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

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Paradise Shift
Every summer—often in July, sometimes in August—we get a break from the typical high humidity/haze/heat/land breezes cycle for a couple of days and are treated to a shift. The shift I am thinking of is not tied to a storm; those shifts are different. These shifts come (pun intended) out of the blue and give a foretaste of what I like best about fall, namely lower humidity and thus less haze, much clearer and crisper air, bluer skies and puffier clouds, east to northeast breezes (or winds!), and generally more interesting skies (and thus prettier sunrises and sunsets). Come mid-July, if it has not already happened, I start to be on the lookout for the shift, and it came this year earlier this week. It’s already on the wane, though, as the air today is very still and temperatures are forecast to soar (along with accompanying humidity) by Tuesday. Still, it is wonderful, even glorious, while it lasts. The fact that it often occurs shortly after the sea oats shoot up with their newly emergent seed heads is a bonus!

I looked back at some photo archives and determined that at least one such period occurred in mid-August, 2006; third week in July, 2007; not too sure about 2008; mid-July 2009; right in time for July 4 weekend last year followed by another brief period in mid-July; and earlier this week for 2011. I’ve included a couple of examples from those earlier years to show you what I mean, as well as from earlier this week.

No more spider pictures this time, but I will tell you they are all getting bigger. Speaking of bigger, so are the marina nest osprey babies. I can now see the second little head peeking above the nest rim. In future years I will be prompted to recall how late actual nesting occurred by comparing the size of the babies at different times this year to last year’s babies. Last year, the marina baby was nearly the size of the adult by July 4th and had fledged a week later. They are much younger, smaller and still living at home so far this year. What this will mean for their fall migration is a mystery to me. I worry that they will not be as experienced in fishing for themselves when the signals come to head south and the family parts company, each bird on its own. Maybe they will leave later in the season. Time will tell.

Last night Pete and I spent a wonderful evening in the company of some other nature photographers, members of the Carolinas Nature Photographers Association (you can google them for more info). The Outer Banks regional group meets once a month and also gathers for monthly outings. Our outing for July was a pontoon boat trip that left from the southern end of Wanchese and headed into the sound looking for dolphin. We were elated to find large pods and spent an enjoyable couple of hours on the water. We also motored past one of the old dredge spoil islands that great egrets and ibis are using as a roosting site (and perhaps nesting there as well). Pelican Island was too far to reach in our limited time and still make it back to the dock before full dark. There was a group of half a dozen or so pelicans at the edge of the island, nothing like the hundreds upon hundreds that make Pelican Island their summertime home.

Tidbits from all of these little forays outside are below for you to enjoy. So enjoy!

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Here's the shift in 2006. I called this Bluebird Day. It was as pretty as a picture!

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The day was so pretty in fact that I went back to the ocean for sunset, not to the sound.

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The shift came on July 22, 2007, the prettiest day of the summer that year. I called this Cloud Dancing.

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The shift this year was this past Friday, just in time to include new sea oats!

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Just as I did five years ago, I opted to go to the ocean for sunset rather than face west.

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Wintertime northeasters mean big-time erosion. But even a little summertime wind from the east cuts away the beach.

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Here's the result of those repeated splashes--a tiny shelf. Multiply that effect and you get dune escarpments.

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I THINK this is Dad. Karen will know for sure. Males have a smaller, less prominent "necklace".

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My favorite pic from the outing. The dolphin's face is still under the surface, but you can still see its smile.

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Now you did not think I would end a blog without some pelicans, did you? Pelicans and sea oats, all is right with the world!

posted by eturek at 3:04 PM

Comments [4]

Friday, July 8, 2011
Nature's Gifts
Nature repeats itself, in cycles and rhythms and patterns. I find that comforting.
Nature offers surprises, new ways of looking at life. I find that exhilarating.
Since the last blog in mid-June, I have had a number of experiences with both aspects of nature’s personality, the comforting familiarity and the exciting freshness.

The freshness started with an errand to WalMart, three weeks ago. I thought I would find what I needed closer to home, but no. I wound up at WalMart instead, after dinner at about 7 pm. The wind had shifted east and the sky was mostly overcast when I closed the gallery at 5 pm; I was glad to smell salt air instead of smoke. By 7 pm, the clouds had pulled apart to reveal blue skies beyond but the wind was still blowing; it would not die down until after dark. I climbed out of the car to the sight and sound of gulls wheeling high overhead, calling and circling in intricate patterns as if they were riding thermals high above the parking lots, presumably as the black asphalt gave up its heat from the day. Grabbed the camera and moved the errand way down on the priority list. They stayed overhead for several minutes before splitting off into smaller groups and heading elsewhere. I know some of the gulls were Laughing Gulls from their characteristic cries. It was like watching pure energy in motion.

A couple of days later, I came home and noticed a small white five-petaled flower blooming where I had not seen one before. What is that, I wondered, and wandered over to take its picture. Aha! The flower made me remember a line of poetry by Judith Bailey (OBC’s own vintageart), about more being written in the spaces between the lines. The “flower” really was… well, never mind. At the end of the blog you can scroll down and see for yourself. Pretty neat.

