One poorly kitten

This week has been another lovely week in Cyprus filled with sunshine, smiles and sea views. There was a small hiccup in the middle of the week as the youngest kitten, Lucky, becoming really sick. One afternoon we noticed he was limping and then he became really tired. The next day he was the same and so we took him to a vets nearby as he wasn’t eating. Unfortunately this vet was pretty rubbish, she just gave him an injection of what we presume was antibiotics, didn’t check his temperature, didn’t check his foot that was sore, nothing…. She just told us to come back tomorrow. Later that night he got a lot worse and quickly went downhill. Dogu took him to an emergency vet and the vet said it was a 50% chance of whether he’d survive. He had a dangerously high temperature and his breathing was bad. They kept him in all night and gave him lots of fluids and started him on a shock treatment of antibiotics. Luckily he pulled through. We have had to go back to the vets each evening for more antibiotic injections but he is returning to his normal self! phew!!!

Apart from the cat drama, the week has been lovely.

We have enjoyed a few wanders into the countryside. It has actually been lovely to do this in the evening because some different birds are around since the last time I was here. There are lots of singing Robins defending their territories. Stonechats are everywhere now, sitting on their thin perches. I even heard a Black redstart a couple of days ago. They have a weird and wonderful song!

We have done some more olive picking this week and finally finished the trees in the garden. Its not easy work! I now fully appreciate olive oil! The time it takes to pick all the olives in a way that doesn’t damage the trees is so long! After we pick them the family sort out which olives will be used for oil and which for eating. The oil ones are taken to an olive press and the lovely elixir is made! The olives for eating are bashed with a stone, soaked in salty water for days, and then are ready! Dogu mixed his olives with garlic and oregano and olive oil and they are just so lovely! So much so that I actually got a saw tongue from eating so many!!!!

We have been busy in the garden his week. October in turkish is called Ekim and it is related to the word Ekmek which means to sow. We have been planting broad beans which was fun! We are also watching eagerly for the other crops to grow. So far there are carrots, garlic, parsley, artichoke, spinach, kale and sweet potatoes growing! We picked a lot of loofahs this week. A natural, organic alternative to plastic sponges! We have so many!

Other things we have done this week are eat Gozleme (a thin bread type thing filled with cheese or whatever you fancy!). The lady that makes them is so lovely, she always gives us extra treats! She was impressed with my turkish grammar which was nice to hear! We also went to a bazaar yesterday that our friend Deniz helped host. It was full of little stalls which handmade trinkets. One stall was full of homemade crystal bead bracelets and I was sold! A new sunstone bracelet is now in my possession!

Other than that, we’ve enjoyed seeing friends, eating good food and watching amazing storms!

Nice!

xx

Olive picking

Another week has gone by and I’m yet again in another country!! On Tuesday I flew to Cyprus and have loved every minute so far! I got to cuddle my lovely Doğukan and have lots of love from all of our cats! How can that be bad?!

I’ve seen lots of other people this week too. I met Doğu’s friend Orçun for the first time. He was so lovely!! And I’ve also seen our friend Mert which was great. We were talking about different Christmas traditions which made me all excited! I’ve brought some Christmassy things over with me to show everyone!!

We’ve just been enjoying being back to normal really, and chilling out at home. This weekend a lot of Doğukan’s family came over to help us pick olives from the trees. It’s so funny when they all arrive, they are all chatting away and then trying to chat to me, but I can’t understand everything so I just nod along!! When they come they always bring amazing food though, so it’s brill!! In total be picked around 200kg of olives on Saturday and we still have more to go. Today has been hard to collect them because a storm came in and made it really windy!! I’m so excited to taste some of the olive oil once it’s done!

Last night we went to see our friends Ash and Hannah which was so lovely! It was just great to catch up and enjoy nice stories. It was also nice to have some wine too!!

So that’s the week really, mainly olives and friends. What more could a girl want?!

Xx

It’s rainy here!!

I’ve had a lovely week this week. It was my last week in Cyprus for a few weeks and so I wanted to make the most of it!! And obviously I’ve spent my time with Doğukan and his family.

One afternoon we went on another adventure up to Karaağaç up in the mountains. The roads are long and winding but the views are just amazing. The air always feels fresh and cool up there and I reckon it’s a good detox for your lungs! We spent a while up there, enjoying the smell of wild sage and just listening to the peace and quiet. Every now and then a great tit would do a little call, but not much else.

