Long way from home – again

Following the late March appearance of the first Crested Caracara ever sighted in Nova Scotia, another rare avian visitor has turned up in Metro:

Little Egret 550

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 on Saturday, but the Nova Scotia Bird Society has reported no sightings since. Perhaps it moved on, or accepted some other critter’s invitation to dinner.

Rosa goes birding

Last Friday, Rosa’s school had an in-service day, so Rosa went birding at Point Pleasant Park. She brought the cardboard binoculars she got for Christmas.

She spotted a Common Loon trying to swallow a whole crab:

Click to see full sized image

Way off the tip of the park, she spied a Common Eider Drake:

Click to view larger image.

A Northern Pintal was hanging around First Beach. Notice his blue bill?

Click to view full sides image.

Here he is again, standing on one leg:

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A Pintail-Mallard hybrid was resting on the sand:

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A Red-Breasted Merganser was drying his feathers in the sun…

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…but when Rosa got too close, he headed for the safety of the water:

Click to view full-sized image.

The trip was exciting, and fun, but also exhausting:

Photos: Joshua Barss Donham

Observation post


A burrow of puffins surveys Sydney Bight from Hertford Island off Cape Dauphin in Cape Breton Friday afternoon.

From late May through early August, Hertford and nearby Ciboux — the Bird Islands — host vast flocks of razor-billed auks, black guillemots, Atlantic puffins, and black-legged kittiwakes, seabirds that spend the rest of their lives on the open ocean. The province designated the islands a protected wildlife management area last year. Regulations bar the the public from landing, but Bird Island Boat Tours offers close up views from twice-daily, two-and-a-half hour boat tours. (Joshua Barss Donham photo)

Is it OK to change Mom’s default browser?

Alexis Madrigal, Atlantic’s new tech blogger, poses the question this way:

You hop onto a parent’s computer to check your email or do a little work. But, to your dismay, the only browser available is Internet Explorer and (for whatever reason) you don’t like Internet Explorer. You download Firefox (or Chrome), then install and launch it.

Firefox (or Chrome) then asks whether you want to make it your (Mom’s) default browser. Of course you do! But should you really make this decision for Mom? Yes, says Madrigal, quoting a mashup of Tweeted responses:

“It’s our responsibility to help our parents figure out technology” and “all the powers of the universe implore you to do so.” Besides, “she probably does not know any better” and “you’ll feel better.” Just make sure to “import the bookmarks.” And you might “give a face-to-face lesson,” or say, “I updated your browser to a newer version,” or “take the covert route” and “install an IE skin on it.” Otherwise “be prepared to get a phone call in the next couple of days about ‘what’s wrong with the internet.’ Don’t be dogmatic, though. The “only real moral imperative: update security and scrub malware… good ol’ nonextensible, can’t f— it up too badly IE has a lot going for it for tech-unsavvy moms.”

My late mother never encountered the World Wide Web. It’s my sons’ default browsers I’m tempted to change. But I’m not that stupid.

Note to Joshua and Silas: IE is unbearable; Firefox, Opera, and Safari have gradually morphed into bloatware. Switch to Chrome. I know you tried it before, and weren’t impressed, but try again. It has improved as the others have deteriorated. It’s now blazingly fast.

Overheard at Fleming Park


A father and his daughter were strolling along the shore of Sir Sandford Fleming Park Tuesday when the father  spotted a seabird on the opposite shore.

Father (age 39):  Look, Rosa, over on the far side. I think it’s a loon.

Rosa (age 3-1/2):  It’s a black guillemot.

Father:  Maybe it’s a red-breasted merganser.

Rosa:  It’s a black guillemot.


Later, at home, the photo was enlarged.

Verdict:  Black guillemot, winter plumage.