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

Sunday, September 28, 2014
Summer's End
The sun is out (finally); the winds have abated (finally); I have a new CenturyLink modem and can once again blog (finally); and I have some unscheduled time today to spend in the company of some Confusing Fall Warblers (finally)!

I can hardly believe two months have gone by since I began to deal with my computer issues at home. In that time, most of the osprey have left for warmer weather, although I did see one today in Duck. Fall warblers have begun to pass through on their annual migration and the town boardwalk at Duck is a splendid place to see many examples of these migrants. My memory of August is filled with wind and my September recollections hold little sun. I’m sure we had lovely, still August days and (perhaps) a few lovely, still September ones, but the last two months of summer could have “cool, damp, gray” scrawled across most of their pages as an accurate summary. Weatherunderground’s weather history confirms; last year in August and September combined, we had about 8” of rain. This year, we’ve had nearly 21”! We barely cracked 90 degrees in August once or twice, definitely cooler than our average summer. This weekend is the first without whipping nor’east winds in weeks.

That said, I do have some adventures to share. One downside about not blogging more often is that the mind forgets where the feet have been. That is one reason I photograph—to remember; the image connects me back to that moment and the full sensory experience.

At the end of August I attended a Loggerhead Turtle release in Nags Head. Having before seen only the Green Sea Turtle release, I was unprepared for how comparatively large (and heavy) the Loggerhead would be. One volunteer easily carried each Green Turtle to the water in June, but it took four folks to lift Loggerhead “Vortex” out of his tub and place him on the sand. Severely injured upon arrival at the NC Aquarium, Vortex had a poor prognosis for survival. But Vortex received excellent, innovative care for over a year and recovered enough to be released. I could not help but notice the way the turtle kept making eye contact with the volunteers who had been his caregivers over the past year.       When they put him down on the sand, he paused, laying his head down before beginning the laborious crawl forward back to his ocean home. Folks interested in his full story can read about Vortex on the NEST website (nestonline.org) and can track Vortex’s journey via seaturtle.org       Just type Vortex in the search engine for a record of his travels. Pluto, the little Green Sea Turtle I reported on in June, can be tracked as well; his transmitter is working now.

We had friends visit in mid-August who had never seen the colonial Spanish mustangs of Carova, so although we generally avoid the busiest part of the summer, we trekked north on Sunday during their stay. It was hot and the beach was crowded, but we spied one harem of horses at the water, much to the thrill of our friends (the wife owned a horse in her teen years, so seeing wild horses was a special treat). I’ve been able to read the OBC message boards even though I have not been able to access the blog, and thought regular readers might get a chuckle, as I did in real time, out of the horse photograph I chose to share from that day.

I walked out onto Nags Head pier one afternoon; the ocean was too rough for dolphin but we did see a school of false albacore jumping just beyond reach of the fishermen’s ability to cast. A flock of mixed terns was keeping the fish company.

After years of saying “no” to requests for private photography instruction or workshops, I finally said “yes.” That “yes” provided me with a new friend and two full days of photography, nearly unheard of in our busier season. (I think I am going to practice saying yes more often, ha!) We had challenging conditions: high winds which kept birds hidden, and on our second day, gray, gloomy skies for much of our time together. But we managed. Along the way we tramped the beaches of Pea Island near the refurbished Coast Guard Station, flirted with a couple of cooperative Ghost Crabs, and spotted willets at sunrise. A little taste of our excursions is included below as well. The second day we drove around the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge; no bear in sight there, but we spent some concentrated time with a monarch butterfly and blooming fall wildflowers.

As I finish writing this, I glance at the clock. I have six minutes to change into cargo pants, throw laundry in the dryer, and head out the door for my afternoon warbler quest. Hopefully there will be colorful songbirds to share next time. Until then, enjoy!

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Vortex weighed nearly 79 lbs when released! He was rescued in May, 2013 in Beaufort and transported to the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island for intensive care.

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Home at last! Once Vortex reached water deep enough to really move his flippers, he was home free.

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This scene cracked me up. These two were headed from the ocean back to the dunes, but first they had to check out the cooler under the canopy.

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If you look, you can see two false albacore jumping at once. The school stayed in approximately the same position, which the guys fishing at the end of the pier said was unusual.

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Here's an example of a lovely August day. Was windy, though.

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This is the surf late in August from a beach access in Frisco. Since the coast takes a sharp bend at Buxton, the weather and wave break is often different on the lower end of Hatteras than it is in Nags Head.

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I call this Windblown, and I bet you can see why. We had nearly two solid weeks of high northeast winds in September.

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Here's the sunrise Friday morning a week ago. Most of the color and intensity happened before the sun actually rose above the cloud layer on the horizon.

