Turtle Season officially, for us
anyway, goes from May 1 until October 31. The exceptions are that
the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch do their daily beach walks until
August 31. In the park, we do patrol until the last nest
hatches, which can be before October 31, or can go beyond the official
date of October 31. The turtles usually don't lay up here until
the middle of May. In the park though with about 8 miles round
trip each day there is a lot to keep our minds occupied while we
wait on that first turtle to make its first crawl onto our beach.
Not always are the big White Egrets out in the marsh or along the
water's edge. Once in a while I see one strolling along the
streets around the gallery. They like picking off our little
lizards and Anoles, which, if its the green ones we don't like to lose
them, but if it is some of the invasive Cubans then go for it.
We seem to have had a very good year with out little Wilson's Plovers
whose nesting season begins a bit earlier than Sea Turtle season and
extends on into the early part of July. Time is spent
documenting nest locations, how many nests, and hatchlings there are each year. This mom
has two very young ones in this photo. Can you find them? Usually there are
3 in a nest and the mom and dad are both actively involved parents,
trying to ride herd on these speedy little fluffs of fuzz. Like
baby chickens, these chicks also are ready to hit the beach as soon as
they are hatched. No sitting in the nest with a wimpy weak neck for these little ones.
One way to protect her babies is to let the chicks run underneath her
white breast feathers and hide. Of course there is really room
for only two under there and probably one of the reasons the family finds it hard to
raise all three.
A new tourist activity which looks to be a lot of fun. It is a
guided tour much like you would get on the Amelia River Cruise but more
personal as it is only the guide and up to about four of the jet skis on each
trip. They are not your typical jet ski with more like lawn
chairs in which to sit rather than a motorcycle seat.
The deer are more visible and seemingly tame, probably because my
friend Amy (Beach Junki) spends so much time photographing them. Poor Amy had a
very bad car accident this Spring, just in time for her active beach
season, breaking her pelvis in two places. She can't put weight
on it for another couple of months, but being the strong willed person
she is she has managed on crutches and one of those walkers with wheels to get out there anyway. Even
on crutches and carrying the walker chair to sit in near her subjects, she can still
follow them with her camera. Where there's a will there's a way.
With birds the focus the first few weeks I am aware of seeing how many
of the old timer species are around...the Ruddy Turnstones and the
Sanderlings in this case.
is a familiar but changing scene which takes me from the coolness of
the morning Maritime forest to the sunshiny, treeless beach.
Sometimes the air is full of moisture and the rays of the sun are
accentuated but today is not one of those days. Today the Spanish Moss is all aglow.
believe this to be one of the most active Horseshoe Crab nesting
seasons we have had. Every morning for weeks we would all be busy
rescuing the ones who managed to become disoriented, flipped upside
down, or stuck in the sand. These are such a prehistoric species,
unchanged since before the dinosaurs. They are very useful in
todays medical world. Their blood, which is taken from them, but
leaving the Crab still alive, is used for testing medicine for
impurities. This one seems to think he is going to give me a run
for my money by entering the art market with this pretty interesting
couple was caught with the big snowplow like front end and get firmly
stuck in the hard sand which becomes extremely hard as the tide takes
the water away. The fellow is still wagging that tail and seeming
to not at all be deterred.
Our babies begin to grow into long legged gangly teenagers still living under the watchful eye of their parents.
invited a new to the island gal, who is from Switzerland, to go with me
one morning. He dad
owns the restaurant behind my gallery, Bright Mornings Cafe' and
She learned quickly how to handle the Crabs and return them to
the water. She didn't get a chance to find any turtles but it was
a full morning anyway. I am hoping Marischa will find the morning
interesting enough to volunteer to do other things in the park.
We are always looking for young enthusiastic volunteers.
(That was not to happen since the powers that be in the
immigration system says her visa is up and she must return to
Switzerland and will have to wait a long time before she can come back.
She had worked so hard passing all the required GED and other
tests to get ready to go to college. To bad she didn't just go to
Mexico and come in that way. Something wrong when you get
punished for following the rules.)
is an example of one load of Crabs we had rescued. There were so
many we started putting them in the back of the beach buggy and taking
them a group at a time to the water's edge.
