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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Summer Sizzle
We've had a bit of "everything summer" in the ten days since my last post.

We've had heat, we've had haze, we've had downpours, we've had rainbow light, we've had gray non-descript skies, we even had an obligatory cool day. We've had Lake Atlantic and we've had Red Flag days. In short...summertime on the Outer Banks.

One of the challenges of being a photographer, shucks, I think it is a challenge, period, is to keep the familiar, fresh. To see with fresh, open eyes and a grateful heart all the blessings tucked into the pockets of every "normal" day. One way I do that is to take photographs of the same-old, same-old subjects but try to approach those subjects in new ways, from a new angle, or with a different lens, or at a different time of day.

When the sea oats first bloom, my intention is to document and honor their appearance. They are so green, and pale, and straight, and small, they are not nearly as picturesque as they will become in just a week or two. Now, that first couple of weeks has passed and the seed heads are much more full, and much more responsive to our breezes. I have stands of sea oats on the dunes taken in past years. I took some new images this year. But what else can I say about them, visually speaking? Some of the results of that question are below.

I spent Sunday afternoon mostly indoors working on necessary tasks here at the house but I had to go out to the grocery store before dinner (or there would have been no dinner--which is not really an option!) What was I thinking? Saturday and Sunday are the two worst days to grocery shop in the summer! We'd had a little nice light earlier but I'd waited so by the time I left, rain had already fallen and the sky looked as if more rain was on its way. I grabbed my rain jacket and headed out Colington Road.

Coming up to the bypass intersection, I noticed a shimmering, pale, glowing patch of light low in the sky to the east. I drove straight to the next access south and got out in time to see a beautiful slice of rainbow right at the horizon. Made the grocery trip extra special all of a sudden and reminded me that my day can tilt over into wonder in an instant, if I'm receptive.

This afternoon I had to go to Manteo for an errand, and took a few minutes to walk the waterfront by the Roanoke Marshes Light. Again I searched for a different way to tell the story of the familiar.

All these wanderings are below for you to enjoy, and I hope you do -- that is, I hope you enjoy, of course...but I hope you wander, too.

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Here's what our "green green fields" look like, as the sea oats are newly blooming.

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I thought I was headed to the ocean for a full moon. The sunset skies stole the show.

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Here's one attempt to show the sea oats in a different light. At sunset.

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A good friend and fellow photographer, Brain Horsley, loaned me a variable neutral density filter so I could try it out. The filter lowers the light without altering color, allowing slow shutter speeds. Neat effects.

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Here are the sea oats at the Beacon this week. Much fuller.

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Since there was no sunrise to speak of, I found the birds and the sea oats at Jennette's Pier worthy of my attention. I call this, Where's The Beach?

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Daybreak. (Get it?)

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Finally we had some bright-light days.

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If you look closely at the horizon, you will see the slice of rainbow. I can sometimes tell when one is coming, and this was one of those times.

posted by eturek at 10:29 PM

Comments [4]

Sunday, July 21, 2013
Summertime Sea Oats
This past week, I could finally say with conviction, NOW it is summer. Not because the temperatures soared (they did) or the humidity rose (it did) or the haze made my eyes squint as I drove to the gallery every morning. My sure sign of summer is the blooming of the sea oats.

Every year I am reminded that visitors who come to the Outer Banks only for Memorial Day, say, have never seen our sea oats, and those who come from late July through Thanksgiving, say, have never seen our dunes without them. Their presence--or absence--really does define our landscape and helps explain why I prefer the look of our dunes in late summer and fall rather than in spring.

They seemed late to me this year. (Perhaps I was merely impatient.) Since this is my fifth July blogging, I had a handy reference for their emergence in past years. In 2009, I gleefully reported my first sighting as June 24, in both Salvo and South Nags Head. In 2010, I did not record the first budding stalks but I photographed full seed heads on July 13 on Pea Island. The next year, I spotted my first stalk up this way on June 25; by July 4 we had plenty of sea oats. Last year I saw them even earlier; first stalk was June 17.

