Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Book Examines History and Artistry of Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery

Nearly two years in the making, I'm very excited to announce the publication of "In the Arms of Angels: Magnolia Cemetery- Charleston's Treasure of History, Mystery and Artistry" (see the book news release and my WCIV-TV "Lowcountry Live" interview).

People interested in history, art, religion, spirituality, symbolism, landscape design and photography will find this an appealing read. The book is large format 8.5 by 11 inches with a hard cover. It is 231 pages with 10 chapters, preceded by a few short introductory segments. The pages are filled with stories about cemetery "residents" and color photographs that capture the 19th century Victorian necropolis' unique style and look.
Book's front cover

Please click here to see comments from area historians who call "In the Arms of Angels" a "landmark book," "comprehensive," and "a well-balanced work combining history and beautiful photography."

My first book signing will be Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. at Magnolia Cemetery, which is located in Charleston at 70 Cunnington Ave. Directions are available on the cemetery's website. Cost of the book is $40. Payment will be by cash or check only.

Since publishing in 2011 my first book, "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary," I knew I wanted to write a second book about this interesting, historic place, which continues to be somewhat of a secret treasure among Charleston's many better known and publicized attractions.

The first two chapters examine, with words and photographs, 34 of Magnolia's most magnificent monuments, memorials, sculptures, and elaborately-designed plots, most of which were erected from 1850 (when the cemetery opened) to the 1890s.
A portion of the book's back cover

This was during America's Victorian Era, which influenced views about death and burial. The well-to-do, especially, embraced the trend of erecting large, symbol-filled edifices to remember lost loved ones.

Magnolia Cemetery's early growth and popularity coincided with the bloody Civil War. I devote a lengthy chapter in my book to Magnolia's extensive Confederacy legacy.

"The Children of Magnolia Cemetery" is a sad chapter. It highlights the high number of the cemetery's gravesites that belong to children, due to the 19th century diseases, epidemics and crude (by today's standards) medical practices.

A wet Magnolia Cemetery is still a beautiful site to see
Other chapters are devoted to the wide-ranging Christian symbolism on so many gravestones, "epic" epitaphs, and early photographs of Magnolia Cemetery. Another chapter, "A Modern Stonecutters Perspective," takes readers on a walk through the old cemetery with Richard Crites, owner of E.J. McCarthy & Sons, a longtime monument company located a short distance from Magnolia's front gate. Crites shares many interesting observations about Magnolia's past and present.

Magnolia's newer Greenhill section is also examined in the book.

A Brown Thrasher at Magnolia Cemetery
"In the Arms of Angels" concludes with a nod to my first Magnolia Cemetery book, "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary."  "More Birds of Magnolia Cemetery" includes dozens of new bird photographs, including several species not in the first book, taken at the cemetery since 2011.

I owe many, many thanks to Magnolia's longtime superintendent Beverly Donald for her assistance, support and encouragement in the time spent researching, photographing and writing this book. Thanks Beverly!

Thanks also go to the College of Charleston's School of Humanities and Social Sciences for providing financial assistance for, and support of, this project.

More book signings are in the works this spring, after the first one at Magnolia Cemetery on April 12. Notices will be posted on this site, and through Charleston media and social media (follow me on Twitter at cccougar). Bookstores, historic sites, and other shops that carry my book will be listed on this site. "In the Arms of Angels" and "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery" can also be purchased by having me mail you a copy or copies. Contact me at birdseyeviewspublications@gmail.com.

Magnolia Cemetery is a wonderful, beautiful, interesting and historic place in Charleston that is just a little off the beaten path. It is very much worth the effort to find and visit. Comments on TripAdvisor are overwhelmingly positive and indicate what a unique and special place Magnolia Cemetery is.

"In the Arms of Angels" also captures the mystique, mystery, elegance and opulence of one of America's premier Victorian cemeteries.
The author (me!) at Magnolia Cemetery (photo by Alesia Harwood)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Marching into March at Donnelley Wildlife Area

I took advantage of the beautiful weather on Sunday, March 2 to drive down to the ACE Basin for a visit to the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. The WMA site is located about 40 miles south of Charleston off Highway 17. The ACE Basin is one of the Lowcountry's true treasures- tens of thousands (at least) of acres of protected lands in a region named for the confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, hence the ACE acronym.

Traffic was light on a pleasant Sunday morning and my spirits were as bright as the clear blue skies!
What a gorgeous day it would be. Temperatures would get up to around 70 degrees. Soon enough I was in short sleeves to go with my short pants. Pretty nice, especially after the turbulent snow and ice storms of February.

