Fieldwork on the transect

Fieldwork is well underway. We have been walking through the Scottish woodlands as spring is gradually arriving all around us – tree buds opening, blue tits singing. Our days start early, sometimes with tea, more often with coffee. We are working in two teams – one in the south part of the transect, one in the north. The best part is when we meet in the middle and get to exchange stories about what happened during the day.

The first few days of trying to find the marked trees (think finding a needle in a haystack is hard, try a bright pink string in a brown-ish woodland…) are behind us – the trees and nestboxes are a familiar sight by now, and we’ve fallen into a nice routine. It’s actually a pretty special kind of repetitiveness to get to go to the same site, same trees and nestboxes week after week – there are so many little moments of natural wonder for which we have developed an appreciation.

Working on the transect is brilliant. I love the diversity of each site, and watching spring arrive day by day is a real treat. It’s so exciting to arrive at a site to check how the season has progressed and find that buds have burst on a new tree species or that there are new eggs in a nest.

Kat Keogan, Field assistant

For us, each day is a roadtrip. The destinations are the same, but each time we visit them, they are a tiny bit different – our job is to spot those differences and turn them into data on fitness (the survival of the blue tit chicks) and phenology. Phenology refers to the timing of life events, for example when trees first open up their buds, or when blue tits lay their first egg for the season.

There is still much more of the field season to come, so where will our roadtrips take us? Ultimately, to a better understanding of how the blue tit phenological optimum varies across space and time. Along the way, we’ve been to places in Scotland we hadn’t seen before, we’ve honed our tree identification and data collection skills, and we’re excited for what the rest of the field season has in store for us.


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