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

Thursday, June 27, 2019
Fox Friends
Why do I love wildlife so much? Specifically, why do I love being in the presence of critters, from birds to mammals to amphibians and reptiles and insects? Why do I receive such joy from simply being invited, for seconds or minutes or days or years into their lives? And why does photographing settle my heart, lower my blood pressure, and rescue my thoughts from the all-too-pervasive anxiety of living in a world where, seemingly, not only do awful things “just happen” but one in which humans seem hell-bent on making them happen, and then the rest of us gape like voyeurs as the scenarios are replayed again and again on the nightly news?

Maybe it is because my name is Eve. Maybe it’s the wording of that verse in Genesis in which one translation names Eve “the mother of all living.” (Not just all humans, mind you, all living.) Maybe it’s the movie I begged and pleaded and cajoled my father into taking me to, just the two of us for the only time ever, as a Saturday matinee in which the heroine was, as a young girl, rescued and nurtured by wolves. Maybe I was influenced by the St. Francis story, the one in which he supposedly made a bargain with a wolf that was terrorizing a village, and taught both the wolf and the villagers impossible, important, miraculous lessons about mutual trust and care. Or the Dr. Doolittle movie with its catchy sing-song Talk to the Animals soundtrack.

I was not a particularly adventurous child. I was given to undue influence by others seemingly stronger and older and wiser than I, who mostly counseled caution or encouraged fear. But as I have grown I have developed this curious stubbornness, a mix of PollyAnna and hope, which, by both linguistic and biblical definition, means to anticipate good when you don’t quite see it yet in reality. PollyAnna wasn’t stupid. She had her own misfortunes. But she remains early childhood fiction’s quintessential optimist, choosing to see the glass half-full, choosing to seek and find blessing and reasons to be grateful where none seem to be. She would be the sort of gal to eat the first raw oyster instead of starving to death in a sea of plenty—and give the world a new culinary delight in the process. If a family of foxes showed up in the garden, I suspect she would suspend her chores to watch them frolic.

So am I naïve? Stupid? Foolish? Or merely longing for a kind of innocence in which “all living” relate to one another in loving and giving ways? Maybe I am just searching for snapshots, brief vignettes, tiny cracks in this reality that point to the next, where lions and lambs and wolves rest together, and nothing hurts or destroys in all the holy mountain. Not this side of heaven, I’ve been told. But I believe otherwise. Heaven has come down to earth in a myriad of ways, and why shouldn’t an intersection between humans and animals, however brief, be one of those ways?

And so it is in that spirit that I give you the gifts of the past season. This spring, from the end of March through the middle of June, I spent time—a lot of time—with a wild fox family. Not since 2013 when a mother gray fox denned underneath our frame shop, back when our gallery was on the beach road in Nags Head, have I had such trust given to me. That fox, whom we had named Freddi (before we realized she was really a Fredericka instead of a Fred—a word that means “peace” in Danish, by the way), was a Gray Fox. The den I watched this year was a den of Red Foxes. Reds and Grays are such different species that their chromosome differences prevent them mating with one another. Gray Foxes are generally stockier and heavier, with an overall rounder face. Red Foxes are mostly reddish in their fur, but not always. There are a myriad of color variations, in which the red fur is intermingled with gray and even with black. Some variants are black all over with white-tipped tails, but are still Red Foxes by genus. The mother I watched this year was a “cross-fox,” so named not because her parentage was a cross between red and gray, but because her coat showed a particular variation of darker black fur down her back and across her shoulders, forming a cross pattern. For millennia, humans received divine messages through encounters with the natural world, a spiritual skill we westerners have mostly cut ourselves off from in our modern era. I had read about cross-foxes for years but never seen one in the wild, until March 31 of this year. That is a spiritually significant time of the year for me. I made my own, reasoned decision to align my life with that of Christ when I was 16 years old, on April 1st. I did so by myself, at home, and not in any church setting, as my parents were not attending any church at the time. I had already investigated a variety of other spiritual modes at that point, dabbling in this and that, hungry for a relationship more than a dogma. I have avoided dogma since. One of the best metaphoric explanations I have ever heard, on why a Cross, found meaning in the structure, aligning earth to heaven, and humanity and the rest of creation to God (the vertical post) and all creation, humanity included, to one another (the horizontal post). Here was an emissary in fur reminding me of all I deem most important, all the connections I treasure, and on my commitment-anniversary weekend at that. I paid attention.

