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

Saturday, May 24, 2014
Mother's Day Magic
Over the past several years, when we can manage it and weather conditions cooperate, we've spent at least part of Mother's Day up in the 4WD area of Carova. By then, on a west/southwest wind, the flies of May have emerged and drive the wild horses toward the ocean to try to get some relief. This year we saw more groups on the beach and by the water than I think we ever have before. As I say every time I post photographs of them, this is when long lenses...and in the images you will see below, wide angle lenses, come in handy! The 50' separation rule is in place for a good reason, as you will see below.

These are not your barnyard, pasture horses. They are wild in every sense of that word; they forage on their own and have managed to evolve a specialized digestive system to handle the high amount of salt that is in their diet from living at the sea's edge. Even the fresh water sources or rain puddles they might drink from here have a higher content of salts than comparable sources in a Virginia farm field, say. Stallions will spar to signal mastery and ownership over both territories and mares, and trust me, you don't want to be near or between an upset stallion and his mares, or a stallion and an aggressive challenger.

The oddest thing we saw prompted me to call the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. For those who are unaware, this organization does a tremendous job responding to emergencies involving the herd as well as educating and advocating for their safety and protection. If you witness behavior you think violates the ordinances that protect both horses and humans, you are encouraged to call the Fund and report your concerns. I called not because I saw a violation, but because a stallion and foal were walking the beach by themselves--no harem, no mother-mare in sight. All Dad really wanted was to take Junior to the ocean and get them some respite from the biting flies. However, another stallion and his harem were already on the beach and that stallion was not inclined to share his strand of sand. He left his harem to warn the would-be intruders to move along. The foal turned his back on the whole fracas, and I held my breath that a genuine fight would not develop. "You have your kid with you; you have to look out for your foal," I kept saying to the Papa-horse. He backed off quickly, the dominant stallion went back to his harem and Dad and Junior ambled on down the beach until they could reach the ocean. Crisis averted.

The CWHF reported back to me that this foal is weaned, but I never did learn what had happened to its mother, whether she had been stolen by another stallion and had to leave her youngster behind or whether she had been injured or ill and removed from the herd. If a female horse is still nursing and requires medical treatment, both she and her foal are removed from the herd together.

All in all we had a banner day. The weather was beautiful, we saw more Sanderlings in one day than I have experienced before, and best of all, Pete and I got to enjoy these hours together, at more leisure than our busy season usually allows. We even came home sporting a little suntan and feeling as if we'd been on vacation, having stopped for a Dairy Queen ice cream cone along the ride back!

Living in one place a long time means you get to know its rhythms and its moods. I'm so grateful that knowledge, combined with what I've learned from the generosity of others, gives me the chance to pay it forward and pass these insights and images along to you.

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Here is where the drama started. The Papa Stallion and his foal. He is sizing up the situation here.

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Here comes the dominant stallion. This is where I began to fear for the foal's safety.

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We saw spinning, neighing, and some kicking at the air, but no real blows. Everyone saved face apparently, and Dad and Junior kept on walking afterwards.

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We saw several groups actually splash at the water's edge.

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Anybody for fishing?

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This foal has the right idea.

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Sanderlings and sometimes Red Knots migrate through on their way back north. While some shorebirds stay for the summer, we are always treated to larger numbers of these charming seaside scavengers in May.

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We must have seen thousands of Sanderlings on Mother's Day.

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Here is another potential drama. The group to the south took its sweet time meandering north but eventually these two groups met. Who was infringing on whose territory was not clear but all ended well.

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I love how connected and affectionate members of the harem are with one another. Sometimes it is hard to choose a favorite image since each one represents a moment of experience in real time. But this is my favorite from that day.

posted by eturek at 8:54 PM

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(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 547878 times

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