Sunday, December 16, 2012

Successful Saturday Signing!

My Saturday, Dec. 15 book signing went really well! Thanks to those who came out and bought my Birds of Magnolia Cemetery book.  It's always nice to meet fellow bird and nature lovers!  Thanks also to the cemetery's super superintendent Beverly Donald for making this event possible!  
My next signing is this Wednesday, Dec. 18 at the College of Charleston. I'll have a table on Cougar Mall in front of the Robert Scott Small building from noon- 2. Call or text me at 843.224.3112 if you need help with directions.
You know I never go to Magnolia Cemetery without my camera. And I'm sure glad I did as I scored some nice photos of a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk eating a bird. Yuck, I know! But that's the nature of nature.
Through my lens and binoculars it was hard to tell what the hawk had caught and was eating. It wasn't until I got home and viewed the shots on my television and computer that I determined it was a bird.  Poor thing.
OK last carnage shot, not trying to gross out people!
To be honest, I had trouble identifying this raptor. I'm certainly familiar with the adult Red-shouldered Hawk, but this may be the first time I've photographed the juvenile. My handy bird book helped, and so did Beverly Donald who first found it in the book. 
Across the cemetery's front lagoon, I spied a Little Blue Heron.  And it spied me too!
The delightful Hooded Mergansers are back for the winter at the cemetery ponds.
The Pink-footed Goose is standing on water! OK, not really. Nice to see the pond water levels high, covering the concrete block the goose is on.
The unmistakable green head of the beautiful male Mallard. A bunch (excuse me not a bunch but a battling, daggle, doppling, lute or sword) of Mallards are currently residing at Magnolia Cemetery. Sword? Lute? Yes, they are among several official names for a group of Mallards.
A Snowy Egret having a bad hair day? No, just a gust of wind giving this elegant bird a poofy look.
I took these Osprey shots recently and haven't posted them yet. Love Ospreys!
This Osprey was clearly looking for its next meal.
The Osprey's yellow eyes and hooked bill are distinctive, to say the least.
Juvenile White Ibis at play in the back lagoon.
A group of Ibis can be called a congregation, stand and a wedge. This little factoid comes from one of my favorite online bird resources,
They were having too much fun! 
The Osprey nearby didn't seem to approve.
The cemetery's sole remaining Pink-footed Goose makes fast friends with the Canadian Geese when they visit the ponds here. It's a touching thing to see really.
Magnolia Cemetery is a peaceful, reflective (literally at times) place to visit. Try to come by if you never have before.
The cemetery is located at 70 Cunnington Ave. in Charleston. It's open daily.
Peace out and Happy Holidays! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Signing Set for Saturday, Dec. 15

                                              Click above to see a YouTube video about my book!
Here's an idea for a unique and classy holiday gift!  I will be signing copies of "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary" on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.  The location will be, where else?  Magnolia Cemetery.

What an unusual place for a book signing, I know.  But it makes perfect sense given the book's subject:  how this beautiful and historic cemetery is an unlikely haven for many types of birds, year-round.

The book is 130-pages, featuring more than 400 color photographs of nearly 50 different types of birds, all found in the intimate and offbeat setting of Magnolia Cemetery, founded in 1850.  The cemetery is a "who's who" of Charleston history and also has a large Confederate representation with the graves of more than 1,700 men who fought and served in the great war.

What surprises many people is how Magnolia Cemetery is also a haven for a wide variety of birds. Two ponds, nearby salt marshes, the Cooper River, and the cemetery's quiet and peaceful location make for a thriving ecosystem that attracts a wide array of birds from large herons, egrets, wood storks and osprey to smaller birds and ducks such as belted kingfishers, yellow-rumped warblers, mallards and hooded mergansers.

Longtime Magnolia Cemetery superintendent Beverly Donald endorsed the book, saying: "The efforts put forth by Patrick Harwood in composing this book draw you in and invite you to join his experiences at Magnolia Cemetery. I feel this book would be a wonderful addition to everyone's collection."  (An interview with Donald about her years running Magnolia Cemetery can be read here.)

