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

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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Thursday, November 30, 2017
The keyword for this month's blog is South. Twice in November, I made the time to drive across the Oregon Inlet bridge and onto Hatteras Island. I was on a deliberate quest both times, headed for Frisco Pier. The latest news I read indicates that the pier's demolition will indeed begin in December, so I drove south at the beginning of the month for what will be the last moonrise there, and two days ago I drove south again for my last sunset there--if in fact the schedule proves true.

Many readers of my blog have a special affection for Frisco Pier while others may never have seen it in person. What I find most intriguing is the way the light affects the ocean here. For the uninitiated, the easiest way to describe it is to say that the sun appears to be setting in the south, and the moon rising in the north. That's not true of course--the coast bends sharply at Buxton, so sharply that looking directly out to sea, as one might in Nags Head, say, puts you looking SOUTH, not east. East is off your left shoulder; west is to your right. It is an odd feeling for those of us whose ocean experience is almost wholly confined to beaches north of Hatteras Light. But it is well worth the drive to watch the light play on the waves in completely different ways than it does to the north.

Tuesday I stopped at Pea Island's ponds; there are plenty of birds here now though few were close enough to photograph. I saw hundreds, maybe thousands of swans; huge rafts of ducks; a small group of coots; but no snow geese and no white pelicans yet.

The month's wet early weather finally gave way to some beautiful days and nights here in November's final couple of weeks, and I was happy to get outside a bit to enjoy it.

Last Sunday, coming back from a craft show in Va Beach, I stopped at a favorite Currituck soundside spot to look west. The road here bends at about the same angle so that "west" is actually to the right of the highway instead of behind me. The air was still but the glimpses of the sound I saw on the other side showed the ruffling of water I associate with a steady breeze. I almost did not stop. But when I arrived, the Sound here was glass; the sun had just set and the glow was magic. I can still feel the stillness and quiet just looking back at the images I made on that special evening.

November is a month when we are reminded to be grateful--a practice I recommend for every day, not just when facing a stuffed turkey. In the midst of a busy life, it's easy to take beauties such as still water or a full moon rising in a clear sky for granted. These daily blessings, they feed us, if we let them. I hope these images nourish you as much as they did me in the moment of experiencing them.

The last image is for longtime reader, Ann, who asked to see a picture of our puppy. Ann, unfortunately, we had to find him another home and were lucky enough to know a family here who had to put their elderly dog down a few weeks before we said goodby to our Westie. Pete's sudden health challenges made us both realize that while we are good parents to our older Sheltie, we do not have the time to devote to properly training a puppy. His new owners went away for Thanksgiving so we had a two night sleepover. I am glad we will still get to have little visits as he grows. Anyway, here is his photo, showing just how cute and smart he really is!

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The month began with a foggy sunrise. The pelicans would suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere, startling me into joy every time.

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When the fog first began to burn off enough to let some light through, the views were ethereal and changed constantly in real time.

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Here is the full moon rising in Frisco. See the odd angle? It is not where you expect it to be!

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Perhaps the last moonrise over Frisco Pier.

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Sunlit surf. The waves simply don't look like this in Nags Head.

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Here's why--the sun is setting down the coast instead of behind us.

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A last sunset at Frisco Pier

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When the Sound is a mirror, I look for reflections.

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This dock, like Frisco Pier, has weathered some storms but is still beautiful. The same could be said of most of us.

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Kingsley, aka Myles, a Cavalier King Charles crossed with a Westie. Cute and smart.

posted by eturek at 9:19 PM

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Season Of Change
Every season has it own harbingers of change. For me, I always look into the night sky anticipating Orion’s arrival this time of year. I first learned the constellation in college freshman astronomy and its appearance and October are linked forever in memory. Another seasonal herald is the seaside goldenrod blooming. Just when our sea oats begin to look a bit bedraggled, our dunes put on one more show before winter winds mow their grasses down. The bright yellow is cheery as the daylight begins to dwindle, another autumn sign. This year, the goldenrod’s peak blooming coincided with the annual monarch butterfly migration, which my prior year photographs confirmed happened later this year. The juxtaposition of the monarchs and goldenrod gave a unique opportunity to portray both and prompted a peaceful few minutes at the Nags Head Curlew Street beach access late last week.

Fall had barely officially begun before Hurricane Maria brushed the coast with high, picturesque surf. I photographed the afternoon the storm passed and got up early to photograph the residual wave sets in what turned out to be a clear golden sunrise the next morning. Beautiful.

Fall skies inevitably include cloud formations we don’t see in summer. Days are finally a bit cooler and less humid which often prompts more vibrant sunsets and sunrises. With a brand new puppy in the house and Pete not feeling well, I haven’t seen but one sunrise lately--sunsets are more my speed, these days. Lucky for me my schedule has put me in just the right place at the right time to photograph a few in October.

In some Native American plains tribal traditions, autumn is the season of the West, a time for introspection as we harvest the crops of spring seeds and ideas and let ourselves anticipate a little winter rest before another spring.

I have a good friend who likes to talk about “New Moon wishes.” The idea is that as the moon re-emerges into its roundness, so too can our dreams, plans and goals grow into their fullness. Fall is a good time to assess what is working well, what may need a course correction, and what new opportunities still await, even in this season. September’s New Moon, which set in the west as the sun was setting on the last day of summer, reminds me that every season of our lives as well as the year provides opportunities for growth if we are open to them.

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Even though the storm passed well offshore, Maria kicked up some big surf.

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The last time I saw sea foam bubbles this vibrant was after a series of northeasters in the fall of 2011.

