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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017
A Love Story
Those of you who don’t like the Hallmark Channel, where romances typically undergo a rough period and smooth out just in time for a happily-ever-after ending probably won’t enjoy this blog.

For more years than I can recall, I have watched the Colington Harbour osprey return each spring, raise a family of young osprey, and fly south in the fall, only to repeat the cycle the next year.

Twenty years ago, as Pete and I got married and settled into our own daily lives, a cousin of Pete’s—Karen Watras—came to stay with my aging, ill parents. We all lived in Colington Harbour less than five minutes from one another and from the osprey pair who had taken up nesting on a light pole in the harbor’s marina parking lot. Karen, who loved osprey before she came to Colington, christened the pair Grace and Henry. She had more time to watch them than I did in the early years of my marriage, and I learned a lot about the pair from her.

Henry was—and remains—a devoted lifelong mate and osprey daddy. While most osprey share the duties of nest building and incubation, Henry is more involved than most. He nearly always finds something special to decorate the nest—one year it was police tape; one year, construction tape. Sometimes we see remnants of bulkhead filter cloth, flags, pennants, rope, or netting. I began to joke that the pair has a fabric fetish. Every year they would arrive within a few days of one another, often either on Karen’s birthday or anniversary, both of which are in mid-March. Karen and I both have photographed the pair and documented their lives over the past twenty years. The two of them are older, as we are. Every year we hold our breath that both will make the long journey from their winter grounds—likely in Central or South America—safely back to their summer home in Colington.

This year, when I went to the marina to see if either had arrived yet, what I noticed first was that their nest was missing. I don’t mean that the sticks they carefully place every March and April had blown away in winter winds. I mean the entire platform had been removed from its light-pole setting, where it had rested securely for more than 20 years. I hope you can imagine my shock when I learned that the former manager had directed its removal, perhaps in ignorance of the migratory patterns of osprey. The nest was not abandoned, any more than a house can be said to have no children when they are merely in school. I talked to association staff, officials, and a wildlife agent with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Eventually all the phone calls bore fruit, and the association president (who was out of town when the nest platform was taken down) as well as the chairman of the board contacted Dominion NC Power, asking if they could set a new pole nearby for the osprey.

Meanwhile, Grace arrived first. If you think I was startled by seeing no nest, imagine how she must have felt. Not only do osprey mate for life, often remaining unmated if one of the pair dies an untimely death, but they return to the exact same nest year after year. Once Henry also arrived, the pair began to try to balance sticks on their old light pole home. Of course the sticks simply fell off. Next, they flew to an old climbing tower in the soundfront park and playground that is adjacent to the parking lot. With its slick, sloping roof, the tower was not much better as a permanent home.

Meanwhile, Dominion NC Power graciously agreed to donate manpower and a pole, having replaced an older pole nearby. Colington maintenance personnel built a sturdy platform and affixed it atop the pole, and the power crew set the pole on Tuesday morning.

Now the big question was, would the pair spot the new platform, and abandon their attempts to nest atop the tower? I admit, I called out to Grace several times in the days before the new pole arrived, telling her a new home was coming. I also prayed. The old hymn—and Scripture—asserts God’s eye is on the sparrow. I reckon God cares equally for osprey.

The next afternoon, the president of the association called to tell me the pair had been at the new nest site all day. The pull to return to the vicinity of their old home was so strong, they began nest building less than 24 hours after the pole was in place.

Now the pair has a sturdy new home, and boaters who reportedly had been disturbed by the nest’s proximity to their docks have no reason to complain. Thanks to the quick and generous work of Dominion NC Power, all is well that ends well.

This is one of those times I am grateful to be a photographer. The fact I had a multitude of images over many years showing the same pair, building their nest, raising their young, and struggling to do the same this year without their nest site in place helped tell their story to community officials and ultimately resulted in Dominion’s efforts to give the pair a new home. Those images would not have been possible for me in my film days, because the lenses I had then were not long enough to give sharply focused images of wildlife or birds from a distance. Having telephoto lenses in my lens kit helped me tell their story, and ultimately helped me advocate for them.

I’ve recently learned about a new camera technology from a company called, aptly, Light. https://light.co/camera       Its camera bodies look like the smallest compact cameras, but boast up to 16 different camera modes that purport to replicate a variety of lenses, from close-ups to wide-angle to telephoto. I haven’t seen one in person, much less tried it out, but I am always intrigued with how computing technology makes bigger results out of smaller packages possible.

When Pete and I married and I began paying closer attention to Grace and Henry 20 years ago, digital photography was still in the future. Eventually we bought a point-and-shoot that had all of 2 megapixels and could not stop any action. Today, I carry a 20 megapixel Nikon body and an extremely heavy telephoto lens (either a 400mm or a 600mm). Who knows? Ten years from now when that lens may be impossible for me to tote around, you might find me carrying a Light camera and obtaining amazing results!

The bottom line is, you never know what your photography might do, today, or years from now. You may not realize today what an impact your photograph might have tomorrow. The important thing is to get in touch with what inspires you, learn all you can about your craft, and make images. Grace and Henry would surely agree.

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Wonder if that is true for osprey? They don't spend the winter together but return to the same nest to mate every spring.

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Here is Grace in 2014, coming back to the nest.

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I usually see them first in this pine tree near the marina.

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Here they are a year later. Grace, like all females, has more speckling on her breast than her mate does.

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This image always makes me laugh. Here is Henry, with a young osprey, presumably calling out for Grace. Yes, osprey dads babysit!

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It is the male's job to bring fish for his mate, and the young osprey.

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Grace, waiting for Henry, and at this moment in mid-March, homeless.

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Henry tried valiantly to bring sticks for a nest atop the tower, but they kept sliding off.

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Dominion NC Power and Colington Harbour maintenance staff to the rescue!

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Now we just have to wait for the babies to arrive!

posted by eturek at 11:35 PM

Comments [9]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 561334 times

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