Amelia SanJon Gallery
Amelia Island Artists
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040, 904-557-1195 cell
Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)
A new painting which
is not entirely new. It was a painting which I was not totally
happy with because it was too overwhelmingly yellow--school bus yellow.
I decided that I just had to "finish" it and this is the result.
Not much difference in composition just color changes.Time to reflect lets us see things, even a painting, in a more objective way.
It is also the time of the year when the birds are
starting the reproductive season in their lives. A most
time, which with our warm winter, seems to be starting early this year.
My favorite place to see this happening is at The Alligator Farm
down in St. Augustine. I happily accepted an invitation to
accompany good friends and fellow photographers, Stephan and
Jo-Ann on such an adventure.
The entrance to The Farm is always a treat as it visually is a
very pretty place with attractive plants included in their
a wide variety of birds and monkeys, all in addition to the many
types of gators and crocs and other critters who reside there.
A visually exciting greeting once inside the gate were two
of my favorite tropicals, a
Pitcher Plant and a Bird of Paradise, in full bloom.
Next on the agenda, soon after you enter the park is another rare and exotic gator, beautiful
Albino Alligators. They are both rare and exotic. They are
only found in Southern Louisiana. They are kept underneath a roof
to protect their delicate white skin from sunburn. Usually the
big female is in this enclosure but since this is mating season she may
be out on a date with a handsome pale gentleman. The
Alligator Farm is permitted to do breeding programs with several of the
endangered critters they keep in their Park. These gators are part of that breeding program.
I stroll onto the boardwalk where according to Stephan,
who had been down the week prior, we should find lots of birds.
It would seem there were certainly lots of alligators as they
were feeding them from the feeding platform when we arrived. The
water was "jam up and jelly tight" with gators all watching and hoping
for a treat. There was a lot of dogfood-like pellet chow thrown into
the pool but the more prized treats were several large dead rats which were tossed into the mob below. There was
really a feeding frenzy when those special "rat" treats were thrown into
As I walked on down the boardwalk over the alligator pond I
couldn't help but think how interesting the reflections of the trees
were with the alligator laying in the middle of them. I especially
loved the way his head was outlined with the reflected white and
black reflection of a slight water ripple.
Reaching the end of the boardwalk where there should have been a
hundred big white birds, we found only a few. Very strange.
We began to ask around from some of the other photographers what
had happened to the birds. We found out that the birds had flown
away after workers came in to do some work, some of which involved a
chain saw. Well that explained that. But there were still
some of the Great White Egrets working on nest building and getting
ready for mating.
A few of the other birds which were still hanging around
included the the Black and the Yellow Crowned Night Herons. This
Yellow Crowned Night Heron was busy napping his afternoon
away. They actually do hunt in the daytime too but mostly I have
observed them just sleeping, with a quick glance now and then when they
hear the camera shutter click.
a few of the many, many Woodstorks which will eventually arrive were
there. They are the largest of the birds which nest in the rookery and are America's only Stork.
I really like palms which are left natural without the
pruning to remove their petticoats. This is how they appear if
left to their own ways.
There is a similar one on the way home from the gallery which I
see each day as I
make that trip. So many trees are pruned into being something
they are not as in Crepe Myrtles. It is called "the murder of the
Myrtles". I thought it was funny
a couple of weeks ago, that a class was announced at the local
Lowe's on how
to "properly" prune a Crepe Myrtle, and then the same weekend their
landscape crew came in and butchered their own plantings of Crepe
Myrtles doing exactly what the class instructor was saying "don't do".
The girl who works in the plant department was livid.
But the Great White Egret was perfect and regal looking as
usual. The mating season brings on the beautiful long land lacy
plumage for which they were once killed in great numbers.
This fellow was busy building his nest getting ready to have
a nice new home for a young family with room to expand. You can
see the green lores starting to show up on his face also a sign of
Since there were not that many birds I head off to check out
other areas of the park. The Reptile building houses several
interesting and varied snakes. Besides some very, very large ones,
there is the King Cobra, which I find interesting and yet unnerving to
only be inches away from this deadly fellow. Do you know that it
is believed over 50,000 people die from snake bites in India and
Bangladesh each year. From this vantage
point I can closely examine the intricate patterns in his body and
head. My favorite snake, who is always in this symmetrically
draped position, is the
wonderful bright green snake in the photograph. I had to ask
where he was because he had been moved from a small glassed cubical to
a large more natural environment shared with two other of the really
big snakes. It looked like the female Monitor Lizard was the only
one in residence (I know
"Lizzard" is not correct but I'm sure you remember our adoptee Lewis
Lizzard from last
year). I am not sure where the much
larger male is.
