Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Beach Visits in Review!

I didn't get to the Charleston area beaches too often this summer, 3-4 times maybe. But whenever I go, I always take my camera. You just never know what you may see there!  And often there are neat, unusual and/or interesting things and people to photograph.

This presentation features Sullivan's Island and Folly Beach.

Using Kizoa, a fun and easy (and free) program for creating slideshows and videos, I produced this three minute presentation.  Click below to view. If that's not playing properly, click here. Enjoy!
                                           The Beach 2017
The music used is courtesy of my go-to free music site, I found the song titled, "Parsail" among the Ambient music offerings. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Back To My Birding Roots: Magnolia Cemetery!

Selfie- note the sweaty arm reflection- it was a hot day!
With Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma impacting South Carolina today (Sept. 11), I am hunkered down at home and hoping for the best!

With no school, I'm trying to be productive by getting to a few blog posts I've been wanting to write.

Last month on a Sunday, Alesia and I went to Magnolia Cemetery to walk around and see what birds we can photograph.

Snapseed Phone App a Snap for Photo Enhancing

Recently, while driving to work on Ladson Road, I was struck by this photo opportunity. I liked the leading lines of the power lines on the left and the sky had a cool look too.

So I very carefully took a few pictures with my iPhone 7.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Red-Shouldered Hawk Pair

Like my previous post about the Great Egret downing a fish from the pond near my backyard, I also did not have to leave my driveway to capture these images last week.  These are Red-shouldered Hawks atop a pine tree across the street from my house.

First I heard their high-pitched call, then I spotted them, then I grabbed my camera and monopod, then quickly started shooting!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"Down the Hatch" with a Great Egret

I feel fortunate to live in a nice neighborhood with lots of trees and a small pond just beyond my backyard.

The environment, plus my bevy of bird feeders, baths and houses, is very hospitable to our feathered friends.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Interesting Feeder Visitor!

Yesterday I spotted at my backyard feeders this Cardinal-sized bird that I did not recognize.

It perched at this tube feeder for a while, at least 15-20 minutes that I observed.
After taking several photographs, I went to one of my go-to bird books to try to identify the type of bird this is.

It has a finch bill, but these colors I have not seen.

So I'm going to for assistance.  The site's bird identification forum never fails in correctly naming bird types or confirming them for me.

This is no exception as the word from a couple fellow birders on tell me this is a Brown-headed Cowbird, a male juvenile.

Young fellow may be on his own for a short time.  I hope you have a nice life and you are welcome at my feeders any time!

I have had adult male and female Cowbirds in my yard before, but never a juvenile.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cardinals and Hummingbirds Grace Backyard Feeders

My backyard bird feeders have been staying busy this summer. It's been all I can do to keep the tubes and suet holders stocked!
Northern Cardinals (a pair seen here), Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Downy and Red-belled Woodpeckers are the most common visitors.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mississippi Kite and Heron In My Hood!

It's pretty neat (and convenient!) as a birder and nature photographer to have a regular "supply" of birds- large and small- frequent my neighborhood in North Charleston, S.C. We have lots of trees and several ponds so that's a plus, and it's generally pretty quite around here.
Just the other day, I first heard, then spotted, then went inside and grabbed my camera and monopod to try to photograph this bird, perching high atop a pine tree in a neighbor's backyard.

I figured it was a hawk, but have now learned, through a trusted social media site, that it is a juvenile Mississippi Kite. has a wonderful forum for bird identification.

The forum is free to join and use. You just have to sign up (username, password, etc.) and then you can post photos of birds you need help identifying, or help those in such need with your expertise.

This post today took much longer than normal for positive IDs to come in, but it was certainly worth the wait!

A few days after taking the above images, I had another opportunity to photograph a young Mississippi kite.

This one may be the same bird I photographed earlier. The location was different, but also a pine tree in my neighborhood.
I have no question as to this type of big bird.
This, of course, is the magnificent Great Blue Heron, which stood for a long time near the pond that is close to my backyard.
Great Blue was ready for a closeup.  This is a great bird to photograph because it will often be statue-still for great lengths of time.

