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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
http://www.sandrabaker-hinton.com
http://www.ameliasanjongallery.com
Amelia Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)

Thank you to those of you who have come in and expressed your desire to do all your shopping for the holidays at our island shops.  It is so important to the town and the real local people who own and operate these cute little shops for that to happen.  From what I am hearing from others and from the reports on our corner this is the worst shopping season ever in recent times downtown. 
 
Just in case you wonder where to find some music stocking stuffers I have Sean McCarthy's "Life in a Beach Town" and Jim Marett's "Pasqerelle" CDs all featuring local music, different styles both fun to own & give. 
 
Have a great Christmas Holiday and keep warm and merry!!!
___________________________________________________________________
On a sad note; I just want to say that Kelly Mixon of Yulee was killed in Afghanistan last week, just before he was scheduled to be coming home. I am so moved by his last FaceBook entries, but his page seems to have been taken down. 
A call out to everyone in Fernandina Beach !
Funeral Service for our fallen Army hero - Kelly Mixon, who lost his life last week in Afghanistan,  will be Sunday at 2:00.  The body will arrive at First Baptist Church around 1:00.
It would be a great tribute to see 8th street lined with grateful citizens as the hearse comes South down the street to the church. Let us encourage this family and honor this hero by standing for them as they enter town, be there by 12:15-12:30PM. He certainly stood for us.

Since the temperatures are pretty cold of the morning and the wind and lower temperatures were expected for the next day I checked my nest on the way home from the gallery.  I used to always say that sunset was my favorite time on the beach.
Now I enjoy the sunset over the Marina so much that I usually choose that as my side of the island to watch ol'  Mr. Sun dip below the horizon.
 
My reason for liking the ocean side is that it becomes a pink world with the whole beach reflecting the skies colors.
 
Officially it is not winter yet but the dunes at sundown certainly look cold and winter like to me with the sand almost making me think of snow.  Too cold for Florida and we hope this trend does not continue.  Lots of wildlife will suffer if it does.
 
Nothing prettier then a Palm Tree with the sky ablaze behind it.
 
In case you think I had been huddled around the heater keeping my toes warm, I had been very busy for the two weeks prior.  I had painted three paintings for a commission job with only a two week turnaround to do it.  I hunkered down and did not take any time off until it was finished.  Now it was time to deliver them to Orlando and their final destination.
 
After dropping off the paintings I stayed over until early on Thursday morning before heading back northward.  I knew that with the near freezing temperatures in mid Florida I should be able to get some good sightings of Manatees at Blue Springs State Park near Orange City, a short jog off my route home.  These amazing creatures come into the spring because of the warmer waters there.  The Plecostomus, a catfish like fish, whose main function in life is to eat algae, works at cleaning this Manatee.  The huge animal seems to roll over so that they can get to its underside easier.
 
On this particular morning the count in the spring was 261 Manatees sighted.  They were stacked up like cord wood underneath the tree canopy on the far side of the waterway.  The spring's stream is very clear so with the boardwalk following the bank it makes for great viewing of these wonderful animals.
 
These gentle giants will head on out into the river once the sun warms up a bit to look for food.  The creek does not have very much in the way of vegetation for them to eat.
 
I see more and more Manatees as I head on up the spring's bank to toward the source of the water, which flows from deep under ground, maintaining the warmer temperatures there, allowing for a natural warm bath for these big Sea Cows.
 
There are other fish, including this Gar, Bass, Plecostomas, and various freshwater species all hanging out together.
 
The Manatees are counted and identified by the scrapes and scars created by their encounters with boat propellers.  Each is distinctive just like fingerprints.
 
There were lots of babies mixed in with the families.  They are a slightly browner color than the grays of the older or more mature Manatees.
 
This one certainly had distinctive marks which were clearly made by the action of a propeller as it made it's way right down its back.
 
These are mammals, and must come up for a breath of air every 8 minutes or so.  Being mammals, they must have hair to prove that fact, so if you look closely you will see that they have a sparse set of facial hair around their snout.
 
Today was especially interesting as the FWC workers (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission...they change their name a lot so I am never sure what the FWC actually stands for) are trying to corral and put a loop with a tracking device around the tail of one of the manatees.  With one splash of that massive tail the Manatee was sailing past and beyond her reach.
 
This was the device they were attempting to lasso our elusive Manatee with.  I might add the air temperatures were in the low 40's at this point.
 
The Manatee managed to elude its stalkers and the above water committee was in hot but gentle pursuit to try to keep it in their line of vision.  On the boardwalk with our bird's-eye view we were shouting its position to the boat people.  The boat gives you a bit of prespective as to the size of their quarry.
 
You may wonder why they needed to tag this particular animal.
 
This is the object of all this effort.  If you look closely you will see a projectile sticking out of its side about a foot long.  On its end is a rope and I figured it was probably someone's attempt to shoot it with a spear gun.  A dumb and thoughtless thing to do.  My son had gone over the next morning to see them, and he reported that they did achieve catching and corraling this fellow into a holding pen where it can be treated.  So a more hopeful outcome for what could have been a bad end for this particular Manatee.  The Manatee was not a happy camper though, because he did not understand all that was happening to it and really just wanted to be free of the thing on its tail and to be free to roam again.
 
With my hands and bones starting to feel the cold I am ready to get in the warm car and finish my drive back to the island.  The Anhingas take a break from fishing in the cold water and I just missed getting a photo of a big Kingfisher across the spring.
 
I snap a few more shots as I leave.  One of the Manatees heads toward the surface for a breath of air.  Notice the nostrils have a covering to seal out the water.
 
Those big nostrils open up for that life giving breath before he slowly submerges again.
 
A family who had taken a day off from school for a personal field trip, was hoping that by writing up a report of the day would not get in trouble with an unexcused absence. They came just to see the Manatees.  They were having fun as they explore the wonderful remains of this once grand tree.  Mom was trying to get a picture of the kids in the tree, but the little one kept escaping out of one of the openings and ending up behind the photographer.  He was very fast. 
It was certainly an educational and interesting trip for me and I am sure the school aged one learned far more than (he?) would have learned inside a classroom that day.
 
A cold day is the best time to catch the Manatees in the spring at Blue Springs State Park.  I encourage you to make it part of your trip to Orlando.  Beats the theme parks for me.  Go early because if the park maxes out you may get turned away.  It is only 5 miles from interstate 4.  Florida has many wonderful State Parks so take advantage of what is right around you if you live here.
 
Sandra Baker-Hinton, NWS, GWS, TNWS (stands for National Watercolor Society, Georgia Watercolor Society, and Tennessee Watercolor Society, in case you wondered)


(Please take a moment to consider:
These photo-stories have always been offered completely free, to simply share the wonders of nature, and life on the Island. Thousands of hours have been poured into them and it has even become necessary to enlist the services of a paid email service to send out the large numbers who now receive them. So, with the current economic situation if you are able to make a small donation to help ensure the continuation of the stories it would be greatly appreciated.)



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