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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Who Do You Love?
Several years ago, Pete asked me what I thought then, and he thinks now, was a silly question.
"Don't you think you have enough pictures of pelicans?"
Now, that is a little, just a little, like asking a grandma if she thinks she has enough pictures now of her grandbaby. (Never mind if the grandbaby towers over her and is thinking about colleges.) Or asking a puppy-mama (you can substitute kitty, or even bearded dragon for puppy in this question), if you think you have enough pictures of your adorable little (or big) whatever-it-is.
The short answer, which is what I gave Pete, along with a short sort of look, is "No."
The long answer is...
Well. How can you explain love? How can you explain that every picture reveals something else about the beloved, something only guessed at, something never quite realized before, something known and treasured nonetheless? I do a lot of explaining, usually. This time I will let the pictures do most of the explaining, with only a little help from the words.

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Newborn pelicans look like pictures of baby dinosaurs. Naked, helpless, totally dependent on Mom.

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Siblings most likely. The eggs hatch at different rates. The smallest is about 2 weeks old. Notice the pale feet.

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Like Bald Eagles, pelicans take several years to reach their full adult "look" or plumage. Immatures (read, teens) are dark with light bellies.

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The classic pelican pose, riding the swell. In this case, the swell and wind brought them face-on.

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Do their wings ever drag the water? Yes they do.

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Bathing and preening are all part of a pelican's normal routine, needed to keep feathers in shape for flying.

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The rookery is crowded but every parent knows where home-nest is. Nests are not as elaborate here as in Florida but this bird is bringing a large stick.

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Ocracoke Pelican in fall. Notice dark eyes and completely white head.

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Ocraocke Pelican in spring. Notice blue eyes(!), pink around eyes, green throat, and brown back of neck.

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Pelicans are the only birds I know of here whose eye color, not just feathers or lores, change every year for breeding.

posted by eturek at 10:16 PM

Comments [3]

