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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell

The first nests laid had started to hatch.  Since I am so enthusastic and like to share the Sea Turtle work with those not exposed to it I posted the first two Island excavations on several sites on Facebook.  Yeah, I know one site has 6000 people on it.

So many people turned out for it that I promised the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch that I would never, ever, do that again.  They just did not have the ability to handle a crowd this huge.  Someone counted over 500 people in attendance, but it's nice to know that many people are interested.

Since we were a month behind in laying we were also a month later in the beginning of hatching.  But there is a lot to keep life interesting on the beach besides Sea Turtles.  I continued to watch the birds no longer able to spot the chicks all grown up, the beautiful deer, some Horseshoe Crabs continued to nest, and with later daylight it meant almost sunrises I could enjoy.  This was one of those sweet and calm pastel mornings.

Our first nest was a bit of a puzzle.  It was taking longer than we expected but it was also hard to tell what was happening with many of the nests this summer because of so many afternoon showers.  If it rains a lot a crust of wet sand forms over the nest and you will not see the telltale depression usually seen just before hatching time.  This was to be my one and only Sea Turtle hatchling to get to see at Fort Clinch this summer.  This was also the only readable evidence of a hatching from this nest.  It was sheer luck that I found this little one.  I ride the beach, but stay just below the last tide line when I do, because that is where we are trained to check for the turtles tracks of a nesting turtle.  Anything below this line is washed away by the tide.  I walk up to the nest to check each one each day which I patrol because there are lots of small critters like a certain beetle, as well as new plants that live in the sand just above the high tide line and beyond, which can be harmed by driving there.  It was because I do park low, that I did not accdently run over this little fellow.  Although it looks as if he is practicing for a Limbo contest, he had been heading out to the water when he had tipped over backwards as he had tried to climb over this piece of wrack which was laying over a slight depression in the sand.  His cries of "I've fallen and I can't get up" were heard.

After I righted him it was once again he was energetic and strong like most hatchlings are when they hatch on their own, and are not delayed in the bottom of the nest.  His little flppers flew as he hurried forward toward completing this part of his journey.  Over the softer upper beach sand and debris left by the high tide mark he went.

On to the hard pack part of the beach, too light to leave tracks, unlike his human counterpart who left the marks of being there before him.

More obstacles for this little fellow as he has to transverse even more footprints.  Looks like he almost does another flip flop.  I am escorting and protecting, but not interferring, letting him fight his own battles.  It is believed this helps them establish their reliance on their own instincts and their internal GPS

With eyes almost closed because of sand still stuck on his head and eyes from his climb out of the nest, he is determined to get to the water as fast as he can.

Smooth going for a while.

The sand is looking wetter so not very much further.

Oh yes, almost there to where he really will fly so much easier through the water, where those flipper were designed to work best.

We never saw any other evidence from his nest except this one hatchling, as it looked like he had climbed out through a crab hole.  But the nest did hatch and was completely empty of hatchlings when we excavated it.  And so the summer went, nest after nest, where all the hatchlings all got out, no stragglers left in the nest cavity.  We finished our season with only 11 nests total.  All were very productive except the last 2 nests.  For some reason nest number 10 had half the eggs which did not have an embryo in it, and nest 11 which had no hatched eggs, and all appeared to be infertile because nothing developed in them.  My theory is that since a turtle only mates before she lays her first nest that by the time she gets to the end of her laying season she may have more eggs not fertilized.  It was the second slowest turtle season since I have been doing it starting with 2003.  But no foxes raiding the nest and that was good.  I did see Brer Foxes' tracks on the sand a few times but he evidently had forgotten about the turtle eggs.

Many beautiful patterns in the sand, so many day after day, that sometimes I would be so used to them I would not even slow down to really look at them, Am I starting to take for granted the beauty that is around me everyday?  I hope not.

One thing that is not a part of my everyday beach life is this big structure out in the water.  You have seen it before, although it was sitting out in the water in front of the marina then.  It is the treasure hunter's boat/diver's platform.  A pretty ingenious device as it is motored out to where they want to dive and the poles are lowered to the bottom elevating the platform up above the rocking and rolling surface of the ocean.  Much easier to work off a flat stable surface.

And from the ocean's bottom some beautiful Sea Stars made their way into my gallery via Jack Nelson up in Minnesota, who sends them down to our seaside world.  We wish he had crawled in the box and had come with them.  Jack, here it is the Monday after Thanksgiving and I am in my short sleeve shirt and capris and you are slip sliding on ice, or so I am told, by those visiting from there.

Looks like a mating process is getting ready to take place on my nest marking sticks by two Stick Bugs.  They surely do look like sticks when their bodies are all that you see.  This was the largest one I had seen.  This is a 2 x 2" stick so you can see that the larger one is easily over 3 inches long.

