|Monday, June 28, 2010|
|Yes, it is HOT!|
|Anyone reading my weather notes years from now could be excused for being bored with the sameness of the entries: Hot. Very hot. No breeze. Still hot. HOT! You get the idea. Actually, the heat the Outer Banks has been experiencing just nudges the record books; we may have had record heat today, in fact. What is more interesting to me is not that the high temperature over the past two weeks has peaked in all different years, but that we have had this long a string of hot, humid, breathless days all in one year--and so early in summer. I’ve told folks for days, this is our August, not typically our June. Plants both native and imported are parched; sea oats are nearly ready to burst into full seed head and crepe myrtles have been in full bloom for days. I keep expecting late afternoon thunder squalls to break the heat and lower the humidity but we just haven’t had even that little relief. The forecast is calling for potential thunderstorms this coming week along with some air movement that could qualify as actual wind. We’ll see.|
Spring ended with a doozy of a thunderstorm several miles to our south but no rain up our way at milepost 11. The squall made for some interesting cloud formations and the light of a late afternoon western sun reflected off the dark clouds in the east made the ocean look emerald-green for a time. Beautiful.
It has been so hot that Karen Watras (shellgirl) told me the mother osprey at
the Bay Drive nest near the gazebo in Kill Devil Hills has been hunkered down with her wings overspread to protect her two baby osprey from the heat. Unlike backyard songbirds, which can be found splashing and drinking at your bird bath, osprey are exclusively fish-eaters and get all the water they need from the fish they eat. I’ve been watching the Colington nests sporadically and all the babies are growing fast. A week ago, the largest of one brood was already on alert, first watching a pair of ducks waddling below, then a turkey vulture flying silently overhead, and finally calling out to an osprey who soared above, also whistling. Mom meanwhile just watched her babies watching the world.
I got up for the first sunrise of summer and the morning gift wasn’t the sunrise itself, gentle as that was. The gift was seeing one of the last long-netting families of the upper Outer Banks sorting through the night’s catch at dawn. Among the throwbacks were, I think, several dogfish sharks. Maybe some fishermen, like woodduck, can help me out here. Check out the three rows of teeth! And I thought my grandson’s puppy’s teeth were sharp! Speaking of my grandson, I think there were three generations on the beach around 5 a.m. I talked to a couple of the fishermen who said they they had been setting their net around 7-8 pm and coming back at dawn to haul it in. When it is not so hot, they told me they set the net in the afternoon. That morning they were sorting mostly bluefish but the haulout from the night before netted a large catch of Spanish mackerel. I bought some the next day at Austin’s; I felt good thinking I had spoken with the folks who actually provided my dinner. Pelicans mostly glided by without stopping to watch the sorting process, but a few ambitious individual birds did pause in their gliding to circle around once or twice and even dive in before heading on up the beach. Several osprey were more patient, biding their time and soaring in wide continuous circles overhead. When the fishermen left, they took over the fishing grounds. One source I read said that the male osprey can bring 3-10 fish per day home to feed the mother and babies. I guess knowing where the fishermen hang out would be good information if you are an osprey!
Increasingly I am a believer in the notion that, to quote a popular phrase, “what we think about we bring about.” Last blog I posted a photo of the mother gray fox whose home territory happily intersects ours and wrote that I would dearly love to see her babies. I’ve been thinking a lot about the baby foxes, before and since. A week or so ago, Pete and I had both gone to the gallery before our opening time. He called me from our parking lot on his cell phone to tell me Mama Fox had brought her babies out and they were playing in plain sight beside the frame shop! We watched five in all tumbling and chasing each other and playing hide and seek before they disappeared in turn into the thicket. They were tiny in comparison with their mother and we felt honored by the visit.
Summer’s first moonrise near sunset featured soft colors with the sun’s light filtered by clouds and glassy waves breaking right onshore—much like summer’s first sunrise, in fact. I didn’t actually see the moon’s disk until it was fairly high above the ocean, which was exactly the case with the sunrise. Maybe gentleness is my watchword for the season. It’s a good one, in any season.
