The Walkathon

Today is day 20 of the Walkathon but we haven’t ventured out yet. We’ll go for a walk in Lyme Park today I think, although at the moment the sky is looking full of rain and it’s a bit windy! But, come rain or shine we will be going out! The past 20 days of walking every day have been lovely. Getting outside into nature is the best thing for me, especially in lockdown.

So where have we been and what gorgeous creatures have we met? Well, we’ve met Ferdinand, Gracie, Bo, Joe, Kathy and Heathcliffe, 6 gorgeous calves that are usually busily munching grass in a field near home. We’ve met the two pigs who always come running when we call for them. Although we’ve sadly been informed they are no longer with us! We’ve seen some lovely ducks, dippers and a kestrel. We’ve seen deer herds recovering from a busy rutting season and we’ve seen lots of highland cattle too. Obviously, me being me, I talk to them all and make a big fuss. We’ve met all these beauties on our various walks and we love it! We know a lot of walks that start from our door step so we explore the greater Mill Brow area a lot. We go to Lyme Park a lot too, usually getting a take away hot chocolate half way round. We obviously get the luxury one with whipped cream and marshmallows!

A new place we explored very recently was Shining Tor, not too far from my Mum’s old house. There had been reports of a Snow bunting which is very uncommon in these parts. We headed up the huge hill in extremely windy and misty conditions and right at the top, we saw it. He was absolutely gorgeous, bobbing about without a care in the world. I don’t normally twitch birds because I don’t like the thought of 10’s of people surrounding a bird who is probably exhausted and out of its way. But, this snow bunting had no crowd and so we enjoyed it for a brief few minutes before leaving him to munch away. The weather up there was a treat in itself, the wind was so strong it was tricky to stay upright. The clouds formed a thick layer that seemed to be covering the top half of the world. Almost like a blind that had been pulled half way down our view. It was amazing!

Being out and about at this time of year there’s lots of leaves on the ground and so I’m trying to identify the trees they came from if they look new to me. I saw some love heart shaped leaves the other day and discovered they are from Lime trees. I also figured out Field maple too. Although all the leaves are a bit slippy underfoot, I love seeing all the colours together. They look gorgeous and that’s why I love this time of year. Especially on crisp, sunny days with a bright blue sky.

On top of my walking I’ve done some bird ringing in the garden which is nice. In fact, the first bird I caught the other day was a nuthatch that i’d already ringed. A gorgeous male that I first encountered in May.

I’ve also been doing my turkish lessons and PhD work. I have an exam for Turkish early next year and have decided to step my learning up a bit so I can practice as much as possible.

I’m really missing rock climbing at the moment and can’t wait for December to arrive so me and Mol can start going again. I feel my strength that I’d been building up is dwindling by the day! EEK! I’m doing yoga every morning to try and help my flexibility which I hope will help when we finally go back. It’s also really nice to do for relaxing and getting any tension out. It’s probably something I will continue doing after lockdown ends.

These past weeks I’ve made some lovely new recipes for tea too. Including a sweet potato one pot dish and a courgette and asparagus tart. I’ve basically turned Mum and Mol veggie now and so we’re trying new recipes to keep everything exciting. Nigella, eat your heart out! hehe

That’s it for now really.

Stay safe and happy!

xx

Walking through lockdown

Since my last post I have been quite busy with lots of lovely things. Birding, climbing, working and walking as per usual. I actually had a lovely bird ringing session with Jake and Ingrid, setting up nets on the edge of a flooded field to try and catch Snipe, Teal or Lapwing. We arrived really early so it was pitch black and the birds wouldn’t be too spooked. This meant we got to use Ingrid’s night vision binoculars to assess what was about. Through the device we could see lots of glowing white birds, these were canada geese they were there to rest for the night. We waited for a while and had a brew to warm up. The sun slowly began to rise and things became brighter. All of a sudden the birds began moving as they were waking up from their slumbers. This led to us catching two Snipe and two Lapwing. We ran to the nets so fast, we were all very excited! Snipe are utterly lovely up close. They have long delicate beaks and gorgeous big eyes. They were both so calm and lovely to handle. The lapwings were just super to see! After all the biometrics were taken and the birds were released we celebrated with some tasty cookies that Ingrid has made. The early start was well worth it!

