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

Time marches on but I seem to be always behind the rest of the parade and trying to double step to catch up.  Life has dramatically changed since the last story was written, but I am finally able to get to the Fort Clinch State Park in time to catch the actual sunrise.

This Sunrise Shell is a fore runner of that feat.  I did not find it but another of my beach buddies had found it and was excited to share her find since I too, had never seen one before.

Full Moonrises are an event to take note of here on the island and the last one in August's was special because we took the time to join friends, along with new neighbors, Trisha and John, to watch it come up from the beach at the Scott Road Beach Access. We sort of hung around the edges of another group of Seniors who really know the quality of setting aside this time for each full moon rise by taking their chairs and some refreshments and sharing it all together.  As life is on a small island some of us knew some from each group.

An almost sunrise morning came with this beautiful view from the back gate of the park.  I knew I would never make it to the beach to see it so took what I thought a very nice substitute.  As August approached the end I was met with the news that my mom and Aunt Helen's Caretaker, Carolyn, was resigning.  The nice little plan we had in place to insure their safety had come to a crashing end.  What to do now?

The calmness of the morning was not reflective of the turmoil going on inside me as I searched for the right answer with only a week to figure it all out.  The beach has always been a time of calmness for me out of my hectic schedule, a time to just step back, take a deep breath, and drink in the peace I find here.

Life's problems can be put on the back burner as I cope with real life and death issues in my critter world.  Since the rangers were too busy to deal with the screen project, I asked permission to take over the screening of the nests against the fox predator.  I first bought the orange plastic webbed material you see around construction sites.  With the help of some beach goers, along with Amy, my new beach buddy, we managed to screen all the remaining nests.  It did not work, Brer Fox just tore right through.  I then started over with scavenging some discarded wire fencing in the park, with the correct size openings, which finally protected the nests.  Although Mr. Fox tried he did not huff, and puff his way though our barrier.  Of course another fly in the ointment is that now there could possibly be a problem with the metal in the screening interferring with the magnetic field in the baby turtle's head, which helps it navigate the globe to find its way back to this area.  Oh me, too much to think about.

Bruce was my partner in that endeavor, and I don't know how I would have accomplished that feat without him.  We went to the park after my gallery closed, he cut the wire into 4 foot squares and I rode them down to the beach on my ATV.  I was sitting on the front edge of the pile of screens and had a bucket strapped on the front to hold all the stakes we had made for securing the wire, along with a big mallet and we were in business.  

Bruce drove on down to meet me.  I rode the ATV dropping off all the squares of wire as he started placing them over the nests.  The squares allowed the little hatchlings to pass through with 2" x 4" openings, but protected the nest.

The near full moon in its morning phase is visible if you look closely you will see the round spot in the center of the upper sky.

Sun's rays are pretty as they seem to highlight the Shrimp Boat on the horizon, making me think even more of it as a dancing a girl with its skirts spread, only this time she is dancing on a spotlighted stage.

Nests continued to hatch but with few left in the nest.  That is a good thing because those which get out of the nest the first night are more robust and able to survive.  Usually this year, with all our rain, if one were left in the nest it was because roots have grown into the nest and caught them, usually across the shoulder.  This one had also been pressed up against the side of the nest in such a sitution, so tightly that one flipper was not working well.  

The little fellow was giving it a gallant effort.  I wanted it to walk a good part of the way to try to give that weak flipper some time to strengthen.  It did start to work better but definitely not 100%.

A few false starts with waves that washed it back and tossed it around.  I finally got one of the gals who was barefooted to wade out far enough to get it past the breakers and on toward its fate whatever that might be.

A bright spot waited by the gate one morning as I unlocked the access to the beach.  The orange mushrooms were testament to the many showers we have had this summer, making all things grow, with giant mushroom gardens everywhere.

Another calm and pastel morning to help rest the troubled mind as I begin to make a plan to travel to East Tennessee to bring my mom and Aunt back home with me.  I knew of no one else who could take care of them on a daily basis right now.  None of the other siblings were in a situation where they could do it.  I think the eldest child usually feels that responsibility more, maybe not.

But anyone who can feed a crippled Monarch Butterfly with a syringe and keep it alive for a month and a half, as well as raise numerous baby squirrels, can surely protect two elderly ladies from potential harm.  Turtle Trot day was the deadline for my departure.  Bruce and I discussed what this would mean to our lives and he was willing to be my support in the undertaking.   

This morning, a few days before I was to leave, was a very special one as one of our 3 Green Turtle nests had hatched.  I could see ants going into the nest which often is an indication of a dead turtle in the nest.  I ran my fingers through the wire to see what I could feel.  Sure enough in addition to a dead turtle was three very alive ones.  

It was difficult to get a clear photo of any of the three because they were sooooo fast.  Two of them are here, the third which was quite sand covered, I was unable to get a clear shot.  They were so very strong and energetic, as fresh from the nest on the first day of hatching, makes them.