On Tuesday we took ourselves to Karpaz for one night and spent it in a wooden cabin. Thought we’d treat ourselves this time! We have a lovely Karpaz routine now. We go to our favourite cafe and drink the best Frappes and we got to Ayios phillon beach for a swim! The sea is getting cooler now, but it was still lovely, although I was getting chased by fish!! We played some backgammon and I lost basically every game. But I’m learning slowly and it’s just nice to play and forget everything else. I get quite competitive towards the end!! We enjoyed nice food and just had a lovely time as always!!!

Apart from doing uni work, a lot of the week was spent helping his parents remove the tiles and cement from the terrace and balcony so they can put in a better insulated one! It was bloody hard work and very sweaty, but we did it! We make a really good team. I think his mums cooking helped us, and gave us good energy! Plus, they brought sweet treats as well which is always good!!!!

Apart from that it’s just been us and the cats. The gorgeous cats! They’ve become quite cheeky recently and are enjoying the canopy outside the house as there own personal balcony.

Yesterday Doğu and his lovely sister Diloş took me to Larnaca for me to get my flight home. I got lots of lovely cuddles before I left which put a smile on my face! And now I’m home. And I get to see all my lovely family’s and get even more hugs!! How lucky am I?!

Xxx

Living a happy life

Two weeks since my last blog post, which I guess isn’t too bad…

As usual I have been smiling lots and enjoying life here in Cyprus. The weather has been quite humid the past couple of weeks, but luckily last night there was a huge thunder storm which seems to have gotten rid of the stickiness! phew!

Last weekend was the first Kuskor field trip since the break in the summer. A big group of people turned out which was nice. Some people I’ve met before and some newbies. It was great to be out in the field again. We went to Kukla wetlands for most of the day. Having been dry as a bone for the last few years, it is now thriving after the winter rains this year. Thousands of birds are taking advantage of the site and it’s just gorgeous to see. There were hundreds of flamingos, various sandpiper species, little egrets, an osprey, an eagle, marsh harriers and montagu’s harriers. There were even a few lovely tern species which were coming quite close to the hide. It really was lovely. Pretty hot, but lovely! After Kukla we went for lunch at a local cafe and all enjoyed a turkish coffee or tea. Bee-eaters were about and singing in the sky. My Mum would have loved it, they are her favourite bird! Next stop after lunch was Sinirustu wetland where we saw a Demoiselle crane which was a first for me!! They look so elegant and grand. Really beautiful!

Apart from the Kuskor field trip it’s been a pretty relaxed couple of weeks really. I have been working on my PhD and enjoying trips out with Dogukan to see his family and friends. His family always give me amazing home cooked food which is a treat! His garden is looking lovely and healthy and the fig tree is still giving us a lovely fresh supply of the gorgeous fruits. The passionfruit is also coming along, it is now flowering which means we will soon get the fruit! All the cats are doing well and little Yoda has spent a few more days with us which is nice. We are definitely the mad cat people!

The other night we got a rude awakening when an explosion went off near this house. I say near, we worked out it was just under 5km away. Anyway, the house shook and there was a huge bang. We checked outside and noticed a huge fire in the distance. Explosions kept happening and you could hear bullets being set off by the heat of the fire. The armoury of one of the army bases was on fire! It was so scary, we didn’t really know what to do. We watched for a while to see if the fire was spreading but in about half an hour it was under control and was dying down. The explosions lasted for a further few hours though. And the house smelt of smoke! My first and hopefully last experience of explosions!

Now I’m enjoying a week with my Mum and auntie! They have come over for a holiday and it’s so nice to laugh and chat with them! And of course to get cuddles! We’ve been relaxing in the sunshine and enjoying nice food. I’m loving it!

I just want to stay happy and smiley. It’s a gorgeous way to be! Xx

Karpaz, molasses and stars

Back again, and this time I’m back after a week rather than four!!! Been doing lots of work this week, trying to wrap my head around statistics stuff for my PhD. And doing lots of reading for my next paper which is exciting!

Apart from work I’ve had a lovely week of adventure and new experiences. At the start of the week I went to the Karpaz peninsula with Doğukan and Mert (his friend). We basically copied the last Karpaz adventure because we enjoyed it so much. So we picked organic vegetables from a local farmer, we swam in the sea, ate lovely fresh fish (Sokan taste so much like the sea!!) and drank those lovely frappes! In addition to last time we did some intense star gazing. I’ve definitely increased my constellation repertoire recently which makes me so happy! My first ever star gazing started with my Grandma with me wrapped up in a beach towel on a sun lounger on holiday. It continued with my Mum and seeing my first shooting star. So stars are special to me. I’m now confident that I can spot Ursa Major (the plough), Ursa Minor, Orion, the seven sisters, the dolphin, the swan, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Aries, Sagittarius, Libra, Scorpio and Aquarius. Not bad eh!!!! I was showing Doğu and Mert in Karpaz and we were dazzled by the Milky Way which was just magical!

