INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

A Day Off, A Night On!


Rebecca Safran

And now we have 11 tags in hand and two more that have been spotted! There is a chance that our collaborator Emilio, who worked with us in Lanzhou, will actually go back to Lanzhou to look for more tags. Based on our return rates here in Zhangye, we may have missed something in Lanzhou. There are other possible explanations as well. One is that the breeding season was just starting up when we arrived at our first sampling site. Many birds were not laying eggs yet – perhaps once they are tied to nests, we’ll be able to spot more tags. Or, perhaps there really are just lower returns to that small village outside of Lanzhou? Its very hard to tell. One thing that has been very interesting is that we’ve easily recaptured five birds that Liz Scordato and Liu Yu banded here in Zhangye in 2015! So, the birds do come back to the same nest areas in this part of the world – something we have seen many places elsewhere (e.g., all over North America, Israel, Europe). This is highly reassuring! And, the birds seem to be OK with the extra weight of the geolocator tags – which is also highly reassuring. When we remove the tags we take a series of measurements on each individual – they are in fine shape, nice and heavy and look healthy to us. Of course, the birds that didn’t return could really have suffered with the extra weight. We’ll take a look at last year’s data to see if we can predict anything about the birds that did or did not return with the tags. We are learning a lot!

We’ve been working hard and we’re a bit tired. After a one-beer party to celebrate our three-tag day yesterday evening we planned the next few days of fieldwork. We’ve done most of what we can do during the daylight hours here (surveying sites, talking to site owners, looking for tagged birds): now, it’s a matter of a few night captures and we are ready to move on to the next location. We decided today would be a good day to see some local sites. We hired a taxi to take us about an hour away to see the Mati Temple Grottoes. This afforded us a nice view of what life looks like just outside of the city (very rural, lots of agricultural fields and small villages and yes, lots of potential barn swallow nesting sites). The Temple site itself is set in a gorgeous, rugged snowcapped mountain range and is the center of a Tibetan village that is still inhabited by the Yugu. It was first settled and constructed during the 5th or 6th centuries.

Our day off ends with a night of banding! We’re heading out to a village in the middle of the city that is mostly abandoned. We had good luck there last night and are in search or one or two more tags ...