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

Tuesday, August 11, 2020
What Else Happened? Part 2
At the end of the last blog, I mentioned seeing a record number of bear at Alligator River refuge this year. So for the first photo below, I’ve chosen an image that has more bear in one click of the shutter than I have seen in one place at one time over there. But bear is not all I have seen. I’ve driven over several times and been rewarded with all sorts of sightings—even a small alligator in one of the canals one morning! Friends and fellow photographers have photographed Barred Owls in the refuge for years, but I never had that same opportunity until this year, when on several drives I saw both a parent and at least one (and once, two) juveniles. A doe and a buck in early velvet had a fawn with them one afternoon on Sawyer Lake Road. That fawn was curious enough to step out of the underbrush and walk in my direction, while I gently talked to it through my car window. All in all, the wildlife sightings this year were over the top for me, perhaps because I made the time to go often and pay extra attention to nature’s gifts.

That brings us to weather and winged patterns for 2020. Our extremely cool wet spring and early part of the summer meant the sea oats emerged much later than they do in dryer and warmer conditions. They thrive in drought; usually I can look for them in late June, certainly by July 4th, but this year they did not reveal their seed heads until the third week in July, at least not up on our end of the beach. I’ve really tried to pay attention to the timing of their emergence for the past 14 or 15 years, and this is the latest I can remember. I finally got a chance to photograph some nice stands near Coquina last weekend. Also in late July we had one of the largest come-ashore dragonfly migrations I can ever remember; we may have had another just last weekend, as I watched hundreds of dragonflies buzzing around over my head at closing time at the gallery.

Before the official start of hurricane season (and the unofficial start of summer) we had our first named storm of the year with Arthur. Arthur stirred up the ocean but did not cause significant or widespread damage, thank goodness. The next storm to aim at the Carolinas was Isiais and its track swerved it far enough inland that our part of the upper Outer Banks was spared any widespread or significant effects. In between those two we settled into what is a more normal pattern of quick-moving squalls, many of which have created some spectacular cloud shows as you will see below.

I tend to be an early riser more often in the winter—when “early” is “later” for sunrise, and when the beach is far less populated—but I have gotten up and out a couple of times to the reward of a long-exposure gentle sunrise.

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This is a small part of all the bear gathered in this one spot on this particular evening!

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Years ago, I assisted FWS a few times with guided canoe trips on the Alligator River refuge. We always looked for but I never saw any 'gators! This was a treat.

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This juvenile Barred Owl rested, preened and called, and seemed not at all perturbed by the presence of curious photographers.

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I love photographing from my car. Makes a perfect blind, keeps me protected and often results in an animal approaching me--best possible scenario!

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Finally! Sea Oats of Summer!! This is the latest I recall the seed heads opening in all my years here.

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To stand on the beach and watch hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of different colored dragonflies come ashore is a wondrous experience.

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Fire and Rain. A rain squall approaching from the west right at sundown.

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Shelf cloud over the ocean, also at dusk.

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This cloud show was followed by spectacular lightning much later in the evening but my gift was the slice of rainbow above.

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Storm light can be so dramatic! This dark blue sky doesn't last long! I was fortunate to have the chance to stop at Avalon Pier before skies turned gray.

posted by eturek at 9:48 PM

Comments [2]

Tuesday, August 11, 2020
What Else Happened? Part 1
Anyone reading my last two blogs could easily assume all I have been doing for the past four months is watching the Colington Creek Inn Osprey nest. Admittedly, the nest occupied much of my attention from mid-March when our local shutdowns began to mid-May when the beach communities (and our gallery) re-opened. But that is not ALL I have been doing! So I aptly titled these two blogs (yes, you get a two-fer) “What Else Happened.” Some of these have found their way into brief Facebook posts or even spontaneous live broadcasts so I could share the wonder in real time.

The first one I want to share occurred near the end of July. Alerted by a friend to the possibility of viewing a newly discovered comet, NEOWISE-20, I downloaded the Stellarium app on my phone, so I knew where to look (below the Big Dipper) which put the comet more to the north than due west from my vantage point outside the gallery on the Duck boardwalk. I stayed out two nights past sundown, hoping for a sight with either my eyes or binoculars, but I never saw the comet until I clicked my camera’s shutter, leaving it open for a several-second exposure. When the comet appeared, mysteriously and wondrously on my LCD screen, I felt the same giddy joy as I did on my 10th Christmas morning, when I received my first camera, a Polaroid Swinger, and watched my first photographs appear faintly and then clearly out of the gray. That same astonishment followed me into high school journalism when I learned to develop and print black and white film. I had forgotten that particular feeling—watching Something emerge from Nothing—until I saw the comet clearly on the back of my camera.

