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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)

 Those of you who remember the Sea Turtle, Squall, the one released last Fall off our island, and which had her front flipper missing as a result of a shark bite.  In an update and "rest of the story" kind of thing I would like to tell you about meeting a young man who came into my gallery last Art Walk evening.  He is from South Carolina and works with the state wildlife people there doing Sea Turtle work.  I told him about tracking Squall for the past year and he told he he was on the boat, The Georgia Bulldog, when she was found.  I knew the story basically about there being a storm at sea and they had to keep her on board longer before they usually would before they could return her to port for care.  He said the storm was quite a squall and they had to strap her into the harness they use for weighing sea turtles so she wouldn't be tossed around.  He was the one who named her Squall.  He said they brought her into port right here in Fernandina to be picked up by Alan Foley our local (JAX) FWC guy and be transported to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for treatment.  And thus the whole story of Squall.  He was happy to hear how well she was doing because he didn't realize she was still being tracked.  I told him we had hoped she would have come back up here to lay eggs.  He said that the felt she would not lay until maybe next year because she had eggs in her when they found her and would probably not lay again for a year or so.  He believes she is a local turtle though and will probably come back this way when she is ready.  She did make one trip from Melbourne Beach, where she spent the winter, back up here, but is now all the way back south further than before.  She is almost to Miami.  You can check out her travels this year by going to this website.

Debbie was a washout in more ways than one.  It came with torrential downpours but thankfully did not hang around nearly as long as the weather people predicted.

From the gallery I watched as another deluge began.  It had been predicted to rain all the way through Friday after starting on Sunday evening.  It rained lots in volume so not to downplay that at all, but on late Tuesday we had seen the last of the bad stuff.

These feral cats came out between showers across the street at the Needlepoint shop to dry off.  You can see by the notch on the ear tip that they have received their spaying before being returned to the street.  Locals see that they are well fed and have water.  There is much controversy about returning feral cats to their wild ways but I think in town it is OK where there is not that much other wild life which can become their prey or vice versa.  Out in neighborhoods and the country where there are birds and neighbors who don't want a yard full of unwanted cats and no real protection for the cats I can certainly see it as a problem.  I have been the "victim" of such releases with a neighbor who thinks it is OK to bring them home and turn them loose in our neighborhood.  I love cats but with a husband extremely allergic to them I have moved on to preferring my squirrels and birds, and do not want cats sleeping on my front porch keeping my settee in too big a mess for human usage.

Water built up in places I didn't even realize were low. I thought the sandy soil would drain in a day or so but I was wrong.  Some of these puddles are still hanging around making mosquito production a nightmare, preventing any type of outside work for days on end.  Finally the end of last week I was able to walk out onto my patio without being swarmed.

Although some clouds remained and a few showers popped up the worst was over and Wednesday afternoon proved to be a beautiful day even though a lot of people left town anticipating bad weather.  Our local economy so depends on good weather reports.  Who wants to go to Florida when it is going to rain all week long.

It was still pretty breezy as the tropical storm was still around although the center had already moved off shore by Wednesday morning.  The sun bravely peeped through the clouds, and the nests that Rhonda had braved downpours and wind to mark, were waiting for me to check on the next day.  The Seaoats still bent their heads in the wind.

The area we had hoped would be a Least Tern nesting area was underwater squelching any hopes of their getting to nest this year.  One park on the Gulf Coast. which had really felt the brunt of the storm had previously build floating dock nesting areas for just such an occasion and those were the only ones they had to survive.  They built a platform with the top of the sand to look like a gravel roof (a favorite nesting habitat for Least Terns) with an area of shelter for chicks to get underneath on top of that...and it worked.  The chicks huddled underneath the shelter and the base for the nesting just rose with the water.  A very ingenious solution.  The Least Terns are an endangered species due to their loss of habitat so anything that can be done to undo what man has done to them I support.

The beach ducks now found a great calm lake in which to swim in the yard across the street from my sisters house.  We got a good laugh about that.  The water in this area was so slow to drain that the city brought in pumps to drain it.  unfortunately their pumping water onto the beach also managed to flood one of the turtle nests located south of the park possibly ruining that.

admid all the adversities of weather we had some new little Wilson's Plovers hatch.  There was one chick in this new hatching and just beside this family another nest of 3 hatched out a couple of days later.  I don't remember all these second groups of little ones in years past, but maybe I am just mis-rememering, which I don't think is really a word, but one which George W. invented.  It seems to be a really great word as I find I mis-remember a lot these days.

