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

Monday, October 1, 2018
September Gratitudes
Gratitude Day falls each September near the Solstice, and this year, topping our list here in the northern Outer Banks is that we were spared a hit from Hurricane Florence. What a juxtaposition of emotions, gratitude for our near miss and grief at the damage we still see in communities just hours to our south. A slight tweak in the track and their devastation would have been ours. As it was, we spent days collectively holding our breath, watching the Weather channel and watching the weather. I got up two mornings in a row to see what effects the storm’s outlier clouds might have had on our morning sunrises. I went alone to Nags Head pier the first day, and joined fellow photographer Gordon Kreplin at Jennette’s Pier the second.

A few days before the storm, we had one of those bluebird-calm days when the Sound looks like a mirror. Two kayakers were out taking in the beauty of the still morning up in Duck.

Among the treasures I have on my bookshelves is my mother’s copy of an old paperback Roger T. Peterson’s bird guide—so old, in fact, that many of the birds are not even illustrated in color! There is a section in that guide, long since updated, named Confusing Fall Warblers. I always thought that was a funny title for a bird book chapter, until I took up birding myself.

After the storm slowed to a walking pace over the lower part of the coast, I had a chance to walk the boardwalk behind Duck church and look for our annual fall warbler migration. Local birder Peggy Eubanks confirmed that we were spotting Cape May and Magnolia warblers along with a Nuthatch, the only bird that can walk head-first down a tree trunk. Peggy and I were glad to see each other; she was one of my earliest friends when I first moved to the Outer Banks back in 1976. She was wishing a photographer would come along and give her a closer long-lens look at the birds, maddingly camouflaged in the dense tree branches, and I was wishing she were there with her wonderful accumulation of knowledge of bird plumage and calls. The timing, as is so true many times, was perfect. True to Petersen’s volume, the warblers were confusing, at least to me. I will include an admittedly much less than ideal image to show you how challenging spotting them, much less photographing and identifying can be! Before I left we were joined by fellow birders and photographers Joyce Edwards and Pat Draisey. They had more time to spend than I, and I left for home while they continued to stroll back south.

One of the first post-storm oddities I noticed was heightened butterfly activity at my lantana bush. Day One revealed at least 8 or 9 separate species, including some I did not recognize. Closer looks over several days confirmed that I also had nearly a dozen Gulf Fritillaries, presumably nudged (or shoved) north in the winds of the storm. We see this species in Carolina, but this is pretty much the northern extreme of their range. From researching online, I think it is unusual to see so many at once this far north.

About the middle of the month, I went to Nags Head Woods, intending to walk the main trail by the visitor’s center, but found it completely underwater! The bridge from the center’s porch disappeared into green ooze, and at least one other main trail was blocked off by signs warning of flooding. As all the rainwater from Florence makes its way slowly downstream, the Sound and many of the areas within the Woods are still wetter than usual. I checked the trails yesterday and while there is a spot of dry pine needles at the foot of the bridge, within a few feet the water takes ownership of the trail there again.

Thanks to the encouragement of Daniel Beauvais—and the loan of one of his cameras for a week in August—I sent off my older camera body to be converted to photographing only in Infrared. Back in my film days, I’d purchased a red filter that I loved to put onto my all purpose lens whenever the clouds were particularly spectacular, as the filter mimicked the look of IR film by darkening blue skies to nearly black and turning anything green—trees, grass, bushes, marsh—a luscious bright white. The IR conversion replaces the normal camera sensor; there are ranges of false color or true black-and-white you can specify, and I chose what is called Deep Black. If you are interested in the particulars, both lifepixel and Kolari Vision offer conversions and plenty of explanation and tutorials. I got my camera back from Kolari in record time and had one more hike in Nags Head Woods, this time with Gordon who was also using an IR converted camera. I carried both cameras and will include a full color and an IR image to show you the difference below. Retraining my eye to see, first in black and white and then in IR is an exercise in playful creativity! I am having a wonderful time with it. Look for some sprinklings of IR images in the blogs to come, if the scene warrants the treatment. One thing I am rapidly learning is that not all scenes are good candidates for the IR look. I enjoy learning, and fall’s somewhat slower retail pace is a perfect time—coupled with lower humidity and nice cloud formations—to be outside to play.

I think often how upside down our routine is compared with a non-resort area (or, say, a ski resort!) While most of the rest of the country is planning vacation and play time, we gear up for our busiest months. Winter, not summer, can mean rest for many of us and this in-between of fall begins to focus my attention on creative play. The IR conversion arrived just in time to inspire my visual self to see in new ways, always a great exercise and not just for photographers.

