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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)

What was a warm weather passion with the Sea Turtles has switched over to more beautiful and equally interesting creatures.  The Sea Turtles I have loved because of the ancientness, if that is a word, of the species.  They are one of the only species which was around to see the extinction of the dinosaurs and yet have flourished until recent times, each might live a century.  With the butterflies, they live such brief but beautiful lives, with just the process of change so fascinating to watch. They contribute to the workings of our natural world as they flit from flower to flower sipping nectar and spreading the pollen so necessary for all life, without which it would be a world without flowers, fruits, even coffee; and worse yet, -no chocolate.

This moment, as I type this, in the terrarium beside me part of the miraculous transformation begins to take place.  The caterpillar which had been hanging from his bottom end for a couple of days seems to be limp and I think, oh dear, it's dead.  Then I see the pale lime green start to show as his skin literally splits apart.  In a matter of minutes the skin is a crinkled black wad hanging by the  thread which holds the new chrysalis to the top.  Now the green form starts its dance, twisting, wiggling, gyrating and turning until the black old skin is shed dropping to bottom of the terrarium.  After two weeks this will be the result.  One of our releases just before Christmas.  Such color, such patterns, and such grace as they float with the greatest of ease, going from flower to flower to feed and lay eggs, starting the cycle all over again.  How can an artist not want to paint with such inspiration.

Sometimes we overnight them on the dining room table if it is a very cold night or if they hatch out too late in the day to take wing before dark.  This one was with us for dinner while Bruce's mom was here.  I bring inside whatever we have blooming outside and put it on the table in case they need a snack.  Sometimes if they are acting slow, we can trick them into sipping sugar water from a syringe.  This is a sticky wicket in itself.  Not aways are we successful, but sometimes it works.


Often they just hang around for a while looking like a Tree Ornament, then they will just be gone.  The ones I have watched fly away just seem to catch the wind and float effortlessly high above the big Oak Trees in my back yard and out of sight.  They don't seem to fly much in the morning or after the sun gets low.  I have found them sitting overnight in one spot clinging tightly to a plant not moving until midmorning.  We have only temporarily lost a couple in the house.  We don't know where they disappeared to, but eventually each reappeared on the dining room curtain sitting in the sunlight coming through the window.  


Christmas dinner came and went as we all gathered at my nephew Chris's home south of Jacksonville.  Lots to eat and a nice visit.  A place with a child in the house although she made herself scarce playing with her friend, another Reagan from across the street.


Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" was what this Little Snowy Egret seemed to be saying.  It was after Christmas and a little time to relax.  After all the hustle of getting ready for the big day it was nice to have some down time to just show Bruce's mom around.  Unfortunately she thought it  was " very cold for Florida" even when we thought it was very warm for North Florida in winter, but  this day a cold front did come in.  Although I didn't think it very cold she was freezing.  I had hoped to take her to walk on the beach  for a little while so we headed on to the park.


Inside the park I spot some of our Christmas Fall Color in this Hickory Tree just as we make the turn toward the beach.  Our Fall is late as I told someone today we have Fall this week and next week we will have Spring.


On the beach I find my own forest in the beach trees left by the outgoing tide.  I sure do miss my time here.  Unlike last winter when I kept going, watching the turtle nest that never hatched, this year I have been too busy to make the time.  Instead my fishing trips have taken me to the marsh, which has been great fun also, but I do miss the beach.


I hope to make it over there (the two blocks) this next weekend to take in all the migrating birds who are visiting with us now.  Many species we don't have other times in the year.  In this group was a flock of some sort of tern that was larger than our Least Terns and were not our regulars at all.


Oh yes, then Lisa came to visit the island just after Christmas.  Of course I took her fishing, and we all gathered to eat our wonderful catch.  Keep in mind Lisa's stature and the angle of the photo when you think this might be over the size limit.  I can assure you it was legal.  It was a great catch and Lisa was soooo excited.  She even had enough meat left over to take to cook for her Grandfather, who has, along with her grandmother, mostly raised her.  Grandfather is in Hospice care right now, separated from his wife of so many years because they cannot afford a place for jointly living together in assisted living with his health issues and hers these last few months.  


