Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Silversun Pickups Perform in…Charleston!


Wednesday, May 1 was a much anticipated day this year. My SC State classes concluded the day before so the end of the school year is near with final exams and final grading left to wrap up another year teaching college and college students- something I take great pride in doing and being part of a faculty. 

This band is one of my top five of all time! See my post here. 

May 1 this year was doubly special because that was the date for us to go to a concert at Charleston Music Hall by a band we both love, Silversun Pickups

The show was announced…when? Back in January maybe. I bought tickets right away and the date was circled on my calendar, you know, one of those dates you think will never arrive! Felt that way anyway.  

Monday, May 6, 2024

New Bird on the Block: Gray Catbird


The thrill of Baltimore Orioles at my feeders is no more. They’ve flown north for the spring, to Canada, according to my birding friend Richard. 

But then a new visitor with a sweet tooth began to frequent the grape jelly tray. 

What a handsome species is the Gray catbird! 

The All About Birds website says Gray Catbirds are related to Mockingbirds and Thrashers, sharing their skill at mimicking other bird calls. The name Catbird comes from a call that sounds like a meow. I did hear that myself once when on my back porch. I read that this bird can also imitate the croak of a frog! 

Monday, April 29, 2024

Colorful Creature!


Back in March I spotted this unusual critter on the brick by my garage. It is something I did not recognize so I posted a few photos and a short video (below) on my neighborhood's Facebook site. 

I received several informed responses. One neighbor said that this is a Luna Moth. From this website I learned that its born as a caterpillar that eats different types of leaves. After about a month  it builds a cocoon where it lives for about three weeks then emerges as a Luna Moth.  

I also shared these images on the South Carolina Wildlife Photos site. One responder said she thinks the wings appear to not have unfurled correctly. 

Another man said: "I'm not 100% certain but usually when they first come out of the cocoon their wings look something like that. They will sit still and slowly pump blood into their wings, making them unfurl. It's just that purple part at the top of their wings make me think something may be wrong."

Some research on this moth reveals that it only lives for about one week. What a shame! 

The reason for the short life span is that "like other members of the giant silkworm family, have reduced mouthparts so they don't eat at all" (per this source).

Check out the video below.

I know I have seen Luna Moth's before but cannot find one I may have photographed. 

So here's what one looks like during its all-too-short life. Courtesy this site. 

When out in nature, I will keep an eye out for Luna Moths so I can add my own "capture" to this site. 

It is always nice to learn new things about Mother Nature! 

Researching my Spanish Ancestry: The California Connection

 (Click here to see a video introduction and overview I produced to go along with this story)
Note: I first published this post in February 2019 on my old College of Charleston "Beyond the Grave" site created for a class I taught for five years at this university. 

During a holiday visit to my folks’ house in Virginia, I asked my mother some questions about her parents. One was where her late father (my grandfather) had worked. I knew that he was at a hotel for many years in Santa Monica but I didn't know which hotel.

"The Miramar" was her response. My immediate reaction was asking if it was located near San Diego. My thoughts went to the Tom Cruise movie "Top Gun" that was set at the fighter pilot school at the Miramar U.S. Navy aviation base.  

No, not that Miramar, Mom said.  It was not until yesterday when I began doing some research for this post that I learned about Santa Monica's Miramar Hotel and its rich, interesting, even glamorous history.  

Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows (courtesy Booking.com)
And I admit to shivering with pride to think my Grandpa Frank spent much of his working career at such a prestigious resort hotel.  

A 2011 article from the Santa Monica Mirror recounts the property's long history.  Early highlights included: 
  • The co-founder of Santa Monica, John Percival Jones, built a Victorian mansion called Miramar in 1889
  • His wife Georgina would plant a small Australian Moreton Bay fig tree that would grow into the huge landmark and signature tree (below) that dominates the resort's front courtyard
Moreton Bay fig tree at the Miramar 
  • Georgina Jones, in 1912, sold the house and property to safety razor inventor King Camp Gillette for $77,500
  • Gillette, several years later, would sell to Gilbert Stevenson, who is described as an "eccentric hotelier" in the Santa Monica Mirror article referenced earlier
  • Stevenson turned the estate into a hotel, which by the early 1920s became a celebrity hot spot with stars such as Greta Garbo, Betty Grable and Jean Harlow gracing its rooms, restaurant and stage. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Biking to the Intracoastal Waterway

We just had to take advantage of the beautiful weather God blessed us with on Sunday, April 14! So we loaded our bicycles in the SUV and drove north up the coastline. 

Destination: the vast Santee Coastal Reserve located off Highway 17 north of McClellanville. 
I have visited several times over the years but never took a bike. I did a two-part posting about this wildlife management area back in 2015.
Part I.  Part II. 