But for now the only species of turtles on the beach were plastic beach turtles, in this case the rare "Purple" Plastic Turtle.
squirrels are very insistent on getting fed both morning and evening as
they start waiting at the back door with some willing to take a peanut
from your hand. This especially fat one I call Tilley who is starting
to shed her winter coat for a shorter cooler one.
then a friend called with two baby Marsh Rabbits. So tiny.
The mother had been killed by her cat and one of these, the
largest, had been bitten in the ear by the cat. I could not see
where the bite was, just that it was deep inside the ear and by morning the
germs picked up from the cat took its life.
that I was down to the wire on getting the next 2015 Turtle Trot
Painting done as I sat looking at an abstract painting I was working on
the thought ran through through my mind that there was a shape in that
painting which would work very well as a turtle, so the idea set me off
and running in that direction. What transpired was a very
different Turtle Trot painting which I think will make a great T-Shirt.
This is the early stages of making it work. Remember that I
will be selling the T-shirts once again after the race is over. It is a
necessary money maker for the gallery to make up for the August and September
And finally it happened, the middle of the month, right on schedule, we get our first nest. The first of many!!
little Plover Chicks continued to hatch and run like little baby
roadrunners all over the beach. Our trips were slowed to a crawl
with us constantly on the watch for them. What a tragedy it would be to run over one of these little ones.
Everyone is running for cover as Mom already has one under her apron and two more looking for cover.
same is happening in this photo with Mom squatting over one chick and
two others heading toward her for cover as protection from our being
too close. We try to avoid them by swinging away from them but it
is hard to figure out which way they are going to head sometimes.
Spring had the beach filled with birds near the pier but as mating and
nesting season came the numbers have dwindled. Off to follow
their primeval urges and reproduce their species
spider with bright green irridescent markings rode with us almost every
morning for a good while, but I think one of the volunteers got tired
of trying to figure out where he was going to be and moved him.
A man in the park who seemed to be knowledgeable (not a
ranger) told us one day that these spiders were created by man,
maybe at UF,
and were not a natural species. He said they produced them as a
deterrant for killing bugs, however I have not heard that from anyone
else. He seemed to know a lot about them. I would be
interested to know if anyone else knows about these spiders. I am
very leery of any type of engineered bugs or bringing in species that
don't belong in an environment to try to assist in solving some type of
problem. Like Kudsu sometimes these things backfire. I know
that this Spring these spiders were everywhere
around the island and my yard.
#2 was one I found and it was the only one I found this year that I was
not sure was actually a nest. When the Momma Turtle crawls up
into the dune it is very difficult to tell for sure they laid, and in
the park we do not dig into the nests to see if eggs are there, we simply think if it
shows the definite signs of being a nest then it is a nest. There
was not a big pile of sand to tell me it was a big "fluffy mound"
because it was laid right on the tip top of the dune but there was some
sand spray and there were plants pulled up by the roots which is a sure
sign. So I marked it, and this week I was proven to be correct as it just hatched, stay tuned for the rest of the story.
little birds are looking more and more like a little awkward teenager, whose legs have suddenly grown too long for its body.
Horseshoe Crabs were extremely active, more so than I have ever seen
them. I have since changed my ideas on exactly how these guys do
their mating activities. I was under the impression from what I
read that they
came on the beach, usually at night, and laid their eggs allowing the
high tide, with full moon and new moon times, mostly to cover the eggs.
However what I learned was that the mating happens in the edge of
the water as it rises and goes out with the tide change. The
reason so many get
caught is that the tide moves out from underneath them and while the water
still has the sand mushy, and they get their snowplow like front
ends stuck. As the water leaves the sand it
becomes very hard. The other scenario is that the surf itself
will upend mostly the male's turning them upside down in a helpless position. It has been a good season for the
Crabs which means a good year for the shorebirds who eat the thousands
the Crabs have laid as one of their main food sources.
Meantime little Suzique was a very sweet distraction, and we became very attached to her. She seemed to us to be thriving.
very good example of the many nests we were to accumulate this year.
