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
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
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
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
the high tide line. In a very few days it would be underwater and
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
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
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
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
would spend several days working on the
puzzle as last Wednesday I found that this nest found also been
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.