Head to the Ocean for Must See Nature Experiences!

Bay Area Must See Nature Moments

Velella Velella

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If you have spent anytime in the last few weeks at Ocean Beach (or Pacifica and Monterey beaches) you most likely have noticed masses of blue creatures that have washed up on shore.  While they sometimes get mistaken for the dangerous Portuguese Man of War jelly, these are not actually jellies (or jellyfish) at all.  

 the Velella Velella (also known by the equally delightful name by-the-wind sailors). What looks like one 
velella velella is not even one individual creature, but a hydroid colony made up of many individuals that work together with some individuals of the colony responsible for feeding, others for defense, reproduction, or making up the sail.  They are connected by a canal system to share food.

It is not uncommon for mass strandings of Velella Velella as they are entirely at the mercy of the wind. They are harmless and cool to see, so head to Ocean Beach to check them out!

Whales, Whales, and Whales! Oh My!

With anchovies plentiful again this year, the humpback whales are out in full force.  Amazing feeding behavior and playful mom and calf pairs have been delighting whale watchers this July and August and the season is still going strong.  

If Monterey feels a little too far to go whale watching, Moss Landing has had amazing sightings this summer as well.  I recommend Sanctuary Cruises in Moss Landing or Monterey Bay Whale Watch in Monterey for respectful and informative whale watch trips.  Happy Whale Watching!    


Wonderbug Adventures Favorite Family-Friendly Nature Outings in SF 

While the rest of the country is currently experiencing crazy winter weather, let’s make the most of our warm winter days and get out an explore with our kiddos!

Here is our short list of our must see nature treasures and some off-the-beaten-path favs to share with your family and friends.



Bernal Heights Park:

This hilltop haven offers the perfect escape from the craziness of city life. Start at the end of Folsom Street and walk along the paved road (no cars allowed), winding all the way to the top of Bernal Hill. If you want to wander off the road, there are several shortcuts via a network of dirt trails. You will be blown away by the breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown, San Bruno Mountain, and the hills of the East Bay. These windswept slopes are still sunny when Twin Peaks is shrouded in afternoon fog. Take in the many natural wonders; red-tailed hawks soaring overhead and the breeze sending waves through the native grassland community. As one of the few remaining natural refuges in San Francisco, Bernal Hill is a spectacular treasure for all to enjoy, rock maze and all! http://sfrecpark.org/destination/bernal-heights-park/


Lands End:

Lands End is San Francisco’s wildest and rockiest coast. These wave- and wind-carved headlands west of the Golden Gate connect two popular landmarks: the Cliff House and the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Trails at Lands End offer a cliff-top walk through shadowy cypress, with scenic overlooks, 30-mile views of the coast, and foot access to several shoreline pocket beaches. Be sure to take the stairs down to these spectacular beaches, you will be glad you did! Trails were made wheelchair-accessible from the Merrie Way parking lot, visible from the intersection of Point Lobos and 48th avenues above the Cliff House. http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/lands-end.html


Lake Merced:

Lake Merced is a jewel in the southwest corner of San Francisco, and serves as an important water, recreational, and natural resource for the surrounding communities. In centuries past the Ohlone Tribe lived on its shores. Lake Merced is a great spot for wildlife viewing with children. It is a good spot to view an osprey, Great Blue Heron or Mallards waddling about. Nice wide stroller friendly paths and parking lot make this an accessible and beautiful lake to visit with kids of all ages. Located at: 1 Harding Road, San Francisco, CA 94132 (415) 831-2700.http://www.lmtf.org


Pine Lake Park:

Visit a peaceful lake hidden in the middle of a San Francisco neighborhood behind Stern Grove.  Experience some of natures’ treasures here but you must love dogs, this is a hugely popular dog spot. Path wanders through a eucalyptus grove, past the (mostly fenced) lake, which is perfect for strolling with your children, frolicking with your dog, or admiring the lake wildlife. Located at Vale Ave & Crestlake Drive in San Francisco.http://sfrecpark.org/destination/pine-lake-park/


Fort Funston:

Fort Funston is a rugged stretch of coastal headlands, sand, and dunes south of Ocean Beach. At the foot of Fort Funston’s cliffs is a wild and windy beach suitable for walking or horseback riding. Trails down to the beach scale the steep dunes with Dutch sand ladders (which help prevent erosion). On the beach, you’ll see shells, sand dollars, seaweed, and other signs of marine life. These great sandy bluffs, combined with the steady ocean breeze, make Fort Funston one of the premier hang-gliding spots in the nation. The loop trails at Fort Funston are paved and wheelchair-accessible and stroller friendly; the trails down to the beach are not. Keep in mind, this is a wildly popular dog spot so be prepared for many doggie encounters! http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/fort-funston.html


“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” — Angela Schwindt
“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” — Baba Dioum

Helping Backyard Wildlife during the Drought

This morning, I turned on my backyard sprinklers for the first time in a few weeks.  Honestly, I’m torn between wanting to do my part to conserve water during the drought and not wanting everything to die in my backyard.  A few minutes later, I looked out the window and saw that one of my sprinkler pipes had a leak and had created a big puddle in the dirt.  I quickly ran to turn it off.  I looked back out the window and saw 20 to 30 birds swoop in and begin drinking from the puddle and splashing around taking happy bird baths. I've been worried about my plants not making it through the drought, but I hadn't really thought about the nature in my neighborhood.

