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

Cameroon- Part 5 of 5

Beach fun- Football match- Incredible seafood- Craft market

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12/12/2016- So strange to wake up near the sea. I could hear the waves and smell the salty air. Lovely! Me and Kasia went to meet the boys near the pool and we all did some bird watching. I saw three different species of Kingfisher in the space of half an hour! The giant kingfishers were incredible, they are massive. Had a breakfast of omelettes and bread with jam. It was so exciting! We then headed to the beach. We got a taxi and then walked down a small track and ended up at a lovely beach side complex. It was extremely basic, we ended up drinking most of their beer! The sand on the beach is volcanic and black, so it burnt your feet, but it was quite nice to feel it between my toes. It was so relaxing. We went in the sea and enjoyed jumping in the waves. They were quite big! Tomasz discovered that if you wait for a big wave and then, whilst facing it, jump backwards, it will force you into a backwards summersault. We all spent a while trying to perfect the technique, but mostly just had a lot of salt water up our noses! Me, Kasia, Paweł and Michał had a quick game of football which was really fun. Then the boys stepped it up. They played with some local lads. Our guys won, despite the fact that I’m not the best cheerleader in the world. I just ended up talking to a boy about different parts of Cameroon. After the beach we all got changed and headed to the port. We chose some seafood and had it cooked for us. The langoustines were absolute perfection. They were huge and tasted so fresh. The crab was tasty, but took too much effort to bother with. There were lots of royal terns, black kites and cattle egret flying above. It was beautiful. When dusk hit, we looked up and saw thousands and thousands of bats flying above us. A local man told us they were moving between roosting and feeding grounds. They were flying over for a good half an hour. It was absolutely amazing.

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13/12/2016- Today we went to the port in the morning to get more incredible seafood. We chose more langoustines. I waited with Paweł and watched the women prepare them for us. She took out all the innards and washed them. Then we took them to a lady who cooked them for us. They were so tasty. We stayed at the port for a while and then went back to the hotel to relax by the pool. Me, Kasia, Paweł and Michał had a game of basketball which was fun. Then me, Paweł and Michał played piggy in the middle in the pool. I was usually the pig….In the evening we headed back to the port and enjoyed an evening there. We had even more seafood and even more beers. It was such a lovely day.

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14/12/2016- Up and ready by 11 to get the taxis to Douala. It was so hot and humid and the traffic was so bad. We got stopped at a security check and they took ages to check our passports. They all wear full army uniform, I don’t know how they cope in the heat! We eventually got to Douala and had some lunch. Me, Kasia and Michał then headed into the craft market. It was amazing, so many stalls filled with amazing treats. I got some gifts for everyone back home. I had to barter with the men but they really enjoyed it. They were laughing at me but I think I got quite good deals. After we all got our purchases we headed to the airport and waited for a while until we had to check in. Can’t believe this amazing adventure is over.

A note- Cameroon is one of the most exciting countries I have had the opportunity to visit. It is nice to dive head first into a simple life of living in the mountains. I didn’t have internet, didn’t even have the basics like clean water. But I loved it. Some many things in daily life are so unnecessary, it’s nice to disconnect from them sometimes and just live submerged in nature. Waking up to an alarm of francolin calls will always be magical. Although the trip was very tiring, in a way it woke me up. I know what is really important.

Thanks for being beautiful Cameroon.

Until next year.

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Cameroon- Part 4 of 5

Big Persol- Bird Watching- Packing- Leaving the Mountain-The Bus Journey from Hell

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07/12/2016- Woke up the earliest out of the group today, shortly followed by Paweł so I went to help him set the mist nets. Last day of ringing today which is quite sad. We saw the three lovely Great Blue Turacos which was a nice surprise. Ringing was a little bit slow, we caught lots of wattle eyes, and nearly caught a Jacobin’s cuckoo but unfortunately it was too big for the net and made a quick escape. We saw a Black-winged oriole which was nice, the song is beautiful, really unusual. After ringing me and Kasia went for our penultimate stream wash. For lunch we used the left over Ndola, it was much nicer having left it for one day. Me and Kasia decided to hike to the top of the Big Persol. We set off in the afternoon and found our way to the top quite easily. It was quite nice to have a girly adventure! The view was absolutely beautiful. We sat and ate some biscuits and enjoyed the cool breeze! Cameroon is beautiful. It’s strange looking at the campsite from such a high viewpoint, it looked so small. And you can see just how isolated it is from the world.