Monarch season is in the Fall in the South.  Just when I thought I was just about at the end as I only had about 5 Cats left, a friend brought at least 20 more to my door and left them with Bruce because of the cold front headed our way.  It took a lot of Butterfly Weed to feed that many hungry mouths and I had been begging, borrowing and stealing Butterfly Weed from everyone I knew who had any left.  I tried to be careful to not take it where there were still caterpillars eating on it.  Inadvertently, I managed to add to the stash of caterpillars even more by finding eggs and tiny caterpillars on the plants once I got them home.  New resolve:  Next year I will have plants galore for them to eat.  I have found out one good thing.  Once you cut the sprouts off to feed they will put out roots from the cuttings if left in the water.  If these all live, then I should be well supplied next year.


Enjoying a bit of time in my backyard one day, I heard this tap, tap, tapping.   I knew the sound, but now to find the source.  Looks like Woody himself is visiting.  This  branch was getting thinner and thinner as he sat on the big end and pecked on the top part where it was hooked into the tree.  Better watch out!  I have seen tree cutters make that mistake, but they didn't have wings, so I guess its not quite the same kind of mishap in the making.  I have new binoculars (Christmas present); the better to see them with.


On New Year's Day, niece Julie came for a visit.  She brought a good friend Steven and a youngster from their area, (Steven is his court advocate), that they were befriending.  We toured the park and found our kite-flying friends again, then we were off to fish.  We did catch some good ones, catching our limit, then bringing them home to deep fry once again. Deep fried fish and hush puppies, hard to beat.   I will start cooking them to be a little bit more healthy, once the "new" of actually coming home with a meal-sized quantity of fish wears off.  I need one of those enclosed grilles to contain fish while on the main grille, made like a basket so that you can flip the whole thing over without the fish falling through the wires; otherwise, I am going to look like one of those big round Puffer Fish pretty soon.


Frost was forecast, so I take a longing look at what might not make it through.  My Sky Vine was at its prettiest.


A close up of the blooms tells the story of why I like them so much.  They are very orchid like, and although the bloom does not last long, each is replenished by a new one, waiting to take its place as they make their way down the stem.  They bloom best for me in the winter but are not frost tolerant.  They were not destroyed, but they were "bit" back with many of the leaves turning brown, and the flowering has slowed with the frost bite.


I should have thought to cover these all up but it was dark when I went out to do it, and I forgot these pretty things further out in the yard.  One made it and one didn't, attesting to the spottiness of the freeze.  Of course the one which was sadly all limp the next day was the big beautiful one, while the smaller one is still fine.  The yellow flowers which the butterflies like so much were also causalities of the cold.


One nice shot of the beautiful blossom.  Yes, I know, these are not really the blossom, but leaves and the bloom is the part in the center.


Outside my front window, the sun always hits this Sumac, and it just glows as it is starting its "Fall" color transition.  Yes, I know it is almost Spring but the tree doesn't.   Wait until you see this week's change in it.


One of my Chrysalis is doing its change-over, as one next to it failed to fully shake off his skin; but you can see how shriveled that which what once was a caterpillar is now.  It was all for show.  The Green inner self is the true being...or maybe not.  They seem to change clothes as often as a teenager.  The terrarium has become a film of webs from all the caterpillar tracks on it, as they roam around hunting the perfect spot to hang around on and also when they hang themselves they spread a wide circle of web.  We are not sure how that happens.  Do they spray the webbing around or do they spread it around with their feet before hanging?  We haven't seen any such action going on.  It just magically appears.  If you try to move one when it is crawling around you will feel them sticking the webby stuff to the surface and you almost have to pry them off.


Here is our menagerie of Chrysalis' at this point. This continues to change as new ones come up top side and others emerge and get taken outside.  What causes them to all cluster on this end of the tank?  Is it the sunlight through the window?  The slick surface as opposed to the screen on the other end.  We don't know exactly.  Now we do have 3 which have attached themselves to the screened area today probably because it is just too crowded on the other end.  This has been better for us as I have to clean and feed through the other end.


A beautiful sunset was happening as I drove home a few days a go.  I was not alone in wanting to capture it.  I pulled into the property where Ten Acres' Kraft Athletic Club is located because it is one of the few places you can get an unobstructed view in my neighborhood.


The sun was sinking fast over the calm river and marsh area.  With a water sunset you get a double whammy with the sun's reflection almost stealing the show.


A wide view is not always as impressive as you just cannot take it all in with my camera.  A wider angled lens than mine would be necessary.


As I walk away I look back for the long view, which I love too, with the trees all siloutted against the pastel colors going from lavender to orange to yellow and pink to blue.  Such beauty; it is hard to image it can be real, but the camera does not lie...well not much.

'Bye for now,
Sandra
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