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

Saturday, May 26, 2018
April Showers and May Days
After the soggy, wet April, I think all of us were ready to cry "May Day!" Happily we have had some nicer (read sunnier) weather, although the colder, damper spring also put a damper on photographic opportunities. Nonetheless, I do have some treasures to share with you.

At the end of April, Pete and I ran away for two nights to Ocracoke. I just love it down there, especially in the shoulder seasons. It always feels as if we have the island almost to ourselves. We enjoyed some much needed rest before the season began in earnest, after our long winter of moving Yellowhouse north to adjoin SeaDragon. We relaxed, sat on our little deck at Captain's Landing and watched pelicans fly by (and perch on nearby pilings), ate some yummy food, and listened to great local music. I walked the beach looking for shells, and we caught two nights of the full moon. Sweet.

Back home, we have a tundra swan with an injured wing that did not make the annual migratory journey back to breeding grounds in the Arctic. Instead, it has been hanging about our little cove with its new best friends, Canada Geese pairs who have been tolerant of its presence. It seems to swim and feed just fine although it cannot fly. If the wing never mends enough to allow flight, I am imagining what a grand reunion it will experience when its fellow swan return next November.

One outcome of our soggier weather has been the sight of clouds I associate more with fall than with spring here. We've had dramatic squall lines and some glorious sunsets. The other evening's storm produced quite the sky show in the west and a rainbow that from my vantage point along the Duck Boardwalk appeared over the steeple of Duck Church.

The period from early/mid May through mid/late June is one of my favorites all year. This is the timeframe I associate with several big nature events here: the birth of foals in the wild horse herds of Carova, along with more appearances of the horses by the ocean as the Mayflies hatch; sanderlings migrating through on their way to breeding beaches in New Jersey and joining our resident birds in huge flocks; baby gray and red fox kits emerging from their dens to explore their new world; black bears on Alligator River Refuge awakening fully from their semi-sleepy winter state to forage in the farm fields at the edges of the day; young osprey hatching and young eaglets fledging; swallowtail butterflies emerging and feasting on thistles on the Refuge; and the beginnings of dragonfly migration. Some years I am fortunate to experience several of these events in the same glorious period, depending on where I concentrate my photographic time. This is also the time when the Milky Way begins to rise again in the east (albeit in the middle of the night) which during new moons with cloudless skies and no wind makes for a spectacular sight.

So how have I celebrated this year? Well, as I mentioned, Pete and I went to Ocracoke and I saw the first of my sanderling flocks down there this year.

To my great delight, I have once again had the chance to spend some time with some red fox kits. This was especially poignant for me this year because the mother fox has been wounded somehow, perhaps hit by a car, and over the past weeks I have watched her progress from hobbling to being able to trot on her three stronger legs. Like the broken-winged swan, that other leg may never fully heal. Nonetheless, she and the papa fox (they are monogamous and mate for life) are faithful, devoted parents and the kits seem to be thriving.

Pete and I drove through the refuge the other evening at dusk and saw a couple of large male bears, and last night I caught a brief glimpse of a mother and one of her four cubs as they hid from view in tall grass--too tall to really photograph, until she stood up investigating some sight or sound I could neither see nor hear. Other photographers had been treated the night before to quite a show as the bear cubs were playing on a berm with a clear view from the road, but on the night I was there, she never came into the open. This is part of a nature photographer's life: we go when we can, and we hope always. That night, it just wasn't meant to be for me to photograph the family.

Yesterday morning, a group of us went to Carova, leaving before first light to be on the beach by sunrise. The conditions were perfect for us to see harems by the water, at least by early-mid morning, but we spotted only one small family group, and they never came to the beach. A resident volunteer with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund told us that this group--two feisty stallions and two resting mares--were the center of a major drama the other morning. Seems one mare had a foal but her stallion evidently was not the father, and attempted to kill the baby. The Sheriff's office and others intervened, the foal was rescued in time, and is now being cared for at the rescue barn off island. Meanwhile the mare is undoubtedly in some discomfort, since she cannot nurse her foal, as well as some emotional trauma from its removal. That explained the behavior we witnessed, with both mares lying down, and one being very solicitous of the other. Meanwhile, the two stallions were wary around one another and it was hard for us to discern at first which was the dominant since both were very close to both mares. We saw a lot of posturing and rearing and some race-chasing but I am glad we did not witness a full-on fight. Stallions fighting may sound exciting on paper, but having been witness to fights over the years, I can tell you, the reality is both frightening and heartbreaking all at once. The law requiring people to maintain at least a fifty foot distance from the horses, and not to feed or approach them, is for everyone's safety and is worth repeating every spring. So how do I get such close-ups? With my extra-long lens. I have too much respect for both the horses and the rules to be foolish and stride up to a horse in the wild.

