Well, the other shoe had to drop sometime, and it definitely dropped for us in Novosibirsk. In 3 days of work we caught a pretty respectable number of birds (27), but it was via traditional fieldwork methods- looong hours, very little sleep, and a touch of despair.
We left at 8am the next day, crammed into the back of Olga’s tiny Toyota Duet between piles of gear. Earlier that morning, Olga’s dad had driven us to our hotel to pick up our heavy bags. He glanced at Matt in the backseat and started laughing. “You are definitely not Russian,” he said. “No one wears seatbelts in the backseat! Not even police officers!”
As we drove back the field station around 9:30, the only barn swallows we saw were sitting on wires in front of people’s houses. This did not bode well- if we had to knock on doors and catch the birds one pair at a time, it would take forever. A spectacular 10pm sunset made us feel a little better, but by 11:30, when we’d finished with dinner and Olga and Lena had gone to bed, Matt and I were sitting in our cabin gloomy and miserable. We discussed worst-case scenarios-what if we caught 10 birds in Karasuk? Would that be enough? Could we find more back near Novosibirsk? What if we caught less than 10? Shit, what if we got skunked entirely? We had one shot at getting the data we needed- we couldn’t exactly come back to Siberia to try again next year. What would happen if we had a big hole in our sampling? We made a plan: we’d get up early and try to catch the two pairs we’d found nesting at the field station. Then we’d get Lena and Olga, go to the smaller village, and just knock on doors and hope for the best. We set the alarm for 5AM, continuing our long streak of less than 6 hours of sleep a night in Russia.
up next: Novosibirsk part 2