Tramping in the Heat

It was about 106 degrees F today (41 C), but, when I complained about the heat, Olya (who studies Crimson Finches) expressed little sympathy: “It’s cool out there,” she said, with a smirk. “I had to put an extra blanket on last night!”

Though I had to admit that I turned my fan down to the next-to-highest setting at 1am, nobody can convince me that 106 degrees is anything close to “cool.” It’s so hot that I can’t distinguish mosquit0 tickles from sweat dripping down the back of my leg. Rocks are too scalding for bare feet. Water from my bottle tastes like fire, and I pack three liters to survive a morning of fieldwork. It’s so hot that I sleep on a bare mattress with a fan on the highest setting (usually) blasting me in the face. By 7:30 a.m., the air feels like a furnace. By noon, I feel like a baked potato even when sitting in the shade.

I have discovered a great antidote to the heat, though: Mornington’s walk-in refrigerator. It’s used to store food, but, after 10 minutes in there, communing with hanging slabs of fresh-butchered bullock, my body temperatures cools right down, too. Sweat on my shirt whisks off in impressive, hot-cold steam plumes inside the refrigeration room.

I spent the day censusing Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens along a hot stretch of the Adcock River, which required walking, er, hacking, about 8 kilometers (roundtrip) through dense riparian vegetation. I fell twice on slippery spots of mud, but the extra dirt just added to my sunscreen. Anyway, the fairy-wrens are quite engaging – it’s gonna be a great field season!

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