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Multiple sets came crashing ashore at once.

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Next morning, the golden sunrise lit up the waves and spray.

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Seeing the pelicans out and about was a treat!

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Here is the opposite end of the day, a beautiful sun-rayed sundown.

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Golden here stands for Seaside Goldenrod, whose pollen is so heavy it sinks rather than causing us to sneeze like the goldenrod in Currituck's fields, and migrating Monarchs.

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Wild skies over the Duck Waterfront Shops! This formation includes some mammatus clouds as well as what look to be the beginnings of lenticulars!

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I left the Waterfront Shops and drove down to the regional beach access in Kitty Hawk, thinking these clouds would provide a beautiful splash of color over sea at sunset.

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New moon sets with the last sun of summer. What are your New Moon wishes?

posted by eturek at 2:45 PM

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017
What Else Happened?
The optics I wrote about in the last blog were spectacular enough to warrant their own separate entry, but they do not tell the entire story of the past six weeks.

In August, Ray Matthews and I took a quick trip up to the 4WD area of Carova, hoping to see the newest foal born to the herd just a week or so before. Conditions were not favorable to see horses out on the beach, but we did catch up to the new foal near the Fire Station. The small harem included the main dominant stallion as well as a younger stallion, presumably his colt, and two mares. The two stallions seemed uneasy around one another and I suspect that the father will drive the son away from the herd soon. While the two did not fight, we witnessed a lot of posturing, snorting, and face-offs. The mother of the foal seemed mostly unconcerned which made me wonder which of the two mares was the young stallion’s mother.

As we watched them graze and wander, I noticed not one but two distinct heart-shaped hoof-prints, one of which is shown below.

My second August adventure occurred closer to home. Pete’s daughter in Elizabeth City called to bemoan that caterpillars had decimated her parsley plant in one day. I figured all of the three were soon to form their chrysalis, and I drove up and brought the caterpillars home, equipped with a Bugarium courtesy of Petsmart and more parsley thanks to one of the roadside markets on the way. Those little caterpillars sure could eat fast! I worried I would run out just as MaryAnn had, and bought more cut parsley at the food store. That did the trick.

The next day, the caterpillars in turn first spun a thin thread of silk, suspending themselves in an upside-down “J” shape. “Hanging by a thread” seems to be a literal condition when awaiting the transformation to butterfly status! I was fortunate to be watching when one of them shed its caterpillar skin to reveal the green chrysalis below. The whole thing took less than 30 seconds, after which the chrysalis shook several times perhaps anchoring itself more completely, and then became totally still.

Chrysalis watching is an exercise in supreme patience. For nearly two weeks, you would swear nothing at all is happening. (Can you relate?) But within the chrysalis are such major changes that the process has leant its name, metamorphosis, to change on a grand and sweeping scale. One evening after work I checked the three chrysalises and was astonished to see three fluttering swallowtail butterflies! I missed the process of emergence but took the Bugarium outside to set each butterfly on my lantana bush. At least one of the swallowtails has returned to visit the bush many times in the past couple of weeks.

Another friend had the same experience of losing parsley to caterpillars, so I offered to take hers as well so she could still salvage some herbs for her kitchen. One of those two has already emerged as a butterfly, and again I missed those exact moments. The second chrysalis has been twitching off and on since last evening, at least I have seen the twitching, so I keep checking every few minutes but so far, no further change.

This butterfly came out during a breezy and spritzy rain day courtesy of Hurricane Jose’s outer bands but at least there was enough light to photograph by.

My third big adventure occurred over Labor Day weekend, when Mackay Island NWR held one of its infrequent Open Roads Days. Phyllis Kroetsch and I went up to drive the refuge, which is usually restricted to pedestrian access only. Water levels were high and we saw no wading birds close enough to photograph—all were foraging in shallower areas far from the roadways. We got a glimpse of one of the resident Bald Eagles, also at very far range.

But a couple that was also there to watch for and photograph wildlife alerted us to a young raccoon sleeping in a stump out in the water. The winds were breezy and the sound was rolling. The splashing up of the water kept waking the raccoon. It repeatedly raised its head and peered at us—perfect conditions for a cute photograph. The folks who had photographed the raccoon earlier in the weekend were convinced it was healthy, just resting. We wondered if the high water would impede its swimming back to and getting over or through the bulkhead and its many openings and back onto dry land come dusk.

Raccoons are thought to be emblems of change—as are butterflies. Change can call for resilience, another trait both exemplify as they find ways to survive both individually and as a species. It is interesting to me that both my cocooning butterflies and snoozing raccoon encounters involve patient waiting for conditions to be just right for the next step. I am always alert to life lessons in nature. Between the spectacular light shows of the last two blogs and the patient waiting called for by these images, nature held plenty of wisdom the past few weeks. I am glad I was present to witness—and to listen.

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The little foal, as most youngsters, seemed curious about everything around, but never strayed far from Mama.

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Maybe a little nap is a good idea...

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Meanwhile, the dominant stallion and his young colt seemed close to a stand-off several times.

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Horse-hoof hearts. Perfect.

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Too bad we didn't have a trail cam to find out how this raccoon made it back safely to dry land.

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Caterpillars about to form their chrysalis are hungry! A couple can devour an entire parsley plant in a matter of hours.

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"Hanging by a thread" -- and preparing for major life changes!

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Change #1: Shrug it off! Off with the old caterpillar self.

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Change #2: The chrysalis stage, when it seems nothing at all is happening, to the outside eye, anyway.

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Who would ever believe THAT would turn into THIS?

posted by eturek at 10:26 PM

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(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 382967 times

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