Published by BirdsEyeViews and printed locally by Knight Printing and Graphics, the book sells for $29.95 (two for $55).  Only checks and cash will be accepted at this signing event.

Magnolia Cemetery is located at 70 Cunnington Ave., which is off Meeting Street Road near Morrison Drive and Santi's restaurant. For directions, call the cemetery at (843) 722-8638.

For more information about this event or to purchase the book, contact me, Patrick Harwood, at 843.224.3112,, or (leave a comment or question on this blog. I hope to see you on Saturday, Dec. 15 at Magnolia Cemetery.

A Yellow-Crowned Night Heron Takes Flight at Magnolia Cemetery
I am also excited to report that I am working on a second book about Magnolia Cemetery. This one is about the unique cemetery art there, in terms of the many magnificent monuments and markers. The book will feature photographs and descriptions about many of the most striking gravesites and there will be stories about the people buried beneath them.

I am hopeful this book will be finished by the end of 2013 or early 2014.  See more details about this book here.

(Added 2013) Click here to see a short slideshow showing some of the magnificent memorials featured in my new book!

Links:  Cemetery Superintendent Interview
           Magnolia Cemetery Slideshow
           Magnolia Cemetery Timeline
           Video: Patrick Harwood's Magnolia Cemetery Bird Book
           Video:  Osprey- Gone Fishing
           Carolina Nature Photographers Association (I'm a member!)



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Eastern Phoebe

I spotted this cute little bird last weekend at the old Kings Grant Golf Course. I needed some identification help and again received prompt and accurate replies after I posted two photos on the forum that helps people identify mystery birds.

I first thought that this small bird may be a Warbler and was later surprised to realize it is in the Flycatcher family.
I didn't hear its call but that's where the name Phoebe comes from, the "Fee-bee" sound it makes, according to the write up on this bird on

Another neat fact is that a group of Eastern Phoebes is called, among other names, an outfield.  Catching flies as a baseball outfielder would-- get it? 

The state (and fate) of the former Kings Grant golf course has been in limbo for years. But this summer Wachovia/Wells Fargo bank sold it to an out-of-state developer. I am hopeful, as are residents in the Kings Grant neighborhood, that part of the old golf course will be left alone or turned into a nature park.

In June I had a letter to the editor published in the Charleston Post and Courier sharing my views on this issue. I know it has been widely circulated in the neighorbood (because someone contacted me some weeks later and asked my permission to copy the letter to share with residents there.)
The link to my letter doesn't include the photograph that ran with it in the newspaper.  It was of a pair of Red-shoulder Hawks I photographed at the old golf course a while back.

Aren't they beautiful? Since the golf course closed several years ago, there has been no development on the land so it has reverted back to nature and has become a really neat bird refuge of sorts.

Let's hope the new owner sees the benefits of keeping part of the property along the Ashley River as a park with access to not just Kings Grant residents but the rest of the community as well. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Welaka, Florida Fall Visit

Alesia and I were in Welaka, Fla. a couple weekends ago visiting her sister and her husband who have a second home on the St. Johns River.  It was our first time there and we really enjoyed the lovely scenery, especially this amazing sunset one evening!
These weren't storm clouds just a very striking confluence of colors at sunset made even more spectacular by the reflection in the river.
Welaka, population approximately 600, is a small river town in Putnam County, about 90 miles southwest of Jacksonville.
Ron and Suzan took us on a fun morning outing in their boat.
Me being me, I had my eye out for birds along the river.  Osprey are abundant in the area, near the river...
...and in town on a TV antenna.  I didn't know people still used these!
Osprey have amazing yellow eyes that do not miss a thing- or a person like me taking its picture.
Along that same residential road I had to jump out of the car again when seeing this Red-shouldered Hawk on a powerline.
Hawks have some powerful eyes too.
Another stop-the-car moment was when we passed these two large birds near the Welaka State Forest.
Initally, I thought they were Great Egrets or Great Blue Herons, but then did a double-take when I noticed the red markings on their faces.
These are Florida Sandhill Cranes, a "lifer" bird for me, meaning this was the first time I ever saw one.  I can't say I had ever heard of this breed.  But that's what makes going to new places neat, the opportunity to see new things, including birds and ducks. How about the crane's orange eyes!
Speaking of orange, this lovely butterfly caught my eye during our visit to the Welaka State Forest.
Saw some Common Moorhens in a murky swamp at the park.
A Great Egret stood tall for this photograph.
We really had a nice time in Welaka, Fla., a true fishermen's paradise.
The birding was good too.
The scenery was special!
But the real treat was the fine food at my brother-in-law Ron's new restaurant, R&B Welaka BBQ. He and two partners have opened a delicious barbecue restaurant in this small town. If you're ever in the area, be sure to stop in.  You'll love it too I am sure!
That's Ron on the left with the other two owners.
Thanks for a great visit Suzan and Ron!
Florida- the Sunshine State where the sunsets aren't bad either!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Magnolia Cemetery Summer 2012 Favorites

