Dear Readers, I know that you have been positively agog to hear the latest on my bird food preference experiment for my Open University course, so here is an update (try to contain your excitement please 🙂 )
I have pretty much got the birds coming to feed on my ultra-nutritious minimally-coloured dough balls now. But what birds? Well, these guys…
Yep, a pair of magpies. I know when they’re around because they rat-a-tat-tat at one another like a bunch of plastic machine guns. They are very shy for such big bolshie birds, which means that I can’t just sit in the kitchen and make notes. Instead, I have to listen for them, and sneak out to my back bedroom which overlooks the garden.
What we have to do is to present them with 45 red dough balls and 5 yellow dough balls. Then, we have to do a count while there are still between 35 and 15 balls left. This is trickier than it sounds as a hungry magpie can wolf down the lot in about five minutes flat, which would mean that I’d have to start again. This performance has to happen ten times with mainly red dough balls, and ten times with mainly yellow ones, so just as well I started the experiment itself a week before I was meant to, as results have to be in by the end of November.
The aim is to see if the birds prefer one colour of balls to another, and if so if it’s statistically significant (which means some antsy-fancy maths). Before I started the experiment proper, I would have anecdotally said that they seemed to prefer the red ones, but on my first trial yesterday they ate 4 out of the 5 yellow ones, which points the other way. This is the trouble with real life, it’s never quite as neat as the textbooks. Anyway, let’s see how we get on as the weeks go by, and the data is gathered. It certainly makes for a lot of getting up and down to check on progress, which can only be good for my back. Too much sitting is bad for one, as we know. And it’s fun to do some real science! All I need now is a white coat and I’ll be in business.