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[Sparrows] A hurried donation

January 8, 2013

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

I live in a flat: in this instance, a collection of other people united by little other than a desire to have cheaper rent by sharing a house.

As regular readers will be aware, I have been collecting sparrow hatchlings in ethanol for quite some time, for donation to a local museum when I got the chance. I also had a juvenile Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) and multinominal Little Blue Penguin: Blue Penguin (NZ) = Fairy Penguin (Aus) = Little Penguin (Official Common Name) = Eudyptula minor (for other scientists). The magpie was found beside the road on the way to the sparrow site in remarkably fresh condition; the penguin was found dehydrated and near-death at the beach over New Years’. Rehabilitation was attempted by N and myself, but failed.

One of the quirks of flats is that people move in and out at arbitrary times, replacing members who have gone on to somewhere else. In this situation, it is easy to forget what deals were made with whom, and I’m afraid I have guilty of that forgetfulness: although I agreed with all flatmates when I moved in that keeping museum specimens in the freezer for a while was OK so long as they were double-bagged, I forgot to check with incoming flatmates that the deal was still good. The original flatmates have all now moved on.

So it was that this morning I was woken by shrieks, cries of ‘disgusting!’ and a shouting at my door of “Shane, get your penguin out of the freezer! Gross!” and similar admonitions. It appears that this batch of flatmates is a measure more squeamish about double-bagged specimens than the last lot.

And so it was that I spent the morning writing apologetic, explanatory Facebook messages, and making a hurried arrangement to visit the museum today with the collected sparrow hatchlings and a frozen magpie. They weren’t interested in the penguin (I might have guessed – Little Blue Penguins are very common beach-wreck species), so that was taken to a beach near my study site, and shallowly buried.

In advance of moving to Australia, I move out of this flat in two weeks. It may be a bridge that I have accidentally burned.

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From → Scientist

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