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

Monday, June 16, 2014
Kindergarten to Graduation, Green Heron Style
Being long-distance grandparents means, among other things, that Pete and I get to be astounded each time we see the “grands” and they have grown exponentially, whether in height or maturity or their unique senses of selfhood. The same holds true for our “customer-friends”—those folks we see once or twice a summer, and then not again for nearly nine months. The change in their families is phenomenal. We’ve watched newborns meta-morph, seemingly overnight but actually over many years, into wonderful, savvy, gifted yougsters, and we’ve watched youngsters grow into wonderful, savvy, gifted young men and women.

The same sort of process happens for nature photographers who are fortunate enough to spend considerable, concentrated time with a set of growing baby birds or critters. Only in these cases, time moves at warp speed. Every day reveals incredible growth of the sort seen in a year’s time with human children. Hop-scotch observations every three or four days, or once a week, and the change is nearly unbelievable.

Take baby Green Herons, for instance. These stalking fish-eaters are not seen as often here as the Great Blue Herons are, and nowhere near as often as their white cousins, the Great and Snowy Egrets. They usually nest in isolation rather than in a colony of many birds, and both mom and dad are instrumental in providing protection on the nest and food for growing hatchlings. But they are here…I photographed a single Green Heron in the marshy area between Manteo and Wanchese earlier this spring, and I have had the recent joy of being invited to watch a Green Heron family grow in Southern Shores.

All the bird books I have and online sources I consulted disagree widely about how long Green Heron chicks stay in the nest, when they begin climbing around on branches near the nest, and when they fly for the first time. All I can say from personal observation is, baby Green Herons don’t stay babies for long! After a 24-25 day incubation period, four young herons hatched asynchronously, meaning, not all at once. In the beginning, one chick was decidedly smaller and weaker than its older siblings, but as of day 16, all four seemed approximately the same size, although one or two were definitely the boldest when time came for feeding. By day nine, the strongest had already climbed out of the nest onto the jungle-gym of pine branches that surround it. Over the next few days, all four climbed in and out, in and out, making short, bold hops branch to branch and stretching their wings which started out downy but very soon showed the beginnings of real feathers. Even the baby bird-play, as with puppies and kittens and human babies, has great purpose. For herons, these antics strengthen wings and develop balance. By day 8 or 9, the parents were feeding the young every hour or so; sometimes both would fly in at once to deposit regurgitated fish into hungry mouths. By day 17, the wait had lengthened to three hours, and I wasn’t sure every baby bird got fed every time. The parent that flew to the nest with food in the beginning, now waited on a limb at increasing distances from the nest, making the young herons walk and climb and stretch their necks in order to receive the reward of a meal. The whole process, of course, is designed for independence and survival.

Today—day 18—is a banner day! I learned from the homeowner that all four “baby” herons left the nesting tree tonight, hopping over to the oak tree that grows nearby. It is their biggest leap so far, literally and metaphorically. They may never return to the nest now. Like teenagers getting a learner’s permit, these youngsters aren’t completely on their own yet. There is still the all-important First Flight to manage. While the young will depend on mom and dad for several weeks even after they fledge, they will be entirely on their own by autumn. They will need strong muscles as well as foraging examples in order to survive their first winter.

I think all this is great fun to watch. Hopefully you will think so too.

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This is June 6th, Day 8 since hatching. One parent has flown to the nest. There are four babies in all, although only two here are easily visible. Little Fluffy Puffs!

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Here are both parents at the nest.

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By day 8, the strongest was already trying to stretch its growing wings...

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...and play with its sibling. I call this, "Don't Tell Mom."

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Here we are just five days later, June 11. Can you believe the changes?! Look at that wing stretch now, and all those feathers.

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Here is a view, same day, standing within the nest. Scroll back to see for yourself the growth in just five days. This is Day 13 since hatching.

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Here are all four "babies" on June 11, Day 13.

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By June 14 (Day 16), chaos ensued when either parent approached the nesting tree. All four babies raced to be first to be fed.

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The beleaguered parent fed one or two and then left as fast as possible, sometimes less than a minute after arrival.

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Now all four have to wait their turn...3 long hours later. Soon these will leave the nesting tree, take wing, and begin to learn to feed themselves. And the cycle will begin again.

posted by eturek at 9:52 PM

Comments [8]

Thursday, June 5, 2014
Goodby, "Old Yellow"...
Today is a poignant day for us, and I am sure for UncleJack as well. Today the company in charge of the demolition of the old yellow cottage that housed Yellowhouse Gallery since the 1970's is taking her down. At first I did not want to be present at all, but Pete asked me to come this morning and take some pics for the property owner (and for us). So I went. Glad I did... a dear friend, Leslie-MD, gave me the gentle phrase "organ donor" to describe how the building itself is living on in the pieces and parts it supplied in its last days to others: part of our slat wall in our new space is from "old Yellow;" slat wall in John's Nautical and marine consignments is from there; and various artists will have windows, flooring, shutters and even bricks! Two things made my heart especially happy today: we've known the building had structural issues and damage that was largely responsible for the decision by the owner to take the cottage down. Once the asbestos siding was removed, the building revealed significant termite damage! That explained the structural issues we could see. Today, as the building came apart piece by piece, we saw even more: pilings literally rotting in the ground from damage! I'm so grateful the building stood through all our years there, and that we were the last ones in its long history to love it.
I've been telling "our" YH fox all winter, please, don't come back here to den. It will not be a safe space for you. And I have had no evidence of her presence: no scat, no tracks, no sightings, nothing. This morning, as I parked at a nearby beach access and walked down toward the gallery, I spotted the telltale fox scat at my feet some distance away but close enough to make me sure this is our fox, as they are territorial. I don't believe it is a coincidence I found evidence that she is alive, well, and nearby on the day the cottage came down. We are very connected, and that little sign helped ease the poignancy of saying goodby to old Yellow this morning.
Meanwhile, Pete has worked triple-time, getting our new space so lovely, moving the frame shop and setting it up, and volunteering his expertise and connections to the owners to help them coordinate the demolition process, since they are long-distance.
Thank you, Yellowhouse. Thank you for your years of beauty and love, and thank you for giving to Pete and me this wonderful life we still get to continue and cherish.