This second one was also full of vim and vigor.  There were three of us there so each of us picked one of the turtles to follow and protect.

They all moved so fast it was all I could do to keep this fellow into focus at all.  I did post on my facebook page a video of the final moments before this guy went into the water and as he swam away, so check it out if you didn't see it.

This little guy got his first taste of a watery world as it dived headlong into a tidal pool.  I am sure he was surprised to get to the other side so quickly.  Wonder if he thought that was all there was to it.

The best chance to get a clear shot of these fast movers was to wait for the moment when the turtle stops to get his bearings and recheck his travel plan.  At that moment they stop, lift their head, look around, then plunge ahead until the next stop.

They will usually do this several times before they actually hit the water.  You can see the differences in texture of the carapace (backs), the coloring is black edged in white and flipper lengths a bit longer.  A very different turtle from the Loggerhead.

If he looks airbourne then that is almost the case.  Speeding along it was as if the flippers barely touched the ground in his eagerness to reach the water.

As it nears the water the sand begins to be soft enough to show the unique tracks of a Green Turtle with the longer front flippers reaching beyond the back flippers in their stride unlike the Loggerhead.

A slight change in course and his pathway still leads toward the water and a new home.

They have such beautiful eyes, and when adults they have a pattern just above the eye which looks for all the world as if it has eyelashes.  The side of the head also shows a pretty pattern which will only intensify as they grow.

A blink of those big eye lids and a pause before making that final plunge into the sea.

One of the gals also found a live Sand Dollar so I was explaining to our beach newby, Michelle, how to tell when a Sand Dollar was alive.  I videoed the movement of the tiny hair like appendages which allow them to move and was pleased to see how well you could see that movement on the top and bottom.  I told her the importance of not taking live ones.  I have lots of questions about how shellfish all work, how does a shell grow? how do the little hair like things move? are there nerves? I don't think I have time to find out so many details, I guess "don't sweat the small stuff" applies here.  I need to consentrate on learning how to give an insulin shot next.

We misjudged on where this nest was located but luckily it managed to hatch before Brer Fox found it and dug up the remains and made a big mess.

Another of natures creatures was waiting on me as I arrived at the beach gate to leave.  This one was blue with turqoise eyes, amazing how many colors of the very fairy like creatures there are.

In my own backyard this pretty green fellow with a Mondrian painting like pattern to his back.

Speaking of patterns the Zebra Longwings (Florida's State Butterfly) have been plentiful this summer and right now (jumping to present time) I have a batch of their eggs in my terrarium.  I have had no luck myself seeing any of these make it on my own Passion Vine.  Wasps are getting them I guess so will try artifically incubating them up to survival size.

The trip to Tennessee was swift and long.  I gathered up "The Golden Girls" loaded them into my rental car, grabbed as many clothes as I could gather and swooped them up on the pretense of picking them down to go to Grandaughter Nicki's wedding.  I did not know whether or not the interview with the State would see them being accepted into a TennCare program to help them stay in their own home or not.  I did not know if this would be a forever move or not.  Just a leap of faith.  Other changes were that the ATV had broken down when I returned leaving me to finish out the season on foot, hoping that the bad knee would continue to hold out for the duration.  The right knee, which I knew was on the way out, had shown signs of going bad fast after the knee surgery, partially because it had to favor it so much afterward.  The cortisone shot had made it all better although I know temporarily.  The mornings are a nice time to catch deer still at play in the open grassy areas near the pier.  That and they will dart in front of you on the way in with the light still morning dim.  This morning two bucks graze the grass for breakfast.

They were aware I was there but as long as I didn't make any moves they were content to just check me out occasionally, but any movement on my part and they are quick to bolt out of sight.  When they cross the road in front of you there is hardly ever a time when they can still be seen once you reach the spot you say them disappear.

The White Tail Deer and the Cottontails are critters that need to be kept in control or else they eat too much of the other animal food supplies and upset the balance of nature for other critters like the cute little Marsh Rabbit which visited us for a while and caused us so much fun with her friendly carrot eating habits.  She suddenly disappeared and we hope she has just gone on to greener pastures, instead of going home to dine with Mr. Hawk who often likes to swoop through the area.  Bobcats which have shown a decrease in numbers due to some cat type diseases were in charge of keeping these numbers in check.  Lets hope they reestablish their place in the chain of life so that it does not loose its natural balance.

And so life goes on as I become frightened by the memory problems I see in the ladies which are now residing in my home.  The fear is for my own mind that is only about 20 or so years behind them.  But, for now, I have become proficient in giving very easy injections and filing pill boxes for the week.  I also think it is a gift to spend this special time with two very precious ladies who have meant so much to me throughout my whole life.  My Aunt was not blessed with children of her own, and my mom often says, "I gave all of you to Helen when you were born to share" and she has...

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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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