I exited out the other side of the Reptile building to see
some very active shenannegins by this colorful Cassowary. This is a
very large bird and from head to foot probably stands almost as tall as
me. He seemed to have a thing, whether love or hate I am not
sure, for the park worker who was just leaving the area. The big
bird seemed to be trying to get to him in a very agitated state of
mind. In a few minutes the worker came back and he said he wasn't
sure what the deal was but that the bird was all about wanting to get
with him and follows him everywhere when he is nearby. Could be the feeding routine.
crossed over to the African section and found these guys also
following one of the zoo keepers. Food was the motivation in this
case and maybe that was the reason for the other.
An exciting nesting is taking place there as well as one of
the Buzzards has laid an egg. One of the other females is looking
on as mom stands up to turn her egg. She glares at the girlfriend
when she looks a bit too closely. The Daddy is sitting up on the
There were four parrots out but the one in the center was the
star of the show. They are sitting out on natural perches
unrestrained. Parrots are very intelligent and this one began to
interact with me as I talked to it.
It began to dance for me when I talked to it, prancing and
swaying back and forth. A very fun and unexpected interaction. We
even got the attention of a little girl nearby who also came over to enjoy
An Angels Trumpet bloomed wildly through the fence back at
the Alligator pond. They are a very beautiful flower and an easy one to
grow from cuttings.
By now some of the birds are starting to settle back into the
trees. Some Roseate Spoonbills are flying on top of the tree we
used to call The Woodstork Tree. However, last year the
Woodstorks moved over to other trees it was primarily used by the Great
Its always a challenge to try to catch a bird in flight.
Once in a great while I actually am able to do that.
The flight of these big birds is very beautiful to watch with
variations in the species in the way they hold their heads, feet and
flight patterns. The way these great wingspans can catch and
seemingly hold the flight form in midair gives you a chance to really
see how graceful their flight is.
It was an overcast day and as an artist I love the patterns
of light from the sun which makes me different from serious
photographers who love the unbroken image of an overcast day to not
have the sun patterns on their subject, but I am an artist, a painter,
and artists love the play of light on their canvas.
But in either case the mating dance is a beautiful sight as it begins by this fellow as he bows and
gracefully reaches his long neck skyward all the while spreading his feathers
to show off for, and to attract the females attention.
Toward the back of the pond almost out of reach of my lens is
what I call the swimming hole where the birds, especially the White
Ibis, like to gather and bathe. It may be that it is an area, because
of the downed trees and underbrush, in which they are protected from the
Gators in the main part of the pond. A young Little Blue Heron
who has yet to
acquire his blue color wades in front. His dark bluish looking
bill tells me this is not one of the egrets.
With time running out for visiting hours in the park suddenly
Jo-Ann yells out the word "incoming" which is the cue to all of us to
look skyward. And 'incoming' it was, -the birds
return in great numbers to their favorite place as the calm of the park
returns without tourists and chainsaws to mess with their comfort zone.
The trees suddenly fill with what had been missing all afternoon.
In a matter of minutes the trees begin to look like they are decorated for Christmas, adorned with lots of white ornaments.
There were a greater number than usual of the Little Blue
Heron, one of my favorites. The youngster from the swimming pool
area joined this fellow so maybe it last year's offspring.
There were lots of the White Ibis although they never seem to nest here. I wonder where that happens.
This old snag is a favorite perch for all of the bird
species. They seem to take turns getting this birds eye view of
the park. It becomes a "King of the Hill" type of game when the
youngsters, later in the season, vie to see who gets the best spots.
All the photographers hedge their time a bit and wait
snapping photos until the park worker comes to personally say it is
time to leave (as if we didn't really know that). It is just a
few minutes to squeak out a few more shots with no one in the park but
you. We all appreciate the gift of about 15 minutes after closing
time alone with the birds. Today it was just five of us some who
have come from far away. One fellow from the Midwest says he
comes every year to "Shoot the Birds".
Now the birds and the gators can have their park back. Now it is their world only.
The clouds had finally broken up, allowing some light and a
tiny patch of blue as one straggler makes his way and becomes my final shot
before turning to the exit gates. Another good day of shooting
birds has drawn to a close but hopefully as the season progresses into
nesting, hatching and juvenile's I will get to return for more rounds
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