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Outer Banks Guide > Outer Banks Blogs > Eve Turek's Natural Outer Banks Blog

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Summer's Orange
From a fiery Strawberry Moon at the summer solstice to our brightest sunset so far this summer, orange seems to be a color that has found my lens several times over the past weeks. (And those adorable baby red foxes from my last blog are really orange, not fire-engine red.)

The one brilliant sunset stands out especially because we typically don’t see that many vibrant sunsets in summer, thanks to high humidity and what is often an obscuring haze/cloud layer right on the horizon. We have plenty of heat and humidity now, but nobody who was here for our record rainfall in late spring is complaining, not that I’ve heard anyway!

I’ve seen dragonflies of varied hues both in Duck and in my Colington yard and have one yellow/golden one to share with you here. Dragonflies can tilt their heads in a way that appears to signal curiosity and heightened attention, and that gives (to use human terms) the appearance of a wide grin. I love the behavior and try to time my shutter clicks to coincide.

Summer heat also brings its share of summer squalls and thunderstorms and I have some images to share from that side of early summer as well.

The rain of late spring actually delayed the emergence of our sea oats, which thrive in hot, dry conditions. Now that they have fully bloomed, the seed heads that are still showing their early green should soon take on the characteristic golden we see most of the summer and fall.

As pretty as moonrises and sunsets are, the most interesting orange I have encountered in July was not in the sky but at the water’s edge. From Nags Head to Kitty Hawk I’ve seen tiny, clear Somethings with bright orange spots, almost the size and shape of candy corn! At first, I thought the Somethings were Salp, cousins to jellyfish, but without stingers. Depending on what life-stage they are in, they have a wide variety of appearances. I thought I had seen the stage where long strands of young Salp called aggregates, each genetically identical, had become dislodged and separated by the waves, washing up by the millions on shore. But I was wrong. Good thing I delayed posting this blog!

After seeing a post on Facebook by Jeff Lewis, I did more research. Our late July orange visitors were actually Naked Sea Butterflies, not cousins to jellyfish at all, but shell-less mollusks. (There is a shelled variety too, but these gelatinous creatures lack the shell). They are about the same size as the tiny aggregate Salp and also have similar color. And in an especially nasty case of sibling rivalry gone amuck, the Naked Sea Butterflies eat the Shelled Sea Butterflies. Both Salp and Sea Butterflies thrive in colder water and we had cooler (low 60’s) water right at the end of July, which brought the creatures to shore. If you want to know more, check out NC SeaGrant’s article found here: https://ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/blog/2016/08/01/an-invasion-of-the-naked-sea-butterflies/

One aspect of writing this blog that I love is, while I may start the month with a general idea of what to be on the lookout for (like bird migrations or sea oats blooming), I am almost always surprised by something I could never have anticipated.

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Prettiest summer sunset I have seen so far this year. From the Duck Boardwalk outside our SeaDragon Gallery!

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Our June Strawberry Moon, coinciding with Summer Solstice.

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These fiery waves are being lit by the Strawberry Moon on the first night of summer.

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Here is my dragonfly, looking joyous in my yard.

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We take a break from all the oranges for these Pelicans, gliding over green waves while a squall formed well to the north, giving beautiful, dramatic light to photograph.

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Another storm, moving well offshore by the time I went outside.

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Still showing green at the end of July, the sea oats nonetheless are a herald of summer.

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Here are some of those Naked Sea Butterflies.

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Sometimes the waves breaking were tinted orange with all of them!!

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Here is one close-up. Can you see its transparent "wings"? That feature is what gives the creatures the "butterfly" part of their name.

posted by eturek at 1:40 PM

Comments [5]

Thursday, July 14, 2016
Play More
This is a great followup to my last blog, Making Time For Joy.

I named this one, Play More. It’s advice I’ve heard repeatedly over the years, from friends, blogs, FB posts, even in my quiet prayer times. My usual response has been, “Yes, but…”

Then follows a litany of excuses, time being the most frequent, and opportunity (which is just a fancier word for time in my vernacular) running a close second. Typing this I realize, I have never used lack of companions as an excuse. Growing up as an only child, I learned to play by myself early. Alone time, especially outside, tends to refresh me for all the interactions I love to have with people, whether at home with Pete or in our galleries or just out running errands, hoping my smile will bring a corresponding smile from a stranger.