After the lovely morning of bird ringing I went home, got myself ready and headed into Manchester with Mol. We decided we’d have a night away as our holiday for 2020. Neither of us have been anywhere this year and we wanted one night of relaxation and loveliness. We’d booked to stay at the Midland hotel so we could go and eat lovely food and do some Christmas shopping. It was such a nice couple of days. When we arrived we went down Canal Street to find the Divina DeCampo painting as she’s one of our favourite drag queens! We didn’t even care that it was raining! We ate some amazing pancakes for lunch and then did a bit of shopping which was great. After drinking some wine in our room we headed out for a delicious evening meal at Cottonopolis in the Northern Quarter. They do Japanese tapas dishes and they were incredible. So so tasty! Although I have to say, we tried a couple of their cocktails and they were a bit much for us! haha Think we’ll stick to our espresso martinis and long island ice tea in the future! It was so nice to get away with Mol and have a girly, sister day to ourselves.

We’ve been rock climbing a few times which has been brilliant. We’re both definitely seeing an improvement and I feel more muscley and fit than I have in a long time! woo! I might be small, but I’m a strong bean!

On Saturday it was Halloween so we carved pumpkins to make sure we were protected from any spooky spirits! I love Halloween and the traditions behind it. I was working at the bar that night which was nice. There was a bit of gloom cast over the shift though because Boris Johnson announced the second lockdown that would be starting in the next few days. COVID seems to be everywhere now and so the only thing that can be done is to shut everything down again. I’m gutted I won’t be able to work, it has been so lovely to get out of the house and chat with different people. I actually thought I’d handled the news quite well but the next day I had a bit of a melt down about it all. Mol gave me a big hug and calmed me down. Sometimes things just pile up and a good cry clears your head! Me and Mum have decided that every day of the lockdown we are going to go on a walk, come rain or shine. This way we get out of the house, can enjoy nature and most importantly, we can smile. The walks have been lovely so far. We’ve made friends with some calves and splashed around in puddles. The rain has been pretty torrential lately so footpaths are now streams!

That’s all really. This next few weeks are going to be strange but I need to keep smiling and enjoying the simple things. And if not, I can always drink a load of mulled wine!

Stay safe

xx

My first magpie

The past couple of weeks have been lovely considering all the restrictions that are on. Luckily I can still go on walks, still climb and still learn Turkish. So all my Amie hobbies are in-tact! Phew!

I actually went on a lovely walk with Mum last week. We decided to go and see the deer rut one afternoon. It was a nice day, even if it was a bit breezy, and we enjoyed being out in the autumn weather. We went to Lyme Park and had a wander up to Lyme cage. We saw a good few groups of deer and stood for a while to admire them. Some of the stags are huge and they were all roaring at each other to protect their hareems. It’s amazing how close they came to us, they’re so focused on their task ahead they don’t seem to notice people wandering around. There were meadow pipits flying over and a large group of thrushes too. We even got to see some Rooks which was a treat as I don’t see them much here. I used to see them all the time when I lived in Poland!

I went bird ringing earlier this week and the weather turned warm and the sky filled with sunshine. It was a welcome treat considering all the rain we’ve had up here in the north west. It was a great ringing session actually. We caught the usual finches and tits but also caught a Greater spotted woodpecker, a grey wagtail and a magpie!! I caught the magpie in the whoosh net and this time managed not to punch myself in the face when pulling the trigger! I’ve never ringed a magpie before and it was so lovely to see one so close up. The tail feathers are like beetle juice, when the light catches them at different angles they have an iridescent sheen of blue and green. People give magpies a bad rep and don’t like how cunning they are and that they eat chicks in the breeding season. The thing is, a bird of prey can eat small mammals or birds and it’s seen as an amazing hunter, but a magpie is seen as being nasty and sneaky. I don’t understand it myself, it’s doing what it can to stay alive. I love a magpie, I’ll always stick up for them!! It was a pleasure being able to ring one. The woodpecker gave me a hard time. It was pecking my fingers so hard but I just had to grin and bare it! I was left with pin pricks all over my fingers by the end of it!!

Rock climbing has been going so well. I’ve definitely seen an improvement this last week and have managed to ascend two different 6a top rope routes. I feel the strength in my arms is getting better and my technique too. I just love the sport and know I’ve found something I’m really passionate about. It’s great for my mental health as well as physical health which is perfect in these COVID filled times.

Another exciting thing from this week has been the publication of a paper of mine. The paper talks about the natural vocal behaviour of the Yellow-breasted boubou which is the study species for my phd. I feel very proud that this paper has been published and feel like it’s a nice positive step towards completing the PhD.

Other than my various hobbies and uni work I’ve been cracking on at the bar. The new restrictions and tier system are making everything a bit awkward and annoying but we’re all pulling through and making a bad situation as fun and lighthearted as possible! I’m glad I’ve settled in there now and can earn some money in these difficult times! Plus, knowing how to make cocktails is a life long skill, especially when at a party!

