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

Sunday, June 19, 2011
End of Spring Delights
Here we are at the edge of the summer solstice and it is hot, hazy, humid, right on schedule. Usually at some point in the summer—often it is in July—the weather breaks and gives us crisp, low humidity weather for a couple of days, even in the heat. I am already looking forward to that! Hazy conditions by themselves make wide-angle, long-view photographs difficult; coupled with the smoke that still drifts our way on a west wind, means photographers like me have to shift focus to the very close if we want to take a clear picture. One of my favorite spiritual writers, Joyce Rupp, counsels noticing the small blessings and gifts of each day to help jumpstart genuine joy in life as a whole package. So the other evening I went down to the Colington Harbour beach to watch a sunset that wasn’t…I mean, the sun was shrouded by a combination of clouds and haze and smoke, none of which produced any brilliance. I noticed instead a big black ant—the very kind of ant I had in the ant farm I finally talked my folks into letting me have when I was a kid. Well, hey, I said and watched where it was going (and where I was going, so I wouldn’t step on it). I took its picture. Hey, more ants! Gee, quite a good number of ants. In fact… in fact, the live oak tree I’d been leaning against was chock-a-block full of ants, hundreds and hundreds of ants. They did not seem to be foraging or fighting or dragging anything in particular, but they were very very busy! Gotta keep moving! Places to go and ants to see! When they met on the tree limb, which was often, they greeted each other like dogs. I turned my back on the sound and sky and started paying real attention to the ants until the light faded and I had to leave them to their busy schedule.

Right at the end of May I had an errand in Kitty Hawk so I went to check the eagle’s nest. I had heard there were two eaglets this year and I saw them both out of the nest, perching on limbs nearby. By now they have likely made that all-important first flight. I still have not spied any osprey babies, but the pairs I watch were so late laying eggs that it may be a while yet before the babies grow big enough for me to see them above the nest rim.

I have seen two dragonflies this week: one here at home flying high, and one at Yellowhouse. Two does not a migration make but I am on dragonfly alert now. The other evening, driving home from the gallery, I picked up somewhere a tiny bright green grasshopper on my windshield. I remember from last fall how difficult grasshoppers are to identify. Sure enough, I have no idea what this is. If its wings were as bright green—or totally transparent to allow the body green to show through them—I’d be betting on the fork-tailed katydid, female. (No I did not know that. Yes I looked that up.) But alas these wings, as you will see, are not green. Its antennae are too long to be a couple of other species. And it is too green to be yet others. I have eight choices, according to my online field guide, for this region. It does not seem to fit neatly into any of them. Little Green Grasshopper it is, then.
Last Sunday I spent about an hour (at last!) on the new Jennette’s Pier. A school? Pod? I pause to look up the right word…group. A group of skates were flexing their water wings and undulating back and forth and up and down around the middle of the pier. They were fun to watch and try to anticipate when they would rise close to the surface again. I got a couple of pictures of the group which was a challenge since I was shooting through moving water at moving critters. There were plenty of pelicans to keep me amused as well. I am so tickled that Jennette’s is finally open; when our schedule slows down a little in fall I hope to spend a lot more time there.

Speaking of pelicans, they have been flying by in ever-longer lines now. The most I have counted at once is up to 32 for this year. I suspect that most of the adults I am seeing are dads; when I got the chance to band baby pelicans on Pelican Island here six years ago, that banding project stretched over a couple of weeks in mid-July, and the babies then ranged from minutes-old to about three weeks old. Two years ago when I spent a couple of mornings on the water with local fly-fishing charter captain Sarah Gardner, we spied baby pelicans on Pelican Island as early as the first week of June. Moms were sticking close to their nests which is why I presume we are seeing males now. I’ve also witnessed a couple of episodes of Pelican-leader-change, which, as I have written before, is not elegant and smooth like duck and goose leader change. It is much more like organized chaos when the lead pelican decides it is someone else’s turn to be in front. The line catches up to itself; some sink and some rise; often the group will fly in a misshapen circle, or split in two; there are often false attempts at switching directions; and eventually a pelican takes the lead and off they all go again. I have never been able to follow the lead adult through all the swirling around in order to determine whether the leader actually changed, or whether the same bird took over. Never, that is, until earlier this week. Here came a line of about nine pelicans – eight adults and one teenager. You can tell the 1-2 year old birds because their bellies are pale and their heads are darker where the adults’ are bright white with that chestnut brown stripe down the back of the neck. They were flying over the cottage line and started their leader change maneuvering right opposite the gallery, so I had a perfect view. And the teenager took the lead! I was so proud, I actually shouted aloud, bravo, you can do it! Then an adult took over for a few seconds but junior got back in front and all the adults fell into rank and off they flew northward. It was a little like watching my grandson learn to drive. It made my day! I have never seen a younger pelican in the lead before. It all happened too fast for me to get my camera out and photograph it for you to see, but I do have some other images below from all these little blessings and encounters outside recently. Enjoy!