Another addition to the Karpaz adventure was the huge eye is got after being bitten three times in basically the same place!! After the dusk swimming session on the first night, a hungry mosquito decided my eye was just right and bit and bit and bit. My eye went huge. I think the mozzi won that fight!!! Hehe

The final addition was the battle of backgammon. The boys refreshed my rusty skills and we had a few good games! I even won a game which was good! Although I think they were being nice to me!

After Karpaz we were shattered and just chilled at home. Enjoyed picking figs in the garden and drinking brews! One nice surprise was the return of one of the kittens we thought had died weeks ago! He turned up looking a little worse for wear so we cleaned him up and gave him some nice food!! Bless him! We’ve called him Yoda.

Finally, yesterday the Healers were playing at a Carub festival and so we went there for a few hours. Carups are a dark brown pod that grows on trees and you can boil them down and make molasses. Doğukan and his dad swear by it and although at first I wasn’t too keen, I know love it!! So I got myself a huge bottle to enjoy. I love it on some toasty bread!! The boys played and then a group of school kids performed some traditional dancing which was cute!!

My week has been lovely and as usual now, I’m smiling.

Love and hugs.

Amie xx

Living life and I am happy!

Goodness me, it has been ages since I have written a blog. I’ve been enjoying my life and the time has run away with me. Oops! I’ve been having lots of lovely times these past few weeks and I constantly have a smile on my face. I’ve done a bit of birding, swam in the sea, eaten amazing food, met lovely people and just had a generally great time.

I guess the main thing I got up to in these past few weeks was going to a Reggae festival in the South of Cyprus near Paphos. The festival was called SunJam and I went with Dogukan and his band mates. It was nice to meet them all and I also got to meet his friend Osman too. We started the journey from Nicosia that morning and got through the border to the Greek side easily. We then carried on towards Paphos and I enjoyed taking in all of the new sites. We stopped at a small cafe on the way and I got some lovely strawberry ice cream! The festival was held at a botanical gardens which was a gorgeous setting for the weekend. Dogukan and I pitched our tent on a balcony overlooking the festival area. It was a sort of staff only area so it was quieter and more chilled than the other camping spot. Shortly after arrival they all had a sound check so I just sat on the grass and watched whilst drinking a nice cold beer. Not bad at all!!! Eventually guests from the public could enter and it got nice and busy and the atmosphere was great. The Healers were playing later at night and so I watched them with Osman. We drank more beer and had a mysterious shot of what was meant to be tequila. They were brilliant. They had amazing energy and got so many nice compliments after they played. We enjoyed the rest of the night and headed to our tent for much needed sleep!

The next day there was more amazing music, quite a lot of fun DJ sets throughout the day. We just chilled out and enjoyed the scene. Osman played in the afternoon and so it was nice to watch him too. Me and Dogukan obviously drank beer whilst doing so. We ended up staying another night and headed home the next morning. On our way back to the Turkish side we decided to stop at a place called Aphrodite’s rock. This place is said to be the birth place of Aphrodite. It is said that she was born from the sea foam made around the rocks and then was brought ashore on a sea shell. We parked up the van and enjoyed the beautiful view and had a bit of a chat about the Gods! haha After this lovely stop we went back to the North.

Since then, I have pretty much been at Dogukan’s the entire time. Enjoying the garden, having mini adventures, and again, eating amazing food. One afternoon we went up into the mountains. It had rained that morning and so we thought we would take advantage of the cool air. Our first stop was Kara agac (This means black tree in turkish but i didn’t see any black trees….). We stopped by a spring water pool that was being fed directly from mountain water. There was also a fountain there that was attached to a really old building. We washed our faces and explored this place a little. In the pool there were huge tadpoles. They were all in different stages of metamorphosis. Some had chunky back legs, others were still just at the start. From here we climbed the mountain side more (in the car I would like to add!) and headed to Antiphonitis monastery. It was closed by the time we got there but we explored again. There were huge olive trees there and the view was gorgeous. And it was just us and the birds! Peaceful and perfect.

Apart from these two adventures I’ve just been enjoying all the lovely little things. All feels really good in my little world and I am just so happy and thankful.

That’s all for now!

