|Monday, May 24, 2010|
|Baby Osprey & Eagles|
|An interesting thing happened in my brain the day I became a grandma, a sort of turned-to-mush kind of thing. The same thing happened when my son was born, but I did not expect to have those feelings all over again and so many years later. I have told both friends and strangers that I became, overnight, a puddle—and the gaga new love sort of feeling just grew over time. No matter that the oldest two tower over me now, or that the youngest will start school next year. Grandkids are like puppies, somehow always cute no matter how old or tall they grow (or how much they drive their parents crazy!) The truth is, I find great delight in babies in general (our neighbors have a newborn baby boy and the best-ever big brother). So of course, I feel this way about baby critters, especially tiny, fuzzy ones, and about tiny, fuzzy chicks—even if the chicks aren’t quite so tiny or so fuzzy. All this is to say that once again, we have babies! |
The Colington marina osprey pair has three baby osprey, all big enough now for their little speckled heads to stick out of the top of the nest. I saw two clearly with my eyes and my long lens revealed the third, the smallest and youngest of the trio. Mom will feed the oldest and strongest first, but typically all three do grow, fledge, and undertake the long migration south that is their personal rite of passage into adulthood, otherwise known as their first winter. The Kitty Hawk eagle pair has at least one eaglet who is making the small hops from nest to branch that precede first flight, stretching its wings and grown now as large as its parents. The landowner from whom I have permission to watch the nest told me today that both she and her husband thought they had seen two small heads in the nest but that they have seen only one young eaglet at a time lately. None of us is sure what that means—we all find it unlikely that an eaglet fledged without their noticing, as they keep close watch on the nest, and the entire process of “branching”—first climbing out on a branch, then stretching and eventually pumping wings, then hopping from branch to nest and out again, then literally jumping up from the branch and settling down again, letting the air support the wings for brief seconds—can take days and days before a real first flight. If there were indeed two eaglets hatched, one may not have survived.
A show stealer today was a small woodpecker/sapsucker/flicker who, I think, had taken a bath somewhere after flying off from the perch where I first spied it. When it returned, not only was it wet, but it went through an elaborate process of fluffing its feathers, scratching, laying down on the branch and rubbing its back—all of this over and over. Even Pete laughed aloud when he saw the pictures, as I did when I watched in person.
We are off to Ocracoke for a quick day trip tomorrow and hopefully the weather will cooperate enough for my next blog to include some photographs from down the ‘Banks. Meanwhile, enjoy the babies!
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|Although I know what to expect, I am still always amazed at how large the eaglets are at this stage.|
posted by eturek at 10:36 PM
|Tuesday, May 11, 2010|
|Little Things (with Great Love)|
|What is a typical week like for me, naturally speaking? Well, typically, my weeks are full of little things. I always remember Mother Theresa: I can do no great things, she said, only small things with great love. I’ve been seeing the little-things signs of mid-spring all around this week, after the Great Things signs of a fogbow and immense cloud shows last week. If last week was spring’s crescendo, this week the spring symphony is mezzo piano, moderately soft, and its heralds are more ordinary—meaning, we have to pay attention. On their spring 1971 live album Four Way Street, Crosby Stills Nash & Young opened Find the Cost of Freedom with an acoustic guitar solo. David Crosby said (I can still hear his voice in my head and heart), “this is wooden music again, so you gotta be cool, otherwise you won’t hear it”. Thank you, David, for the reminder. In musical parlance, all the sights and sounds for me this week have been wooden music.|
First came the dragonflies. I really am not sure if their first wave of migration has started, but I am seeing more of them all of a sudden both near the ocean in Nags Head and in the Colington woods. I spied a beautiful Saddlebags atop a twig Saturday morning in Nags Head. Okay, I am showing off, I admit it. Out of the dozens of dragonflies that live or pass through here, the Saddlebags is the only one I know for sure, and that is as much as I know. I get confused between the Carolina and the Black. The only reason I know about Saddlebags at all is that I found a wounded one in my yard near the end of its brief life several years ago, and I looked it up to see what it was. Later, I bought one of my many little guides to help me out in identifying what I see—Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies, published by Stokes. It is a little more complicated than the “beginner’s” would lead you to believe and I bog down in trying to remember all the stuff they say you should notice: position of wings, whether the dragonfly mostly perches or flies and whether it holds its body out straight or bent down, and how many stripes it has in what order and color on its body—that sort of thing. I am mostly content to watch and take photographs and look it up later, as I did with this one. That is how I know it was a Black Saddlebags and not a Carolina, as I first thought, although the differences are subtle except to etymologists.
About 4 p.m. the same day, the little Yellowhouse bunny was reclining in the afternoon sun, first out front of the frame shop and then in its more customary spot, in the shade near my car. Two and a half hours later, at sunset, one lone puffy cloud glowed rose in the waning light over the ocean, a much more subtle, “wooden music” sort of cloud show than last week’s.
