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

Sunday, April 29, 2012
I suppose everyone has a runaway spot…a location that is part get-away and part coming-home, a place whose very name and memory can lower the blood pressure and tease out a smile on even the most stressful day. For many who read this blog regularly, that spot is the Outer Banks. But how does that work for those of us, like me, who live here, work here, juggle all the “daily” that daily life is, here?

Well, I have a runaway spot, too. Much as I love Colington Island, where we live, and Nags Head, where the gallery is, my Outer Banks runaway spot is Ocracoke. Just far enough away to be “away” (but near enough to go and come in one day if we need to), the fact that one can get there only by boat adds to the mystique.

Pete and I ran away for the day a couple weeks ago. It was a moderate day, weather-wise, when we left the upper Outer Banks in the morning. The winds were cranking when we arrived on Ocracoke about lunchtime! And they picked up velocity the longer we stayed on island. We really did not notice the winds crossing on the ferry but they were strong enough on the beach to make hand-holding my long lens a bit of a challenge.

Unlike Nags Head, where the beach is oriented almost perfectly N/S and an ocean-gazer is looking due east, the Ocracoke beach strand is oriented almost E/W. A wind off the ocean here is blowing almost due South, or at least south southwest. I kept having to remind myself where east is, and reorient my inner compass. That’s another fact of Ocracoke life that makes an island visit here feel like a vacation.

And then there are the birds and critters. The first time I was blessed to be close-up to a dolphin jumping out of the water was here. The first time I ever saw dolphins body-surfing the waves was here. The first time I ever witnessed a pelican preening, carefully grooming its feathers for optimal flight was here, as it perched on a piling on the waterfront. My up-close-and-personal Eye to I pelican encounter was here, too. Eighteen months ago, I stood in wonder (well, alright, I ran in wonder because, being out of my reckoning, I almost missed it!) as a full harvest moon rose, not out of the ocean as I expected (thinking like an Upper-Banker), but over the tip of Hatteras Island – rising due east.

I found solace here in a difficult, grief-struck spring last year, first with a doubled sun halo in mid-day shining rainbow colors all around the sky, and then with every bird I could imagine flying close or trotting up as I spent a rare afternoon just sitting on the beach with my camera, seeking serenity. I found it here, on Ocracoke.

We come almost every fall, but last October we took a dream trip west instead. Winter came, the mildest in a long time. But work duties kept us close to home, in Nags Head. Finally, the timing seemed perfect, Pete could join me, and off we went.

First, we missed the ferry. Not because we were late, exactly, because we got in line in plenty of time (so we thought), especially for a Monday in April that wasn’t a holiday. But plenty of other folks had the same idea, along with local priority vehicles and delivery trucks, so we waited the extra hour. It was worth it just to watch the shoreline of home slip behind the stern. The ferry snaked its way through the channel without incident. No running aground as we did last year, thank goodness!

Once on Ocracoke, we ate a nice lunch and took care of our business there. We really did not have time to mosey about the backroads, which we love to do…or to ride past the lighthouse…or even to drive the whole length of the island. We had about two hours to ride the beach before heading back to the ferry and the crossing towards home. But it was enough. Enough to breathe a whole lot of salt air and notice some things, all of which are below for you to notice, too.

Now, back home, the weather in mid-to-late April has seemed much less balmy than it was six weeks ago! We’ve been cooler and windier and wetter, overall, than we were from mid-February to mid-March, anyway. Just ahead of this latest cold front, our Mama fox trotted out into the open several times over several days. We suspect she is eating for several and hope she brings the kits out for us to see in a month or two. I saw the season’s first dragonfly on Thursday afternoon, a great big green one; then I saw two and then I saw ten and then I knew: Dragonfly Migration Day! We may have another wave of them later in the spring, but I dashed over to the ocean and sure enough, there were dragonflies everywhere. I just love pointing out the phenomenon to folks who didn’t know the significance of all the dragonflies about.
Last night I saw the season’s first bat around dusk, swooping and darting and (I assume) catching mosquitoes.

The sun waited until nearly 5 pm to appear yesterday and it did the same thing today. Not very pretty light for a photographer to tramp around in, so I spent my day indoors today. But I hope these recent sightings will tide you over until the next time.

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The ferry crossing usually gives some great opportunities to see where the pelicans are nesting and roosting. It looks as if they are sharing their digs with some egrets this year, too.

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I call this "All About Us." These two Sandwich Terns have baby terns on their minds, being spring and all.

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So Sleepy...Sanderling Sleeps In The Sun. Smart Bird!! They were hunkered down from the wind, too. Hey, I could use a nap myself...

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We got in the ferry line extra early for the crossing back home and I had time enough to walk the beach and look for pelicans. Found one! What I noticed most here was its bulging eyes. I call this, YooHoo!

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Then on the ferry ride back, a young pelican was surfing the swells.

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It let the ferry get REALLY close before taking off with a big splash!

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Near the Hatteras dock, a Great Egret flew close to the ferry as well.

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I was too busy talking to the fox to get my camera out of the car at first. And for the first time, it came in the direction of my voice for a few steps. What a joy to see it healthy! I got this photo as it was trotting toward the frame shop.

