Bing Wallpaper Gallery
Dec 29, 2020
Where the glow of the holidays lingers
On the shores of Lake Lucerne and bestride the River Reuss, you"ll find the medieval Swiss city that shares the lake"s name. Emerging from a Benedictine monastery founded here in 750, Lucerne is today the largest town in central Switzerland. The central of three ancient, covered wooden pedestrian bridges of Lucerne"s Old Town has a unique feature. The interior of the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) is painted with religious scenes and allegories to edify those walking across it to the nearby St. Peter"s Chapel.
Dec 28, 2020
Wildcat in a winter wonderland
If you"re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of this wily wildcat species in many places across Alaska and far-northern Canada. But here in Montana, a Canada lynx encounter like this is rare. While lynxes are known to live in cold climates from Washington state to Maine, they"ve been listed for two decades as threatened across the lower 48 states.
Dec 27, 2020
Turning darkness into light
Winter illuminations are a big deal in Japan and there is perhaps no bigger display than the one here at Nabana no Sato, a flower park in the gardens of Nagashima Spa Land in Kuwana, Japan. This image is just a glimpse of what awaits you in the park. More than 8.5 million LED lightbulbs illuminate pathways, trees, and the park"s famous "Tunnel of Lights." Can"t make it for the holidays? No worries. While many of Japan"s light displays end after the new year, this one lasts from mid-October through early May. And if not this year (hello pandemic), maybe next?
Dec 26, 2020
Happy Boxing Day!
That "Boxing Day (UK)" printed on your calendar"s December 26 square has nothing to do with the sport of boxing—although for many modern Brits, Aussies, and other denizens of the Commonwealth, the holiday"s full slate of TV sporting events is the main observance. Folks with enough post-holiday energy might even slide down the hills on the grounds of this historic estate-turned public park, Barnett Demesne, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Dec 25, 2020
Big dreams require a big sleigh
For Christmas Day, we traveled 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle to Ilulissat, Greenland. It"s the island"s third-largest city, though in almost any other region, it would be considered a small town—only 4,670 people live here. Until a few years ago, Ilulissat served as a key destination for that most important holiday correspondence: Thousands of letters sent from around the world to Santa Claus, North Pole, ended up being rerouted to this giant mailbox. Today the mailbox has moved farther north, to Uummannaq, ever closer to the jolly old elf"s magical domicile. If you"re celebrating Christmas today, we hope you have a merry one.
Dec 24, 2020
Hey, don t you guys have somewhere to be?
Known in North America as caribou, reindeer are built to live in freezing Arctic regions like northern Norway, where this herd was photographed under the transfixing swirl of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Reindeer have evolved unique features that help them thrive in these harsh environments. Their noses are adapted to warm the air they breathe before it enters their lungs, which helps maintain a steady body temperature even in the coldest of weather. And most of their bodies, including their hooves, are covered with thick, dense fur to keep them well insulated. In fact, they are more likely to overheat then freeze—so when they"re flying through the starry skies tonight, they"ll be feeling snugger than Santa Claus in his red velvet suit.
Dec 23, 2020
Swimming into the season
This aquatic candy cane is called a banded pipefish. You won"t find it at the North Pole or on your Christmas tree, but in the tropical seas of the Indo-Pacific region, from Australia and Japan to the Philippines and South Africa. It"s in the same family as the seahorse, and like its cousin, the pipefish has plates of bony armor covering its body. This gives it protection, but a rigid body (like a candy cane!), so it swims by rapidly fanning its fins. Also like the seahorse, it"s the male pipefish—not the female—who carries the eggs. After an elaborate courtship dance, the female deposits her eggs in the male"s brood pouch, where they develop until the male gives birth. We"re not making this stuff up, but we can"t vouch for the theory that the red-and-white banded pipefish has a minty taste.
Dec 22, 2020
A holiday beacon of light
This classic New England scene is Cape Neddick Light, one of the most iconic of Maine"s 65 lighthouses, all lit up for the holiday season. Built on more than 2 acres of granite island, the Nub has been protecting sailors since 1879. It"s a tradition for locals to visit when it"s dressed up for the holidays. And if you miss the winter display, you can come back in July, when the lighthouse is relit for summer visitors.