That’s all for now really. I’m sat here with the cat sat on my knee, snoring away. I think she’s realised I’m the warmest thing in the house so she’s taking advantage!! She’s too cute to move to be honest, so I’ll give her another 10 minutes or so!

Hope you’re all safe and sound.

Xx

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

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

Adventure time!

So this week has been very hectic! Lots going on and lots to sort out!! I’m shattered now!

I’ve been helping my Dad move house for most of the time. He’s bought a house with an annex for my Grandpa to live in. It was all go on Thursday! My back was killing me by the end of the day and I lay on my bedroom floor for a while to calm down and try and work out the kinks!!!

I’ve also had a lot of time with my Mumma too. We’ve been busy walking my aunties dog and on Friday we got to babysit Arthur, my little nephew!! He is the cutest little bean!!! He doesn’t stop smiling and he napped on me for a solid two hours! Cutie!

We’ve been on a few walks this week, lots of birds singing and flowers blooming. I heard some birds squabbling and found a pied flycatcher and a coal tit having a bit of a flighty fight! Not sure who won, I was just chuffed I’d seen the flycatcher!

I’m now back in Poznan, the first leg of my journey to Mozambique. I’m currently sat in my office packing my equipment. I have two huge automatic recorders (6kg each!!) a small recorder, a microphone, gps, camera and headphones. As well as the tech, I have my binoculars, bird book and various notepads!! That’s just in my hand luggage! My big bag has my home for the next three weeks! Tent, sleeping bag, clothes and wash kit!! I’m prepped and ready! Just hope no monkeys raid my smellies when I leave my tent unsupervised!!

I smiled a lot walking to uni this morning, I was listening to the yellowhammers and wood warblers singing close by. I don’t get to hear them much at home so I stopped and took it in. They both have lovely sounds!!

So tonight I’m relaxing before a very hectic few days ahead! I’m not sure why, I’m a little apprehensive about travelling to Mozambique. I know I’ll love it once I’m there. Think I’ve gotten too used to being home!!! My family are just too bloody lovely to leave!!!

Xx

Dippers

Another nice week spent with family and friends. I had a random cold for a couple of days but I was fine after lots of brews and naps!!

I’ve mainly been doing work and practising my Turkish. I had an online lesson this week with my wonderful teacher, Demir. I really need to start writing a diary in Turkish! It would help my vocabulary so much!

This week I also went on a rainy walk with my Mum and Sister. We got soaked, but we had such a lovely time. We saw a grey heron up close which was great. We embraced the rain drops on our faces and laughed at our bright red thighs when we got home and changed!!

I finally managed to fit some bird ringing in this week. I met Jake and Ingrid early on Saturday morning and we set off to check Dipper activity. For those of you who don’t know, Dippers are the only songbird in Britain to have adapted to the aquatic lifestyle. They “dip” into fast flowing rivers to feed on all the scrumptious invertebrates!! This time of year they are pairing up and building nests! We saw a few pairs and a few individuals which was great! A great way to spot them is by there fast, fluttery flight over the ripples of the river or by their bright white chests when they perch on a stone! Either way, they are bloody gorgeous!

Last night me, my Dad, Grandpa and Aileen went for a meal in Manchester which was lovely! We had a bloody lovely tapas and a few bevvies!! Me and Dad blasted a few Queen tunes on the way home for good measure.

I’m now sat at my Nana and Grandads with my Mum. We’re making a chicken roast. Can’t think of a better way to end the week!

Xx

Little wrens

I’m posting after a gap of 2 weeks but I’m glad to be back!

Nothing too dramatic has happened. But I’ve gotten to see lots of my lovely family which is always a gorgeous thing to do! Whenever I am home I am put to use, I’ve been detangling necklaces for Nana; decluttering the loft with Grandpa; gardening for Dad and doing various odd jobs with Mum.

I’m slowly but surely getting all of my bits together for my research trip to Mozambique. Can’t believe I go so soon! I always love seeing new species of birds and experiencing new parts of the world.

Today I’m full of a stinking cold, but me, my Mum and my Sister met up for a lovely Mother’s Day breakfast and went on a walk. I spotted a sweet little wren singing his heart out on a low branch of a tree. Excitedly I pointed out the distinctive trill in the song, and explained how there were two others nearby so they were all singing to defend their territories. Molly laughed a lot, I’m such an odd ball! I always assume everybody loves birds as much as me!!!!

Anyway, not much to report, but having a cozy afternoon with my gorgeous Mumma.

Xx