Saying Goodbye to Blockbuster

Friday, September 14th, 2007

As fond of Blockbuster’s online service as I’ve been since I first signed up with them about two years ago, (I’ve rented 516 movies from them and have over 700 more in my queue as I type) it’s become obvious that it’s time to say goodbye and try NetFlix. Blockbuster has been getting progressively worse for months, and it’s not just the usual problems with poor customer service. It’s becoming obvious that they are in deep technical trouble, and they cannot dig themselves out of it. Their development staff is simply not able to fix their problems.

Meet Me in Prospect Park

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

This Sunday, September 16, I will be leading a bird walk in Prospect Park for the Brooklyn Bird Club. We meet at the Grand Army Plaza entrance at 8:00 A.M. by the Stranahan statue. (Just look for the folks holding binoculars.) Fall migration is in full swing so we should see lots of good birds and quite a few confusing Fall warblers.

Everyone is invited. Preregistration is not required. If you’re coming from outside the neighborhood, take the 2-3 train to Eastern Pkwy, and walk down the hill past the library and cross Flatbush Ave. and you’ll be right there. (You can also get out at Grand Army Plaza and walk around the circle, but I usually find it a little easier to go one stop further and walk back. )

#388 and #389 at the Oslo Botanical Gardens

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

This morning Beth and I returned to the Munch Museum. We got there a little before it opened at 10:00 A.M. so I scanned the trees in the nearby Botanical Gardens, most of which were full of berries. I saw some birds I didn’t recognize flitting through the trees. They were about Robin-sized or a little smaller (American Robin, that is) and seemed to have dark tails and white underwings. That was with the naked eye. Once I got my binoculars on them, each looked very much like an immature American Robin. That could only be one thing: a Fieldfare!

Fieldfare with berries

Why Can’t Firefox Remember Passwords?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

The Firefox password manager mostly works, but they’re a few sites whose passwords it can’t seem to collect or remember no matter what. is the most prominent. Speakeasy is another.

Does anyone have any idea why this or how to fix it? I’ve confirmed it with Firefox 2 on both Mac and Windows. Possibly these sites are doing something weird with JavaScript. I can’t see anything in the plain HTML that would cause this problem. If they are deliberately blocking the remembering of passwords, I wish they’d stop. It’s very annoying, and will just lead to me choosing a more memorable but much more easily guessable password than the one I use to secure my password vault.

#387 at Vigeland

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

After lunch today, Beth and I headed up to Vigeland to see the sculptures and what birds we could find. Vigeland is not an ideal birding park–too little cover–but it does have some water that attracts birds, and the sculptures themselves would be worth seeing even without birds. These are truly weird.

What are these two up to?

Almost as soon as we got off the train we found a Magpie. They’re common here, as they are in many European cities. Most of the park is just lawns with nicely ordered lines of trees: not ideal habitat. However there is one damned pond in the middle of the park that attracted some waterfowl: Tufted Duck, Common Goldeneye, Greylag Geese (3), Mallards, and one Common Moorhen. There were also some Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls and a small Wagtail or two I couldn’t get very close too (probably a White Wagtail though). Very nice, but not new. However in a tree next to the pond in flew a smallish, grayish crow. Could it be? Quickly scanning it with binoculars I was rewarded with a yellow eye with a black pupil, a distinguishing field mark of a Jackdaw, a bird I’ve been looking for for a few years now.

Jackdaw perched at Vigeland Park

#386 On a Boat

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

This morning Beth and I took a two-hour tour aorund the Oslo fjord, This one’s not nearly as impressive as the ones in the Western part of Norway you see in the pictures. Mostly it’s just a tour around various islands in the harbor, but there were a few birds.

Before we even left the dock we spotted numerous Rock Pigeons and Herring Gulls, no surprises there. However not half a klick out I spotted what I initially thought was a loon. It was a black and white bird lying low in the water with a largish bill, and had the classic loon winter pattern: black on top, white on bottom.

The problem with being on a non-birding boat though is that:

  1. No one else can help with the ID beyond “Duck” and “Seagull”, and they often aren’t right about those. (This bird was neither.)
  2. The captain won’t stop and swing the boat around so everyone can get a better look.

However, we did see multiples of these black-and-white birds throughout the trip, and although we never got really close to one, I did convince myself they weren’t loons. It was much too short and stubby for that. So what were they?

If it wasn’t a duck, loon, cormorant, or gull, the next obvious choice was alcid. Looking in my European field guide, there were several possibles in this location at this time of year, but only one matched the patterns I kept seeing: Common Guillemot.

I would have liked to have seen it closer, but unless someone local tells me something else it could have been, or that this bird just isn’t possible here this time of year, I’m going with Common Guillemot.