What in the world??  I finally figured out that I was seeing--part of an alligator's tail.  I would say that one of the Gators, which sometimes roam into the salt water areas, lost more than a piece of his tail, as a matter of fact, looks like he lost everything, but a piece of his tail.  This was located just to the West of the pier in a definite salt water area.

Mr. Gopher Tortoise had been patiently squatting and watching this fisherman, until we pulled up behind him and spoiled his reverie.  I think that he probably had walked down to the water to take a dip, as they sometimes do, and was just waiting for the fisherman to leave, but our arrival disturbed him instead.

There had been some mighty thundershowers in the hours preceding the spotting of this vulture on top of a pole at the Pier Parking lot.  It usually is where you would see an osprey sitting, eating its catch, rather than a Black Headed Vulture trying to dry out its wngs after all the hard downpours.

It is always fun to try to catch the many Dragonflies in my backyard with my camera.  They are a challenge to get close enough to get a really good shot of those wonderful eyes.

The Monarchs stopped laying eggs just in time, because I was fast running out of anything to feed them.  This was the last batch of them for the summer.  Then it was wait for the Fall migration to start.

The deer were very visible, more than I remember.  This doe appears to be pregnant.  I know we did have some late little Bambi's spotted later than I had expected to see deer that young.  

The fresh spring green of the Sea Oat heads now show the changing of the season as their seed heads are almost mature and will soon be dropping on the sand to replenish next year's crop of dune plants.

This young Humming Bird was a frequent visitor to our feeder but also to the dried limb of an old Christmas Tree I have in my flower garden just for this purpose.  They zoom in and then like a spit wad come to a sudden stop as they land on their chosen perch.

Our sweet Lacy comes almost every day and successfully had her own babies this year for the very first time. I have not see the babies but could tell she was nursing little ones.  She stayed away for almost two weeks after they were born, and was so very hungry and skinny when she came back, I was concerned.  Nursing squirrel mothers sometimes die from lack of calcium because they loose so much when nursing.  One person on the island reported on Facebook that she had found young squirrels nursing their dead mother.  So sad for that to happen.  But as self sacraficing as Lacy was for your young ones I can see how it could happen.  I understand it is a common condition in other animal species also.  Our yard is so well furnished with food for them I don't think that could happen with our girls, between us and the next door neighbors we keep the squirrels happy.

Youngsters can be very demanding in the animal work just like they can be with their human counterparts.  Take this youngster in the Royal Tern world.  It is begging and begging the mom to feed it just one more time.  The wise mother is not yielding to this pitful pressure, but is turning a deaf ear and ignoring its plea.  She knows that the chick is quite capable of feeding itself, and she is forcing it to get hungry enough to hunt for itself.  Its tough love in the animal world

One morning I saw Frank, one of the rangers who whose role as a Civil War soldier for the living history part of the fort tours, seemed to be lost in thought as he starred off toward Cumberland Island.  It gave me a very real experience of being wisked back in time for a moment.

Two male Monarchs were the first to emerge but later we would get females, even though it seems there were more males than females in the emerging butterflies.  They are very beautiful and inspired the painting I worked on throughout the summer of the butterfly garden.

Here is the promised female Black Swallowtail which is really a beauty.  I had a number of these raised successfully.  I often went to the grocery store and bought parsley to feed them.  It was successful until the last batch.  There seemed to be something wrong with the last batch of parsley I bought, as all five of those chrysalis did not develop right, and did not emerge as successful.  So raising my own parsely is the best answer.  I just need to start it earlier so that it is large enough to supply the needed parsley.  Organic may be an answer also.  I could buy that for my caterpillars if I needed to supplement their food.

It was good to see tracks heading straight to the water.  We had several occasions where it looks as if someone on the street below the park boundary left a porch light on and pulled our little ones in the wrong direction down the beach rather than toward the water which should be the brightest thing they would see.  Just before our last nests were to hatch Amy (Beach Junki) and I put fliers in all the mailbox asking their cooperation in keeping lights off during that time.

Loggerheads usually lay every three years.  If that follows to be true this next year should be a very good if not a great year so keep your fingers crossed.

Have a great Christmas and keep me in your thoughts as I try to get things organized and prepare for another knee replacement in the middle of January.  So much to do both at the gallery and here at home that sometimes it is overwhelming.  Hopefully I can get another story off before Christmas as there have been some very fun things to tell.  Lots of new things so stay tuned.  

Two working knees should give me greater mobility for the nest Sea Turtle Season and I should have plenty of time to recoup before then and then I am going to walk the length of Egans Creek Greenway.

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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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