Mid-afternoon on Mother’s Day, here came a hoppy-toad, right across our beach road driveway; I saw one last week in Colington, and here was another one in Nags Head. Some years I go all summer without seeing a single one. He (she?) let me get pretty close but then turned around and hopped back under the old cottage that houses the Yellowhouse. There are plenty of ways under and out again; the bunny comes out from underneath sometimes, too. I saw a skink at that exact same in and out opening, but it moved way too fast for me to even think about getting my camera.
On Monday, I drove to the Colington marina parking lot to check on the nest there. The mother osprey, aka Grace, has been mostly hunkered down in the nest. She was there Monday, and this year’s nest is typically well-built and deep, as is customary with this pair. I still have not spied any baby osprey heads yet. However, when her mate flew in with a fish, I heard a great commotion and it sounded like baby osprey to me! Their little voices are much higher pitched than those of their parents, and their calls are urgent, almost staccato (to keep with our musical theme). Grace kept tearing at the fish that Henry had laid carefully at her feet and then stretching her neck forward and down, over and over. Her head was completely out of sight in the nest and I assume she is feeding a newly hatched baby—or babies. Stay tuned for all the details as I have them!
Today I had a little time to spare late this morning so I drove down to the parking lot at the now-renovated old Coast Guard station at Oregon Inlet and walked across the dunes there toward the beach. I was hoping that maybe the Black Skimmers had returned. Sure enough, a large section of the sand on Pea Island’s northern tip is roped off and I saw well over a hundred Black Skimmers there—with my long lens, I could focus in on a portion of the group but could not get all of them in one frame. The most I counted in a single photograph was 75. They sounded a little like Laughing Gulls when they called, which was not often. At the same time, I heard a much higher, squeaky sort of call but I could not spot the singers at first, they were so tiny and blended in so well with the sand and shells. A whole colony of Least Terns are using this area, too. I saw individual terns, males I assume, flying away; others (or the same ones back again) flew in with tiny baitfish; I saw one pair that was definitely a couple. None of the terns was sitting on a nest yet from where I could focus with my long lens.
I admit I had a myriad of mixed feelings and jumbled thoughts walking back to my car, sort of like an orchestra tuning up before the concert begins. I could discern individual tones and themes but the whole sounded discordant and out of rhythm. I wanted the notes to all resolve and for that, I had to move from my head to my heart. I look for hearts in nature; last week I spied one in a tree trunk. So this next bit is from my heart.
In 1988-89, I along with many others worked hard and tirelessly to obtain what became the groin at the north end of Pea Island. We were trying (in vain it turned out) to save the Coast Guard station from abandonment, and to protect the landing of the Bonner Bridge (which was successful). My job as county Public Info Officer was to help the county lobby Congress to allow the station to remain; we also coordinated with state officials, particularly with the Governor’s office and NCDOT, and with the Corps of Engineers who designed the structure, and with officials with the Department of Interior, who opposed its construction. Finally, in a compromise that was, I am sure, completely political, the structure was permitted and built. And it has performed exactly as the Corps predicted. The sand that has accumulated there by a combination of dredge spoil placement and natural processes has created habitat for birds, which the Corps contended would occur. Engineering provided a solution that satisfied all interests, despite the doubting. A human solution to a human problem wound up benefiting the wildlife, too. Had the “leave it alone” argument won the day, the birds would not be nesting there—there would be no “there” for them to nest, and the southern end of the Bonner bridge would have by now been severely damaged by erosion if not destroyed.
I am saddened that these tiny little Least Terns (and their larger counterparts the skimmers) have been dragged into the debate about public access to portions of the beaches of lower Hatteras Island. I am one of those who believe it is not about the birds. Not really. When Pete and I vacation in Florida, we are astounded and thrilled at the proximity of many of these same species within national parks and refuges there, along with other migratory birds and endangered species like the American Woodstork. In those places, people enjoy access and the birds and wildlife do well, too, having acclimated themselves to the human presence. I love our islands, love our people, love the wildlife. I truly believe we can all coexist and thrive here, as in Florida—but only if love prevails and if those who are moved by love, like me, speak out and say what we know and what we believe. Here is what I want to say: please don’t hate the birds. It is not their fault. It is not even about them; they are a convenient excuse. Find the deeper issues, focus there. Okay, that is enough speech-making for one blog. Enjoy the photos below—they made my days and I hope they make yours too.
