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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The Colors of Fall
One of the handiest features of my digital camera/computer setup is that every image comes with what the industry calls metadata: information such as what lens was used at what focal length, and what aperture (opening, or f/stop, for folks who don’t photo-speak), and how fast the shutter clicked. All of that is useful for learning what works well where and when. I use the information most often, though, as a memory aid for time: when did I take this photograph, exactly? (And I do mean exactly. I can tell you within the second!!)
It is that feature that told me that the sky and sea conditions replicated themselves in early November, missing by only one day being exactly a year apart. November 5, 2010 & November 6, 2009 showcased all that is best about an Outer Banks mid-fall day:blue skies, puffy white clouds, golden grasses, blue-green ocean. If all my photographs were mixed up together instead of being separated into file folders by year, I might think these were taken at the same time. Not only that, but our first several day northeaster arrived right on time, too, around Veterans Day—just like last year. Thankfully this storm was not as severe as last year’s storm, so the erosion was not as severe either. I photographed the stormy sea under mostly gray skies and when the sun began to punch through but the image below is from the sunrise the morning after, with the waves still high. Aiming straight into the light, as I did, tends to silhouette objects between the light source and camera, creating the gull silhouette while gilding and bronzing the wave tops.
For even more obvious fall color, I photographed at almost the same time as I did the past several Novembers. The thermometer dipped just enough the other evening to bring out autumn’s best seasonal wardrobe. The tree grove below still stands in a slow-to-develop development near Colington Harbour. I wound up having to go to the beach for a midafternoon errand early last week just in time, as it happened, to experience a little sun shower. Rainbow weather!! Sure enough, we had a brief double that I was blessed to see for the five minutes or so that it lasted.
From March until sometime in September, I am accustomed to looking up at one dead tree trunk on Colington Drive as an osprey often perches there. Out of habit, I looked up there the other morning and was startled to see a very large bird there. Could it be an osprey this late in the year? Its size seemed not-quite-right, a little thinner and longer, somehow. I turned around to get a better view and take a decent picture. Clearly not an osprey, this raptor had red eyes. I think it might have been a Cooper’s hawk.
Our Sunday afternoon adventures have continued with our working life taking a bit of a slower pace now in fall. A week ago we went up to Carova. We saw a few horses back behind the dunes in several small groupings but none right on the beach. One mare, lying down, looked to be pregnant. Karen Watras (shellgirl) who was with us and knows more about the horses than anyone else I know personally, said she thinks the mare might have been in labor to boot. Rough time of year to have a foal, with winter coming on. We also saw one large group of sanderlings and several smaller flocks. The sanderlings are beginning to forecast winter. Their more dramatic, white-edged feathers that they sport every spring are giving way to the more muted plumage of the offseason.
This past Sunday Pete and I rode down to Cape Point after brunch. While the ponds at Bodie and Pea Islands are beginning to show some ducks and Canada Geese, there still are not many swan (I saw a grand total of about 10 a week ago) and I have not seen any snow geese yet either. Our first happy surprise was seeing three deer grazing the dunes near the on-ramp behind the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. One of the three was a teenager, still sticking close to its mama. Here is what I love about long lenses—I get to see things my eyes could never tell me. What I noticed about the youngster when I looked at the pictures is how fuzzy its ears are! Like bunnies! (Speaking of, we saw a lone bunny racing across the road later, as we left the dunes.) Once we got on the beach, we set up to await the moonrise. A low lying bank of clouds and what might have been offshore fog obscured the actual moment of rising, although the moon showed its pinkish face before climbing too high in the sky to miss out on sunset’s glow. Sunset, meanwhile, was equally soft and gentle; watching the sun set over the ocean is one of the magical gifts Cape Point provides, as the coastline bends from a north-south to an east-west orientation right there. In the feathered department, there was a large flock of what I think were Great Black-backed Gulls, our largest gull, but only a couple of sanderlings and a lone willet. I did see a small group of skimmers silhouetted against the sunset sky. Very few pelicans, though, and no dolphin at all.
Now the warm sunny skies are yielding to warm cloudy skies. Rain is in the forecast for later in the week but I would not be surprised to have some sprinkles this morning. Photos of fall adventures are below. Enjoy.

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On the left, November 6, 2009; on the right, November 5, 2010. Dead ringers.

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This gull did not seem to mind the stiff winds.

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Jack Frost's Paintbox.

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Red-eyed Raptor. A Cooper's hawk, I presume.

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Just after I took this photo, brown horse bit black horse. Whoa! I thought they fought only in spring.

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Part of a much larger flock of Sanderlings, on the beach in Carova.

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Double rainbow in KDH last week.

