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

Thanks to those of you who contributed to the Jones Dozen Florida Vacation.  You will find information on the Facebook Page "Jones Dozen Florida Vacation.  They will be here June 8th so not much more time left to get to get it all together.  We have a full agenda of things to do each day.  We do still need a few things in the food department.  We need about 3 large pizzas donated for the night we baby sit the younger family members so mom and dad can have an evening out.

A lot of time has now passed, but I will digress to back in February to the Sea Turtle Training I attended in Boca Raton, Florida.  The picture file got in the wrong slot and got totally overlooked, but there was so much valuable information at that training which I wanted to share.  However, before I get into that I wanted to hit on a topic I don't say much about anymore, our squirrels.

This little one, I am pretty sure, is our little Peanut fellow, our last squirrel, which we lost touch with too soon.  He is redder than the others, which was one of our little guys characteristics.  He is not as fearful of us as is normal for new squirrels in the backyard squirrel herd.  He is around most days now and comes to the back door to eat, growling at any other squirrel who dares to invade his space or even gets close to it.  A pretty feisty little fellow and seems to be able to hold his own with any of the larger ones.

Bruce says I need to find another sunset place but this is just such a good place and so handy to the gallery.  This time though there is an interesting addition to the water show.  Between the Shrimp boats and the Sun is another structure upon what appears to be stilts out in the water.  It is an unusual vehicle for hunting for treasures at sea.

This big fellow, a Ring Billed Gull, was sharing the dock with me.  The structure has a concrete flooring even though it is a floating dock, rising and falling with the tide on great concrete pilings which anchor it in place.  The dock surface is a great shell cracking place for the clams and other shellfish the gulls find in the shallows behind it.  They drop the live shells from above while flying over it, then go down to recover their taste treats.  This particular gull is known for taking advantage of others work and eating their scraps.

A better view of the treasure hunting vehicle.  I have been promised a tour of it sometime in the near future as it will be here for a while as they search for a sunken ship just off the coast of our island supposedly laden with treasure.

What party meeting does not have the guest of honor in its presence.  A beautiful lady she is too, how do I know it is a lady you ask?  We are there studying about laying and hatching which is basically woman's work in turtledom, as one of my t-shirts states, "turtle girls rule".  Luna is her name.

I like posing with Luna because she makes me look smaller.

Two very important images at this meeting:  the bag with the Sea Turtle license tag from which all the money from sales goes into Sea Turtle work, especially this year, working with lighting problems on the beach.  The T-shirt which features the art work that was used depicting the theme, Darker Beaches, Brighter Future for the Sea Turtles.  Another slogan is "Kill the lights, Save the turtles."

A day full of classes and reports on how the License tag money was used last year.  A report of the stats from last year showed most all the sea turtle species improving with a bumper year of Green Turtles hatching.  Next morning bright and early we visited the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center where they have multiple displays on Sea Life, a real rehab center for Sea Turtles, and a scientific study area for work with marine critters.  This fellow is a permanent resident because its injuries with a cracked carapace and spinal injuries will not allow the turtle to survive in the wild.  It has weights glued on to assist in allowing it to dive for its food as its air bladder was also affected.   It had already had its first Sea Turtle nests.  In South Florida their Sea Turtle season begins Mar1, and here a week prior they already have their first Leatherback nest, usually early layers.

The pool around which we had a nice brunch served by the volunteers at the center allowed us to peer down into a large tank with all kinds of Rays and other native to the area's sea life.

An artificial reef looked like an abstract painting with its colorful forms underneath the water.

Since this is South Florida, you have a Mangrove type environment, and it is being replicated in the new addition to the Center.  This is an empty shell of what was a huge Lobster of the variety found in tropical waters.  No claws to crack on these fellows but are prized for their tasty tails.