I’ll be back soon!

xx

Camping in Karpaz

This week has been a really lovely week. I’ve had adventures galore and it has made me smile so much.

On Tuesday I went to see my friend Doğukan at his house over the other side of Girne. It is a really lovely place to be, he grows all kinds of fruits and vegetables and so we just enjoyed watering all the crops and harvesting what we could. The figs are nearly ready for the first pick which is exciting, but in the meantime we enjoyed some of his home grown honeydew melon. He has an extended cat family that live in his shed. Misty is a Mum who has 4 kittens, I think they are about 8 weeks old. Cezi is also a Mum but only one of her kittens has survived. We called him Lucky, and he’s only about 3 weeks old now. When she first brought him to us he couldn’t even open his eyes! Being a cat lover it’s bloody lovely just watching them all hang out and play. I also got to me Doğukan’s dog, Kucucuk. He is a tiny chihuahua but has loads of personality. We decided that night that we would go on a Karpaz camping adventure and that we’d go the next morning.

Wednesday was the first day of adventures. We headed off to Karpaz in the early afternoon so that it wouldn’t be too hot once we arrived there. The journey there is beautiful, loads of coastline and the sea has so many colours of aquamarine. We got a few supplies in the village so we could cook something for tea! We actually went to a lovely place to get some veggies. It was a families home where they grow loads of vegetables that you can buy. The eldest daughter in the family took us around and let us pick some aubergine, peppers and tomatoes. She recognised Doğukan from earlier trips and didn’t want any money but we insisted! It was such a gorgeous place. They were so kind. To refuel from the journey we stopped at a cafe for a frappe. The owner of the cafe is Greek but it’s a mix of Turkish and Greek people who work there. They were all really smiley and chatty and we bought some lovely dried herbs off of them so we could make some different teas! In the late afternoon we went to the beach of Ayios philon. The water was crystal clear and so warm. We had a nice swim and relaxed in the last of the evening sunshines rays. Afterwards we went and parked the van and set up camp. We had a foam mattress that fit perfectly in the back so we could use it as a bed and we had fold out chairs, crates for a table and a small gas fire that made for a perfect kitchen set up. Doğukan took over the cooking and made some lovely veggie fajitas for us both. We then enjoyed watching the shooting stars and the milky way whilst sipping some lovely chilled Efes.

The next day we got up and slowly but surely got ready to move on. First we had a morning swim and snorkel. From the beach we decided to go for another frappe at the lovely cafe from the day before. Two of Doğukan’s friends turned up there just after us and so we spent the afternoon with them. We enjoyed coffee and chatted about all sorts. After that we started making our way towards the end of the peninsula to find our place to camp for the night. On our way we stopped at a lovely seaside restaurant to have something to eat. We ordered some fresh fish and calamari and got a small meze before hand. The calamari was so lovely and the fish was really tasty too. Luckily Doğukan took over the fish filleting for me, I have no idea how to do it properly! Once we were nice and full we headed back to the van and carried on until we found our place to stop for the night. We came across a lot of the wild donkeys and I fed them some carup fruits we’d picked earlier. We set up our little camp again and enjoyed the last night of camping. We were so full from the fish that we didn’t cook. We just enjoyed some snacks!

The next day we got up and packed up all the camping stuff. We stopped at Apostolos Andreas which is an ancient monastery in Dipkarpaz. We took a look around and even splashed our faces with some of the holy water from the fountain. On our way back we stopped for another Frappe (we couldn’t resist them!!) and then started on our journey back.

It was such a lovely few days and a spontaneous little trip. I really enjoyed it and I don’t think I stopped smiling. I’m now really excited for more adventures to come!

xx

Mozambique- part 3

And now for the final part of my lovely Mozambique adventure.

Pretty much the entire last week we were in a site known as Coutada 12. I’d heard a lot about this place and was intrigued to go. Michal and Tomasz had placed recorders there last year and so it felt like a bit of a recovery mission! Anyway… we packed up our tents and what not from Chitengo base and picked up the lovely Noreena, a lab technician working with insects! We packed the boot full of all our kit. I’ve never seen a more full boot! We made our way out of Chitengo and started the 9 hour trip to our home for the next 6 days. On the way we obviously picked up supplies, namely beer, bread and avocados! After a very long trip we reached Coutada 12. This place was a former hunting zone and is now a place where anti-poaching training occurs. There is a really basic and small camping place where we were able to pitch our tents. When we arrived lots of rangers were doing some sort of exercise and it all looked very official and almost army like! At this base there was no running water, no electricity, no toilet, no shower and no phone signal. A bit like I was back in Cameroon! A nice break from the real world though. In the evening me and Michal prepared tea. We went for our standard sardine and tomato mix with some sort of carbohydrate. There was a small hut for the kitchen area and a tiny coal stove we could use for cooking. The two women who worked at the camp were intrigued to watch our cooking style!!

