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

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Summer's Sizzle
Every season on the Outer Banks holds its own joys and keeps its own natural rhythm. Since my last blog, I’ve experienced most of what I love best about an Outer Banks summer, and then some!

For one thing, we had a spell of typical Outer Banks afternoon rainsqualls that raced by leaving a rainbow over the ocean, just about quitting time.

Baby osprey are now as large as their parents and most have made their crucial first flights although some late bloomers were still hanging out at home as recently as a week ago.      

There are suddenly more dragonflies everywhere I look, and I don’t have to look far to be dazzled by their bright bodies and shimmering wings.

Speaking of shimmering, we’ve had days shimmering with haze, but we’ve also had a couple of low humidity days too, with their accompanying lovely skies.       And while they are not as lush thus far this year, sea oats are in full bloom now.

The Black Skimmers I enjoy watching every summer are once again hanging out on the tip of Pea Island and frequenting the little pond behind the refurbished Coast Guard station there.

The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge’s black bear population seems to be thriving; this year I have seen more bears near dusk over there than I ever have before—including mamas with cubs! This time of year the bears are feeding on wheat or soybeans; both are planted in various fields on the refuge. Because food is so plentiful, and humans relatively scarce, bears here often feed in groups. Pete and I rode out to the refuge two weeks ago before dusk and counted 22 different bears, some too far to see well and others very close to the road’s edge. I got another chance to go as a guide for a friend and her husband and granddaughter this past Saturday evening and we saw about the same number. As impressive as that total was, we were topped by photographer Ray Matthews whose granddaughter counted 36 diffferent bears on their excursion about two weeks before ours!

I’ve learned over time where to be when, and how to stay in touch with the life cycles that connect the seasons in this place. That doesn’t mean I am never surprised. Far from it! I’ve said before how much I depend on spotters, especially since my days are spent mostly indoors in the gallery much of the year. I saw my first Blue Grosbeak on the refuge while I was looking for bear—I’d been alerted to that possibility by friend/photographer Pat Draisey, so the sighting was a treat. There were abundant dragonflies out here too although I did not try for a close photo of those—my own front yard provides opportunities for that!

As I leave you with images of all of these, I also have a question: in the place you call home, be it your neighborhood, a local park, or a greenway near your workplace, what are the natural rhythms you can learn there? And what surprises you? As you ponder that, enjoy Summer: Outer Banks.

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Rainbow over Nags Head Pier.

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The juvenile osprey on the left is a female; their "necklace" of darker feathers below their neck is larger and bolder than the males'--I assume to assist with camouflage as they sit on the nest.

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Sea Oats silhouetted against a beautiful sunset sky. South Nags Head.

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One of the photographer's challenges--actually, it is a good challenge for everyone, I think, not just those who label themselves visually creative--is to see the familiar fresh, and beautiful.

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I saw the heart in the sand patterns right away! Can you?

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Here is a close-up of a Black Skimmer, at the rain-pond near the old Coast Guard station at Oregon Inlet. They feed by skimming the water with their longer lower bill, hence their name.

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Sundown at Oregon Inlet -- this is the edge of that pond with the Black Skimmers.

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And now we come to the bears! Maybe I should say, and now the bears come to us! That is what was happening in this photograph. Closer to dusk they appear out of the woods, sometimes right in front of you!

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I have really enjoyed the late afternoon light on the bears in the wheat fields.

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Something spooked this Mama Bear before we arrived. She would run a few paces, stop, look over her shoulder, run some more. She had two cubs with her.

posted by eturek at 11:46 AM

Comments [757]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Post Arthur and Sea Turtles
Since the middle of June when I last posted, the Outer Banks has experienced so much I need two or three blogs to tell all the stories! Looming largest on everyone’s mind last week was Hurricane Arthur, of course. The fact that “Arthur” – the year’s first named storm – seemed to have a steady bead on our part of the coast led me to wonder how many other first storms the Outer Banks has experienced over the years?

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a multi-part article complete with footnotes for sources that gives information on recorded storms dating all the way back to pre-colonial days. Coastal explorers and seamen gave us the records of those earlier storm events; Raleigh’s famous colonies were plagued in their short years by three different hurricanes or tropical storms on record.

