang Clock

Solvang (which means “sunny fields”) is located north of Santa Barbara. The town is a replica of a Danish village, and celebrated its 100th birthday in 2011. The main crops in the area are wine grapes and strawberries. Several windmills are found throughout town, and replica stork nests decorate the roof tops for good luck.  We especially enjoyed the authentic Danish bakeries in the village. The pastries were the best we’ve ever had!

Sea Lions and Seals Have Sensitive Whiskers

Sea Lion at San Francisco

Sea Lion at Moss Landing

Harbor Seal at Moss Landing

Harbor Seal at Monterey

Scientists have discovered that sea lions and seals have whiskers that are much more sensitive than previously thought.  They found that the animals can find and track fish from hundreds of feet away!  The whiskers (vibrissae) detect eddies left by the fish as they swim.  Harbor seals are thought to have the most sensitive whiskers all the animal kingdom.  Each whisker has up to 1,600 nerve fibers per single hair!

View of SpaceX Rocket Launch from Our Pond

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch on May 22, 2012

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch on May 22, 2012

The launch last night of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft was awesome!  Like many people here on the Space Coast, I set my alarm to get up in time for the launch at 3:44 am.  The night was warm, the crickets were chirping, and an owl was hooting in the distance.  When the rockets fired, the sky lit up like a sunrise.  This long exposure image was taken at our backyard pond, which is about 40 miles south of Kennedy Space Center.  Night launches are truly the best!

UPDATE:  On March 30, 2017, SpaceX successfully reused the Falcon rocket booster that had previously been launched and landed 9 minutes afterward on the “Of Course I Still Love You” platform on an offshore drone ship near Cape Canaveral, Florida.  This achievement is a technology breakthrough and milestone in space exploration!  

Monterey: Stunning Pink Flower Carpet

Pink Carpet Trailing Ice Plants at Monterey

Closeup of Pink Carpet Trailing Ice Plants

Pink Carpet Trailing Ice Plants Along Coast at Monterey

The first time I saw a picture of the pink carpet trailing ice plants blooming in Monterey, I simply could not believe it was true.  But the stunning flower bloom is real, and it usually peaks in May.  These pictures of the pink carpet trailing ice plants were taken at Lover’s Point.  This oceanside walk near the Monterey Bay Aquarium is truly spectacular!

Filoli Gardens: Roses

Rose Meadow at Filoli Gardens

Pastel Rose at Filoli Gardens

Yellow Rose at Filoli Gardens

Rose Petal Swirl at Filoli Gardens

Roses start blooming in May at Filoli Gardens.  The rose is the national flower of the United States, and a symbol for love and beauty.  There are over 500 kinds of roses at Filoli Gardens!

Marine Mammal Center

Marine Mammal Center Seal Statue

Marine Mammal Center Swimming Pens

Marine Mammal Center Kitchen

Rodeo Beach near Marine Mammal Center

The Marine Mammal Center is located in the Marin Headlands (north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge).  It is a state-of-the-art animal hospital with research labs, pharmacy, swimming pens, kitchen, and education center.  The patients are mainly seals and sea lions.  The center’s water filtration system runs through an abandoned Nike missile silo.  When we arrived, it was feeding time.  The volunteer kitchen staff were making fish milkshakes.  They brought out frozen blocks of fish, pulled them apart, and then ground up the fish in a blender.  Mmmmmm.  More info is at:

Our Favorite California Quail Photo

California Quail on Banksia Flower

We saw this California Quail at the University of California – Santa Cruz Arboretum.  The bird is sitting on a Banksia bush in full bloom.  Banksia flowers smell just like buttered popcorn!  Because quail are so cute, they have been featured in many Disney movies (including Bambi). Although the topknot looks like a single feather, it is actually six feathers clustered together as one.

Trees You Won’t Believe!