At the last New Moon, during the meteor shower, I accompanied several other photographers at 2 a.m. up to a location that allowed us to photograph from the west side of the Currituck Light as the Milky Way rose above us in the east. The vantage point was nifty as far as being able to view the Milky Way in the dark, but the lighthouse appears as a tiny element in an otherwise huge sky. Interesting perspective, but not what I was hoping for. For fun I did the same technique I used last year at Bodie Light to create a "hyperspace at Currituck Light" image by zooming the lens with the shutter open on the tripod. I was much more pleased with a closer view of the Lighthouse, albeit less of the Milky Way, but with a shooting star falling into the frame.

All in all, I have enjoyed my recent outings, whether a few minutes after work or the few hours I spent in Carova. I breathe my deepest, physically and emotionally, outdoors. Nature is balm for all kinds of ills--at least for me--and I often find stress or fatigue or frustration melting into the fresh air.

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This was our view from our suite at Captain Landing in Ocracoke. Not too shabby.

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Part of a much larger flock of Sanderlings.

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20 years ago on our first anniversary, we went to Ocracoke and I found dozens of these purple starfish. What a treat to find one-with a whole scotch bonnet--20 years later.

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We can have squalls all year of course. What I love most about them is the quality and color of the light. Look how turquoise the ocean appears!

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This--along with puppies, kittens and grandbabies--is what the word adorable was coined for. Red Fox Kits.

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I photographed moonrise as I usually do, on a tripod with my long lens. On this night the combination of light and a little haze gave this halo effect with the lens. Never had it happen before for moonrise. Pretty neat.

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What a beautiful sky followed the storm one evening earlier this week!

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Here is that rainbow over Duck Church.

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This is the sort of behavior that would erupt with little warning.

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A nature photographer's experience--minutes turning to hours (and sometimes to years) of patient waiting for those minutes, or in this case, seconds, in which something interesting happens.

posted by eturek at 10:54 PM

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Sunday, April 8, 2018
March Madness
Not only did March arrive like a Lion on the Outer Banks, it roared most of the month, morphing itself into a Lamb just in time for April 1st Easter Sunday, and then promptly dipped temperatures, upped the windspeed, and mixed in some rain for good measure. By this writing, the evening of April 8th, the sun had come out for part of the day though the mercury never got above the mid-40's, and the brisk winds made it feel as if we were still firmly ensconced in winter. You will see more photos of March's blustery effects below.

Since March began, despite the colder temperatures, the tundra swan all left, headed back north to their breeding grounds, and the osprey arrived and began to refurbish their summer homes once again. I really feel sorry for the pair beside the Sunset Grille in Duck. Winter winds always seem to strip their platform bare and it is a challenge to begin building all over again.

The Colington marina pair that has nested there at least for the past 21 years arrived safely home also. They began nest building in earnest by early April but a fellow osprey watcher reported the pair being harassed by a younger osprey, perhaps an offspring from an earlier year.

We had a large number of Buffleheads in our little Duck cove this winter again, and I have not seen them for a couple weeks now, so presumably they went wherever Buffleheads go to nest. The Canada Geese have settled back in, and I saw a lone loon the other evening as well. But my happiest unexpected sighting thus far has been a lone pelican sitting on a piling at the end of the dock at the Blue Point Restaurant in Duck. I saw it off and on in late winter and finally had the chance to photograph it before it, too, disappeared, hopefully to rejoin the rest of its colony.

We had our second Blue Moon of 2018 with a full moon at the beginning and end of March and again I was able to be outdoors to watch the month's second moon appear. And a late evening working put me on the dock just in time for a radiant sunset whose most interesting feature was a reflected brilliance in the water that was heart-shaped. Regular readers know I look for hearts in the landscape. You may not know that I began a personal project I have been posting daily on instagram with the hashtag #hearts365 -- if that sounds interesting to you and you are on instagram, check it out.