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|After the net is spread and the fish removed, the next task is to slowly load it back in the boat. |
posted by eturek at 9:34 AM
|Thursday, June 10, 2010|
|Although the calendar says that summer won’t arrive for another two weeks almost, all the natural signs tell me spring has yielded its baton on the annual circular track we call time. I’ve found several small, pale blue half-eggs in the past couple of weeks—the latest of these was on the front lawn (that’s a local-joke, read cactus field) of the gallery just this morning. I suspect it came from the nest of the Mama Starling who has been nesting for years under the soffit near our front door. Starling eggs and Robin eggs look similar; the one I found in my yard belongs, I am sure, to a now hatched baby Robin, since I see Mama most mornings and evenings, and have found at least one half-eggshell in that same spot every year since I can remember. I’ve seen two lightning bugs too, an exciting portent, since I go all summer some years without their happy flashes in my yard. These were daytime sightings so maybe they don’t actually “count.”|
Wildlife sightings in general are more frequent again: right on cue, I saw the Mama Fox twice within the past week and Pete saw her once. The last time I was able to take a quick picture. Ever since Pete named the little fox that spent 10 days one June in our frame shop, all the foxes in our neighborhood respond to “Freddie.” One in particular will stop at our call and sometimes even take a few steps in our direction. I am firmly convinced all of them know how much we love them.
My artist-friend Elizabeth Corsa was with me for the first fox sighting of nearly summer, and she was also present when Pete found a small turtle in the frame shop the other day. I am beginning to think Pete is more of a critter magnet than I am! Anyway, by the time I could come outside to see, the little turtle had crawled off to safer spaces, but a couple of days later it was back and I took a few pictures before putting it back outside. Now this is a bit of a mystery turtle. I don’t think it was a young box turtle – the pattern isn’t quite right. I think it might be a three-toed turtle, so named for its three toes on its hind legs. This turtle definitely had three toes, not four, so that is a big clue. It might just be an escapee from some terrarium somewhere, which would explain why it keeps coming inside to be around humans, as this is not the normal range for three-toed turtles.
Folks who follow regular postings on the main message board here know about the small, not quite round, clear jelly-like somethings that have been washing up on the beach. For those who missed those postings, they are worth checking out. These little critters, called salps, typically form long chains in the ocean, gumming up fishing lines and providing an experience that one person compared to swimming in tapioca when they come onshore! You can read more about them and see pictures on the main message board.
We’ve had some typical summer weather patterns too, with thunderheads and late afternoon showers and what I like to call general rainbow weather. I went across the street the other afternoon right at 5 p.m. hoping to see a rainbow over the ocean; the conditions seemed right after a little misty rain, but instead I saw an interesting shape in the clouds to the west. A sundog was glowing in one particular spot, but the cloud shapes were even more interesting than the color, so I kept shooting the shapes. Looking at them later, I think I witnessed a fallstreak hole, something I had read about in my little cloud book, and wished to see in person. I’ve read several theories now about how they form: some involve sub-freezing particles forming ice and falling below the cloud while others contend that magnetic fields are responsible for the odd shape. Whatever the physics is, they are interesting to see!
We’ve had a few cooler days mixed in with hazy, hotter days. Folks tell me the water is getting slowly warmer.
My latest beach walk ended with what I guess was a dying ghost crab. Clue #1: It did not run when I walked up to it. Shucks, it did not even skitter. I hunkered down and talked to it and eventually it moved its legs a little bit. By this time I had taken several pictures and then figured out by its lack of movement that something was wrong. Clue #2: Once it began to move, it kept flipping itself upside down. I moved a piece of driftwood behind it, which in retrospect may have been a terrible idea. I finally walked on, having no idea what to do for it. The world’s experts on ghost crabs, Dr. Thomas Wolcott and his wife Dr. Diane Wolcott, happen to live right here in North Carolina and teach at NCSU. I’ve read quite a bit of what they have written about ghost crabs, particularly for nonacademic audiences, but I don’t recall any ghost crab EMS advice!
The Colington marina osprey babies are getting large enough to see well above the deep nest that is still their home. Osprey can fledge in as little as three weeks and considering the amount of wing stretching and flapping going on in the nest tonight, first flight won’t be long coming for the two oldest babies. While I was there, Dad flew in with a fish for dinner. The babies are feeding themselves now, tearing at the fish while Mom watches.
During this past couple of weeks, the ocean has been fairly calm every time I have walked over the dune. I find interest in the patterns of wave wash when the ocean barely ripples and one of those is below for you to enjoy. So, enjoy!
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|This Ghost Crab might have become dinner for some Laughing Gull. Well, they have to eat, too. |
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|Speaking of clouds, here's the fallstreak hole. Looks like something out of a scifi movie.|
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|And check out this approaching storm. About 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday. Yes, it poured on yours truly right after this!|
posted by eturek at 10:53 PM