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Bambi Visits Cape Point. Hi, baby.

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Part of Cape Point's magic for me is sunset over the sea.

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Blue Moonrise. Actually, Pink and Blue Moonrise. Moon #3 of 4 in the quarter, making #12 for the year, and 1 to come.

posted by eturek at 6:34 PM

Comments [3]

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Changes in Latitude
One of the sure signs of autumn for me isn’t the changing leaves, or the changing clocks, or the changing light in late afternoon, as key as all these are. My personal sure sign is a change in latitude that absolutely brings a change in attitude: Ocracoke Island. Every fall, Pete and I manage to run away for a couple of days to our favorite local getaway spot. Ocracoke is among the most magical places on the Outer Banks for me. Maybe it’s the ferry ride across Hatteras Inlet, hindcasting an earlier era and signaling adventure to come. Maybe it’s the subtle change in the landscape itself, with more Spanish moss, more wild yucca, and an ever-so-slight and polite nod toward the tropics. Maybe it’s the anticipation of pelicans, up close and personal, like greeting friends with a hug hello rather than a wave goodby. Our retreat took place this year in tandem with the rising of a full harvest moon, the first surprise of our two-nights, day-and-a-half on island time.
When we got our keys, I asked the fellow at our check-in spot what I admitted, right off, was a dumb question, right up there with “where’s the ocean.” Where does the moon rise, I asked, as if I were, oh, four years old. Now I know the easy answer, which I gave him myself: it rises over the ocean. But…I am used to looking for the moon in Nags Head. It rises south of center usually; the harvest moonrise is nearly due east, or straight out to sea. I know, after years of watching, where to be when for moonrise up the ‘Banks. But I was on Ocracoke, and completely out of my reckoning.
We went to the northern end of the island, not quite all the way to the ferry dock, but close. I set up my tripod and waited. Some far fishermen were silhouetted against the colors of a golden glowing sunset to my right. A couple others set up close by to my left. Habits die hard…I kept looking straight out to sea and to my right, as I would at home. A good sized pod of dolphin that included at least one youngster swam by in the waning light, headed right to left. I followed them with my eyes and my heart, keeping an eye out seaward for the moon. Turning to my left, I saw what I’d been searching for: a huge, pink harvest moon, rising in the east…meaning, over Kitty Hawk, say, if I were still in Nags Head. I trotted nearer the water’s edge with my tripod and turned my camera a full 90 degrees. There. Now I was facing the moon head-on, with the ocean not in front of me, but off my right shoulder. The drama and beauty of a harvest moon intensified with the perspective of shooting across the wave breaks, as the moon appeared to break a horizon line created by the tip of Hatteras.
Nags Head is oriented about 18 degrees, give or take, off due North/South (true north, not magnetic north); an examination of an online NOAA navigation chart helped me discern its more exact position. Ocracoke is oriented about the same amount, 18 degrees more or less, off of due East/West. I had to look up island, what we would call “north” from Nags Head’s perspective, in order to see the moonrise. In fact, I was looking nearly due east, right where the moon was supposed to be.
The sky wonders continued the next day as we saw a huge morning sun halo over the ocean. We saw another the second day as we crossed back to Hatteras on the ferry. Sun halos occur when ice crystals in high cirrostratus clouds bend the light. Here is where the science gets a little complicated. Picture a six-sided ice crystal—that’s what creates these halos. When light enters the crystal it bends…and bends again when it exits. Those two bendings, or refractions, are precise and cause the formation of a ring around the light source, in this case, the sun. Moon halos form too, and in the same way. Sometimes the halos are colorless, but the ones we saw (and you will see below) had a tinge of color, like a faint rainbow. There were plenty of other treasures, too, gleaned during our trip, as you will see below. Enjoy.      

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The moon is rising where it should, due east. From Ocracoke, that is up-island, over Hatteras.

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Taken through the front windshield. Roller-coaster riding! Bumpier than usual.

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Ocracoke's south point included a number of these tidal pools.

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Sun halo in mid-morning. Notice how huge it is by the size of the person on the beach.

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I got a chance to walk Springer Point. This neat snag is on the sound beach.

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Interplay of light and shadow at the entry to the Deep Forest. Hushed. No birds or squirrels.

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Every few steps is a treasure. I found a tiny sand dollar, was given a sand dollar, and got a hug from siswalker!

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Great Blue Heron perched at the edge of Springer Point, about 30 minutes before moonrise.

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No visit is complete without pelicans. This one, though, is at Oden's Dock in Hatteras. I call this, Ruffles.

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Eye of the Wise. I always feel blessed to see them, near or far. I just love pelicans.

posted by eturek at 10:14 PM

Comments [7]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 547818 times

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