This past week I had a rare day off the barrier island when artist friend EM Corsa and I ventured over to Columbia to walk the boardwalk and return by way of the Alligator River Refuge. The refuge is a favorite spot, but I had never walked the full boardwalk in Columbia before. Here I finally found evidence of spring in the presence of bright red maple keys (I called them helicopters when I was young), bright green star-shaped gum tree leaves, close-furled fiddleheads, and the blush of pastel greens and pinks in the trees not yet fully leafed out.

We were accompanied partway by a male cardinal; we spotted a red-headed woodpecker who was making a call neither of us heard before at a cavity we presume is its nest; and my friend discovered a skink sunning itself atop a hollow tree stump. The turtles there seemed much more accustomed to walkers than they are closer to home although one decided to hide by turning its back and burying its head while leaving its hind parts fully in view!

While on the refuge we saw a lone bear far from the road who nonetheless raised its head to eyeball us eyeballing it, both a Cormorant and a Great Blue Heron were content to perch and stalk without flying away while I photographed, and we rescued a snake from what we feared might be certain death if it remained sunning itself in the middle of the road, given how fast some folks drive on the refuge. It wasn't too keen on being woken or moved, but I think we managed to convince it we meant no harm, and my friend used the cane I keep in the car to encourage it to slither back into the safety of the water. That snake had ample chances to strike out in our direction but it never did. It coiled itself defensively--smart move on its part--and flicked its forked tongue in warning, but was essentially passive, certainly non-aggressive. Nonetheless we were respectful and cautious, but glad to have spared it potential harm.

The whole encounter, in fact, all the encounters in the past month, reminded me why I so love to go outdoors. First, I usually have some idea, some expectation of what I might see, but am often surprised and delighted by nature's gifts beyond my expectations. Second, I truly love to connect with the natural world, and photography gives me both a reason and a way to do just that. We both returned refreshed to a pace of life that will only increase in activity and intensity as the season gets fully underway.

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The early morning ocean was roaring in March's second Lion storm of the month.

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By afternoon the winds were dancing the salt spray high in the air.

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A last look at the Buffleheads before they left our Duck cove. I love the red feet!

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What a treat to spend some time with a Pelican right on the Duck boardwalk!

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Every sunset, just like every sunrise, just like every fingerprint, is different.

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This is the sunset that produced the heart reflected in the Sound water below, though I could not discern the same pattern in the sky above.

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Mooned by a turtle!

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The color of spring, courtesy of maples.

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If we moved suddenly, either our motion or more likely the vibration our feet caused would startle the skink and it would dart back inside its stump. Patience and stillness were the virtues here.

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Our slithery encounter.

posted by eturek at 9:07 PM

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Thursday, March 8, 2018
Winter Wonders
So much for my intention to write at least one blog every month. You'd think I would have more time in the winter when the galleries are closed, but this winter we have been busier than usual--not only has there been less time to write, there has been less time to be outside, period, certainly less time to photograph, which is what fuels these blogs to begin with.

January began cold enough, with not one but two winter storms. You saw scenes from the last one in the year's only blog thus far; a couple from storm #2 are below. Early January also brought--on the same glad day--a report of a humpback whale at Jennette's Pier and a resting harbor seal on the beach. I was blessed to hear about both and to see both before they each continued on their journey.

The end of January gave us a 2nd full moon in the same month, colloquially known as a blue moon, and there were nice clear blue skies as the moon climbed up over the horizon, looking like a Chinese lantern. In mid-February three of my staff accompanied me on my annual buying trip to Philly. We were treated to a brief snowfall Friday night that lasted all of about an hour and melted in the ensuing rain overnight. But while it lasted, my companions agreed it made the city look magically like Paris. A token travel pic is below as well.

I thought surely the early cold and snow pattern would continue here on the Outer Banks in February. Instead, we had some warmer days in February hopscotching with colder days but not cold enough to snow, and several stretches of wind. The wind to top it all, though, came in the form of In Like A Lion early March, with a days-long nor-easter that closed NC 12 on Hatteras repeatedly and pushed up seafoam like whipped cream. The most disturbing sight I saw was a couple that carried two very young children out to the end of Avalon Pier as the waves were breaking high right at the pier's end. They stayed long enough for what looked to be a couple of selfie photographs and then hightailed it out of there. When they began walking back I realized from the ache in the center of my body I had been alternating between panic-breathing and holding my breath. Glad I was not present to witness what could have been a real tragedy. I was photographing from shore--and really surprised the pier was open to walkers.

