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

Deadline for ordering this year's Save the Turtle Tee Shirt is Sunday the 23rd so don't forget. They will be very nice this year and we have added long sleeves to the mix of styles.  

The place that I go through the gate to get to the beach goes through a green cedar filled area where the park stores supplies like sand and blocks for mending the old fort.  As I drove that little access road each morning it was as if it had become a canopy road but the overhead was something like two dozen spiders with their woven golden webs.  

These spiders are call The Golden Orb Spiders or more commonly called Banana Spiders, because their elongated yellow brown body is speckled like an over ripe banana.  They are very beneficial and I once had one who lived on our front porch which we called Charlotte.  We enjoyed watching her rebuild her web each night.  She had a mate but was finally killed by the wasps that have given me problems with my monarch caterpillars.  This one looks like she has two suitors vieing for her attentions. The males are tiny little munchins in comparison with the big female.

Our little Plover chicks are fast growing up as summer moves along, and before long it will be hard to tell the chicks from the adults.

Finally the nest numbers began to climb.  We had finally slowly reached having 9 nests.  It was agonizingly slow.  But our girls knew where to lay, they did a good job of putting them all up high and close to the dunes away from high tide and storm surges.  The laying started down on the South End of the island except for one nest and it was a very special one.  It was mid island and was a great blessing to us all even if it were not in the park.

Leatherbacks are usually early layers.  What happened is it had been cool and the eggs usually take longer if it is cool.  Time has passed and it was time for the nest to hatch and more.  The required number of days to excavate came and the volunteers there were authorized to dig into the nest.  A turtle with 7 1/2 feet wide tracks has very long flippers with which to dig.  However when they got into the nest they found babies climbing upward on the way up so they covered it back up to wait for them.  When they did finally see the signs of hatching they then went back into the nest after 3 days and what they found was this bucket of babies still in the bottom of the nest and not quite ready to head out to the water.  When that happens they wait a day or so for the belly to close in over the open area where the belly button is located. I was fortunate to find out about the release and get to go see the release of these very  special turtles hatchlings.

You can see that they start out much larger than our little silver dollar sized Loggerheads.  What wonderful creatures these are.  They can dive deeper than any other turtle down to depths of 3000 to 4000 feet.  Amazing that they can withstand the temperatures and pressure of these depths.  They are very picky eaters though, with a taste only for Jellies.  They are not going to be found in an aquarium as they cannot survive there.

The special little ones are well on their way.  It has been a record this year for Leatherback nests with our island adding 4 nests to the state wide grand total.   We count the number of Leatherback nests in hundreds instead of the thousands of loggerheads and Green Turtles.  It will be interesting to see how the year's nesting has done overall, because reports are that it is going to be good number.

Bye, bye little guy, see ya in about twenty years.  My theory is that our water just stayed too cold for the turtles to want to start laying the first month when they usually start.  Hopefully our turtles went ahead and laid further South.

More web builders.  This is our equivalent of the yellow writing spider I had in North Georgia and I felt honored tho have her as this was only the second time in 12 years.  Her web was on my tomato plant and I was glad of that but I think I bothered her too much with my daily watering and finally after about  a week she disappeared.  It is similar to the Australian spider call the St. Andrews Cross Spider, our Yellow and Black "Cross Spider" is in the Aigiope family also.

I did have a lot of eggs which turned into caterpillars which in turn changed into a Chrysalis.  This is the beautiful Monarch Chrysalis, pretty silvery pale green with iridescent golden dots on it.  If you look closely you can already see the faint image of the developing wings of the butterfly.  When they had about eaten me out of house and home they seemed to disappear and not be around anymore.  That was a good thing because I was fast running out of leaves with which to feed my nursery caterpillars.  Guess that was natures way of letting the plants recoup. 

I was finally able to get a decent shot of the big buck still with his velvet rack.  Such a beautiful animal and so graceful in his muscle rippled body.

