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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)

If this is the year you want to get involved with turtle patrol here is an announcement for you.  Mary Duffy will be holding her organizational meeting for the coming Sea Turtle Patrol Season.  Follow this link for dates and information

To say it has been a week for the birds would be pretty accurate.  It started out with a sighting of a familiar acting Blue Jay.  The photos I tried to take just were not good enough to post.  Many of you will remember B. Jay the Blue Jay which I raised a few summers ago.  This one kept cocking his head sidewise when I would call B. Jay.  Ummm could be.
While I was trying to get a clear view of the Jay I became distracted by a flash of color and the familiar sound of this Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  No I didn't get the picture turned sideways. This is the proper angle for this pair who were just as comfortable upside down as right side up.  Earlier they were checking out a big knot hole in the tree.  Male and female are similarily colored except the female has the red on the top and back of her head with another spot of red across the top of the bill whereas the male has red running all the way from bill to back of the head.  Looks like the female is the one in back. The name is pretty misleading because the red bellied area is not very visible; I am told there are red spots toward the anterior area but I'll take those experts' word for that.
No, this is not a fuzzy stuffed animal but a real life, young Great Horned Owl, which, along with its sibling inhabits this high nest in the top reaches of a pine tree in the middle of a stand of pines near our small airport.  They have been attracting quite a crowd of fans trying to get photos.
Momma or Pappa sit nearby being aware of the chicks.  Owls do their hunting, and feeding of the chicks mostly at night so with the graveyard shift coming up a nap is a good thing to try to nab.  One of their food sources can be the Red-Bellied Woodpecker chicks.
I drove on over to check out the Bald Eagle nest but after seeing one flying away as I drove in the nest was empty when I arrived.  That was disappointing.
Directly underneath the tree I saw this pellet very much like what looked like an owl pellet which the owls barf up to rid themselves of the indigestible parts of their food.  This one included the foot of another bird along with lots of hair, fur, bones, and probably feathers.  If you would like to have your very own Owl Pellet you can actually go on line and buy them they are kind of like fur balls to a cat.  I assume though that this one was an eagle pellet.  The reason to actually buy an owl pellet is for study, to examine the diet of the bird, as in a school biology or science project.
Since I always combine my Sea Turtle Volunteer Training in March at Marineland with a trip to the Alligator Farm, I was to fill the week with many more birds.  My season pass at "The Farm" lasts until the last part of April so I should be able to get in another trip to see hatchlings before it expires.  The fun part and the reason for the season pass is to catch the birds at this amazing rookery as the birds are in the various phases of mating, nesting, hatching and fledging.  Each stage is very different and interesting to witness.  The Tri Colored Heron was one of my first encounters as they are usually nesting near the end of the boardwalk where I enter.  Each bird is a favorite in its own way for a different reason.  They are all so unique, how can one choose?
The Little Snowy Egret which is usually pretty unassuming except at this time of year when it is one of the more noisy (I wish I could include his sound with this), aggressive in mating, and interesting of the birds to watch.  He can do things with his new volume of mating plumage that you would not ever imagine when you just see him out fishing along the shoreline.
Then of course the unusual funny billed pink bird, the Roseate Spoonbill, which for the first time last year nested at The Farm, hatching some of the cutest little rubber ducky looking pink babies.  This year they are busy making plans on outdoing last years season as they are in mating colors and are busy building and it even looked like one may already be sitting on eggs.
TheTri Colored has such beautiful colors when examined in a more close up look.  The deep red of the eyes, which looks even more red when the light is at the best angle, and the beautiful blue of the upper bill blends with the blue and bluish purple of the overall feathers.  A white tuft of feathers crowns the head and can become quite showy when into mating or dealing with hungry chicks.
The red lore, (face mask), is a sign of mating in the Little Snowy, as is a hint of the finer feathers on the top of the head; as he preens you can get an inkling of the lacy magical tail plumage which can seem to curl up on the tips, when he is showing off for his lady.
The old swimming hole in the shallow, shady end of the pond is always a favorite hang out spot for all the different varieties of birds.  The Ibis can always be found here although they do not seem to nest here.  The Gators do not seem to congregate at this end of the pond so the birds are usually safe to bathe and hang out here. 
Another very elegant bird anytime, but especially during mating is the Great White Egret.  His tail feathers were so desired, that they were almost his demise in an earlier time as they were killed so that these feathers could adorn someone's hat.  The lores of this great symbol of the Audubon Society turn chartreuse green during mating time.
If there is a King of the Hill here, it is the Woodstork, the largest of these birds, which always claims the tip top tiers of a great Live Oak known as The Woodstork Tree.  The second tier is claimed by the Great Whites with the smaller Snowy Egrets taking a place in the lower tier of the shorter growing scrub trees.
With the dark background nothing could contrast more to show off the great beauty of the Great White than this.
This was an interesting perspective as this Great White starts laying down the first couple of branches which will form the under-structure of the nest.  It was interesting to watch the decisions on just which way to place these first two all important pieces.
This fellow had just landed with reinforcements as he brings another twig for the Missus to place as together they put it all together.
Mr. and Mrs. Woodstork take a few minutes for some R & R from the nest building activities.
Well it looks like we are about to begin the important activities of the mating season.
I couldn't decide if the female was wholeheartedly taking part of this ritual, or was just thinking "should I paint the bedroom ceiling pink".
It did seem to me that she was more intent on the decorating of the house then what was going on with the Mr.  She did give a satisfied shake of her head once he stood down.  I still think she might be saying, no I think it should be chartreuse.
Whatever the case they both went back to casually building the nest.  I am not sure of the mating and nesting habits of the Egrets but with the Ospreys they mate often and many times but once the first egg is laid there is no more mating, with the male switching from lover to provider by bringing food to keep her going while she sits on the eggs.
Some couples were ahead of the game, with sitting on eggs already a reality.
The scenario here was pretty funny as I tried in vain to get a shot of this fellow flying with one of the longest limbs I had seen one carry.  It was so long it draped a green leafy branch all the way over his shoulder and down the center of his back as he flew to the nest.  It was a branch he had broken off an Elderberry bush.  As the female takes the big end of the stick, the long flowing branch was still extended over the male's neck.
It took a bit of doing to get himself disentangled while she was all the while trying her best to get that stick placed into the nest.
They seemed to both be having a good laugh about the whole thing after finally getting it all situated.
I took over 600 photos during the day there and earlier in the week, so it has taken a lot of time to pick out just a few of the better and the best to tell you the story of my week with the birds.  With so many photos I will definitely add one more day to the story but try not to overwhelm all of you.
(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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