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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Travels Afield
In late March, I had the joyful experience of leading a couple of photographers in a workshop arranged by Pocosin Arts, in Columbia NC. We strolled the town’s waterfront boardwalk and made field trips to Phelps Lake and Somerset Place in nearby Creswell on our first afternoon, and got up in the dark to arrive at Lake Mattamuskeet before sunrise the next morning. I wanted them to experience the change of color and glow in the pre-dawn minutes before the sun actually rises above the horizon. I longed for calm water but alas, we had high, gusty winds, so the water did not reflect the colors of the sky as I had hoped. Several Tundra Swan still remained in the Refuge so they were able to get a close view of them and see just how large and majestic the birds are. A quick ride to Englehard honored one participant’s love of boats; a fisherman there was gracious to allow us to carefully walk his waterfront dock in search of images that honored the fishing life.

At Phelps Lake we found the colors of spring ranging from pale peach to vibrant red, the gray-green of lichen to the bright golden-green of new growth, and violets growing wild at Somerset as counterpoint to rural fields growing with purple sage. A boardwalk near the boat launch area winds through a forest whose feet are perpetually wet and comes out at Somerset Place, a state historic site whose plantation buildings date to colonial times. The boggy forest includes not only bald cypress, which I am used to seeing grow in standing water but also hardwoods like maple trees that I have never seen growing in water! At Somerset, a small pen held two small goats which seemed eager to be petted and reminded me of my childhood goat, who was named HiBaby by my parents after I toddled up to her at our first meeting and said, Hi Baby. (Which, by the way, is what I have said since to every animal or bird I have ever encountered!)

I returned to the mainland a week later, this time rendezvousing with Ray Matthews at 4 a.m. so we could be at Lake Mattamuskeet in time to scope out the Milky Way’s position there and await what turned out to be a lovely golden sunrise with calm water. As you will see below, calm water makes all the difference in the feeling and look of the morning. A nearby campground owner allowed us to walk his shoreline and watch an osprey hard at work rebuilding the nest.

The first week of April, Phyllis Kroetsch and I made a quick trip to the western part of NC, first to Mountain Lens in Hendersonville where I will teach a workshop in September (if you are interested, see www.evetureknaturephotography.com/workshops-and-presentations) and then to Seagrove to pick up NC pottery. I love the mountains as much as I love the sea, but I have learned that the common element in my loving is water. Having a stream and a waterfall right on the Mountain Lens property was a delight. We photographed the waterfall on site in the evening as the sun sank behind the mountains, and I walked beside the stream for some quiet time the next morning. I can’t wait to go back in the fall.

We visited one nearby waterfall and a now-abandoned covered bridge that had been built over a stream on private property before heading to Seagrove. While there, we stayed at a charming B&B called the Duck Smith House, now lovingly restored and operated by two sisters whose mission in life is to make their guests feel pampered. They succeeded in spades and I intend to stay there any time I am anywhere near the region! We watched cardinals and warblers and two different woodpeckers enjoying their yard before taking our leave and visiting several pottery studios. At one, the owner gave us permission to photograph his gardens and outbuildings, an extra treat, while another did not mind my getting up close and personal with one of her many goats while she wrapped up our selections. We stopped by a glass blowing studio and watched as they finished a robot designed by an elementary student who won a recent contest to see his drawing created in glass. Everywhere we went we found friendly, gracious and generous hosts.

As much as I love the Outer Banks, I find occasional sojourns away broaden my perspective and expand my creative vision, giving me even more energy and enthusiasm when I return. I believe that is why so many folks come visit our area. We live in a special place sacred to many. Part of our stewardship is to tend to our area knowing it does not really belong to us alone. I am grateful for the stewards who allow me to enjoy other areas of our beautiful country; travel helps me appreciate both them and my own home in a way that inspires me to welcome others as I have been welcomed.

While these scenes are not from the Outer Banks, I wanted to share them in that same spirit. Enjoy.

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The wet forest at Phelps Lake seemed even more magical with the shadows cast by late afternoon sunlight.

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High winds produced breaking waves on Phelps Lake that splashed ashore against the Bald Cypress knees.

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I told my students that red is as much a spring color as green to me--these maple keys show you why.

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Canada Geese may be common birds, but I find them beautiful regardless.

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Sun pillar sunrise from the morning Ray Matthews and I went to Lake Mattamuskeet.

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The waterfall at dusk on the Mountain Lens property, within sight and walking distance of the training center building.

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A long exposure downstream from the waterfall early the next morning.

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This covered bridge is now abandoned but can be seen from the nearby road.

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One of our pottery stops, Bulldog Pottery in Seagrove, had picturesque outbuildings and gardens.

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The region around Hendersonville is famous for numerous waterfalls. Even on an overcast day, the falls are beautiful here.

posted by eturek at 11:11 PM

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Sunday, April 14, 2019
Lions and Lambs
March certainly lived up to its schizophrenic personality this year! The month began stormy, vacillated between winter and spring, and finally assumed its lamb-like nature by month end. Not that we had snow; in fact, this year, despite winter thunder, I did not even see flurries! Our winter while milder was admittedly long, dreary, gray and wet. Even on days that did not rain, the skies looked as if we were in for a downpour any minute.