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|A Saddlebags dragonfly, so named for the dark spots on its wings near the body. This is a Black.|
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|This little pink cloud really was little, in the grand scheme of the sky, and it really was this pink.|
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|The first toad I looked up had the scientific name of bufo -- I guess it could be buff for a toad!|
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|Notice how he is holding the fish for her. Notice, too, the size of the fishbones in front of the nest!|
posted by eturek at 6:45 PM
|Thursday, May 6, 2010|
|The White Rainbow|
|My first clue, that the day was, or could become, extraordinary, appeared while I was walking Mikey, our Westie, shortly after sunrise. The vacant lot across the street looked like a scene from a Cecil B. DeMille movie. I was scarcely content to observe; I kept wondering what would happen if I braved the tangle, even in my pjs, and just stepped into the glory I so clearly saw.|
Early morning mist filtered the sunlight, sending clearly seen beams of light scattered through the oaks and gums and other hardwoods that belong to my neighbor. My first glimpse was of a live oak tree trunk striped by the light. From the vantage point of my front porch, the lot transformed into a magical forest – the effect was more clearly seen at distance than close up. I opted out of climbing into the light and went to work out at Curves instead, inspired to do the right thing by the clarity of the morning. Clarity is a good word because at Curves, I found anything but. Out here, one half-block back from the bypass, heavy fog shrouded all the buildings and let me look straight at the sun, like a glowing globe in the east. No glory-beams anywhere, just a vague morning greyness. My friend, fellow artist and OBC’er vintageart, aka Backpacker to blog readers, aka Judith Bailey to the rest of the world, described the sort of fog I saw this way: the air is warm but the water is still cold. They want to get to know each other, but they are so different. They don’t mix well in these conditions. They are shy…they shroud themselves, so as not to seem too eager, or to reveal too much too soon. What a great way to storyline late spring fog!
One of my favorite books is a work by Susan Strauss called The Passionate Fact. The author is a natural historian, interpreter, storyteller, and scientist; she contends that facts need not be dull, dry, or dreary to be truth. I love how she counsels to tell the stories of our natural world with humor and with love, as Judy did to me, of the fog. This fog is indeed the product of the mixing of cold water and warmer air. We have had warmer air temperatures the past several days—the high hit the low 80’s yesterday—but the ocean and sound waters are still chilly—like low to mid 60’s.
As I prepared to leave the gallery shortly after 5 p.m., I thought that this might be one of those evenings worth spending sunset not on the soundside but on the oceanfront. I was deciding to go check out the beach when my cell phone rang. Judy was calling to tell me I should definitely go to the beach, as the fog in southern Nags Head was thick. I went to a nearby beach access and she spied me there. Together we walked up the boardwalk, crossed over the dune pass, and saw…a white rainbow! Neither of us had ever seen anything quite like it. I went back to the car for a wider angled lens so I could get the entire phenomenon in one frame. It was shaped like a rainbow, and appeared at about the same angle a rainbow would given the sun’s position, but it had no color. The sea was somewhat fog-shrouded but not completely so. After I processed my photographs, I could see that there was a fainter, upper bow, like a double rainbow, in some of the later images. Of course, I had to Google.
What Judy and I witnessed was a fogbow. Fogbows occur in foggy conditions, and they appear colorless because…well, let me start by telling you what you probably already know about rainbows. It will be easier to get to fogbows by describing what rainbows are first. Rainbows are caused by the refraction and reflection of light through water droplets. Late afternoon shower, sun breaks through in the west, rainbow appears over the ocean. Beautiful. We see the beauty because the water droplets bend the light as it passes through them—that is the refraction part. Light is made up of various wavelengths; the water acts like a prism, separating the light into its respective wavelengths, which we see as the rainbow’s colored bands. So far, so good. Fogbows work similarly, but not exactly. Instead of the light being bent through the water droplets, the light is bent around them. Why? Because fog droplets are much, much finer than raindrops—about 1/10 the size of a large raindrop, according to one website I found. That size difference means light diffracts—or bends around—the fog droplets rather than bending through them. The wavelengths don’t separate neatly; instead, they behave more like ripples in water that bounce off of objects, with waves that tend to interfere with each other. That interference prevents the fracturing of the light into its respective, colored wavelengths. What results instead is colorless—but still bright, almost vibrant, against the darker sky. I ate a quick supper and went back to the ocean for sunset, but the fog had lifted by then. The show was over. I am so glad I got to see it—a lifetime experience.
Meanwhile, wildflowers are blooming all over the ‘Banks—the wild honeysuckle is ablaze across the parking lot from Yellowhouse, and the purple mounds of I-can’t-recall-their-name-at-the-moment are in full bloom along Colington Road. The one or two ladybugs I saw a few days ago have multiplied into dozens by today, so I have good luck and good fortune all around me now. Of course, I already knew that. The morning glories in my magic forest and the white fogbow over the ocean had shouted out that message already. All I need to do, as always, is listen.
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|From my porch, I could see the sunlight beams even more clearly. Looks like a Hallmark card!|
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|What a contrast! No glory beams out here. Good thing I decided to work out before the fog dampened my enthusiasm.|
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|Wild Honeysuckle. The white and yellow varieties are in bloom in Colington. I smelled them yesterday for the 1st time.|
posted by eturek at 11:29 PM