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

Thursday, September 23, 2010
More Signs of Fall
The calendar finally says what the heart and eyes already know: it’s autumn now. The first long V’s of dark ducks headed south by way of Colington the other morning. The sea oats look bedraggled and shabby, as if they were on vacation, not shaving every morning or gussying up for an evening out. I’ve seen a few more yellow Cloudless Sulfur butterflies lately and even managed to catch one in a photograph when I thought the main subject was going to be an exquisitely green wave in morning light.
Light is a big seasonal clue for me. The light in fall really is different, as the sun rises more to the south and makes a lower sky circuit before calling it an early evening in the northwest. The full moon is still rising in the south but it will appear nearly due east in winter. Following Earl, the beach was subject to more high energy waves from Igor’s passing well offshore. Multiple wave sets in the strong onshore winds meant lots of swirling foam and extra high tides; gulls and blackbirds were huddled together at the toe of the dune in Nags Head a few afternoons ago, waiting for lower water, I guess, and the wind switch that finally came. We’ve had mostly cloudless skies except for yesterday morning and I am still on the lookout for early fall clouds.
A few weeks ago I photographed what I could have sworn was a wannabe lenticular cloud shape—that is the cloud type that looks like a flying saucer and that typically forms only over a tall land mass. (No, Jockeys Ridge doesn’t count. By tall I mean, oh, the Rockies. Even our NC Smokies don’t get them all the time.) Even more rare than lenticulars are stacked lenticulars—picture plates piled up together with a serving platter on the bottom, followed in turn by dinner, salad and desert plates with a saucer on top and you will have the idea. A customer walked in Yellowhouse last week with a picture of an “odd” cloud on her cell phone. She had taken it on a dock jutting out into Kitty Hawk Bay near sunset and wanted to know what it was; she described it as a sort of honey-dipper shape. Could it be?!? Yes, indeed, and not one, but two stacked lenticular clouds teased me from her cell phone’s tiny screen. I had gone to the ocean that night at sunset since the surf was up. Had I only gone to the sound, I might have had my own image to share. You can bet I am looking west as well as east, even though the skies have been clear for days now. I am on the hunt for lenticulars!! Meanwhile, we will all have to be content with early evening ocean views, a not-quite-full moon, and some heavy surf. Enjoy.

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As the light wanes, pelicans head home to roost. In this case, "home" is west of Oregon Inlet, on Pelican Island.

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Sand is great for beginning trackers. This spot is a real crossroads!

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See that tiny yellow triangle to the left? That's a butterfly! I've been seeing more of the Sulfurs by the ocean lately.

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This may have been the last cloud show for several days. Moon not quite full.

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Too choppy to surf or to fish. Great for photographers!

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Here's a fall sign: as the sea oats begin to drop seedheads, their stalks turn fall colors of yellow and pink.

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These tiny flowers (check out sea oats for size) are blooming on a Nags Head dune. What are they?

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Here is a close up of the mystery flower. Botany is my weak suit.

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Nearly dusk light in fall is different than that of summer. I love fall light.

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Here's an almost lenticular cloud. They are worth a google! I hope to have a better example to share soon.

posted by eturek at 10:18 PM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Falling Into Autumn
Here on the Outer Banks, locals mark seasonal changes by events more than by the calendar. For folks in any facet of the hospitality industry, summer begins at Memorial Day and ends with Labor Day weekend; the first week after Labor Day is noticeably quieter, with both less visitors and a different demographic of traveler. There are natural events, too, which signal the waning of one season and the emergence of the next. I always register spring here with the arrival of the osprey, as the first pairs usually fly in around mid-March. Summertime begins for me when the sea oats bloom, usually between the third week of June and the end of the month.
For fall, I have a whole litany of heralds: the osprey leave, first the parents and then the juveniles. I was seeing lots of young osprey until the day before Hurricane Earl passed offshore. I have seen none in Colington since, although I did see a lone osprey around the Oregon Inlet bridge one morning last week. Sanderlings that have been conspicuously absent from the wave-wash over the past weeks are back in their usual places, and are flocking up again, too. I saw four Robins at one time behind the Kill Devil Hills library near dusk Monday night. I associate crisper, cleaner air with fall, and we have begun to have some cooler days with less humidity—and the cloud shows we typically see during the shoulder seasons of both spring and fall. The sea oats that bloomed just three months ago are now dry and brown.
Earl—the storm that thankfully wasn’t much of a storm on the northern Outer Banks—did dump 8 inches of rain in spots. The little pond behind the Coast Guard station at the northern tip of Pea Island is larger now, following both Earl’s rains and a little more rain on Sunday morning. This pond is a great gathering spot, particularly for young birds learning flight school skills, and for waders practicing their foraging in calm water.
The light has a different quality in fall—I notice this as a photographer especially. The sun’s daily arc is noticeably lower; each morning’s rising is a little more to the south. The combination of the angle of the sun and the filtering provided by cloud cover on many fall days gives the ocean a distinct green cast, particularly as waves stretch upward, bow their heads and offer themselves, over and over, to the waiting sand.
One of the treats of fall for me is that my own life's rhythm slows down enough to allow me more time outside, not just alone, but sharing special places with special friends. I have had three chances in the past three weeks to do just that--first with friends from Maryland, then with a local friend here early one morning on the water, and finally just today with friends from Ohio. All this tramping about means that I have a lot of individual moments over the past couple of weeks to share with you. I posted a series of photographs of Earl’s effects on the main message board right after the storm, so I won’t repeat that series here. Enjoy!

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Trumpet Vine provides some fall color against the ocean. The next color to watch for is Seaside Goldenrod's yellow.

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Avocet near the old Coast Guard Station.

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This adult Black Skimmer is teaching the next generation the fine art of fishing.

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Whose Tracks? The area around the old CG Station is a tracker's paradise.

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Yes, the waves really did look this green in the light.

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All summer long, I have seen one or two sanderlings. Here they are flocking up again, a sign of fall.

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Marbled Godwit. Named for the pattern of its feathers. I love the pink upturned bill.

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You get to see things on the water that you never see from shore. This is a local teen hangout.

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Fly! Fly! Fly! It must be great fun to practice.

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Three Amigos. Just hanging out. Aren't they great? You gotta love pelicans.

posted by eturek at 11:08 PM

Comments [6]

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