A young Loggerhead juvie swam in around the pool next to the Mangrove area.  It is seldom that we get to see the Loggerheads at this age.  You can see the spiky like carapace and even the edge scutes are sharp and pointy.  These are all defense systems for the younger Loggerheads and eventually these will flatten and round out as the turtle ages and grows to a size better able to defend itself in other ways.  A Loggerhead with those massive jaws will even fend off a shark if need be.

The more tropical fish are very beautiful with more color and pattern than what we normally have this far north.

These two seem to be having a staring contest.  The Barracudas are attracted to shiny objects so maybe it saw something glittering out there.  We were warned way back when I was scuba diving about that, and also to not have our fingers flayed out and obvious to the big guy because they have very sharp teeth and are very fast.

We got to witness first hand the treatment of this large Sea Turtle as the water was drained out of the tank to allow the workers to administer an injection of antibiotics to this big turtle.

Now for the smaller scale patient, one of last summer's hatchlings, had a flipper almost detached when it was found.  The flipper was reattached and it seems to be healing with the aid of this treatment.  What they are pouring on this little fellows wound is honey, straight from Pooh's honey jar.  Honey is found to be a great healer of the Sea Turtles, and the recovery rate is much faster with it.

Once the honey was poured onto the wound the caretaker had to keep the turtle out of the water for a full 10 minutes to let the honey do its job.  When it got rowdy and started to struggle to free itself, the lady would gently rub the top of its head with her thumb and like magic the turtle would relax and become docile once again.  I bet RN's at the hospital would like to have a trick like that for their patients.

In another tanks was a young Hawksbill Sea Turtle, a species of turtle which has run into survival problems because of its beautiful shell.  If you have heard of tortoise shell products like combs, mirrors, brushes, hair clasps, eye glass frames, etc. then this is the shells which were used.  This is also the reason that these products are now banned in most places.  Another Sea Turtle which is so rare that I have only seen one in the wild and it was dead.

This fellow was one of the more rare Sea Turtles also, a Kemps Ridley, with its very round shell.  This turtle was found with a large hook in its innards.  Thankfully it was rescued and the hook removed.

This is the very large hook that was removed.  That is why we always fish with hooks that quickly rust.  You may think that strange in the salt water we have, but it is much safer if you hook a fish that is smaller than the limit or a Sea Turtle.  You want to let it go but the hook has been swallowed and to remove it would kill the fish.  Sometimes it is just better to cut the line as close to the hook as possible and leave it in and allow it to rust out in a short time, hopefully leaving the fish healthy to return to normal.

The nature center had a nice display of things that harm turtles as in these balloons as well as fishing tackle.  Balloons are especially lethal because a turtle will swallow it thinking it is a Jelly, one of their favorite foods.  Once inside it can block their ability to swallow, absorb nutrients, or block their intestines. In doing narcopsies of small sea turtles should be safely out in the sargassum sea they are finding a 100% of them have bits of plastic in their stomachs and intestines.  Why?  Because even when plastic biodegrades it breaks up into smaller pieces but these pieces are still out there and floating around.  These little guys eat anything they see without being able to distinguish between plastic and a piece of seaweed or seahorse.

The main cause death of the turtles I find on the beach is that they are hit with these, boat propellers.  It is possible that they are sometimes hit after they died from some other cause.

This is another reason that turtle numbers are increasing.  In this not so clear photo you can see how the turtle is allowed to escape while the smaller shrimp can move on through.  It was because of Sea Turtle conservation which had its beginning about 27 years ago, the research data collected then, resulted in the development of the TED or Turtle Excluder Device which allows Sea Turtles to escape through the opening instead of becoming part of the catch and drowning.  Some of the smaller turtles still slip between the railings so research is now being done in the development of a TED that will prevent that loss also.

I find dirty diapers on the beach all the time.  It is nasty but also it takes 450 years for that diaper to decompose.

Aluminum cans are another environmental piece of garbage that litters our beaches and ocean bottoms.