Basket Tree

Closeup of Basket Tree

Emblem Tree

Optical Illusion Tree

Revolving Door Tree

The world’s most unusual trees can be seen at Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy, California.  These unique trees were twisted, curved, and woven into imaginative shapes by farmer Axel Erlandson in the 1940s for his roadside “Tree Circus” near Santa Cruz.  The trees were featured in LIFE magazine and Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not”.  Axel used grafting and frameworks to create his tree art.  He found that tree limbs thicken over time, but the shapes remain the same.  When children asked him how he did it, he said, “I talk to the trees”.  Eventually the property was sold and the trees were forgotten.  In 1985 the trees were rescued and moved for display at Gilroy Gardens.  Nineteen of the Circus Trees are on display throughout the park.  If you would like to try your own hand at arborsculpture, information on tree art is at:   More info about Gilroy Gardens is at:  You can watch a television show about the trees by Huell Howser on California’s Gold at:

San Francisco Bay Wave Organ

San Francisco’s Wave Organ

A special Wave Organ is located on a jetty in the Marina District of San Francisco.  This unique “instrument” is played by the sea.   A water symphony is created by wave action through the organ’s pipes.  Visitors listen at periscope-shaped ports around the sculpture.  Sound varies from bell-like tones at high tide (best), to running water sounds at low tide (worst).  Notice the granite and marble stones of the jetty – they are debris from an old San Francisco cemetery discussed in this Huell Howser episode of “California’s Gold”:

A video I took of the Wave Organ at low tide (unfortunately) is below.   

San Francisco: Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco was built for the 1915 World’s Fair.  Architect Bernard Maybeck designed it as “a Valentine for San Francisco”.  This beautiful building and its grounds are popular for family picnics and weddings.  More info is at:

Pacific Tidepools: Emerald Green Anemones

Emerald Green Anemone and Pink Coralline Seaweed

Emerald Green "Sunburst" Anemone

Emerald Green “Sunburst” Anemone

Emerald green anemones are among the prettiest animals in Pacific coast tidepools.  Microscopic green algae give them their spectacular color.  They can grow up to a foot high, and get as big around as a dinner plate! 

Colorful San Francisco Salt Ponds

View of San Francisco Salt Pond From Hiking Trail

Closeup View of Salt Pond

View of Salt Ponds From Jet on Approach to San Francisco Airport

View of Salt Pond Patterns From Jet on Approach to San Francisco Airport

San Francisco is one of two places in the United States where salt is harvested naturally from ocean water.  It takes 5 years for the sun and wind to evaporate the water and crystallize the salt.  The color of the evaporating ponds varies from bright green to brilliant red, depending upon algae and salinity of the water.  The view of the salt ponds is spectacular!

Ring Mountain: Rare Tiburon Mariposa Lily

Ring Mountain: Rare Tiburon Mariposa Lily

Ring Mountain: Climbing Up the Trail

Ring Mountain: Serpentine Boulder

Ring Mountain: View of Marin County

Ring Mountain is located north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.  Geologists and botanists travel there from around the world to study its  blue/green serpentine rock and unique plant life.  We hiked to the top of Ring Mountain (elevation 602 feet) to see the extremely rare Tiburon Mariposa Lily.  It is found nowhere else in the world, and only blooms in May and June.   At the summit is a 360 degree panoramic view of San Francisco Bay, Marin County, and Napa Valley.

Florida: Caspersen Beach and Shark’s Teeth

Caspersen Beach: Rocky Shoreline

Caspersen Beach: Pelicans Diving for Fish

Caspersen Beach: Fossil Seashells in Rocks Along Shore

Caspersen Beach: Fossilized Shark’s Teeth & Fish Vertebrae Collected Years Ago

Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida (south of Tampa) is famous for its fossilized shark’s teeth.  Venice is known as the “Shark’s Tooth Capital of the World”.  Years ago you could find handfuls of shark’s teeth as you walked along the shore; now you have to put an effort into finding them. Some people even use specialized scoops bought in local gift shops to find shark’s teeth in the water.  An annual shark’s tooth festival is held in Venice every April:    An excellent article about the Venice area and shark’s teeth is at:  Shark tooth identification is at:

Florida: Blind Pass Beach

Blind Pass Beach: Colorful Umbrellas

Blind Pass Beach: Shoreline

Blind Pass Beach: Shells Along Tideline

Blind Pass Beach: Our Recently Collected Shells

Blind Pass Beach: Snowy Egret

Blind Pass Beach: Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Blind Pass Beach is a quiet peaceful beach in Sarasota County (north of Sanibel/Fort Myers). It is an absolutely beautiful place for a walk on the Gulf Coast – the color of the water is incredible! Once you leave the entrance area, you practically have the beach to yourself. We found lots of pretty shells, and saw some great birds too!

Kitt Peak Astronomy Experience

Eagle Nebula

Whirlpool Galaxy

Kitt Peak National Observatory (southwest of Tucson) offers an Advanced Observing Program to the public (  Guests spend the night working side-by-side with a resident astronomer to prepare digital pictures of the universe.  We worked with Flynn Haase to create these images of the Eagle Nebula and Whirlpool Galaxy.  The Eagle Nebula image was published in the book “Archaeoastronomy of the Southwest”.  I highly recommend this experience!

Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton, California

Lick Observatory Domes

Lick Observatory 36 inch Telescope

Lick Observatory Old Photograph

Lick Observatory Seismograph of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Lick Observatory Space Art on Display

Lick Observatory is located at the top of Mount Hamilton (south of San Francisco).  Lick was the first mountaintop observatory in the world in 1887.  All supplies (construction, food, telescopes, etc.) were carried up the mountain on the backs of burros.  The observatory was financed by James Lick, a wealthy San Franciscan who profited from the gold rush.  He is buried in the cement pier that supports one of the oldest telescopes.  On an ultra-clear day at Lick Observatory, the view is incredible:  the Pacific Ocean to the west; the snow-capped Sierra Mountains to the east; San Francisco to the north, and the Central Valley to the south.

Beautiful Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owl at Sunset

Burrowing Owl Pair at Sunset

Burrowing Owl Babies

Dancing Burrowing Owl

Cape Coral is home to the largest population of burrowing owls in Florida.  The birds can easily be seen around town or near the library.  Since Florida has loose sandy soil, burrowing owls can either dig their own burrows, or use an old armadillo or gopher tortoise hole.  Nesting season runs March-June. These friendly owls were popularized in the children’s movie “Hoot”.  More information is at:

A live cam is at:

Point Montara Lighthouse

Point Montara Lighthouse and Red Hot Pokers

Point Montara Lighthouse and Ice Plants

Point Montara Infrared

Point Montara Fishing Floats

Point Montara Shark Sign

The Point Montara Lighthouse sits on a rocky cliff south of San Francisco. At first only a fog signal was installed on the bluff.  The signal alone was not enough to stop shipwrecks, so a 30 foot cast-iron lighthouse tower was erected in 1928.  In 1970 the light was automated, and in 1980 the buildings were leased to a youth hostel. 

Long-Billed Curlews Like to Eat Crabs

Long-Billed Curlew with a Crab

Long-Billed Curlew Eating a Crab

Long-Billed Curlew Walking

The long-billed curlew is the largest shorebird in North America.  These sandpipers nest in grasslands of the west in spring, and spend the rest of the year along the coast or water.  The curlew’s extra-long down-curved bill is perfectly suited to catching crabs in their mud burrows.  Our picture of a curlew with a crab in its bill is on a wildlife interpretive sign at San Pablo Park along San Francisco Bay.

Mission San Miguel

Mission San Miguel, California

Mission San Miguel Belltower

Mission San Miguel Altar

Mission San Miguel Cemetery Entrance

Mission San Miguel Cemetery Entrance

Mission San Miguel Tile

Mission San Miguel (east of Big Sur) was founded in 1797.  It is one of California’s most authentic and beautiful missions.  The colorful murals inside the church are the original ones painted by Indian artists.  Mission bells were central to life at the mission, and were blessed upon installation.  Bells were rung in a special way, and were used to call people to worship, meals, work, and gatherings. 

Filoli Gardens: Spring Bloom

Filoli Clock Tower, Tulips, and Forget-Me-Nots

Filoli Reflecting Pool and Red Tulips

Purple and White Wisteria on Filoli Mansion

Filoli Hyacinths

Filoli Pink Camellia

Filoli Red Camellias

Filoli Red Camellias

Filoli Oak Tree and Red Tulips

Filoli Redbud Tree Blooming

Filoli Redbud Tree Blooming

Filoli Iris

Filoli Gardens is rated one of the top ten formal gardens in the world!  The spring bloom is always gorgeous.  More info is at:

California Wildflowers: Colorful Favorites

Blue-Eyed Grass

Scarlet Pimpernel

Hound's Tongue

Clarkia or Farewell-to-Spring

Indian Paintbrush

Owl's Clover

California is famous for its wildflowers.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, spring wildflowers generally peak about the 3rd week of April.  Click on a picture if you want more detailed information about these colorful wildflowers. 

California Wildflowers: Yellow and White Favorites

Bristly Fiddleneck


Tidy Tips

Mariposa or Butterfly Lily

Cream Cups

Blazing Star or Star Lily

California is famous for its wildflowers.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, spring wildflowers generally peak about the 3rd week of April.  Click on a picture if you want more information about these white and yellow wildflowers. 

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