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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)

(With tax time, my free time for writing has been as scattered as I have been.  I wrote this last week but forgot to get it to Bruce to post for me.)
 
As our journey continued around the little dirt road our next bird sighting was this tiny island filled to the brim with several White Ibis, a Great White Egret, and the Little Blue Heron.  
I was really enjoying seeing these fellows I was so familiar with out in the real world and not just on nursery duty, baby sitting the kiddies, or bringing home the bacon.  It was kind of like seeing them at work instead of just "at home". 
 
We became more surrounded by water as we traveled around the Peacocks Pocket Road Route.  By the way we saw no Peacocks on this road.
 
This part of the road had some decent passing places but soon those would be few.
 
We found more of the birds which my birding friends tell me are Coots.  Very similiar in looks and body to the Gallinules.  Very heavy bodied and with strong stocky legs so powerful.
 
These cute little diving guys are Pied-Billed Grebe.  They were a very cute group of tiny little birds in comparison to the more robust looking Coots. 
 
The landscape was beginning to make us feel like we were part of the movie Water World, which no matter what the critics said, I liked.  We were missing a lot of birds which showed up in our photos when we blew they up on the computer.  "I didn't see that" is a common comment between Lea and I in comparing our photos.  Sometimes the camouflage in nature is a powerful defense.
 
Now we're on the deeper side of the Indian River Lagoon just across the bridge from Mosquito Lagoon, which from the size of the winged pests that occasionally swarmed us was appropriately named.  We were very lucky I think, that the wind was pretty active most of the day, as we may have had the very life sucked from our bodies by the healthy size of those mosquitos.
 
The skies were beautiful as we kept repeating there's nothing like a Florida sky.  The only thing that compares is the skies I saw in New Mexico.
 
More Gonzo birds.
 
More Cormorants claiming their own private perches to dry their feathers and plan their next move.  They dive for fish and are sometimes used to fish with in some of the countries in the Far East.  A ring is put around their necks so they can't swallow their catch and a string to reel them in.
 
As we wound around the road we would often find ourselves pretty close to the buildings at the Cape and the launch sites.  Part of the reason the park is closed to outsiders during a launch.  It would certainly be the cat birds seat for watching the last shuttle launch.
 
What could have been a great shot if only it had been sharper.  This is where the limitations of my camera leave me wanting bigger and better, a photographer's disease I fear.  The old, my lens is bigger then your lens", syndrome.
 
OK, my bird watching friends, to me this is a duck, a variety of which I have never seen.  I am being lazy and not taking time to look him up.  Isn't it wonderful to see so may different varieties of these water and wading birds?  It is one more reason to appreciate that I have no trouble learning the five species of Sea Turtles we have in Florida.
 
Lea pointed out the beautiful reflections that were in the water with the low light to the West.  We took a lot of shots of this subject.  It was difficult to decide which worked better, cropping in to focus on just the dramatic reflections, or maybe a much tighter shot of a more detailed photo, or letting the tops of the plants show with their lacy foliage.  I'm still second guessing my choice.
 
There are two kinds of Yellow Legs, the Lesser Yellow Legs and the Greater Yellow Legs.  I believe, since I didn't have the other to compare size, that these are the Greater ones.  The yellow legs are a definite characteristic.
 
Our largest marsh bird is the very regal looking Great Blue Heron.  We saw a few of them in different places but not always could we get close enough to photograph them like this.
 
The tide was going out and exposing the mud flats which made like a dinner bell, and drew in a wide variety of birds.  I chose the one with the Ibis included to show the size comparison.  There were at least three varieties of these little shore bird types in this large flock, according to the lady doing bird watching beside the road.  She was very quick to inform us that she lived there and came out to the Refuge often to observe.
 
I watched for a long time trying and failing to get a clear shot of this Black Skimmer working the surface and earning its name as it flew at super speed with that harpoon-like lower jaw just skimming the surface spearing dinner.
 
As we sat in the car trying to get the skimmer in focus all of a sudden the birds all flew at once right at us.  I wasn't so sure they weren't going to follow the mosquitoes in through the car window. 
 
Back at the Visitor Center I had hoped to get a photo of a Painted Bunting one of my favorite small inland birds which had been feeding here earlier when I did not have camera in hand, of course.  Instead a variety of Red Winged Blackbirds were busy eating the birdseed. 
 
with a pair of Cardinals feeding below the feeder rather then argue with the larger Blackbirds on top.
 
The reflections of the walkway bridge made me almost think of the famous Monet Painting.
 
Time was quickly getting away.  We still wanted to see more but the gas gauge was telling us that spending the night in the middle of the Alligator, mosquito infested marsh was an option, but not one we wanted to risk.  To refuel we had to leave the island.  The clouds were rolling in by this point with the 60 percent chance of rain looking like it might materialize.  The wind was getting stronger sending this windsurfer sailing on what looked like a collision path with us.  Of course the beach between us was a barrier but the force and speed this fellow was flying toward us would make that distance disappear if he did not know what he was doing.
 
There were still another couple of roads to explore and time and weather was running out.  The Visitor Center workers were helpful in pointing out our best direction to go to see the most wildlife.  A real desire for me was to go to the Scrub Jay area where we were told the Scrub Jay, a very rare bird which only lives a narrow band across the middle of Florida, would be found.  After checking us out and not finding us a threat, they actually flew down and alighted on our heads.  But in the meantime a race with the clock was on.
...to be continued and finally, probably to your relief, concluded another day.
(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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