Winter skies are usually my favorites of the year. I look for vibrant sunsets (and if I am really ambitious, vibrant sunrises). So far this winter, the sky that got my attention the most was a beautiful and unusual cloud formation over Kitty Hawk Bay right at dusk. By far the cutest sight of the year has been watching a young couple string a hammock under Nags Head Pier while their faithful spaniel companion stood sentinel. They were busy enjoying the breeze and using their cell phones for under the pier photos while I was busy photographing their hammock.

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The second storm of the year left measurable snow on the dunes! We had about 10 inches back in Colington where I live.

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Snow and ice and wind equals ice on the pier!

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Blue ice and sunset look other-worldly. Or at least, not beachy!

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Here is a winter visitor for 2018.

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The Blue Moon--the second full moon in January--looked like a Chinese Lantern as it rose above the horizon. It's an optical illusion I love.

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Speaking of winter visitors, I loved seeing this Parisian scene, however briefly, in Philly.

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Here is the cute factor--cute dog and young love. What is not to like about that?

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These clouds were a precursor to the northeaster that was coming.

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At its height, the windstorm produced multiple wave sets way out to sea.

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This sort of whipped foam is too salty for my taste! It was piled thick under the piers and beach road houses in Kitty Hawk.

posted by eturek at 10:29 PM

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Friday, January 5, 2018
The Frozen South - Part B
By New Year’s night, the wind was still blowing, and I dressed even more warmly to photograph the first moonrise of the year than I had on New Year's Eve morning for sunrise. (See last blog if you missed that.) Layers of cloud formed light and dark ribbons and I hoped at least one rift would give a glimpse of moonlight. A glimpse is about all I got, less than a minute’s worth, but I was in the right place at the right time for the moon at Avalon Pier. I’d driven up first to Kitty Hawk, thinking the cloud cover was thinner to the north, but I couldn’t get north enough to make a difference. The breakers looking south from the Kitty Hawk beach were amazing, but Avalon turned out to be just the right spot for the moon.

The next couple of days focused on a heat emergency up at SeaDragon (shout-out here to landlords Jim Braithwaite and Matt Price, both of whom came out to help, and to the folks with Ed Miller’s Delta Heating and Air of Southern Shores). Being in Duck gave me the chance to photograph ice on the Sound both from above, and from the perspective of walking the dry, sandy Sound bottom. The water has been low for days and I enjoyed being on the same level as the Canada Geese as they slipped and walked their way, looking for patches of open water. Remnants of a large wooden cask or barrel along with older random pilings appeared briefly while the water was at its lowest. A few swan arrived by late afternoon the second day. We drove home after dark, which once again put me at Avalon under a full moon. Timing is everything.

That brings us up to yesterday and our several inches of snow. As of now (nearly 4 pm on Friday the 5th), I have not been able to get out past my own little neighborhood. In fact, the roads are icier and slipperier now than they were this time yesterday, when the snow provided some additional traction. I drove slowly up to the Colington Harbour soundfront park late yesterday afternoon, and stopped off at a friend’s property which turned into a winter wonderland with all the snow on the trees.

Hopefully the temperature will get above freezing on Sunday, and I am hoping the timing allows the roads to be passable but still keeps some snow and ice cover in picturesque places! Stay tuned!

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This is about all of the full moon I could see on New Year's evening. First moonrise of the year, on January 1. Bodes well, I say--and means a chance for a Blue Moon later this month!

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Waves were breaking so quickly and in so many sets by New Year's night, the entire ocean to the south looked frothy.

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In my 40+ years living here, I've seen the Sound low many times, usually in conjunction with a hurricane. But this is the longest continuous period of low water I remember.

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The ice was still thin as the New Year began, but plenty picturesque.

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The Tundra Swan that returned to the cove seemed baffled by the ice. I can think of a caption here: "I told you the GPS said to keep going south!" (Not that SC, GA or FL was much warmer!)

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My second night at Avalon Pier. The moon rises about an hour later each evening, so the sky was much darker than on the night before when the moon was this high in the sky.

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Winter snow and ice, sound-side in Colington Harbour.

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The air temperature was in the 20's and whipping winds put windchills into the teens. But the breakthrough of the sunrays in late afternoon made the cold worth it!

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One thing I love about Colington is its many hardwoods, and its old remnant ridges. The snow made this look like an enchanted forest.