But I heard myself telling the gals up at SeaDragon the other day, I think I have laughed more with all of you in the past four months than I have in the past four or five years all put together. Somehow I had let my life become very serious, for all my generally chipper personality and focus on gratitude. I may have been positive, but as serious business! Somehow I had let the pure fun factor slip.

I can trace back signposts over the past few years so I know how I got here. The more important question for me now is how do I shift this? The way I shift anything in my life is first by awareness. Now that I know I want to make a change, I can take some steps. Journaling helps, too – but it isn’t the whole answer with me. Neither is talking things out with others. All that just helps to confirm what I already know. The trick is changing behavior in order for my outlook to change. As is often the case, photography as a Practice helped point the way.

Years ago when we were still in the old yellow cottage we leased on the beach road, we had a family of foxes spend part of our final summer there with us. Watching the antics of the young foxes helped bring out a playful spirit in me, too. In between customers, I’d sit on our front steps and sketch, even blow bubbles in the breeze! Somehow when we left the cottage and those foxes, I left my playfulness behind.

Fast forward to this June and I received a tremendous gift from a fellow professional photographer who shared with me the location of a fox den she had discovered. Happily, I could arrange my schedule to visit the location several times on my way to work or after supper. Our foxes at Yellowhouse were gray foxes, and these were red foxes. Even that little distinction helped my heart heal, as I could give myself fully to reveling in watching them explore the big wide world they’d been born into. After two to three weeks, Mom and Dad moved the den. I’m grateful to have had several encounters, all of which refreshed my own playful sense of wonder. Here, for your delight, are some of those moments.

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Both parents help care for youngsters. Here, the Mama has foraged a piece of bread to bring back to the den.

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Here a scrap of fish will do for breakfast.

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Watching this little fox amuse itself--and learn important life skills--was, dare I say it, so much fun.

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I finally figured out that the fox is playing with a piece of yucca root.

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Playing is hard work!! Time to stretch those muscles! I call this Fox Yoga.

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Since the babies typically sleep during the hottest part of the day, when they emerged, be it morning or evening, they did a lot of yawning and resting before playtime.

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This ramps up the cute factor. Siblings loving on each other. How touching.

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Just a little closer, a little closer...

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That's close enough!!

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Of course, I could have chosen many more to share. But I will leave you with this one. I call it, Awwwwww.

posted by eturek at 1:35 PM

Comments [3]

Monday, May 30, 2016
Making Time For Joy
This is the season when I begin to reconnect with folks I haven’t seen since last year. Most always ask, what did you do over the winter? Did you take a vacation? Have you photographed anything new?

Between buying SeaDragon Gallery this past winter and learning much more about artisan jewelry and fine American woodcraft, ceramics and glass in order to open for the season, and readying Yellowhouse Gallery for our 11th year as owner, Pete and I haven’t had “down time”. My photographic opportunities have been fewer as well, which just means I am even more conscious than ever of my need to make every outdoors experience count.

That doesn’t mean every time I step outside with camera in hand that I make stellar images! Sometimes I am only scouting, noticing when a particular landscape feature will show itself to best advantage. I’m always alert to wind direction and clouds and the quality and temperature and intensity of light, even when indoors all day. I’m like a writer always thinking about characters, or a musician, always noodling around with a melody line even when I don’t have my instrument at hand. Back when I was learning to play guitar, I would practice finger rolls on my knee even while riding in the car, keeping my fingers limber. I try to keep my sensitivity to light and to the presence of birds and critters limber, too.

With all that said, I DO have some exciting new work to share—at least, I was excited to be present for these moments, some of which represent life-list wishes for me.

The mother Great Horned Owl that nested last year in an unused osprey platform returned this year. Sometimes we wildlife photographers have to wait a year—or many years—before we can have another chance with wildlife we have seen before. I’ve spent long months longing to revisit dens, or nest sites, only to discover after all that waiting that Mom and Dad moved on with no forwarding address. The “second chance” never came.

But happily I did have one more chance with the Great Horned Owl family. Behavior I missed last year—mom on the nest with a new chick and the owlets practicing first flights while still in the nest—I was fortunate to witness this year. Baby owls grow up FAST. Mom began nesting in early February; we saw the first baby on March 24th; by April 11th the baby owls were spending all day in the nest alone; and by late April both owlets had successfully fledged.