Below are a dozen (or more!) of my favorite shots from Sunday's Donnelley visit. This WMA, among several in the Lowcountry, consists of more than 8,000 acres of land, from pine tree forests to former rice fields developed in the 18th-19th centuries when wealth in the region was built upon the backs of slaves cultivating rice in conditions not normally as pleasant as this day's weather. 
There were lots of birds in and around Donnelley's various waters, including (above) the Egret family's long and short of it. The Great Egret, of course, is at the top of this photo, and the elegant Snowy Egret at the bottom. Below, a Tricolored Heron strikes a regal pose. 

Egrets and several Heron types are common year-round in the Lowcountry, but not the ducks shown above. Several pairs of Northern Shovelers were in the big pond near Donnelley's lodge. Don't know if these two flew all the way south from Alaska, but Northern Shovelers spend most of the year in the Upper Midwest of America, in Canada, and as far away as Alaska. 
This Great Egret didn't seem to mind the Shovelers coming into its feeding "turf." 
Lots of medium-sized shorebirds were around or in the case of the above photo, in front of a colorful Northern Shoveler male and his not-far-behind female friend. 
These shorebirds' yellow legs have me thinking they are the breed known as...Yellowlegs, which come in two varieties, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. After consulting with my friends at Whatbird.com, I learned that both Yellowleg types are in this shot. For example, that's a Greater Yellowlegs, the bird in the bottom right corner, as are the two looking to our right in the middle. The two that are kind of beneath the Greaters, looking to our left, are Lesser Yellowlegs. I also have in this frame a Dowitcher, the slightly smaller bird located in the top left corner, second bird down. Thanks for the help Whatbird.com community forum! 
Double-crested Cormorants- you can't leave one of these ACE Basin sanctuaries without some Cormorant sightings. They are not just another face in the crowd! 
(Above) The Double-crested Cormorant in its signature wing-drying pose. I liked the sea oats or grass behind the big bird. I took this on Mary's Island, a remote part of Donnelley worth exploring. I went to Mary's Island to see an Osprey nest some friends and I saw last year that was quite busy. Sadly, I found that  the large tree the Osprey nest was atop has collapsed into the water, possibly during February's ice storms. 
Yesterday, as I approached the site, I saw an Osprey on a nearby tree. Before I could point my camera, the Osprey flew away, a fish in its clutches. I'll have to return in the spring or summer to see if the nest is rebuilt in that area. 
I enjoy trying to photograph the small birds too. They are, of course, extra challenging, as far as getting quality images. I am still looking for my first Hairy Woodpecker and thought, maybe, I had one here. But, alas, I'm pretty sure this is a Downy Woodpecker, like the ones that frequent my backyard suet. Hairy has a longer bill than Downy. Nothing long about the bill here, compared to the Hairy Woodpecker photos I've been examining.  
I had some help on Whatbird.com's community forum in identifying the bird above as an Eastern Phoebe, a proud member of the Eastern Flycatcher family. 
I spotted this small bird from a distance and was grateful when I stopped the car, got out and approached, that it didn't fly away. It was calling and I thought it might let me get some photographs. I've lightened the above shot some. When I took it, the bird was shaded and I couldn't make out distinguishing features. 
You may have guessed by now that it's an Eastern Bluebird.
When it eventually flew to this nearby powerline, I realized it was a Bluebird, a female, which doesn't have the bold blue head of the male. 
While I was photographing the Bluebird atop those gnarly branches (two photos up), I also spotted two more birds in the same tree, lower down. I'm thinking this (above) is a Yellow-rumped Warbler. I did not see it from behind so can't confirm the distinctive yellow on its "rump." But the the size and yellow markings on its breast, near the wings, looks familiar. 
Then, again in the same tree, there was more movement and my lens landed on this distinctive little bird. I only was able to get two shots before it departed, but fortunately my first was a winner. I'm thinking this is a Sparrow, maybe the Savannah Sparrow. I do have some confirmation on Whatbird.com that, yes, this is a Savannah Sparrow. Makes sense with Savannah, Ga. just down the coast a bit. 
Praise the Lord for this beautiful Sunday in March 2014. I am thankful for the day and the enriching outing it provided. 
The entrance to the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area is just off Highway 17 in what's officially called Green Pond, S.C. But when you're deep into Donnelley's vast wilderness, you can truly feel hundreds of miles from civilization. 
The silence here is blissful. The scenery can be exhilarating, and the surprises memorable. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sunday Morning Pileated Woodpecker Treat!

