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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)
I was informed by my friend Chris up in North Georgia that today is National Squirrel Appreciation Day.  I thought it was an appropriate time to revisit the most special squirrel I ever knew, Shelly, who shared our lives for a year and a half and gave us insight we never dreamed into this world of squirreldom.  We learned so many things from her about squirrels, who have this other world gaze up close leaving you unable to ever tell where they are looking, but they seem to see all.  I learned what wondeful mothers squirrels are, that they raise two sets of offspring a year.  As single moms raise their offspring alone, building a home, giving their children every possible advantage by giving them a nurturing and loving family life.  Shelly disappeared shortly after this photo was taken and it was our last visit from her.

Here's to Shelly, where ever she may be, and to all the squirrels no matter how aggravating they might be as they gnaw into our attics, eat our birdseed, and generally make a nuisance of themselves, but all the while endearing themselves to our hearts as we watch their daily fight for survival in the wilds of our own backyards.  And although we said we would never again raise one, our door is now open if another one happens to be orphaned in the neighborhood and needs a caring home for a while.
Back to my own family visit and a long story, but I will try to be brief.  I decided that my family needed to go on the Amelia River Cruise, as you know one of my favorite things to do with visitors.  If you remember in the preceding story I told you this Ring-billed Gull was called the "fast food gull".  We got to experience first hand how well deserved that name is.  Even if he is a scoundril, he is a pretty thing in the bright afternoon light.  

This gull was hanging out on the railing next to the ticket office.  I had brought my brother, Mike, and his wife, Denise, some chicken strips from the restaurant where the rest of us had just had lunch. As Denise casually leaned against the railing munching on the first bite of a piece of chicken, Slick the Gull swooped down and relieved her of the rest of that fried temptation.  It was a shock to her as she turned in disbelief and said "That Gull just took my chicken."  Sure enough he was sitting on the dock below gobbling up his ill gotten gains.  

They are doing a much-too-frequently-required dredging project in the marina which keeps filling up with silt.  I wonder why they don't just extend the dock out further in the water and just let the rest fill in.  Looks like it would be cheaper in the long run.  The sludge from the project made a pretty line drawing on the surface of the water, however.

On board, everyone is settled in for the cruise.  All nicely prettied up with neatly combed hair.  I didn't take any "after" shots because the hairdos did not hold up very well in the wind.

It was a beautiful day with clear skies and smooth waters, "the better to see reflections in, my dear".

A close up of the reflections of this waterfront building was very interesting indeed.

The port with its big red cranes was also especially interesting to photograph.

The old rusty looking sailing vessel we had passed on the last trip looked very peacefully moored today, with the calm seas and the reflections in the water.  Mooring fees can be quite expensive, so many choose the free route and anchor out in the river traveling back and forth in their dingy.  Looks like the owner is at home or else the dingy would be gone.

The Pippi Longstocking House has a new copper roof which does not look as nice to me as the old red tin one.  Maybe it just needs a little time to weather out and blend in better with the old.

Smiley's Girls is slowly being relieved of any valuable parts.  She had sunk to the bottom while sitting at the dock.  Salvage people have been working on it and I wonder what will happen to its final carcass.

Nearby a fisherman mixes his blues and whites into the pool of rich colors reflected from the rusting sides of the retainment wall.

Although I have taken this photo many times, it is always different and today's calm, smooth water provides a whole new impression through the camera lens.  Now that could be an interesting painting.

A Pelican skims the water across the bow of the boat.  He seems to be in slow motion as the air currents provide the lift to glide across the surface without having to flap his wings.

A couple of kayakers enjoy the bountiful supply of kayaking areas which we have, being surrounded by water in one form or another.

Cormorants take advantage of the rocks as a resting place out of the water.  Cormorants have beautiful pale blue eyes but I can never seem to be close enough to get a shot of that, unlike Slick the Gull who likes making himself up close and available.

As we enter the mouth of Beach Creek on Cumberland Island another Cormorant which seems to usually hang out there is swimming around in the water.  I get him in focus to try for the eye shot when suddenly he takes to the air.  Great because I would not have been able to get that shot otherwise.