Pete and I always try to go to Carova on Mothers Day. That afternoon marked our first time off together all year! This year we saw more horses by the water than we ever have! That happy excursion was followed a week later by a wonderful morning in Carova with fellow photogs from the Carolinas Nature Photographers Association for our annual spring outing to Carova. I needed to come off the beach early to attend a Memorial Service but I am so glad I got up at 3:30 a.m. and drove north to experience, first, an otherworldly foggy not-exactly-sunrise, which alternated between being silver and gold as the fog was alternately heavier or lighter. After the fog burned off a little and the day got warmer, we began to find horses by the water.

On both occasions I saw a lone stallion, very frisky, who was doing a lot of running and posturing but not being successful at challenging any of the older stallions for their mares. Even so, I was surprised to see several harems in such close proximity to one another at the water’s edge as they all sought relief from the biting flies.

This past Wednesday, Ray Matthews was going back up for one more afternoon of photography before Memorial Day and invited me along. We came onto the beach at dead low tide in perfect light and found a small group of horses right away. We were very content to photograph them when someone kindly stopped to tell us there were horses way out in the water to our north. Up the beach we drove! Sure enough, here was a lone stallion that repeatedly raced into the water, sometimes by himself, sometimes being chased by another stallion. Up and down the beach they ran, frolicking in the waves. Neither Ray nor I had ever seen anything like it in all our adult lives here. We both came home with new imagery and a profound sense of gratitude for being in the right place at the right time.

I know photographers who preplan and pre-visualize images to great advantage. While I might think a lot (that’s an understatement) and dream a lot, I tend to be much more of a spontaneous photographer, responding in the moment when I have an opportunity. That strategy seems to work for me, especially in our busy lives. And it is amazing how much recharge I receive from just one glorious afternoon outdoors, in beautiful light, with amazing creatures, and camera in hand.

So that prompts questions: how do you recharge your inner batteries? Can you preplan those moments or do they come to you more spontaneously? Whatever your answers, I hope you are making time for joy.

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This was my first look at a fluffy downy baby owl with the mother.

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This is exactly one month later.

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Flight Practice at dusk!

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Not only has the little owlet made successful first flights back and forth to the nest and nearby trees, it has now flown to the area where the parents roost at night.

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Tide pools and dramatic fog-filtered early morning light. Worth rising in time to be on the beach at 0'dark:30!

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This is the behavior that astounded us. Stallions charging into the breakers.

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I was happy to see lots of action without the vicious fighting that can result in serious wounds for the horses.

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I kept watching for the chance for reflections in the tide pools.

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Sometimes the horses went into the water right in front of Ray's truck!

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And then came my moment, a life-list moment. I call this Run Like The Wind.

posted by eturek at 10:17 AM

Comments [6]

Sunday, May 8, 2016
In Praise of Mothers Everywhere
Some of my favorite nature photographs celebrate the connection between mothers and youngsters. (Father-and-youngster images are fewer in my portfolio, though I do have some wonderful photographs of bird and critter couples.) There is an immediate emotional connection we all seem to feel—and express—when we get to witness the antics of babies and the tender care of parents, no matter the species.

So to help celebrate Mother’s Day, I offer you these.

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This image is from Mother's Day, 2012! This foal was about 10 days old here.

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Young dolphin stay with their mothers for a long time, so I assume this is the mother with the baby, although it could be another adult.

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Pete and I saw this family of red foxes in Carova at the end of May, 2012. I loved watching the interaction of mom with the babies.

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Regular readers will recognize this fox image, from 2013. This is the mother gray fox who denned under our frame shop in our gallery's old location, before we had to move.

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Mothers play so many roles. For Ruby-throated hummingbirds, moms have the sole care of the baby birds, from nest-building, to egg-sitting to feeding.

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This family moment is from fall, not spring, on Hatteras Island.

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This was my first occasion to see a Woodduck in the wild, in ponds near the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, many years ago.

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Sometimes I don't actually know if this is Mom or Dad. One role parents play is to teach youngsters what they need to know to thrive. Here the adult Black Skimmer is showing junior how to fish.

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Sometimes I DO know which parent is present--in this case, this is Dad. I've watched this pair for years; he has much less speckling on his breast than she does. I call this, Chip off the Block. I could easily have called it, Mom, Come Home Quick.

