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

With Sea Turtle Season 2017 fast approaching I am trying to rush the past year by your eyes for a quick perusal of it before we launch into the new Turtle Season.

My sweet little Jimbo adjusted to being in the wild very well and would come back inside as most of them do for a while to have special snacks of Sunflowers seeds and Pecans.  He was one of the special ones that I will not forget.

It seems the Little Boys are the easiest to win your heart and that attachment gives you much more chance to feel the loss when they do suddenly head back to the woods, they love you, then they leave you.

Spring and early Summer is a really nice time on the beach.  Everything is alive and new life is being created everywhere you look.  Our Plover moms and dads are watching carefully over their sweet little puff-ball babies.  Dad stands guard while mom sits on their eggs chasing away any interference.  The chicks are like chickens in that they are ready to go as soon as they get out of the egg.  No laying around with a limp neck for these little guys.

This puffed out male struts his stuff for the lady of his dreams trying to entice her into a mating session so that there will be little Royal Terns to carry on the species.  There is a bit of discussion going on right now but....

he seems to win the discussion in the end and his loving words were indeed the language of  love.  In the foreground another couple start the process all over again.  The male will stay with his mate and help her with the family.  Royal Terns are very good parents.

The tracks of a Horseshoe Crab seems to accentuate with its question mark our own question as to when will the Sea Turtles start laying on the island.  We have never had the first nest.

Caught a battle between the usually mild mannered Wilson's Plover as he quickly gives a trespasser his walking papers and says you are in my yard, move away, now.  I have seen them go after the Ghost Crabs also.  Very brave and very protective parents.

I did not have many Black Swallowtails this year even though I had grown some very nice healthy parsley.  This year I have planted some dill and fennel also.  This is a younger Black Swallowtail Caterpillar in one of its stages of growth called an Instar.  A Black Swallowtail will have about 4 Instars where they shed their skin and change.  They usually eat the skin so if you did not know this was happening it would pass unnoticed.  The change from this stage to adult caterpillar is quite dramatic in the transformation.

The chrysalis they form is very interesting.  If you look closely you will see a strand of silk like material around the top fourth of the form.  It is very interesting to see them perform a kind of acrobatics routine to get the strand formed around it's waist and support the weight of the chrysalis which only is attached otherwise by the bottom end.  As often as the green will be the color gray.  I imagine in nature the color helps with  camouflage.  I can figure out no other reason as I have explored several hypotheses (is that a good word here?) and always been proved wrong through observation.

Barred Owls are getting more plentiful around here.  I have seen a few in our yard and this guy was in the park every morning for quite a while in the same area.  Not sure if there was a nest nearby or if there was a food source there.  I don't like them around my yard because of my squirrels and although owls are not usually a threat the Barred Owl is, because they hunt in daylight.

Lots of beautiful boats slip in and out of our Marina and since the Damage of Hurricane Matthew our marina has not been usable.  We have our peak times, boats rushing South and North because insurance companies will not cover them to be in Florida waters during what is officially hurricane season.  That means we are busy at both ends of the summer/Fall seasons.  The loss of the Marina being open is costing the town a lot of money. 

Even though the Sea Turtles have not started laying we do get to see some turtles with a Sea Turtle release by the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital.  This beautiful Green is one of my favorite turtles with such pretty patterns on their heads.

The Horseshoe Crabs is where all the action was at this time of the year.  We had a great season with more Horseshoe Crabs than I have ever seen stranded on our beach during my time volunteering in the park.

Finally our first nest just past Mid May was laid.  It was not the first on the island but we were celebrating it's arrival.

My sweet little chubby Jimbo came daily to play, by wrestling with my hands and when he was tired relaxed by letting me rub his chest and under his arms, a squirrels favorite place to be petted.

This early nest was a very interesting nest which I think shows a degree conscious decision based on some degree of reasoning ability.  The turtle came across the rock jetty to the West of the nest when the water was at high tide and the rocks were covered with water.  It took her so long with that very long journey over the sand, that by the time she got her nest made she started back in the direction from which she came, but from a long distance away she saw the rock jetty and turned her path sharply to the right and made her way to the oceans side of the jetty rather than to the river from when she had entered the beach.  Pretty smart gal.

These ducks are seen every year, usually just one pair, but I am not sure if they are a couple, or just a pair of immature ducks hanging out together.  We never see any little baby ducks.

Not cute little babies like these little Plovers.  New little ones with their long gangly legs which only get more so as they reach the juvenile stage.  The body finally catches up and they begin to look like Mom & Pop.  Usually 3 are hatched and hopefully 3 will survive but it seemed not that great a success rate this year with usually 2 surviving.  The problem is that they are constantly running and it is hard for their parents to keep up with 3 when they run in different directions.  One of the reasons we try not to get too close to them when we move up and down the beach.

