On the birdwatching front (American style, that is; just wanted to clarify), I saw two of my favorites in fairly quick succession last month, and then saw one of my lesser favorites perched in an interesting location.
During a recent southbound drive along Highway 17 through the Francis Marion National Forest, I saw a large letter “V” hovering in my left peripheral visual field. Not knowing if I was having a stroke, hallucinating or witnessing a UFO invasion, I looked quickly and directly to the left and noticed that the “V” was attached to the body of a swallow-tailed kite, easily one of the most spectacular birds in North America, and the kind of creature that can make anyone feel like an ornithological hero because anyone can identify it.
The problem is they’re rare, so therefore sightings are uncommon. At my relatively senescent age, I’ve only had three previous sightings: Once during the 1990’s in the middle of the Santee Delta and twice during the early 1980’s while playing golf at — of all places — Shadowmoss Golf Club off Highway 61 in the vicinity of the historic plantation corridor.
A few days later I was driving through some land on Johns Island and saw a small bird flitting around with a blue head, chartreuse nape, a red breast and olive green wings. Not knowing if I was having a stroke or had inadvertently consumed the wrong type of wild mushroom, I was relieved and delighted to realize that I had spotted a male painted bunting (or “nonpareil,” as some people like to call them; French for “without equal”), easily one of the most spectacular birds in North America, and the kind of creature that can make anyone feel like an ornithological hero because anyone can identify it.
The problem is they’re rare, so therefore sightings are uncommon. At my relatively senescent age, I’ve only had three previous sightings: Once on Kiawah, another time on Johns Island and once during the 1980’s while playing golf at — of all places — Shadowmoss Golf Club, which can be found off Highway 61 on the way down to the historic gardens.
A few days later my wife and I were on the way in to have supper at Heart Woodfire Kitchen, one of our favorite restaurants, just off Folly Road in the building that was once home to Duffy Ingle’s quirky Daily Dose restaurant. I heard sort of a familiar high-pitched shriek and knew there had to be an osprey in the area. Sure enough, I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes. There, atop a 100-foot cell phone tower in the back of the lot, was an osprey nest. What a remarkable use for an otherwise unattractive structure!
The osprey is one of our most beautiful raptors and it’s the kind of creature that can make anyone feel like an ornithological hero because they’re so easy to identify. There’s no problem; they’re again commonplace, now that DDT and lead emissions have been curbed. At my relatively senescent age, I’ve had lots of sightings.
And although I personally haven’t seen any there, I’m sure they can be found at — of all places — Shadowmoss Golf Club, if you happen to be driving through the area.
Sorting through a bit of the mail, Paul Vecellio makes the following observation about the Gatsby column which ran here a few weeks ago, in which I referred to the 1974 Robert Redford movie adaptation as “insipid” and “boring.”
“I have no argument with most of your column,” he writes.
“However, film is considered a director’s medium. At least that’s what I was taught in college.
Therefore, ‘insipid’ and ‘boring’ or not, the 1974 version of Gatsby would be more accurately described as the Jack Clayton version that starred Robert Redford.”
Mr. Vecellio is right, and I stand corrected.
And speaking of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Walter Duane would also recommend “Tender is the Night,” the title of which Mr. Duane suspects was inspired by Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale”.
“If you’ve never read ‘Tender is the Night,’ read it. If you have read it but it’s been some time, reread it.
“The book deals with the corruption that can be caused by wealth. It also has some references to incest and ‘homo-sexuality’, subjects that were taboo at the time. Was it partially autobiographical? Who am I to judge?”
And still on the subject of nicknames, Honey Johnson says she received hers at birth. “It took me through kindergarten, but I was saddled with ‘Helen Elizabeth’ for the next twelve years.
“Finally, at the College of Charleston, my nickname had a rebirth!
“I remember reading that we, in the South, are intent about nicknaming to make sure that our children know they are loved. Best rationale I ever heard of!”
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.
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