Well, today was a bit of a downer. I am gaining a new respect for all primatologists who conduct playback experiments; they are tricky. Especially with arboreal primates because of the added challenge of hoisting the loudspeaker high enough into the canopy so as to be heard. Today though, it wasn't equipment malfunctions, or tourists, or rain, or other researchers who ruined our chances at a good experiment, it was the gibbons. The funny things is, they way they messed it up is by essentially doing the experiment for us.
So I'll start from the beginning. We left at 6am as usual. I loaded up on my two backpacks, one containing the huge microphone that extends up over my head so I am constantly getting it snagged on branches I've thought I've properly ducked under. We drove to the N6 trailhead and started the very long walk (OK only 15 or so minutes, but its rough terrain) to our rope site. We rigged up the loudspeaker then Julie explained to the ranger, who was a new one today, about when to play and stop the loudspeaker. He was a little confused, but after a while he seemed to get it so we set off to find the gibbons. The E territory is a nightmare, it basically sits on a steep hill, so no matter what you are always either going up or down this steep, awful hill. Luckily, we found the E group fairly quickly, again they were consorting with the N group, so we waited until they separated. Then came the macaques, loud and crashing through the treetops. They are a real pain in the butt when you are trying to keep track of the quieter, more graceful gibbons and all you can hear is the breaking of branches from the clumsy macaques leaping from tree to tree. So, eventually we lost sight of E (also because Elane, the female, is a real bitch and doesn't always like to be followed). We had a general idea of where they were so we waited, and they sang, confirming their position. So we were still in good shape.
We waited nearly two hours while they sat in the same tree, completely hidden from view, grooming or eating or God knows what. At 11:11 (make a wish!) we heard the N group start to sing. The difference between a regular duet, and a disturbed/predator song is that in a regular duet there is always a great call (the female's part) within just a few minutes of the start of the song. In predator songs there are some different notes in the beginning, and the first great call is usually 20 or so minutes in. So after listening a while, and hearing the distressed sounding whines coming from N we realize this is no duet, it is a disturbed song. Then, Julie checks her GPS and, shit, its coming from EXACTLY where our loudspeaker is. Did the ranger accidentally start the song without being told!? We have to find out, so we rush back toward the loud speaker, down the scary steep hill, me sliding down the muddy bank at the very bottom, then we rush up the other side of the valley, and who do we see, literally right above the loudspeaker? The N group. They are throwing their little hissy fit right where our loudspeaker is, at who knows what! We assume they saw something, not sure what, because a squirrel was also alarm calling. Then we hear E singing, they have moved closer and are responding to N, as predicted. So we watched as the experiment we were trying to carry out, was carried out naturally by the gibbons. Unfortunately we can't use any of this because we don't know what (if any) predator the N group saw, and we didn't record E's behavior from the start of the song. So cool, we lose another day. At least now we know that the position of the loudspeaker is very realistic.
after waiting for everyone to stop singing we headed back home. At this point I wasn't feeling very well. I was dehydrated, even though I drank plenty of water, I guess those hills made me sweat it out. So when we got back, I managed to shower, get the laundry going, and make lunch, all while feeling about ready to pass out. So once I was completely full of corn and rice I took a nice long nap. I am conflicted about naps, because they always seem essential; the only way to survive my exhaustion after a morning in the field and the heat of the afternoon. However, at night I am left regretting them because it is impossible to fall asleep.
It rained tonight, which we need because the reservoir is very low so the water pressure is getting low, and the water is a little murky. It rained really hard, but not for long enough to fill the reservoir, and amazingly we still have electricity. After it stopped the ground was steaming, which was kind of cool. I like when it rains in the evening because it cools down enough to sleep very comfortably. I also like it because it wakes up the frogs, which sadly I haven't seen as many as I had expected I would. But after a good rain they sing up a storm at night.
I'm pretty lonely today. I am also running out of good, fresh food. Both of these things are affecting my mood. Hopefully I can make it through the week and we'll go shopping again this weekend. I guess that is all there is to say, hopefully tomorrow we can do a successful python experiment to keep us from feeling to defeated.