Sea oats bloom on new shoots; the old dried stalks are sometimes still in evidence when the new green ones burst forth. Burst is rather an energetic word for a process that is more like peek-a-boo than tag-you're-it. One day, the stalks finally show a hint of the tight, bright seeds and a day or two later, the seeds are exposed although still small and straight and very pale green in color. Over the next several days the seeds swell and separate and become responsive to the breeze, with characteristic bows and scrapes as our visitors pass by, like the faithful ambassadors they are.

This year, there were no peeking seed heads in late June. July 4 came and went without their full emergence. I see them earliest at the overwalk beside the Beacon, in Nags Head, and by July 8 they were finally in bloom there, although not at many of the other accesses north or south. I got the chance to get down to South Nags Head, just a bit north of Coquina, Friday and Saturday afternoons, and I can finally share some images of summer's sea oat welcome.

My intuition was correct; they bloomed late this year. The USDA's website may provide a clue: sea oats are drought tolerant and sun-loving; they actually thrive in wind and can tolerate salt, which makes them perfect plants to help stabilize dunes. June this year was cooler and grayer and wetter than usual, and my hypothesis is that while our abundance of June rains may have helped other plants grow, the lack of sunshine and the wet conditions may have actually delayed the sea oats blooming.

Every year, in addition to tracking when they emerge, I set myself a challenge to photograph sea oats in ways that honor their beauty and their role in our larger landscape. Some of those efforts are below for you to enjoy. For you August visitors who may wonder, what's the big deal, just imagine your vacation without them...and for you May visitors, these sights just might prompt you to make a second, autumn trip this year. They are worth the drive!

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July 2. Still no sea oats in mid-Nags Head. (For your consolation prize, notice the small heart-shaped cloud just over the lone breaking wave.)

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July 8: Finally! Some sea oats at the Beacon Motor Lodge! I'm not sure why this beach access has early sea oats, but I am glad it does!

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Notice how straight the sea oat stalks are when they first bloom. This is an up and over access in Nags Head.

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July 19, South Nags Head, near Coquina. I carried both a wide angle and a short telephoto to give different perspectives.

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I call this Rise Up Laughing. Every time I have come to this spot in any wind, the Laughing Gulls are riding the currents above the dunes. They make me laugh and smile.

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The next day (July 20) was much windier with a line of clouds to the north, and I went to the same spot two hours later. Looks like an entirely different place.

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Fox tracks! Since I have not seen a fox, any fox, since the mother moved the kits about a month ago, I was happy to photograph tracks at least. I thanked the fox for its presence and asked its blessing as I walked where it walks.

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I got up extra early and went to the ocean...well, not exactly. I went to get my Kia's oil changed. But afterwards, I went to Avalon Pier and was rewarded by these morning companions.

posted by eturek at 4:26 PM

Comments [4]

Monday, July 1, 2013
The More Things Change...
Is it just my imagination, or has this June been damper than usual? I admit, I thought that about April and May, too, but weatherunderground’s weather history feature belies my recollection. For both months, we had about 1 ½ inches more rain each last year. Could have fooled me! But memory serves for June: we had more than 6” of rainfall compared with 2 ¾” last year. We made up in June alone for any deficit from the springtime.

My June photographs are heavy on squalls: quick-moving summertime squalls that typically don’t last long and sometimes give a late afternoon rainbow. No rainbows yet for this photographer. Maybe July will be more colorful in that department. The light when the clouds are mounting into thunderheads or morphing into supercells is always exciting and I am always excited when I get the chance to be out in it, even briefly. The timing of a couple of late June squall lines coincided happily with the closing of the gallery for the day, and I was able to get to the ocean as the clouds rolled in from the west.

