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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)

Summer with its laying and hatching turtles, baby squirrels, and the appearance of many, many butterflies which I had been planning my flower garden in anticipation of their arrival.  The Gulf Fritillarys, some of the earliest, have been laying eggs on the Passion Flower vines which have grown to large proportions for them since last Spring.  I began to think vaguely in the back of my mind that I would like to eventually do a butterfly painting.  The painting actually emerged much like a nest of turtles when I wasn't expecting it. 

As I was working on the last two pieces I wanted to finish for the Daytona Beach show I began to be bored with the abstract one which I was working.  I could see the possibility of flowers and as inspiration sometimes does I was hit with the idea of a turning it into a butterfly painting.  Not just ordinary butterflies but the kind one might encounter in their dreams.  So I happily turned it into a wonderful flower garden supplied with many fanciful butterflies enjoying the sweet nectar the flowers would surely be offering.

After 10 years of no Leatherbacks, they have seemed to have found us again the past few years.  This year we had about 5 or 6 Leatherback nests on the island but only 2 of them had hatched.  I was fortunate to be in attendance for the excavation of one of the nests which had these 2 little ones (well compared to their adult size of about 12-1600 pounds).  Fort Clinch had one of the 5 nests.  These hatchlings are a good bit larger than our Loggerhead and Green turtles.

It was show and tell time as quite a crowd of Sea Turtle lovers had gathered hoping to get a glimpse of these rare little ones.  Their flippers are much longer allowing them to plunge to great depths when grown, much deeper than any other turtle.

The line was drawn in the sand so that everyone could get a chance to see.

I believe someone is ready to hit the water.  Such pretty turtles (as turtles go) with their soft backs with its long stripes instead of the scutes we associated with other turtles.  

Their bellies were very round showing that they had recently absorbed their egg yolk meal giving them strength to swim.  These turtles are rare and extremely endangered.  There is not that much known about them.  Their diet consists of only Jellys.  They do not usually survive very long in captivity so you will not be seeing them in any aquariums.

After a few tries to get out into the pretty rough surf Len Kreger makes the decision to air lift this one a bit further out.  Its already been a long journey so better to save its energy supply.

Back on the beach at Fort Clinch nests are hatching at a fast clip.  The tracks from the night before tell us that the nest has hatched, unfortunately the hole in the nest tells us some are probably still in the nest and are becoming prey for this Ghost Crab.  We are not allowed to intervene but must leave it to nature for the next 3 days, then we can dig in and see what we have.

I had been spotting a bird couple of birds which I thought a dove but darker, smaller, and more elusive than our normal Mourning Dove.  I was able after several mornings to get some photos enough to make identification possible.  It is a Common Ground Dove, which is actually not that common here.  The iridescent feathers on the back of the neck and the dark spots on the back were all part of the identifying characteristics.

We were able to find some healthy hatchlings left in the nest.  The coloring on this fellows back is pretty and you can see the distinctive pattern of the Loggerhead back.

It has that characteristic heavy neck and head of the adult.

The race is on as these two head out together maintaining their synchronized strides.

A quick wash of water really brings out the colors.  It looks like this one many have even lost its "egg tooth" in the struggle to get out of the nest.

Well, that's the last we'll see of this fellow for a couple of decades.

Ever constant on the river is the Shrimp boats heading out or coming in from their weeks at sea catching the shrimp we love.

This appears to be a newer one with a different kind of rigging.  Most of the boats are now flash frozen shrimp boats who can instantly freeze their catch and stay our for weeks at a time.  A few, like the older one, are still the iced variety who can only stay gone no more than a week at a time.

Kites were flying overhead as if in celebration of my sister's mid August birthday.

Funny she doesn't look any older.  She gave her own party at Sliders with a gathering of her Jacksonville friends she had recently moved away from and a collection of her new friends and relatives from the island.

Even Peanut, the squirrel, was in attendance as I fed him, packed him and his blanket in my purse, partially zipped it and off we went.  One of the waitresses Susan knew practically adopted him, and we saw very little of him as she took him over.  I had to go retrieve him in order to leave.  This is the easy to deal with stage where you can stick them in a pocket, and go shopping, to meetings, or parties and know that they will just sleep.  That does change.

From the speckled chest I would think this is a female Osprey.  Still waiting most mornings atop the light on the river marker watching for breakfast to swim underneath.

August is when our marshes give their most rich colors of green.  It is almost artificial looking it is so bright.  This will soon start to change as Fall is not far away.

Maybe my coastal painting, the last to take to my show opening the next week, should have had more of that green, but it is so green it can be too shocking to blend with the rest of the colors.

Of the many, many eggs being laid on my Passion Flower by the Gulf Fritilarys I have yet to see a caterpillar.  I see small holes in the leaves but not caterpillars.  Without caterpillars you cannot have butterflies.  I believe that these tiny wasps which seem to be in abundant supply around my house are eating them.  They also seem to be ever present around the butterfly producing plants.

I see them lay as this one carefully bends her back side to attach one egg after another to the plant.

Once I learned what to look for I can spot their eggs.  The Fritillarys seem to like to lay their eggs on the tendrils of this vining plant.  The egg looks like a tiny drop of moisture on the tip of this one.

I had worked all spring trying to get a variety of plants which would attract the different species commonly found here.  A variety of Milkweed plants for the Monarchs which will come through in the Fall, Passion Flower for the Gulf Fritillarys and the Zebra Long wing (the state butterfly of Florida), and curly parsley and fennel for the Black Swallowtail.  I have one small Bay started for the Brown Swallowtail.

I had pretty good luck with the Black Swallowtails in the spring and early summer finding my plants but only a few made it to emerging into butterflies.  I found that bringing them inside when they are almost ready to form the Chrysalis is often best to insure the ants don't devour them once they are in the chrysalis form.  Another thing is to bring the Chrysalis inside if you can find it.  There is no way to save them all.  I can offer them a good habitat and the rest is up to them.  Its a wonderful thing to watch but it is too time consuming to try to "guarantee" their survival.  So for now I will wait and watch on the beach as well as at home.

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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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