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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
Amelia Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)

I just have to mention a couple of things before we go into the wild.  :)

Well, Sleepy is not sleepy any more.  She/he is quite the energetic little fellow.  Name change being applied for; am saying "Happy", although Bruce has settled on the name Lewis Lizzard in memory of one of our favorite comics of all time.  Of course it may be that would have to be changed to Louise Lizzard if it becomes apparent that eggs are on the way.
Looking very much like a bandito with the mask of dry skin which in now almost gone except for one piece which looks now like a giant eyelash flapping in the breeze.  Lewis quickly ate two, then shortly afterward a third, when we dropped some new naive crickets into the den.  The ones in there have become wary and are hiding down in the mosses.  Of course Lewis is now tracking them down even in there.  Maybe "Killer" is a more appropriate name.  I am now feeling guilty about the small confines of the cage but can't boot the fish out for bigger quarters for a temporary resident.  It would seem that caring for a reptile is much easier then a Blue Jay or a Squirrel and definetly easier than a Butterfly.

And, Voila,
Painting "Koi Pond" is finished and has already found a new home!

Now on to:
Wild Wildlife Refuge
My much anticipated trip to Merritt Island National Nature Refuge did take place as planned yesterday.  The drive took a bit longer than anticipated partially due to traffic accidents and faulty directions.  We found the South side of the park but since that part is closed to the public because it is the NASA Headquarters we were not allowed what would have been a short cut across their property.  Obviously we were not the only ones since the congenial guard bartered directions in exchange for a cookie, direction which were so thorough the first line instructed us to do a "U" turn around the guard station.  After a stop at the visitor's center for this very unique island, which holds some of the world's greatest technology and one of the greatest nature preserves.  As we listened to the park folks' recommendations, we plotted our plan of action.  Mostly it is a driving tour but with hardly any traffic, we were free to spend as much time as we wished photographing the sights.

Our first route was Peacock Road which swung around the back side of the visitors center and was about 6 miles or so of narrow dirt road with water on both sides most of the time.  The first critter we encountered was this very busy Alligator.
It is my belief that Mrs. Gator was laying eggs right in the hole she had dug out of the bank.  A great place with morning sun and next to the water so an easy trek for transferring her babies when they hatched.  She will cover this with a mound of dirt and leaves and wait to hear the grunts of her little ones, so she can assist them in getting out of the nest and carefully deposit them into the water in her mouth.  Unlike most reptiles she will take care of her offspring.  Even with this care the survival rate is low.
She seems to have a determined look but a nice smile as she works toward achieving her goal, ignoring the stares of tourists.
Not being a birder I don't know what this little fellow is but we saw lots of them.  It had such a sweet face that it would make a great character in a children's book.
As we said goodbye to the Hammock area we commented on the great variety of plants we found there.  The park is also holds a huge variety of plants as well as being in the flyover path for so many migrating birds. 
Ahead lay an area that might be described as a coastal savannah if that is a proper terminology for this type of landscape.  Lush and delicate marsh grasses with great color combinations stood before us. 
The lush greens, the darker greens of palm fronds, and even darker, richer greens of the hammock area behind were a visual treat.  This view was so great against the blue sky, with the fluffy clouds instead of the dark rainy ones we had seen at home for the past couple of weeks, and was soaked into our retinas.  We had dressed in layers anticipating that the weather man was credible when he said that it would be nice temps and sunshine at the Cape.  There was a 60 percent chance of showers and by the end of the day we were very glad to have those layers we shed early on, still sitting in the wings on standby.
As water lay on either side of our ever narrowing road I spotted a younger Alligator sunning on my side of the automobile.  He was fairly large but still young enough to retain some of his baby stripes on its sides and tail.
Not so docile, and determined to hold his ground, he was "quicker than a flash", into the water at the sound of car doors opening.  We hoped he was content to stay in the water since this was different then the Alligator Farm where gators are in enclosed areas.  This is all wild and wooly open territory.
I created a composite panorama with the computer, wider then my camera will allow so you can see the vastness of this great area. 
Mostly palm trees lay before us with Cape Canaveral in the distant background beyond the row of trees on the horizon.  The large building is where the Space Shuttle is housed and readied for launch.  It is tall enough to allow the Shuttle to be suspended vertically for the work.  Amazing this example of how well nature can coexist with technology.
The further we go the road becomes less and less and the water more and more.  We had encountered another vehicle twice and not a pleasant chore when the pickup truck is one of those big ones.  We were questioning just how soft the road's shoulder was, with our wheels very close to the dropoff.
Our first big bird encounter is a worthwhile one as I spot a flock of Glossy Ibis.  Unlike the White Ibis we usually find around Fernandina  Beach these fellows are almost black with the irridescence of a firey opal in the light as the colors reflected from the sun off their feathers, in all the colors of the rainbow.
Although they are not common in our area I spotted and photographed some out at Oyster Bay a couple of years ago.
They were soon joined by their fairer feathered White Ibis cousins.  They all join in a poking and prodding of the bottom of the channel for lunch.
Overhead a familiar sight with a Woodstork in flight.  These have become a common sight in our area and their description is usually prefaced by something which contains the word "ugly" and usually in reference to their leathery bald big-beaked head but in flight they are a thing of grace and beauty.
I only spotted one variety of butterfly, no Monarchs that's for sure.  This was a very pretty and dainty looking one with beautiful pastel colors.  There was a hint of blue on the top side but impossible for me to capture because as soon as it lit it closed up its wings.
A new bird for me is this Gallinule; not the fancy colored Purple Gallinule my friend Sabrina just saw down at Delray Beach area, but a nice bird for me to see, nevertheless.
An old and favored friend is the Tri-Colored Heron.  It is a treat to see these birds, (which I have observed mostly at The Alligator Farm, in their courting, nesting and chick raising rituals), out in their everyday world doing what most wild critters do, hunting for food and survival.  The Tri-Colored is so graceful as it does it little hunting dance.
Probably my favorite of all the birds in the Marsh here, is this one, the Little Blue Heron.  Lately, I see fewer of them and they seem so much more elusive, that it is a treat to find one.  Although totally blue in color the sun brings out a purplish hue especially in the neck area.

This is only part of the trip around this great Nature Refuge so it will have to be continued over into another episode but that is the way with new places, much to digest and share.  My thanks to my good friend and fellow photographer Lea Gallardo for the invite that allowed me to share this great experience with her.  Having a companion of like mindedness is a treat in itself when out on one of the great adventures.  You can laugh at your screw ups and ooh and aah together when something wonderful happens and you can eat two donuts in one sitting as you drive to the next part of the adventure and each blame the other for the lapse in dietary restraint.

(Please take a moment to consider:
These photo-stories have always been offered completely free, to simply share the wonders of nature. 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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