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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)

The time leading up to Beryl had been packed with activities, the Shrimp Festival, Nature Festival, the annual Chamber Music Festival, among other things.  

Although it looks like we are in the middle of a dog show we are actually relaxing on the lawn of a local park listening to beautiful classical music being played by some very talented musicians in one of the "free" concerts connected with the Chamber Music Festival.  It was difficult to just listen to the music when my camera kept finding interesting things to shoot like this Whippet with it funny unruly ears.

Not sure how to spell this one but is pronounced as something possibly French.  Its main characteristic is that it looks like a Bison.  This one sure fit the bill.

The music inspired some to relax close their eyes but this beautiful young lady was inspired to gift us with an impromptu dance.  She was so wonderfully expressive that I thought she surely must be in a ballet class, although her expressive moves had to be felt, not just learned from practice.  That, I don't think, can be taught.  Just as quickly as it began her mom called her away and her beautiful dance was no more.

Then a different tune, as we left that concert and rushed straight over Cafe' Karibo to catch part of a CD Release party by one of my artists, Sean McCarthy.  "A Bad Day Fishing" is the name of the album (do they still call them that?).  Classical to Country in just 10 minutes.  It was a fun time also but different.  Isn't music a wonderful thing with so many ways for a musician or writer to express what they have within.  The band was having as much fun as the guests; they shared the stories of how the songs were written.  As you know a bad day fishing is still a good day, the gist of the song.  

Mornings were filled with turtle patrol and excitement as turtles began laying a couple of weeks early early.  One morning as I rounded the point near the River Campground at Fort Clinch I saw this very graceful ship sitting on the still calm river.  It was soon to arrive in port to be open for "free" tours.  Those of you in Chattanooga will remember the "Yellow Deli".  The members of this crew are also part of that same group, and bring this ship from port to port.  They are a religious group who try to live their message, living together in commune style as they travel up and down the Atlantic Coast.  They also weathered the storm in good shape.

Although Lacy weathered the storm just fine she managed a few days later to be behaving rather peculiarly.  I had a feeling that hormones were playing a part in her behavior and I do believe I was right.  A day later she disappeared, but, having gone through this with another young lady, this time I wasn't overly concerned, and in fact was actually expecting it, although I had hoped she would wait closer to the one year mark instead of the 6 months one.    We will send out birth announcements before long if I am right.  For now she is back acting normal and her old playful self.  She is still a pretty small squirrel to be taking on family responsibilities.

Horseshoe Crabs continue to take advantage of the high tides that come with the moon's phases, but do not do so well with ones from the storms.  This upside down fellow was doing his best to right himself, but was only managing to go in circles.

More rescues when they get disoriented and can't find their way back to the now long gone water with low tide.  You can see 3 others struggling to get back to the water.  It was a busy morning.

This suitor just didn't know when to quit.  

What had been our first nest is now a memory, well not exactly because without the stakes we really can't even remember where it was.  Very sad to have lost this one but it seems that is the way it is.  Even the back stake placed further back in the dunes was washed away.  This is the one we suspected might be a Kemps Ridley.

Our duck couple was fine through the storm and I still see them hanging out every day, sometimes on the river sometimes on the ocean side, but always together.

Our second turtle first crawled in with a False Crawl deciding that she was unhappy with that spot and came back a few nights later and thankfully laid a very high nest which has survived.

With the Ospreys it has been a different story.  Little Girl and Alpha are both OK, but their chicks were lost.  It looks like we won't have any Osprey chicks to watch grow and fledge in the nest at the back of the park this year.  The nest now sits deserted.

Good news; it looks like the Least Terns seem to be nesting in the park once again.  As an Endangered Species we are very happy when they come back to us.  They missed last year and did not nest, but the minnow in the mouth is a sure sign of courting behavior, sort of like offering the gal an engagement ring.

This nest which was our first on the river, and in a very vulnerable spot right on the point where the heaviest currents run in a storm seems to be lost also.  It was a high nest laid in the top wrack line but not high enough.  The back dune stake is all that remains.  We will continue to monitor it just in case we are wrong.

It is sad because this mother had worked so hard to lay this nest as you can see on the very left edge of the photo where you can see her tracks coming in and then she crawled all through the rough wash area finally making her way toward the dune to what should have been a safe area before heading back out to sea.  Hopefully she will be back to lay there again this season.  

My first trip out after Beryl offered a treasure trove of sea creatures to find and assist back to the water.  This is a Horse Conch, the Florida State Shellfish and although a bit broken was very much alive.  This one was about a foot long.  Unfortunately my sister who is now living near the park saw a lady carrying a whole arm load of Sea Stars and other live shellfish off the beach to "take home".  This is a very bad thing to do.  Don't ever remove live creatures from the beach.  There is an exception which I will show you on down.