The next day we all got up and had some breakfast. Unfortunately, on the journey to Coutada 12, the gasoline from the generator had leaked and a lot of our food now tasted and smelt of gasoline. My dreams of a bread bun with mashed avocado were dashed. I went for a few biscuits and a banana instead… After breakfast all 4 of us loaded into the car and headed to Miombo forest to collect three recorders that had been placed last year. We literally drove completely off of the beaten track. At points there was hugely tall elephant grass surrounding us with desperate tsetse flies trying to get to us! We were swerving around fallen trees and vines. It was so cool, but the little car was probably shattered. After the first three recorders were retrieved we went to a small local village to get more petrol for the car. Michal got us some of these small donut type things. I’ve had them in Cameroon before too. They are just a sweet, flourey, fried ball. But they are nice!  We then had more driving after the petrol stop. We went to get the other three recorders that needed to be retrieved. We parked up and walked about 2km along a railway track. We saw a huge eagle right next to us at one point. Honestly, it was so so big, I thought it might have been a dragon! We deduced it was not a dragon, but a gorgeous Martial eagle. We’d leave the railway track to go to each recorder and then rejoin it to find the next one. In the rainforest it was dark and cooler, and there were vines everywhere. I won’t lie, I was a little nervous about snakes, and so I armed myself with the machete! We finished collecting all of the recorders and made our way to the car and then to camp. We saw some gorgeous southern ground-hornbills on the way. They are magnificent birds and so so huge! I’d really wanted to see them so I was very happy. It had been a really long day but a good day. Lots of adventuring!

The next day I headed out early with Michal to go and look for birds and do some recording. Right at the beginning of our walk we saw some lovely arrow-marked babblers which was great. They were duetting together which was nice to hear. I also got to see a beautiful Narina trogon. I have never seen a Trogon before and so I was very excited. It was a gorgeous male and he was just sat peacefully in a tree, munching on the occasional insect. I could have watched him for hours. Along with the birds I was taking in the beautiful surroundings too. There was a lot of dew on all of the tree and grasses, and one species of grass looked so magical covered in dew drops. There was also all sorts of different fungi species which was cool to see. After a nice morning, me and Michal made tea for everyone. He wanted to cook some cabbage and so I followed his lead. For some random reason I decided to check my left hip (as you do) and noticed I had a tick! I freaked out! I got Michal to get it out for me and then I panicked for a while wondering what bloody disease I might catch from it. To lighten the mood, a gecko decided to jump on my neck as we were eating. I made a slight fool of myself with my reaction but it took my mind off of things. I decided to name the gecko Kevin. He was a cutie! In the evening I started preparing bird ringing nets with Michal and Noreena. It was actually really nice to chat with Noreena, she is such a tough cookie. She said she gets malaria at least once a year! Made me feel slightly foolish about my tick dilemma! I think it made her laugh a little bit! We placed four nets and left them closed for the night.

So the next day we tried some bird ringing. Well, we eventually did after it stopped raining. It was extremely slow, be we did catch a handsome brown-crowned tchagra which was very exciting. In between checking the nets I did a little recording of surrounding birds. I also saw some beautiful little bee-eaters, a Burchells coucal and lots of lovely Retz’s helmetshrike. We made another sardine and tomato creation for tea. I was getting pretty sick of sardines!

Woke up and opened up the nets with Michal to try some bird ringing again. My hands were covered in bites from palm flies. So bloody itchy! It was Tomasz’s birthday so I gave him the little birthday card I’d made him. It was another slow bird ringing day I’m afraid.  To celebrate Tomasz’s birthday we had a little bit of whiskey which was a nice treat. Me and Michal tried to prepare a nice meal for us all but it ended up tasting a bit weird. We just laughed about it. One good thing was that I’d gotten pretty damn good at making the fire now. I had watched the ladies making it and copied them. As an evening treat we all munched on some pineapple as a sort of birthday cake… it was gorgeous and juicy and sweet. It attracted two lovely moths as well which was a bonus. I also discovered my gecko friend, Kevin, had a lady friend. I called her Carol.

The next day we packed up and headed back to Chitengo. Another 9 hour drive! I could finally have a shower when we got back. I was actually greeted by lots of baby praying mantises when I got to the shower block. They were everywhere, but so cute!

