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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)

Last Chance on "Save the Turtle" T-Shirts
I am getting one last order together for the Save the Turtle T-Shirts.  Give me a call if you want one before Christmas and we will work out the sizes you might need.
 This will definitely be the last chance to get one this year.

One of our out of town visitors today asked if our town was always so quiet.  I responded that we wished it were not so this close to Christmas when the downtown merchants depend so much on the income of November and December to carry them through January and February.  Black Friday and Small Business Saturday did little to help my shop, maybe it was better across the block on Centre Street, where most of shops are.  I hope so.  I sometimes wish I was there but the rent is too cost prohibitive to allow one to survive there also.  What is the answer?  I recently got a thing from the Downtown Merchants quoting a study done in Michigan in 2009 that if people just spent 10% more of what they were spending in their own hometown what a difference it would make in the economy of that area.  

    $140 million in new economic activity
    1,600 new jobs
    $50 million in new wages

According to the research firm Civic Economics, when West Michigan consumers choose a locally owned business over a non-local alternative, $73 of every $100 spent stays in the community. By contrast, only $43 of every $100 spent at a non-locally owned business remains in the community. It would allow 1400 jobs for people.

The downtown merchants have decided to use the 4 Thursdays before Christmas, to remain open for the convenience of our shoppers and my gallery is one of those.  The first one I stayed open until 7 but had not a single customer came by.  Don't leave me sitting by myself in our cute little town.  Drop by to see what we have, say hi, and see what new painting I am working on.
...and the story...

October came in with a Full Moon over the marsh as I continued my last days of turtle patrol.  I barely caught a Woodstork as it soared across the early morning camera field of vision.

With October the days were really getting shorter and only three nests remained.

The decision is, when the nests 40 & 41 hatch, leaving only #42, the last late nest, located next to the beach boardwalk, we would discontinue our daily beach run.  Instead, Turtle Patrol will only be a walk across the newly opened and remodeled boardwalk to check the one remaining nest.  This means that my mornings of riding the whole beach will really be over.  These interesting patterns I find in the tidal pools on the river will be a thing of the past for 6 more months.

In the meantime I will ride the beach enjoying each discovery.  A memorial is left on the beach with the death of a shark, thoughtlessly left to die on purpose by a fisherman who does not like sharks getting on his line.  Such a shame to waste this beautiful creature.  It looks like someone else shared my sentiments.

With enough moisture in the air the sun makes beautiful rays shining through the trees.  It is nice to catch this rare occurrance on one of my last mornings to do the ride.

The clouds always make interesting sunrises unless they are too dense to let Mr. Sol a peek.  

This particular morning the cloud cover was almost complete, but was very interesting with its build up on the horizon and the fluffier Herring clouds overhead.  If I had been there just a bit earlier it might have made for a more colorful sunrise.

Masses of birds especially skimmers, which I don't see in such large numbers in the summer time, were covering the point next to the pier.  I try to not make them fly but when they do I like to try to catch it.  They are much blacker than the regular gulls so make for a more dramatic sight in flight.

Another morning another unique cloud formation to catch.  The sun peeking through just enough to give a bright glow to the clouds ahead.

Sometimes my most dramatic views are the ones I have as I travel down the beach on the river.  Nice thing about sunrises and sunsets are no two are ever exactly alike.

Those mornings when the tide is out one can get some really pretty reflections on the flat wet sand.  The reflection and the sky almost blend into one with hardly a horizon to divide.

There is always something new to discover.  I am not sure what creature made these flower like patters in a low spot on the river beach.  Each flower had the tiny creature's hole in the center.  If you look closely you will see the tiny black dot that forms the center of the bloom.  I'm not sure if the flower pattern was tracks or if it was made by throwing sand out, but interesting in that they were all this way over a wide expanse of the tidal flat in the bottom of what had been a tidal pool.  Made me very curious as to what was down there but I did not disturb them.

Nest 40 was a very sad one.  It had been washed over, but mostly the damage was made by a crab which had gotten down in the bottom, coming in from the side, entering right into the egg chamber and living high on the hog for a long time it seems.  The crab had interrupted their hatching by pinching into many of the eggs and making it impossible for the hatchlings on the bottom to exit their eggs, leaving them to die even though they got their heads out of the eggs.  It was the worst nest my sister had to dig.  Not all is success and happiness in life sometimes there are bad days too.