In past years I have seen elusive sightings and for a couple of years have enjoyed a week or two of foxes before the parents inevitably move the den and the growing kits learn new places to forage and live before being ready to be fully on their own by late summer. This year was different. This year, I had ten weeks to watch babies grow. I learned much about fox behavior that I had previously experienced only through reading the written observations of other naturalists and biologists. Most importantly, I learned how tense I often am, how I need to let go of so much worry and angst despite the world’s seeming insistence on self-destruction and receive again all the gifts nature offers a willing, receptive, listening and loving heart.

I made thousands of images. Thanks to my camera’s frame rate, I was able to witness the young foxes’ growing agility, discern differences in marking and personality among the kits and for the first time ever, observe an attentive father-fox and his role in the family dynamic. I saw the kits enthusiastically greet either parent with eager kisses and boisterous tail wags, exuberant enough to easily take the “wiggle butt” award in Hallmark’s rescue dog show were they only allowed to enter. I watched them curiously explore their ever-widening world, saw both parents groom the babies much as a mother cat grooms her kittens, watched as a young fox learned to lick its own paws.

I saw how the six babies often paired off for playtime as they grew, so that two would be playing hide and seek in one spot while another two were involved in race chase somewhere else out of the frame. The morning we lost one baby to a car was heartbreaking, as six babies became five. I kept wishing I could freeze time, keep them small and safe and confined, prevent their crossing the street. Now one sibling had lost its playmate. The mother moved the den a few days later. Friends who know how I feel about foxes alerted me to their next location and I watched them there a couple of times before the parents moved them again. And just like that, spring turned into summer, and the foxes were gone. I hope the rest grow up strong and healthy, and that another spring brings me another chance to enter their world, however short my sojourn there must be, this side of heaven.

Earlier this week, the NC Wildlife Commission put out an article about why we see foxes even in daylight this time of year and how to safely enjoy their presence while the young grow and explore. The article also included tips on scaring them away if folks would prefer not to have them around, such as making loud noises and removing outdoor pet food as soon as your pets have eaten their fill. For my part, I relish these encounters, even while remembering I was once as a child consumed with fear about anything I did not fully understand. I am glad I am older now and can enjoy the gifts they offer. I hope you can share my joy in these few photos below.

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How precious are these tiny kits! Baby foxes first emerge from the birthing den when they are about a month old. Like kittens, they are born with eyes shut and wholly dependent on mom.

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Early play.

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Here is an image from the first day I saw the Mama. Does anyone else notice the heart pattern in the shadow on her shoulder?

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This image shows the love and patience a mother fox has for her growing, rambunctious babies.

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The kits always greeted either parent -- this is the Daddy fox, here -- with enthusiastic kisses and tail wags.

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Both parents groom the kits. Here, Dad is licking a baby much as a mother cat licks her kittens.

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When youngsters tussle they are really learning the skills that will help them survive into adulthood.

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Learning to pounce quickly and quietly will give foxes meals from mice and squirrels to frogs and crickets. Here, the only one surprised is the sibling! Watch out!

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The young kits have grown tremendously in 6-8 weeks.

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At 3-4 months old they are almost as big as their parents. Mom is on the left, and that is a kit running to greet her on the right. In just a few more weeks they will be completely on their own.

posted by eturek at 11:13 AM

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Thursday, May 23, 2019
Why I Still Love It Here
I’ve had several versions of this conversation recently, some with visitors and some with residents. It starts off with some variation of, don’t you hate the summer traffic/don’t you hate all the changes you’ve seen as the Outer Banks has grown/don’t you just hate…

And then I take a deep breath and try to explain why every answer I can think of begins with “No.” No, I don’t hate. No, I still love it here. And then I try to explain, tripping sometimes over my words because I am trying so hard to convey the emotion behind them.

