A Photo Essay
Fall on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands
by
Buddy Swain




(Editor's note: Even in early November, the green pigment chlorophyll continues to dominate the landscape of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, while on the coastal mainland, its color is giving way to the red, orange, and yellow pigments that it had masked all summer ,creating a landscape of colorful deciduous plants framed for the most part by evergreen pines.  On a smaller and less obvious scale, the same process, stimulated by shorter days and cooler nights, is taking place here on the islands.  In some places, the colors of fall can’t be missed, but in others, one must hunt for the signs that summer is giving way to winter.  On a warm fall day in 2007, Hatteras village writer and photographer Buddy Swain hiked with his camera from the ocean's edge through the dense maritime forest to the fringing salt marshes along Pamlico Sound, capturing the island's signs of fall.)
 



Even in mid October, the green pigment chlorophyll continues to dominate the landscape of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.  However, on the coastal mainland, its color is giving way to the red, orange, and yellow pigments that it had masked all summer creating a landscape of colorful deciduous plants framed for the most part by evergreen pines.  On a smaller and less obvious scale, the same process, stimulated by shorter days and cooler nights, is taking place here on the islands.  In some places, the colors of fall can’t be missed, but in others, one must hunt for the signs that summer is giving way to winter.  And it is not always the plants that are announcing the arrival of fall.  It can be seen in the physical environment as well as in the migration of animal species that pass by this fragile ribbon of sand that lies some 30 miles from the mainland into the Atlantic Ocean. On a recent warm October day with a gentle wind out of the northwest, I hiked with my camera from the ocean's edge across the island through the dense maritime forest to the fringing salt marshes along Pamlico Sound capturing what I recognized as typical signs of fall.


A sure sign of summer’s end is seen on the beaches. Although many people continue to enjoy the beach, wind and water have swept away most of the footprints from the previous tourist season. 
Patches of shells, those molluscan treasures of the intertidal and subtidal zones, seem to be more numerous now.  Maybe it is because there are fewer people collecting them in the fall. It could be that at this time of year, the more harsh conditions along the oceanfront either washed them up or the wind has shifted the sand to reveal what was hidden beneath its surface all along.
July’s golden tassels of the sea oats have lost their shimmering golden glow and although this year’s storm season has been gentle on them, they now have a tired, dull brown sheen.



     
  








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