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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)

Before the Story... 

In memory of Bob Van Court:  A fine artist and a fine man.

Bob was a long timer with the gallery going back to the post Katrina days.  He found his way to my doorstep after relocating to Jacksonville when he lost everything he owned in that terrible storm.  With only a concrete slab left of his home, he came here to live with his daughter until he could get himself and his wife back on track.  Finally after recovery efforts in Biloxi, especially the gambling casinos where wife Susan had worked, they we able to return to their home base.  About 2 years ago he began his long battle with lung cancer, a battle he lost, I just found out, back in April.

Some of you will remember seeing him in my gallery, he happily attended to his work during a few Artwalks!

His work will remain in the gallery until December when, if not sold, I will return it to his family.  The other day, after not hearing from him in a while I was excited to see an email from him with the subject line of :  "Bringing new Work".  When I opened it though I found it was a "reply" sent by Susan telling me of his passing.  We are saddened to have lost such a good and generous friend and the Horseshoe crab crafted by him and his wife will remain with me as a personal gift from Bob and Susan.  A treasure and a remembrance of a very fine man and artist.

 T-shirt designs and styles are finished, and ready to order!!!  You'll very shortly get a separate e-mail with the order forms and download instructions.

And now...

After the Storm 

After the storm had gone, the beach returned to normal, though not so wide, and with lasting effects to be felt long after the storm, with all our turtle nests having been impacted; to what degree time would tell.
First morning back on the beach with calm once again restored the air, is filled with large Dragonflies as I reach the entrance to the beach.  It looks like a snowstorm of the winged creatures out of a clear sky silhouetted by the sunrise.
The beach was surprisingly un-littered but still some very interesting treasures to find.  There was a wrack line as expected of the dead marsh grasses that was filled with tiny Box Crabs or Marsh Crabs.  The birds lined the whole beach searching for that seldom enjoyed delicacy.  Many pretty shells were scattered around with several early morning beachcombers hunting for treasures, some going away disappointed.  Lots of the shells still had live residents.  
Not so many gooey gummy things as usual after a storm.  One very large Moon Jelly the largest I have seen,  Something I had not seen is "Sea Pork" which is very gristly and firm; I wasn't quite sure if it was animal or vegetable.  It is actually a colony of tiny turicate animals known as zooids.  I added it to my collection of living things to take to Kayak Amelia.  I took the Yellow Sea Whip also, which, when I checked in this week, did not survive very long.  Jody at Kayak Amelia feels that if something doesn't survive it becomes food for the others.  It looked like it had collected a bunch of trash from the bottom of the Yellow Sea Whip sea, but it was organic, tube worm-like casings, although it did have some monofilament line tangled in its branches.  The Brown Sea Cucumbers can be pretty slimy so I threw it back in the water.  An interesting critter that is used as make shift sandals in some island societies which must brave the sharp corals to catch fish.  By squeezing the Sea Cukes they get the sickly slimy stuff and apply it to the bottom of their feet.  Doesn't hurt the Sea Cukes at all.
Between the molting birds and the Warble infested squirrels, my backyard critters are not very pretty right now.  My squirrel feeder is empty today, so the squirrels have tried all day to get to the bird's feeder outside my window, climbing up the screens and the nearby vines.  This little Wren sitting atop its house is singing the blues I think over his unattractive state.
But back at the beach some of the larger Whelk shells have been pretty.  I like to line flower beds with them.  I stick the pointed end down into the ground that leaves the flower like spiral sticking up. Thankfully I live on an older street with not a single one of the Community Nazi Organizations that seem to love to tell you what you can and can't do at your own house.  One in Chattanooga refused to allow the building of a ramp to enable the wife of one of my old friends, and War Hero and for several years a POW in Vietnam, Roger Ingvalson, to get him from the car to the house after undergoing his dialysis treatments. 
A friend around town called me just as I was getting in the car the other morning at 7AM.  She said she had found a "Wash Back" on the beach.  I knew she had read my note on not putting Wash Backs back in the water because they might need some rehabbing if they truly were washbacks.  I was on my way to do Turtle Patrol, I met her since she did not see any local IslandTurtle Patrol folks out.  I told her I would get it where it needed to go.  Once I got it I realized it was probably just a new hatchling that had gotten left behind.  It still had its egg tooth.  I ran into Pat Foster Turley on the beach who writes our local nature column.  I told her to come with me.  She had her own treasures, two Horse Conch's which were alive.  The Conch's went to Kayak Amelia's saltwater aquarium.  As soon as we got our treasures into my holding tank and headed toward the water's edge a beautiful blue Dragonfly flew into the box also.  What a beachcomber's treasure chest of living creatures.
