Trick or treat on Duncan Street — by the numbers

Dan Conlin has kept track of the trick-or-treaters who called at his Duncan St., Halifax, home for the last 17 years. Yesterday’s numbers showed a modest uptick, but the overall trend is dramatic and downward:


This year’s visitors began arriving at 5:35 pm, peaked at 7 p.m., and had vanished into the night by 8:15. Vampires, Princesses, and Ninjas led the parade, at six each.

Only one cat made an appearance, likely the one pictured, feline fancier Rosa Eileen Barss Donham, who lives one street over from Dan.

Conlin gives his Best Overall Costume Award to an eight-year-old walking box of Ritz Crackers, English in front, Français au verso, with nutritional information on the side. Nutritional information about lard pills—what a card!

Complete details on yesterday’s West End Halifax’s confectionary extortionists here; For comparison purposes, see designer Kinnon Elliot’s infographic about Hallowe’en costumes here .

Halifax Public Library’s great escape

Rosa&snowTo say that my granddaughter, Rosa Eileen Barss Donham, age 7, likes stuffed animals is a bit like saying the Atlantic Ocean is a body of water. Both statements are true as far as they go, but neither captures the full grandeur of its subject matter.

Rosa has a large collection of stuffed animals, each with its own name, personality, backstory, quirks, likes, dislikes, and adventuresome exploits. Her current favourite, a white kitten called Snowflake, was a great comfort when Rosa had her tonsils out last year. Snowflake even accompanied Rosa to the operating room, and got her own hospital bracelet (although it was really more of a hospital necklace).

readingEarlier this month, Rosa selected Snowflake to go on a stuffed animal overnight at the Spring Garden Road branch of the Halifax Public Library. On the appointed day, she dropped the kitten off, to join the chosen animals of a dozen other Metro boys and girls.

Activities-toysOnce their owners departed, the animals settled in for a great evening. They read books. They played with toys. Snowflake found a picture book she particularly enjoyed.

buffet-snackThe library staff put on a delicious supper, and even gave them candy for dessert.

Eventually it was time for the animals to bed down for the night. They were still pretty wired, but the librarians were firm. Soon everyone was asleep.

shhhOr so the librarians thought. The animals had other ideas. As soon as the staff left, they got up to play.

girafferideThey went for rides on the giraffe. They even snuck out of the massive stone building, and made their way out into the city. The animals wanted to check out the new library, under construction across Spring Garden Road. They scurried across the busy street, and peered through the chain link fence.

New libraryWow! It’s a pretty impressive building with lots of reflective glass—much more modern than the old library.

By now darkness was falling, and the animals were getting sleepy in spite of themselves. To tell the truth, it was a little scary being out in the city at night by themselves.

They decided to head back to the library and bed down for real this time.

There was only one problem. When they got to the main entrance of the old library, they found the big steel doors had swung shut behind them. They were locked out. They could not get in. The animals hollered and pounded on the door, but the staff had all gone home. There was no one to hear them. How would they get back inside?

Return slot“I know,” said Snowflake. “The book-return slot.”

One by one, the furry pets scrambled up to the slot, squeezed under the flap, and coasted down the slide. They immediately forgot their fear. This was more fun than a skateboard park.

Once inside, the animals fell onto their mats, and were soon fast asleep.

When morning came, the librarians never suspected a thing.

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[Photo credit: All but the first photo in this post were taken from a slideshow library staff produced and played for the child owners of the stuffed animals when they came to pick up their charges the day after the sleepover.]

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:

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

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

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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:

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

Photos: Joshua Barss Donham

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.