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

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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Sunday, February 24, 2019
Tenth Anniversary, Part 2 - Wildlife
Those of you who have followed my blog any length of time know how much I love birds and critters. The chance to be allowed into their worlds, even for brief moments, and make photographs that honor their lives, is one of my greatest joys. This challenge, to choose only ten images, was even harder for me than picking ten scenics, because every one of my wildlife or bird images brings me right back to that encounter, that moment.

But I had to pick ten. So here they are. On another day, I might have chosen slightly differently. One thing I did want to do was make sure I chose a balance between birds and animals. Even so, some key players are missing. My favorite images of dolphin I have ever made on the Outer Banks date all the way back to 2007, two years before the blog! And there are no seals in the mix, though I love photographing a healthy seal in its characteristic banana pose, resting in the sun on its migrating way north or south.

Again, thanks to all of you for supporting me in doing what I love to do.

And now...onto the images!

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My favorite flying image of pelicans, and my favorite pelican photo from the blog era. There is a longer back story that makes this a fave; I said I love you, silently in my mind, and they turned and began flying straight in my direction.

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Here, two of our three red-billed shorebirds appear in one frame! I expected the flying Black Skimmer to land on the other side of the pond, but when it landed right beside the Oyster Catcher, that was a huge bonus. That pond is gone now.

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Why this Eagle photo, with its wings a little blurred and the pine in the way? Because this was the moment I knew, deep inside, Pete would recover from his stomach cancer in 2011 and the Eagle helped reassure me. So many favorites are emotional.

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My first chance to photograph wild red foxes, May 2012. This is a red fox den no longer there in Carova. Bonus was that Pete and I saw it together, so this is a shared memory as well as a too-cute photo of two of the babies.

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The old Yellowhouse location had a mama gray fox we saw quite a bit. In 2013, she denned under the frame shop, presenting us with 4 babies. This is from the June day the baby foxes discovered the wild blanket flowers.

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My first turtle release started with this Green sea turtle crawling straight for me when the volunteer put her down near the water. (She had been cold stunned the prior winter.) She eventually made it into the water, but this image is a fave.

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This butterfly visited this baby hummingbird in the nest on the morning of August 22, 2015. I can remember that because my grandson Cash was being born right then. And a blue butterfly was a symbol between my mom and me. Pretty great.

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May 2016 was an epic month for horse photography for me. I had a hard time picking just one image. But this one, of "Gus" the stallion (brought to Carova from Shackleford) running in the wave wash is an all-time favorite.

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Every spring I look for the Osprey to return. Since they mate for life, as pairs get older, I always hope and pray both return. The male is bringing his mate new "furniture" to rebuild the nest after winter storms. March 2017 in Duck.

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Another memory with Pete! In spring the resident Sanderlings are joined by birds migrating back north, so we see big flocks. This one is from April 2018 at Ocracoke, a trip his health finally allowed us to take for a couple days that spring.

posted by eturek at 3:31 PM

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Saturday, February 23, 2019
Tenth Anniversary - A Scenic Look Back
I have to start this month's blog by saying, once again, how grateful I am to Will for giving me the opportunity to share my visual stories of (mostly) this wonderful Outer Banks here with all of you, and also give a shout-out to Uncle Jack Sandberg who started blogging in this space and gladly passed me the torch in February 2009. We have Uncle Jack to thank for our owning Yellowhouse Gallery, too, but that is another story!

In honor of my 10th anniversary, I thought it would be fun to look back at ten years of images I have made on the Outer Banks. I had the chance to make many of these because I went out looking to be inspired, knowing I had blogs to prepare and an audience away from here that was hungry for new images of this place we all love so much. If not for all of you and your support over the past decade, I can say that I would have made many fewer photographs. With my whole heart, I am so grateful.

As I went through hundreds of photos, I quickly realized I wanted to do two editions, one just for scenics and one for wildlife.

I will share the scenics below, and look for the wildlife entry later tonight or tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I have had a few chances to be outside since my January blog, despite weeks of rain and a two-week nasty bout of flu, which I am just now beginning to get over. So you have a new blog coming soon, too.

Meanwhile, please enjoy this look back at the past ten years.