Earlier this week I watched one of my Turtle Volunteers to my South as he marked their nest.  It is interesting to watch and note the differences in how we do it.  Paul carefully pushed back all the loose sand on top of the nest to either side clearing out the area where the nest chamber would be located.  He then felt around until he found the soft fluffy sand of the chamber, dug the sand out of it until he could see the top eggs.  Then he took post hole diggers and put 3 holes around the nest forming a triangle.  Into these holes he placed the stakes, refilled them, and then the nest chamber with sand.  Then he replaced the loose sand on the top of the nest bringing it back up to the level it was when he found it.

The tracks leading up to the nest were so perfectly clear that I had to include a photograph.  Then it was off to finish up my morning on the beach.  I do have to go to work after TP.  In the Park we do not dig into our nests, instead depending on the signs around the nest to tell us if it really is a nest and we were almost 100% correct last year.  We drive our stakes in the ground with a sledge hammer.  I think every group has their own interpretation of how to do it.  Sounds like religion, doesn't it.

Our little Lacy still comes on a regular basis and enjoys having her neck scratched.  Se was coming very regularly but the past week she has shown up only every few days.  We were worried at first, especially after seeing a big hawk in our yard, but it seems she is OK after reappearing a several times this week.

The beaches have been filled with shells, too much so.  Walking on shells is not too comfortable. I Prefer walking barefoot in the sand.

Last week one of my artist friends, Theresa Daly, got this photo of a Loggerhead appearing at 2pm on the Fort Clinch beach.  Mrs Turtle evidently didn't like all the wrack and shells either, as she took a look around and turned around and left.  We believe she did come back in the next night or so and laid her eggs.  She is a fairly small, probably a first year laying turtle.

The family with the three new Plover Chicks were busy trying to keep up with the three little ones who scatter in all directions giving the parents a real challenge to keep up.  I couldn't even get them all in one photo.  I challenge you to find the two and mom.  I believe she only has two of the three surviving.  Its a hard world out there in nature.  

The numbers keep climbing and it seems that we will have the best season ever.

Another little one to rescue when another of my friends, Kathy, who lives here part time called to say that a tree trimer had cut down a limb which contained a couple of birds in it.  I thought a bird inside a tree had to be an owl or a woodpecker.  One of them had managed to get its neck caught underneath a branch and had not survived but this one seemed to be quite healthy.  Although not quite ready to fly.  Definitely a woodpecker in its appearance.  Not wanting to try to raise a woodpecker I called B.E.A.K.S. a local rescue group to see if they could take it in.  Sometimes it is better to call in the pros.

I ran by the house to find a box to put little Woody in as that was a requirement for keeping it safe inside the drop box until they could pick it up.  Cindy at B.E.A.K.S. instructions were that I would find two dog kennels outside their gate for receiving their bird rescues, but you must with a smaller bird it needed to be contained inside a to protect it from escaping out of the crate.  I felt like Agent 007 involved in a top secret mission delivering an important secret package to a secret drop box.  I was told to leave the box and they would be watching and come get it after I left.

I was greeted by lots of other birds, Geese, Peacocks, and even some Ostriches which were fenced in just behind the main gate.  I have never been inside to see their facility.  Some day I will manage to get my secret camera inside the walls of the compound and get photos of the "operation".  They rescue lots of birds especially birds of prey and would be overwhelmed if they let everyone come in and take a look around.  They have had to even cut back on rescues, and don't take in every bird in need of help (no sea gulls) because of their own requirements for a personal.

B.E.A.K.S. is located in a remote island of Big Talbot Island down this long secluded dirt road, only adding to the mysterious mission.

Back on the beach at Fort Clinch Horseshoe Crabs continue to mate, which seems to be their main goal in life, probably why these ancient creatures have survived all these millions of years.

Sometimes Lacy decides she would rather stay inside and hide her nuts in the cool a/c instead of heading outside where it has been hot, although not as hot as East Tennessee.  We find nuts in some very unexpected places sometimes.

