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

It seems forever since I have had the time to sit and write one of my stories.  I have been so busy with the Jones Dozen's visit to Amelia Island, but that is another story, and you will need to wait for that one, but as with all fairy tales it had a great and happy ending.  But before that you must bear with me while I keep things in a sort of chronological order.

Speaking of timing this little fish was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but then the Jelly was also doomed to the same fate.  Although the Jellies can move through their own efforts the forces of nature in the form of wind and waves can overpower any effort to move on their own.  Early Spring finds thousands of them washing in on the beaches decorating the shoreline in what looks like sequins glistening in the morning sunlight on the edge of a beautiful ruffled  gown.  But as turtle people always say, when the Jellies come, the turtles will not be far behind.  Jellies are a favorite food of the Sea Turtle, especially the Leatherbacks who dine exclusively on Jellies, better known as Jelly Fish but they are not fish, so therefore a misnomer.

My sister, Susan, is an official Sea Turtle Patrol Volunteer this year.  I sometimes pick her up to ride in with me. I caught this duo standing by her road looking very intent on completing their job of waiting on the Postman.  Love the hats, by the way I am missing one just like the little one's.  Hummmmm.

The flowers seemed to glow on Centre Street at one of the Sounds on Centre performances, but could be they just seemed brighter after the cold winter which setback some of our usual Spring colors.  I know my Angel's Trumpets were bit back to the ground, and with about three years of growth gone, are struggling to just re-establish their height, with all their energy going toward this goal and not new blooms.

Turtle Season began on the first of May as usual.  Someone forgot to tell the Sea Turtles who evidently did not like the temperatures of still too cool water and seemed to decide to lay further South.  Even on the island the only nests were from the middle of the island toward the South for another month.  Shore Birds benefit from the Horseshoe Crab nesting season.  The thousands of tiny green eggs the Horseshoe Crabs lay are a major source of food for these birds.

The Horseshoe Crabs have had a very good season opening up more laying in places that were much less used in previous years.  Often they got disoriented and stuck in the sand.  We have had as many as 30 some mornings stuck in the sand solo or with a male.  Moon phases have a lot to do with their laying spurts with the full moon and new moon being the most active times.  The reason is that the tides are highest during these times especially in the Spring.

This male seems to be sending out an SOS code for help could be saying, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up".  These highest tides are best for covering the nests with water and sealing the eggs underneath the sand.

We still had a few times with stronger than normal winds mostly out of the Northeast and sometimes from the West.  You can see the wind hitting the top of the waves as they break making a fine misty spray.

Nesting was also in full swing for our small Wilson's Plover Shore Birds.  Looking and behaving much like their cousins, The Killdeer.  They are so much the color of the sand that at all stages whether eggs on the ground or tiny chicks racing around like little road runners, much care has to be taken as we drive the beach for patrol so that we don't accidentally run them over.  

Here we have a large female Horseshoe Crab and a smaller male along with a pile of Jellies all in the same mess.  Although the Sea Turtles eat the Jellies in the water not much else eats them once on land.  That is why grocery store plastic bags are such a danger to the turtles, floating in the water the bags look like a Jelly even to the handles dangling like their tentacles.

One early evening with my usual route home interrupted by an errand to drop off mail at the post office, I pulled up to the Stop at 8th Street sign before I turned right to head South and home.  I saw the warm sunlight on the surface of some of my favorite Angel sculptures in the Cemetery back of St. Peters Church.  I parked and walked into the Cemetery taking advantage of the light. I am always attracted to the angels there.  A sad little angel in white stone seems to carry a big load of sadness.

This angel presents a more formal stylized stance, quite different than the image the baby angel depicts, although still very somber.  A baby or child like angel usually sends us the message the "loss" was of a child.  Interesting to see the difference in the conception of what we perceive as the image we assign to an angel, mostly female, which I don't think is scriptually correct.

This one is atop a monument called Hope and it is placed in the middle of an area meant for mediation and is in memory of children who have passed on.  This could be either a boy or a girl angel so that the association can be for either.  With hands and face looking upward a message of expectation.

This one almost seems like a little girl saying her night time prayers and wearing her angel wings for a play, and the surface gives the feeling it was sculpted out of white clay by an artist's hands.