Stop watch and listen is the rule, even on the beach.  Watching them cross our old tracks from the trip down the beach.  They seem to be crossing some big intersection.

AAAAHHHH!!! Our favorite Sea Turtle predator, a Ghost Crab.  They are so much the color of the sand that you hardly see them running around, especially if they are younger.  They are pretty interesting creatures.  The eyes seem to periscope up and I think they even operate independently from each other.

Big barge load moving out of the river.  Lots of very different kinds of river and ocean traffic move up and down the water highways here.

The ride over this road is as one of our old timers, Les, who left this earth earlier this year, would say in his best German accent, "It's a massage for the brain".

The turtle nests started to roll in sometimes more than one in a day.

Someone, "crabby" after all those circuits, seems to have lost his way and then got stuck in the mud.  Not a good day but we got him set on the right track and back into the water, another saved Horse Shoe.

First there was one then there were 4 and more.

And 5 as the numbers start the climb.

By #6 you can see that these gals are laying their nest high on the beach.  That is good and makes for better survival with no washovers from storms but sometimes plays havoc with us trying to decide if it really was a nest.  We had a few which we marked as a nest which were not, -one didn't get marked, but out of 57 in the end, very few of them were wrong.

Little Jimbo loved his pecans and his middle showed it.

Now this one was an extremely difficult one to call with the turtle roaming up and down the beach.  It takes a lot of detective work sometimes.  I am not sure how we finally called it. Sorry about beheading the ranger in this shot!

Why they couldn't they all be this easy?  Nice clean, easy to call a nest. Wider than the track, nice fluffy round mound, and a crab even digging into the nest to show us where the nest chamber was most likely located.

The little Plovers do grow up fast.

Up to 9 already.

Two of our little ones.  Wonder where #3 is?

This nest was good but gives a view of how short our beach was this year when the tide was in.  A good reason to lay high into the dunes.

Double digits now.

Another difficult one to call.  looks like the nest was laid in that wide fluffy part.

This is how the Momma Plover defends her chicks as she tries to distract the predator away from her children by pretending to be hurt and unable to fly.  Hopefully the predator will turn its attention toward her and she can fly away after the chicks have hidden.

I  just loved this photo and had to include it as she turns to face down her aggressor which we thought was us.  We try our best to not have her feel threatened, and alway try to give her a wide berth, but sometimes when the tide is in it is just too close to have room to swing wide.  In that case we try to just creep by.

An up close and personal view of this youngster.  Our Gopher Tortoises can't close their shell up since it is not hinged like the Eastern Box Turtle.  It's defense is to draw its front legs up tight like an armored covering and its hard beak like nose to complete the defense.

Placed back on the ground this juvenile Gopher is more colorful than the adult and less colorful than one younger would be.  

It was really exciting to find a Horseshoe Crab with a tag.  I called the telephone number on the tag and reported its location.  It was a long way from where it had acquired its tag.  It was tagged and released on an island North of Savannah.

A morning with dramatic lighting on the dunes as a storm approached.  We had a few encounters with storms on patrol this year and it was sometimes a race to decide whether we could make it down and back and not get struck by lightening.

Another, up in the dunes difficult one.  What a lot of crawling she had to do.

On mornings when I see pretty colors of a sun rise and know it will disappear before I can get into the park I will do a quick turn around in the park across the street from our house to see it.  Peter's Point Park is only a couple of blocks away and is on the way for me.

This part of the drive into the park has a pretty area when the light is bright.  The area  beyond is a dense canopy road but the area of the bright sunshine is where there are some taller sand dunes which don't have tree growth.

On the fishing pier was our annual Kids Fishing Clinic which had been postponed because of weather which included lightning.  It was still very successful in spite of the delay.  I helped teach one of the learning stations which is part of the Clinic.  This year our pier is closed because of the damage from Hurricane Matthew.  It will be held at the Fishing Bridge on the South End of the island.  The sad news is that our beautiful record holding pier will be torn down early this Spring & Summer.  So sad.  They say they will rebuild it as money is available and it should be finished in maybe 10 years.  I may be dead by then.

Sister Susan welds the mallet to mark 18, a number that in times past was our whole number of nests.

This was a difficult one to call and I am not sure what it ended up being a nest or not.

A large Great Blue Heron is not a usual visitor to our beach but sometimes we do get to see them.  They are usually more on the marsh side of the island.  This one looked very regal and the waves were pretty breaking around him.

