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

Sunday, March 24, 2013
Spring Sleepies or Spring Forth??
My wildlife photographer friend Jared Lloyd was sharing with several of us the other day that one way he approaches a place is to try to sum it up in one word or phrase. His word choice is obviously subjective. But he doesn’t stop there. Distilling the emotional or natural essence of a place down to one word then sets his photographic challenge: how to communicate that essence visually. As an example, he used the word “motion” for the Outer Banks.

I like how Jared thinks. I appreciate his approach to the natural world and I find in his words a new way to think about this place that has been home for me now for nearly 37 years. So I have been thinking about “Spring, Outer Banks” ever since, trying to come up with one word or phrase to sum that up. We’ve had a mostly damp, dreary, drizzly, and colder-than-last-year March. Not too much chance to be out and about with camera in hand. The words I’ve been subconsciously playing with all border on the same theme: explosive; sudden; eruption; exhale; tumultuous; ignition. Some of those words can be read in the negative, I realize, but I don’t exactly mean them that way. I’m picturing non-OBX scenes, like Old Faithful letting off steam, or 4th of July fireworks over the Capitol, or confetti greeting a new champion, or racehorses springing out of the starting gate. Those scenes provoke more words, like celebration or exuberance.

Writing this on yet another gray and drizzly afternoon, I have to be honest and tell you that I must not be in spring mode, quite yet. I’m not feeling particularly celebratory or exuberant and the only “sudden” I’m motivated to pursue today might be a sudden nap! Spring might be a verb as well as a noun, but sometimes I use it as an adjective, as in "Spring Sleepies"!

Despite myself, the world all around me is waking up from the nap it took all winter. Cultivated flowers are blooming in yards and along roadsides and native flowering plants like the dogwood are sporting larger and larger buds. Every osprey nest I watch has bustling activity now as the pairs settle in and repair or rebuild or renovate. Soon the female will be mostly housebound, incubating her eggs until they hatch. I say “mostly” because osprey Dads are more involved than many other male birds are; the male osprey will relieve the female for brief periods so she can stretch her wings and get a break to eat some fish before she returns to the nest.

Birds that change their wardrobe for springtime are sporting full breeding plumage now; for adult Pelicans, that means growing a strip of dark brown feathers at the back of the neck. Some will have splashes of yellow on their heads and on the front of their chests along with paler, blue eyes. Sanderlings gussy up by changing their paler winter wing feathers for darker feathers that seem etched in white. Laughing Gulls, whose heads are pale all winter, will don a black feather headdress and their bills and feet are a brighter red than they are at other times of the year. All of these changes seem to happen suddenly; one week, all the birds I watch look like winter, and seemingly overnight, they wear a whole new costume.

Springtime can be stormy on the Outer Banks, sort of like adolescence, but the northeast winds don’t typically last too long, and all the periods of warm sunny weather in between more than make up for the rain that will help the area avoid drought later in the year. That is what I have been telling myself this week, as I and everyone else I know wish for some prolonged sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Since I posted last, Karen Watras and I went to Carova in the middle of the month to celebrate her birthday, and we took a first-time visitor up earlier this week. The beach is noticeably narrower and the stumps are more numerous, meaning more visible, but the area still holds so much beauty and magic. Both days the beach held treasures: moon snails, whelks, and plenty of chances to play “critter rescue” as we threw back live starfish, blue crabs, or shells with critters. We found moon snail shells with moon snails and moon snail shells with hermit crabs! We found plenty with nobody at all, and these will enjoy a new life as home décor. That’s a bonus from strong northeast winds: the chance to go beachcombing at a later low tide.

All of the horses we saw were west of the primary dunes, hunkering down or grazing in more sheltered areas. The chances to see them seaside will increase as the temperatures rise, the winds shift west, and springtime flies drive them to the ocean for a little relief.

So if you are hunkered down yourself, either in northern cold and snow or southern drizzle, I hope these offerings will bring you a little celebratory exuberance. Spring may be making a coy and quiet entrance here – like a couple of band instruments tuning up – but I suspect the full orchestra will sound forth The 1812 Overture in unison any minute.

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Strong northeast winds lasted for several days beginning around March 9.

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The waves made for a pretty sunrise the next morning. No pelicans were out gliding in the wind. Just a couple of brave gulls.

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This is Henry, the male osprey at the Colington marina. He is flying in to present what is left of his fish to his mate, Grace.

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This is the male osprey from the Sandy Run park in Kitty Hawk. And this is about as close as I have ever gotten to one. He landed on a low branch and posed for Karen and I to take his picture. He looks like Sir Walter with his ruffles.

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Here is a bird nest we saw in Corolla. I THINK the nearby sparrow was its maker, but I am not sure. Anybody else have an opinion? I put two photos together so you can see who I mean.

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Artist EM Corsa was kind enough to let me photograph her yard birds the other afternoon. I'd like to go back in morning light. The nuthatch was brave and flew in repeatedly even with me sitting nearby. What a thrill!

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Seeing large flocks of migrating birds is another sign of spring. These Gulls were constantly taking flight as the wave swells crested, only to land for a few seconds and then blast off again.

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This is just a tiny collection of all of the treasures the sea gave Karen for her birthday.

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We threw this Moon Snail back. Occupied!!