We did find this many still alive.  One was barely alive and still partially in the egg when we found him.  He did not make it, but the others were fine.  It was not a very productive nest even though she had laid lots of eggs.  Part of what our job does, collect data on the successes and failures of the nests.  Good thing was we had a very healthy over all percentage of survival compared to the number of eggs laid.

This is the last photo I got of our "Little Boy" before he decided to move on with the annual male Squirrel Fall Shuffle, where male squirrels go out and establish their own territory.  He had progressed very quickly from a very home based momma's boy to a healthy and fat pre-adult squirrel, who did not want to leave his tree santuary.  He would happily trot down the tree to me for petting and loving, but once you started to move away from the tree he would jump down and run back.  He would sometimes come to the house for a nut treat but that became rare.  Then one weekend we had activities downtown which required us to leave early and not come home until after dark for two days in a row.  During this absence he moved on and we have never seen him again.  I took this photo a few nights prior just to show how much redder he was than most of our other squirrels.  His front paws were particularily red.  So if you see a reddish squirrel in your neighborhood on Philips Manor Road don't be surprised if he begs for nuts.  He loved Pecans although we never gave him many (I got out of them by the time he came along).  He was the sweetest of the trio of squirrels, but like a lot of males it was "love em and leave em".  Our Lacy girl still frequents our house and is an almost daily visitor.  It is time though.  She will probably be getting pregnant for her first litter any day now with birthing of the squirrel babies usually occuring sometime in late December or January, then again in mid summer.  Her life of being alone in the squirrel world is almost over.

We have had another unusual visitor this fall and summer, maybe several instead of one, inside the house.  This little guy was tiny, almost transparent to your eye and fast as lightening.  I had never seen this species before, having to do some researching to find out what it was.  It is not native, being from the orient somewhere, maybe Indonesia.  They are called a Common House Gecko.  Very interesting little fellow and took a great deal of effort to catch and remove from the house.  A welcome visitor but hate to think of them being unable to find proper nourishment inside.

Another day in the park and the ghosts of the historic past appeared in the form of Frank, one of our rangers who specializes in telling visitors to the Old Fort the history of the fort.  The photo was not very clear so I transformed it into an old sepia toned photo.  Frank has an amazing collection of military uniforms, with the story of each tucked in the pocket.

Our nest #41 had hatched.  My sister, Susan, helped with most of the last excavations.  These babies had to climb through a lot of wrack which had been piled on top of the nest during some of our higher tides.  Looks like they had their share of difficulties just getting out, but most of them made it.

Those left in the nest seemed to be racing each other to the water.  I know it must be such a relief to get out of that potential tomb of sand, and out in the fresh air, and finally on their way to reaching the water and their new home.

They make it into the water without any problem except that of getting tumbled back onshore by the waves a few times.

I picked this little one up after such a tumble and he, as they aways do when you hold them this way, began to vigorously do his breast stroke thinking that without any pressure from underneath he must be in the water.  Flying is not in their vocabulary, but that is basically what they do fly through the water propelled by their large wing like front flippers.

Bluebirds have been back checking out my nest box.  I have not been able to see if they have decided it to use as their night time sleeping quarters, but I do keep seeing them hang around the area.

My caterpillars are turning into beautiful Monarch Butterflies.

While others are happily munching their way to being grownups.  I have found somthing is eating the tiny cats so I have been bringing them inside when I find their eggs, and letting them hatch and grow on plants I bring in to the dining table, until they are about half grown then I take them outside.  I leave them outdoors until I think they are almost ready to turn into a butterfly.  Then I bring them and some extra Butterfly Weed into the inside terrarium to finish the process.  Outside ants have been getting into the Chrysalis before they can emerge.  The sucess rate is much better this way.  Then they are released to start the cycle all over again.

Fall brings some of my favorite color to the park in the form of the pink cloud like grasses called Muhley Grass.  I love it and want some in my yard.  If it thrives in this arid climate so near the beach sand dunes then it should be able to do some good things in a yard which is neglected like mine.  With little money left for fertilizers and other such helpful things for a garden, I can freely give the lots of love, which doesn't cost.  I try to plant things more native which do not need so much care.  