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This Monarch butterfly showed signs of wear on its wings. When we first spied it, the butterfly was interested in a pile of bear scat that contained some small seeds (I was interested, too).

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Here's the Ghost Crab that let us get so close. I did not notice until I downloaded the image, and then I spied the heart! I call the image, Heart on my Sleeve. It's no secret I love them.

posted by eturek at 10:24 PM

Comments [5]

Monday, September 15, 2014
Computer Issues With Blog...
This is really a "non-blog" -- it is an apology and explanation for my long-suffering readers. Since late July, I have had an odd glitch on all my home computers that is creating an automatic redirect every time I try to get on my blog. All computers in our house--even my iPad--are affected. I've run down many different troubleshooting paths in the last six weeks. My latest attempt to solve the problem was to order a new router for the house, which should arrive this week. Believe me, I miss posting and uploading as much as I hope you miss reading and viewing. I'm actually typing this via my internet at the gallery, but this is not a conducive space for actually creating a blog.

Hopefully this will solve the problem (nothing else we have tried has worked) and I will be back posting soon!


posted by eturek at 12:24 PM

Comments [1]

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Summer's Sizzle
Every season on the Outer Banks holds its own joys and keeps its own natural rhythm. Since my last blog, I’ve experienced most of what I love best about an Outer Banks summer, and then some!

For one thing, we had a spell of typical Outer Banks afternoon rainsqualls that raced by leaving a rainbow over the ocean, just about quitting time.

Baby osprey are now as large as their parents and most have made their crucial first flights although some late bloomers were still hanging out at home as recently as a week ago.      

There are suddenly more dragonflies everywhere I look, and I don’t have to look far to be dazzled by their bright bodies and shimmering wings.

Speaking of shimmering, we’ve had days shimmering with haze, but we’ve also had a couple of low humidity days too, with their accompanying lovely skies.       And while they are not as lush thus far this year, sea oats are in full bloom now.

The Black Skimmers I enjoy watching every summer are once again hanging out on the tip of Pea Island and frequenting the little pond behind the refurbished Coast Guard station there.

The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge’s black bear population seems to be thriving; this year I have seen more bears near dusk over there than I ever have before—including mamas with cubs! This time of year the bears are feeding on wheat or soybeans; both are planted in various fields on the refuge. Because food is so plentiful, and humans relatively scarce, bears here often feed in groups. Pete and I rode out to the refuge two weeks ago before dusk and counted 22 different bears, some too far to see well and others very close to the road’s edge. I got another chance to go as a guide for a friend and her husband and granddaughter this past Saturday evening and we saw about the same number. As impressive as that total was, we were topped by photographer Ray Matthews whose granddaughter counted 36 diffferent bears on their excursion about two weeks before ours!

I’ve learned over time where to be when, and how to stay in touch with the life cycles that connect the seasons in this place. That doesn’t mean I am never surprised. Far from it! I’ve said before how much I depend on spotters, especially since my days are spent mostly indoors in the gallery much of the year. I saw my first Blue Grosbeak on the refuge while I was looking for bear—I’d been alerted to that possibility by friend/photographer Pat Draisey, so the sighting was a treat. There were abundant dragonflies out here too although I did not try for a close photo of those—my own front yard provides opportunities for that!

As I leave you with images of all of these, I also have a question: in the place you call home, be it your neighborhood, a local park, or a greenway near your workplace, what are the natural rhythms you can learn there? And what surprises you? As you ponder that, enjoy Summer: Outer Banks.

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Rainbow over Nags Head Pier.

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The juvenile osprey on the left is a female; their "necklace" of darker feathers below their neck is larger and bolder than the males'--I assume to assist with camouflage as they sit on the nest.

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Sea Oats silhouetted against a beautiful sunset sky. South Nags Head.

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One of the photographer's challenges--actually, it is a good challenge for everyone, I think, not just those who label themselves visually creative--is to see the familiar fresh, and beautiful.

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I saw the heart in the sand patterns right away! Can you?

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Here is a close-up of a Black Skimmer, at the rain-pond near the old Coast Guard station at Oregon Inlet. They feed by skimming the water with their longer lower bill, hence their name.

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Sundown at Oregon Inlet -- this is the edge of that pond with the Black Skimmers.

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And now we come to the bears! Maybe I should say, and now the bears come to us! That is what was happening in this photograph. Closer to dusk they appear out of the woods, sometimes right in front of you!

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I have really enjoyed the late afternoon light on the bears in the wheat fields.

