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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Amelia Island Artists Workshop
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell (for workshop schedules)

SHE'S BACK!!!  My best Christmas Present arrived this morning in a fuzzy form. I have been pretty
quiet about Shelly because she disappeared about two weeks ago and we really didn't know if
she was alive or not.  We continued to take her treats outside, call to her, and
to keep her water bowl fresh each day, but still no Shelly.  This morning I gave a few loud calls
for her, and as I was putting out the nuts in the usual place, here she came around the tree, jumped
back on my shoulder as if nothing had happened and began looking in my hand for her pecan treats. 
Although a bit more skittish in the beginning she was soon back to allowing me to scratch her tummy.
I was overjoyed to know that Mr. Hawk had not gotten her.  She had disappeared after the
first cold spell hit in December.  It is possible that it could be mating time for her, although they usually
wait until they are nearer a year old it is possible at 5-6 months of age.  Mating season is twice a
year, during this time of year and again in mid summer, so I guess time will tell.  But to all of you
who have asked, - "SHELLY IS FINE."


After a day of fantasy it was nice to get back to a real world with real critters in it.  I spent the night with
son #2, David.  He had a special place he wanted to show me the next morning especially since it was
foggy in Orlando he thought we could get some interesting pictures.

He lives in Ocoee only a short distance away from Orlando, in what used to be rural, but now is a
very urban setting.  He had
discovered a buffalo farm at the place where he buys his sod.  We drove
a few miles and here
is what we found.  A very interesting place with several semi-related ways of making a living.  They have the sod piled up and if they are not there, they trust you to pay.  They also sell buffalo meat like cattle ranchers do to finance their raising of these big guys.  I know, we are all conditioned to think that our meat originates in a grocery store, but the reality is that it doesn't...

Instead of Western Orlando it felt like we were in the wild west.  Although it was a bit outside that
 image to have Egrets and White Ibis sharing the same photo stage.

There were babies as well as adults and they were probably expecting a morning food treat from
these humans peering over their fence as they had that expectant look on their faces.

This guy was so filled with curiosity or appetite he sought us out.

Here's a nice family portrait as this true native American family makes its way over to check us out. 
It is hard
to imagine the herds of thousands of these massive creatures as far as the eye could see
once roaming our country.  I am glad to see them being raised again, increasing their
presence around the land so that they are once again a common sight.
In sticking with the bovine creatures I wanted to show my son Blue Springs State Park to the East of
Orlando and on my way home.  I often stop at this park in the winter
because of its cows, Sea Cows that is.  Here is an Anhinga sunning over the blue waters below.
Our first glimpse of a Sea Cow was as we looked down from one of the many overlooks along the
water's edge which flows from the Spring.  This large tail belongs to an East Indian Manatee.  The fish are
Plecostomus which are cleaning algae off the huge water mammals.  Never try to have an aquarium
without these very special fish as part of your tank because they are the best glass cleaners around.
The waters of this Spring flow from the aquifier that flows underneath our earth and bubbles to
the surface in the form of clear springs or is tapped into by wells, the water source in my own home.
In the winter the Manatees move into the rivers and springs where the water is much warmer.  In places
like Blue Springs State Park where the water comes out of the earth at a constant 74 degrees it is
a good deal warmer than the rivers and oceans and draws these magnificent creatures into the spa-like
environment.  It was a warm day and although there had been about 90 Manatees in the day before,
by our arrival time of mid-day, most had moved back out into the main channel of the river.  We did get
to see this baby who was hanging out with his family.
The steps leading into the water is the entrance for those who rent inner-tubes for
"tubing" the river during times when the Manatees are not there.  Now all the gates were locked
tight.  This cute little fellow seemed to be wanting to try out the steps the other way, going up.
One of the other parents with this group of three shows the telltale markings of encounters
with propellers.  They are hit so often by boats that part of being able to identify them is by
the pattern of the marks the scars leave on their backs and tails.
Granddog, Bella, did not like the massive, sometimes 10-12 feet long, water creatures, Mermaids or not,
and resisted getting anywhere close to them.  She loved walking along the boardwalk but not out on the
docks where she could see the big "monsters" lurking.
The Spring is a beautiful color and very clear, living up to its "Blue" name,  with wonderfully lush Florida
vegetation growing all along its banks.  The Manatees are really gentle giants and are true mammals,
though technically they barely made the list; hair is a requirement, and they do have
sparse, coarse hair which sprouts around their mouths.
The swirls signifiy that a Manatee is about to surface for a breath of air.  They have to come up
about every 8 minutes to breathe.
Our aquatic family starts to move on back down the water toward the river.
This large fellow was turning over on his back underneath the water, exploring the under-,side of a
 submerged log.  They are vegetarians so he may have been eating the algae off the log.
As we head back down toward the mouth of the spring, David points out this Anhinga and turtle
which seem to be having a neck stretching contest.  A very peculiar pose for two unlike critters.
By the time I get back to the string of islands leading up to Amelia I find that a coastal sea fog is
moving in quickly as I cross the first bridge from Fort George Island onto Little Talbot Island.  It is late
afternoon.  I believe the sea fog forms when the temperature of the sea interacts with the
varying air temperatures. 
It was moving up the river as if it were alive, swallowing the
trees and the view as it moved in.
I pulled off at the parking area I have frequented often, but never before with this mysterious feeling. 
This is looking
back over the bridge I just crossed which seems to have disappeared.
Quite a feeling is to be had by the fog as it is both beautiful and foreboding.  A sudden fog bank can
leave a boat pilot navigating blind without without visible navigational markings.
I went in and out of the fog as I drove toward the middle of the island but in each inlet of water from
the ocean I found a new flow of fog, making the marsh a different world than the sunlit one I
am used to seeing.  This was in the creek areas separating Big Talbot from Little Talbot Island.
A hint of blue sky is overhead with a couple of birds visible but the closer to the surface of the earth the
more etheral it becomes.  It is good to be back to the coast that has become my home.  It is nteresting to
expereience the variety of environments we do, at the whim of the vast ocean of water that
is our neighbor to the East.
We will be keeping the gallery open until 6:00p each evening prior to Christmas Eve, but by that
eve, we will be closing mid-afternoon, depending on how busy we are.  We'll try to wait for you if
you call, and we know you're on your way to the gallery.

We will, of course, be closed Christmas Day, 
but re-opening at 11:00a the morning after
Christmas, in hopes you'll be there!