First, I say, if it were not for the busy summer traffic, businesses like mine could not exist here, and I would be (likely) doomed to a life in an office, perhaps without even a window, rather than living the life I am blessed to live, which includes (even in summer) time outdoors, incredible views out my gallery windows, and chances to share with some of the most wonderful people who come here, visit here, dream of moving here someday. Then I say, as far as the traffic goes, even on a busy summer day, it is still less hectic here than the traffic was in my northern Virginia birthplace, which I left 43years ago—and is certainly way less than that traffic is now on a daily basis! So no, this traffic, challenging as it can be to get to my shop on a busy summer Saturday or Sunday, is nothing like the traffic I could be enduring—and that many of our visitors endure—365/24/7.

And then I say, even with summer’s admittedly hectic pace, I still can find quiet places and incredible moments outside, in nature, where my soul and spirit find their deepest refreshment. Cases in point: within the past eight or nine days, I have experienced and in some cases even been able to photograph a vibrant double rainbow (over the ocean no less), a sunrise, a once-in-a-blue moonrise (the third of four in this 3-month period), multiple horses at the water’s edge in Carova including two harems with foals, a red fox, a barred owl flying swiftly and silently across the road in front of me, an immature bald eagle flying overhead, huge flocks of sanderlings, the sudden spring influx of butterflies and dragonflies, the happy croaking and barking of tree frogs, a male green anole valiantly trying to score a mate by fanning out his red throat dewlap (it caught my attention), and a mama bear with four cubs, two of which were so tiny and fluffy and cute they looked like teddy bears come to life. IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS TIME. In a time of year when traffic and customers and the general pace of life ramps up into overdrive. If I had managed to work in even one excursion across the Oregon Inlet bridge, I would have been able to add even more sightings to the list, like a walk on an uncrowded beach (although the beach was still quiet in Nags Head at both dawn and dusk) and perhaps a glimpse of nesting least terns. I have seen long lines of pelicans both gliding and soaring and one day even saw leader-change, one of my favorite aerial maneuvers, in which pelicans haphazardly decide who gets to take the lead next by flying around in circles until someone else steps up and (frequently) heads off in a new direction. I have spotted several flashes of the azure blue that tell me bluebirds have settled in for spring, interspersed with the red of cardinals and the drumming of woodpeckers. A hummingbird briefly visited my yard within the past week, and I saw another hovering in front of wild honeysuckle on the Alligator River refuge last evening. New beginnings are in evidence everywhere, if only I have eyes to see and ears to hear, and a willingness to pay attention.

What I have learned in my 43 years of living here is that everything changes. I change, you change, life changes; our dreams and hopes and plans change. The neighborhood changes, jobs change, kids and grandkids grow and change. Like most of us, I find some of those changes challenging and some exhilarating. I can label some changes as sad and others as happy. I have also learned that I can embrace and thrive on change or I can dread and avoid it. I have done both. Honestly, I think I am happier when I can anticipate change from the point of view of excitement and wonder rather than dread and fear. I don’t always manage that perspective, mind you. But when I do, I experience my life as a series of moments to be cherished and remembered and written down in my list of gratitudes—like all those moments I mentioned in my litany from the past week or so.

Not all of those moments wound up as photographs. Some happened way too fast—the barred owl that flew in front of me out on the refuge is a perfect example. Others I went out to seek, and the finding allowed me the time to both prepare and photograph. Some of those are below for your enjoyment too.

So how do you cope with changes that are admittedly much more difficult than the inconvenience of more cars on the road for four months a year? Regular readers may get tired or bored with my saying this, but the best way I have found to deal with any challenge is gratitude. When I get grumpy, or agitated, or worried, or afraid, or even angry, my go-to-ground, return-to-home-base practice is gratitude. I start listing, out loud, or on paper, all the things I can think of that are going right, everything I am thankful for, from huge blessings like my 22-and-counting years with Pete, and our 13-and-counting years of owning Yellowhouse and 3-and-counting years of owning SeaDragon, and the love of family and friends, to seemingly small surprises such as a hug from customers-turned-friends who walked in unexpectedly to sudden sprinkles of rain being overtaken by an overarching promise blazing with vibrancy to watching the young of multiple species frolic and find their footing in this world. Gratitude helps me not to take those huge blessings that we experience every day for granted, and to be on the lookout for the little joys I might otherwise miss.

