After a season of freezing weather, dampness and wearing a million layers (and that was just in the accommodation!) James has graciously agreed to come and help out as my field assistant again this year and arrived yesterday! Fresh off of a month of seal research on North Rona, another of our grey seal study sites, James will now be doing less “pup wrangling” and more ‘1 manic hour of males running crazy followed by watching them sleep for 4 hours’. It’s a lost art really, and I’m glad to have his experienced eye back again!
I was actually a bit worried with the late start he’d be thrown into the deep end as at this time last year we were inundated with male aggression, fights, copulations and muddy coats…however as luck would have it, the season here seems to be on a bit of a week lag. Whereas last year, pups were born steadily from the end of October on, it was only in the last two days or so we’ve seen a substantial increase in pups. This gives James a bit of a chance to remember all the old IDs before the real chaos kicks off.
In regards to the research, this past week has been a bit of a drain on my nerves. We are deploying new kit this year to investigate male threat communication and behaviours (more on that subject in a later post). The kit is electric so we deployed it far out of the reach of the tides….well what we thought was far enough back. With the highest tides of the month the past few days, I’ve found myself standing on a sand bank, behind a wall of safety sandbags with a staff declaring to the tide ‘You Shall Not Pass!”….and while that was nervewracking/ highly amusing for anyone watching, it turns out we did in fact set the kit up far enough out of the reach of the tide in the first place. Ah well, better safe than sorry! The first download of that data was successful today so once I have a chance to look it over I’ll reveal a bit more about our findings.