Recently it has been discovered that Black Larks, living on the Eurasian steppes in Kazakhstan, transport dung to their nests to build large 'pavements' . Weird and almost dirty behaviour, but what is the use of it? This spring a team of researchers from the Universities of Wageningen and Münster and the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK) will try to answer this question, doing fieldwork in the Korgalzhyn area in Kazakhstan. On this blog we will post on our findings and adventures.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Clay cookies

With two experiments already running, we are now making a headstart with the trampling experiment. With this experiment we want to test the hypothesis that cattle do not step in their own dung while grazing. For Black Larks this would mean that using dung around their nest would reduce the chance that their nest is being trampled. For the experiment we will slowly herd a group of cattle trough an area in which we placed fake nests, which are places either in dung piles or on bare soil.

For the fake nests we were planning to use small balls or eggs, made out of papier maché, as we showed in one of the earlier blog posts. Strong wind is however a constant factor here on the steppe, and these fake eggs would probably quickly fly off as soon as we would put them on the ground. Therefore we thought of a different material for fake nests, namely clay! Yesterday we moulded 200+ clay ‘cookies’ more or less the size of a Black Lark nest. We baked them at 35 degrees on the car for about two hours and now they are ready to use!

Making the cookies

Drying them on the car, 220 in total

This Greater Spotted Eagle flew over our heads. It's a late migrant or a rare summer visitor.

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