Still Alive and Kicking

Been awhile, friends. Sorry about that! No crocodiles have gotten me and I haven't been kidnapped by kangaroos yet. Research is going great so far, we've caught a ton of birds and are seeing some really neat animals. A week or two ago I was sitting on the porch of the cottage where we're staying, eating my lunch in peace, when all of the sudden the forest canopy about 30 meters directly in front of me erupted with giant gray flying torpedos. They were coming straight at me. Technically they're called Topknot Pigeons, see the picture below from my birding app, but in that moment they were giant gray blurs about the size of a crow, moving at incredible speeds. I let out a garbled "LOOK BEHIND YOU!" to my tech, Cody, who was on the porch next to me, and he whipped around just in time to have them streak past a couple meters from his head. It turned out there were probably 40 pigeons in all, they just kept materializing out the foliage. By the time they had all passed we were left with mouths wide open, completely astonished such a rotund bird could move with such speed and agility through a forest of infinite obstacles. Oh to be a bird, that would be pretty cool. 

Topknot Pigeon.

Topknot Pigeon.


Science:

Each of the birds on our site gets three color bands when we catch it. That way when we see it in a tree or bush we can re-sight it through our binoculars and read the color bands to figure out which individual we're looking at. We have 10 colors to work with and they all have acronyms: G (light green), I (ivy), B (dark blue), L (light blue), R (royal purple), H (hot pink), Y (yellow), W (white), Z (purple/white split band), and V (black/white split band). Any three can be combined in any order, if they haven't been used already, and sometimes we come up with fun names for our birds, like LRG (Large), or BLZ (Blaze). Since the males have the bright red patch on their back you try to reserve the name Blaze for a guy, but in that instance the current BLZ bird turned out to be a she. Other times you get it right, and you name a bird after one of your friends and the sex matches! Take GRG (Greg) below for instance. I banded him when he had just a couple bright feathers last year and this year he's looking fly in his bright plumage (just like the real Greg Fedorchak of course). Also, we read the bands starting on the bird's left leg, your right, and we don't include the silver numbered band on the foot side of the left leg. 

GRG.jpg

Other fun stories: 

The koala living on our property is very tame. One night we drove up the driveway and found it sitting happily on the side of the drive eating leaves from a small eucalyptus tree.  It didn't care that we were there at all, allowing each of us to get an up close and personal encounter, it was pretty cool! Usually they're not nearly this tame, we think it may have been rehabilitated at one point and that may be why it doesn't mind humans. 

The koala living on our property is very tame. One night we drove up the driveway and found it sitting happily on the side of the drive eating leaves from a small eucalyptus tree.  It didn't care that we were there at all, allowing each of us to get an up close and personal encounter, it was pretty cool! Usually they're not nearly this tame, we think it may have been rehabilitated at one point and that may be why it doesn't mind humans. 

The mark of a field biologist - a couple of us explored a massive ravine near our property last week. There were no trails, loads of thorny trees, and very thick undergrowth. At one point I lost my footing on a slope and jumped across a dry creekbed to a flatter patch and nearly put my face right through this lady's web (females are the big ones, males are pretty tiny). When my techs jumped down right behind me we all had the same reaction - a giant bout of guttural laughter at the proposition of running straight into this thing. We had escaped an uncomfortable moment and the only thing to do was to laugh at the possibility of one of us tearing off through the underbrush or tumbling down a hill when we saw one of these poke its head over the brim of our hat.  They're not supposed to be very venomous by the way. If you google Golden Orb Weaver you'll find pictures of people holding them. We chose not to partake in that endeavor. 

The mark of a field biologist - a couple of us explored a massive ravine near our property last week. There were no trails, loads of thorny trees, and very thick undergrowth. At one point I lost my footing on a slope and jumped across a dry creekbed to a flatter patch and nearly put my face right through this lady's web (females are the big ones, males are pretty tiny). When my techs jumped down right behind me we all had the same reaction - a giant bout of guttural laughter at the proposition of running straight into this thing. We had escaped an uncomfortable moment and the only thing to do was to laugh at the possibility of one of us tearing off through the underbrush or tumbling down a hill when we saw one of these poke its head over the brim of our hat. 

They're not supposed to be very venomous by the way. If you google Golden Orb Weaver you'll find pictures of people holding them. We chose not to partake in that endeavor. 

Until next time! I'll try to be better about posting. Hope you're all well in your various reaches of the world. 

Joe