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That grey line near the top is the smoke line. That grey line in the middle is LOTS of pelicans!

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Here's a picture illustrating how dramatic the smoke line can be.

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Here is one of the two eaglets out of the nest in late May.

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I call this "Antsy" but they weren't, not at all. Busy, yes. Aggressive, no -- and they always stopped to say hello.

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A couple of families on the pier pointed the skates out so I could photograph them.

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Oh, boy, here they come!

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Whoa! Going down now!

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I call this "Plenty o'Pelicans." Some resting, some flying. The pier gives great access!

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Here's my visitor. I wonder if it could see itself in my windshield as I could see its reflection?

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Beauty is everywhere. This trumpet vine juxtaposed against the cedar berries looks like a Christmas card. Spied on the way to Food Lion!

posted by eturek at 1:47 PM

Comments [4]

Thursday, June 9, 2011
To Find In The Sea...
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
It’s always ourselves we find in the sea       -ee cummings

As most if not all my readers know, we lost a you—a big you—right at Mother’s Day. And as with any big loss, I’ve lost my “me” as well, at least part of the time, or part of my me-ness. But ee cummings is wise. I went to the ocean, twice now in about 10 days: sat for two hours on an Ocracoke beach before catching a ferry back north and then sat another 45 minutes at Coquina, and Tuesday late afternoon, stood at a Nags Head beach access for a good 30 minutes despite the lingering smoke smell. Grief is like that smoke: pungent, thick at times, less prevalent at others, but it seeps into your eyes and your breath and your heart. My antidote to clinging grief is to go outside, so the presence of wildfire smoke is breaking my heart for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is that it is denying the one place I seek solace.

Nonetheless, some days are less grievous and less smoky than others. Happily for me, my Ocracoke trip, necessary to deliver artwork to a gallery on the island, coincided with a wind shift. The wind was in the process of swinging around yesterday evening too, but while I was on the beach it had not yet come fully southwest, leaving the air somewhat cleansed, and freshening my inner vision as well as my outer views.

The time at Ocracoke and just north of Oregon Inlet really was magical. I love it both places. I’ve learned over the years that different places seem to draw me to themselves in different seasons. Ocracoke and Oregon Inlet have been two of those special places for several years now and I’m grateful to have had time at both in the same day. So what did I find in the sea? Results of all these little respites are below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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Pete and I saw this double sun halo in mid-May on Ocracoke thanks to a phone tip from artist Robin Rogers.

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A week later I was back in Ocracoke. Here's a Gift: a Black-bellied plover. Not endangered but a rare visitor here. Handsome!

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Of course, even before I hit the beach, I had to go looking for pelicans in Silver Lake.

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I see Black Skimmers at Oregon Inlet but this one was on Ocracoke!

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Next, this Oyster Catcher showed up!

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THEN, a bunch of Red Knots joined some Sanderlings. I tell you, I felt like all the birds came to bring me some cheer. And they did.

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Up at Oregon Inlet, these Laughing Gulls made ME laugh! I thought of lots of captions for this one.

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Keep a sharp eye out and you'll see Ruddy Turnstones now. This one was at Coquina.

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Closer to home, I did a U-turn & pulled into the Colington Rd crab dock to watch this Gull captain his new craft.

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I call this Quality Time. Two adults and a teenager skimming some waves. Pelicans take 2-3 years to grow their adult feathers.

posted by eturek at 10:02 PM

Comments [5]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 547828 times

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