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08/12/2016- Went bird watching with Adrian this morning which was really nice. We went to a new part of the forest. It was so steep and the soil underfoot was so loose! For most of the climb down I just slid down on my bum. It was so fun! This forest fragment was so beautiful, the trees were much taller than the other fragments I’d seen so far. We saw a new species, a lovely Green longtail. The closest thing I can compare it to is the long tailed tit we see in Europe. It was so beautiful and had a lovely song. As soon as the sun came up the forest came to life. About 7 white-bellied crested-flycatcher’s started singing and performing some sort of feeding behaviour. They would sit on a perch and push their wings out and then do a quick swooping flight down and around and then back on the perch. It was so nice to watch. Cicadas started buzzing and the forest had woken up. On the way back, near camp, I saw a red-throated wryneck which was brilliant. What a lovely, bird filled day.

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09/12/2016- Woke up and tried to make a cup of tea, but the firewood wasn’t great and it took ages! Eventually the water boiled and I could enjoy a nice warm drink. Packed everything up this morning. It was strange seeing the square of flattened grass where my tent was. My little living space would just be pasture again, ready for the cows next visit. Went for a last wash in the stream. We just got everything ready for tomorrow and stayed around camp. We all stayed in the hut to sleep. It was really exciting, like a big sleepover! Or maybe I just found it exciting…. We all chose our spot on the floor and set out a roll mat and sleeping bag. Last day in the mountains done and dusted.

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10/12/2016- Up and ready in time for the porters arrival. They were taking our huge bags for us. We set off shortly after them. Me and Kasia stuck together and made our way down behind the boys. We both fell flat on our faces, it was so funny. The paths are so slippy from dew. We were singing Christmas songs which got us quite excited for home. We got to the bottom of the mountain and had a wash in the pool from the stream and carried on to Big Babanki. From Big Babanki we got a taxi to Bamenda and found our hotel. Def Hotel. Words can’t describe how horrible Def hotel is. Me and Kasia turned the light on in our room and about 20 cockroaches ran across the floor. They were all over our luggage. Ugh. Me, Kasia and Tomasz went to the market with Ernest to get some last bits and then met the others at a bar. We sat and drank lots of black smirnoffs and beers. Mainly to block out the night in Def Hotel that lay ahead of us. Me and Kasia decided to sleep with all our possessions on the bed with us to try and keep the cockroaches off them. And we had the main light on all night. We didn’t sleep.

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11/12/2016- Got no sleep. Me and Kasia got ready really early and went outside to wait for the boys, it was better than staying locked in a room with all the creepy crawlies! We all went to the bus station and Paweł and Michał went and sorted our tickets to Limbe. The bus station was so so busy. There were people everywhere and huge coaches weaving in between all the madness. It was crazy! Eventually our bus arrived and we loaded our luggage on top. It was so so squished. They fit one more person on each row than they should, so everyone is wedged in, sweaty, hot and flustered. It was a nightmare. The journey lasted about 8 and a half hours and we stopped once. One thing I really enjoyed about the journey was seeing how the landscape changed. It changed to more tropical forest with lots of banana trees and coconut trees. It was beautiful. In the darkness of night we got near Limbe and then had to swap buses to arrive at our final destination. We arrived at Miramare hotel and it was such a breath of fresh air. It looked a lot cleaner than Def Hotel and had a swimming pool! We could smell the sea too! It was like we had arrived at paradise. We sorted our rooms out and then went in the pool. It was so relaxing.

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Cameroon- Part 3 of 5

Music- Oxo- Baby boubous-Confetti butterflies- Being poorly- Cows & Nets- Cows at night- Boubou nest- Ndola

25/11/2016- Bird ringing again today and got a new species, a beautiful Green-headed sunbird. We all had lunch sat around the one big pot, forks at hand. For some reason today the usual one whiskey turned into several, and we all got quite drunk. It was really nice to just chat and laugh and after a while we all crashed out. I fell asleep outside my tent on the grass in the sunshine, which unfortunately led to some slight sunburn. We all woke up and continued the drinking. Tomasz set up the loudspeakers and put some music on. It was such a lovely evening, we had a dance and just enjoyed listening to music. Polish music is actually really good. I had no idea what they were singing about but the tunes are nice.

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26/11/2016- Woke up and went and did experiments. In a few days we will have finished the duet playback experiments and will be able to start new experiments using just male calls. The female birds seem really interesting to me, they seem to move around more and some do strange calls. Got back to camp and went to wash in the stream with Kasia. The cold water doesn’t even phase me now, it’s just part of the routine. Me and Kasia were in charge of lunch, we had some meat left from the market so we made a meat stew type thing. I added a few oxo cubes I’d brought from home to try and give it a British-stew flavour!