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These Sanderlings have the right idea: Nap Time! A perfect response to the Spring Sleepies.

posted by eturek at 6:08 PM

Comments [5]

Sunday, March 3, 2013
Early Spring...
Readers may recall that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, forecasting an early spring—a ritual that baffled me as a child and sometimes still does. Cloudy, gloomy weather = early spring and nice sunny weather = more winter? I didn’t get it!

But once again I think Phil was right on the money. Not so much because our temps have warmed dramatically; they haven’t. We’re still mostly in the mid-40s. Last year was much warmer, all during February. But this year I am seeing several signs of early spring, the most noticeable of which is an earlier return of the osprey!

The Colington marina osprey are back, as is at least one of the pair that nests near the Dare County courthouse in Manteo. I saw one fly over Harris Teeter yesterday afternoon, too. Pete told me he saw two fly over our yard about a week ago, but I did not see them. My official first sighting was of a male, at dusk on Feb. 27. I know for sure this bird was a male because females have a broader band of dark feathers, like a necklace, and this bird’s band was much smaller and paler.

When I finally spied the pair in the marina a couple days later, they were sitting in the tree they favor for eating their fish breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. Osprey return to the same nest, and sit at the same table in their favorite restaurant, so to speak, year after year. When I did not see any activity at the nest, I checked the tree, and sure enough, that is where I have spotted them so far.

Whales are still spouting off the end of Jennette’s Pier, but not with the same frequency as they were a couple weeks ago. I got to share a whale spout recently with a young guy from Illinois who was working in the state and traveled to Nags Head for his first ever sight of the ocean. What a thrill to see a whale in that first encounter! I suspect our Outer Banks has worked its magic yet again, and I’m grateful to have been a small part of it.

Yesterday morning the ocean was flat and the sky turned pretty and there were no whales in evidence at all. Could they all have left on their migratory journey north? I’m learning to still my inside chatter and try to listen for the presence of someone other than myself. At times, I will call out silently, a sort of sing-song two note clarion, asking whoever might be present to come closer, to connect. For whales I have been trying to recall the recordings I have heard of the mating songs that the males sing, and then replay those, so to speak, in my mind. I’ve done that twice now this week, after waiting and waiting with no evidence of their presence, and been rewarded both times with at least one whale appearing. And yes, remembering to say “please” and “thank you.”

Speaking of appearances, I have another little story to share. Pete has planned a surprise short getaway trip for later in the spring, partly to visit dear friends we’ve not seen in too long, on Cape Cod, and partly to take me for my first trip to Maine. My parents met there near Camden in the mid-1930s and always wanted to take me on a family vacation there, but we found the Outer Banks instead! Now I will get to share the Maine coast with Pete for a couple days.

I associate whales with New England much more than I do with our part of the coast. While I was watching out for the lone whale spouting on Saturday morning, a small group of birds landed near the end of the pier. I didn’t know who they were but I took plenty of images for finding out later. On impulse when I got home, I typed “Razorbill” into Google, and sure enough, these were Razorbills! Razorbills are one of the birds I associate with Maine; they are seabirds, coming to land only to nest, and usually seen off our coast, if at all, well out from shore. Having them come to the pier precisely when I was there felt a bit like being welcomed in advance! I hope to see some more when we are north.

Other early spring signs I’ve noticed are our suddenly friskier squirrels, swelling red buds on the ends of tree limbs, cardinals pairing up, and pelicans beginning to sport their spring wardrobe, beginning with that wonderful paler blue eye.

Speaking of pelicans, I’ve long wondered if they drag the tips of their wings in the water. I have only one clear image of one bird doing that, but I’ve seen it now several times from Jennette’s Pier, and have an example to share below.

The crisp cold air has meant some glorious sunsets lately, though our sunrises have been more of a bust. We’ve had a lot of cloud cover, but when the sun drops below the clouds and paints the undersides with reds and oranges and pinks and purples the effect is wonderful, as you will see below, too.

Here’s to spring!

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Know what I love best about this photo? OK, two things. The light path on the water. The two pelicans gliding straight for the light.

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There are whole seasons when I'm in the gallery and completely miss the sunset. This is one gift of our flexible winter schedule: the chance to be outside for a display like this.

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When I took this in real time, I thought I was seeing my first fluke! When I began looking more closely on the computer, I wasn't sure. What do you think: fluke or fin?

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Here's a spring sign: Robin Red-Breast! We've had large flocks of them. This flock came in after a rainfall. See the dogwood buds?

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The red buds of this tree (which might BE Redbud, I am not sure) were beautiful against the grey bark of the trees surrounding. Taken on the Dare mainland.

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Razorbill!! At Jennette's Pier!! How exciting!! There were at least a half-dozen that flew in.

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YES! They DO trail their wings! Sometimes I take photographs for the beauty of the scene. Sometimes, to remember an encounter.This is one of the latter, Trailing Wing Pelican. I always think of children running along a fence for the joy of it...

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Here is the Colington Marina pair: Grace and Henry. Welcome home, babies.

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This is the osprey at the Justice Center on Roanoke Island. I wondered why it kept looking up, so I looked up, too.

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This is why! Three Red-tailed Hawks soaring above! They turned west and I did too! I'd seen one a couple days earlier on 264 and there one was again. Beautiful birds.

posted by eturek at 5:30 PM

Comments [4]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 561338 times

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