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This is Yellowhouse after we painted the front shutters red and changed the sign, but before we had to replace the front door and windows alongside it.

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One of the snows in 2011.

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For 2012 we put in a new entry with new door and windows...

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Here is another view of our entry remodel, in 2012. That year, we also replaced a significant amount of wiring, and completely redid the bathroom due to issues with that floor rotting.

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The frame shop was sinking in the rear north corner. You can see why. The gallery was sinking in the front northeast corner.

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After the asbestos siding was removed (required to be removed separately as a Hazmat project), the full extent of the damage by termites was evident. Here is one part of that.

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Although we had to leave the cottage that housed the gallery for so long, I am grateful that Yellowhouse Gallery continues as a loving venue for area art and artists in our new location in Croatan Centre, mp 13.5, Bypass.

posted by eturek at 10:22 PM

Comments [4]

Thursday, June 5, 2014
Light! Camera! Action!
I’ve discovered I much prefer photographing subjects that are in motion rather than static, still subjects. That may be one reason I appreciate wildlife photography: animal and birds are seldom stock-still and the challenge of photographing them well includes first finding them! (Spotters can be a huge help here.) Next, in order to portray not only nuances of behavior but also individual personality, you must know something of their habits, which can clue you in a little for what to expect. Of course, like most people, critters come packed with surprises, making each encounter an adventure. I enjoy anticipating movements and trying to react in the moment to come home with a photographic memory.

I like watching the ocean for the peak moment when the angle of the wave break lines up just so with the clouds overhead, or peeks through an opening in the foreground dunes. Adding some scurrying Sanderlings or Pelicans in perfect formation ups the ante of both the challenge and the satisfaction. Paradoxically, time seems to slow down as I watch our moving landscape. I like watching rivers and streams in the mountains, too, but those movements lack the subtlety of change a moving ocean has.

In addition to being able to spend an afternoon in Carova in May, I also walked the beach at Coquina last month and saw more terns there than I think I ever have before. Many were engaging in diving for fish and bringing their catch back to the large group waiting on shore. I assumed I was watching courtship feeding, a ritual in which a male will present a female with a fish in order to win the right to mate with her. There are birds for whom this ritual is key; females will spend most or all of their time sitting with their eggs and the males’ role is to provide food for the brooding female as well as help feed hatchlings. But my naturalist friend, fellow photographer George Wood, raised a question I could not answer: was this behavior literally a courting strategy for these birds, or were the birds feeding one another in some kind of community potluck free for all, in which some (or all) of the birds provide for everybody else in attendance in turn? Great question, to which I have no answer. Sure was fun to watch and photograph, even though the fast-flying terns darted around and swooped in and out like an acrobatic airshow in miniature.

Over the past month, I’ve gone several times out to the beach and discovered action that looked as if it belonged more on ESPN than on Animal Planet! Stand up paddleboarding, surfing, and hang-gliding over the beach provides the adventurous with plenty of opportunities to get into the action—and an action-oriented photographer with plenty of material to see and chronicle. These images are a departure from my usual blog, in which I try to focus exclusively on the natural Outer Banks, but I thought folks might be interested in some of these as well. One of the things that has always drawn me to the idea of sports here is the proximity to wildlife—surfers catch waves with dolphins; hang-gliders soar over dunes with gulls and pelicans. You will see a little evidence of that below, which proves I am always thinking about the critters that share our world, no matter what else I might be photographing.

What I love best, if only for a few minutes, is watching wildlife in their home territory, doing whatever it is they do but with full cognizance of my presence. Being close to critters who don’t mind my closeness is one of my life’s great joys. Thanks to the graciousness of a homeowner in Southern Shores, my heart thrilled last evening to be able to watch, from her deck, two babies of the family of gray foxes that have made their home in her yard for many years. I’m used to photographing foxes from ground level, so looking down at them looking up at us was a new angle in pure delight. I hope all of these delight you too.

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Here's an example of the terns feeding.

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I love this quality of light on the sea, when the ocean and sky are close to the same hue and value so that they seem to melt into each other, and a lone wave breaks in the sun.

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Close up photos of waves at the moment of their fall are fun to make, too.

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This stand-up paddle boarder looked as if he were enjoying the morning waves as much as I was.

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Looking slightly south toward Jennette's Pier revealed a surfer silhouetted in the sun.

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How fun would this be?! Both surfer and SUP stopped to watch the dolphins swimming nearby.

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I have pictures of this hang-glider, and some others, that are much closer, but I love this one for the inclusion of the gull in the frame.

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Mama Grace and her baby. Precious. See the little piece of fish in the mother's mouth? As I watched, she would tear off tiny pieces of a fish in the nest and offer them to the little one.

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This made my heart happy. I am missing the mother fox that denned near, or at, Yellowhouse over the past several years. Being able to watch another baby fox in a different spot helped ease that missing.

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Baby critters are just too cute! This is probably my favorite of all the interaction I was able to see that afternoon.

posted by eturek at 8:10 AM

Comments [8]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 547872 times

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