I awoke before first light, threw a coat over my nightgown and headed out to the beach. I wanted to catch that first liquid gold as it poured over the waves. The sand was cold under my feet as I topped the dune. As the light strengthened, I saw birds sleeping at the surf line. I fell to my knees and crept forward.
I knee-walked across the sand, then fell flat on my belly.
The light brightened and the willets roused.
They looked around blinking sleepily in the light. One yawned and stretched a leg and a wing.
The freshening tide swamped the delicate feet of the Willets, bringing with it renewed energy. The Willets now fully awake began probing the sand.
When the light turned from gold to silver, I lurched to my feet, cold, stiff and sand covered. The Willets fluttered further down the beach. With a parting shot, I headed in with gold-dazzled eyes and the promise of coffee in the air.
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.