They say that variety is the spice of life and this summer (Australian summer) I’m testing that idea.
For all of my previous research I’ve focused on one species at a time. Trying to catch all of the adults, find all of their nests, measure as many as possible, and generally become totally obsessed with one single species.
|Top: Superb-fairy wren. Bottom: Friarbird|
This has some big advantages. You become very cued into all of their little noises, what their nests look like, how they act when building or feeding nestlings, and the other little nuances that you need to get the job done. This knowledge provides the edge you need to get a large enough sample size, a tricky thing when working with free-living birds.
As a result, I am very, very tuned in to two species, the dark-eyed junco and the superb fairy-wren. For both, I know all their little noises, I know their behaviors, I know where they like to nest and have a well-developed search image for their little hidden nests.
|Top: Varied Sittela, Bottom: Leaden Flycatcher|
But now the game has changed. This year, in addition to focusing on female fairy-wren aggression and song, I'm also comparing nestlings color and begging calls. As a result, I need to find nests for a bunch of different species I've never worked with before. Most of them I recognize if I see them, some are new, and I am an expert on exactly none of them. This project is riding on me becoming a bit of an expert for a whole list of species, and fast.
|Top: White-throated Gerygone, Bottom: Grey fantail|
My days are now split between wrens and just about every other bird species living on the study-site (exceptions are parrots, ducks, birds of prey, etc). The result? Lots of fun and exhaustion. I am very much enjoying learning new birds and the challenge of finding their nests, which they try to hide. This also means that the work is never finished. I might find every fairy-wren nest in the area, but that doesn't mean I 'm done, just time to change gears. There is always more to find. So, here's a little sample of my day to day.