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.

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...

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.

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 (2013). 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.
My wife and I returned to Aruba the following summer for a second wonderful vacation on this Happy Island. I had a really neat bird encounter along those waters across the street (and behind the trees) from the Riu Palace on Palm Beach.
Troupial, Aruba's national bird
(Sand dunes near California Lighthouse; Caribbean Sea in back)\
Troupial (Malmok Beach)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Spring 2013 Birding!

I'm bullish on birding this spring! From my own backyard to other area outdoor locales it has been a really good season for seeing and photographing many old favorites plus some new "lifers" here and there. Here are some of my best Spring 2013 birds and where I found them.

American Goldfinch, Brown-headed Cowbird, Chipping Sparrow (my backyard feeders)

Northern Cardinal (my backyard feeders)

Sunday, April 21, 2013


It is springtime and the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and the alligators are...menacing.
My recent visits to two of the South Carolina Lowcountry's wildlife areas have been highlighted by my extreme caution with every step when I'm near the old rice fields that are common to these special sanctuaries.
Spring is when the alligators come out of their winter hibernation to soak up the sun, to mate and create little gators, and to feed on the unlucky fish and animals that cross their paths. Don't fall for that charming, toothy gator smile (below), these guys are lethal.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sunrise at Magnolia Cemetery

Many thanks to Magnolia Cemetery's Beverly Donald, superintendent, and Jamie Parks, grounds manager, for today's early morning access for our Carolina Nature Photographers Association (CNPA) group.
Jamie opened the gates at 6 a.m., allowing early birds to come in and get set up for the sunrise, which would come at around 7:30.
I've been to the beautiful and historic cemetery (founded in 1849) many, many times but never at dark like this. The normal open hours are daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m. It was neat to walk around and take pictures in the dark!
I have never photographed the bridge across the front lagoon quite like this.
No, I didn't see a ghost.  I just look like I did!
Didn't see or here any ghosts, thank goodness. Any apparitions in these photos are most likely dust spots on my lens.
Glad Donnie Smith mentioned that he was bringing a flashlight. I'm glad I brought one. Would have been stumbling around all over the place otherwise!
It was neat to photograph the cemetery in different lighting conditions like this-- no light, that is.
The Smith Pyramid (below), one of the cemetery's iconic sites.
One of the many obelisk monuments at Magnolia Cemetery, which was founded in the mid-1800s amid America's Victorian rural cemetery movement.
The cemetery offices are in this old plantation house that dates to the 1790s.
Check out this amazing ancient live oak tree that graces the grounds.
Fellow Charleston CNPA photographers await the sunrise.
Raymond at the ready!
Alas, the sun started to rise from the east, over the salt marsh adjoining the back of the cemetery. This is the Lowndes family plot.
 We were fortunate to have a beautiful sunrise to enjoy and capture on (digital) film.
The sun just starting to come up. Temperatures were mild, in the mid-50s, and winds were calm.
The handless girl atop the T.A. Coffin vault sees the sunrise every day from her spot.
A huge container ship moves up the Cooper River toward the harbor and then the Atlantic Ocean.
The ship will go under the nearby Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
First morning light bathes Magnolia Cemetery.
Sunlight, glorious sunlight!
Lagoon on the left, Smith Pyramid on the right, the rising sun dead ahead!
Meantime, at the front lagoon...
The birds of Magnolia Cemetery soon started their day. The ponds, marsh and food sources they bring attract quite an array of birds and ducks to the cemetery setting, such as this Red-tailed Hawk.
A Downy Woodpecker was busy drilling for a meal.
A Tricolored Heron and Snowy Egret hanging out.
A Mallard pair glides along the front lagoon.
The male Mallard. I never noticed before the green spot on the bill tip.
It was a truly blessed day at Magnolia Cemetery. Thanks again to Beverly and Jamie for this special CNPA outing!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Back at Bear Island!

Alesia and I made another trip to Bear Island on Sunday in hopes of seeing some Tundra Swans. Unfortunately we missed them. A gentleman we spoke with there said he rode his bike all over the vast wildlife area and didn't see any.  And he was told by some other birders that they had already departed. Well, maybe better luck for us next winter!
I knew the day could still be a birding success when we first arrived and saw some heads popping out from this large Osprey nest near the ranger station.
The pair flew from the nest before I could get a shot. But soon they flew back and the one did a little tap dance on the other. I've seen hawks do this lately. Some kind of mating ritual, I suspect.
Another neat sighting was this Eastern Towhee. Such a striking bird. I've encountered these before and I knew I had a shot at getting a good shot because they often stay on low branches and shrubs and sometimes will stay in the area when a shutterbug sees them.
Many of the small birds looked nice and plump for the winter. The Towhee, while not a tubby, looks almost round.
Some more brightness on a grey day was found in this little gem, a Palm Warbler. I only saw one and was happy to get a couple shots. I needed some help to make the positive ID. Lifer bird for me, so that's pretty neat!
The Palm Warbler is a wide-ranging bird that enjoys wintering in the Southeast (who doesn't?). I read where they are among the first to head back North, so I'm glad I saw this one when I did. 
The Yellow-rumped Warbler provided another spot of color. These birds were all over Bear Island and have been all over the the South Carolina Lowcountry, including my backyard feeders.
I dash of yellow on this bird's rump is where the name is derived. To the right of the green branch can be seen a little of that yellow along the tail feathers. Took these shots from inside my car.
A Northern Mockingbird enjoys a perch as I popped a few shots from inside my car.
White Pelicans (back) were hunkered down in the cold weather. The bird of the day on this visit is the small one seen in the above photo in the forefront (lower left).
Tree Swallows were everywhere at Bear Island, everywhere there was water that is.
Tree Swallows were my second "lifer" birds on this day, along with the Palm Warbler shown earlier. I photographed four lifer birds during our visit to Bear Island a couple weeks ago. The Tree Swallows are very quick birds that never stay still.  They do not stop to catch their breath on a branch or tree.  They are in constant motion, making them very tough to photograph. I had to do crop jobs to highlight the two above. But a very pretty, colorful bird. White on the underside and brown and blue up top. 
A fleet of American Coots on the move. A group of coots is also called a codgery, shoal, swarm and commotion. Old coot, old codger- I see the connection.
Coots are not the prettiest bird in the pond. I do like their evil red eyes though.
A knob or coil (or dropping, spring or paddling) of Blue-winged Teals.
Ruddy Ducks looking their usual ruddy selves! They're more colorful in the spring and summer.
A wedge or congregation/heronry/skewer/RSVP of Snowy Egrets.
The Great Egret looking great as usual!  One of nature's most photogenic birds.
Little Blue Heron- another favorite of mine.
Tricolored Heron- trying not to be seen? 
A Red-winged Blackbird stands out even in the weeds and reeds.
I took a few shot with my camera's "toy camera"setting. It creates a neat effect.
Kind of a spooky look with this Black Vulture on the power line pole!

These shots make me think about what goes on at night here, the sounds and the sights, what might be walking and flying around in the dar.
It's nice to see upgrades and maintenance work around the vast Bear Island preserve. It's comforting to know professionals are trying to keep that delicate balance between nature and access to people.
Wooden trunks help control the water levels in the many old rice impoundments.
Another fun outing with lots of walking at Bear Island!