Within an hour of finding out that I had missed my connecting flight and would be stuck overnight in the Denver airport, the hard drive on my field computer crashed….However, compared to last year (when my hard drive crashed the night before my flight and I experienced a 24 hour flight delay mid-trip), things were looking slightly up—I had a two-day layover at home to visit family during which I was able to get back up and running with a new laptop! (Now I know next year to expect my computer to crash a week before departure and about an 8 hour travel delay….). Fast forwarding beyond those slight logistical hiccups and here I am again at Coomalie! I haven’t had any Tim Tams yet, but I did see a dingo chase a wallaby this morning, and the flying fox shrieks as they return to their roost every morning makes for an authentic Australian wake-up alarm.
The past wet season was one of the driest on record for the area. Although infrequent, the rains have been somewhat prolonged, and on Friday night we got 3 inches of rain! The weather remains hot and humid, making it feel like the wet, but it is forecast to dry out in about a week, and I expect by the time the IRES fellows arrive that I will remember why I packed a sweatshirt and fleece jacket.
The wrens are also slightly behind schedule from what they were doing at this time last year. When I arrived in 2012, the birds were already in small flocks, whereas this year the birds I have seen so far have still been paired up. I have caught a handful of birds and each one has been molting heavily, with the “post-nuptial molt” marking an official beginning to the non-breeding season. Again contradicting last year, when a number of birds retained nuptial red and black plumage throughout the dry, this year I have only seen dull wrens. This means that the timing of our field season should allow us to capture the transition into social flocks, which should give us nice data on the shift in social structure throughout the dry season.