And one of the worst problems with sea turtles is that they also think these are something to eat because floating in the water they also resemble their favorite food source and swallowing something like this can cause death by choking or blocking their digestive system.

Fishing line is such a hazard to everything in our watery environment from birds to whales, and sea turtles.  In most fishing areas you will find a recycle bin into which you should place your excise line.  I have so many times seen birds with pieces of this line wrapped around their legs, especially around the ankles.  Often they will survive but without a foot as the line cuts off the circulation causing the foot to die and fall off.  Just tonight I photographed a gull standing on one foot while holding the footless leg up off the hard surface of the dock.

Glass bottles are so easily recycled and take such a long time to break down.  Eventually the will return to what they started out as and although everyone likes to find old pieces of beach glass, tossing a bottle in the water is such a thoughtless act.

Some of the displays were very interesting and I wanted to bring them home to our beach.  Sculptures which gave interest and beauty to the whole educational atmosphere.

In this section we were exposed to some of the more scientific parts of the purpose of the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.  This is a small transmitter which can be attached to a Sea Turtle so that it can be tracked and studied in its own environment.  Very costly, which is why they are not attached to more released Sea Turtles. Although very valuable tools for learning more about Sea Turtles and expanding our limited knowledge it is cost prohibitive to use them in most cases.

Looking down onto the laboratory below us we can see some of this past summer's hatchlings which were part of a study on the sex determination of the turtles.  The only way to tell at this age whether a turtle is male or female is by a DNA test.  These Sea Turtles were too small for attaching a transmitter, even if they could have, it would not have been permanent as they will eventually fall off.  What they did do was to equip them with a "Living Tag".  To make a Living Tag tiny pieces of the carapace is removed in a certain pattern unique to each turtle, then a small corresponding piece is removed from the plastron, by swapping the pieces and implanting them on the opposite side from which they were removed, an identifying mark, unique to each turtle, is created.  The underside now has a dark spot and the reverse on the topside with a white spot.  The placement can be identified just like a bar code.  Very ingenious but also an expensive task requiring medical care.  You can see in the ultraviolet light the blue spots showing up, which are the transplanted grafts on the turtles top side. They will soon be released back into the wild.

A very informative butterfly garden was there for the observing also.  I am working on a painting which will have some of these butterflies in it when I am finished.

Outside this was a great display of sculptures which were realistically depicting all the Sea Turtles of our oceans.  I would love to see them installed in a park here on Amelia Island.

The only water we saw was from the top of a tower in the park which gave us a birds eye view of the area behind us.  I really wanted to see the ocean down there but the traffic around the beach area was so much more intense than ours that we just could not deal with having to find a walkable parking spot.  It was in reality very close proximity but the traffic made it seem far away.  We are very spoiled up here.

There was also a display and exhibit of Gopher Tortoises in which an excellent visual display told of the importance of this "keystone" species. Their habitat provides a place for so many other critters to live which are endangered also.  I did not see the endangered Indigo Snake which also uses the burrows, but it is possible they do not have Indigos that far South.

And here they are, a group of Gopher Tortoises, enjoying a nice fresh salad with fruit for lunch.  Someone rang the dinner bell for these fellows at about the time we were heading to our own lunch date with some old friends who live in the area.

Our squirrels back home were very happy for us to get back, since with wild animals you don't have to leave behind someone to feed when you take a trip.  I fear that this little gal might just waste away, if she doesn't get her twice daily food.  This is not Lacy but one of our other (and heftiest gals), which I call Tilly, who likes to sit like this waiting for one of us to bring out the chow.  I think she is so funny when she does this.  I know, they are totally spoiled.

One observation is that squirrels usually have little ones in January and in mid summer.  This year I have not noticed any winter mothers in our crowd.  I wondered if our unusually cold winter made a difference.  You can usually tell a nursing mother, but have not seen that this winter.  Maybe they are too fat, like Tilly, to see the signs.

(Please take a moment to consider:
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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