I hope my readership is not too bored with our little fox family and its comings and goings. There is more of that to share: on June 19, I watched Mama Fox carry a reluctant kit across our parking lot only to set it down near empty property to our north. The instant it was free it raced back across the lot to where it had been playing, lickety-split! Mama trotted back. The next day, Pete watched her do the exact same thing with two of the baby foxes. We have not seen any of them since. She’s moved her family to other quarters, perhaps more spacious than their birth den under the frame shop. I know their relocation is all part of growing up. Our second oldest grandson heads off to college in about five weeks. At some level I am feeling the same odd mix of anticipation and poignancy. I miss the kits, miss their daily antics, will miss watching them grow into the young adults they will become over the next few weeks and months. I’m in a bit of a funk about it all, truth to tell, but I know this is all part of the next chapter. So I am trying to be grateful for all we shared up until now.

Since I don’t have foxes right out my door to watch, I’ve gone in hunt of other new babies: baby osprey. The Colington marina nest is so huge that the baby osprey are usually of good size by the time their little heads stick above the sticks. The pair on Colington Road across from the cemetery had what I believe is their first successful nesting this spring, and I think I have never watched a more attentive Papa! He spends most of his time when he is not fishing for his family perched on a limb just above the nest, staring down at his growing brood. I call him a proud Papa and I love watching him every morning and afternoon as I drive by. He is nearly always there in the same spot.

The nest at the Sandy Run town park in Kitty Hawk has three not-so-little baby osprey this year and I checked that nest out today. It is wide but not as deep as the others, and the babies were easy to see once they stopped feeding on fish at their feet to look up when a turkey vulture flew high overhead. Mama Osprey kept trying to sleep despite her babies moving all around her and calling incessantly for seconds (or thirds, or fourths—I was there in mid-afternoon, so no telling how many fish they’d had already today). Dad flew in with another fresh catch as I was leaving.

Since I was already in Kitty Hawk, I made a quick visit to the eagle nest there, hoping for a sight of any of the juvenile eagles. I’ve mistimed my visits thus far this year, finding the tree and nest vacant more often than occupied. But today there was one young eagle there; it flew shortly after I arrived so I had a great chance, despite the low light, to see its strong and purposeful take-off. Mom and Dad were nowhere in sight. Eagles hatch and fledge earlier than osprey do, but even the young osprey will be flying and catching their own fish later this summer, all in preparation for their long migration south for the winter. Another life lesson of growth and change.

Summer’s sea oats are not quite emerged yet but I suspect they will be soon, just in time for the next blog. It will be good to write about a beginning. Meanwhile, this blog ends with an ending: a vibrant, over-the-top sunset, on the night of the super moon’s rising. Haze and clouds meant I could not get the full moon in sharp focus above the ocean, so I’m glad I stopped along the way for the sunset. It is a good reminder that endings, too, are really just new beginnings, and beautiful in their own right.

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Squall from June 24. Lights were still on in the west which gave the squall itself dramatic light to go along with its sudden winds and drop in temperature.

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I'm always amazed at how comparatively calm the sea is when the sky looks like the entry to Oz! Storm-light always gives the ocean vibrant colors juxtaposed against the clouds.

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Here's another, from a couple days later. Notice how different the light and the feeling of sky and sea. The beach really was this empty, both north and south.

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I love this. Fox Family. This was one of those times we did not see all four kits at once.

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This little one seems determined to be rambunctious. Mom just seems determined to keep her composure. Notice the two siblings nursing.

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Moving Days...

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The quality of the image is not the best, given the low light and overcast conditions. But I hope the quality of the character of the first-time, new Daddy Osprey comes through.

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Here are the three baby, but not so little, osprey from Kitty Hawk. Their patterned feathers and orange eyes help camouflage them in the nest and give them away as juveniles.

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The young eagle's take-off was powerful, steady and sure. Nothing awkward about it. Makes me feel good about the next generation.

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Day's ending, the night of the super moon. We certainly had a super sunset!

posted by eturek at 9:02 PM

Comments [7]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 547820 times

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