Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday, March 17

Jean-Michel (a French-Canadian student who is obsessed with twitching and Midnight Oil) has predicted that this will be the last weekend of winter. The sun has been shining, the snow has been melting, and I've glimpsed the footpath for the first time. There's gravel down there. Now the ground will get slushy and the snow will get dirty. As the temperature drops below freezing in the evenings, all the water will turn to ice and become very slippery to walk on.

Henrik is going north for the next week, and doing some field work with others. They'll be looking for fresh carcasses. (I think he means deer... maybe moose.) When they find one they plonk themselves down at a distance and watch who comes to feed. Lynx or wolverines, most likely. Then they track them on skis or on foot. The lynx and wolverines are radio-collared, and three months later they're able to link their observational data with GPS locations of the animals. Not the lynx, the scientists do the data-linking.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tuesday, March 14: Roe deer trapping

This morning I joined three of the Grimsö field workers to watch them trapping roe deer. This involves driving around to the various traps set up around the Grimsö area, then recording the ID tag number and weight of the deer captured overnight, before letting them go. The data are used to estimate predation rates by lynx, among other things. Today they caught three deer in different areas: a fawn, an adult female and an adult male, all previously marked. They also captured two unmarked hares, so they put tags through their ears and a radio-collar on one of them. My description makes it seem as straight-forward as labelling a test tube, but there's obviously a lot of struggling and squealing going on during the whole process. It was all carried out remarkably efficiently anyway.

During the trip my camera stopped working. It's less than six months old and I think that I'll have to post it to Sydney to get it fixed. Words cannot express my annoyance... #%$&!

Here's the only photo of a roe deer that I managed to get.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sunday, March 12

Late on Sunday morning, Johan and Johanna took me to an auction, north of Lindesberg. Auctions happen once a fortnight, inside a hall during winter and outside in a field during summer. Household items are sold, from random junk that belongs in an op-shop, through to more valuable dinner sets, antiques, collectables, and furniture. Like most people, Johan and Johanna look for bargains to furnish their home and an excuse to leave the house on the weekend. On this day Johan impulsively bid for some office furniture, even though he wasn't completely sure what it was. At 50 krona ($8-9) he wasn't picky. He was actually most keen on a painting of a moose that he had seen in the local paper, thinking that he might stretch to 2000 krona ($350), even though he said it wasn't quite anatomically correct. (A biologist would know.) It sold for 39000 krona (almost $7000).

Other highlights were an old pinball machine and a collection of 1960s Barbies, sold to a phone bidder for $100+ each. Who is so obssessed with retro Barbies that they phone bid at a small-town Swedish auction? I couldn't get the image of Waylon Smithers out of my head.

After lunch, Johan took me on my second skiing attempt around his house. I concentrated on my feet, following the tracks that Johan was making through the 50cm-deep snow. After a while I looked up and realised that I was in the middle of a field, at least 50 metres from the house and from the bordering spruce and pine trees. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. The only markings in the smooth marshmallow-y snow were the tracks created by our skis and Johan's dog, Astrid. It was beautiful.

I wish I had had my camera with me, but it would have been cold, wet and possibly broken by the time we finished if I had packed it. Johan led me through a patch of forest where I took on some mild slopes, got stuck several times and fell over a few more. The snow was sufficiently soft and deep that I emerged bruise-free, although my ankles suffered a few angles that they're not meant for. I would never have believed that my second unco-ordinated attempt at a winter sport would be so enjoyable. By the end of the day I'd seen hare, lynx and moose tracks, and a roe deer. (And now I've just written my first twitch-list. Damn.)