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A pretty beach in pretty, late afternoon light, almost a week ago. Haven't seen much pretty light all day long for several days now.

posted by eturek at 6:13 PM

Comments [6]

Sunday, April 8, 2012
Signs of Spring
I’ve spent the past week apologizing over and over for being so late getting this blog out. Rather than spend the next week saying the same things, I thought I’d just go ahead and try to post one!!

So much has happened since I last wrote, and I don’t mean only in the busy daily life of opening our gallery for the 2012 season. I mean in the natural life and rhythm of the Outer Banks. My last blog (shame on me) was March 5, and the very next day I was in Kitty Hawk and had one more chance to scope out the Bald Eagle nest. So far this winter, I had not seen either the male or the female and I admit, that was beginning to worry me a bit. Were they both okay? Had they decided for some reason to move their nesting site? I spied one eagle high up in a pine tree just down the road from the nest. I’ve since heard from others that the pair has nested successfully and the female eagle is again sitting on eggs. Typically eagles have two eaglets although this pair did have three in one year; unfortunately, one of those three did not survive. Two seems to be the optimum number.

Later that same day (March 6 was a Banner Day) I drove down to the Colington marina and saw my first osprey of the season, near dusk, perched atop a sailboat mast. It was really too dark to get a decent photograph, but I returned the next day and there it was again, this time up in the pine trees by the boat launch ramp. The female is now sitting on eggs in the marina too, and I regularly see the adults that nest near my house overflying, morning or late afternoon. They are my official sign of spring.

Once the calendar caught up and spring officially occurred, the weather decided to make up for all the winter it missed in the previous weeks! We’ve had a run of windy, squally, damp and chilly weather. I wore shorts—outside walking the beach--on March 1. I wore a turtleneck and heavy sweater atop it, with a down vest, inside the gallery during the first week of April. Brrrr!!!

I’d been thinking all month, in like a lamb/out like a lion and sure enough, March 31 and April 1 were lion-like enough with their winds to qualify for the adage being true one more time. The day before, on March 30, I went outside in the morning with the dogs to a symphony of birdsong, rather like an orchestra tuning up. I spotted a pair of downy woodpeckers mating (I have no idea where their nest is though), a cheeky male cardinal, and a whole flock of Cedar Waxwings! They migrate through and if I am very lucky, I get to see them in my yard for one day. This year March 30 was that day! The fact that leaves were beginning to open and dogwood to bloom just added to the magic.

The advantage to “out like a lion” sort of weather is that squalls, particularly fast-moving ones, produce fabulous cloud shows beforehand, and rainbows as their afterthought gift. I have some of each below to share with you. And as always, I have a story.

Two weeks ago on a squally, gray, rainy Sunday afternoon, I got an unexpected phone call alerting me that a family friend had suddenly passed away early that morning. I know what that feels like, and I could empathize with the complexity of feelings that family was experiencing. An hour or so later, the sun suddenly broke through. Sunshine in the middle of a rain shower = rainbows! I bailed on the work I was doing inside the gallery and went across the street to the ocean. No rainbow. Nothing. Nada. Sunshine, rain, all the ingredients were there, but no rainbow. I waited long enough to get fairly wet, my camera tucked inside protective gear. Nothing. I prayed for a rainbow, a gift I could share with this family. Nothing. Reluctantly I gave up and went back inside as the sun moved back behind the clouds. The day got dark and gray again and it rained even harder. About two more hours passed. I came into the front of the building and noticed the day was visibly brighter. The sun was starting to shine again and the rain had almost stopped. With the sun lower in the sky, now there was a brilliant, full rainbow. I told Pete I was leaving quickly before it faded, and I got to the beach in time to photograph not only the rainbow but also a portion of a faint double above it. I was so grateful to have noticed the brightening day, grateful to have something to share with my friends to hold to in their very real sorrow and loss.

I read a book years ago that acknowledged that in this season of spring, when everything appears to be fresh and new and beginning, sometimes we feel exactly like that too…and sometimes we don’t. I’ve had both kinds of springs. I’m glad I can find exactly what I need—whether dolphin, osprey, pelicans; waxwings, dogwood, eagles; rainbows, rainsqualls, or stormy skies—outdoors in this beautiful place I am blessed to call home.

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I'm always so glad to see Bald Eagles. OK, ok...I am always so glad to see everybody!! But Eagles are special...and I had not seen one to photograph in many months, so this sighting in early March was especially welcome.

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After seeing an osprey later that evening, I went back to the Colington marina the next day. This osprey--the marina female-- and this crow were having quite the conversation.

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Here's the double rainbow, arching full over the ocean, in late March.

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The dogwood always seem to bloom in time for Easter, whenever Easter is. These bloomed early, in late March, with our run of mild weather for an early spring.

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March 31: Out Like a Lion.

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Here's another shot a little later. The clouds were rolling in fast from the west.

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By early April, the several days of rain after the many days of warm sunshine produced lots of spring color in people's gardens...and bright spring-green grasses on the dunes as well.

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I deliberately shot a series at different shutter speeds and produced a composite image to show the motion and swirl of the surf of the early April nor'easter. Taken from a beach access platform that juts out over the dune in KDH.

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Fog was rolling in; I could see it to the north as the sky got darker out over the ocean.

posted by eturek at 10:58 PM

Comments [1]

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