Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Fieldwork: First week done!

Ooooooph. This was a long week.

I have had a few issues after arrival. My luggage got lost and it took a couple of days to get it. I have congratulated my past-self on packing a bunch of clothes in the hand luggage. What my past-self didn't take into account though is that all those clothes are brightly coloured, which is not ideal when you are trying to sneak up on birds!

There have been a few issues with the house I'm staying at, nothing major, and everything is slowly getting sorted, but even little things (like lack of heating when it's below zero at night and the house is not insulated) can get to me when I'm tired. It also turned out that paperwork wasn't quite there yet and so it took a little while to get this sorted and get me onto the University system. People at ANU have been absolutely lovely and very helpful though, so at least I didn't feel completely alone in a new place - thank you everybody!*

The beginnings of fieldwork have been tough-going. Learning to ID the superb fairy-wrens by their calls is difficult. While I can pick out the main song, the background chatter still eludes me. Thornbills and scrubwrens seem set on confusing me too. On the bright side, my peripheral vision has been improving quickly and I can now pick out fairy-wren shaped objects quickly. Things are harder when it's windy, as not only I can't hear the wrens, but every moving leaf looks like a bird. All in all, I'm happy with the progress and cautiously optimistic that things will keep improving.

So far the biggest challenge is finding the birds; once I got them I can figure out the colour bands most of the time (or at least get close enough). Certain colours are similar, especially in bright sunlight, e.g. azure and white look very similar to each other and can also be confused with a band that has very thin white and blue stripes. It doesn't help that some colours have faded over the years, for example a red band might look like red, but also like orange, mauve or even white. Each bird has three colour bands and so each ID is like a little puzzle!

Oh, and have I mentioned that it's spring here?

Hard not to smile when you can see this outside your window!

*they are unlikely to ever read this, but hopefully they know how much I appreciate their kindness

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