I had never seen one of these beautiful little orange Horse Conchs before.  The Horse Conch is the State Shell for the State of Florida.  They grow to be very large, over 24 inches, but this pretty orange one was very small only about 2 inches.  It will loose its beautiful color as it matures.  It will however retain the bright orange on its body inside the shell. They will only be at the Kayak Amelia Aquarium for a short time.  As they grow up they get too big an appetite to be handled in the aquarium and will be released.
The little one was not super energetic but did make it's way into the water with a little help.
It got tumbled back a few times.
But it kept trying.
Finally it made it into the water and was gone.
This is the highest nest and we are hoping its eggs survived the wash over.  Nest number 18, the one I walked to check during the storm which did not get washed away, obviously had hatched at that time, but since they got washed over two nights in a row all the babies drowned.
I found some Dead Man's Fingers that were actually alive and well.  They were pink in color and were lacy looking.  They found a new home in the Salt Water tank also.
This little unusual colored Dragonfly posed prettily on top of my dead tomato stalk.  This was a dismal summer for my tomatoes.  My crop consisted of one small tomato and about 3 cherry tomatoes.  I guess I must face the facts, I can't grow tomatoes here.  I have tried for years and this was the worst, and the one I had the most hope for, because I was using heirloom seeds from the area.  I don't have enough sun in my mostly shady yard.
Guess I'll just stick to making a Butterfly kingdom instead.  When I went to the Farmer's Market that Saturday.  I was asking about native Butterfly Weed from Reflection of Nature Nursery.  He said he didn't have any but had some fennel which had some Black Swallowtail Cats on them.  So off I go trying to be careful not to dislodge them on the way home.  They were so tiny I would have never spotted them on my own.  I found them to be much more temperamental then the Monarch Cats.  It seems they go through about 4 metamorphosis and shed their outer skin each time.  That must be a very risky time as not all survived, biting the dust at different stages, one when it was almost grown.  It shed its skin and then was just was laying dead the next morning at the bottom of the cage.  But I do have two which have made it to the Chrysalis stage and one more picked up at this Saturday's market almost grown who seems to be healthy.  Pictures will follow as they progress.
The rides get more lonely and not as interesting with very few nests to check.  One morning last week I got to be the only witness as the sub came by just after daybreak.  Some of the men were out on deck.  I waved but they were busy and paid no attention.  You can be sure though, that there is someone watching me, and probably knows my name and social security number.  They are saying, "Oh never mind it's just that ol' turtle lady again.
This is an empty Horse Conch Shell which I found on the beach.  Very thick hard shell on it.  The color still resembles the smaller versions. This one was about 5 inches long.
The Caterpillars have grown and soon would become a Chrysalis.  These have the very unique defense mechanism I found out (Lisa had already warned me).  I moved it from one twig to another because the one it was on had broken in two.  When I touched it these two feathery looking antenna came out of one end and I got sprayed with a fairly stinky substance.  Kind of like having your own tiny pet skunk. 
I had not seen the Osprey on the pier before as it flew in without a fish, to sit a while.  The Bald Eagles are also back to harass the Ospreys and try to steal their fish catch.  As Ben Franklin said they are just "Fish Thieves" when he was trying to keep the Eagle from being adopted as our National Symbol and I am beginning to think him right on that point.
I thought this shot really highlighted why this bird is such a good fisherman.  Look at those talons, almost like large fish hooks.  They have a rotating like thumb so they can really hang on and also twist the fish into the most aerodynamically position while in flight.  Large, high resolution eyes also, for spotting the prey from above, even underneath the water.  If you have ever seen how a Flounder blends into his environment from above you will think their vision must really be supernatural.
At low tide, the patterns were quite beautiful and I never tire of them.
Life on the island has certainly settled back into acceptance of what the weather has done as just part of life and life gets back to normal (whatever that is) once again.  The Shrimp Boats are back at work, the turtles are still hatching although not nearly with as much ease with hard packed sand on top of them, and the tourists who were scared when they heard the word "hurricane" have started to trickle back.  The Turtle Trot painting has sold and I received the canvas and stretchers to start another commission piece.  I am finally going to get those Koi's painted.  Life resumes come good or bad, fair weather or foul, we just learn to roll with the tide.

(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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