27/11/2016- Woke up with really bad stomach pains today and felt quite sick. Stayed at the camp and did bird ringing with Paweł. We caught females from two different territories which is amazing!

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28/11/2016- Still don’t feel good today. Stayed at the camp to try and rest. Paweł came back from bird ringing and told us that he had found a boubou nest! After lunch me him and Adrian went to investigate. As we got there the largest of the two chicks had fledged so we took the opportunity to catch it and apply rings. It was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen! When we had processed the first chick I climbed our handmade ladder and reached for the second chick. This one was slightly smaller and was making a lovely call. I got to hold my first ever boubous! After processing, I climbed the ladder and put them back in the safety of the nest. They were happy enough and didn’t try to escape. Climbing the ladder was so funny. It involved Paweł holding the bottom because there was nothing for it to lean against. It was so shaky but fun! We were all very excited because we might be the only people in the world who have ever held Yellow-breasted boubou chicks!

29/11/2016- I love the sky when I first wake up. It is still dark and I get to see Mars, the plough, Orions belt and the seven sisters. It’s one of my favourite times of the day. Stargazing whilst brushing my teeth! Still not well so I stayed to bird ring again. We caught another female boubou which is great.

30/11/2016- Very bored of being ill. Stayed at camp again. When we ate lunch there was an eruption of beautiful white butterflies. There were hundreds. They were floating about on the breeze and looked life confetti. I was watching them all for ages. Some of them stop on perches and eagerly await a visit from a partner, some aren’t so successful. It was such a nice sight.

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01/12/2016- Ill still. Paweł brought back a Petit’s cuckoo shrike he had caught whilst bird ringing which was nice. It was so beautiful! Plain spaghetti for lunch.

02/12/2016- Felt really poorly this morning. Helped Paweł with bird ringing. Found some antibiotics in my first aid kit so started to take them. Rested for most of the day and then we all sat around the fire and listened to music. Me and Kasia had a bit of a dance which was nice. Paweł had a dance too! It made me feel happier and took my mind off of my stomach pain!

03/12/2016- Still ill.

04/12/2016- Slightly better today, stayed at camp to rest some more. Two of the mist nets we use for bird ringing were destroyed by cows overnight. Me, Paweł and Adrian removed all the debris but unfortunately they were too ruined. I was talking to the Czech team about Christmas traditions. They told me that Father Christmas visits on the evening of the 5th of December and leaves sweets for the children to open on the 6th. On Christmas Eve it isn’t Father Christmas that visits with presents, but Little Jesus. I enjoy listening to all the different traditions.

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05/12/2016- Still ill so stayed at camp, but feeling better than the previous days. During the night the cows had entered the camp and you could hear them munching away. They got chased away though incase they decided to take a stroll over our tents. Had a wash in the stream in the afternoon to try and feel better. In the afternoon I went with Paweł to retrieve the now empty boubou nest. It was so small! And so beautiful. They make the cosiest homes. Sat around the fire for the evening as usual.

06/11/2016- Feeling better and so finally back in the field. Went to new parts of the forest which was nice. The male only playbacks are interesting, the boubou pairs seem to respond for a longer time compared to the duet playbacks. Got back to camp and the boys prepared some traditional Cameroon food for us. We had Ndola which is a bit similar to spinach, fufu which is ground corn, and then a stew. It was really nice. For a snack, me and Kasia have taken to haven rice mixed with Brolli. Brolli is the local condensed milk and it is amazing! When you mix it with rice it tastes like rice pudding. AMAZING! In the evening I saw three beautiful Great blue turacos. They are the best bird species I have seen here so far. They are huge and have really long tailed and large crests. Just beautiful.

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Cameroon- Part 2 of 5

Dragonflies- Crater walks- The big storm- Polish lessons- Renovations- Persol ringing- Market day

18/11/2016- Today was very windy, so we weren’t able to go to an do any recordings. I ended up assisting with bird ringing. We caught a beautiful nightjar and a blue-billed fire finch as well as both individuals from a pair of boubous!! In the afternoon I decided to sit in the porch of my tent and listen to some music. I was in a world of my own and when I looked up the sky was alive with movement. The first layer of life came from hundreds of dragonflies out to catch their smaller pray. It was beautiful. I’ve never seen so many. Above the dragonflies were lots of swifts. I’m not sure why they were all out, but I didn’t mind. It was lovely to watch.