Now our "Old Man" enters the picture.  I got a call from the Humane Society to see if I could take in an older squirrel which had been kept as a pet and when the people were evicted from their home they left this old squirrel in an outside cage.  The people who found him said his cage was filthy.  The neighbors said he had been there for about 9 years.  He seemed healthy and tame and was large for a squirrel.  In the wild 8 years is usually a maximum of survival although in captivity they can survive a good bit longer.

Our plovers were really growing with their long legs becoming a part of their development.

I had the idea that I would eventually be able to let Old Man, as I called him, be able to go out into the wild.  I put him in the outside cage and he seemed happy.  I would bring him inside to play and enjoy some freedom.

He was playful as most squirrels are who have been hand raised.

A number of still spotted deer youngsters were in the park, but coyotes are also living in the park, a natural predator for them, and Amy did find at least one fawn killed by them in the park this year.

One of our Little Snowy Egrets was often near this spot when we would be on the beach doing patrol.  His golden slippers are showing in the water.

For the first time in 3 years our Osprey nest at the back of the park was a success with at least one chick raised by the Osprey pair who nested there.  We do not know if it was our own Little Girl or another female.  Little Girl and Alpha had lost both chicks from their nest in a bad storm three years before.  The next year she had lost her mate and children, when Alpha, her mate, flew into the power line and broke his wings.  One chick disappeared, and the surviving chick fell out of the nest breaking its wing also.  Both would never be able to fly free anymore.  The next year with a new younger mate they were not successful in raising any chicks.  With such a tragic history for our Pole Watchers who share what we see at this nest, even one successful chick was a good thing this past season.

I only had a few Black Swallowtails even though I had some healthy plants but maybe not enough.  I have to keep them in pots up high enough to keep the rabbits out of them but that doesn't keep the squirrels out of them and they just love to dig in the loose dirt of a flower pot.

Beautiful is the word to describe the female Black Swallowtail.  This one was laying an egg just as her photo was taken.

I spent a lot of time working in the yard last summer after the passing of the next door neighbors over a period of 6 months, (it is they who sold us our house 15 years ago).  Their son was cleaning out the place to sell and he was getting rid of all her potted plants which was extensive.  I saw him setting them out on the street for people to pick up and putting them in a pile to burn, so I told him not to do that because I would take them, and either use them or give them to someone else.  This was an especially beautiful one and I am only hopeful I can keep it alive.  I don't know what it is but it looked like one of those huge fire works we see around the 4th.  So far this year the leaves which died back after blooming have not shown their heads but by putting my finger down in the dirt I can feel a nice firm quite large bulb so feel it will begin to be part of the landscape soon.

Old Man had settled in and seemed content.  He was gentle with me and liked to hide pecans as most do.  But things changed when the Humane Society called and wanted him back.  The former owners had called and requested their pet be returned to them.  I reluctantly took him back.  About a week later The Humane Society called me back to say that Old Man's owners did not pick him up after all, and I could have him back.  On his return I quickly brought him a pecan treat.  The gal who brought him to me said he seems to be having trouble eating that nut.  When he continued to exhibit eating problems I inspected his mouth and found that he now had only 2 bottom teeth.  Squirrels have teeth both top and bottom which keep growing their whole lives and have to be worn down by chewing.  He could not even hold a nut in his mouth long enough to hide it.  I hoped the uppers would grow back but they have not.  I don't know what happened to him, but most likely he got his teeth hung in the cage somehow, probably trying to chew his way out, and accidentallbchy pulled them out himself.  Whatever happened he also came back not trusting men.  Bruce suddenly became a threat and he still does not like him and I have to keep him away from all men or else he will bite them.  This also makes him a good attack guard squirrel since he will go on the attack when he is near one.  He is fine with women.

Mornings gave us lots of beautiful sunrises most mornings if we got out there early enough.

No two are ever the same.

A very unusual thing for us to see was a Manatee love fest.  I had witnessed it a few times in my 15 years but not in a long time.  This was a herd of Manatees in the throes of a mating scenario.  It seems one female can attract quite a following.  We were watching a Gopher Tortoise on the land side of the beach buggy when we heard a lot of splashing.  When we turned in that direction this was what we saw.  An amazing scene.

They were so close into shore we were not sure whether they were going to manage to chase her onto the beach which I am told sometimes happens.  There is a lot of hierarchy to the Manatee herd and I am told only the Queen is allowed to mate.  I am not sure on this but I will study up on it before this season happens.  We really cracked up one of our Park workers when we told him we had just seen a Manatee Orgy.  Everything has it ways and rules for continuing their species but different from each other.  It makes for an interesting world out there to observe and learn about.

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