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

Saturday, May 26, 2018
April Showers and May Days
After the soggy, wet April, I think all of us were ready to cry "May Day!" Happily we have had some nicer (read sunnier) weather, although the colder, damper spring also put a damper on photographic opportunities. Nonetheless, I do have some treasures to share with you.

At the end of April, Pete and I ran away for two nights to Ocracoke. I just love it down there, especially in the shoulder seasons. It always feels as if we have the island almost to ourselves. We enjoyed some much needed rest before the season began in earnest, after our long winter of moving Yellowhouse north to adjoin SeaDragon. We relaxed, sat on our little deck at Captain's Landing and watched pelicans fly by (and perch on nearby pilings), ate some yummy food, and listened to great local music. I walked the beach looking for shells, and we caught two nights of the full moon. Sweet.

Back home, we have a tundra swan with an injured wing that did not make the annual migratory journey back to breeding grounds in the Arctic. Instead, it has been hanging about our little cove with its new best friends, Canada Geese pairs who have been tolerant of its presence. It seems to swim and feed just fine although it cannot fly. If the wing never mends enough to allow flight, I am imagining what a grand reunion it will experience when its fellow swan return next November.

One outcome of our soggier weather has been the sight of clouds I associate more with fall than with spring here. We've had dramatic squall lines and some glorious sunsets. The other evening's storm produced quite the sky show in the west and a rainbow that from my vantage point along the Duck Boardwalk appeared over the steeple of Duck Church.

The period from early/mid May through mid/late June is one of my favorites all year. This is the timeframe I associate with several big nature events here: the birth of foals in the wild horse herds of Carova, along with more appearances of the horses by the ocean as the Mayflies hatch; sanderlings migrating through on their way to breeding beaches in New Jersey and joining our resident birds in huge flocks; baby gray and red fox kits emerging from their dens to explore their new world; black bears on Alligator River Refuge awakening fully from their semi-sleepy winter state to forage in the farm fields at the edges of the day; young osprey hatching and young eaglets fledging; swallowtail butterflies emerging and feasting on thistles on the Refuge; and the beginnings of dragonfly migration. Some years I am fortunate to experience several of these events in the same glorious period, depending on where I concentrate my photographic time. This is also the time when the Milky Way begins to rise again in the east (albeit in the middle of the night) which during new moons with cloudless skies and no wind makes for a spectacular sight.

So how have I celebrated this year? Well, as I mentioned, Pete and I went to Ocracoke and I saw the first of my sanderling flocks down there this year.

To my great delight, I have once again had the chance to spend some time with some red fox kits. This was especially poignant for me this year because the mother fox has been wounded somehow, perhaps hit by a car, and over the past weeks I have watched her progress from hobbling to being able to trot on her three stronger legs. Like the broken-winged swan, that other leg may never fully heal. Nonetheless, she and the papa fox (they are monogamous and mate for life) are faithful, devoted parents and the kits seem to be thriving.

Pete and I drove through the refuge the other evening at dusk and saw a couple of large male bears, and last night I caught a brief glimpse of a mother and one of her four cubs as they hid from view in tall grass--too tall to really photograph, until she stood up investigating some sight or sound I could neither see nor hear. Other photographers had been treated the night before to quite a show as the bear cubs were playing on a berm with a clear view from the road, but on the night I was there, she never came into the open. This is part of a nature photographer's life: we go when we can, and we hope always. That night, it just wasn't meant to be for me to photograph the family.

Yesterday morning, a group of us went to Carova, leaving before first light to be on the beach by sunrise. The conditions were perfect for us to see harems by the water, at least by early-mid morning, but we spotted only one small family group, and they never came to the beach. A resident volunteer with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund told us that this group--two feisty stallions and two resting mares--were the center of a major drama the other morning. Seems one mare had a foal but her stallion evidently was not the father, and attempted to kill the baby. The Sheriff's office and others intervened, the foal was rescued in time, and is now being cared for at the rescue barn off island. Meanwhile the mare is undoubtedly in some discomfort, since she cannot nurse her foal, as well as some emotional trauma from its removal. That explained the behavior we witnessed, with both mares lying down, and one being very solicitous of the other. Meanwhile, the two stallions were wary around one another and it was hard for us to discern at first which was the dominant since both were very close to both mares. We saw a lot of posturing and rearing and some race-chasing but I am glad we did not witness a full-on fight. Stallions fighting may sound exciting on paper, but having been witness to fights over the years, I can tell you, the reality is both frightening and heartbreaking all at once. The law requiring people to maintain at least a fifty foot distance from the horses, and not to feed or approach them, is for everyone's safety and is worth repeating every spring. So how do I get such close-ups? With my extra-long lens. I have too much respect for both the horses and the rules to be foolish and stride up to a horse in the wild.

At the last New Moon, during the meteor shower, I accompanied several other photographers at 2 a.m. up to a location that allowed us to photograph from the west side of the Currituck Light as the Milky Way rose above us in the east. The vantage point was nifty as far as being able to view the Milky Way in the dark, but the lighthouse appears as a tiny element in an otherwise huge sky. Interesting perspective, but not what I was hoping for. For fun I did the same technique I used last year at Bodie Light to create a "hyperspace at Currituck Light" image by zooming the lens with the shutter open on the tripod. I was much more pleased with a closer view of the Lighthouse, albeit less of the Milky Way, but with a shooting star falling into the frame.

All in all, I have enjoyed my recent outings, whether a few minutes after work or the few hours I spent in Carova. I breathe my deepest, physically and emotionally, outdoors. Nature is balm for all kinds of ills--at least for me--and I often find stress or fatigue or frustration melting into the fresh air.

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This was our view from our suite at Captain Landing in Ocracoke. Not too shabby.

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Part of a much larger flock of Sanderlings.

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20 years ago on our first anniversary, we went to Ocracoke and I found dozens of these purple starfish. What a treat to find one-with a whole scotch bonnet--20 years later.

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We can have squalls all year of course. What I love most about them is the quality and color of the light. Look how turquoise the ocean appears!

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This--along with puppies, kittens and grandbabies--is what the word adorable was coined for. Red Fox Kits.

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I photographed moonrise as I usually do, on a tripod with my long lens. On this night the combination of light and a little haze gave this halo effect with the lens. Never had it happen before for moonrise. Pretty neat.

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What a beautiful sky followed the storm one evening earlier this week!

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Here is that rainbow over Duck Church.

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This is the sort of behavior that would erupt with little warning.

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A nature photographer's experience--minutes turning to hours (and sometimes to years) of patient waiting for those minutes, or in this case, seconds, in which something interesting happens.

posted by eturek at 10:54 PM

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(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 546542 times

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