Names weren’t assigned until 1950, so I could not determine for earlier eras how many of the storms affecting our coast were actually the season’s earliest. For every period, September is the stormiest month. May storms, with only one or two exceptions, were mainly tropical storms, not hurricanes. But since 1950, the Outer Banks has been affected by 20 “A” named storms, including Arthur.       In some years those storms grazed our coast or came ashore as early as May, producing heavy rainfall mostly. The latest date I found for an “A” storm was a 9/28/62 storm named Alma. Seems late for a first named storm of the season.

Once the floodwaters recede and everybody recovers from the storm’s passage, the area often enjoys some of the loveliest weather in days, if not weeks. That was true several years ago with Hurricane Hannah, which grazed our coast in September, Hurricane Bill, a late August storm, and it was true with Arthur. Humidity dropped, and heavy fog that presaged the storm evaporated, leaving crisp, clear air in its wake.

Just before the storm I had been tracking the annual emergence of the sea oats—a failsafe herald of summer for me. Again this year they seemed a little late. I finally saw some straight, bright green stalks early in July. On the afternoon of July 4 after the storm winds abated and the flooded Colington Road was dry enough to pass over, Pete and I drove out to check on our gallery’s new location in Croatan Centre (no damage there). On our way back up the beach road, I stopped at the beach access beside the Beacon Motel. This spot is consistently one of the first to show blooming sea oats so I wanted to be sure the winds had not sheared them off. The grasses are resilient and they were as lovely as they’d been a day or two before.

Earlier in June, I attended my first sea turtle release. Volunteers with NEST, staff with the NC Aquarium, and personnel with the National Park Service along with interested public observers watched as six Green Sea Turtles who had recovered from hypothermia last winter were carried near the water’s edge in Frisco. Each one eventually found its way to the open ocean, although one of the smallest turtles could not overcome the heavy shore break at first. After it kept getting swept north along the shore, the aquarium staff retrieved it and let it rest before carrying it a bit further out into the water.

The last turtle released had a satellite monitor attached. NEST plans to upload a link to that data, and if and when they do, I will post an update so everyone interested can follow Pluto's journey.

The first turtle to be carried to the water was named Camey. Once the NEST volunteer placed her on the sand, she deliberately turned north and began crawling determinedly in my direction! Since this was my first experience with a sea turtle release, I was more than thrilled at the opportunity to photograph her heading my way if only for a minute or two! The NEST volunteer gently steered her east once again and she made her way into the waves and out of sight.

Some of the turtles were docile in the volunteers’ hands, unmoving as they were lifted into the air and carried down to the water. Others began swimming in air the minute they were picked up. The most determined of them all was a little Green named Lynx. He swam the whole way down the beach as if he couldn’t wait to get away from the ruckus and go back to the ocean where he belonged!

Their release is even more special in that juveniles and males never come ashore unless they are sick or injured. Fully mature females come back to home territory only to lay their own eggs, but males never come back to land. A full-grown female has much more strength to overcome the wave wash than these younger turtles did, but they all managed to reach deeper water beyond the shore break, much to all the onlookers’ delight.

I have some other stories to share, too, but those will have to wait until next time. Meanwhile, enjoy these…

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Before the sea oats bloom, I concentrate on sand patterns, sand fences, and the ocean itself. Mid-June.

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Fog rolled in the afternoon before the hurricane. Nags Head Pier.

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In Nags Head, a quick glance at the beach July 4th afternoon did not reveal we'd just had a hurricane. Hatteras communities had more flooding but access was restored in record time.

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The ocean was too rough, and riptides too dangerous, to swim after Arthur's passage.

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Seeing this Green Sea Turtle released back to the sea was a thrill. If you are ever on the Outer Banks during a public release, I highly recommend it.

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Camey Goes To Sea...

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Actually getting past the first wave slosh was work!

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Looking back north at what remained of Frisco Pier, before Arthur. This was the swell the turtles had to navigate and overcome in order to get to deep enough water to swim freely.

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Lynx began doing windmills with his flippers even before the volunteer set him down on the sand, and once free, he never stopped until he swam out of sight.

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Here is a close-up of that transmitter Pluto now carries. Amazingly it does not impede his ability to swim and forage.

posted by eturek at 11:09 PM

Comments [10]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 546524 times

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