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

Sunday, May 17, 2015
Spring Is Sprung...
Every spring in my childhood, my mom would recite this poem:

Spring is sprung
The grass is rizz
I wonder where
Them birdies is…

After all our rain this winter and early spring, the grass is, indeed, “rizz.” A keyword for spring is “warm” and now that we are in mid-May, I am beginning to think perhaps I can carry my down vest to the upstairs closet. I wore it regularly through the end of April and have been keeping it handy, just in case.

I never realized the phrase about birdies could be about migration, and I never knew the source of the poem (Google tells me it is Winnie the Pooh). We have had migrants as well as new baby birds and critters bringing their particular joys to springtime.

The last week in April, we visited with a couple I’d not seen in more than 40 years! My high school math teacher and his wife made an infrequent trip east from Arkansas and arranged a couple days on the Outer Banks. I took them to the Bodie Lighthouse and we marveled at Avocets in breeding plumage and more Black-necked Stilts than I have ever seen here at one time before. I worried a bit beforehand about where I could take them that would be special, that would present a little of the serendipity-in-the-wild that is my heart’s life here. Wildlife is, after all, wild…as our weather can be at times…and there are never any guarantees that what I go out looking for will be there, on cue. But that morning was amazing, beyond anything I could have wished or hoped for. In my 39 years here I have seen solitary Stilts a few times, three or four at most. Seeing six at once interacting with each other and the Avocets was beyond wonderful. I returned to the same area a few times over the next couple of weeks and also managed to see both in flight.

On one of my return trips, I spied a lone, tiny duckling swimming along the edge of the marsh, determinedly making its way toward the platform. What I found unusual about that behavior is that the only adult ducks in sight were far away: what was the duckling doing out all by itself? Eventually it reached the female that was feeding under the platform, but she wanted nothing to do with the little duck. She pecked at it a couple of times and it gave up trying to swim near her, and turned around and swam back the same way it came. I hope it survives. I couldn’t help but admire its bravery and persistence.

Earlier in the spring I had the joy of watching a pair of Great Horned Owlets grow from small fuzzy-white downy chicks to fully fledged owlets, ready to begin the next chapter of life under their parents’ tutelage. The owls were born several days apart, in an unused osprey nest their parents had taken over for themselves. The first fledged by making the journey to a nearby pine tree and did return at least once to its nest before its sibling made its first, short flight. Once the two of them left the nest, they did not come back there. As they grew, they became increasingly aware of sounds and movement around them, alerting to the call of crow (crow will attack owls to try to drive them away from their own nests) and paying attention to the small sparrows that were nesting in the branches below them. They even played together, using their beaks to bite at one another, much like young puppies or kittens or foxes or herons do. All that play helps strengthen muscles and reinforce behaviors that will increase the owlets chances of survival once they are on their own.

For Mother’s Day, Pete took me up to Carova. It’s become a tradition for us, to go north and see if there are new foals in the herd. This year we saw “Rosa” the first foal born this season. At one point we spotted three pairs of horses grazing very near one another on the west side of the same dune. I found that interesting behavior as usually stallions keep their mares well away from other stallions, for fear of their mare being stolen.

One reality of a busy life is that I cannot be everywhere at once. Increasingly I rely on generous spotters who share their sightings with me. The Swallowtail butterflies on thistle come to you thanks to photographer-friend Pat Draisey. She’d photographed them here before, and I mentioned to her to check her older images for time of year. That’s a handy way to use the digital information available to us; we can be more alert to nature’s patterns and rhythms. Sure enough, it was this time of year, so she checked Alligator River Refuge and reported back that swallowtails were there in good numbers. I might not have had the chance to experience them and photograph them myself had she not shared her sighting with me before.

I am writing this at the beginning of the last week of “spring” in our Outer Banks calendar. Memorial Day always marks the official start of the busy, summer season, although the sun doesn’t sing out summer for another month. Regular readers know that my own nature-based summer sign is the blooming of the sea oats, and we have to wait about five more weeks for that!

Meanwhile, enjoy these sights of Outer Banks springtime.

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Here are the two owlets.

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The first day I watched the older bird stretch its wings, the owlet acted as if it had no idea how to control them. The younger looked--in human-speak--astonished.

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This may not seem like much of a first flight, but this signaled the beginning of leaving the nest for good. A few days later both birds were on the wing.

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Here is the brave, lone duckling, stretching its wings as part of bathing and preening after its long swim over to the platform at Bodie Light.

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Here is the group of Black-necked Stilts along with a few of the large flock of Avocets that were present.

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The Stilts are handsome in their black-and-white plumage and bright pink legs.

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For years I have longed to see Avocets in breeding plumage here. I see them in winter but seem to miss them in spring. Seeing them with old friends was a treasure.

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Here is Rosa, first foal of the season.

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A little beachside nap sounds like the perfect antidote to the spring sleepies.

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Swallowtails and Thistle.

posted by eturek at 10:49 PM

Comments [3]

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
All that I am is this breaking...
I’ve been thinking lately about the ways in which photography communicates emotion. Subtleties of color, shape, line or texture combine with light and shadow to create not only a picture but a feeling. (I’ve been thinking about music and poetry too, and all the ways both differ from prose.) Light is key: its direction, its intensity, its color. Because the moment of tripping the shutter happens in an instant, and because the speed of that shutter opening and closing can be lightning fast, I often think of photography as freezing time. Our eyes and minds watch the movie of life while our cameras are busy isolating stills, revealing details we miss moment by moment.

Still cameras can also be called upon to render time’s passing. Think of the effect choosing a long exposure/slow shutter speed gives, or panning with a subject to follow its motion. Deciding when to use a fast shutter speed to freeze time and isolate every detail of that instant in tack-sharp focus and when to deliberately lengthen the exposure to portray time’s passing is a creative, aesthetic decision. I would say it is also an emotional decision, because the photographs produced in either instance produce entirely different emotional responses, at least in me.

I’ve spent years focusing on waves, trying to time that perfect instant of a wave cresting, just about to break. Lately I have also been working with the opposite technique and panning with the water’s movement toward shore. Both of these exercises remind me of one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Judith Bailey. She has recently published a collection of her poems, Impassable Roads, and this poem is included. (Judith is OBC’s own vintageart; she is also an artist and often posts about history and heritage.) I love the whole poem, and for years I’ve read her lines about the wave as a metaphor for loss. Lately, I’ve seen a new meaning—the exuberance of living the life you were meant to live, moment by moment.

(making a living)

i am the songbird
though i build my nest
feed myself and my young
i exist for the moment
he opens the door of his life
i sing, all that i am
is this song
echoing in the canyon of cosmos
lingering, this moment lasts
and i am the wave
cresting, peaking
i reach toward heaven
i exist for the moment
i learn in the fall
all that i am
is this breaking
booming on the eternal shore
cleansing, this is the way
of forgetfulness…
and i am the great tree
where bird builds her nest
and wave threatens my roots—
because my roots run deep
i can do nothing but remain
to receive the sun
and give the seed.

-Poem © 1986 Judith Bailey

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Wave series, looking north

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Every wave has its own story.

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"i learn in the fall..."

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Waves have pathways too.

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To me, this says, I did it! Can you feel the joy?

posted by eturek at 9:08 AM

Comments [1]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 561322 times

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