I’m analyzing videos of mice eating. It’s often as boring as it sounds, leading my office mates to give me weird looks as I giggle madly, because I’m listening to Dane Cook or Read It and Weep while I go through hours of footage from infrared game cameras placed in the foothills, trained on small trays of seeds (sterilized millet, thanks for asking).
There are a lot of videos of wind blowing the grass around. Some of foxes (see last post).
A lot of videos provide useful data, but are kind of crappy images like this one:
Then, out of the blue, I spy something unusual, and sit up straight in my chair. Mid-giggle. I take my feet off my desk. I know I can’t tell these sly little pocket mice apart, because they lack distinguishing markings.
(By the way, my research group spent substantial time and effort earlier this summer trying to build a bait station that dotted mice with sharpie or hair dye or something when they ate the seeds. We wanted a herd of itty bitty jaguars to keep track of. Nothing has worked well yet. If you have any ideas, please let me know!!!!)
Back to the unusual bit. Because I can’t tell these mice apart, I can’t tell how many eat from my bait station over the course of a night. It could be one mouse that defends its territory. Or many with overlapping home ranges.
Here, in this unusual video, was a clue!
Another Chaetodipus spp. lurks in the background while the normally alert diner nibbles on delicious millet.
I write something dramatic in my spreadsheet, probably in all caps under the “Notes” column for this video. I write something along the lines of “OMG ANOTHER MOUSE LURKING.” It’s a technical scientific term, lurking.
I lean forward in my chair and click on the next video.
Nothing. It’s just wind in the grass. I’m not going to waste your ten seconds with that video, not when mine are already spent.
But I keep watching. And seven minutes later (in 10 second increments every few minutes, mind you)……