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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)

With Bruce doing a complete operating system rebuild on my computer and needing it for days of new installations of all my programs and files to my new 2 Tb hard drive, (whatever that means...), I have been a bit handicaped trying to get a story put together.  When that happens I do get behind and try to put too much into a story.  This is such a time.

Tonight, (-Sun.), as I write, I sit waiting for a our tropical storm Beryl to decide just how strong it will be and if the power will hold on to allow it to be finished.  It is definitely getting stronger as we are hearing things hitting on the skylights and also unusual wind whistling sounds as the intensity builds.  I wonder how these birds are faring atop their tall exposed perch at the back of the park.  I know they now have chicks having seen the tops of their heads a couple of times.  My hope is to get to do turtle patrol sometime tomorrow (Monday) to assess the damage to our 6 turtle nests.  I also am concerned about Lacy our squirrel.  She, as of a couple of weeks ago decided to give up her lovely safe and dry little condo for the tree tops, and tonight a lot of what is up there will be on the ground by tomorrow. I should have just kept her inside when she stopped by for a visit earlier, but she left before I expected her to go, and now is somewhere in all that wind and rain.

The first two weeks of Turtle Patrol have been exciting with six nests already under our belt.  Problem is they may or may not be there tomorrow.  After the first one we had very high "Super Moon" Spring tides, already washing over that one.  As a result the other nests have been laid above that high water mark so we will cross or fingers that they will be OK.  The beach had already been swept clean by those tides and only the fresh tracks of the deer mingled in with some humanoid footprints on the surface much like tracks on a new fallen snow.
The water had reached the very top of the beach area where the minor dunes start.  You can see that line where the brown shelly area is bordered by the white line of the dunes.  

Lots and lots of new baby Wilson's Plovers have been doing their Roadrunner imitations scurrying in front of the beach buggy.  I do have access to a Four Wheeler this year also but sometimes it is just too much trouble to move all the equipment over to it.  Plus it has had some battery problems and the possibility of being stranded on the beach (as happened the first time I took it out) is not something I relish.  It is a girl ego thing in a male dominated world up at the park.

I have never seen as many Horseshoe Crabs as we have had following those higher than normal tides.  I assisted about 20 in just one morning to get back to the water after becoming stuck in the sand, turned upside down, or getting disoriented.  From the tail marks you can tell this one has really worked hard to get loose from his "sand trap" but the sand gets so hard that I cannot dig it loose with my finger tips and have to find a shell or some type of digging tool to free them.  These critters have been aound so long, they were here before the dinosaurs.

Once freed, they would usually find their way back to the sea.  With so many I left them to do just that only carrying them to the water if they were still stuggling on my return trip.

The mornings with low tide gave me a good experience with one of my favorite water/sand patterns.  It could easily have been cast in silver with the sun giving it a nice sheen.

I took the drawings from one of my old Sea Turtle paintings and did it in a more loose, less representational style using a different painting technique, smooth paper and liquid acrylics.  I had done the drawing when I did the other painting and finally pulled it out to work on, so that I would have a new watercolor to enter in a painting competition.  I did receive an honor this past week, which I did not expect, and it did not have to do with art.  I was selected as Volunteer of the Month for District 2 of the State Parks of Florida.  There are 5 districts in the state and lots of deserving volunteers.  Marie, my boss, did a good job of writing up a very flattering blurb which seemed to work.  A nice honor for my 10th year of service.  

By the flickering of the lights I think it is time to put electronic things aside and try to get some sleep as things go bump during the night outside.  It could be a long one.  This big tortoise gives you a clue that I got my wish to go back to the Alligator Farm to see the hatchlings there.  
Update; A few days have passed since I headed to bed with Beryl on my doorstep.  The storm is now all gone and the weather is calm and sun-shiny again.

By midnight on Sunday a neighbor's tree had fallen over our power lines knocking out power for over 24 hours. There is much debris in our yard to get to the street for pick up.  We had Ocellia and her daughter Ariana with us for the duration so they now have their bucket list wish of getting to ride out a hurricane (or at least within 3 mph of a hurricane).  Lacy rode out the storm in fine style.  Now I will continue my Alligator farm trip in search of babies.  When I arrived, the boardwalk was filled with tourists and photographers trying to do just what I was trying for, get great shots of the baby birds.

One of my most favorite birds is the Little Blue Heron which is looking a bit ruffled in the new role of parent.

This mom appears to be suffering from Post Partum Depression as she seems to be saying, "No more, no more".

Her chicks seem to be waiting impatiently and unsympathetically for their next meal.