The Fourth of July came with the usual beautiful booms.  The city of Fernandina, because of the city budget concerns of all cities these days, had voted to not spend the money on fireworks, however, the merchants and Chamber of Commerce banded together to raise enough money to put on the traditional Independence Day Fireworks on the River display everyone is used to having.  As for me, although I supported the effort, I chose to walk across the street and watch the fireworks on the beach at the Ritz-Carlton.  To me there is just nothing like fireworks on the beach, with individuals shooting their own and the spectacular ones from the Ritz, the Omni Plantation, and those even as far away as Mayport visible from our beach chairs and no traffic to fight afterwards.

After the 4th everything was very calm again, with the Ospreys on their usual high perches where they can spot the next meal.

Although a bit of wandering, as well as some which result in a False Crawl instead of a nest, the Sea Turtles continue to fill the beaches with nests.

An unusual sight was this group of Willets which were staying together on the ocean beach one morning.  Usually they are pretty solitary which made me wonder if this was not a family with youngsters being taught the ways of survival in their new world, or perhaps these were not Willets at all, but one of the other similar species which we seldom see on the beach.  There is one called the Lesser Yellow Legs that looks a lot like a Willet.  I guess I should look them up to make sure but that takes time.

The beach is definitely a multi-use area for humans as well as others of the animal kingdom.  Runners jog, while fishermen prepare for a day of fishing, all the while I make my way up and down the beach doing Turtle Patrol checking out what went on during the dark hours on the beach.  
The weekend of the Fourth of July took me on a quickly put together "Turtle" Road Trip.

My oldest son Eric, wife Tina, and Grandson Tanner were going to their condo at Cape Canaveral beach for the 4th.  They invited me to come down and take them down to see the Sea Turtles that come in to nest just South of them.  I had decided not to go since I felt my old 200K+ mileage car might be iffy for that long a trip.  On Thursday when I was talking to my fishing buddy, Fran, about my decision.  She offered her car so just for the experience of seeing the Sea Turtles nesting.  We arrived at the beach just before dusk enabling us time to check out the beach beforehand.  This beach is in part of the Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge at Melbourne Beach and can have as many as 1000 turtle nests in a mile.  They don't even mark but maybe 1 out of 10 nests. There are more turtles nest here than any other beach in Florida.  It is not that wide a beach but a very busy, busy beach with turtle tracks everywhere.  I might add I did not see a single canopy nor beach chair left on this beach as we often see here on our beaches.

We saw a number of the different species of Sea Turtle tracks we have laying here.  This was one unusual set of tracks which I sent in for identification.  I have done research on it myself and am convinced that it is what I originally thought, a rare Hawksbill Sea Turtle.  We don't have have those very often in Florida.  The distinctive curve down the middle is what is so unlike any other turtle.  It has alternating gait like a Loggerhead but a Loggerhead does not have the curved middle line.  I created quite a stir when I innocently asked the people at FWC to confirm my ID.  I just wanted to know if I had it right.  It  seems they had not marked it as anything unusual so everyone got in on the action.  My photos were sent everywhere.  Unfortunately by the time they got to the people who could find out if they were really a Hawksbill, with rain and 40 more turtles tracking over it time had passed for positively identifying it.

We also saw baby tracks from the evening before, but although I am sure there were babies hatching that night we were too tired to hang around and wait on them.  

This was a set of Green Turtle tracks and the nest from the night before.  I sent Tina up to stand next to the nest so the size of this pit the turtle momma dug to lay and cover her eggs was more evident.

This is the business end of a nesting turtle with her clutch of eggs visible as she spread her flippers apart to let more drop into the nest.  This was a very large Loggerhead, much larger than the little one which had come onshore at Fort Clinch earlier in the week.  The red light is all that is permissible to use on a nesting beach at night and we only used it once the turtle started laying.  When she is laying she goes into a trance and you can move up close to her and it will not disturb her.

We were able to follow two of the turtles back to the water and see them go into the water but although this is the head of one of them the photos just did not turn out enough to tell what you were seeing.  It is a great experience so watch this gal as she makes her way back and quickly disappears into the waves.

The next morning Fran and I went fishing with grandson, Tanner, and she really enjoyed watching these Juvenile Green Turtles diving for food around the jetty over which we were fishing.  They have such a pretty head that I am using these  photos as reference material to do the 2012 Turtle Trot painting.  Progress shots will be in the next story.  The Turtle Trot will be Labor Day this year instead of the usual Saturday before.  Last year they tried the run on the beach and liked doing it there so much that they decided to do it on the beach again, but the tide has to be a consideration for a beach run thus the race was changed for a better tide day.

(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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