One of the easier ones to read. Nest #3 was very near #2
and with my doubts that 2 was actually a nest having a new nest so
close by made my doubts even more acute.
marking nest #3 someone wanted to get me in the photo since I am seldom
in them. I don't
remember who took the photo, maybe my sis, Susan, who is my riding
partner on Thursdays. Yesterday I found that my judgment had been
right on as the hatchlings came out dead center of the screened area.
Wednesday will be excavation day for this one. Hard to
believe 60 days exactly have passed already.
is not usual that we see a Turkey Vulture on the beach, especially a Red
Headed one. We have Black and Red Headed ones. The Black
ones seem to be more family oriented sending out scouts to look for
food then gathering them back to feast. The Red Headed Ones seem
to be more solitary types.
Bunnies need to chew...
bunny kisses were especially sweet, as she liked to lick my face.
So very tiny are these rabbits but so very fragile. I am
told they are the hardest of all the wild animals to raise. This
species especially is difficult. They are Marsh Rabbits different
from Cotton Tails and like the Rabbits I had come visit and stay for a
while the past two summers.
the beach the Ring Billed Gull was enjoying a feast from something left
in the tidal pool. They are the garbage collectors of the beach. Someone else has called them the rats of the beach.
Spot/Patty is growing at a good pace. Things I have read about
the Stink Pot Turtles say that after 6 months you should only feed them
only every couple of days. This little Stink Pot runs out to collect
his food sticks twice a day at least. It would be very hard to
turn down his request for food. He seems to be growing OK with
no mishapped shell as can be a problem if they eat too much and also I
take him out into the sun so he can get some Vitamin D.
A nice portrait of our little Plover family.
was never good at taking her milk from a syringe as bunnies like to
lick and chew more than suck. She mostly licked the end of the
syringe as the milk came out. They don't overeat as
squirrels tend to do if left to their own to stop eating. Bruce
made a feeding tray where she could lap her milk out of a lid rather
than take a chance on her swallowing some of the plastic she was
chewing off the end of the syringe. She seemed to adapt well.
This was a small pet carrier so it kind of gives you an idea of her size.
tracks from a new nest as they came more and faster than we thought
they would or else everyone else. I have been telling everyone to
wait for this year that all those turtles we had 3 years ago were going
to come back in 3 years and have they ever!!
a trip down to B.E.A.K.S., our bird rescue place, to drop of a woodpecker
chick, I saw this big Gopher Tortoise crossing the dirt road.
Such funny gentle tortoises. They look like a big tank with
their big hard shell and their tough strong legs. They can't
completely go inside their shell like a Box Turtle but pull their legs
up tight against the shell and tuck their head in until only their
noses are exposed between their two drawn up front legs. They
don't bite but will hiss at you.
came suddenly to our precious little baby. It was according to
the material on raising wild baby rabbits the most dangerous time for a
rabbit is when thy start to eat solid food. Susique had been
eating oats since Sunday and liked them and I had bought Timothy Hay to
put in the cage. She seemed to be doing so well that I gave her
some grass from the yard. She liked it and didn't want her oats
anymore. But on Thursday the day after she had started on grass
she seemed to be getting spoiled. She seemed to want me to hold
her. Bruce stopped by the gallery and said you're not going to
get much done with one hand today. She had drank lots of her milk
that morning but evidently by mid morning she wasn't feeling well, but
didn't catch it until I noticed that her stool was loosening. I
had read that once they get diarreaha they will not usually survive.
I closed the gallery and ran to get her some pediolyte. She
took it, but in a matter of an hour she was dead. So quickly was
my heart broken, and I continue to ask myself why? I should have been
more careful and introduced the food more slowly, and why I didn't do
why didn't I do that. But hindsight is always 20/20. Like
the first squirrel I had and lost I longed for a second chance but it
is doubtful that will ever happen again. But she was loved and I
with her loving and comforting her until the end.
painting was finished and the turtle season is going to be a really
great one and life goes on. Amy just sent me a message that there
are six tame rabbits in the park today that someone has let go.
They will die if we don't catch them, so maybe that will be my
redemption. However I don't want a pet to have to feed and care
for forever, I like to let the wild animals go to live their lives in
the wild as only wild animals with the instincts they are born with to
help them live, but who will still give me a sign of recognition to show
they do still know who I was in their lives. But in the morning
we will set off on a new adventure, rabbit trapping.