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Slick calm morning and beautiful clouds up in Duck.

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Subtle sunrise at Nags Head Pier.

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Who would have thought from the pre-dawn above that I would soon be treated to this? It always pays to stay put longer than you might first expect to, if you can.

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The next day's pre-sunrise was a little more pink, but still subtle.

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By the time the sun rose above the clouds, it was almost too bright to photograph. I loved the cross-current wave patterns here.

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Flooding in Nags Head Woods. No trail here--unless you took waders, which I didn't.

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Normally I would delete this out of focus butterfly photo-bombing my focused image. But this is a female signaling non-receptivity to the overflying male. She might be playing hard to get...or has already mated, and is therefore unavailable.

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Here is a Confusing Fall Warbler. I should mention these are small birds--and fast! No sooner would we spot one than it would be off its perch and away.

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Sound shore in Nags Head Woods. Mid to late afternoon and not the ideal time of day at this location. But a pretty spot.

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Here is the same scene with my newly converted IR camera body. I can already tell this is going to be fun!

posted by eturek at 4:27 PM

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Friday, August 24, 2018
Foxes and Rainbows
Usually my monthly blogs hind-cast back four weeks or so, and catch you up on whatever has been happening, naturally-speaking, in my part of the Outer Banks. This particular blog will include some images even older than that, as I deliberately like to wait to post images of Very Young Critters until they are older and out on their own.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had the chance this spring to watch some baby red foxes for the first time in a couple of years. Mom and Dad Fox have moved that den now, and the youngsters become more wary as they grow, so I have not seen any activity at the den site for some weeks now. Just when I was really missing seeing them, and thinking how very long eleven months loomed without any fox interaction, I had another opportunity with an entirely different family to watch some young foxes at an age I have never photographed before. These kits were more like young teenagers--still somewhat curious but limiting their appearances to the edges of the day, so I needed higher ISO (and a lot of patience) to photograph them at their serious business of playtime, exploration and occasional rest. I think I may have seen one of the parents a good ways off, watching the teenagers, a time or two, but never at close enough range to make a decent photo, even with my long lens. What struck me most about these growing youngsters was that they needed to grow into their ears! A couple of folks I shared these images with remarked how different they look from the other red foxes, either younger babies or older adults I have photographed before. Perhaps that is due to seeing them at a different age and stage in their growing. The most curious had distinct markings around its eyes, so I was able to tell that one apart from the rest.

Now they, too, have become more elusive, whether they are in a different spot altogether or coming out only well after dark. I did go to their general area after the sun had set and saw some glowing eyes, so they may still be nearby. The chance to see foxes at this age and stage was a totally unexpected delight, one for which I am very grateful.

Following a couple weeks of relentless rain, we have again settled into the weather I associate with August—towering, glowing thunderheads in afternoon that sometimes result in a quick squall and a kiss-and-make-up rainbow afterwards. I have seen more rainbows in the past week than in all the rest of the year so far put together. The longest lasting one of those is below.
After photographing a dramatic downburst in Duck in early June, I never expected to see practically the same formation so soon again, but an offshore squall line obliged with a double downburst the other evening as I was driving home through Kitty Hawk.

How many times in a week, in a day, I find myself giving thanks for this wonderful life I am blessed to live! Not only do I manage to find moments outside, in this beautiful place I get to call home, but I can make memories out of Moments, and then share them. Life is pretty great. Especially with foxes and rainbows!

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Frog legs for breakfast. Foxes eat small amphibians, bugs like crickets, persimmons, and small rodents. I've even found sea oats in their scat.

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Yum, tasty!

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This morning's toy was a found feather. Foxes of all ages love to play!

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As with puppies and kittens, fox-play involves a lot of rough-housing that seldom gets too rough.

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Time for a break!

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Just as at our old gallery location, foxes and bunnies seem to coexist nicely here. It was good to see them in the same space.

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All our rain squalls have left ponds at Jockey's Ridge, which pick up the sunset color nicely and give a view we don't usually see here.

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Speaking of rain squalls, here is a double cloudburst offshore.

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Folks who know me well know I am always, always on the lookout for hearts in the landscape. I like to say, Love shows itself everywhere. We just have to pay attention.

