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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)


Saturday evening is our December Art Walk it is also the Christmas Parade in Downtown Fernandina Beach.  Come enjoy it all, our front porch and sidewalk are a perfect viewing spot for the parade.
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With the abbrevated Turtle Patrol things were often viewed from a different perspective.  The slower pace of walking as well as a different route to observe and take note.

Usually I managed to watch the submarine returns from the river beach near the Fort.  This morning the Pelicans have the best view of all and could probably care less except to snag an easy breakfast if they stir up some fish.


As it nears the Pier I began to wish I had gone there, but no time now.  This time the men are on deck and that is an interesting thing to see, especially for members of the family who are surely waiting on the Fort beach hoping to catch a glimpse of their man after several months at sea.


Walking back to the parking lot after checking nest #42 I stop to try to get some photos of the small but fast butterflies which flit around these Spanish Needles growing alongside the boardwalk.  I didn't even see this unusual bug until I got to the computer and downloaded the photos.  What an amazing pattern on its back.  I have never noticed this insect before.



These little Skippers were what I was really after.  I don't know the individual sub-species of Skippers as there are many.  I don't know if these are two different kinds or if they might be a male and female version of the same.  Their big eyes are their most notable feature.


The tall utility pole on the far side of the parking lot has been transformed into a dining table for one of our Ospreys.


I had the unexpected pleasure of an overnight guest in our bathtub.  One of my friends had seen it in the surf and "who ya gonna call?" not the Ghostbusters, but Sandy the Turtle Lady.  Doesn't seem to matter what kind of turtle, I get them all, and if I don't know what it is or where it needs to be, I can usually find out.  In this case I was pointed in the right direction and found it washed back on the beach, but by the time I got there a wave grabbed it once again and took it back out.  So in I go, for retrivial duty, in my best walking shoes, which I had been trying not to wear on the beach for just this reason.  The grab was successful and off we go walking the long distance back to the car.  Never had I seen this kind of turtle before.  What was it?  Where should it be?  I just knew it was not susposed to be swimming in the ocean.


I posted these photos on the web and asked for help identifing it.  Then I dived into doing research myself.  After rejecting a couple of internet friends who ID'ed it, labeling it a Diamondback Terrapin, based on the fact I had previously found a Diamond Back Terrapin in the park and this one did not look like that one.  However after doing further research, I changed my mind and decided, yes, it was without a doubt, one of the sub-species, which looked quite different from the one I had found.  This one  had a beautiful Carapace design, looking very much like someone had decorated it each individual scute with a magic marker,  giving each a unique design.  He was very cooperative, only opening his mouth when I got too close to his head.  I used that defensive action to try to stuff some food in his mouth.  I had read they like shrimp.  His mouth was equipped with a strong beak with which to break open shellfish, much like a Loggerhead, so I didn't want to tempt fate too much.  By morning I had gotten permission from our Jacksonville FWC office to release this Salt Marsh type of turtle into a small tidal creek which drains out of the park and is filled with minnows.  These terrapins are equipped to deal with fresh and salt water in the brackish areas they claim as home.


I also had another wild critter emerge into my home that same night.  This pretty lady was ready for release also.


I noticed what looked like a small alligator in the pool of water where I was to release her.  We had determined by her large size she was just that.  She was about the maximum that this type of Terripan reaches.  I didn't think the small gator would be a problem.  I had never seen an alligator in that pool before and figured it was after the hundreds of small minnows that get trapped there at low tide.  The turtle loved it.



However, when I returned to check on her midday, if found there was a lot more to the gator than the first appearances gave me to believe, as it lay sunning on this patch of sand.  That small face and nose are not in proportion to the rest of the critter.  It was about four to five feet long.  The turtle was hidden about 3 feet behind it underneath some overhanging limbs hoping the gator would not stay there for long.  Later in the day when I rechecked the site they were both gone, hopefully in different directions and not one within the other.



