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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 had promised that I would give a report on my Alligator Farm visit so here it is.
The bird nesting at the Alligator Farm is in full swing with nest building, a few hatchings, and lots of mating activity.  Now is the time for a visit if you have a chance, well, it really needs to be several trips to catch all the activity as they scene changes from mating activities to family rearing.

It seemed the Little Snowy's were the most active.  The males do a lot of displaying with their new fluffy plumage and the funny gurgling sound they make.  The mating ritual is pretty complex ending with a very non-impressive mating.  But whatever the process results in a new family on the way.

The Little Blue Herons were having a bit of a territorial dispute with a Snowy.  It happens occasionally in such close quarters with so many looking for a space to make their nest.

The Tri Colored Herons were also busy with the mating process with some far enough along to be already sitting on eggs.

Very exciting are the Roseatte Spoonbills which only started nesting this far North a few years back.  The first ones to nest at the Farm were a "really big deal".  Now it looks like there will be at least 5 nests near enough to the boardwalk, within easy access with my camera.  Last year I did not get back in time to see the offspring while they were small, as they had already fledged when I returned.  Hopefully this year I can get back to see the funny little baby chicks, which look like little pink rubber duckies.

"What did ya say, Hon?", seems to be what this concerned and watchful expectant father might be saying.

As this Snowy Egret sits posed prettily, in the background you see the reason for this being the choice of so many birds to gather in this rookery.  The vast number of Alligators in the pond and sunning on the banks are both protecters and scavengers where the birds are concerned.  The gators protect them from predators like raccoons, but also reap smoe benefits, should any babies get pushed from their nests.  The gators are pretty well fed, and so don't seem too agressive toward the birds who just wade in the edge of the water.

Although the Woodstorks are not considered the most beautiful of birds, in flight they are exquisite.

A couple of the Great White Egrets had tiny chicks although these were the only ones close enough to get a photo.  At this stage they are such sweet and innocent looking little ones, but just wait until they get a bit bigger and about bite mom's head off trying to get food out of her mouth.

This Snowy mom turns her two eggs.  She will probably lay one more egg before she is finished.

Woodstork courting is really quite romantic with lots of spooning, nuzzling and clacking of those massive beaks.

Watch out; you might swallow a gnat.

It seems that this pose is part of the Roseatte courting as the potential mate looks on admiringly.

In the water below one was searching for a bit of food in the water.  It was swinging its head back and forth with that large spoon beak sifting through what morsels of food that might be there.  Its reflection in the water was very interesting.

Then it seems it was time for a workout, starting with some stretches.

Then a good shaking out of the muscles and feathers.  This fellow was a youngster, probably from last years chicks and was thus too young to participate in the mating.  His head color looked too imature to be a full adult.

I thought this was a beautiful composition of one of my most favorite birds, the Little Blue Heron.  The nest in progress looks very fragile.  The nest almost looks like a duplicate of the spray of feathers the male was displaying.

One Little Blue was already sitting on eggs.

I only had a short time for this visit as it was after Turtle Training as I was riding with a friend who let me spend my time at "The Farm" while he took care of an errand in St. Augustine.

Now, this is one very relaxed turtle and is a more grown up version of the two little turtles I now have, yellow earred sliders.  I am envious of this guys chilled-out state of mind.

The commission painting is starting to finally take shape, sans the sea creatures, but at least is beginning to have the feel of the water that I wanted.  It takes concentration that is sometimes difficult to achieve in the setting of a gallery, rather than just a studio.  Constant interruptions from phone, bookkeeping chores like balancing checkbooks and paying artists, and taking care of customers often takes its toll. Plus the fact that I have been suffering from a virus that has been going around it seems.  Symptoms are that for about two to three weeks you just feel yukky with a feeling of motion sickness or vertigo.  My sis had it, now me, but seems to be a virus infection going around according to other friends who actually went to the doctor to have it checked out.

It takes a lot of time deciding on what to include in the painting, and still make it my own original ideas.  I obviously am not going to reinstate my dive certification just to get my own undersea photographs; therefore I came up with a dry version of undersea photography.  I sit in front of my nice big computer screen with my camera and research all kinds of undersea videos.  When I see something I want to use I snap photos from the moving subjects.  I don't need great detail, just decent shapes from which to make my drawings.  I generally know what I want to include, but need to have the correct anatomy and swimming shapes.  I begin with a school of small fish swimming across the top left, then add a family of dolphins which are in the distance.

In this you can see a detail of the dolphin area just below the edge of the water, which separates the undersea from the above sea surface.  And so I get to play God with my brush creating a world of heavens and waters and the creatures therein.  This labor of creation hasn't happened in 6 days though.  It has taken me much longer and I still have a way to go.  I finally got the Sea Turtle drawn last night that I want to include as the star of the show, my first Green Turtle which is a very beautiful turtle.   Next, the addition of some Jellies for him to eat will be good.  I have been told that Green Turtles are herbivores but I saw videos of them eating Jellies so I am going with that idea.

Things have been extremely busy with the Isle of Eight Flags SHRIMP FESTIVAL last weekend, and Turtle Patrol started for me last Wednesday morning.  Hard to believe I will be getting up at the crack of dawn for the next 6 months.  I am not a morning person so it had better be an exciting year.  I still remember with concern the year we only had 4 turtle nests.  Thank goodness that has never happened again.  I can't even imagine only having 4 nests these days, but you simply never know (We have one already, very early).  Also, I'll soon report more on Lacy's progress, as she is growing into a big, pretty well adjusted girl, although more in contact with us than Shelly ever was.

(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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