In March, 2013, the non-profit, open-source research organization, OCEARCH, caught a four-metre, 900 kg, female great white shark off the Atlantic coast of Florida near Jacksonville, then released it after attaching monitoring and tracking devices. In the year since, the shark has travelled 31,000 kilometres, visiting Cape Hatteras, Bermuda, George's Bank, Placentia Bay, and the Grand Banks, before crossing the mid-Atlantic ridge to a point 1200 kilometres off the coast of Ireland. In late October, Lydia, as the researchers nicknamed her. spent three days exploring Newfoundland's Placentia Bay and Merasheen Island: You can follow Lydia's travels on OCEARCH's interactive, live-tracking map. You can follow...

Chris Peters of Halifax took this photo of an American Tree Sparrow at Grand Pre, King's County, December 28. I am re-posting it here with his permission.  Clicking the image will bring up a larger copy. The seed-eating American Tree Sparrow nests on the tundra from Alaska to Labrador, and winters throughout the continental US, the southern fringes of the prairie provinces and Quebec, and in the southern Maritimes. It's considered common in Nova Scotia in winter. Chris's photo illustrates the species' habit of fluffing out its feathers in cold weather, keeping it warmer and making its plump body look even chubbier. According to...

Saturday in Purcell's Cove: Ruby had much to say about this intrusion in her own backyard. The deer, perhaps spying the leash, feigned indifference. Photo: Marla Cranston...

SableUpdate The three Parks Canada bureaucrats who tag-teamed an illustrated talk at tonight's ninth annual Sable Island Update faced a skeptical, though not overtly hostile, audience. The first time Canadians heard about plans to turn Sable Island into a National Park, Jim Prentice, environment minister at the time, launched into an addle-pated discourse on how great a park would be for private businesses that could could ferry boatloads of tourists out to Sable and put them up for the night in hotels. You want to hope this was a spontaneous outburst by a know-nothing minister, but with Harper's crew, who can be sure? Parks Canada bureaucrats have struggled ever since to convince Sable's large, passionate constituency that they are not the advance guard for a mob of gun-toting Reform Party vandals bent on paving Sable and putting up Ferris wheels. In the process, they appear to have persuaded the naturalist and longtime Sable champion Zoe Lucas. (Disclosure: Zoe and I have been friends for years.) zoe_lucas copyIn her talk last night, Zoe, who is principal organizer of the meeting, gave her usual fascinating and witty précis of events on Sable over the last 18 months—a spell-binding catalog of weather highlights, scientific discoveries, critter strandings, beach debris, and whatnot. She followed this with a useful history of tourism to the island, gently driving home the point that people have always visited Sable (albeit in small numbers) and properly managed, such visits cause little damage while helping build the passionate constituency for conservation that is Sable's best protection from Cretins like Prentice. Zoe and I have not spoken about this, but it appeared to me that she and the Parks Canada officials charged with setting up the new park have established a productive and mutually respectful relationship. This has not always been the case. Zoe is a woman of strong views and a willingness to express them. She has not always enjoyed a blissful rapport with Sable's federal overseers. In their presentation, the Parks Canada officials made the obligatory gestures you would expect toward Zoe's revered role as unofficial steward of the island, including the invaluable scientific work she has carried out over nearly four decades. Beyond that, they peppered their inventory of preparations for park status with signals they have been listening, and thinking about imaginative ways to fulfill Parks Canada's mandate to provide visitor opportunities without wrecking the place. Two small examples: They hope to get Google to carry out Street View mapping of the island, so Sable buffs can treat themselves to virtual tours from the comfort of their living rooms. When challenged about regulations that ban petroleum drilling on the island, but permit seismic testing, they agreed with a marine geologist in the audience that sufficient seismic testing has already been carried out, and it's unlikely future tests would be permitted. I don't want to go overboard here. The trio of officials did sometimes lapse into practiced talking points whose purpose was to mollify, rather than inform. They professed not to remember what the park's annual budget was, but when pressed (by me) they agreed to give Zoe this information for publication on her Green Horse Society website (specifically, the park's 2013-2014 annual budget, and the annual operating budget they expect once startup costs are behind them). I'm no @Tim_Bousquet, but I did my best to live-tweet the event. With occasional help from seat-mate Alan Ruffman, I think I did capture the gist of most, if not all, the questions. You can find these tweets by searching for my Twitter handle (@kempthead) or the hashtag #Sable. Those outside the Twitter realm can view the live-tweets in bullet form after the jump. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, reading from the bottom up will give you my account in chronological order. Errors and omissions are mine.

If you are near Halifax Tuesday night, you can get the latest information about Sable Island's transformation into a National Park at what promises to be a fascinating meeting. The 9th annual Sable Island Update, latest in a series of meetings oganized by naturalist and longtime Sable resident Zoe Lucas, will see illustrated talks about scientific and organizational developments on the island. This year's session will also feature an an extended opportunity to question Parks Canada officials about their new role as federal stewards of the island. Lucas began the updates a decade ago, when Environment Canada announced plans to abandon the...

Here is the final instalment of my four posts on the NDP government’s mistakes and successes. Mistakes here and here. Successes, part one, here, part two below. Between now and election day, I’ll post a selection of reader responses, more of which are always welcome. 4. Wilderness protection Two hundred years from now, few Nova Scotians will know whether the provincial government balanced its books in 2013, or how much power rates increased between 2009 and 2013, or even who Darrell Dexter was. But they will know that a significant amount of Nova Scotia’s spectacular wilderness areas was permanently protected for the...

Following the late March appearance of the first Crested Caracara ever sighted in Nova Scotia, another rare avian visitor has turned up in Metro: The Little Egret is an Old World bird similar to North America's Snowy Egret (which itself rarely ventures farther up the Atlantic coastline than Massachusetts). Its European counterpart is a "very rare" visitor to North America, with occasional scattered reports from Newfoundland to Virginia. First sighted on April 21 in a pond along the Shore Road Eastern Passage, the Little Egret was feeding actively but to some observers appeared not "all that healthy." JBD took the photo above...