Dec 21, 2020
Shadows on the solstice
Roughly 5,000 years ago, ancient inhabitants of the British Isles somehow dragged as many as 40 giant stones—the heaviest weighing an estimated 16 tons—onto this grassy plateau in what is now England"s Lake District National Park in Cumbria. They then grouped them into the stone circle at Castlerigg, seen here casting shadows from the low winter sun. Archeologists believe stone circles were arranged to align with solar and lunar positions. They were used in elaborate rituals to celebrate occasions like today"s winter solstice, the shortest day (and longest night) of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
Dec 20, 2020
Dressed for winter fun
Native to North America, mountain goats spend much of the year scaling peaks from south-central Alaska down to the northern Rockies. They tend to live at high altitudes, often above 13,000 feet, where their sure-footed climbing ability allows them to clamber up extraordinarily steep, rocky slopes. In the winter, they"ll migrate down to slightly lower elevations to seek shelter in subalpine forests with south-facing rocky ledges, where the sun and relentless winds keep ice to a minimum. Here, they forage for lichen, mosses, grasses, and other greens. Their woolly, two-layered coats keep them toasty as temperatures dip, which is probably why even in the chill of western Montana this young mountain goat—or kid—appears to be having a ball. Enjoying winter is all about how you dress.
Dec 19, 2020
Four Sisters, thousands of trees
You"ll find this wintry, sylvan scene on the slopes of Mount Siguniang, the tallest summit of the Qionglai Mountains in southwest China. Its name, which translates as "Four Sisters Mountain," is inspired by the local Tibetan legend behind its four distinct peaks. According to the story, four sisters saved their people using a magic mirror to turn themselves into the mountain to imprison the devil. The tallest peak, named "Peak of the Youngest Sister," stands at 20,500 feet and is an extremely challenging climb—it"s rarely attempted and wasn"t summitted until 1981. The national park includes three valleys flanking the mountain and is part of the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to giant pandas, the sanctuary is home to the red panda, the snow leopard, the clouded leopard, and between 5,000 and 6,000 species of plants.
Dec 18, 2020
A towering view of the Pale Mountains
Behold the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, some of the most iconic peaks of the Dolomites range in the Italian Alps. The Dolomites, aka the "Pale Mountains," are named for the light-colored stone (dolomite) of the jagged range. This is the view from the highest point of a trail that encircles these three dramatic peaks. Usually mobbed with tourists in the summertime, autumn and spring offer a chance for a more tranquil amble along the 6-mile trail. The hike manages to reveal one stunning view after another with each turn of the route. Along the way, the hiker will pass three "rifugios," traditional Alpine shelters that offer drinks and meals, and even beds to stay the night.
Dec 17, 2020
Pining for spring
Next time you"re out walking amid the verdant majesty of a conifer forest, take a moment to consider the small but mighty pine cone. It plays a crucial role in the trees" lifecycle but has also served as a potent symbol for a variety of human cultures. In many traditions, it"s been associated with fertility and enlightenment, appearing in art from the Mayans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. That association comes from its main job—making baby trees. The ornate, woody pine cones shown here are females, and they"re designed to create and protect seeds. Male cones, which are usually smaller, produce pollen. The female cones open and close their scales to allow for pollination and eventually release their seeds onto the forest floor. But pine cones also open and close in response to changes in the weather, making them a natural barometer.
Dec 16, 2020
Beethoven s 250th
German composer Ludwig van Beethoven created melodies and harmonies we instantly recognize, even in this entertainment-saturated 21st century. Overcoming childhood abuse, hearing loss, romantic rejection, and bouts of depression and alcoholism, Beethoven channeled his stormy emotions into music that compelled audiences to viscerally feel what he felt. In the process, he helped end the regimented Classical era and usher in the Romantic period, when even the most flawed artists were sovereign.
Dec 15, 2020
A bridge that rocks
Sandwiched between soaring pinnacles of sandstone, Bastei Bridge is a highlight of Saxon Switzerland National Park. But don"t be fooled by the park"s name because we"re not in Switzerland; we"re hundreds of miles away in eastern Germany, close to the border with the Czech Republic. The name comes from two Swiss artists who visited the area in the second half of the 18th century and felt the picturesque upland scenery was reminiscent of their homeland.
Dec 14, 2020
I see one!
Today"s the first day of the 121st annual Christmas Bird Count, said to be the largest and longest-running citizen science project in the world. For the next 23 days, through January 5, thousands of volunteers around the US, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands will join members of the National Audubon Society for this important endeavor in the study and protection of birds. Together, they"ll scour the woods, fields, and lakes of their respective regions (or just watch their bird feeders), to take a census of the individual birds and species they find.
Dec 13, 2020
The view will stop you in your tracks
When it comes to beautiful winter scenery, Switzerland is hard to beat. We"re looking at the Gornergrat railway station with the peak of the Matterhorn in the background. One of the last great peaks of the Alps to be climbed by humans, the Matterhorn was finally summited in 1865, capping off the decade or so that"s been called the "golden age of alpinism." The iconic peak is a daunting pyramid of stone and ice, towering just inside Switzerland"s border with Italy.