I continue to see and hear Kites in my neighborhood, so will be alert to more photo ops with this magnificent creature!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Painted Bunting a Donnelley Delight!

On Sunday, July 23 we braved the Lowcountry heat and humidity and ventured south to the ACE Basin's Donnelley Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

For us, the drive is about 50 miles. Donnelley is located off Highway 17 in the metropolis (ha!) of Green Pond, S.C.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Paris Finale Post: Luxembourg Palace, Roland Garros and More Eiffel Tower

Spending a week and a half in Paris was such a great (and perhaps once in a lifetime) opportunity to soak up the history, architecture and atmosphere of the "City of Light."

Toward the end of the trip I made a list of the key attractions I had visited, some by myself but most with Alesia and our two boys and Joseph's girlfriend.
My list came to 16, many of which I have documented in the posts preceding this one.
This final Paris post will cover some sites not previously covered and also will include street scenes such as this one. The domed building is part of the College of Sorbonne, which was founded way back in 1253 as a theological institution. The chapel, built in the baroque style, dates to 1635.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Invigorating and Vexing Versailles Visit!

Getting outside of Paris to Versailles proved to be a transportation quagmire for us.

What should have been a two-connection train trip of maybe an hour took us more than three hours, hence "vexing" in the title of this post.
But it was all worth the trouble to see this beautiful palace and the lovely landscaped gardens around it.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

French Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb at Les Invalides

Les Invalides is a Paris attraction I was not familiar with before coming here.

But it is a place I thoroughly enjoyed visiting.
Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Arc de Triomphe a BIG Surprise!

The first thing that struck me after exiting the underground Paris Metro stop, going up the stairs and first seeing IT was just how big IT is!

The Arc du Triomphe is one colossal and impressive monument.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Louvre's Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Napolean and More

For first time visitors to Paris like myself, the world renowned Louvre Museum is on the short list of must-see places.

According to Wikipedia, it is the world's largest museum and the second most visited art museum, behind only Beijing, China's Palace Museum.

The massive museum is more than 780,000 square feet in size with 38,000 objects "from prehistory to the 21st century" (Wikipedia).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Old Paris Cemeteries Exude Unique Artistry

A dazzling and dizzying variety of grave markers are daily on public display to those who care to visit places of death.
This image is a microcosm of how there are so many different ways people can be honored and remembered with cemetery art.
On the left is a life size figure of someone who must have been very important during his life in Paris or elsewhere in France.
And on the right is an ancient gowned woman in a mourning pose with a lyre behind her.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Notre Dame Cathedral Amazes on Many Levels

The great Cathedrale Notre-Dame du Paris has so many design features on its exterior that many satisfying hours could be spent studying those without ever going inside the sacred church.

Paris Security Protects the Public

This post is a tribute to the Paris security forces we saw on the streets throughout our visit.

Like this woman, I appreciated their presence in this time of terrorism.
There is so much to see in Paris and so many people out and about, especially this time of year as school is out and people and families are taking vacations.

There is clearly a heightened security presence

Paris Pantheon Offers Unexpected Views

The gray-blue dome of Paris' Pantheon is visible out our hotel window.  On Sunday, we set out to get a closer look at this neo-classical structure that was completed in 1790.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Productive in Paris- Day One

Our long-anticipated trip to Paris is finally here, and Alesia and I wasted little time to start visiting some of the City of Light's most popular sites.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport at around 7 a.m. local time and were at our Marriott hotel by 9.  Our room would not be ready for a few hours. Though tired, we started to explore by foot the nearby area.
It was a pleasant morning to start our exploration of this ancient city.  This is my first time to Paris. Alesia has been here a time or two before on business.

That is the case this trip (Alesia here on business) and I'm glad to be able to tag along. Our two sons will be joining us in the days ahead, so what a special time we will have together in such a beautiful, historic and exotic place!

