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[Sparrows] Inadvertent Public Outreach and Schedule Tetris

December 22, 2012

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

Christmas is slowly edging into my productive sparrow monitoring. I will spend the rest of today baking: I accidentally became the person who makes marzipan-core Stollen for the family a couple of Xmasses ago, and somehow it became a tradition.

I *think* the conversation involved the line: "Shane, if you ever fail to make one of these, we will extract your testicles via your nose". Ah, tradition!

I *think* the conversation involved the line: “Shane, if there ever comes a Christmas when you do not make one of these, we will extract your testicles via your nose”. Ah, tradition!

So, sparrow-monitoring is currently an every-second-day affair: I’ll skip it today (the 22nd), do it on the 23rd (but only because I’m fortuitously driving past the site on my way to a 90th birthday party), skip it on the 24th and 25th, and guiltily head back out on the 26th, hoping that none of my nests have experienced scientifically-important changes in that two-day gap. Eek!

Yesterday’s sparrow monitoring trip was a little special. I had my girlfriend (N) with me for the monitoring, and she was meeting with a friend (E) to spend a couple of days pre-Xmas with them. We were trying to monitor as many nests as possible before N was picked up by E, as well as trying very hard to keep yet another sparrow hatchling alive.

After about half the nests had been monitored, E turned up with what appeared to be her entire family in tow. A matriarch, a patriarch, some siblings, their offspring, and possibly some spouses of siblings. All speaking Dutch. Dutch is amongst the several languages that I do not speak (although, thankfully, N is fluent).

It turns out that, even if you don’t speak Dutch, you can get a Dutch-speaking crowd enthused about a 24-hour post-nest-rejection hatchling, if that hatchling is still alive. There was a lot of cooing and gently inducing the children to look closely. I don’t really know what any of them were *saying*, per se, but I can guess. When questions were asked, I was reduced to smiling reassuringly and saying: ‘probably!’. The fact that I heard the patriarch say ‘Charles Darwin’ several times, in an excited voice, leads me to hope that the topic was biology rather than, say, “who are these insane people and why do they have a hatchling wrapped in cotton buds?”

Another possibility is that he noticed my currently-fantastic beard and confused me for someone famous. I can but hope.


From → Scientist

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