By Neil Caughland, Rebecca Newman and Naomi Oâ€™Reilly.
Today was the beginning of the main project for the zoologists, ecologists and plant scientists. A select few, including ourselves, chose to study the behaviour of some of the exotic birds on the brackish lake at Salgados.
One group studied the long-legged and graceful flamingo, another studied the aptly named black-winged stilt and another the beautifully marked Avocets, a species of wading bird with black and white plumage and a distinctive upturned bill which they use to catch fish.
Our aim was to understand variation in foraging behaviour which we observed using two techniques – scan and focal sampling – with state of the art telescopes and binoculars. Our three lecturers kindly took us under their wings, and diplomatically discussed any differences of opinion in the identification of challenging species. Quickly we learned a whole range of new skills and time flew in the process.
The whole day was a fantastic experience, very enjoyable and highly educational. We now have a deeper understanding of some basic principles in animal behaviour, while learning a range of new skills, while enjoying the beauty of birds.
As for the infamous question â€œQuis custodiet ipsos custodes?â€, our lecturers John Oâ€™Halloran, Tom Kelly and John Quinn most certainly had their binoculars out!