The science of patience

10 06 2012

Catching gulls on Sable Island requires a lot of patience.  The gulls are shy of human presence and any disturbance within a colony will set all the gulls in a giant mayhem for quite some time.  So typically, when trying to catch Herring gulls on their nest, we have to wait one hour before calm settles down again on the colony and gulls will return to their nest.  During that hour, we are hiding under our “invisible cloak” a.k.a. a sand coloured bed sheet.  While waiting for the gulls to return, there is only so much distraction one can have crouched in an uncomfortable position, in the sand, under a bed sheet.  This is an intense game patience, with the possibility of a reward if a gull gets caught, or the perspective of another hour of waiting if it escapes.  It might not be physically tiring, but this part of the day can be mentally draining… It’s all in the name of science.

Under the “invisibility cloak” Zoe vanishes right before the eyes of the gulls.

Like any work, being in the field has its share of repetitiveness: catching sparrows, breakfast, trying to catch and tag some gulls, lunch, trying to catch and tag more gulls, dinner, sleep, repeat from step one.  Yet, as anyone who has ever done field work knows, field work is not all that monotonous and we experience a fair amount of adventures each and every day.  There is the time Zoe and I were trying to catch sparrows with a mist net and ended up catching a horse!!! Surprisingly, both the net and the horse came out unscathed.  Carrying a 50 pounds battery up 8 flights of ladder style stairs to the top of the light house, now, that’s an adventure.  But today, the gull catching work is officially over and we are getting ready for some new adventures: tomorrow we will be banding our first Ipswich Sparrow nestlings and over the next few days, we will catch our first terns!!! I`m not sure if we are moving up in the world of birds, but we are switching target size, that’s for sure.  It’s been a long 4 weeks for Jess, whose project is on terns, but she can not hold the excitement any longer.

Reporting live from Sable Island, Ingrid Pollet

Team gull set a trap at a Herring Gull nest on a ridge top.

Ingrid and Zoe wait at a mist net for Ipswich Sparrows. Or maybe they’ll catch a horse!

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2 responses

11 06 2012
Lynn Ronconi

Enjoying all the updates! Lynn Ronconi

15 06 2012
Ian Crysler

Great photos accompany the text. It is a treat to follow along with your work

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