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This sunrise at Nags Head Pier in August 2009 preceded Hurricane Bill's arrival. Pre and post storms can make for the most dramatic skies.

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Harvest Moon rising over Hatteras Island, October 2010, from the tip of Ocracoke. That perspective doesn't exist today with erosion. But the way the islands shift, it could again someday!

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Mid-summer on a beautiful low humidity day in 2011. A beautiful, peaceful scene in a year marked by peat fires on the mainland and destructive hurricanes.

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One of my favorite times of year is when sea oats first emerge, in late June or early July. This is from Pea Island, July 2012.

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Sometimes at sunset, I go to the ocean instead of the Sound. The clouds this evening in 2013 showed me I made the right choice. I call this Crayola Sunset for all the colors present!

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Northern readers have good reasons to hate snow. For us who are photographers here, a real snowfall is rare--and magical. This is Nags Head, 2014.

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Here is a sunset in the more traditional direction! Looking west from the boardwalk in Duck, 2015.

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One of my favorites from 2016 was made just down from the boardwalk from my favorite sunset of 2015. But for this one I was lying on my belly and photographing from UNDER the boardwalk!

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An unexpected errand after supper in July, 2017 put me on the beach road in time to notice a bright glow over the dune. I stopped to see and received the brightest "anti-crepuscular rays" I have ever seen (rays on the horizon opposite the sun).

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This approaching storm cloud in June 2018 shortly before sunset commanded my full attention and created a downpour and high winds in the few minutes during which it passed overhead.

posted by eturek at 7:56 PM

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Friday, January 4, 2019
New Year Gifts
My first gift of the New Year was our recently acquired rescue kitty Barney waking me up extra early, and then insisting I get up and feed him, not merely scratch his chin and his ears. Now that might not seem a good gift, especially since Pete and I did stay up to watch the New Year’s ball drop on TV, but hang with me here.

Once kitty was fed and I’d blinked myself awake, I realized that the forecasted rain wasn’t yet falling and though the sky was almost overcast, that “almost” gave rifts and breaks for the chance of some sunlight. I got dressed in a quiet hurry and left the house four minutes after official sunrise, reaching the beach in plenty of time to watch the light play peekaboo with the sky and create a month’s worth of looks in one happy morning.

A couple pods of dolphin were swimming and jumping; a few lines of pelicans flew past. I walked and sang and photographed and reaffirmed all I know to be true for me, that a life of impact and service is the best life. Good thoughts for a new year.

We had a warmer than usual end of the year, although a nasty cold bug kept me indoors and abed for the last week of it. New Year’s day was my first chance to really breathe some salt air in about ten days, though I had managed to get out long enough to visit with out of town family right before they left the area. Right before the holidays I made a quick day-trek off island, on a particularly foggy morning (we had a lot of those with the warmer temperatures in December), stopping to photograph along Currituck Sound and in Waterlily. Fog was prevalent several days in Duck, too and I drove up to Whalehead one foggy morning to experience some different ambience there. Friends and perhaps regular readers should know by now, I love fog. I love the simplicity it brings. We talk about being in a fog as a bad thing; I like the way fog clarifies my perspective by paradoxically eliminating distractions, and emphasizing what is most prominent.

Closer to home, we’ve seen over the past years deer in our neighborhood and even at the edge of our property. This year, on the afternoon Pete and I were setting out our lighted deer Christmas displays in the yard, a little group of three does and a Piebald fawn were grazing right across the street! That was a little Christmas gift delivered early.

Our Christmas miracle this year came in the form of Barney’s surviving a genuine health crisis in the middle of December, rebounding overnight thanks to the action of our mobile vet (and our prayers, I am sure). I knew he was an older kitty when I brought him home, but I sure wasn’t ready to let him go after only a few weeks, so I am grateful he had more lives left to live with us. And that brings me back around to my first gift of the New Year, that beach walk near dawn, made even more precious since Barney was the one that arranged it. I hope you never get tired of me writing about gratitude. Yes, on any given day I can find plenty to grumble about if I so choose. I choose otherwise. I choose to find plenty to smile about. I hope these images below help you choose to smile, too.

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Here is the Piebald fawn with its mother.

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Fog at the Whalehead bridge.

