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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)

Hope Everyone Had a Happy 4th of July!!!!

It is time to move on to happenings in the park before I get too far behind.  We now have 17 nests plus 1 (delayed a few days getting this written and now it is 23 + 1), a great year so far with more to come.  The "plus one" is a Loggerhead Sea Turtle which laid her nest too far west to be included in our "official" count, very near the River Campground.  The area designated as an "Indexing Beach" only goes to the north corner of the Fort.  This nest was marked and monitored but won't be included in official reports.
This of course is not a Sea Turtle but a Gopher Tortoise in the park at Fort Clinch grabbing a snack on what little greenery was growing around the base of this tree.  I am sure he was thankful for the hard shell with all the prickly things growing there.
The smoke was terrible for a large part of several days the week before last, so bad you could not even see to the end of a city block one morning.  By late afternoon the wind changed and it went away.
I discovered that we had a new nesting bird to the park beach.  Although Willets are common to the beach we had not ever verified that they were nesting in the park.  On my ride the other morning I saw a Willet acting very much like the Wilson's Plovers when they have chicks.  After I got beyond the area I stopped, got out of the buggy, and observed from a distance.  Sure enough in a few minutes mom, dad and two chicks came in view.  I have not seen them again but we do know with certainly that they did nest here.
A closer view of the two chicks and one of the parents.
Also on the river is our Wilson's Plover, the male, with the stronger neck band, watching over chicks which are getting pretty big.
Although almost grown you can see that this one still has the pattern of kiddie feathers and a bit of fluff at the white spot on its neck.  This family has been able to raise 2 of what probably started out with three chicks.
Sibling #2 was at the water's edge where they will spend the biggest part of the rest of their lives.  They are probably both at the flying stage themselves now.  I have been on the beach at midnight and could hear the little Plover's making their sound as they were still on the beach looking for food.  I often wondered when they slept.
Our Osprey babies have fledged, which means they are now flying, and will be hanging out in the nearby snags practicing their flying techniques and learning to fish from Little Girl and Alpha, the island folks name for the Osprey pair, which nest here each year.  The couple is monogamous and will return to the same nest year after year.
The last nest "I" found last week, #19 (since then we now have 23 with a mix of river and ocean side).  Now this gal really has honed in on a certain space as her three nests are almost touching.  She almost ran over one of her stakes from a previous nest on the way out.  I have to wonder where # 4 will be.  A Sea Turtle will lay anywhere from 3 to 6 nests a season.  I find they usually lay about 5.
Good picture of her tracks.  The stripe down the middle of the nest is her "cloaca" (the part of her body the eggs exit from) or a barnacle on her plastron (the bottom shell).  Loggerheads don't leave a tail drag because their tails are not long enough. You can also see the front flipper marks on the left side which is unusual as the back flipper tracks normally cover up the front ones.  This lady must have an unusually long reach or longer flipper on this side.
It now looks like a "stake" garden but it is really a turtle nursery.
This one was also a difficult one to call as she crawled in through some very sharp prickly plants and crawled all around and back through the first place.  It was very difficult to decide if it was a nest and if so where? but since there were so many uprooted plants in this spot I decided to mark it where I did.
The past two times I had patrol this old looking Brown Pelican had found himself a fisherman to hang out with.  Both times were on the river beach but different parts of it.  He has figured out that fishermen have extra fish he can retrieve or he seems to be casting a wishful eye at the fisherman's bait bucket.  These fellows become almost semi tame and often beg from humans for handouts although not as pesky as gulls can be.  They just hang out quietly and demurely waiting for someone to take pity on them and share their catch.
Thankfully the rain clouds have returned and the smoke is gone for now, with a goodly number of rain showers in the past several days.
A Snowy Egret is hanging out on the old ballast stones thrown off ships of long ago once they were in port and no longer needed them.  These stones could probably tell some tales as they are from everywhere.
The rain also brought some wind storms.  Storms with lightning are sometimes worse for the fire situation then not having the rain.  Lightning strikes are attributed with most of the fire starts in Florida.  The Ritz Carlton sometimes sets up a large tent on the grounds at Fort Clinch to entertain their guests with a dinner on the river's edge, looking across the beautiful view at Cumberland Island and sitting almost in the shadow of the old Fort.  This time the guests may have had something more to write home about as the tent seems to have been pretty well blown apart.  The storm had happened the day before about 4:30 so maybe it blew down before the dinner guests arrived.
This Ghost Crab was really big and really funny.  They are so much the color of the sand that I almost ran over him with my buggy.  He startled me when he charged out from underneath the beach buggy just as I started to go down the small escarpment to the beach.  He did a flip he was moving so fast to get out from underneath the buggy and down the embankment, but then he took a defensive stand to challenge whatever it was that threatened his space.  When I reached out to touch him he finally retreated, all bark no bite.
The Sea Oats are now filled out and a pretty shade of Spring green.
We have a pair of new little Plover babies, also very near the area where our sea turtle non-nest is located.  Still in the cute fluffy stage.
I don't usually see this tug out and running the river.  I usually see it docked in the port.  It is called into action when it needs to escort a big ship into port. 
Rain clouds have came and gone but did drop enough rain to take the smoke away hopefully for good.
The mom of the little fluff ball on last Wednesday did her broken wing act because she felt I was threatening her chicks.  This action very much resembles what her cousin the Killdeer does to distract a predator.
I often find pieces of Yellow Coral like this one.  The base where it is connected to the sea bed in like a weight on the bottom of the cluster.  This one had been in the sun for a while so has lost some of its color intensity.  I sometimes find it in a pinkish red although not as often as the yellow.
This nest, laid on the river, was well back past the wrack line, high enough to avoid being washed over except in extreme storm tides.  It is only a matter of days before nests start hatching on the island.  An exciting time as laying and hatching will continue simultaneously until mid August.  If you were not added to my Excavation list last year and want to be on it let me know.  Right now I have 200 names who receive notification of when and where we will be doing an excavation.  If you wish to be removed from that list also let me know that. 
For those who are new and don't know what in the world I am talking about here is the explanation:  72 hours after we know a nest has hatched we dig into the nest removing the contents so that we can evaluate how well the nest did; how many eggs, how many hatched, how many emerged from the nest, how many died in the nest, how many eggs did not hatch; often we get to rescue little live hatchlings which were for one reason or the other unable to emerge from the nest on their own.  Since we are a small community we are able to invite those who want to see this event to be able to do that.  If we have more then one nest we try to schedule the times so that it is possible to attend them all.  There are rules laid out for those of us doing these excavations which are the reasons for the timing.  They must be done so that any turtles found in the nest can be released before 9 am or after 6  pm.  In the park we do early morning excavations whereas the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch does them in the early evening.
(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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