The last day in Gorongosa was spent placing 6 recorders in the jungle. We took a guard with us and headed out. It’s always quite satisfying trekking through the thick vegetation, makes me feel tough! One of my many observations was that some lovely, delicate looking mushrooms like to grow out of elephant poo!! The last evening in the park was a chilled one.

On the 18th we left the park and headed to Beira for a night before the long journey back to Poland. It was a lovely trip and I enjoyed seeing all of the amazing bird species, some of which I’d never seen before. It was also really nice to watch the cheeky vervet monkeys and the baboons. Africa always makes me love adventures, such a magical continent.

xx

Mozambique- part 2

So, to another part of my recent trip to Mozambique.

On Sunday 5th May, me, Michał and Tomasz packed up our stuff to head to Mount Gorongosa. Pesky vervet monkeys had slightly damaged my tent in their midnight antics and so I knew I’d have to do a repair job once we reached our destination! We picked up Marek and one of the masters students, Antonio, and squeezed their stuff into the car too! Then we headed out of the park and towards the mountain! The drive was a little squished but it wasn’t so bad. We stopped to get supplies on the way. Beer, pineapple, oranges and bread! Oh, and some huge avocados!! We thought they were something else at first because of how big they were! After the supply run we soon made it to the mountain road. Bloody hell it was so long and so so bumpy. I can safely say it’s the bumpiest road I’ve ever driven on! There were just rocks jutting out here there and everywhere!! After at least an hour of driving, we nearly made it to the camp site, but we stopped to munch on a bread bun and take in the view. We saw a male red-collared widowbird which was exciting! They have huge tail feathers that they use to show females how fit they are! Very impractical but apparently irresistible to the ladies!! We got to the camp and pitched our tents. I grabbed some duct tape off of Michał to try and fix my tent! The camp grounds were basic but lovely. It’s also the site of a coffee plantation and so there are rows of beans drying in the sun! The main structure was a big hut that housed the fires used for cooking. There were tables and benches made from sticks and logs too! Antonio showed us around his study plots. He’s looking at bird diversity between coffee plantation and natural sites. We had to cross a shallow river to get to the coffee. The water wasn’t too cold, it was actually lovely! Coffee grows as pink berries and they are put through a kind of shredder to remove the pulp and leave the bean. Then they are dried a bit in the sunshine and after that they are set on fire!! I had no idea they were set on fire! I liked that little nugget of knowledge. Anyway, that evening Michał and I prepared tea. We just opted for tuna and sweet corn with tomato sauce and pasta. It was meant to be simple, but the pasta went extremely gloopy when we cooked it and so it was quite a weird meal. But we ate it all the same! In the evening we went and watched Marek’s light trap for a while. Basically, he sets up a huge white sheet with a powerful lamp at the top. Moths and other creepy crawlies get attracted to the light and sit on the sheet. If any rarities come along he can collect them! My favourite one was a smallish moth that was metallic pinks and purples. She just sat there and didn’t move, just enjoying the light. I couldn’t help but feel a bit itchy when I was stood there, all sorts of things were flying around us!

The next day, I went with Antonio to help him with his surveys. I showed him how to conduct point counts and helped him ID the birds we saw. My favourite of the morning was a black headed oriole. The views there were stunning. Both up the mountain and down! We couldn’t actually go all the way to the top of the mountain. There’s a gorilla army occupying the fragments of forest up there, and we aren’t allowed in!! Me and Antonio got back to camp and I made us some breakfast using the avocados and bread. The avocados were so tasty!! The seed inside of them is the same size as the entire avocados we buy back home! Crazy!! As we sat and ate I spotted a Livingstone’s turaco which was amazing. Turacos have such delicate faces, they’re so beautiful! Me and Michał made a big lunch again, this time with no issues! It was actually really tasty and we washed it down with a beer. I took Antonio for more bird watching in the evening. He said his favourite bird was a Black-crowned tchagra because of their song. He’s right, they have a lovely song. That night we watched more insects and drank more beer.

Next day and we prepared to leave the mountain. I climbed down to the waterfall which was great. It was really big and the mist was spraying me, which was lovely in the heat of the day!! At about lunchtime we set off back to Chitengo base. The mountain road didn’t agree with me this time and I had to be sick at the bottom. Too many bumps and turns for my titchy self! I tried to sleep for the rest of the journey. We arrived at Chitengo and set up camp again. Then I showered and washed my clothes. Then we went and got food. We got ourselves a bottle of white wine to share which was a treat. I took it slow, didn’t want to be drunk! That evening was relaxed and I went to sleep easily!