I was sorry to see this happen.  Our very last nest, number 42, the one where I got pictures of the mother after she laid, was underwater.  She had laid high enough to remain dry until almost the end, but now with one of the higher Fall tides and Northwest winds to accompany it the water had covered the nest when I arrived to check it.  I didn't know what this would mean to the nest.  Can it make it?  Were the hatchlings already hatched which might make a difference in their survivability?  Hatchlings often smother when they have hatched and are washed over by standing water.  The high newly formed tidal pool had found a way out and was quickly draining through the cut it had created in the sand.  Time will tell if it drains soon enough to allow the hatchlings to emerge as it is time for that to happen.

On my way back to the car I spotted one brilliant red spot of color with this male Cardinal through the pink cloud and had to stop to admire the wonderful contrast of "complimentary" colors as are in green and red and light red (pink).  Every artist's dream composition, and the thing that truly makes "Colors Sing" as Jean Dobie once wrote a whole book about using ("Making Colors Sing" as its title).  She is the artist who has had the most influence on me as a painter.  A wonderful artist whom I admire and I once got to hang out with way back when I served as Workshop Chairman for the Tennessee Watercolor Society and she was our workshop artist.  She is a prolific artist who raised something like 8 children which is to be admired in itself.  I asked her how she did it, and she said it took organization, everybody had white socks, so no missing colors to match up was one hint.  I wasn't able to accomplish near what she did and I only had two children.  She had a very supportative husband, which also helps.

The new "Turtle Patrol" led me to get to observe a whole different environment in the dunes that make up the area between the parking lot and the beach.  I still don't know what this bird was as it seemed too small for one of our usual hawks.  I first thought Perigrine Falcon which had been seen mirgrating through, but when I looked up the colors it did not match, although that it could possibly have been a young one.  If anyone knows let me know.  I am no bird expert by any means.

Halloween was apporoaching and this house which is just up the street is a great one for decorating in Halloween attire.  I love what the couple has done with this old place, which once I wasn't sure if it wasn't going to be left to just fall in.  The yard has been wonderfully transformed as well as the house, but still retains its rustic character.

In my own backyard sometimes I get unusual visitors.  I don't usually have buzzards hanging around, however, this fellow was hanging out in the tree between mine and my next door neighbor one day.  I just happened to look up and see him.  My camera and I spooked him, sending him flying to a tall snag behind me, left by too much tree cutting there.  
What had been a dense tree canopy when I moved here, has been reduced to just a few trees the developers allowed between the thickly situated houses, and mine and my neighbor's property lines.  Before it was so dense I couldn't see another house behind me, only primevial forest backing up the yard.  Then one day the backhoes came, using their long arms to whack away at the huge Live Oaks and their sweeping limbs, breaking off them off to a more mangagable size so they could then cut them down, bulldozing the roots, insuring their demise.  I had to leave because it saddened me so to see this type of destruction to that beautiful wild habitat I had enjoyed taking walks in.  
In exchange I got a 10 foot tall "fake" (Styrofoam) adobe wall bordering my backyard, and they got shoulder to shoulder "Patio Homes" which are about 8 feet from my fence.  I celebrated when I realized I only had a one story dwelling behind me.  It's done now, but I still sometimes revisit photos of what "was", and mourn the loss of so much beautiful natural habitat on the island.  Funny, they called the development "The Preserve".  Laughable if it weren't so sad, because they did very little preserving.  I am a conservationist rather than an environmentalist.  I believe the earth is for humans as well as animals, but I also believe in responsible development that takes the needs of each into consideration.  That was not the case here.
Brings to mind this old song...

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With  "patio homes", a boutique
And a swinging hot spot.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

...and so I cling to the wild spot I own, letting the wild flowers grow in my backyard and the Muscadines and Virginia Creeper roam over into the pristine backyards of the backdoor neighbors.  I provide a wild space where my black snake can hide, my squirrels are welcome, and my butterflies can find nectar and a place to raise their babies.  

(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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