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I never tire of the view from our part of the Duck boardwalk, especially if there are birds in our little cove.

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Here are the Canada Geese at the opposite edge of the day, in morning light.

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Now we come to New Year's morning, a scant few minutes after official sunrise.

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Here's a close up of that beautiful New Year's glow.

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The sun's appearance between the clouds, and subsequent disappearance, made for spectacular light shows that lasted more than two hours.

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Next, after the sterling silver faded, beachgoers were treated to this increasing dazzling display of sun rays to the south.

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Every time I thought to leave the beach, the light had other ideas, drawing me to linger.

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Meet Kitty Barney! This is my usual morning view. If this doesn't get me up and at-em, then bumping the blinds with his head will do it!

posted by eturek at 8:13 PM

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Thursday, November 29, 2018
November Blessings
My last blog was all about gratitude, as I posted shortly after Gratitude Day, which is also the International Day of Peace, and which we mark as the first day of autumn. Now nearly two months have passed, we just celebrated our national Thanksgiving holiday, and once again the theme of the season is gratitude.

Those who know me know that gratitude isn’t seasonal with me. It’s not a holiday, it’s a way of life that combines the elements of prayerful dialog, awareness of and connection to the natural world, and alertness to daily synchronicities, some of which I seek by intention and others that come as surprises. You will see some of all of that in this edition.

I didn’t write at the end of October because I wasn’t outdoors much at all! I have a sunrise series from October 2 and the full moon on October 23rd and not much in between. I hadn’t fully realized until this minute, sitting to string together images and words into a garland of autumn delights, how spare my offerings for October are, and how much my not-getting-outside influenced my emotions all month. Some of you know October was extra stressful with Pete not feeling well; he is better now after finally getting on the right antibiotic, but medical worries predominated my time and my heart in October.

In early November, SeaDragon’s founder and my good friend Paula invited me along for a whirl of a ride—literally. We drove out to Wilson’s annual whirligig festival, the best part of which was our long conversations there and back again, and seeing the gigantic whirligig creations of Vollis Simpson. The town has set aside a public space for his wind machines, and that central square was the hub for a street festival of vendor craft and food booths. I came home with a locally made metal whirligig, a yellow wooden duck as a nod to both shops, and a bobbing metal bird for the garden. While there, I got a ride in the power company’s bucket truck so I could view the town and the whirligigs from above. All in all, great fun and a playful start to November, which I truly needed.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I noticed several Bufflehead ducks in our cove, one male and a bunch of females. By the next day, the odds had evened out and there were three pair. Fast forward a few days later and we had more Buffleheads than I have ever seen before in one place—more than 80! I was astounded—until I processed a more recent image for this blog. I had to enlarge to count the tiny heads, photographed on a drizzly gray afternoon, to learn that this huge group numbered more than 150 and that females outnumbered males about 4 to 1. I am really anxious now to see how many stay all winter in our area of Duck. We have been having a small flock spend the winter in our cove alongside Canada Geese and a couple dozen Tundra Swan. As impressive as a huge flock is, the Buffleheads really dazzle up close. The males have bright white sides, and white atop their heads, while the rest of their head feathers are iridescent jewel tones of green and purple. The females are not entirely drab, as they have a small white patch on the sides of their heads. These are diving ducks, so they bob up and dive under constantly for food, which makes counting (and photographing) in real time a happy challenge!

Birders who browsed the gallery Thanksgiving week told me that the Tundra Swan and White Pelicans were present at Pea Island, so I took one afternoon and drove down shortly before dusk. I have had reports of a few swan in our little cove but I have not seen any there yet myself. But Pea Island was loaded with birds! I had about an hour to walk the berm between north and south ponds and watch the comings and goings. Most swan were a long distance away with a few at closer range. I saw a few Buffleheads, but nothing like the large groups in Duck, and I saw a lone White Pelican. Tricolor Herons, an immature Night Heron, and lots of Ibis flew by while I watched. Way, way off in the distance over the Sound a huge flock of somebodies appeared as a large pulsating almost-murmuration, one of my favorite bird formations to watch. They are much more impressive as video than as still images, so if the notion of undulating dancing shapes of birds intrigues you, google the phenomenon.

