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

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  So for now let us regress a good while...oh dear will I ever catch up?

Days on the beach continued for Amy and me with days spent doing beach cleanup once Sea Turtle Patrol ended for 2015 with a record year of 47 nests.  It was a great season and exciting to have so many nests.  Especially after having only 11 the year before that.
We see deer tracks on the beach all the time but this is the first time I have actually seen them playing on the beach.  I have since seen a video of one actually frolicking in the surf in some other place.  I suspect that may be part of what they do here we just don't see them because we don't have many humans out on the beach in the park that early.

With Matthew roaring by us recently this dune which was the object of a person's artwork is no longer even there.  The water had been working on it even last Fall (2015).  We had lots of Nor'easters and lots of beach erosion even then.  Nor'easters seem to pound us almost every weekend last year but this year it is so beautifully warm here, once Matthew left that is..

Birds are a big part of what happens here in the Fall and this Great Blue Heron blends in so much with some of the washed in trees from storms last Fall. You will have to look closely to find it.

When late winter came I was once again given the opportunity to have some animals show up from the local Humane Society.  It seems they have wild animals often show up on their doorstep.  I am on the list to take care of some of them.  Another bunny and another chance to redeem myself from the two previous ones which did not make it.  This little Marsh Rabbit was to be easier because it was older to start with instead of the tiny ones I had gotten before.  He was a sweetie for sure and like the other ones he would sit on our shoulder at night while we watched TV.  They are such sweet babies and the Marsh Rabbits are a really interesting rabbit in that they can swim.  I find that an amazing feat for a rabbit.

Along about the same time I had a small baby whose eyes were not open.  He had been found on the South end of the island in the middle of the street.  He still had his eyes closed when I got him and he was undoubtibly the most loving and sweet (to me at least) of all of the squirrels I have ever had.  He would entertain himself playing around me for long periods of time.  He never really took to other people but he loved me.  He even would bite Bruce when he happened to be around as he got older.

Then one day in the same period I got a call from the Humane Society asking if I could take a Flying Squirrel.  Wow what an opportunity to get to learn about a new to me animal.  I had never even see one of them up close and only a brief glimpse of one when it was flying from one tree to the other on some property I used to own part of up in North Georgia.  My neighbor had told me she saw one in the middle of the day in her yard so I knew we had them. Another neighbor said we used to have lots of them in our yard before they developed he land behind us know as "The Preserve" which to me is a joke. I knew it when it really was a preserve.  When the gal from the Humane Society brought this little box filled with shredded paper I was excited to see this little fellow.  I lifted the flaps enclosing the box only to have something akin to a buzz saw grab hold of my fingers.  I was sure she had brought be the Tasmanian Devil instead of a minute little baby squirrel.  OK take a deep breath and try again.  This time he lunged toward my hand in a very aggressive manner. UT OH. How am I going to feed this little booger.  I got a cloth and used it to protect my hand and got a hold of him and wrapped him up and began to soothe the frightened little guy.  A few minutes of cuddling and calming actions and I knew this big bad boy was just trying to protect himself and was more bark than bite.  He turned out to be a very sweet little fellow who won both mine and Bruce's hearts.  Flying Squirrels are nocturnal and the reason for their big eyes...the better to see you with...Little Red Riding Hood.  

Our earlier squirrels, Foxie and Little Bit, still came to visit.  Little Bit who was so fearful that I would put her back in that cage she so hated, that she never let me touch her again once she was free.  She would come around and eat and not run in fear, but if I tried to get close to her she would beat a hasty retreat.  Foxie on the other hand still comes and will wait for me to hand her a nut or she will even climb up to check to see if I have a nut in my pocket.  Foxie, who was a little older than Little Bit, did not have babies in the Fall cycle of reproduction, but I could tell that Little Bit was pregnant and she showed signs of being a nursing mother soon afterward.  Probably Foxie will make up for lost time this winter breeding cycle which will be happening soon.  As a matter of fact when I saw her this morning I would bet she is definitely pregnant.

The Gulf Fritillaries are a very common butterfly for us and the bottom of the wing is very pretty with the white spots being very striking.  Butterflies are covered in scales and the white is actually clear scales over a white surface underneath making those spots look like they have a piece of shiny glass over the top of the white.  Very shiny are these spots contrasting with the flatter softer appearance of the colors surrounding the white.  If you will notice the Chrysalis look like a dried leaf and out in the wild I don't think you would ever see them.  I have a tank full of them right now. I released 4 just today.

The top side is quite a contrast as they are so brightly colored they almost seem to glow.

Little Rocky soon settled into being happy in an old bird cage I happen to have, and had used with baby squirrels before I discovered how much they like a small animal carrier which they think of as a nest box.  I would wake Rocky to eat but other than that he would mostly be asleep all day long.  I often woke him for a few minutes so that people like me who had never seen one of these cute babies could see him. 

He then graduated to sleeping in a knotted towel hanging from a towel bar in my bathroom.  He still would play there after moving on to a nest box.  Animals have various games they learn to play with their humans.  This little guy had a great time playing at night with me in the bathroom.  He would hide behind the towel, then I would put my hand down at the bottom and he would run down and get in my hand.  I would give him a lift up to the top of the towel bar and with lightening speed he would leap for the towel quickly diving behind it and show up at the bottom quick as a wink and be ready to ride back up.  He would play this game for as long as you would stay with it.  He was so fast and so curious that I did not trust him to not run away and get lost underneath the bed which is where I started bringing him to play for a while at night before his day began and our sleep time was nearing.  Then finally I realized he was not going to try to get away but would come back even though he would venture further and further exploring the world as he knew it for now.  He was scruffy looking when we first got him but as he grew he developed this beautiful silky smooth fur coat with a sharp line delineating the top from the bottom of his coat with a beautiful warm white color against a very cool shade of brown kind of an Ash Brown color with a defining dark line separating the two.  So much personality.