Sometimes you just get lucky when you are viewing the world through that glass disc on the end of the camera.  It takes a lot of effort to get airborne from a sitting position on a fluid surface like water,

Mike and Denise reflect on their days when we once took them and their young child, Bryan (the first of 5 children, and now the father of their grandchild, Oliver), along with, believe it or not, Mom and Helen, and all went backpacking on Cumberland Island.  My mother has never forgiven me for that trip and swears to this day that we put all the heavy stuff in her pack, even though in truth, it was just the bread.  Actually Mike just about killed himself trying to take the lion's share of supplies.  We rigged up a cart out of an old two wheeled golf cart, added a plastic square drink case from a Quickie Mart onto which we strapped Bryan's carseat, creating the perfect equipment to pull him the 3 miles up the island to our campsite.  With my kids and two other sets of cousins in tow it was quite an adventure.  Mike and Denise hope to some day revisit the island when they are here.

We saw lots of the horses engaged in their unending activity of eating.

Near a University of Georgia study area sat this funny looking Great Blue Herron.  Not sure if he was just soaking up the warm sun rays or drying his wings.

One horse was especially pretty with a shiny chestnut coat, his white blaze face, and not looking quite so pot bellied as many of the horses can look.  There is one solid white stallion that I have not yet seen.

Another Great Blue tries to blend into the marsh, imitating a blade of seagrass.

Overhead one of the many jets who fly across our skies brings back the reality of the modern world as it seems to be soaring past the pale daytime moon.

A good view across the marsh through the break in the trees is also the Kings Bay Submarine Base with all kinds of modern technology in play as they watch over our shores.

But ahead lies the past in its lost glory.  Dungeness a long ago scene of granduer that most of us can only imagine now lays in ruins.  How fleeting life and its possessions are.

Our return trip was very nice but fast and very cool and I retrieved blankets for Mom and Helen as we passed near this shrimper.  The water temperatures in the 60's create a much cooler perceived temperature coupled with the speed of the return trip.  It was another very lovely adventure on board the Amelia Island River Cruise luxery liner (maybe a slight over statement) and a special thanks to our Captain Kirk for a job well done.  

One last view of the shrimpboats with all the rusty, but very artsy looking buildings in the background..

And just like the storied piggies, we are "jiggity jog", back home again.

It is always interesting to see the working shrimpers as we pass the boats and wonder what their lives are like.

The family is now gone back to Washington State and North East Tennessee but more good memories have been made.  Back in the van I keep a close eye on our van Monarch to see if his being jostled around for several days, taking several road trips in the process, had a determental effect on his being able to emerge sucessfully.  When I begin to see color on the bruised Chrysalis I know that it won't be long until we know the outcome.  I parked next to the gallery so I could check on him as the day progressed.  But it seems that it would still be another day before we know.

Sunday morning as Bruce left to go to the gallery he gave me a shout back and said if you want to see your butterfly emerge you better get out here.  I grabbed clothes, the camera and headed outdoors to witness the event, having a really vested interest in this special one, who by now has seemed part of the clan.  The colors tell me the chances are good for a healthy Monarch.  The watched pot never boils.  I clean out the car while I wait, then I sort all my fishing gear, sorting hooks, straightening out lines, but still nothing.  I decide to run in and grab cup of coffee.

And, well of course, this is what I found when I returned.  I yell for the neightbors to come see.  We stand and watch as the wings gently unfurl.

Slowly the crinkles begin to expand as if they were laundry being pressed by on the ironing board.

Gravity and the pumping of fluid from the body into them set them up for their future flights.

Yes our fellow is perfect.  A tough little guy who may not realize it but has passed by the sights of Northeast Florida already.

Inside our little Gulf Fritillary was not so lucky.  There is a name for them when they are born this way, deformed and destined never to fly.  Unable to flush him down the comode which may have been the merciful thing to do, we instead brought in flowers for him to hang on and proceeded to feed him sugar water from a plastic syringe and gave him an extra week and a half of life.  Last evening when I went to feed him, he had died.  They don't all make it and things do happen which we don't understand, especially with this fellow which seemed to develop normally even though it was slow. But he was comfortable, just never could fly with wings which were too crumpled.

But Vannie our "van" Monarch was beautiful and spread his wings as the light filtered through while I made calls to all the rest of the family with the announcement of "It's a boy!!!"
I can't tell you how many butterflies we have released this season.  With the warm weather the Monarchs have just kept laying and everytime I bring home plants I bring home more tiny caterpillars who grow into more adults eating me out of house and home but eventually turn into these beautiful creatures.

Next story will be about shooting birds and rustling caterpillars, so another adventure into the realm of winged critters is revealed.

Next years resolve is that I will never again be lacking in butterfly weed as I have been this year.  I am collecting seeds and rooting plants as fast as I can get them going.  My yard will be a veritible butterfly refuge.  

(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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