Usually, when we speak about our experiences in the field we generally tell the anecdotes that make the long days spent outside sound very exciting in all weather conditions. For once, I would like to share with you a perfect day in the field and why it is so fascinating.
We wake up at 6 am every morning and take a good breakfast with us because we never know when we will find the group or if we will find them. We arrive on the field around 7 Am. Now, we are ready to search for our group of Barbary macaques.
We start to walk up to the hill. The weather is fresh but not cold and the vegetation is still wet from the morning dew. All our senses are in alert. We have to find the monkeys as soon as possible to collect as much data as possible. I hear a noise in a bush 15 m ahead. Excited, I go towards the noise and a fox flees away from the bush. It is not the monkeys, false alarm! I take out the radio and inform the others about my discovery.
It is great to work with passionate people because they are as enthusiastic as you are about the beauty of the nature. That’s a good start for this day!!
After only 30 minutes walking, we hear some vocalisations from the top of the hill. We speed up and arrive to the top where our group is, slowly waking up. The rays of sunlight pass through the branches and light up the ground where some macaques are already awake. Some are grooming or just resting in the sunlight to warm after a cold night. It is time to collect some data. We fill up the daily scan including the GPS position, date, and temperature… We go on with the focal sampling. We follow a monkey during several minutes and note all behaviours observed. The day passes quickly when you have the chance to find all the focal monkeys. The hardest part is nevertheless to collection of faecal samples. You cannot do anything to make monkeys defecate and encouraging them, does not help either. Trust me, I tried! If you are lucky, you can collect upto 10 or 11 faecal samples in one day but it is quiet rare!!
At the end of the day, we leave the group and walk back to the car, enjoying a nice conversation with the other international researchers. Back at the flat, we have the great chance to take a hot shower and a nice dinner.
Simply…. A perfect day!