Grass Wrens in the Uspallata Valley: notes from a Bergstrom Award recipient
At the beginning of my PhD, back in 2016, I got to know the Association of Field Ornithologists through Paulo Llambías, my thesis director and now also my friend. I applied for the young ornithologists’ grant without hesitation. Thanks to the funding I was able to finance part of the equipment needed to work in the field.
My PhD thesis focuses on understanding the behavioral decisions of the Grass Wren (Cistothorus platensis) aimed to reduce nest predation probability. In particular, I focused on the characteristics of vegetation cover at nest sites and parental activity as cues used by potential visual predators to locate wrens nest sites. Understanding the reproductive strategies of individuals is of great interest because predation pressure is one of the main causes of nest failure, especially in grassland species. Therefore, understanding how individuals manage to raise their broods in the face of predator threat allows us to understand many aspects of the evolution of bird life-history traits in the Southern Cone.
I studied the Grass Wren in the Uspallata Valley, Mendoza, Argentina, at the foothills of the magnificent Central Andes Mountains. A beautiful setting where there are grassland patches associated with riverbeds in which the Grass Wrens breed and reside all year round. The development of my PhD thesis involved fieldwork during four months and three breeding seasons. Thanks to the grant I was able to buy new binoculars, which helped me a lot to improve my speed in identifying the color bands of the wrens! A hand-held GPS, another essential tool for locating the nests. Also, I could buy some tools for banding wrens!
The fieldwork would not have been possible without the help of a great team of colleagues, but mainly friends. Paula Garrido, Ramiro Arrieta, Daniel Cáceres, Agustín Zarco and many field assistants shared with me the field campaigns and our passion for field ornithology. Some of them also won the Bergstrom Award!
Guest blog post by:
Phd student, Biología de Aves
Instituto Argentino de Investigaciones de Zonas Áridas (IADIZA)
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)