Bing Wallpaper Gallery
Jan 7, 2021
Of balloons and lost pantaloons
We all fly by the seat of our pants now and then, but how about flying with no pants at all? That was the plight of Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries, who on January 7, 1785, made history over these chalk cliffs with the first aerial crossing of the English Channel. When their hydrogen-filled balloon dropped altitude due to overloading, the two tossed all the cargo they could into the drink below, britches included. Reaching France in their underpants, the undoubtedly chilly pilots still received a warm welcome.
Jan 6, 2021
Travels to the Oregon deep
We"re looking out on the deepest lake in the US. Crater Lake, the centerpiece and namesake of the only national park in Oregon, goes down to depths of 1,943 feet—that"s enough room to stack three-and-a-half Washington Monuments on top of each other. Fed mainly by snowfall, this pristine, crystal blue lake came into the world with a bang. Sometime around 5700 BCE, Mount Mazama erupted, losing roughly 3,000 feet of its height. The volcano blew out so much molten rock that it left a giant depression that gradually filled with water, giving us this serene scene today.
Jan 5, 2021
Flying high on National Bird Day
On National Bird Day, we"re looking at two red-fronted macaws. These birds are endangered, but they"re not hard to find at the Red-Fronted Macaw Nature Reserve in Bolivia, where this picture was taken. They"re easiest to spot during breeding season, which runs from November to May, and they usually fly in pairs or larger groups. National Bird Day is observed on January 5, which coincides with the end of the Christmas Bird Count—a citizen survey that looks at native bird populations in the US. National Bird Day puts the focus on birds around the world, especially those threatened with extinction due to the pet trade, habitat loss, and climate change.
Jan 4, 2021
Sparkling ice diamonds on a black sandy beach
The broken pieces of icebergs stranded on this magnificent black sandy beach in Iceland are what give Diamond Beach its name. Sparkling like gems, they"re a natural museum of sorts for tourists who flock to this beach year-round to walk among the nature-made sculptures, with some pieces of ice as tall as the tourists themselves.
Jan 3, 2021
An Alpine fairy-tale castle
During a walking tour in the spring of 1829, Crown Prince (and future King) Maximilian II of Bavaria fell in love with these forested mountains and Alpine lakes, so three years later he bought the dilapidated remains of a 12th-century castle overlooking the village of Hohenschwangau. The yellow neo-Gothic castle that Maximilian built to replace the earlier ruins became the summer home and hunting retreat for the king, his wife, Marie of Prussia, and their two sons, Ludwig and Otto. Hohenschwangau Castle became a kind of fantasy palace, particularly for the two young princes, who spent their time traipsing through the forest, reciting poetry, and staging scenes from the Romantic operas of Richard Wagner.
Jan 2, 2021
A universe underground
When Vietnamese farmer Hồ Khanh stumbled upon this cave in 1991, it was immediately clear the gaping mouth led to a huge, dark, untouched chamber, complete with a free-flowing underground river. What couldn"t have been apparent to him then was that this cave, now known as Sơn Đoòng, is by far the world"s largest by volume.
Jan 1, 2021
Take the plunge into 2021
Happy New Year! Last year was pretty bracing and most of us are more than ready to start a new one. This polar bear seems to be shaking off 2020 with his very own—and very authentic—polar bear plunge in the waters off the Svalbard archipelago, way up in the Arctic Ocean.
Dec 31, 2020
New Year"s Eve celebrations around the world will look a lot different this year, but as we ring in 2021 (and bid good riddance to 2020?) we can still enjoy this view of fireworks from a previous year in Spain. The cathedral in the background is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which was constructed over centuries beginning in 1681, though several churches had been built on the site prior to that. On the left is the Puente de Piedra Bridge, which spans the Ebro River. It"s also known as the Bridge of Lions because statues of lions (symbols of the city) stand at each end of the bridge. Zaragoza is famous for its landmarks and architecture, as well as for local cuisine, and seasonal festivals—which we can only hope return soon.
Dec 30, 2020
Winter in the Wild West
When considering the dramatically eroded canyons of southwestern Utah, snow may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But far-flung Bryce Canyon National Park gets plenty of the white stuff, owing to its elevation of 8,000-plus feet at the massive amphitheater"s rim. The cold not only provides scenic snowy views and great cross-country skiing, it"s responsible for the striking red-rock pinnacles—known as hoodoos—that make the park so unique.
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.