Backyard wildlife can take a huge hit during a prolonged drought like the one we are having.  Unlike larger migratory birds and wildlife, they are not wide ranging animals and won’t fly far from home to find a freshwater source. 

Here’s how we can help:

  • Get a bird bath. Water should be no deeper than ½ to 1 inches at the sides and sloping into no more than 2 inches deep in the middle.  The birds wouldn’t come near my pretty store bought bird bath until I lined it with rocks for them to stand on.  Try stones or branches arranged in the bottom of the bath if birds aren’t flocking to your water source.  Remember to add fresh water every few days. 

  • Make a drip jug.  Take a plastic milk jug, poke a small hole in the bottom, fill it with water and hang it over your bird bath.  The sound of dripping water will attract many more birds. This project checks off all the boxes for a great nature project with a child: easy to find supplies that are around the house, simple and quick activity to keep their attention, and a relevant and teachable care for nature moment.

  • Mulch! Mulching around your plants will keep much needed moisture in the ground and help keep food sources like worms and insects alive.

  • Don’t forget the hummingbirds.We have had a couple of freezing nights that knocked out many of my flowering plants for the season.  I know they will come back in the spring, but the hummingbirds are missing a vital food source.  Remember to fill your hummingbird feeder or buy one if you don’t already have it.  Hang it near a window and your little ones will be as happy as the grateful hummingbirds.


But, wait!  I don't have a bird bath!

Not a problem.  Here are a couple of great articles with tips for DIY birdbaths. 



If you are not feeling crazy crafty but now I've got you concerned about the birds and you want to help, no need to worry.  Honestly, the birds are happy with an old frying pan with water in it.  In fact, a frying pan has pretty perfect bird bath dimensions. 

Enjoy your backyard bird watching!


How Leaves Change Color


Oh fall! You are my favorite of the seasons (until March when I am completely convinced spring is the best time of year).  Not only doesfall bring cozy sweaters, pumpkin patches, and an endless month-long celebration of Halloween, it is also an amazing time to experience nature in your neighborhood with a young child.  

Squirrels are busily storing acorns for the winter, birds gather in trees to eat berries, and the leaves turn amazing colors and drop to the ground for little hands to pick up and ooh and ahh over.  Ok, admittedly sometimes bigger hands pick them up too...I just can’t help myself from picking up a beautiful leaf!

Change or turn are the words most often used when describing leaves in the fall, but they don’t really change colors.  The other color is there all along, just hidden by the dominating green.  Sound vaguely familiar? If so, read on to get from vaguely familiar to familiar!  

There are three pigments in most leaves all year round: chlorophyll (green), xanthophyll (yellow), carotene (orange).  In the growing season, chlorophyll works hard to produce food for the tree through photosynthesis. In the fall, the lengthening of the nights signal the tree to start to shut down its food factory.  To impress people with your new leaf changing knowledge remember it’s not temperature, but length of night that signals the tree and starts the leaves changing colors.  

The tree starts to close up shop and a cell layer grows at the base of the leaf and stem juncture, cutting off transport of minerals and water to the leaf.  Chlorophyll does not have what it needs to produce food and cannot continue to replace itself.  It begins to fade from the leaf. With the dominant green chlorophyll out of the picture, the yellow and orange pigments get a chance to show off. But what about the beautiful red and purple leaves?  Those red and purple pigments come from another pigment called anthocyanin that is manufactured from the sugars that are trapped in the leaves.  These pigments are not there year round. So next time you are out for a walk with your little adventurer pick up a few leaves and ooh and ahh together.....with a little extra info tucked away in your brain for all those why questions.

Here’s a great website that explains the changing of the leaves in kid friendly language:  http://www.kidzone.ws/plants/autumn1.htm

Fall Leaf Art Project Ideas

Stain Glass Leaf Display


One of my favorite leaf crafts with little ones. So easy and fun.  Use clear contact paper if you don't have a laminator.  I let the kids place leaves on one half of the rolled out contact paper and then carefully fold the other half over.

For full instructions and other ideas:







Simple Fall Leaf Craft


A little glue, a pencil, a few leaves and a little creativity is all that is needed for this great fall leaf craft project!