The very next day we got blissfully blessed with a genuine summertime early evening thunderstorm. Didn’t last long but the front raced ashore from the west, dumping a little rain and pushing the wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour for a few minutes. The cloud show that preceded the storm’s arrival looked like something out of Hollywood.       That is a typical summertime event, and in fact, as I write this blog, we’ve had several of these now, right on time to coincide with summer’s official arrival.

Two days after that (for those trying to count, we are all the way up to June 25 now), I saw the season’s first sea oat in bloom. That is part of the comforting cycle of nature for me: spring means osprey arrive and begin working on their nests; summer means the first sea oats bloom. Sure enough, they bloomed right on time despite the months of drought. By July 4 the dunes were covered in their emerging bright green seed heads. I always feel sorry for those annual visitors who come in May or early in June every year, in that they have never seen the dunes clad with their characteristic summer and fall grasses. The early sea oats are pale and bright; they’ll darken before they dry and assume their golden color for fall.

The other morning I was driving toward the Colington marina where I checked out that nest and instinctively looked up at a dead tree where I have often seen an adult osprey in the morning in past years. Sure enough, one was perched right on top. The adult that likes to perch on top of the dead tree at the edge of my neighbor’s yard right before dusk has been coming regularly too. It is almost too dark to get a decent picture but I like looking up and seeing it there as I walk the dogs after dinner.

June 29—late by most reckoning—marked the first time I was able to see a baby osprey at the Colington marina nest. That nest is so large that babies have to get fairly large before their little heads can peek up above the rim. This pair arrived on time but nested very late; I was concerned that perhaps they were not going to have any little osprey this year at all. I went back the next day and took more pictures and when I looked at the photographs, I saw there are two babies in that nest. Osprey don’t hatch on the same day in order to maximize the chances for survival of at least one offspring. One baby is clearly the older and larger; I checked again twice more in the past few days but have seen only the one since.

The next part of the blog is not for the squeamish, or at least, not for those squeamish about critters that have more legs than my dog or my cat! And no, I am not talking ghost crabs, although I’ve seen plenty of holes (but no inhabitants yet—that is the result of too little time on the beach, not of a drop in ghost crab population!) I’m talking about spiders: garden spiders (or writing spiders) in particular. I had several, for several years running. I loved to watch them weave their beautiful orb webs in early morning. Then one winter Pete really wanted to remove the cana lilies where they had been living, and the next summer I had no more spiders…nor the next…nor the next. I missed their morning companionship. They never bothered me and I never bothered them. A few mornings ago, my kitty Blackie did an odd thing (no, this is not a shift of subject. Hang with me here.) Instead of running toward my hand—he was sitting on the porch railing, his favorite perch—he backed up and sat down further away and meowed. I went over to him: what’s up, Blackie? As I bent down to nuzzle his head, my eye looked at the bush just below where he was sitting. A garden spider!! Where none had built before! I swear, it was as if Blackie knew it was there and wanted me to see. Now why would I say such a thing? Well, just a few days/week or two earlier, I’d been thinking about garden spiders and wishing they’d come back. I’d gone so far, in my heart of hearts, to apologize for taking down their preferred home plants and asking that they return. Please, I said. And here was one, right where I could watch it closely every day. I say “it” but I am fairly certain it is really a “she.” I walked around to the front of the porch to get a better look and discovered what I think is the “he”—the males are smaller and build close (but not too close) to the females. Then I spied spider #3! Three garden spiders, all within an area about 2’ by 1’. Odd to have so many in such a small space but I am delighted. I check on them every morning and evening. So far, so good. Writing spiders are a great encouragement to this sometime writer. They seem to show up when words need to be written and you can bet I am paying attention. For those of you who care to see, a picture is below.

Yesterday afternoon the cloud shows signaled what became another quick-moving squall line that brought thunder and lightning to the mid-beach but only brief rain to Kitty Hawk, where I happened to be. By 5 pm the rain had fizzled to spritzing and the sun was shining again in the west. Perfect Rainbow Conditions! Sure enough: a low rainbow arched over the ocean with a faint partial double on its southern side. Regular readers know how much I love pelicans. I’ve been longing for the chance to photograph pelicans with a rainbow and yesterday I received my gift. Right as I walked out to the beach to take the rainbow’s picture, here came two pelicans gliding and skimming atop the wave break. Beautiful.

I grinned and smiled and laughed my way through the rest of the afternoon. Surprises and serendipities and synchronicities, comforting familiarities, and the return of missed companions. Less smoke and more salt. Sea oats in bloom and baby osprey growing. And wonders to share with all of you.

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This is hard to describe, but the gulls were flying as if choreographed in an elaborate aerial ballet.

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Can you tell what my "flower" is?!? Hint...look at the green leaves and the white post.

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I love the multiple layers of cloud. Everyone around was running for cover and I was running out with my camera!

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The next night I dashed to the ocean for sunset. I love the way the water is picking up the glow of the sky.

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First Sea Oat of the season. The old stalks don't rebloom; new shoots emerge.

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By July 4, the dunes are clothed in new sea oats. See how bright they are?

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Mama Grace--the Colington marina female--has two babies this season. See their orange eyes?

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Don't look if you don't want to see a Garden Spider. Me, I am so happy to see them in my own yard again!

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I call this Pelican Promise. Nature's gifts--for me--are so often God's gifts too.

posted by eturek at 10:32 PM

Comments [3]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 546498 times

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