11 May 2018

One viewpoint, four nests, three species!

I went for a hike with a friend at Mass Audubon's Rocky Hill sanctuary in Groton, MA, where I hadn't been for a while. Probably its major draw is the Heronry trail, which loops past an overlook on a pond with tree trunks that have established popularity for, as one might expect, their Great Blue Heron nests. When we looked out, we saw four nests. And, indeed, two proved to be occupied by GBHs, like so:

The residents of the third nest were, er, rather different...

Young Great Horned Owl with parent, looking rather sleepy in the late afternoon. That was an unexpected treat, but they are noted for their practice of "adopting" existing nests. Time to check out the fourth nest, somewhat further away:


And, it's an Osprey, perfectly situated to survey fish-hunting habitat. Four similar-looking nests, three species, viewed from the same spot at the same time! That's convenient birding! It may be time to rename the trail, though...

13 March 2018

Time change - didn't miss it!

I woke from a dream at 1:58 AM (EST) early on Sunday morning and looked at my clock to check the time. Naturally, I kept watching for a couple of minutes more, to see the switchover from 1:58 to 1:59 to 3:00 (EDT). The clock worked, as expected. More to the point, it was fascinating to note the fact that I woke up spontaneously at 1:58 to enable me to watch it. I'll generally wake up before an alarm when I've set one in order to meet some commitment, but I hadn't done so in this case and hadn't (at least consciously) declared myself as committed to supervise the clock's progress in, er, real time. Why and how did I wake so precisely? I accept that I must have a relatively fine-resolution body clock, but what tripped its alarm setting?

15 October 2017

The romantic past of telephony, revisited

I was fortunate to find myself in New York on the weekend of Open House New York, an annual opportunity to visit architecturally interesting sites that aren't always open to the public. I made a point of getting to the lobby of the AT&T Long Distance Building near Canal Street, to see the magnificent Art Deco renderings of golden-stranded Long Lines connecting far-flung continents and converging on the very building where I stood. Worldwide communication isn't the exotic (or expensive!) thing it was then, and is generally assumed rather than celebrated, but it was a treat to look back to a day when it evoked wonder and mythology and when switching centers were miraculous!


31 July 2017

Variable Dancer

I'm fortunate to live in an area where there are frequent bird and nature walks available. I often attend, and enjoy being able to benefit from the guidance of others with more spotting and identification expertise than I have. Yesterday's targets were dragonflies and damselflies, and I saw something land on the ground in front of me. It looked rather drab to my naked eye, but not so with a magnified view:


I thought the bright purple body was striking. Also, I was delighted to learn that this particular damselfly is known as a Variable Dancer. I wouldn't class myself as being even as good as Variable in that particular category. It could make for a fine album title, though.

08 July 2017

I hope this isn't a thing

So, I was entering household items into a shopping list on my iPhone, and one of them was toilet paper. After I entered this item's first word, one of the successors offered on the autocompletion bar was "selfie". I wouldn't have suspected that the resulting phrase would rank as highly popular, but I've been surprised before. I haven't asked Google in order to find out or to see what it might offer. Some things are better left unknown or unseen.

20 April 2017

Bad Feather Day?

So, I took this picture of a common Song Sparrow the other day. When I uploaded and viewed it, I was... surprised. They're not supposed to have crests on the tops of their heads; a rare crested form would be newsworthy. What happened to cause that peak with the sharp vertical boundary? I first wondered whether there was a bug in jpeg encoding, but the raw image looked the same. The best interpretations I've received so far conclude that there was a wind blowing from the right (which is quite possible) and that it's pushing feathers upwards towards the middle of the head. Seems plausible (and also consistent with the fact that the back of the head seems to have been uncovered as if in an anatomy lesson), but I find it striking that the feather edge would line up as straight as it does. Always new things to see!

15 January 2017

A rare example of bad electoral transparency

Observed at the Museum of the City of New York: a Tammany Hall era ballot receptacle of clear glass. Makes ballot stuffing visible, but also makes it easy to see the differently-colored ballot stubs and distinguish them when inserted!