This is always my favorite angel.  The warm sunlight brings out the nicest colors in this one, who has with age, acquired a wonderful golden patina, with the stone acquiring the mosses and lichens that grow there adding to feeling of age.

The colors in the angel seems to have been spilled over on this bird which I had hoped was a very rare bird, a Red Knott, which migrate through our area, but it was not.  It's just that because I am not out there in the winter that much when these fellows are in the area I had not seen one before.  It is in fact a Dulin, a common bird here in winter and early Spring.  The cool Spring has maybe kept it here longer than usual.

Blue Spiderwort is a wildflower which fills the roadsides here in early spring, blooming for a good long time.  Our small airport was especially beautiful this year with them.  We were able to convince the airport manager, to hold off on mowing the part we could see from the road until the Spiderwort started to fade.  This natural garden is on the tip top of the fort in a green area along the edge of the top which has accumulated enough soil through the years and along with seeds sown by birds allows plants to grow.  It caught my eye one morning as I did the walking part of Turtle Patrol. We walk the part of the beach west of the Fort, because it is a bird nesting area with a small expanse of beach.  It is a real test of durability of my bad knee which is already scheduled for knee replacement after turtle season and Christmas is over.

Ms. Lacy still hangs around and in this case quite literally, as she hangs by her back feet and eats a peanut with her front claws.  She seems quite healthy and still frequents the back door where she will look in the glass of the storm door trying to get our attention and asking for access to her beloved peanuts.  We open the door and she will come in, grab a peanut, and take back off outside to hide it.  If she is hungry she will eat the first one.

You just never know what you will see out your car window on a drive through Fort Clinch State Park.  This day it was about a 4 foot Alligator which had been crossing the road in the distance ahead of me after I came through the gate.  It was so fast as I got close enough and mind enough to think clearly, that I mostly caught a blur.  At first I couldn't figure out what I was seeing in the early light.  A squirrel, a raccoon, no, too large but has stripes, then it hit me...a young alligator.

Mornings are nice on the beach, a quiet time without much going on in the way of people but lots of activity from the animals at this time.  A shrimp boat is busy off in the distance with the newly opened Shrimp Season.  They have been catching very large (sold as Extra Large) ones and mostly in the mouth of the river.

My new ride this year is much quieter than the one I rode in the past which made my ears ring for hours after the ride, requiring that I wear headphones to dampen the sound.  A little more beach friendly.  I still favor the ATV like I rode last year, as it is much easier environmentally on the beach surface and without the windshield your vision of what is in front and all around is much clearer.  I am always sitting up on the edge of the seat stretching up to raise my eyes above the windshield which is not that easy to see through.  It is vitally important that I can see the baby birds flitting around the beach as well as to be able to, at the same time, also see to the side to check for turtle tracks.

Most of the time the weather has been friendly as far as rain or storms.  Only one Sunday morning in early May was the difference.  That day it rained so much I hardly had a dry thread on me when I got back.  So the roof on the new buggy was very little help as far as protection from blowing rain, but does protect from the sun.

This soon to be new mother doe seemed to be looking for a safe spot in which to give birth.  Lots of new Bambi's this year.  Although very cute to see it is not such a good sign.  The best thing for the deer is for the Bobcat population to be large enough to keep the deer herds down to a reasonable size.  The favorite food of the Bobcat is baby deer.  Predators have a very important role in the balance of nature.

This is only the second time I have seen a Box Turtle on the island since I moved here.  After doing research I have determined it must be an Eastern Box Turtle even though the markings are not quite the same as the Eastern Box Turtles I grew up with or had in N. Georgia.  The markings are smaller and more intricately patterned.  I think it may be a subspecies of the Eastern Box Turtle.  The markings are like the other one I saw several years toward the middle of the island.  Of course this could be the same turtle but I doubt that could be the case since they were about 7 miles apart.  

 The only other Box Turtle it could be is the Florida Box Turtle, but that pattern is much less like this than the Eastern.  Of course I have probably caused the situation to become more confused since the regular N. Georgia Eastern Box Turtle pair I brought to Florida, both escaped about a year after moving here further messing with the purity of the gene pool.

The Plovers have been busy this year but have had to contend with lots of predators also.  None have seemed to have kept all the original number of chicks intact from hatching until time for the chicks to fledge.

