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!