Dec 12, 2020
What are we looking at?
On National Poinsettia Day we"re taking an up-close look at a poinsettia leaf. Although many people assume the red, white, pink, purple, or marbled colors are flowers, they"re actually bracts, a type of leaf that aids in reproduction, usually by turning color as the plant develops true flowers. On the poinsettia, the bracts, surrounding small yellow clustered buds called cyathia, flag down pollinators just as flower petals do.
Dec 11, 2020
Mountains fit for a queen
Like sentinels standing guard, these towering stalks are flowers of the queen of the Andes, the world"s largest bromeliad—some specimens can grow up to 50 feet tall. This extraordinary plant has adapted to grow only in the adverse conditions found on the high slopes of the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes. To see several of them in bloom at once is truly special, for the queen of the Andes sends up her flowering stalk just once, after a century or so of painstaking growth. A single plant will bloom for about three months, producing anywhere from 8,000 to 20,000 flowers, then die.
Dec 10, 2020
What does the fox dream?
We"re sure you could just squeeze this snoozing Arctic fox like a stuffed animal, but we wouldn"t advise it. These cute little fuzzballs can be ferocious hunters. In fact, the Arctic fox is one of the most prolific predators on the tundra, preying on lemmings, voles, rabbits, birds (often with a side of eggs), and other small critters that cross its adorable path. But right now, our Arctic fox is happy to curl up with its tail and get some shut-eye—by forming a ball with its body, the fox is exposing the least possible surface area to cold air, helping to conserve heat no matter how low the mercury dips.
Dec 9, 2020
It s Computer Science Education Week
Are we looking at some sort of steampunk time machine? Not quite, but these clock-like rotors did help alter the course of history. The action took place during World War II at England"s Bletchley Park, a country estate that served as a top-secret facility. An assembled team, including the pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, developed this device, known as a Bombe machine. It was instrumental in cracking the Germans" "uncrackable" Enigma code, which was used for encrypting secret messages in German war operations. The Enigma code was itself generated by a rotor-driven machine that re-scrambled the code each day—so the Bombe mirrored those mechanics to keep up with the changing encryption. Insights the Bombe and other programmable machines provided into enemy military plans helped to speed the Allies" eventual triumph—some even argue that the codebreakers" efforts won the war.
Dec 8, 2020
A fortress in the sky
Beginning as a lone watchtower high in the Apennines of Italy in the 10th century, the fortress called Rocca Calascio gained more heft over the next few hundred years. A quartet of additional towers and heavy walls were gradually added around the first tower. These fortifications made clear that Rocca Calascio was ready for any military rivals who might scale the slopes from the valley below to attack this garrison. The fight never came. The ruins you see here are not battle scars but the result of a powerful earthquake. By the early 1700s, Rocca Calascio was abandoned, but it can still claim the title of highest fortress in the Apennines—and some of the most spectacular views in all of Italy. In fact, filmmakers have chosen the site for several movies, including "The Name of the Rose" and "Ladyhawke."
Dec 7, 2020
In memory of those lost
For Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we"re looking at the Pearl Harbor Dedication, part of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. You can see the white obelisk of the Washington Monument lit up on the left. Engraved in stone is the famous quote that begins with, "December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy."
Dec 6, 2020
A hidden jewel in Croatia
Today we"re walking out into the winter wonderland of Plitvice Lakes National Park, the oldest and largest national park in Croatia. More than a million tourists per year flock to this central mountainous region, renowned for its cascading waterfalls and 16 turquoise-colored lakes. These wooden pathways meander for miles around and above the lakes, beside waterfalls and over streams and rivers, which disappear into the moss-covered earth only to burst through again somewhere downstream. In fact, the lakes are all interconnected by underground flows and are separated from each other by natural dams of travertine.
Dec 5, 2020
A cozy winter village
When snow blankets the steep slopes of the Pyrenees—the mountain range that forms a natural border between Spain and France—the cozy Spanish village of Benasque offers a cheerful refuge on a winter"s eve. Beautifully preserved Romanesque and Renaissance manors and churches line the narrow cobblestone streets, and it"s easy to feel as though you"ve stepped back in time. Aside from these cultural charms, most visitors come to Benasque for outdoor adventure. Surrounded by the highest peaks of the Pyrenees, the Benasque Valley receives heavy snowfall and is a popular skiing destination. Summer attracts even more visitors to the area, when hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, and river rafting are big draws.