First morning back at Chitengo and I went and recorded some birds around the camp. I saw some brown-headed parrots which was great and some collared palm-thrushes! Michał set off on a survey down the river for the next day and so me and Tomasz stayed around camp. It was good to chat about projects and things. Chatted with family and had lots of smiles. I bloody love my little clan!

The next few days were spent sorting recorders and reading papers. We were waiting for out next trip out of camp. One morning when I was at my tent, I saw two female baboons with a whole bunch of younger ones. It was like they were being child minders. I just stood and watched them for ages. It was actually really nice to just watch the different animals around camp. The vervet monkeys are cheeky. They’d swing from branch to branch and peak at you from behind leaves or branches. I caught them jumping on my tent a few times! Baboons seem to be really territorial. If another group came along there would be loud shouts from the lead males. Warthogs just eat and eat. They kneel down on there front legs and just munch away!! A huge male had obviously worn himself out and decided to sleep in the sand for a while. He looked very peaceful.

One afternoon we went and placed 6 automatic recorders to leave up for a year. We picked up a ranger and headed out. It was hot but it was nice work. And I finally got to see some crocodiles!! They weren’t too big, but they were still intimidating!! Michał would climb a tree and place the recorders, he’s a good climber!! Whilst he was doing that, I took in my surroundings. There was a huge dung beetle that I decided to call Bob. I’d seen other dung beetles near camp, but he was at least twice the size! Dung beetles are so fascinating to watch. They roll their dung ball with their back legs and take it to a hole in the ground. They keep it in the hole and lay their eggs in it so their kids have something to munch on when they emerge. I’ll take a rusk biscuit over a dung ball any day! But they seem to like it!

I’ll leave it there for now. The final section will be all about our trip to Coutada 12!!

Xx

Mozambique – Part 1

Not written anything in a few weeks! I’ve been off adventuring in the beautiful country that is Mozambique. I got a small grant to do some research and so headed there to look at the birds and most importantly, record their lovely songs.

So…

Firstly, getting there. I met my supervisor, Tomasz, in Poznan and we got a train to Warsaw. We then met Michał our colleague at the airport and we took our first flight. It went like this, Warsaw to Doha (6 hours), Doha to Johannesburg (9 hours) and then Johannesburg to Beira (2 hours). I was a little bit shattered after all that. But…. it was exciting to be in Africa again!

The first night in Mozambique was spent in Beira and in a lovely little hotel in the city. I was the only woman in our little group and so I got my own room which was pretty sneaky! We washed up and went and got some supplies for our upcoming camping escapades. This included lots of sardine tins, pasta and beer. The staples. First impressions of Mozambique was that it wasn’t as crazy busy as other places in Africa I’ve been to. The roads weren’t chaos, it was nice! After getting supplies we wanted food and so I asked the man at reception for a recommendation of where to eat. He suggested a take away place called 2+1 and drew me a map. We headed out and couldn’t find it so, naturally, I asked a man with a huge gun if he could help. He had a big smile on his face and his friend escorted us to make sure we found it! We got there and just ordered some beer and fries. A local girl who was also ordering helped me order. She spoke English and so we could chat a little. She taught me how to say thank you (obrigado) which was brill! I don’t like going to a different country and not being able to say certain things! It’s just manners! Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t setting out to learn full blown Portuguese, but a few words helps! And a smile goes a long way!!

On the 1st of May we loaded the car and headed to Gorongosa National Park where we would be doing our research. The 1st of May is a national holiday in Mozambique and so the roads were jam packed, with people, there was a carnival going through the streets! We managed to zig zag our way out of Beira and drove past small little hamlets of mud or corrugated metal buildings. The recent cyclone has destroyed many of these buildings and taken the roof off of most buildings, even the big cement ones. At one point in our journey we came to a complete traffic stand still. We waited for about an hour and so me and Michał got out and did a spot of bird watching! We saw a gorgeous southern red bishop. He was carefully breaking off bits of vegetation for his nest. I could have watched him all day. Gorgeous!!! I also spotted a lovely flower at the side of the road, it was shaped like a purple star! Anyway, eventually the traffic started to move and we realised it was because there was a bottleneck at the bridge to cross the river. The cyclone had swept half of the bridge away and so there was only enough space for one lane of traffic. Eventually we got to the park entrance and drove for about an hour through jungle to reach Chitengo camp. The jungle smells like the jaguar exhibit at Chester zoo! Hehe We pitched our tents and headed for something to eat. Within the camp grounds there’s baboons, vervet monkeys and warthogs. The warthogs just eat all the time and the vervet monkeys are cheeky!! Always peeking from behind something. We had a wander around the air strip to do some bird watching. There were waterbuck having a munch on the grass, they’re lovely! And we saw some lovely birds. It’s so exciting starting a new bird list!!