Not in the job description for a Turtle Lady?  We are OK with Horseshoe Crab rescue and release duty, also as it keeps us occupied while we wait on the Sea Turtles to arrive.  So many on the beach that Susan and I began loading them up in the bed of the truck and transporting them to the water's edge rather than running back and forth.

Now what does Mr. Great White Egret have his eyes on?  

Playing over the edge of the boardwalk and below him was a family of Otters.  They see us and quickly dive into the water but not before I at least get a shot or two off with the camera.  Looks like Momma Otter and babies.

You can see them swimming underneath the water in front of the Egret once he flew down to the water's edge.

This is something I see too often, a bird with a missing foot.  From my observations they get fishing line or some other type of ribbon (as in balloon string) and it gets so tight in the efforts to get it off that it cuts off circulation and the foot eventually falls off.  The other reason is getting it bitten off paddling around in the water.

We had a Sea Turtle release in May in combination with the Wild Amelia Festival.  This is not the turtle we expected as they had to substitute another turtle at the last minute when they found out the the other turtle had been found down at St. Augustine and they wanted "their" turtle back.

After the Sea Turtle Release, Amy, my friend from the beach, talked me into playing hooky an extra 30 minutes so she could show me the place where Momma Alligator stays with her offspring.  We spotted several Banded Water Snakes in the water.  Non venomous, but often so often mistaken for one that many are killed by well meaning people who have not taken the time to know the difference.  I couldn't tell where the snakes head was until I got the photo blown up on the computer.  There is no doubt he knew where I was with that look.

We did find Momma Gator and some of her kiddies along with a bunch more of them scattered out around the area.  They seem to be getting much more independent and not needing such close attention from mom anymore.  The consensus with the other Gator Family Watchers was that she had 24 little ones in her family.  Momma Gators are very protective and caring for their children.  She listens and can hear them trying to get out of the nest and will go help them out even so far as to carry the hatchlings to the water in her mouth. Not so with Sea Turtles...their motto is "lay em and leave em".

The 2014 Turtle Trot Painting is now finished and hanging in the gallery.  Now to find it a new home.    

Would you have found this Horseshoe Crab?  Sometimes only the tail is visible and sometime not even that but the tell tale pile of sand will give you the clue that one or maybe two of them are buried in the sand.  The early part of Sea Turtle Season is especially busy for the Crabs with hundreds coming on shore together to lay their eggs in a night.

I was even able to catch them this year in the act of mating and laying eggs.  I was not quite expecting to see such a flock of males vying for one ladies favor.

Grabbed this fun shot of these two birds who, just before I snapped the photo were having quite a conversation, but I couldn't get the camera out and focused in time.  Still an interesting photo, they almost look as if they are an ornamental part of the light fixture.

This is Kermie our second year little green Kermit says "its not easy being green".  This one leads quite a mysterious life.  He comes and goes inside our storm door both last year and this.  At night just before dusk he appears sitting at the top of our storm door on the inside of the room and in a couple of hours he disappears again.  We this year finally figured out how he gets in.  Evidently there is a small crack at the top of the door where it is set into the doorway which is large enough for him to squeeze through.  This particular night the rain was literally pouring outside.  The streaks are not a dirty window, although it may be part of it, but rain pouring off the eave of the house in sheets.  Not that many houses have gutters down here. 

Plover babies when frightened find somewhere to hide and it is usually underneath mom's skirt tail.  She really only has room for two underneath there and since she usually has 3  to 4 chicks I have become convinced that is part of why they often loose one of them.  That coupled with the idea that two parents will always have to choose only one to keep up with when they are all running in different directions.  The ones without a parent to protect it is open to predation.

These two very young chicks are scurrying around the end of this large drift wood tree.  You can see how tiny they are and how closely they blend into their environment.  Do you see them?

This little one is more like a gangly teenager with his long legs as it is trying to grow into them.  The bigger they can grow and survive the better their chances are to reach the stage where they can fledge.  Flying adds such an advantage to being able to elude any kind of ground predator.  I believe that after all the stats are tallied up we will have had a good Wilson's Plover year.  I sure hope the Sea Turtles can rebound and do as well.  Right now we are a month behind in laying.  Hard to not feel the disappointment of such a slow year after the record breaking nest laying of the past two years.

Here is hoping the rest of the year will show us lots of Sea Turtles, as as of yesterday we only had 7 nests at Fort Clinch about half what we had last year at this time.

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