Since I had a workshop going on in the park,  I was exiting the back gate quite a bit over the weekend.  One trip I found the power company out cleaning out the nest the ospreys had started to build after loosing their chicks.  The pole workers checked the real nest beside the power pole and did not find the remains of any of the babies, only some oyster shells.  One of the people who watched the pole a lot during nesting season, had checked on them the day after the big storm, Beryl, and said that they saw the parents throw the bodies of their chicks out of the nest, probably a result of them having drowned in the downpours and wind.  The power linemen did clean out the drainage holes in the nest so it would help avoid such problem.


This was the weekend that Hurricane Sandy scooted by to our East bringing some windy weather, high surf but nothing else.  With our one nest remaining I kept check on the nest.  I feared that by morning the nest would once again be under water.  I feared the worst as the blowing sand had erased any readable signs for the nest area.  I knew there had been big crab holes a couple of days prior and that is usually a sign that hatching has begun.


Midday the waves were really starting to build.


I walked back to the parking lot wondering what the next few days held.  Last year our very last nest had been totally washed away giving a sad wrappup for our season.  I stopped to see how pretty the Prickly Pears had became with their fruit turning its magenta color.


By 6 pm the surf was really rocking and rolling as windsurfers were taking advantage of it for a thrill ride I would want no part of.


A walk out the pier let one really feel the power of a storm with the water all around and the wind blowing you to the point you can barely get your camera focused.


By Sunday all was calm and the cloud of Tree Swallows were putting on an aireal show of major proportions, swooping and soaring in unison.  My sister Susan, who had gone with me to check the nest that day, stood and watched them.  The water had covered the nest but had not washed it away.  First of the week we would excavate it to see what had happened with it. It was well past hatching date.


More Monarchs were ready for release, this time two beautiful males.  My most beautiful plant, although it does get out of hand by the end of the year.  It is called a Sky Vine and even though I cut it back in the Spring, if it hasn't frozen back, it rebounds by Fall and covers the entire wall of my Utility Room.  The wall is a sore thumb, unattractive later addition to the house, but the vine covers it with green and beautiful blossoms.  It is also a ladder for my squirrels to access the back patio from the equally unattractive flat tin roof overhead.  Of course rats like vines also to access your attic.  We have had this problem in the past but have successfully blocked them out for now.  



Excavation day arrived and it was a cold one.  We wore winter attire, me more than Marie.  I excavated and happily discovered that sometime, before the storm washed over the nest, the little ones, all 76 of them, had managed to successfully emerge from what could have been a watery tomb.  Good to have a successful end to our 2012 Turtle Season, now to enjoy sleeping in for 6 months.


One of my other pretty flowers is this Angel's Trumpet.  There is nothing that can beat this foot long blossum  I need to get a yellow and a white one too.  They start very easily from a cutting but you don't see them in plant stores very much.  I think some sort of drug can be made from them that is illegal, dangerous, or maybe both.


I tried to get a bottom up view of the blossom with some success.  The long Trumpt like blooms will continue a long season as long as they don't get bit by frost, which will put an end to them until Spring.  Fall is a nice time for the gardens here in North Florida, with a burst of color as plants rebound after fighting too much summer heat.  It has been dry this fall though, and that is a problem after an adequately wet summer.  Not even Sandy gave us any rain.  I must water my flower beds and potted plants until such time as the frost or the rains come.

A great end to an exciting and record breaking successful Sea Turtle Season.  When we go for "Turtle" training I am sure we will find that is the case all over Florida, with everything I have heard from volunteers in other areas, that they are also breaking records.  Maybe our work has paid off.  It started about 26 years ago and it takes turtles 25-30 years to start laying those nests.  If this is indeed a trend then the next few years should be very active.


Time now with less energy needed to walk the beach to stroll down on our waterfront and catch some sunset action.  Even the celliouse plant, Rayonier, looks pretty at night.


Even without clouds the colors and river action is very peaceful and beautiful ending to a nice day.



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