I have also learned that I need to put myself in a position to receive. For me, that means asking for help when I need it rather than pretending I can do everything myself. It means finding time in my busy schedule to journal in the morning (which is also one way I pray), to reach out as I can to the many friends near and far who enrich my life (and whose lives I hope I enrich in turn), and to spend moments outdoors in nature. Your priorities and practices may differ, but I guarantee that you know within yourself what fills you up to overflowing, so that you can continue to put one foot in front of the other, sometimes plodding, sometimes dancing, but always moving forward.

So in answer to all those conversations I have had recently, and will likely have again and again all summer—I don’t hate. I love. Scroll down below and see some of those loves I found just this past week.

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Double Rainbow over Avalon Pier. I watched the light change and knew a rainbow would follow--one blessing of living so long here is, I can read the light.

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Blue moon over the ocean. Its actual moment of rising above the horizon was still too pale to see--until the sun fully set.

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Nags Head Pier in moonlight.

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Now for the opposite end of the day: Nags Head Pier at sunrise.

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Previously, the most Sanderlings in May I photographed in one click of the shutter was 153. This is more than 300!!

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A young visitor asked if I would give her some private photo instruction at sunrise. Our challenge, to show sunrise in less than obvious ways. Here is one: a slow shutter twist. Think feeling rather than seeing.

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One of Carova's newborn filly-foals anther family.

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Our first foal of 2019, Renzi and his mama under an almost full moon. Actual blue moon was the next evening.

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With the warner humid days, land breezes and biting flies, the horses are often by the water to cool off and find some relief.

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For the second year in a row, a mother bear has four cubs--unusual to have so many! I never did see "the quads" last year despite making several trips to the refuge. I was elated to see these earlier this week.

posted by eturek at 11:17 PM

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Travels Afield
In late March, I had the joyful experience of leading a couple of photographers in a workshop arranged by Pocosin Arts, in Columbia NC. We strolled the town’s waterfront boardwalk and made field trips to Phelps Lake and Somerset Place in nearby Creswell on our first afternoon, and got up in the dark to arrive at Lake Mattamuskeet before sunrise the next morning. I wanted them to experience the change of color and glow in the pre-dawn minutes before the sun actually rises above the horizon. I longed for calm water but alas, we had high, gusty winds, so the water did not reflect the colors of the sky as I had hoped. Several Tundra Swan still remained in the Refuge so they were able to get a close view of them and see just how large and majestic the birds are. A quick ride to Englehard honored one participant’s love of boats; a fisherman there was gracious to allow us to carefully walk his waterfront dock in search of images that honored the fishing life.

At Phelps Lake we found the colors of spring ranging from pale peach to vibrant red, the gray-green of lichen to the bright golden-green of new growth, and violets growing wild at Somerset as counterpoint to rural fields growing with purple sage. A boardwalk near the boat launch area winds through a forest whose feet are perpetually wet and comes out at Somerset Place, a state historic site whose plantation buildings date to colonial times. The boggy forest includes not only bald cypress, which I am used to seeing grow in standing water but also hardwoods like maple trees that I have never seen growing in water! At Somerset, a small pen held two small goats which seemed eager to be petted and reminded me of my childhood goat, who was named HiBaby by my parents after I toddled up to her at our first meeting and said, Hi Baby. (Which, by the way, is what I have said since to every animal or bird I have ever encountered!)

I returned to the mainland a week later, this time rendezvousing with Ray Matthews at 4 a.m. so we could be at Lake Mattamuskeet in time to scope out the Milky Way’s position there and await what turned out to be a lovely golden sunrise with calm water. As you will see below, calm water makes all the difference in the feeling and look of the morning. A nearby campground owner allowed us to walk his shoreline and watch an osprey hard at work rebuilding the nest.

The first week of April, Phyllis Kroetsch and I made a quick trip to the western part of NC, first to Mountain Lens in Hendersonville where I will teach a workshop in September (if you are interested, see www.evetureknaturephotography.com/workshops-and-presentations) and then to Seagrove to pick up NC pottery. I love the mountains as much as I love the sea, but I have learned that the common element in my loving is water. Having a stream and a waterfall right on the Mountain Lens property was a delight. We photographed the waterfall on site in the evening as the sun sank behind the mountains, and I walked beside the stream for some quiet time the next morning. I can’t wait to go back in the fall.