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Here is the reward for all that rain! I got wet for this one. The conditions were perfect for a rainbow--sprinkles and sunshine. But I waited through heavier shower for the rainbow to reach its brightest appearance.

posted by eturek at 10:58 AM

Comments [4]

Friday, July 13, 2018
Summer Days
One of a photographer's challenges is to see the familiar in fresh ways. I've lived here 42 years now, so I can definitely relate! I find that is a life challenge, too. Sometimes nature itself provides the freshness, and sometimes I have to deliberately change my perspective in order to see and share a fresh angle or a fresh vision. One reason I love photography, besides the fact that it leads me outside, is that I am reminded of these larger life lessons every time I pick up my camera.

The past thirty days has provided wonderful opportunities to be outdoors. Even in the middle of a busy summer schedule, I’ve managed to work in a sea turtle release, two trips (one planned, one spontaneous) to Carova, and some stormy sky watches both in Duck and Colington. More than one of the artists we represent uses the Shakespeare quote, one touch of nature makes the whole world kin, and I feel that kinship every time I step outside with camera in hand. Sometimes the kinship is extended to shared experiences, and that happened several times this month, too. I went to Carova with fellow photographer Ray Matthews and for one of those excursions, Phyllis Kroetsch came as well. I am always intrigued by how different photographers view the same general scene, just as I am enchanted by the myriad of authors and musicians who interpret our shared human experiences through their own gifts and perspectives.

For the sea turtle release, I positioned myself out in the water. The tide was coming in and that meant I got wetter and wetter as we waited for what turned out to be nine turtles headed back to sea after being cared for during the winter months by the staff and volunteers of the NC Aquarium’s STAR center, now open to the public. The little Green and Kemp’s Ridley turtles had been cold-stunned during our freeze in January, while the huge Loggerhead was the victim of a shark bite. It is a thrill to watch the turtles crawl back into the ocean, well worth the soaking from a couple rouge waves that nearly toppled those of us at the edge of the line! I kept my gear high and dry and the angle I chose was certainly worth the wait. A bonus from that day, along with being able to share my images with the NC Wildlife Resources staff, was an unexpected visit with friend and photographer Pat Draisey who had come to the release as an observer more than as a photographer that morning.

Just as I have not yet seen close up bear cubs this year, I have not yet seen any of the foals born in Carova this year either. The most exciting sight this past month was a harem running single file, one at a time, down the dunes and down to the water. Cattle egrets were resting atop several horses’ backs and I managed to make some images before they flew off. We saw some posturing and a bit of race-chasing both trips but no serious fighting. The most humorous sight which gave all three of us a chuckle was a harem browsing and meandering beside the Wild Horse road sign back behind the dune. The most unusual sight was a band of horses lit by our headlights as we drove back down the beach, with a cobalt blue dusk background all around them. Our second Carova trip was timed for sunrise and we all enjoyed the tide pools and the sun’s disk rising in a clear sky before we continued up the beach to look for horses.

That day, we saw only two by the water despite more than one trek up and down the shoreline. Instead, we were treated to a Dragonfly Migration Day, which regular readers will remember is one of my favorite events all summer! This time the dragonflies that had just come ashore all seemed to be the same species, with bright red bodies and heads. We paused to photograph the phenomenon of dozens of dragonflies perched all over the not-yet emerged sea oats before driving on. Ray told me later that his favorite image from the day was a closeup he made of a single red dragonfly resting atop a green sea oat stalk against the Carolina blue sky. You just never know what gifts nature will bestow. The key is to be alert and have open eyes and heart. That’s good advice for living a full, fulfilling daily life, whether as a photographer or not!

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This little Green sea turtle seemed to be waving goodby.

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The Loggerhead survived a shark bite and after months in the STAR center, was finally ready to swim home.

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One of our dramatic sunsets this past month. I love the rain bands, but what caught my breath was that dark blue streak above the cloud, like a beacon.

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A bright sliver of a new moon and the planet Venus shine above the dock at the Blue Point restaurant in Duck. Using a tripod and a long exposure smooth the water.

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The opposite end of the day. Sunup in Carova.

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I just love the tide pools at sunrise or sunset.

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Interesting companions! The Cattle Egrets help eat the bugs that plague the horses.

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One by one, horses came racing down the dune toward the water.

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The illumination from our headlights at dusk gave the scene an entirely different look and feel.