I had to stop by local artist and friend E M Corsa’s house to pick up some paintings for the gallery and while there, she pointed out in the tree by her house a life list bird for me, a White-winged Dove! This is not the first year a lone White-winged has overwintered at her house. It is way out of its usual range, as this is a western bird that has slowly been making its way eastward. What an unexpected gift!

The day after Thanksgiving, I walked the Nags Head town trail which begins at the end of Barnes street (you can access the trail from behind the Y as well) and ends up at the Sound on another late afternoon, again spontaneously, as I was completing some errands and had just enough time for a brisk walk out and back. It’s an easy trail, about 20 minutes one way walking at a good pace. I meandered more going out, noticing the splashes of fall color amidst all the green and brown. Our wet autumn has meant less color than usual. You have to appreciate it when you glimpse it!

But my favorite unplanned surprise occurred day before yesterday. I was in the gallery, even though we are closed at the beginning of the week now, as our season winds down, for my fire department inspection. Shortly after the firemen left, Ray Matthews called. He was—spontaneously—on his way north to Carova, as the day was clearer and prettier than he anticipated, and did I want to ride along? Since I was already in the gallery and since he was well on his way, I was able to say yes, and we had a pleasant afternoon looking for horses. The light was pretty but the harems were elusive. What we did notice were huge flocks of gulls – no terns, no sanderlings at first. We saw no horses until we headed back down the beach and finally spotted a lone stallion grazing behind the dune who very quickly trotted up and over to the beach side.

First, he grazed on very sparse grass growing on the other side of some sand fence. A little ways south was a small clump of grass with a couple sea oats, growing right beside a house’s walkover and stairs. The horse wandered over there. But south of that was the prettiest clump of sea oats I had spotted all day. Gee, I thought—and said to Ray—if the horse would just wander a little further south to THAT clump, that would be perfect. As if reading my thought, and maybe he did, the horse pretty quickly abandoned the first clump and did just what I had wished for. We spent the next 45 minutes watching and photographing him. Offshore, some of the nine shrimp trawlers we had seen earlier in the day passed in and out of view. Those dragging nets had large flocks of gulls flying all around them. I spotted my first Gannet of the season; they always mean “wintertime” to me, and Ray and I both remarked how the angle of the light, the one horse, the trawlers offshore, the beach pretty much to ourselves, and the last of the season’s sea oats all set a winter scene.

We came off the beach to an unexpected sunset glow, given how clear the sky had been most of the day, and both of us enjoyed photographing the birds and clouds in the wave wash.

What are you grateful for? In October, I was grateful Pete’s sudden spiking fevers finally abated with the right diagnosis and medicine. And while in the middle of that situation, I was grateful for the caring support of my staff that let me be absent from the shop and present at home. In November, I have been grateful that we both feel much better, that we have had a wonderful first season with Yellowhouse in Duck, and that I have been able to spend more time outside. My takeaway from both months is simple. Life sometimes gets complicated, and very quickly. I know what to do to take care of myself, my spirit, my body, and my soul, even as I take care of others and a bustling business. I just need to commit the time and resources I need to do that. Even the most stressful and complicated situations have a way of smoothing out if I remember to stay grateful, stay connected to God, stay connected outside.

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The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in downtown Wilson, NC is a delightful grownups' playground--though all the kids seemed to be having fun too. Notice the scale of the wind sculptures.

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My longer focal lengths let me see details my eyes couldn't possibly take in.

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The largest flock of Bufflehead ducks I have ever seen seems to be getting larger and larger in Duck.

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Watching them suddenly take off in a running leap to flight, is always a delight.

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Handsome, yes?

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I wish I had been close enough to tell exactly what these birds, I assume some species of duck, are. Can you see the tiny heart shape within the larger flock?

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Here is that western bird, a White-winged Dove.

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In spring, we can usually count on seeing large harems resting--or running--by the water. Today we were grateful to spend part of our afternoon with this bachelor stallion.

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I counted nine shrimpers dragging nets or motoring north.

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The soft sunset glow produced the perfect conditions to highlight the pelicans flying back toward their evening roost and the gulls still standing in the wave wash.

posted by eturek at 9:37 PM

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