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Something spooked this Mama Bear before we arrived. She would run a few paces, stop, look over her shoulder, run some more. She had two cubs with her.

posted by eturek at 11:46 AM

Comments [7]

Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Post Arthur and Sea Turtles
Since the middle of June when I last posted, the Outer Banks has experienced so much I need two or three blogs to tell all the stories! Looming largest on everyone’s mind last week was Hurricane Arthur, of course. The fact that “Arthur” – the year’s first named storm – seemed to have a steady bead on our part of the coast led me to wonder how many other first storms the Outer Banks has experienced over the years?

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a multi-part article complete with footnotes for sources that gives information on recorded storms dating all the way back to pre-colonial days. Coastal explorers and seamen gave us the records of those earlier storm events; Raleigh’s famous colonies were plagued in their short years by three different hurricanes or tropical storms on record.

Names weren’t assigned until 1950, so I could not determine for earlier eras how many of the storms affecting our coast were actually the season’s earliest. For every period, September is the stormiest month. May storms, with only one or two exceptions, were mainly tropical storms, not hurricanes. But since 1950, the Outer Banks has been affected by 20 “A” named storms, including Arthur.       In some years those storms grazed our coast or came ashore as early as May, producing heavy rainfall mostly. The latest date I found for an “A” storm was a 9/28/62 storm named Alma. Seems late for a first named storm of the season.

Once the floodwaters recede and everybody recovers from the storm’s passage, the area often enjoys some of the loveliest weather in days, if not weeks. That was true several years ago with Hurricane Hannah, which grazed our coast in September, Hurricane Bill, a late August storm, and it was true with Arthur. Humidity dropped, and heavy fog that presaged the storm evaporated, leaving crisp, clear air in its wake.

Just before the storm I had been tracking the annual emergence of the sea oats—a failsafe herald of summer for me. Again this year they seemed a little late. I finally saw some straight, bright green stalks early in July. On the afternoon of July 4 after the storm winds abated and the flooded Colington Road was dry enough to pass over, Pete and I drove out to check on our gallery’s new location in Croatan Centre (no damage there). On our way back up the beach road, I stopped at the beach access beside the Beacon Motel. This spot is consistently one of the first to show blooming sea oats so I wanted to be sure the winds had not sheared them off. The grasses are resilient and they were as lovely as they’d been a day or two before.

Earlier in June, I attended my first sea turtle release. Volunteers with NEST, staff with the NC Aquarium, and personnel with the National Park Service along with interested public observers watched as six Green Sea Turtles who had recovered from hypothermia last winter were carried near the water’s edge in Frisco. Each one eventually found its way to the open ocean, although one of the smallest turtles could not overcome the heavy shore break at first. After it kept getting swept north along the shore, the aquarium staff retrieved it and let it rest before carrying it a bit further out into the water.

The last turtle released had a satellite monitor attached. NEST plans to upload a link to that data, and if and when they do, I will post an update so everyone interested can follow Pluto's journey.

The first turtle to be carried to the water was named Camey. Once the NEST volunteer placed her on the sand, she deliberately turned north and began crawling determinedly in my direction! Since this was my first experience with a sea turtle release, I was more than thrilled at the opportunity to photograph her heading my way if only for a minute or two! The NEST volunteer gently steered her east once again and she made her way into the waves and out of sight.

Some of the turtles were docile in the volunteers’ hands, unmoving as they were lifted into the air and carried down to the water. Others began swimming in air the minute they were picked up. The most determined of them all was a little Green named Lynx. He swam the whole way down the beach as if he couldn’t wait to get away from the ruckus and go back to the ocean where he belonged!

Their release is even more special in that juveniles and males never come ashore unless they are sick or injured. Fully mature females come back to home territory only to lay their own eggs, but males never come back to land. A full-grown female has much more strength to overcome the wave wash than these younger turtles did, but they all managed to reach deeper water beyond the shore break, much to all the onlookers’ delight.

I have some other stories to share, too, but those will have to wait until next time. Meanwhile, enjoy these…

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Before the sea oats bloom, I concentrate on sand patterns, sand fences, and the ocean itself. Mid-June.

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Fog rolled in the afternoon before the hurricane. Nags Head Pier.

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In Nags Head, a quick glance at the beach July 4th afternoon did not reveal we'd just had a hurricane. Hatteras communities had more flooding but access was restored in record time.

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The ocean was too rough, and riptides too dangerous, to swim after Arthur's passage.

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Seeing this Green Sea Turtle released back to the sea was a thrill. If you are ever on the Outer Banks during a public release, I highly recommend it.

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Camey Goes To Sea...

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Actually getting past the first wave slosh was work!

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Looking back north at what remained of Frisco Pier, before Arthur. This was the swell the turtles had to navigate and overcome in order to get to deep enough water to swim freely.

