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[Sparrows] Taunted

November 9, 2012

[This is the third in a series of posts on sparrow nest-monitoring over the 2012-2013 Austral spring and summer]

Things are progressing slowly. My main hold-up, of all the minor things that could go wrong, is sourcing the specific marker pens to mark eggs with. I ordered some three weeks ago, and was told they would arrive in one to two weeks. Calling the stationer today to check on progress, I was told that there is no record of my order. I have given up on sourcing them commercially, and instead have emailed the lead researcher asking him to send me some from the States. Such is life.

Until the pens arrive, I can keep collecting data on ‘control’ nests, but not too many of them – if all the ‘control’ nests are monitored before the ‘treatment’ nests, it will be impossible to tell if overall differences in nest survival are caused by the treatments, or by time-related changes in nest-success like variability in food resources or changing predation risk as predators switch food sources to follow the seasons.

From my bedroom window at home, I can see over to the neighbours’ roof, where a male sparrow has been prospecting for mates for several weeks. He has finally found one. They are starting to build a nest under the edge of the corrugated-iron roofing, and I’m getting a frontal dose of sparrow porn each time I look out. Interestingly, the male falls off his mate to his left almost every time they attempt mating: I’ve seen upwards of a dozen mating attempts from this pair, and he has only dismounted to the right once. I’ll have to keep a look out for this ‘handedness’ of mating attempts in other sparrow pairs as I continue on the research…

I’ve been in contact with a local Government department, and because I will be paid for the project in a lump sum at the end, they’ve agreed to give me money to live on while I carry out the sparrows research, on the condition that I pay them back once I get paid for it – so I don’t need to worry about surviving until the end of the project. I hope it does not show my personal bias too strongly when I say I think this is useful social policy!

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From → Scientist

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