Soon enough, I was seeing grand statues and distinctive French architecture.
I am struck by the details and human emotions conveyed on the faces of these figures. This work is located near the Catacombs of Paris.
The Catacombs of Paris is a very popular attraction.  Alesia convinced me that this was a great time for us to see it.

It doesn't open until 10 a.m. When we happened by it was around 9:30. The line was already forming and would get longer by the minute.  We took our spot and waited.  And waited.  And waited.

It's not easy to be so patient when just off a very long flight and having been awake nearly 24 hours at this point.

But wait we did (two plus hours) and finally we got in, paid the admission fee, and started descending stairs talking us deep underground.
We would learn the story of how 5-6 million Parisians, dating the Black Plague and Medieval times, would be disinterred from the city's many cemeteries and church graveyards and deposited here.
We would learn a new word for what this depository of human remains is called: an ossuary.

According to Wikipedia, Paris has the world's largest ossuary, in both size (some 3 acres) and number (up to 6 million human remains).
The gritty work began in the late 1700s and would continue for decades, as Paris tried to deal with public health, disease and sanitary issues caused by having so many bodies in the ground of a growing population center.

Markers indicate where particular groups of bones came from and when they were put here, deep in the dark catacombs.
A staff member pointed out this skull to us. A bullet hole in the head made pretty clear how this person died.  Why is another story, one not known, apparently.
The skeletal remains are so neatly arranged and packed in this subterranean setting that it first struck me as being fake.

But the Catacombes De Paris are real. The stark efficiency of this process is a bit unnerving.  But in the 18th and 19th centuries, this was how the public officials of Paris chose to deal with a growing problem and concern.
It's an amazing and unusual thing to see so up close and personal.

Long wait to get in, but worth it, in my view because this is not something one will see in too many places.
Good to get in the catacombs-- even better to safely get out!
After emerging from the catacombs, we walked back to our hotel, hoping our room was ready.

Taking in the atmosphere of Paris was enjoyable.  I really liked this streetscape with the trees lined up as they are, with some apartment buildings in the background.
Paris street scene on a Saturday morning.
Rue D'Alesia- Alesia's unique spelling of her name is identical to a long thoroughfare in this part of Paris.
Our room was ready back at the Marriott Paris Rive Gauche.

So we slept for a bit, unpacked some and were back on the street.

Destination:  Eiffel Tower
The hotel is right across from a train stop (Glaciere). We took the metro to the Eiffel Tower stop.  The fare was 1.90 euro each way.
Train stations and stops are great places for people watching!
My first look at the great Eiffel Tower, which stood as the world's tallest building from its completion in the late 1887 until the Chrysler Building in New York took that lofty spot in 1930.
The Eiffel Tower is made of wrought iron. It is 1,063 feet tall. It was built as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair.
This photo was taken on a bridge over the Seine River.

The tower is named for Gustave Eiffel, an engineer whose company designed and built it.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower was a great way to start our Paris visit.  It is such an international icon and is also very accessible.

It can be greatly enjoyed without going into it and up to the top of it.

We had enough of long lines on this day.  So just seeing the tower and walking around the area on such a pleasant sunny day was perfect.
The spot on the bridge where the photo of us was taken featured this fierce statue.
The statue reminded me of the image on the old U.S. Mercury dime.  I need to research that some more.
Nice symmetry in this setting under the train tracks.
The Seine River in this vicinity stays busy with tour boats of different shapes and sizes.
Dinner time! Our first dinner in Paris was at Ribe Cafe, located near the Eiffel Tower.

A very kind woman volunteered to take this photo of us, as she watched me setting up a selfie.  Those are her two children in the background.
I enjoyed a dinner of sausage and finely mashed potatoes. Alesia had a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and other ingredients inside it.
The meal was fairly light, so there was room for dessert, which was this delicious creme brulee.
This was a fine end to a busy first day in Paris!

More posts to come!