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19/11/2016- A normal day today. Went and did 5 successful experiments. Feeling inspired today about possible avenues to go down with the research. I think the females are extremely interesting. I’m already excited for next years field work topics.

20/11/2016- Another windy day today so we took advantage of it and went to the crater Mbe. Paweł showed me, Kasia and Adrian the way. It was quite a long walk but most of it was quite flat and we didn’t have to scrambled through too much vegetation. We crossed lots of streams and came across lovely open pastures with a few grazing horses and cattle. We stopped near a stream at one point and I was about 15 cm away from a long, thin, green snake. I quickly retreated and it decided it didn’t want a confrontation. I know there is a green mamba in Cameroon but I’m pretending it wasn’t that. Don’t like the thought of being so close to such a venomous snake! We arrived at the crater and it was more beautiful than I imagined. It was massive! The sides were sheer drops down into an edge of forest. The centre of the crater is flat and stretches so far. Paweł says it’s used to grow the local tea. It looked so tempting just to run across. We stayed and watched vultures overhead and enjoyed a bag of whiskey each and a tin of sardines with some sliced garlic. After seeing Mbe we went and saw an older crater which was very different but equally lovely to look at. The walk back was tough, we were running out of water, it was very hot and very long. But we made it back. Saw so many new bird species today. I think my favourite is the blue-breasted bee-eater.

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21/11/2016- Had the worst night sleep. But probably one of the most exciting of my life. There was a huge thunderstorm. I was woken up by a huge flash of light and a massive crashing sound right above me. We were camping in the middle of the storm. Unfortunately I’m not very clued up on how to keep safe in thunderstorms whilst camping on top of a mountain. So I was a bit of a wimp and went and stood in the hut. For some reason having a solid structure around me made me feel safer. It was amazing. I sat with Kasia under a blanket and we ate some chocolate spread. The worst of it lasted for about an hour and then I decided I wanted some sleep so retreated to my cosy tent once again. After the excitement of the night time storm it turns out the birds didn’t want to cooperate and did’t call too much. Had a wash in the stream and then there was another storm. This weather is apparently strange for this time of year. I sat with Kasia in the afternoon and she tried to teach me some polish. It’s so hard! But I am determined to learn.

22/11/2016- Today I was bird ringing with Paweł. We didn’t stay at the station, we went and made a temporary base at the bottom of small persol. We caught a beautiful diabowski’s twinspot, they have eyes the colour of blackcurrant juice. It was a great morning and we caught a boubou which was a bonus.

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23/11/2016- A normal day today. Lunch was exciting, Michał and Paweł made chips from batats and plantains and they were amazing.

24/11/2016- Today was market day. Me, Michał, Kasia and Adrian took the 3 hour walk down to Big Babanki to get more supplies. On the way down we stopped at a small pool formed by the stream and washed. Me and Kasia fashioned a swing from a low hanging vine which was quite fun. We arrived in the town and enjoyed a cold beer. It went straight to my head! After enjoying some bananas we headed into the market. We found most things we needed, although this market is a lot smaller than the one in Bamenda so we couldn’t find and tartina, mayonnaise, luncheon meat or coffee. Me and Kasia decided to buy lots and lots of biscuits and sweets. Our base at the market was the market pub. Locals were enjoying listening to Bob Marley and so were we. As well as drinking more of the lovely Castel beer. Eventually we had to make the return journey back up to camp. We set off later than we should of and most of the journey was in darkness. And in rain. It took ages to climb up but eventually we did it.

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Cameroon – Part 1 of 5

Arrival-Bus Journey-Market-The Hike- Stream washing- Lion D’Or- Fieldwork-Bird ringing- Czech arrivals-Small Persol- Stars and planets- Various foods

07/11/2016- Arrived in Yaounde in the Evening having started the long journey from Warsaw at 04:00. Stepped off the plane and was instantly hit by humidity and heat. We took a short drive to the hotel where we were staying that night. First impressions of Cameroon were that it is very lively! The roads seem to have no rules, just drive. There was lots of music playing and people selling various foods at the side of the road. We got to the hotel and left our stuff so we could go and eat. We were all security checked and scanned before being allowed into the bar. We had some amazing fish cooked by a “big mamma”. I noticed the moon was upside down and looked like a thin smile in the sky, a nice welcome to my first time in Cameroon.

