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Preparation to launch fieldwork in full flight

posted Apr 12, 2011, 6:58 AM by Clemens Kuepper   [ updated Apr 12, 2011, 8:06 AM ]
Spring has finally arrived and the Snowy Plovers at Bahía de Ceuta will soon start to breed. Right now the breeding site is still flooded by the spring tide, so the plovers have trouble to find a dry place to built a nest. But this will change soon, the salt works are drying out quickly and then the plovers will be very active.

And as every year we look forward to a new season of following the Snowy Plovers to learn more about these small wetland birds. These days we are very busy to get everything in place to start work. This year things will be a little bit different. I will stay at home to carry out my own parental care and blog duties. My little daughters Rosa and Réka who were born in December last year keep my wife and me quite busy. It is in a strange way very similar to fieldwork: a very intense 24/7 job, you get little sleep but witness incredibly exciting things - every day has it's own surprises, every day I learn more about them and me. I'm also finishing off some of my molecular projects: a phylogeographic analyses of the Eurasian sister species of the Snowy Plover, the Kentish Plover and then I need to apply for new jobs, life as a postdoc and father is not really boring.

Medardo is already back in Sinaloa. He will start fieldwork hopefully this week. Medardo is taking 3 months of his master studies to work with the Snowy Plovers. This year all the responsibility for fieldwork is on his shoulders. He will get help of three volunteers to survey plovers and terns. From my own experience I know how challenging and stressful the job of a team leader is. It has its fun aspects, you train people and can direct everybody that they collect good data. But you also need to make sure that things are running smoothly, coordinate work every day, check the data collection, have an eye on the spendings and then there is a lot of trouble shooting because all the time a new problem that-needs-to-be-solved-right-now comes up. Beside this you want to spend as much time in the field to study the plovers! It is trade off: the more time you manage people the less data you can collect yourself, but without the help of others you can't survive in the long run. It works well if everybody is pulling in the same direction and you need to be a good motivator.

Right now we are getting the last things together, a modified work plan has been submitted to our main sponsor Sonoran Joint Venture and Medardo is now looking for an affordable car. Previously, I bought a used pick-up and sold it after the field season. You never get the entire money back, because the car is exposed for three months to lots of salt because every day we are working in the salt marsh and our accomodation is directly at the beach. This means frequent repair, but it is still cheaper then renting a car.

Preparations are rather boring, a lot of running around to get all the necessary equipment. I really enjoy then the first days in the field when you finally can start watching the birds. Unfortunately for me not this year, although I'm involved in the preparation I don't get the reward of spending some time in the field. But at least there is some light at the end of the tunnel I'm preparing the final shipping of equipment right now. I got some used equipment that should be very useful for our work and there lots of small fieldwork items that get used up during the season such as bands and buffer tubes for the blood samples. Everything should go out this week. And then I can also lean back and enjoy the news from the Snowy Plovers from Ceuta.