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Dragonfly migration day is one of my favorite nature events all year; in some years we have more than one migration. This is one of those years.

posted by eturek at 1:17 PM

Comments [2]

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Somehow the balance—or the barometer—has shifted and we are suddenly in more of a summer pattern of weather (to which all our visitors and most all locals say, thank goodness!) A wet winter and spring has now morphed into what I think of as a more normal summer pattern, with hot days and a good chance of a brief late afternoon or early evening rainshower, sometimes with heat lightning and sometimes with thunder and lightning, and sometimes, depending on time of day, with a rainbow afterwards. I always tell visitors this time of year not to worry if it rains a little during the afternoon; just keep looking east for the rainbow.

I’ve been over to the Alligator River refuge one more time since last blog, hoping again for a glimpse of that mama bear with her four cubs, but once again, no sighting for me. I did see a mother bear way back in the field, near dusk, with two little cubs but nowhere near close enough for a decent image. Instead I saw a lone, older young bear, perhaps a yearling, foraging fairly close to the road in on-again, off-again rain sprinkles. The rain didn’t seem to bother the cub any and its fur looked to me as if it had swum the canal to get to the field on Sawyer Lake Road where it was feeding.

By far the closest encounter was with an adult Great Blue Heron which was a little spooked by the car (but not as much as usual) but let me approach very close on foot. I don’t think I have been that close to a Great Blue since our last trip to Florida in 2014. Climbing back into the car I was again aware of how little it takes to make my photographer’s heart happy. Close encounters of the bird kind will do it every time.

The other excitement of the past week or so was a wild squall Saturday night a week ago. The sky looked interesting at shift-closing time, interesting enough that fellow photographer and staff member Phyllis Kroetsch and I decided to postpone our usual end of day closing tasks and just go out on the deck to photograph the approaching storm. The cloud formation I chose to track looked other-worldly, or as if it were about to transport me to some other world, and when I saw the image later upon downloading, my mind said “downburst.” Sure enough, that is what we photographed. I googled the phenomenon to learn more, and what I read matched exactly with our experience.

First we saw the rain cloud in the distance, coming east across the Sound. We could see the rain coming, too, first as bands in the cloud itself and then in disturbances on the water. When the rain arrived, it poured hard, straight down, for a few minutes. We were photographing from under the protection of the overhang, and I heard a dad say to his child, here come the waves. Waves? I barely had time to look in the direction he was looking before we were enveloped with a strong blast of wind, and, yes, there were waves suddenly breaking all across the sound and hitting the opposite bulkhead around the cove from our shop. The rain which had been coming straight down now came at us sideways, soaking everybody under the overhang. I backed up and tried to figure a better angle to document the experience. All then lasted about ten minutes I guess, and then the wind abated about as fast as it arrived as the storm moved off, and we could see lightning flashing to the east. We almost had a sunset, too, but the clouds were too thick for more than a little color. All in all, the downburst provided a dramatic few minutes of heavy weather. I read later that some storms have had winds in excess of 125 miles per hour! I believe it!

A few nights later I was again on the deck around sunset but what promised at first to be spectacular turned into more of a fizzle at actual sundown. Sometimes the show premieres early; sometimes it opens late; and sometimes it never happens at all when you expect. Nature photography is a constant life-lesson in patience.

Speaking of patience, I have visited the little fox den repeatedly over the past three weeks and no sightings at all. Mama and Papa Fox may have moved the den already, as the kits grow and need bigger quarters. I am trying not to be disappointed that the chance to watch them is likely already over for an entire year, and instead be grateful I had the chance to see them this year at all. Nature photography is like that, too. I have choices about where to focus my lens and where to focus my heart. It is all part of the photographic life I have come to cherish.

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This was the view out the windows of Yellowhouse in its new location in Duck. Dramatic enough to get me outside!

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I chose a lens with a wide range, from 28mm to 300mm. Here is the edge of the storm.

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Waves on the Sound.

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Waves crashing into the bulkhead around the cove. Crazy wind!

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Just a few minutes later, the winds died down, the rain stopped and we had a sunset glow.

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Here is that young bear in the rain at Alligator River Refuge.

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I first spotted the Great Blue as I drove in on Milltail Creek Rd but it flew on towards Sawyer Lake. I assume I photographed the same one a bit later.

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Happily for me, the heron strode into a less obstructed portion of the canal and I was able to approach and photograph a reflection.

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As we were working to move the last framing equipment out of what had been Yellowhouse's home in Nags Head for the past four seasons, I spotted this sun halo overhead.

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This sunset was subtler than many but still beautiful, and made special by the chance to share it with visitors to our area.

posted by eturek at 8:12 PM

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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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(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 433927 times

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