We visited one nearby waterfall and a now-abandoned covered bridge that had been built over a stream on private property before heading to Seagrove. While there, we stayed at a charming B&B called the Duck Smith House, now lovingly restored and operated by two sisters whose mission in life is to make their guests feel pampered. They succeeded in spades and I intend to stay there any time I am anywhere near the region! We watched cardinals and warblers and two different woodpeckers enjoying their yard before taking our leave and visiting several pottery studios. At one, the owner gave us permission to photograph his gardens and outbuildings, an extra treat, while another did not mind my getting up close and personal with one of her many goats while she wrapped up our selections. We stopped by a glass blowing studio and watched as they finished a robot designed by an elementary student who won a recent contest to see his drawing created in glass. Everywhere we went we found friendly, gracious and generous hosts.

As much as I love the Outer Banks, I find occasional sojourns away broaden my perspective and expand my creative vision, giving me even more energy and enthusiasm when I return. I believe that is why so many folks come visit our area. We live in a special place sacred to many. Part of our stewardship is to tend to our area knowing it does not really belong to us alone. I am grateful for the stewards who allow me to enjoy other areas of our beautiful country; travel helps me appreciate both them and my own home in a way that inspires me to welcome others as I have been welcomed.

While these scenes are not from the Outer Banks, I wanted to share them in that same spirit. Enjoy.

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The wet forest at Phelps Lake seemed even more magical with the shadows cast by late afternoon sunlight.

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High winds produced breaking waves on Phelps Lake that splashed ashore against the Bald Cypress knees.

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I told my students that red is as much a spring color as green to me--these maple keys show you why.

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Canada Geese may be common birds, but I find them beautiful regardless.

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Sun pillar sunrise from the morning Ray Matthews and I went to Lake Mattamuskeet.

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The waterfall at dusk on the Mountain Lens property, within sight and walking distance of the training center building.

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A long exposure downstream from the waterfall early the next morning.

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This covered bridge is now abandoned but can be seen from the nearby road.

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One of our pottery stops, Bulldog Pottery in Seagrove, had picturesque outbuildings and gardens.

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The region around Hendersonville is famous for numerous waterfalls. Even on an overcast day, the falls are beautiful here.

posted by eturek at 11:11 PM

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Sunday, April 14, 2019
Lions and Lambs
March certainly lived up to its schizophrenic personality this year! The month began stormy, vacillated between winter and spring, and finally assumed its lamb-like nature by month end. Not that we had snow; in fact, this year, despite winter thunder, I did not even see flurries! Our winter while milder was admittedly long, dreary, gray and wet. Even on days that did not rain, the skies looked as if we were in for a downpour any minute.

But now that winter has finally let go, the Outer Banks and I are finding our spring! On spring’s first weekend, while teaching a workshop at Pocosin Arts in Columbia, I challenged my participants to “find spring” in fresh ways. What means “spring” to you? I answered my own question with flowers (obvious), green (also obvious), red (not nearly so obvious) and osprey, whose migratory lifestyle brings them back home to their nests to rebuild for another year’s cycle. An osprey obligingly flew overhead a few minutes later though it was too high to really photograph well. But the pairs I watch here are settling in, busy about the work of rebuilding or repairing nests buffeted by winter winds and rain. This year, the osprey pair that nests at Sunset Grille in Duck arrived on the same day the Tundra Swan left. I heard my first osprey call just minutes before the last Swan stragglers took off, not to be seen again until late in the year. Nature’s cycles continue.

A week or so before that, the Bufflehead ducks that overwintered in record numbers in our little cove in Duck began to leave. Every day I thought I was seeing fewer of them. For the last week or so before they all left, the Buffleheads were joined by a large number of Canvasback ducks as well as by a lone pair of Hooded Mergansers! For one glorious morning last year I saw for the first time ever the two white-headed male ducks together, the Buffleheads and the Hooded Merganser. This year I was finally able to make an image showing both. They are admittedly far off but the image connects me to both years’ memories. I make images for a number of reasons and one of those is to remember.