Sunday, August 15, 2010
MidSummer Days
Every season has its own rhythms and characteristics, those clues that tell us “fall” or “spring;” beyond that, each particular season in any given year has its own personality: mild, severe, wetter, drier.       As summers go, this one has been hotter and drier than most, despite brief, severe afternoon thunder-squalls that continue to race through but don’t replenish the ground. Our sea oats seem browner and drier earlier than usual. Dare County is one of the 37 counties designated as being in “moderate drought” conditions as of this week; four are in severe drought. The air itself has been full of moisture with high humidity, and what little air movement we’ve experienced most all summer has been from the west. All that adds up to warmer days and colder ocean waters; the occasional east winds have brought warmer water onshore, kicked up the surf enough to bring out red flags yesterday and also carried one of the largest concentrations of jellies to the upper Outer Banks in recent memory a couple weeks back.
Those of us who pay attention to the rhythm and personality of individual seasons can find clues to the future as well as signs of the present. Some are more obvious, like heavier crops of acorns or shaggier critter coats in fall predicting a colder winter. We may be experiencing similar clues in our midsummer about the fall to come. Several websites I browsed indicated that our autumn may come early, with fall-like weather before the end of August even if the average fall temperature is a bit warmer than usual overall. The same websites gave elaborate explanations as to why this season is predicted to have greater-than-usual hurricane activity in the Atlantic.
So what clues have I noticed? Well, for starters, those sea oats. Last year I wrote that the sea oats were dry and golden in the middle of September, not the middle of August. Potential Clue #2: the Black Skimmers that nest on the southern side of Oregon Inlet, and which had unfledged juveniles this time last year, are now completely absent from the colony. I saw a cloud of skimmers flying around the inlet a week ago but none at all this past Saturday morning at their nesting area. Last year I photographed the colony in mid-September; this year, a month earlier, nobody. All that brings up questions I can’t answer: did the adults lay eggs earlier this year? Did the young birds fledge earlier? Did the colony move because of the strong storms we’ve had the past couple of weeks and I just missed them at the nesting site, or have they begun their annual migration south earlier than they usually do?
Adult osprey usually begin leaving our area between late August and mid-September; some with late-hatching and therefore late-fledging young may stay a bit later, but eventually the adults fly south first, and the juveniles follow within a month or six weeks. Same speech: last year I noticed the conspicuous absence of the osprey that overfly my house by mid-September. This year the ospreys’ patterns have been different from the get-go, perhaps due to less wind currents for soaring. Whatever the reason, I’ve had fewer morning visits overhead and the osprey I have seen and heard lately act like juveniles, not adults. I’m thinking some adult birds may have already left. The two who were sitting on light poles at the Colington marina this morning were definitely youngsters; I could tell by the pattern of their feathers as they perched. My crepe myrtles bloomed earlier than usual, and my tiny apple tree’s three apples seem to be ripening earlier than I would have predicted. I have noticed the emergence of small green berries on the wild American Beauty Bush across the street; I have photographed that with its characteristic bright purple berries to illustrate colors of fall near Thanksgiving so they seem to be bearing their fruit early, too.
Two weekends ago, Liz Corsa and I participated in the Crystal Dawn’s sunset Purple Martin cruise. I enjoyed watching the incoming martins last year from the south end of the old Manns Harbor bridge, but being literally under the whirl of tens of thousands of birds was a sensory delight for me. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone unduly influenced by Hitchcock, but for everyone else the cruise is a must-do, as far as I am concerned. I plan to make it an annual treat. While purple martins nest and raise their young in birdhouses, once the young birds can fly, then they begin to gather in nightly communal roosts, part of their preparation for the fall migration. Approximately 100,000 (no, that is not a typo, 100K is correct) birds gather under the western end of the old Manns Harbor bridge every night at sunset for six to eight weeks in July and August; some fly from as far away as Raleigh. The birds disperse at dawn only to return the next night. Our evening cruise was delightful even without the birds as the weather was pleasant and the sunset glorious. I even got a chance to see another example of a crepuscular sunray stretching itself low across the horizon!
I can’t seem to stop myself from looking up as well as down and all around, and one photo below will show you why: a fabulous billowing late afternoon cloud that presaged an early evening thunderstorm this past Wednesday. The top of the cloud looked as if it was shedding multiple layers of thin cloud—and that is exactly what was happening. Here is what the www.solarviews.com website has to say about a similar photograph illustrating the same phenomenon: “Instead, ice clouds spread horizontally into the extended cirrus heads seen in this photograph, forming the ‘anvil heads’ that we identify from the ground. The finer, feathery development around the edges of some of the thunderheads is glaciation - water vapor in the cloud is turning to ice at high altitude. Storms of this magnitude can drop large amounts of rainfall in a short period of time, causing flash floods.” Bingo! I love Google.
Meanwhile, the heat index that afternoon was 106! The next day another line of storms moved in suddenly between 4 and 4:30 pm with multiple nearby lightning strikes and power outages. It was all over almost as fast as it started. What is below is a mix of all of these sights and scenes, grabbed and gleaned from moments treasured outside in the middle of a busy summer. Enjoy.

Cloud info: http://www.solarviews.com/cap/earth/cumulus.htm Retrieved 8/15/10

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Sea Oats are golden now, earlier than usual I think.

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Sure are pretty against a blue morning sky.

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Down at the Boiler on Pea Island a week ago. Big breaker right onshore.

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I hope this isn't my last view of the skimmers for the year.

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One way I amuse myself is Animal Antics. Sanderling Takes A Bath would have made a cute video.

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Photographer-friend Scott Geib has influenced me to pay attention to patterns. I love the wave wash here.

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If you've never seen the roost, you might think, wow, look at all these birds. This ain't nuthin!

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Now THIS is a lot of birds!

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Right before the birds begin flying under the bridge, they form a vortex, like a living tornado.

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Now I understand where the descriptive term "billowing" came from.

posted by eturek at 10:13 PM

Comments [2]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 561358 times

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