The first Roseate Spoonbill chicks had already reached full size.  The pale pink color and still fuzzy neck feathers indicate its young age.  They do grow up quickly.  The mom was just sitting on its egg the last time I was here.

And then the comedians of the aviary world, the very funny youngsters of the Tri Colored Herons.

The chicks mostly want to eat and the parents are totally focused, in fulfilling that need.

This nest should make lots of photographers happy because I believe it will be close enough to get some good photos in a few days.

As the chicks grow the feeding rituals become very intense and would make any parent want to shrink into a ball to escape but instead they seem to just close their eyes, grin and bear it.

The biggest and possibly ugliest of the chicks have, at least for now, some hair on the tops of their heads.  As they grow up the head will become bald and black in America's only stork, the American Woodstork.

This Snowy Egret stands up for a brief time to turn her pretty blue eggs.

Then its back to the job of sitting on the eggs.

The numbers of birds who gather in this site to breed and have their chicks is amazing, and it's a great treat to get to see it all transpire so 'up close and personal'.

But what I really came for was to find these beautiful little pink fuzzy new-borns.  It was quite a task, jockeying through photographers to catch a photo of these rock stars of our bird world.  The viewing space was very limited and I hated to hog it when so many, with so much better cameras than mine, wanted to see also.  I did the best I could under duress and I did manage to catch a few good ones but a lot of bad ones also.

These little Tri Colored chicks are transfixed as they single-mindedly stare at the mom, waiting for her to decide to produce breakfast.

I thought this one was only sitting on eggs but not so sure that she doesn't have small chicks down in that nest.  I have seen other birds sit like this creating a tent to shelter either eggs or babies from the hot sun overhead.

Romance is still in the air as some, like this very fluffy Little Snowy was courting a female.  A very impressive courtship ending in a very quick and not so showy mating experience but he gets the job done.

These "ugly duckling" little ones seem to be contemplating the future and whether they will every grow into these big, big legs and feet.

Some very tiny, newly hatched, little Cattle Egrets are tended to by their mom.

I squeeze back into the photographers line up just in time to see the mom feed her babies.  I found it very difficult to get a good shot of the actual food passing that wasn't fuzzy but still thought this was a very sweet one.  I couldn't tell if I was focused or not looking at an already fuzzy subject so opted to focus on the mom and sometimes that didn't work.

The parent opens its beak enough for the little one to reach into it without the violence of the Great White Egrets.  A much more civil and less frantic feeding process.

I was happy to get at least a few decent shots after coming all this way just to see them.

More egg sitting.

The parents are still feeding these youngsters from the first nest which hatched and that was interesting to watch as you could see that big long spoonbill beak bulge out the side of the mom's neck.  My own gag reflex was about to kick in just thinking about it.

When they start sprouting those first feathers they can look pretty scraggly.

The excuse for the trip was to meet my son, Eric, and his shrinking family unit for a pre-Mother's Day lunch. Granddaughter Emily, at 21, has now moved out so they are experiencing a bit of the empty nest syndrome.  Eating at a fun restaurant on the waterfront at the Mantanza Inlet, with the presence of lots of birds, especially these none-too-shy Grackles, we enjoyed the humorous signs posted all around the deck saying things like "don't feed the birds, what goes in must come out", and "don't throw rocks in the water or you will be thrown in to feed the Bull Sharks".

Looking out from the deck was a sand bar loaded with Pelicans and shorebirds, unlike the Marsh birds I had been with all morning.

The real destination for the trip was to make a short visit to Marineland where Tanner, the grandson, had once upon a time done the swimming with the dolphins thing they have there.  The dolphins are in big tanks and like to swim by the viewing area and play with balls just for their own entertainment.  They are also on standby to interact with the paying customers.  For a small fee you can go in and watch the interaction without the swim with the dolphins expense.  It is much cheaper than the Sea World experience.  They do have another fee for just going in and interacting with the dolphins from the side of the pool which is good for the smaller children.  They get to watch them jump and can pet them on the nose.

As all things, good and bad, must come to an end, we all headed back toward our homes in opposite directions, and the storm has also gone leaving peaceful beaches and interesting beach treasures to find.  Beryl also cost us the loss of probably 2 dozen Sea Turtle nests, with which we had just so recently been blessed with their early laying.  No rhyme nor reason for why some were lost and others saved but that was the way this storm worked.  One which had even been moved to high ground for safety's sake was washed away.  Some which you would have thought should have been taken were left.  But then that is life isn't it?

(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. 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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