My 2011 book "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary" was not the end of my interest in this unusually beautiful and historic place. A second book is underway about the many interesting people and monuments at this graveyard that dates to 1850. But I do still keep an eye out for the delightful amount of bird activity at Magnolia Cemetery. This post features photos I've taken in recent months there.  In my new book, I may just have to have a chapter at the end with more bird photos, kind of a mini-sequel to my first book! 
I took this photo in July.  It's by far my favorite bird picture of the summer. I love the position of the two Wood Storks, how they are side by side but looking in opposite directions.  Their reflections are neat too, as is the greenish color to the water. And I like the Snowy Egret, its reflection, and position in relation to the storks. This is a photo I'm planning to have made a large canvas print.  Imaging Arts and Knight Printing in Charleston do great work with these. 
I love this photo also. I'm more likely to see Wood Storks in trees than in the water, so this was a unique sighting for me. And add the Snowy Egret to the mix, the green water color and the reflections- all make for a cool shot.  Plus I did a little PhotoShop black point treatment that I learned from Kate Silvia at our Carolina Nature Photographers meetings.  This easy fix can give photos a darker contrast, a positive polish.
I use that technique with some photos but not in ones like the next two that don't need such a treatment.

A Great Egret on a branch over one of the cemetery's two ponds.
It's been a hot summer and event the birds feel it. In 90-plus temperatures you're more likely to see birds with open beaks like this, sort of like panting but without a dog's (or my) heavy breathing.
This seems to be another cooling device.  I've seen Great Blue Herons (above) and Wood Storks in such unusual positions with their wings.
The distinctive Anhinga spreads its wings to dry them after a swim and food dive in the pond. This bird is quite an underwater hunter/fisher.
The Anhinga in its signature pose.
Then in flight...
A Great Blue Heron takes off over the salt marsh that borders parts of the cemetery.
The Double-crested Cormorant is another big bird that can be very symmetrical when in pairs or more. I love their green eyes.
Note the Cormorants webbed feet and the "can opener" beak.
A Green Heron on the prowl for a meal. This colorful small heron continues to be a favorite of mine.
It's amazing the neck extension Herons and Egrets have!
In June there was a Green Heron nest over the front pond near the cemetery entrance. This is one of the youngsters, just weeks old still with its downy feathers.
In May I spotted a pretty Bluebird on a headstone. The cemetery setting makes for some unique bird perches.  My book has lots of such compositions!
A Northern Mockingbird atop a decorative funerary urn.
Here's the wide shot of the monument and that Mockingburd at the top.  Sometimes I do a double take, stopping and seeing if such a bird is real or part of the sculpture.
Notice the "no see ems" in this shot. Nats, mosquitos, deer flies and other pests can be bad at the cemetery in the summer. That's why I keep spray in the trunk of my car.
A mother Mallard with two offspring in tow. An unusual amount of life- albeit bird life- can be found at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery.
Aren't they cute, the little Mallards under the watchful eye of their mother! 
Magnolia Cemetery is located at 70 Cunnington Ave. in Charleston, which is off Meeting Street Road near North Charleston. The cemetery is open every day from 8-5. It's a great place to visit to check out the birds, the graves and all the history and style they present. The grounds are very walkable with flat roads and paths.