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This is one of my all-time favorites, from a rookery in Florida. I call it, But Mom... Here, Mom is making the youngsters wait and stretch and beg for food, all designed to strengthen their neck and jaws for feeding on their own.

posted by eturek at 7:52 PM

Comments [2]

Friday, April 1, 2016
Loony Tunes
Q: What in the world is a Loon doing, trying to walk beside the bike path along Duck Road in Southern Shores?!?

A: Nothing that will result in its survival!

Loons, like gannets, are marvelously engineered for a life on the water, but their legs and feet are set too far back to allow them to successfully take off in flight from dry land. They need water not only to feed but also to get airborne.

I passed by the bird which was sort of dragging itself forward at about 6:25 pm and realized as I drove by what I had seen. Or to be more accurate, I questioned what I had just seen, so I quickly found a place to turn around and double check. Sure enough, the bird was a loon and in obvious distress. Hold on, I said out loud, as I drove past the second time. I’m coming to get you.

Cars were whizzing by but the bird at that moment was very near the fork in Southern Shores where the road splits and where there is a small parking area. I turned there and parked, my mind already trying to visualize what was in the back of the car that I could use. Normally I carry at least one towel for critter rescue, but my vehicle has been full of boxes transporting inventory and supplies between SeaDragon Gallery, our new gallery in Duck, and Yellowhouse Gallery in Nags Head. I’d removed a lot of the paraphernalia I keep in the car “just in case.” Well, here was a case. Now what?

I did have a thin waterproof pullover. It would have to do. Years ago, artist friend E.M. Corsa and I rescued a Northern Gannet, so I know the general drill: try to get close enough without spooking the bird in order to place a towel (read, pullover) over its head and gently scoop it up in a way that doesn’t hurt either the bird’s wings or you. I had never tried this alone. As I was getting out of my car, a jogger passed by but the bird had frozen its motion and tucked its head down. I don’t think the jogger even noticed. I approached slowly and talked softly as I knelt down nearby. I hoped my calm outer demeanor would keep the bird calm. It eyed me but didn’t try to move. I called my friend for reassurance and covered the bird, carrying it gently in my arms back toward my car. A couple of drivers figured out I was carrying something that needed help and stopped to let me cross. I put the loon on the floor of the passenger seat (my friend’s advice) – and it looked up at me and gave its haunting, trilling call. I’ve never heard that call in person before, and I took it as a sign I was doing the right thing.

I drove back north to the Duck Boardwalk. Near our shop is a set of stairs that leads right to the water. Alas, the gate at the top of the stairs was locked!! By this time, the loon was trying to move inside the pullover and straining its head back and forth. Did it sense the water? Was it alert to the smells and sounds of the Canada Geese nearby? I tucked it even closer to my body with my left hand and stroked its head with my right, crooning to it all the while. There was a dock facing west just a little way down the boardwalk. Off we went.
When I reached the dock, the closest pier to the water’s surface was still about a foot or foot and a half above it. I took a deep breath, unwrapped the loon, and gently let it go as close to the water as I could. It dropped with a big splash but came right back up to the surface and immediately began swimming around past the dock and out into more open water, ducking its head under the water, rising and stretching its wings, and diving under the surface only to bob up again a few feet away. I left it as the evening sun began its last descent before the sky turned pink and wished it well.
Its wings appeared to be functioning just fine. It must not have been out of water so long as to be totally exhausted. How in the world it wound up on the bike path I will never know. What I do know is that we were both in the right place at the right time for our own life paths to intersect.

This is my joy: to interact with nature in ways that are respectful, peaceful, loving and honoring, and to share the stories of those interactions, those connections. What began as another happy, busy working day ended with almost mystical overtones: I held a loon, it crooned to me, I set it free. Life is good.

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The Loon was amazingly content to ride in the car. I think it sensed my benevolent intentions.

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Once I released it into the Sound, it steadily made its way northeast along the boardwalk, keeping pace with me as I walked, and slowly moving further out from shore.

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I loved watching it stretch. That confirmed to me both wings seemed fine.

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I left it shortly before sundown. Happily, it was nowhere in sight the following morning. Some birds certainly remember precise navigational data, like ospreys returning to the same nest. Will the loon remember our encounter and the little cove?

posted by eturek at 9:44 PM

Comments [5]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 294213 times

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