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08/11/2016- Got a taxi to the bus station, this involved me (the smallest of the group) sitting on the gear box section. It was very busy but I went with Paweł to buy the bus tickets. This was just a small, windowless hut. We waited for a couple of hours, filling the time by eating bananas, doughnuts and drinking beer. When the bus set off a preacher gave a very expressive speech about how Jesus was with us on this journey and would keep us safe. He was extremely passionate.  The journey in total lasted about 8 hours and was pretty horrid. We were in a huge coach but the roads are so pot-holed that we were constantly swaying from side to side and being bounced around. By the end of it I felt so ill. Every now and then the bus would stop and local people would try and sell food through the windows, at one point a couple of women actually got on and rode with us for few hundred meters. We arrived in Bamenda and quickly got a taxi to Big Babanki. We met Ernest, the man who helped arranged everything for us. Everyone was saying that we are welcome which was nice.

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09/11/2016- Market day is mad. We went to Bamenda and set up camp in a bar for the day. In small groups we delved into the market and searched for what we needed to take up to the mountain. There is everything you can think of. Me and Kasia were put in charge of getting toilet rolls and went quite over the top. The smells were amazing, especially near the spice markets. It was quite exciting trying to barter with the different characters. At the end of a very long day we headed back to Big Babanki with all our goods.

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10/11/2016- Today was the day of the hike. It was so hard. Local guys helped carry our bigger bags and market goods up. We all walked at different paces. Paweł took the lead and I broke off from the others in a desperate need to just get to the top. We both ended up walking together for the second half of the hike. I was so tired that he ended up taking my bag for me. The landscape is beautiful, although apparently a lot of the forest that was there last year had disappeared to make way for fields. We made it to the top and set up our tents. There is a small hut up there for all our equipment and food and apart from that its just the birds, bees and trees with us. I went with Kasia to the stream and we had our first wash in days. The water was so cold!!!! But i didn’t care, I just wanted to feel clean. I tried my first sachet of local whiskey, Lion D’Or. It is 45% and tastes like caramel.

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11/11/2016- First day of fieldwork. Went with Tomasz to find boubou pairs for our experiments. It was nice to see more of the forest. After being out all morning we got back and everyone enjoyed lunch. Me and Kasia tried to find the stream to wash our clothes but got completely lost. In the afternoon I went with Paweł and Adrian to check other territories and we did some bird watching. We sat and looked out at the amazing view over the valley. We saw a beautiful African Blue Flycatcher. Today I saw my first boubou.

12/11/2016- More fieldwork today. Me and Kasia were more successful and actually found the stream so we could wash our clothes.

13/11/2016- First day of experiments. We completed 5 playback experiments which was so exciting. Got back to camp and did the usual. As it is Sunday we got to drink our nice whiskey we had brought from Europe. Me and Kasia played cards with the Czech boys which was fun. Although I usually lost!

14/11/2016- Bird ringing in Africa!!!! I helped Paweł with his bird ringing today. We caught lots of different species. Greenbuls, wattle-eyes, african thrush, pin tailed whydah, various sunbirds, and A YELLOW BREASTED BOUBOU! I got to see how to take blood from a bird, we took feather samples and applied colour rings so we can identify specific individuals for experiments next year. Whilst writing down all the measurements we decided that Paweł would help me learn Polish numbers. They are so hard!

 

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15/11/2016- New people arrived at camp today. The team from the Czech Republic. Now the camp was very busy but it was a nice change. As the surroundings of the camp were our bathroom, bees decided to show up. Lots of bees. They didn’t bother us though, just hummed a lot.

16/11/2016- Usual field work in the morning. In the afternoon me, Kasia and Adrian hiked up the smaller of the two mountain peaks near our camp. The view was amazing. We could see Big Babanki in the distance, I couldn’t believe we had walked that far to get to camp. In the evening we all sat around the camp fire like normal. We did some star gazing. Every night we can see Mars and thousands of stars. I learnt a new constellation, the swan. It was so peaceful.

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17/11/2016- Another bird ringing day. Me and Paweł experimented with rice. First we had it with mayo, tomatoes and some mystery hot spice. Then later we had it with Tartina, the local chocolate spread. Both dishes were very tasty! I went to try and record new boubou pairs in the afternoon but they weren’t calling. In the evening there was a storm, we all stood under the shelter and watched it. It was so exciting. After it passed we got warm around the fire. Michał made batats (sweet versions of white potatoes) in the ashes of the fire. Sprinkled with some salt they were amazing!!

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