But now that winter has finally let go, the Outer Banks and I are finding our spring! On spring’s first weekend, while teaching a workshop at Pocosin Arts in Columbia, I challenged my participants to “find spring” in fresh ways. What means “spring” to you? I answered my own question with flowers (obvious), green (also obvious), red (not nearly so obvious) and osprey, whose migratory lifestyle brings them back home to their nests to rebuild for another year’s cycle. An osprey obligingly flew overhead a few minutes later though it was too high to really photograph well. But the pairs I watch here are settling in, busy about the work of rebuilding or repairing nests buffeted by winter winds and rain. This year, the osprey pair that nests at Sunset Grille in Duck arrived on the same day the Tundra Swan left. I heard my first osprey call just minutes before the last Swan stragglers took off, not to be seen again until late in the year. Nature’s cycles continue.

A week or so before that, the Bufflehead ducks that overwintered in record numbers in our little cove in Duck began to leave. Every day I thought I was seeing fewer of them. For the last week or so before they all left, the Buffleheads were joined by a large number of Canvasback ducks as well as by a lone pair of Hooded Mergansers! For one glorious morning last year I saw for the first time ever the two white-headed male ducks together, the Buffleheads and the Hooded Merganser. This year I was finally able to make an image showing both. They are admittedly far off but the image connects me to both years’ memories. I make images for a number of reasons and one of those is to remember.

It is the season too when many second homeowners come back to our area and re-open their houses. Imagine coming down every March or April knowing you had to rebuild from the ground up! The osprey are amazing to me. They, like many other larger birds, mate for life, but instead of staying put near home they make separate migratory journeys far south for the winter and then, on cue, each returns alone to reunite at the same nest. We often see youngsters from previous years trying to move back in but the parents will have none of that! Their homing instinct brings them back to the nest where they were hatched and fledged, and then they have to find a new spot to call their own, usually within a mile or so of their original nest. We see this in young Eagles too, and the interactions can make for some dramatic sky chases as the parents shoo the “young adult” birds off.

I always equate winter with vibrant sunrises but our gray, wet weather precluded those this year. We did have one especially beautiful sunrise in mid-March and I was fortunate enough to be up and out early enough to share it.

That sunrise was especially lovely because I spent most of February and the early part of March trying to recover from, first, a bad bout of flu (despite a flu shot) and then, the bronchitis that followed. When I was finally able to get outside beyond my front porch, I walked the Currituck Maritime Forest trail and saw the loveliest live oak groves in our whole area, I believe. If you choose to go, you can either follow the boardwalk all the way straight to the sound, or take the trail off to the right, which is what I did. The day I walked I noticed how vibrant the green moss was, and I asked to find a moss heart. There was one particularly lovely grove, with a little rise and fall and dappled sun and shadow, so I turned aside to photograph it and there at my feet was my green moss heart! Ask, and you will receive. I have lived this often enough now in my experience to attest to the truth of Jesus’ words—especially if what you ask for is intended to bless others. The vibrant green helped me believe in spring even before the calendar announced its arrival.

In my yard, the daffodils bloomed in time to coincide with both my forsythia and quince bushes, none of which were growing wild on the lot when we built the house more than 20 years ago, but which I associate with springtime in my childhood in Virginia. Choosing to plant them here altered the native landscape to be sure, but the flowering plants bring me great joy even when winter temperatures prevail. The quince bush is the first red of spring I usually notice. Later reds you will see in the next blog, which will include images from some spring excursions off the Outer Banks.

Now my morning journaling time is filled with birdsong as all the little resident songbirds and migrating spring warblers join in celebrating spring’s arrival. Pollen counts are high but I am still so grateful to see color and sunshine in the landscape. The forecast often calls for some spring showers but I remember the old adage, so more May flowers are surely in store. Rather than days on end of rain, the sun and rain play peek-a-boo now as our seasonal weather patterns begin to change and the rain is more intermittent.

So settle in, think spring, and enjoy these offerings.

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The two ducks in front are a pair of Hooded Mergansers while those swimming toward them are Buffleheads. The Mergansers swam away before the Buffleheads got near enough for a close-up photograph of both.

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Here is one of the Canvasback males with a female behind him.

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One osprey usually arrives first. Here, the osprey is eyeing the water below for a fish which it eventually swooped down for, but missed.

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This image is about 15 minutes before official sunrise. The colors pre-dawn and post-sunset are often the most intense.

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This photograph is 11 minutes later. It amazes me always how much the light changes in mere minutes.

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The live oaks in the Currituck Maritime forest are immense.

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Before any of the deciduous trees began to show green, the vibrant moss glowed at the base and along the trunks of the live oak trees.

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My moss heart! "Ask and you shall receive."

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The trail is well marked and easy to follow, and a couple strategically placed benches invite calm and contemplation among the trees.

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Daffodils bloom in my yard at the base of my forsythia and quince bushes weeks before the calendar confirms spring.

posted by eturek at 9:23 PM

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