It is the season too when many second homeowners come back to our area and re-open their houses. Imagine coming down every March or April knowing you had to rebuild from the ground up! The osprey are amazing to me. They, like many other larger birds, mate for life, but instead of staying put near home they make separate migratory journeys far south for the winter and then, on cue, each returns alone to reunite at the same nest. We often see youngsters from previous years trying to move back in but the parents will have none of that! Their homing instinct brings them back to the nest where they were hatched and fledged, and then they have to find a new spot to call their own, usually within a mile or so of their original nest. We see this in young Eagles too, and the interactions can make for some dramatic sky chases as the parents shoo the “young adult” birds off.

I always equate winter with vibrant sunrises but our gray, wet weather precluded those this year. We did have one especially beautiful sunrise in mid-March and I was fortunate enough to be up and out early enough to share it.

That sunrise was especially lovely because I spent most of February and the early part of March trying to recover from, first, a bad bout of flu (despite a flu shot) and then, the bronchitis that followed. When I was finally able to get outside beyond my front porch, I walked the Currituck Maritime Forest trail and saw the loveliest live oak groves in our whole area, I believe. If you choose to go, you can either follow the boardwalk all the way straight to the sound, or take the trail off to the right, which is what I did. The day I walked I noticed how vibrant the green moss was, and I asked to find a moss heart. There was one particularly lovely grove, with a little rise and fall and dappled sun and shadow, so I turned aside to photograph it and there at my feet was my green moss heart! Ask, and you will receive. I have lived this often enough now in my experience to attest to the truth of Jesus’ words—especially if what you ask for is intended to bless others. The vibrant green helped me believe in spring even before the calendar announced its arrival.

In my yard, the daffodils bloomed in time to coincide with both my forsythia and quince bushes, none of which were growing wild on the lot when we built the house more than 20 years ago, but which I associate with springtime in my childhood in Virginia. Choosing to plant them here altered the native landscape to be sure, but the flowering plants bring me great joy even when winter temperatures prevail. The quince bush is the first red of spring I usually notice. Later reds you will see in the next blog, which will include images from some spring excursions off the Outer Banks.

Now my morning journaling time is filled with birdsong as all the little resident songbirds and migrating spring warblers join in celebrating spring’s arrival. Pollen counts are high but I am still so grateful to see color and sunshine in the landscape. The forecast often calls for some spring showers but I remember the old adage, so more May flowers are surely in store. Rather than days on end of rain, the sun and rain play peek-a-boo now as our seasonal weather patterns begin to change and the rain is more intermittent.

So settle in, think spring, and enjoy these offerings.

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The two ducks in front are a pair of Hooded Mergansers while those swimming toward them are Buffleheads. The Mergansers swam away before the Buffleheads got near enough for a close-up photograph of both.

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Here is one of the Canvasback males with a female behind him.

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One osprey usually arrives first. Here, the osprey is eyeing the water below for a fish which it eventually swooped down for, but missed.

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This image is about 15 minutes before official sunrise. The colors pre-dawn and post-sunset are often the most intense.

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This photograph is 11 minutes later. It amazes me always how much the light changes in mere minutes.

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The live oaks in the Currituck Maritime forest are immense.

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Before any of the deciduous trees began to show green, the vibrant moss glowed at the base and along the trunks of the live oak trees.

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My moss heart! "Ask and you shall receive."

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The trail is well marked and easy to follow, and a couple strategically placed benches invite calm and contemplation among the trees.

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Daffodils bloom in my yard at the base of my forsythia and quince bushes weeks before the calendar confirms spring.

posted by eturek at 9:23 PM

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Under the Weather
Since my last blog, I made a whirlwind trip in early February to New York to attend a trade show there for the galleries, and came home a little sniffly, sniffles that quickly escalated and turned out to be a bonafide case of the flu! (This, despite a flu shot in December.) Doc says I would have been worse off without the vaccine, but I admit I am bouncing back much slower than I would have liked. This means I have been mostly cooped up indoors for two weeks...which never goes over well!

Now, I like weather as much as anybody else, but. But. But the relentless, seemingly never-ending days of rain and drizzle and dull gray skies certainly did not help speed my flu recovery; just looking outside was enough to prompt me to lay down and take another nap! After I had been sick about a week, I went back to the doctor who gave me a second antibiotic that eventually did its work and knocked out the infection part. While I waited for my pharmacy to fill it, I drove back into Nags Head Woods and made a rain image out the car window. It is my take on trying to cheer myself up and find some beauty in all the weary dreariness.