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We humans weren't the only ones dealing with snowy living quarters!

posted by eturek at 9:38 PM

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Friday, January 5, 2018
The Frozen South - Part A
The Frozen South – Part A

After what was a relatively mild 2017, with no major hurricanes and pretty decent weather all year, 2018 has started with a bomb, in the form of what meteorologists are terming a bomb cyclone that brought several days of deep freeze and several inches of snow to the Outer Banks—not to speak of snow as far south as Florida, and record storm conditions in the northeast.

December started off benign enough, with a pretty moonrise at Jennette’s Pier and a chilly (but not freezing cold) Christmas tree lighting in downtown Manteo. I haven’t been to the tree lighting for probably 30 years at least, and haven’t seen the Elizabethan Garden lights for more than 15, so both were a big, festive treat. Sharing the evening with dear friends who’d driven down specifically for the weekend made it even sweeter than the hot chocolate the Garden offered its guests!

In the middle of the month, my friend and fellow photographer Karen Watras and I had a genuine adventure! We try to plan an outing for ourselves near the end of each year, a sort of reward for our hard work all year long, work which often keeps us too busy to spend much time together until the off season.

This year, Karen proposed we drive to False Cape State Park in Virginia, somewhere neither of us had ever been, and take their tram tour. We rode to the site of an old cemetery from a settlement of shipwreck survivors in what came to be known as the Wash Woods community. Only the preserved steeple of their church is left of their settlement, that and the gravestones which bear witness to how hard life was for many of the families. The tram tour took us through topography that was a cross between Carova and Pea Island, with wooded ridges thick with live oak or scrub pine, and open areas managed for waterfowl. We saw a few swan but they were mostly at a distance. The various shorelines were picturesque although the clouds which teased with the promise of a beautiful sunset thickened and obscured the sun by late afternoon.

I woke Christmas Eve night not to the patter of little reindeer feet but to the Drumming Dance of Thunder Beings overhead. Thunder on Christmas Eve! How precipitous! I wasn’t sure what it might mean, except to look for snow sometime in the next week to ten days. I did not have to wait long.

On the 27th, I drove out to Roanoke Rapids and a (too brief) visit with my son and grandsons. When I left the beach, my car thermometer read 42 degrees. By Plymouth, it read 31 and it was sleeting/snowing! I drove out of the sleet and by the time I came home that evening the roads had not iced up.

On the 30th, I drove up to Duck and saw several hundred Tundra Swan that afternoon around the Blue Point pier and our little cove. I had been seeing lines of swan to the north, but only a few in our little cove. You can imagine my excitement.

So the next morning, I decided to brave the cold and get up for what may have been my coldest sunrise ever. I was layered up but really wanted to get to the beach on New Year’s Eve morning, the last sunrise of 2017. It was blowing hard and bitter cold. I didn’t stay out long at the ocean but did have a chance to see the sun rise well in the south over Nags Head Pier. I drove back up to Duck but the swan, geese, and ducks were too smart to stay out in the open with the whipping winds, and there was not one of the hundreds of waterfowl from the afternoon before anywhere in sight.

New Year’s morning saw snow flurries but no accumulation, and I remembered the Christmas Eve thunder. So sure enough, snow within about a week. Little did we know what was coming. The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey liked to say, is subject enough for its own blog, which will follow shortly. Meanwhile, here are images from our last month of 2017.

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There were tons of little gulls (Bonaparte?) flitting and flying in the lights just under the pier.

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Moon over Roanoke Marshes Light. I am almost never in Manteo at night, so this was a triple treat.

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One of the displays in the Elizabethan Gardens

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A beautiful live oak in False Cape State Park.

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All that is left of the church at Wash Woods. Vandals were trying to destroy or steal the steeple, so the Park has preserved its remains behind glass.

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The clouds near dusk were so dramatic I decided to convert this image to black and white to emphasize the contrast. By now our tram ride had turned quite chilly!

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After seeing the first swan in Duck on November 11, I was rewarded for my patient waiting to see hundreds of arrivals on Dec. 30th.

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There were more looking in the other direction, down the Sound.

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The afternoon light was exquisite and there was very little wind. That was the last calm day we have had!

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By New Year's Eve morning, the temperatures had dropped severely, the wind had picked up, and I was freezing cold out on the beach at dawn. Worth it though--2017's last sunrise.

posted by eturek at 6:06 PM

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