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Lynx began doing windmills with his flippers even before the volunteer set him down on the sand, and once free, he never stopped until he swam out of sight.

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Here is a close-up of that transmitter Pluto now carries. Amazingly it does not impede his ability to swim and forage.

posted by eturek at 11:09 PM

Comments [10]

Monday, June 16, 2014
Kindergarten to Graduation, Green Heron Style
Being long-distance grandparents means, among other things, that Pete and I get to be astounded each time we see the “grands” and they have grown exponentially, whether in height or maturity or their unique senses of selfhood. The same holds true for our “customer-friends”—those folks we see once or twice a summer, and then not again for nearly nine months. The change in their families is phenomenal. We’ve watched newborns meta-morph, seemingly overnight but actually over many years, into wonderful, savvy, gifted yougsters, and we’ve watched youngsters grow into wonderful, savvy, gifted young men and women.

The same sort of process happens for nature photographers who are fortunate enough to spend considerable, concentrated time with a set of growing baby birds or critters. Only in these cases, time moves at warp speed. Every day reveals incredible growth of the sort seen in a year’s time with human children. Hop-scotch observations every three or four days, or once a week, and the change is nearly unbelievable.

Take baby Green Herons, for instance. These stalking fish-eaters are not seen as often here as the Great Blue Herons are, and nowhere near as often as their white cousins, the Great and Snowy Egrets. They usually nest in isolation rather than in a colony of many birds, and both mom and dad are instrumental in providing protection on the nest and food for growing hatchlings. But they are here…I photographed a single Green Heron in the marshy area between Manteo and Wanchese earlier this spring, and I have had the recent joy of being invited to watch a Green Heron family grow in Southern Shores.

All the bird books I have and online sources I consulted disagree widely about how long Green Heron chicks stay in the nest, when they begin climbing around on branches near the nest, and when they fly for the first time. All I can say from personal observation is, baby Green Herons don’t stay babies for long! After a 24-25 day incubation period, four young herons hatched asynchronously, meaning, not all at once. In the beginning, one chick was decidedly smaller and weaker than its older siblings, but as of day 16, all four seemed approximately the same size, although one or two were definitely the boldest when time came for feeding. By day nine, the strongest had already climbed out of the nest onto the jungle-gym of pine branches that surround it. Over the next few days, all four climbed in and out, in and out, making short, bold hops branch to branch and stretching their wings which started out downy but very soon showed the beginnings of real feathers. Even the baby bird-play, as with puppies and kittens and human babies, has great purpose. For herons, these antics strengthen wings and develop balance. By day 8 or 9, the parents were feeding the young every hour or so; sometimes both would fly in at once to deposit regurgitated fish into hungry mouths. By day 17, the wait had lengthened to three hours, and I wasn’t sure every baby bird got fed every time. The parent that flew to the nest with food in the beginning, now waited on a limb at increasing distances from the nest, making the young herons walk and climb and stretch their necks in order to receive the reward of a meal. The whole process, of course, is designed for independence and survival.

Today—day 18—is a banner day! I learned from the homeowner that all four “baby” herons left the nesting tree tonight, hopping over to the oak tree that grows nearby. It is their biggest leap so far, literally and metaphorically. They may never return to the nest now. Like teenagers getting a learner’s permit, these youngsters aren’t completely on their own yet. There is still the all-important First Flight to manage. While the young will depend on mom and dad for several weeks even after they fledge, they will be entirely on their own by autumn. They will need strong muscles as well as foraging examples in order to survive their first winter.

I think all this is great fun to watch. Hopefully you will think so too.

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This is June 6th, Day 8 since hatching. One parent has flown to the nest. There are four babies in all, although only two here are easily visible. Little Fluffy Puffs!

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Here are both parents at the nest.

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By day 8, the strongest was already trying to stretch its growing wings...

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...and play with its sibling. I call this, "Don't Tell Mom."

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Here we are just five days later, June 11. Can you believe the changes?! Look at that wing stretch now, and all those feathers.

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Here is a view, same day, standing within the nest. Scroll back to see for yourself the growth in just five days. This is Day 13 since hatching.

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Here are all four "babies" on June 11, Day 13.

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By June 14 (Day 16), chaos ensued when either parent approached the nesting tree. All four babies raced to be first to be fed.

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The beleaguered parent fed one or two and then left as fast as possible, sometimes less than a minute after arrival.

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Now all four have to wait their turn...3 long hours later. Soon these will leave the nesting tree, take wing, and begin to learn to feed themselves. And the cycle will begin again.

posted by eturek at 9:52 PM

Comments [8]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 183141 times

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