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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

I don't believe that it is common knowledge among the general population that squirrels reproduce twice a year.  They have their young in late summer with usually 1 to 3 little ones around the end of July or August and again in January.

With that idea in mind I have begun to notice an expansion of waistlines among the squirrel girls in our back yard harem.  The only male I see out there these days is the young male I think might be our little Peanut.  Even Lacy is putting on weight.

The mornings on the beach have been so beautiful with the different moods only the sea and the sky can make.  When it is calm the water is a glistening glass like surface.

With calm breezes the tidal pools act as reflecting pools giving me a double dose of the lovely view beside me.  It is hard to get to work on time when there is so much to catch your eye.  Mondays, my day off, gives me the freedom to spend more time just looking at the world I am blessed to experience.

Sea Oats continue to fill out and the one thing I missed in East Tennessee is the ever present blue of the skies we have here.   The sky there is almost always hazy as it was in North Georgia with only special times when the rain, or wind cleaned the air did you get the clear blue we have daily here.

The beauty of the Sea Oat heads, when they are this fresh yellow green, contrasted by the darker greens of the Maritime Forest in the background and the brighter green of the grasses of the dunes, makes me really stop to just give a moment of appreciation for having eyes to see it with.  I deeply regret the loss of vision my mother has with her Macular Degeneration.  I remember not so long ago when her vision was better than mine and suddenly it was gone in one eye and not so great in the other.  I think losing ones eyesight, especially for an artist, would be catastropic .

A really interesting twist has been the Monarchs which have continued to lay and hatch, grow, and most of all eat.  We have a running orphanage here with friends who run out of Butterfly Weed gathering up there little ones to come finish the transition here on my plants.  I keep any tiny ones inside where they don't eat too much until they get big enough to survive outside.  Those last few days it seems they can strip all the leaves off a plant in a day.  I read the other day at this stage the can eat a leaf and hour. They are regular caterpillar manure factories.  On this day 3 were large enough to transport outside.

New in the gallery is local artist, Billie McCray's birds and other creations.  She has a wall hanging also called XOXO in the shape of a heart.  Billie insists on keeping her prices low saying she would rather sell a lot than a few at high prices.  Because she loves to create as with all artists a sale is inspiration to do something else to replace the one gone.

Some days are special.  This was one of those days.  First I found an empty egg sac of a Horse Conk.  It looked like a giant carnation.  A special find for my at home collection of sea things.

Then as I rounded the corner at the pier I was waved down by a new gal to the island, Michelle, who moved from California, and now says she wants to live and die right here on this island.  She was all excited to tell me the "good" news, not one nest but several were waiting for me.  The first one was a special treat.  Number 14, a Green Turtle nest.  The tracks are very distinctive, with their parallel flipper marks and the tail drag down the middle.  We have been lucky to have had several Green nests in the past few years.  When I first started doing turtle patrol there were hardly ever any.

The nest itself is also very different, looking like a grenade has gone off instead of the nice fluffy mound the Loggerhead leaves.  I have watched both lay and it takes the Green about twice as long because she flings sand for a very long time trying to disguise the nest, and that she does very well.

On down the beach a double treat and a call for help.  The call for help was from me, once I knew I was in over my head, and needed "Ranger" authorization to move a nest.  It seems another Green had laid a nest, and lo an behold, a Loggerhead then crawled right into pit the Green had made covering the nest.  Moving a nest is something we just never do, but this was a very, very usual circumstance.  For one thing in about a week we will have to move them all because of a dredge project in the Fall.  Anything scheduled to hatch after the project has to be moved now to a safer location.  But this was doubly important because it was another Green Turtle, who seems to have been a young one according to the size of the tracks,.and in her inexperience she laid the nest in the hard sand below the high tide line.  In a very few days it would be underwater and ruined.

Ms Loggerhead crawled right through the Ms Green's nest and then out and on up the beach to lay her nest nice and high.

This is where Ms Loggerhead ended up.  We moved the Green Turtle to just a bit higher and very near this nest.  This Loggerhead had laid not so long before I got there and a bystander had watched the laying and got a picture.  It seems she was missing part of her left front flipper.  Disabilities can be compensated for and the turtles can lead a normal life.

A little further down the beach another turtle had crawled in and decided not to lay.  She may have decided to find a less busy stretch of beach.

Then a bit further and I had nest number 4 for the day.  I had to call for more markers because I had only brought enough to mark 3 nests in a day.  Usually that is not even needed.  What a day!!  The most nests I have ever had in one day.  The turtles are making up for lost time.

Another Loggerhead with tracks that are "classic" and easy to identify.  I mark this one giving Marie, my reinforcement Ranger, time to come help and tell me whether or not we can move the Green nest.  Thankfully she was in agreement and we set out digging in the nest to locate the eggs.  We always dig with our hands so as to not do any damage to any of the leathery eggs.

It took a while but we located the eggs, which, for a Green Turtle were not very deep. Another sign it was a young turtle.  It was a pretty large nest ,though with over 130 eggs.   A by-stander felt lucky to get to observe.

We were not prepared with a bucket since we don't usually move nests so we cut off the basket in which we carry the backpack, off the ATV and used it to load the eggs into.  We did have a small towel to line the bottom.  We pilled in a base of the sand from the nest with the mother's smells still there into the basket to make a soft and pliable bottom in which to start building up our egg stash.

We look like we are sharing an Easter basket.