Before I left for New York, I had a chance to dash over to Lake Mattamuskeet on the mainland, looking for birds that are mostly NOT at Lake Mattamuskeet this year, but at nearby Phelps and Pungo Lakes and in the Pocosin refuge. I went seeking waterfowl, but the lake's changing turbidity and depth have altered the birds' overwintering patterns there. There were some ducks and a very few swan (fewer than we have in our little cove in Duck) in the flooded fields around the Wildlife Drive loop, but I saw no birds on the lake proper. I also spent a little time with a flock of Great Egrets right at the loop's end. What I DID see, though, around the other side of the lake, was a totally unexpected treat: the largest flock of red-winged blackbirds I think I have ever witnessed. It took minutes, not seconds, for the whole flock to pass from one side of the road to the other, minutes in which I was able to pull over, park, and adjust my lens in order to photograph them. I had already seen a few red-wingeds when I checked on a Bald Eagle nest that still did not seem to have nesting activity earlier in January, but to see this huge a flock was amazing. I found some new scenic spots at the lake's edge, spots I will share with participants in my upcoming mainland photo workshop being offered by Pocosin Arts in Columbia. All in all the day trip was a great success, despite mostly overcast skies and a lot of wind.

Being up at the galleries to do inventory several different days in January meant I was there at the right time to catch some pretty winter sunsets, and you will see that below too. For one of these I am in the more traditional sunset spot, looking west, and for the other, I opted to go to the ocean instead because the light and clouds in that direction were so beautiful. In the middle of January, artist friend EM Corsa invited me over to see a whole flock of male bluebirds! Since I go years without seeing even one, that was a chance I couldn't pass up. The Groundhog had not even seen his shadow yet, but I was already seeing signs of an early spring.

Now that I am about 90% better, and out and about, I have two fun images of the Duck waterfront to share. Well, I thought this was fun. On Monday this week, the forecast was for high winds and while I did not feel them at full strength back in Colington, the evidence of their presence manifested in white caps and waves all across the Sound, waves that the Swan and Buffleheads had to navigate. The flock of Buffleheads laboriously paddled all the way over to the dock near the Blue Point restaurant, a favorite spot for them usually, only to discover that the wave action was greater there, so they all turned around and had to swim against the waves to get out to more open water. I felt as if I were watching surfers paddling vigorously against a flood tide, ducking under a swell just to get to the best wave sets. These are diving ducks, so they can duck under, but several times I watched as a cresting wave broke right as the little ducks were attempting to swim over the swell. The swan, being so much larger, had a much easier time of bobbing up and down as the waves rolled in.

I returned two days later to find the sound almost a slick calm in the early morning, and the cove full of Swan and Canada Geese. The Buffleheads were further out except for a handful of stragglers in the cove, and I spotted a small raft of Canvasback ducks, two males and about half a dozen females. I wasn’t out long before raindrops chased me in. I decided I did not need to get drenched so soon after being sick. Looking ahead at the forecast, I am trying not to be too depressed as we have more days in a row of rain coming. Instead, I am trying to peer out at any shimmer of a bright side: I feel better, we open for the season in about two weeks, and I have had several chances lately for a front row seat at Duck’s very own Swan Lake. Lots to be thankful for, considering.

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Eve Does The Big City! Lights! Camera! Action! What I did not realize is that most of the signs are neon billboards that constantly change, giving the streets a new look every few seconds.

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Here is my mid-flu, out the car window, falling rain image from Nags Head Woods, made while waiting for my prescription to be filled. I take my camera everywhere.

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More blackbirds than I could count or fit in one frame. Thousands, tens of thousands. A magnificent sight.

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We have had only a few sunsets worth noting in the past two months.

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Another winter sunset, this time looking east.

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As I began to feel a wee bit better, I dashed out right before dusk because I thought the light was interesting. A frontal boundary over the ocean gave a clear line that reflected beautifully in the sea below.

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Here are the little Buffleheads braving the waves near the Blue Point pier.

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The swan had an easier go of it.

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I think of Bluebirds as eating mostly mealworms, but these were feasting on berries.

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In just two days, the winds abated and the water calmed. All the birds seemed to be enjoying the respite.

posted by eturek at 8:18 PM

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