The next day we got up early to go on a game drive and a bird watch further away from the campsite. We picked up a ranger and headed out! We found a small lake and stopped there for a while and saw loads of stuff there! African jacana, spur winged geese, knob-billed geese, white faced whistling ducks, saddle billed storks, open bills, just loads!!!! I spotted a really chunky centipede (or maybe it was a millipede), gorgeous butterflies and a massive monitor lizard! It was such a lovely trip!! My favourite butterfly was one that was bright blue with bright orange on the tips of the wings. Such cheerful colours! We had some lunch, I had a traditional Mozambique meal of chicken and rice with a sort of peanut sauce. It was bloody delicious!! We then went to cut some poles to use for our bird ringing nets and then had a walk to a river bank. The sun was setting and it really looked beautiful. There’s just something about sunsets!!

Early start for bird ringing. Although we’d asked for the gate to be opened for us, the ranger wasn’t there and so we climbed over and headed to our site. We placed 4 nets and waited patiently to see if we’d catch anything. Now, I won’t lie, this time of year, the birds are really quiet. They aren’t really singing as it isn’t their breeding season and not much is flying about. So, we really didn’t have a great catch. But, we caught a beautiful pair of red throated twinspots! We took the measurements we wanted and set them back on their way. Shortly after we closed the nets and headed back to camp. I had a shower and was joined by a huge earwig type creature. I was rather intimidated by it but I just made sure he didn’t get too close to my titchy toes!! We had lunch and then I went with Marek, who also works at my uni in Poznan, to see the lab! He’s an entomologist and was out in Gorongosa to collect specimens of butterflies and moths. The lab was so interesting, he showed me specimens of all sorts of creepy crawlies. So so beautiful! There were stick insects, grasshoppers, crickets, dung beetles and creatures that actually looked like leaves!! After the tour he then showed me the database, chock full of information about all the different species of animals seen in the park!! I spoke to my Mum and Nana and then with my Dad which was lovely. Always nice hearing their voices and always makes me smile! That afternoon I went with Tomasz to do some recording of birds near the air strip. It was roasting hot and not much was singing, but I saw some oxpeckers utilising a warthogs back for a perch which was nice. I also saw a pair of yellow fronted canaries chattering their beaks.

Saturday came and we had another early start to try another go at catching some birds. We got to the gate and the guard wouldn’t let us out so we waited until he’d gotten confirmation we were allowed to leave. We wandered along the track and I spotted elephants!!! Gorgeous elephants plodding towards us. They were still pretty far away but I started to back off in case we got too close for comfort, it is their home after all! Wouldn’t want to intrude!! We watched them from a distance, ambling their way into the jungle and crashing through the vegetation. We gave it a while before we carried on along the track. As we did we passed entire trees they’d knocked over and bits of vegetation they’d munched on. The power of the giants of the jungle eh!! The catching of birds was even worse than the previous days efforts, but I saw a lovely male african paradise flycatcher (you should google this!!) and a collared sunbird. When we got back to camp we spotted an amazing spider building her web. The female was this magnificent (and huge) blue and yellow beauty. The male was about a quarter of the size and an orange/ brown colour. I felt very smug that the female spider was the best one! I felt like giving her a high five, but I don’t know which of her legs I’d have to pat!! Later, we had some food, I had another lovely local dish, this time with fish! And afterwards we went on a game drive with some of the other researchers spending time here. I saw a purple crested turaco and a water thick-knee which was exciting, but….. then we saw lions!!! A beautiful female and a younger one by her side. She was wearing a radio collar which was pretty cool. Good way of keeping track of the movements of the lions within the park. We watched the pair for a while. Such huge and powerful felines!! We finished the game drive and then to top it all off, we saw a pangolin next to camp!!!! A bloody pangolin!! I was so happy. What a day!! Pangolins are really heavily poached and so this one had been rescued and was being guarded for the time being. I was asking about the poaching of pangolins and apparently their scales are believed to have certain qualities and they are also used for necklaces in certain places. Personally, I’d much rather see one ambling around, wearing its scales than have them around my neck!

Anyway, I’m leaving it there for now. Part 2 and 3 still to come!!

Xx