Some really "too pretty to be real" Sea Stars were on the beach.  We put the live ones back in the water.  The colors in these guys are unbelievable.

This Shellfish was a new one for me to find alive.  It is a Banded Tulip Snail.  It was so beautiful and very much alive as it twisted and turned trying to reach the water.  We were happy to assist.  My friend and house guests through the storm, Ocellia and Ariana were helping me put things back.  They were leaving that morning so were able to collect their own arm load of empty shells to take back home.

Attached to this Cockle Shell were the very pretty and frilly egg sacs of the Tulip Snail.  Since it appeared to still be alive we put it back.

This was a very unusual critter and I wondered about it because I didn't think it was a Sea Slug.  It was still alive and I thought it might be a Sea Star missing most of its legs.  A Sea Star can regrow its legs if it loses them but I had never seen one have only one tentacle.  I had also never seen this type here before.

Then we found out that was exactly what it was.  We found one with 4 legs but ofcourse these were not the missing legs for the other fellow.  At least we knew what it was.  As long as the center part is attached the Sea Star can continue to live.

This is the exception to the rule on not taking live creatures.  These pretty barnacles are an invasive species from the Pacific Ocean and we fear because of their large size that they will root out our smaller native species.  When you find these guys and they are still alive as these were, toss them away from the water.  This fellow and some of his relatives are now in my freezer waiting for my son, David to make a mold of them for a project he is doing down in Orlando which has to do with building an ocean reef.

Lots of Whelk egg sacs.  This one had hatched so not sure if those tiny Whelks on my finger tips are alive or not.  We did find some which were not yet hatched and tossed them off the pier back into the water.  It takes the Whelk about 8 days to lay this long string of very tough leathery sacs, which has about 60 or more tiny Whelks inside each sac.  The hole in the sac is the escape route for the new Whelk to enter the sea.  My question of the week is how do shells form?  They grow, but how?

In this cluster destined to be put back into the water is a Whelk, a couple of Tulip Shells, a young Horse Conch, and some other type of attached shell fish on the Conch.  The young Horse Conchs are much brighter in color and are bright orange when even smaller.

This tiny baby Stone Crab was inside another shell I picked up.  Look at his "Popeye after his spinach"-looking front claws.  Their claim to fame, and our fine dining, is these big front claws which are a delicacy to eat and can be harvested without killing the crab.

It looked like most of our Wilson's Plover chicks made it safely through the storm.  As a matter of fact we had 3 new sets of hatchlings show up the week afterward.  One gal took pictures of a Laughing Gull who sat on her eggs throughout the storm to the point that she was buried up to her neck in sand but she did not leave her eggs.  Though the mate was protesting the girl gently uncovered the mom and set her free.  I hope she will be rewarded with a successful hatching after that sacrifice.  I take back all the unkind words I have said about Laughing Gulls being terrible parents.

I have been working on paintings in all my spare time.  I have been in the gallery much more lately with Bruce unable to work for a couple of weeks.  He had an experiment with cooking rice that left some lasting effects with boiling water burning a huge 2nd if not 3rd degree burn to the top of his foot.  He is on the mend and I finally got a day off to go shoot birds on Tuesday.  Some good news and bad news from there also.  Of the three Roseate Spoonbill chicks I photographed in the last story, only one made it, but the one sitting on the nest produced 3 healthy little ones.  I will share some photos after I get time to go through them.

Another small 8 x 10 painting also finished and hanging for our Saturday Night Art Walk, party, and a good party is was!.  

In all we lost 4 of our 6 Sea Turtle nests in the park and it looks like about 2 dozen island wide.  However the good news is that we have had 4 Leatherback nests laid on the island.  I am learning to shake off the losses as part of natures plan and nothing that can be prevented.  One nest that had been relocated to a safer higher spot down on the lower part of the island was washed away despite the precautions.  So it just goes to show that you can't predict nor prevent disaster when Mother Nature is prevailing with her surprises.  So we understand better the great number of eggs laid and the multiple layings in a season is to offset their loses and to insure survivability of the species.  Turtles are doing well, although you would not know that by the environmental reports from those trying to raise money for their causes, who only report the dire news.  The best year ever for Green Turtles since we have been recording data was last year.

Hope springs eternal.  The good with the bad.  Win some, lose some.  All those life-explaining -isms really are true.  We are anxiously awaiting the rest of the season to see what surprises nature has in store for us.  Will there be lots of nests, will there be lots of storms, will the fish bite? Que sera sera.

(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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