Last Sunday morning was a bit chilly but clear outside so I decided to read the newspaper on my back porch. I was soon rewarded with an unexpected birding adventure when I started hearing the unmistakable sounds of a woodpecker at work.

Scanning the horizon, I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker on a pine tree across the No. 15 fairway of Coosaw Creek where I live. I thought it unusual that the bird was just feet above the ground.

I quickly went inside to get my camera and unipod. Here are a few of my shots. The encounter definitely added some excitement to what started off as a lazy Sunday morning! 
Love the flaming red "hair"
By all of the holes in this pine tree, there must be some tasty insects to eat

You can tell in this shot how the Pileated is so close to the ground, which I found very unusual

Here it is, head in hole, searching for a snack

A good little Sunday treat for me, this sighting. Just goes to show what a fun hobby birding and photography can be. I'm always ready for a quick response when the unexpected arises, even on Sunday morning!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hilton Head Island Delights!

My family and I spent Thanksgiving on Hilton Head Island. During our short stay we saw some area attractions we had not visited before. They included the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse.
We visited Harbour Town the day after Thanksgiving. The weather was bright and crisp and the vibe festive with lots of people at the many shops, restaurants and other sites near the lighthouse. I somehow smudged my camera lens and have several pictures with the blur you see in the photo below. But it gives the lighthouse a neat effect, don't you think?
You can, for a fee I think, go to the top of the lighthouse. We didn't do that but it looks like a great view from up there.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Shoulder-to-Shoulder Red-Shouldered Hawks

What a surprise it was yesterday morning to spot a beautiful pair of Red-shouldered Hawks in my backyard- though I'm sure it wasn't such a happy sight to the small birds at my feeders, which made themselves scarce when the predators appeared...
I went into my upstairs bathroom to take a shower when I noticed in the large mirror above our sinks a reflection of a single hawk on a branch in our backyard (below). We've lived in our house for 18 years I can never recall such an instance- noticing a bird reflected in the mirror through the bathroom's small window, much less that the bird would be a magnificent hawk.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

First Light: Sunrise at Magnolia Cemetery

The Ravenel Bridge that connects Charleston and Mount Pleasant over the Cooper River
Being up and on the road extra early this fall to be at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery by 8 a.m. for my parttime job there, I admired many glorious sunrises before the time changed recently.
I made an effort to get to the cemetery early a few mornings so I could get to the back of the grounds to see the sunrise from a prime viewing spot. Here are some of my sunrise and first light photographs. Enjoy!
Lowndes monument frames a brilliant sunrise

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New Book Receives College of Charleston Support

Patrick Harwood
I am pleased to share the news that the new book I am currently writing about Magnolia Cemetery is receiving financial support from the College of Charleston's School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Special thanks goes to the school's dean, Dr. Jerold L. Hale, for approving my application for special funding to assist faculty involved in research initiatives.

As I work to soon complete the manuscript of "In the Arms of Angels: The History, Mystery and Artistry of Magnolia Cemetery," these funds, nearly $700, will help in the steps toward publication. I am optimistic the new book will be out early next year.

"In the Arms of Angels" follows my 2011 release of "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary" available at the cemetery office and more than a dozen Charleston area bookstores and historic site gift shops, as well as through Amazon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hollywood Cemetery- Richmond, Va.

Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va. is my second favorite cemetery after, of course, Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery about which I have written one book with a second on the way. A few weeks ago my wife and I were in the Richmond area for a wedding. One morning we drove to Hollywood Cemetery.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Aruba, "The Happy Island"- We Agree!

With visions of white sands, turquoise waters and Caribbean adventures on our minds, my family and I boarded our flight from Charleston to Atlanta early one Sunday morning in May 2013.
Our flight from Atlanta left at 10. It's about three-and-a-half hours to Aruba, which is one of the southernmost Caribbean island, less than 20 miles from Venezuela.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Birds of Aruba

I read that Aruba is home to 195 species of birds. No way did I come close to seeing that many birds during my family's week on the island earlier this May. I saw a couple dozen types, though, and really enjoyed seeing a number of first-time "lifer" feathered friends. Here are my photos with specific and general locations where the encounters occurred.
Troupial, Aruba's national bird
(Sand dunes near California Lighthouse; Caribbean Sea in back)\
Troupial (Malmok Beach)