Monarchs were not the only crawly little Caterpillars.  This is one of the earlier "instars" stages of the Black Monarch.  They eat Parsley and other carrot family plants.  When I ran low on my homegrown parsley I bought organic at the grocery store and fed them that and they did fine.

This is the grown up caterpillars in their pulpa form just getting ready to turn into their rather unusual looking chrysalis.

Little Bunny hung around getting brave enough to come to the door and place his order for a plate of carrots.

These are the two Black Swallowtails Chrysalis form of the two previous Pulpa forms.  Why one is green and the other gray I have no idea.  I had several theories but all were disproven.  Male and Female, not!  and several other thoughts but not panned out.  I don't think anyone knows.

As the days became shorter I was almost getting to the park to catch the sunrise.  At first it was my view from the back gate of the park.

It takes me about 15-20 minutes to get everything ready and drive to the beach but I was getting close to getting a real sunrise over the water.  Loved the bright spot of sun hitting the horizon.

Some mornings are exceptional and this was one of them.  The tidal pool where the Little White Egret likes to fish was now a very magnificent reflection pool.

Yay, another nest.  I bet the crab hole marks the nest chamber since the crabs like to go into the egg chamber and get a taste of turtle egg or else the liquid the momma turtle leaves behind as she lays the eggs.

She was a very determined momma.  And we called her "Stumpy" because she left a very unusual flipper pattern.  It appeared she was missing a front flipper.  I wondered if it might be Squall, the Sea Turtle that was released on our island with a missing front flipper.  It was time for her to come back to lay.  Then I figured out Squall was missing the opposite flipper so not her.  She traveled such a long way to lay the eggs she must have been worn out.

My first Monarch emerged.  Beautiful.

As she spread her wings I it is easy to tell it is a female.  The black strips are much wider than the male and there are no wider spots on the inside stripes on the back wing.

I did have a few stormy mornings.  This one was threatening but managed to miss us.  Looking back to the west it looked dark as we did the section beyond the Fort at Fort Clinch State Park.  The corner you see at the fort is our official boundary for county Sea Turtle nest "officially" but for our own satisfaction we patrol all of the beach that is used for nesting.

Heading back toward the East there was definitely some heavy rain showers in our way in that direction.

A new friend of mine, another Amy, was riding with me.  I met her when she volunteered to provide water for the Jones Dozen.  If you wonder why she would need to do that you haven't tasted a lot of our Florida Water as it comes straight from the spigot.  If you are on Facebook you might want to join the Jones Dozen Florida Vacation page.  We post any news from the kids we claim as our own there.  Amy P. was a very energetic helper as she was quick to jump out of the buggy to pick up the trash from the beach.  Mr. Smiley Face we are not smiling.  I don't understand why people keep letting balloons go to float away to the sea where the strings entangle our birds legs and strangle our sea turtles.  We have laws against it but no one seems to even know or care.

But we avoided all the bad weather but a few rain drops and the blue sky began to show itself.

Very different butterfly is the Black Swallowtail.  Although the underside seems to appear the same, when they spread their wings you would not recognize the top side of the male and the female as being the same species.

This is the image of the Male Black Swallowtail from the top side.  The female has more blues on the back wing.  You will have to wait to see that one for another part of the story.  

It has been another year and I am still playing catch up because I can't stand skipping over things that happened.  I am compulsive in keeping the story line going the way it happened.  I still haven't ever gotten back to the trip to the Alligator Farm I did, but other things have taken over.  It has now been a year since my Mom and Aunt Helen, the Golden Girls, left to go back to Fall Branch.  Things rock along with them with the help of Billy, especially, and Donnie his support person, they are still able to stay at home.  We are so lucky to have them doing as well as they do, especially Helen with her diabeties.  Helen turned 89 recently and a week and a half later Mom hit 93.  They are happy so that is more important right now to their well being than being where they could be more protected, but miserable.

(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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