Here are the contents.  We think there was 136 as Marie kept loosing count when she stopped to answer questions.  We re-dug a new nest higher up on the dune, marked it and the Loggerhead one next to it, then Marie helped me mark the last one.  Tired but with good reason.  New knee worked like a charm with no discomfort when I knelt on the sand to dig the nest or help with the relocation.  Thanks to the other wonderful man in my life, Dr. David Heekin for suggesting the special Turtle Lady cut, which is responsible for my ability to get down on my knees easier.  I know it made the surgery more difficult for him but an improvement for me in the ability to kneel.  He is a very thoughtful man.  The other knee is starting to cause problems but a clean bill of health on the new one and the beginning of treatment to prolong the time for the second knee surgery to be as far away as possible.  With the cortisone shot he gave me I was able to have a very pain free week this week.

What a satisfying day.  I had also called in reinforcements when I saw the prospects in dealing with 4 nests in one day, to Bruce, to head to the gallery, because I knew I would never make it on time.

Since the time pressure was off I slowed down my pace and relaxed to enjoy the beauty of such an amazing morning.

The clouds continue to elude my camera in its search to describe their beauty.  Guess I just need one of those 360 degree panorama cameras to do it justice, or follow Bruce's idea of shooting "raw".

Now this one comes close to showing the cloud's beauty but lacks in foreground.  Maybe I just can't have it all.

My last photo of our youngster on the nest.  The next time I went by she was gone.  We celebrated her (we think by the speckled chest that it is a girl) successful fledging until we found out the bad news.  She had fallen most probably in her efforts to fly, into the marsh below where she was found a couple of days later.  Thankfully one of our part time Rangers, Bucko Turley (hubby of Pat Foster-Turley of Wild Ways newspaper column fame) found her while watching another bird in the marsh.  He, along with a Wildlife Management Officer, rescued her and she was taken to B.E.A.K.S. for rehabbing.  She was underweight and dehydrated but so far so good.  She will be reunited with her dad down there maybe.  Hopefully her fate will be better in that she can with the aid of being hand fed, mend and be released soon.  Nature is not always kind and these birds have become like our wild pets as the "Polewatchers" keep watch all season, reporting to each other their progress during the season.  We are very sad when things do not turn out well for them.  With the loss of their chicks last year to Beryl the past two years have certainly not been kind to our Osprey couple.  Now it is time for a good season.  Maybe next year.  Will Little Girl find a replacement mate?  All she knows is hat her mate just left one day and never came home.

Last week I could see once I got to the beach that I might be in for some showery activity.  I am so used to the rain saying offshore that I had nothing with me to protect the camera, I don't worry about me, I may rust now but not melt.

It was pretty much blue skies over me and other clouds seemed to be no threat so I headed on about my rounds.  Very soon though the rain started with big splatting drops.  I quickly stopped and grabbed my camera bag, checked the park bag to see that it was dry, and stuffed the upside down camera bag with camera inside up underneath my T-Shirt and headed toward the pier.  It was still a long way there.  The bill of my hat protected my sunglasses.  Yes, it was one of those mornings when I made a conscious decision to wear the sunglasses.  Big mistake.  The downpour totally drenched me before I reached the shelter of the underneath of the pier.  With the wind it still was not great protection for me but OK for the gear.

As showers do it it moved on out in about 10 minutes, with the only part of me that was dry was the camera.  I walked back to the restroom at the pier and grabbed the clean garbage bag so that if it happened again I would have camera gear protected.  The camera bag I take now is small and easy to carry but not water tight with just a clasp and not a zipper.  The view from the pier out over the dunes is a very pretty one especially with the after storm clouds just breaking apart and allowing a peek of blue sky.

Excitement on the river as a submarine moves by me on the other side of the Jetty.  I can see the men of the sub on deck for what might probably be a last look at dry land and open spaces for a while.

It was also a good news day as I try to catch the pretty cloud reflections in the beach water because I was also able to find Nest #19 just above this beach.

Although the rain had lessened the sharpness of the tracks and nest area I was still able to find the area to mark as the nest.  All was not happy though, as on down the beach I found we had gotten a predator that had dug up eggs of the Loggerhead nest located beside the Green turtle nest we had relocated and had eaten about 25 or so eggs.  What is our predator?  We have never had a predator get into our eggs before.  Raccoons are known to do this but this was not what that was and we have never had a raccoon on the island predate a nest here.   It had tracks similar to a dog but the tracks had been in loose sand and not easy to figure out.
 We would spend several days working on the puzzle as last Wednesday I found that this nest found also been predated.   I took the damaged eggs and tossed them over the dune trying to clear the area of smells, but my next ride on Friday I found about 23 more which had been eaten.  Once the critter was full it would leave the remaining eggs untouched.  I began to think our cute little otter was the culprit, but on examine the tracks the decision was leaning toward something else, but what?  With about 75 eggs destroyed so far, after finding this nest predated for a second time, I recovered the remaining eggs and used the stakes I had just removed from the first nest excavation (story to follow) and drove them in the ground tepee fashion to try to protect it from further damage.  I will know tomorrow if it worked.  After much research and calling in other animal people we have now come to the conclusion it was most likely a fox.  You have heard of the fox in the hen house well we are having a problem with an egg sucking fox.  Whether to screen the nest or not is he question and I am waiting for th answer.  At this point Mr. Fox has cost us close to a hundred eggs some almost ready to hatch.

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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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