The forecast for December 20th was for 70 degrees, way to nice to stay inside – so we planned a day adventure to Cape Hatteras to see what we would see and to take photos. So is it a stretch to call a drive from Kitty Hawk to Cape Hatteras an adventure? Well a few weeks ago a wayward Snowy Owl dropped in at Cape Hatteras Point creating a buzz in the birding community who flocked in from near and far. At almost the same time, it was discovered that the bridge over Oregon Inlet was unsafe and without warning it was closed. Some of our photography friends made it to Cape Point, saw the owl and made it across the bridge just before it closed. But others missed the owl and were caught by the bridge closing. They had to take wait for an emergency ferry and 12 hrs later were finally home. That's an adventure!
The bridge reopened two weeks later – and since there was a chance that the owl was still there, we left Kitty Hawk and headed south. With beautiful morning light, it was hard not stopping at our usual spots like Bodie Island Lighthouse, Oregon Inlet spit and Pea Island (though we slowed enough to see White Pelicans in the distance). We arrived first at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse which was unusually scenic at midday with nice clouds above and drippy stones below. I'm including a couple of shots we really like: a reflection of the lighthouse in the Keepers House that Peg took, a detail shot of the massive stone base (also Peg's) and a somewhat surreal shot of the lighthouse with the sun shinning through the lens. This is an HDR composite image using three exposures, one for the clouds, one for the lighthouse (which was back lit) and one in the middle. It was nice being the only visitors. The old light needs a coat of paint, but it remains a strong symbol of Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks.
After lowering our tire pressure, it was off to Cape Point and the edge of the treacherous Diamond Shoals. Even on this relatively calm day the intersecting waves crisscrossing the Point were putting on a cool clapotis show.
We're both beachcombers and on this day, the very tip of the Point had an immense pile of shells with lots of big whelks. We arrived a bit late, as one of the local shell collectors told us that this shell treasure trove had appeared two weeks before and that over the past 4 days she had collected 200 perfect whelks. Wow!
We looked but never saw the Snowy Owl. Instead, we enjoyed the frenetic actions of the large flock of Double-Crested Cormorants wintering on the Point. They seemed to be everywhere – on the beach, in the ponds, in the air, in the water. Such activity!
There are a lot of deer on Cape Hatteras and their tracks are everywhere and it wasn't hard to find some deer willing to pose for us. We also walked the trail behind the British Cemetery and enjoyed being in the big pine forest. There we found Holly plants with red berries (perfect for the Christmas season) but even better – we discovered a tiny tree frog hanging onto to a small twig – it kept a close eye on us while we took photos.
The sky turned overcast, the nice light disappeared and with the sun setting we headed north with our memory cards full. One stop remained – the day-use area in Salvo to catch the sunset. With the cloud cover we didn't expect much – but out here you never know, and we were treated to a spectacular sunset. A great ending to our one day Cape Hatteras adventure.
Selecting any of these photos will take you to a slideshow which includes several more photos from our adventure.
While we missed the Snowy Owl, someone else reported seeing it behind the dunes and in Avon. We're already planning a return trip.