I stood on the narrow catwalk hanging below the bridge over Oregon inlet. The platform vibrated as the cars passed behind me; their tires whizzing by just over my head. Although the catwalk was intended for fishing, it made a good spot for bird observation. I resolutely turned my back on the traffic and scanned the water. The day was flat gray from sky to sea. Brown Pelicans plunged and bobbed on the waves; a female Bufflehead paddled with her face in the water; thousands of Double-crested Cormorants streamed in long lines from the open ocean to form a solid black mat out of the wind and crashing waves. Mixed in all this swirling, fluttering bird life were flashes of white; appearing and disappearing like lightening in the gathering gloom. I watched one fold its wings and plunge straight as an arrow head-first into the waves without a splash. Ah, Gannets. I had seen hundreds of Gannets offshore all up and down Hatteras Island; on the move, heading to their nesting grounds in the Martitimes. What a treat. I had not seen Gannets since 2002.
In a lull between cars passing over head, I heard thunder. What I had taken for the rumble of traffic had been mixed with more ominous sounds. I was standing on a metal catwalk on a metal bridge out over water as a thunder storm approached. As I considered beating feet onto terra firma, some of the Gannets started to fly closer to the bridge. I pulled up my camera hoping for a picture. Of course, I had to stay. I only managed to get in a few shots before I saw lightening flash on this side of Bodie lighthouse and the first fat drops of rain splash on the metal railing. I looked up startled. It was time. I abandoned my post and hustled to shore as the Gannets swirled white amidst the monochrome black and gray of a coastal North Carolina storm.