The next ten hours were pretty epic, fieldwork-wise. We drove to one end of the one-road village of Troitska, where we found an abandoned house and an empty barn with three active barn swallow nests between them (meaning 6 birds- a male and female at each nest). First up was the abandoned house: the birds were building their nest, so they were flying in and out a single window. We strung up a net between our poles, stood about 10m away, and only had to wait five minutes for a bird fly in the window. We ran over and held up the net, and the female flew right into it. Olga and I began processing her- taking measurements, photos, etc- while Matt and Lena waited for the male of the pair to show up. Ten minutes later, they had him, and dropped him off with Olga and I while they took the net over to the barn. Our morning progressed that way for four or five hours, with Matt and Lena catching birds and Olga and I banding them. The people in this village were much more receptive than the ones we’d visited the previous night, and we had 7 birds by lunch. We started to feel a little optimistic.
After our tea break with the Turkey Lady, we carried on down the road, and managed to catch five more birds in between bouts of rain and even some hail (GPS point: “Hail No”). By 6:30, we had 14 birds and were fried. We named the final GPS point “Last Gasp.”
The next day was the same- we drove to another village, knocked on doors, banded birds. We worked as fast as we could, and the different pairs of birds blurred together, differentiated only by their GPS points- “lucky morning,” where we caught our first pair in 5 minutes; “ginger cat,” where a cat jumped on the net, causing Matt and Lena to lose a bird; “sharp tooth,” home of a particularly terrifying dog. By 1pm we’d caught another 11 birds and had to hit the road- it was 7 hours back to Novosibirsk. We ended up catching 27 birds in a day and a half of work- despite a rocky start, despair and disaster averted.