I just wrapped up what I think will be my last field work on the juncos for my dissertation. It was quite the eventful trip; I saw a few things I’ve never seen before – but more on that in a future post.
We were trying to catch an unbanded male. He was interested in our playback, but had escaped from the net once already, meaning he was likely to be wary of the net now. When he flew into the net the second time, I ran for him quickly, wanting to get to him before he managed to escape again.
…Or I started to run. Then I failed to clear a large rotting log and went down.
“Are you okay?” one of my field assistants asked.
“I’m not sure,” I answered honestly, from the ground. “Get the bird!”
Fortunately I had fantastic field assistants with me, well capable of extracting the bird from the net and banding him. I managed to take a few measurements of the bird while they held him: my left arm, which is the side on which I usually hold a bird, was not interested in moving. Thanks to the field assistants, we got almost all of our standard data from the junco despite my incapacitation.
Then we drove to the hospital. At my institution, before you go out to do field work, you are required to fill out a form listing the nearest medical facility to your field sites. This forces you to actually find out what the nearest medical facility is: and this, my friends, is a good thing to know.
It turned out that I had broken my left arm. The emergency room doctors wrapped it in a bulky, cast-like splint, gave me a sling, and told me to go find an orthopedist. But this was a weekend, and I figured that since I would have to wait until Monday for an orthopedist anyway, I might as well continue with the field work.
We searched for nests the next day, and checked on nests we had previously found. Broken-armed field work turned out to be just as productive as the usual kind.
In the end it wasn’t my broken arm that finished the field season, but a persistent rain that began to leak into our tents. We packed away our muddy gear, said good-bye to the juncos, and struck out for home.