 We also continued to have lots of Monarchs who stayed around until mid summer.  This year (2016) it was so dry that after my first ones, I had 30, I ran out of food.  Until it regrows I don't have enough to feed any more.

Feeding this little fellow happened at night since he was up and about during that time.  I would still give him his milk in the morning and at night but I would leave a plate of things for him to eat on during the night.  I would leave fruit, nuts, and his favorite meal worms.  I got used to walking through escapee's on my way through my bathroom of the mornings and sometimes get to squish them when I didn't see them first.  

My sweet little Jimbo grew fat and stayed my buddy.  Even when I released him he would come in the morning and at night to just play with me.  He still never took to Bruce.  Boys seem to have a problem with other males.

Turtle training was in late winter after January was over and done with.  A new 
sea turtle hospital was recently opened in our area, just south of St. Augustine, across from Marineland at the Whitney Labs, a marine research place run by the University of Florida.  We were able to watch them do a laser treatment on one of the turtles and others were swimming around in their individual pools recouping from Papalomia Virus tumor removals with the laser.

The Whitney facility is located right on the water and has a man made pool with all kinds of local fish in it.  Where there are fish there are birds waiting on an easy meal.  This Little Snowy was hanging out there that day.

Our Rocky was learning to fly.  He would climb straight up the front edge of the door, cross over the top and come down the screen.  Then he would wait for you to walk by and he would sail over to your chest.  We really loved playing with him and could see why people like to have Sugar Gliders.  That big wide tail is just that it is wide and flat.  It acts as a rudder to his flying antics.  We knew it was time to release him but not quite sure how to do it.  When I would take him outside he would dive down inside my shirt and not come out while I was outside.  I came up with an idea.  It came to me that he would have to find his own way.  I know how strong animal instincts are.  I told Bruce, "I am going to cut a hole in the screen and he will find his own way out if he is ready to go."  That is what we did.  We showed him the way out.  You can picture us me outside on a ladder trying to coax him out and Bruce inside showing him the hole.  It did not take long.  He found the way out the second night the hole was open.  But next morning he was back. I stuck my finger in his bird house bed and he stuck his warm little nose up to touch my finger.  We spent a very sweet early night together, Rocky & Me, the last time I saw him.  Bruce had a late night session with is Ham Radio people so I got Rock out and we played until he and I got sleepy.  He went to sleep inside my shirt and I went to sleep propped up on my big pillow.  Then he stirred about the time Bruce came home and I got up and put him back into his birdhouse bed.  As the lights were out I heard him head out across my bedroom window screen.  This time he was gone for good.  We did not see him again but we loved having him spend some time with us.

Not sure which is prettier this female Monarch or the Angel's Trumpet Flower on which it is sitting.

Shrimp Festival came and went with the usual hoopla.  The nicest thing about our corner is that beautiful home in the background which has been resurrected out of a severely neglected old home.  It had not been painted or cared for in many, many years and now it is beautiful.  It makes me smile every time I look that way.

The think I like doing most of all is to go down to the Riverfront for the Blessing of the Fleet.  This year was especially meaningful because the man who had been the one to organize, and usually won the best looking boat in the parade, Randy Cuthrell, had lost his biggest challenge, a battle with pneumonia and was being honored that day with the dedication of a bench on the waterfront.  As his family made their way to board the boat with the memorial wreath, this Bottle Nosed Dolphin surfaced beside the boat and just stayed there.  Once the family was on board and the boat readied to pull out, only then the Dolphin disappeared underneath the water, resurfacing in front of the boat as if to lead it out.  People were whispering is there something wrong with that Dolphin, but in a few minutes it did a nose dive and was gone.  Guess he was just paying his respects too.  The Dolphin is one which hangs out in the area a lot and is named by the locals "Bob" because of his tendency to hang around on the surface while the others just surface and dive right back down.  Thanks Bob for the Marine escort for a worthy man.

The Shrimp boats lined up, led as usual by The Georgia Bulldog boat, for the blessing and then to parade and strut their stuff for the judges.

This one was quite spectacular as it paid it's respects to Randy by spreading its nets out like a lady from by gone days, curtsying and spreading her big skirt.

Shrimp & Grits is a local specialty and everyone has their own recipe.  Lots of shrimp but it can be disappointing for folks coming expecting it to all be like a low country boil with shrimp spread out on big tables covered by newspaper and everyone grabs their food.  It is impossible for that to be with the crowds that come.  But if you know how to look for it you can find lots of good shrimp.  Just look for the longest lines that is where you will find the locals.

In the gutter held the colorful remains of one of the dinner guests, some cooked Crayfish intruding in on The Shrimp Festival.  But Shrimp Festival is also my first day of Sea Turtle Patrol, which begins May 1 and Shrimp Festival the first weekend in May and sometimes that means that can also be the first of the month.  This time it was the second but I always have my first day of Turtle Patrol is on Sunday of Shrimp Festival.  A season that was full of promise, exceeding our previous record year of 47 nests by about 10.  Hang on and I will get to the Old Man Story as well as the record breaking Sea Turtle Season which laid ahead. 

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