A few months ago I was told I had been accepted to be project leader for a bird project out in Northern Cyprus. This part of the world is close to my heart, a second home for me. My Mum has a place there and I’ve been visiting for the past 8 or 9 years. I’ve done turtle work and a little bit of birding here before. I was thrilled to be chosen.
I’ve been in Cyprus for nearly a month now. My plan was to do a blog post each week with all the things I’ve been up to. My friend Louise came out to join me because the volunteers for this part of the year dropped out last minute. Her first day here was all go. We had a call saying a live turtle had been found at a beach in Famagusta and so headed there to check it out (the animal rehab group had taken it by the time we arrived). We went to goat shed to move furniture and what not. Non stop! The day didn’t end very well though. Louise ended up in quite a bad car accident. She has been such a trooper through the whole thing. Such a tough cookie! I’m so happy she is finally on the mend and we can even see some of the funny sides to the story. We have got the clothes changing routine down to a T! Needless to say, a lot of field work was put on hold and I stayed at the hospital with her to look after her and keep her company. We quickly picked up that the word for soup is Corba, and my mime skills came on leaps and bounds (trying to communicate medical terms with Turkish speaking nurses is a challenge). Finally we are back at my Mums place, we’ve hung up the tinsel and lit the advent candle. We are feeling as Christmassy as possible in the 20 degree sunshine.
It’s not all hospital wards and soup though.. I have been doing field work too.
My second day in Cyprus I met with Damla, Robbo and Olkan to discuss my to do list. Check all the wetland sites at least once a month; walk as many beaches as possible to look for turtle strandings; conduct shore bird counts; do some bird ringing and finally, a bit of database work too. Robbo took me to pick up the truck, Hercules, and I headed off back home with a head full of excitement! Before Louise arrived I spent my days doing PhD work. It’s so handy that I can do it remotely!
I have visited quite a few wetland sights now. Each one has its own unique beauty (even the sewage works site!!). There is a lovely chain of them in Famagusta, each having different species which is brilliant for a days birding. I have seen my first ever Bittern, Golden plover, Grey plover, Stone curlew, Moustached warbler, Sardinian warbler, Greenshank and Woodlark. I’ve seen hundreds of flamingos. They do a funny dance with their legs when they put their heads under the water, must be to get the best grubs in the silt! Birds of prey are fantastic here. Marsh harrier, pallid harrier, buzzard, kestrel and 2 gorgeous pairs of Bonelli’s eagles. Birding has been brilliant.
Aside from bird stuff, I have also been walking a few beaches checking for stranded turtles. So far so good, no turtles! I am going to be writing a separate post about the plastic issue on the beaches. It will probably end up as a slight rant and then a desperate plea for change.
One day I had a phone call off Robbo saying there was a dead turtle found near Lefke and that we should go and pick it up to necropsy. Robbo and I arrived at the persons farm. It was quite a strange situation, he had posed the turtle on a wheelbarrow. A bit odd. Robbo had to persuade him to give us the turtle and we quickly made our exit. In true Cyprus style, the necropsy was conducted on Robbo’s driveway. It was a huge loggerhead male. Very fat, stomach full of seagrass, obviously didn’t die of natural causes. We noticed a few lacerations where the flippers meet the body which were probably caused by fishing nets. It probably drowned. We got all the measurements and samples we needed and then took the carcass to a local University so they could do a taxidermy for a museum on the west coast. I smelt quite bad by the end of the day. A mix of fish and turtle poo.
All of these mini adventures wouldn’t have happened without the amazing company I’ve had out here. A huge thanks to Olkan and Paul who have helped me in finding wetland sites. They’re both bloody lovely guys! Olkan also introduced me to these amazing biscuit/ bread things called Citlemek. They’re dotted with peppercorns and raisins and taste wonderful! If you find them, give them a whirl! Thanks to Robbo and Damla too for putting up with all the stress of hospital madness. I won’t lie, I had a slight breakdown, they cheered me up with amazing homemade kebabs on the BBQ.
In between all of this the car broke down. Robbo called it “teething problems”. My nana would call it “character building”. I call it a bloody nuisance. But at least I know where the mechanic is eh…..
That’s all for now.