The comet was quite a bit higher in the sky at the same time the second night, which meant I needed a wider focal length in order to include some foreground feature, in this case the dock at the Blue Point Restaurant, to give context to the sighting.

Back in April I tramped out for what turned out to be almost too long a walk, in a cold nor’east wind, to photograph the wreck of the Ocean Pursuit at Oregon Inlet. Lots of folks have been out there to see and photograph the ship since it went aground in late winter. I processed several images but with the perspective now of a few months distance, I think I like my black-and-white “ghost ship” best. We’ll see which you prefer below.

Each season, each month, has particular wildlife and weather gifts I look out for every year. Come May, I start thinking about foals on the Carova beach, and just before the county fully re-opened, I had two chances to go up, once with Ray Matthews and once by myself. We’ve had several foals born this spring and early summer and I was fortunate enough to see and photograph two of the little fillies—Alma and Amelia. By far the oddest sight Ray and I witnessed was a fully mature Bald Eagle STANDING by the ocean! At first I was concerned that it might be wounded but it took a couple of steps and took off with no seeming problem.

After Ray and I went together, I drove up by myself a few days later for the first time. I aired way down and kept to the beach strand; I did not attempt to go up any of the crossovers. Before I came back south onto the paved road, I walked a long shell bed, looking down for shell fragments in the shape of a heart, or maybe even fragments of sea glass. (I spotted a bottle top while up with Ray, a great find!) So there I was, walking and thinking and praying (ok, ok, I was also worrying about the upcoming season) and I said something like, Lord, I am open to anything You want to give me (thinking, gee another bottle piece would be very neat) and what I clearly and quickly as an answering thought was this question: Even if it’s change?

The question was unsettling enough to make me really listen and ponder over the next hours and days and weeks just what my answer is. Ultimately every facet of this “new abnormal” is out of my control; all I can control is how I react, emotionally and spiritually and literally, in real time as change comes. A little later I did find one piece of sea glass, also from a bottle, and what a treasure it is! Its ridged, raised letters piqued my curiosity as soon as I picked it up. And there was the word: Art. I took some comfort in my treasure from the sea. No matter what change comes, I feel sure my particular way of being in the world, to look through my lens with eyes of hope and peace and love and faith, will find a way to continue. I found rounded rock fragments that looked like bear to me too, and those were timely finds as well, turns out.

You see, once June arrives, my attention turns to bear on the Alligator River refuge, and we seem to be having a banner bear year again this year. I’ve seen easily 20 or more in an evening’s patrol of Sawyer Lake and River Roads. Pete even rode with me one evening, though the drive over and back with plenty of sight-seeing time in between was a bit much for him at this stage, and we saw a mom and cub. The little ones of any species are a delight—curious, sometimes easily spooked, playful. But the best bear day of all was spent being a field guide in a new socially-distancing way, with me driving the lead car and a friend and grand-daughter behind in their car, and all of us on speaker so I could tell them where to look and share some fun bear facts in the process. That evening, I broke my own all-time record with 36 bear in one outing! (There may have been even more but we were all trying very hard not to count the same bear more than once!)

The best encounter, as is often the case with wildlife photography, was the last one. A good-sized bear up a tree posed, backed down, and then, obligingly at my fervent wish, slid into a nearby canal. He looked hot—I saw bears on more than one night panting—and I imagine the quick dunking gave him some relief.

And that concludes Part I of What Else Happened. For Part 2, check out the next entry!

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Behold, the Comet Neowise-20! From the Duck boardwalk.

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The Ocean Pursuit, caught in the sea's grip by the shoals at Oregon Inlet.

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A slower shutter, black and white version. I call this, Ghost Ship.

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This is the first time I have ever seen a Bald Eagle standing on the beach by the ocean!

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Mama's Girl -- filly Alma and her mother, Orlanda.

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Here is the family: Rambler, the dad; Orlanda and the filly Alma, in early May.

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Little filly Amelia and her mother on the beach.

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This young bear played peek a boo with us.

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Every time I have watched bears come down a tree, this is how they do it--sliding down as if it were a fire pole.

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Ah, some relief from the heat!

posted by eturek at 9:22 PM

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