This website from South Carolina Trails includes a map of the route we took on our bikes, giving the ride an "easy" rating. I would say it's not exactly easy as you really need to pay attention because the conditions of the path differ from good to a little rough as you go along. 

The goal today was to ride to the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a few miles from the main parts of the reserve so bikes seemed like a fun and expedient way to get there. The trail, overall, was in good shape except for a few sandy patches. 

Once we got there we saw several vessels plying the waters, including this yacht whose skipper tooted the horn for us. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

10 Year Anniversary: My “In the Arms of Angels” Book


Wow!  Ten years ago this week my “In the Arms of Angels” Magnolia Cemetery book was released! This first signing at the cemetery was a good omen of so many great experiences to come, meeting so many people (kindred spirits!), giving many presentations and numerous book signings around the Lowcountry, not to mention my five years teaching at College of Charleston my “Beyond the Grave” First Year Experience course. This book and that class would inspire my 2022 book, “Stories from the Underground: The Churchyards of Charleston.” I have several talks and a podcast coming up this spring and summer and all my books are available on Amazon.

This Facebook post appeared in my “Memories” to alert me to this 10-year anniversary. I remember being contacted ahead of the first official book event. The group of gals was driving from Anderson to Charleston and wanted, as part of their Holy City visit, to see if I could meet them at Magnolia Cemetery so they could have me sign my new book for them. 

Of course I will! 

About a week later I held the first book signing for my new book. Longtime Magnolia Cemetery superintendent Beverly Donald (pictured) helped organize and promote the event. Beverly was very helpful with my research and I, in fact, dedicated the book to her and to my parents as well. 

Beverly recently retired as head of the cemetery after more than 40 years of service. Enjoy your retirement, it's well deserved! 

My book publicity efforts included booking (pun intended) an appearance on WCIV-TV's "Lowcountry Live" live program. I was interviewed by Tessa Spencer who since this April 2014 event became the main anchor at Charleston's ABC affiliate. 

The Facebook "memory" anniversary notices keep popping up! This is a post I did on April 13, 2014 about a signing I did at College of Charleston later in the week. 

This is the author photo I used in the book, taken by my lovely wife Alesia. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

ACE Basin Getaway

My Spring Break from school has been a busy one but I was determined to take one day for an excursion to the Lowcountry’s ACE BasinThis is the land of vast nature preserves, a protected watershed region totalling some 1.6 million acres.

On Wednesday I drove south the 60 miles or so to the Bear Island Wildlife Management Area. As this site claims (accurately!) Bear Island is a birdwatcher's paradise.

Here can be explored the 18th and 19th-century rice fields that brought wealth to plantation owners and enslavement to Africans brought (and bought) to toil in swampy waterways like this one. 

Wooden trunks like these continue to be used to control water levels in the former rice fields of the ACE Basin whose name comes from the confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers. 

These are happy places for me full of seemingly endless walking and driving trails that lead to waterways where birds of all shapes and sizes may be found. You will also see alligators and sometimes snakes, lizards, raccoons, deer, wild hogs and other land animals. 

Two other wonderlands in this area, similar in layout to Bear Island, are the Donnelley WMA and the Ernest Hollings National Wildlife Refuge. 

My blog documents numerous visits to these great places. See the above links and/or go to search this blog space in the column on the right.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Recent Camera Captures

 The Christmas gift camera feeder continues to be a hit attracting a variety of birds but also an unwelcome squirrel (keep reading). This post features some of the recent activity with 20-second video clips.

Yellow-rumped Warbler 
(aka butter Butt for the splash of yellow it shows from behind on its behind lol)

Tufted Titmouse
(easily recognizable for its "jaunty crest of gray feathers, big black eyes and rust-colored flanks" per the above website)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
(one of North America's smallest songbirds)

Friday, February 23, 2024

Beautiful Baltimore Oriole

I took these photos last week from my upstairs “bird blind.” There’s a small window in our master bath that winds open enough for me to give my camera lens a clear view of the nearby trees and the bird feeders below. 

Male and female Orioles are still coming regularly to my Christmas gift camera feeder. This bird really loves jelly, especially grape jelly. See this recent post about the cool camera feeder.

Monday, February 12, 2024

New Fossil Find Could be Millions of Years Old!


Wow! What a find! There’s a new townhouse development going up just down Dorchester Road from us. From experience I know that when ground around here is dug up on a large scale there may be fossils to be found.

Two Sundays ago we went over and walked around. When I spotted this smallish sandy area at the work site, I paused to give a close look. Lo and behold this round protruding object caught my eye. I knew immediately that it is a shark vertebrae. This one is about an inch and half wide. 

I have found a number of shark teeth and vertebrae before over the years in a few miles radius from where I live. Hard to believe, but the South Carolina Lowcountry was under water (today’s Atlantic Ocean) as far west as Columbia, S.C. millions and millions of years ago. 

People sell shark teeth and vertebrae online!