It’s October already!

This week has been quite chilly and yesterday the heavens opened and it rained constantly for the entire day! The air is certainly feeling more autumnal, which for me is quite exciting as it’s my favourite season! When I was little this time of year was so exciting. We’d always throw Halloween parties for mine and Molly’s friends, I remember finding all the decorations in the garage and putting everything up. It was a big thing in our house growing up. And then shortly after Halloween we’d have bonfire night which is just magical, huge fires, roasting marshmallows and dazzling fireworks. So I think the leaves changing colour, conkers on the floor and cold crisp days tell my spirit that a lovely time of year is coming. Plus, I have a slight jumper obsession so its the time of year when I can start my serious layering! 😀

Since my last post I have been quite busy with various things. As usual I have been rock climbing which I truly love. It takes my mind off of everything else and I just focus on the route ahead. It’s challenging both mentally and physically which I think suits me! I’ve had a painful knee which has stopped me going as much as I’d like, but I took the advice of my cousin Ste and loaded on ibuprofen which seems to have helped!

I’ve been bird ringing this week which was lovely. We caught over 100 birds which was great! I actually had my first try doing the whoosh net. Normally we use a mist net, which is a long vertical net that spans several meters. The whoosh net is different, it uses bungee cord tension to catapult the net forwards and over ground feeding birds. We use this for larger species such as Carrion crows, Magpies, Jay and Wood pigeon. I sat in the hide for an hour and waited for any crows to come down. It was a slightly dramatic ending, I pulled the cable with all my might to release the bungee, ended up punching myself in the face and the bird escaped! haha At least I tried eh?! Next time will be better I’m sure!

There’s been some other lovely things this week. I harvested my first ever carrots!! They were very short but smelt amazing, so I’m really chuffed. I also went for drinks with my friend Beth and had a lovely cocktail decorated with flowers, I felt like a blummin princess!

I’ve been doing work as well as my hobbies. In fact, one of my papers has been accepted for publication which is really exciting. I’ve also been working at the bar too, which is a nice change of pace in my week.

I have started to try and think of lovely things for each day, sort of like a gratitude journal. I find it helps me focus on nice things in my week. Yesterday the thing that made me smile was a sunflower finally bursting into colour in the garden. It chose the most miserable day to do it, but seeing it opened up was lovely and put a smile on my face. Another thing that has made me smile was seeing red leaves on the trees. Those colours are just magical to me! I am going to continue looking for all the lovely things in my life because it’s a nice way to be thinking.

That’s all for now!

xx

Back at it!

Well, here I am again. I took a massive break from writing blog entries. I can’t really put my finger on why I stopped exactly. At the beginning of the year my head was all over the place and I guess I just didn’t feel like it. And then COVID-19 hit and life went strange and a bit monotonous! Recently I’ve been thinking about starting to write again as I used to really enjoy it and it made me reflect on lovely things I had done every week, which must be good for my mind set! 😀

So what have I been up to?

During the early lockdown days of COVID when rules were strict and the roads were bare, I enjoyed walks with Mum and Mol. We were so lucky with the weather in March/ April and so we would walk everyday and enjoy seeing the flowers beginning to bloom and the birds singing. This year I’ve really appreciated the subtle changes in nature which has been refreshing. I now know the time scale of when different flowers appear and I even learnt to ID them. I remember one afternoon where I cracked the difference between meadow buttercup and creeping buttercup, I felt geeky and great! Nature has been really helpful during this crazy pandemic time, everything sometimes feels overwhelming and daunting but stepping outside and getting fresh air really helps.

As well as nature based stuff we’d do weekly family quizzes on zoom which was a lovely way to see the family. Me and Mol would also Skype Dad and Grandpa for a catch up because we couldn’t go and visit. Now lockdown restrictions have eased, it is so lovely to be able to see people and enjoy different company. Every day felt like ground-hog day but now little changes to daily life are welcome and lovely. I must admit, I think I gained an even worse houseplant obsession and my green family has exploded! I’ve heard talking to plants helps them grow so that’s my excuse for acting crazy!! Hehe

I am still bird ringing when I get the chance which I thoroughly enjoy. Ingrid always brings cake which is a treat and its nice to be with like minded people, to appreciate nature and just have a good old chit chat. In addition to my bird ringing hobby, me and Mol have started rock climbing. I used to do it in Poland, but since leaving I haven’t done any. I absolutely love doing it. We go a few times a week and do bouldering, we are waiting to pass our rope climbing course so we can be let loose on the walls. I have been practicing an overhang bouldering route and every session I get a little bit further and a little but more confident with the technique. It gives me such a buzz! We were able to go on an outdoor climbing trip one evening. We were a little apprehensive about it, but we enjoyed it so much, I think we both prefer the outdoors! We went to Lawrencefield quarry in the peak district, a gorgeous setting, almost fairy tale like. The people who went were lovely and really supportive. I think that’s what I like most about climbing actually, everyone we have met so far have been so nice and helpful.

I’ve also been doing my Turkish lessons which has been great. Another lovely distraction from the crazy COVID world. Unfortunately this year I haven’t been able to go to Cyprus, I don’t think I’ll be going this year at all. I guess next time I go my turkish will be better and I can have nice chats with the locals! 😀

I’ve been writing my thesis and sorting out various papers I would like to publish for my PhD. It is getting closer to the end point now and so I am constantly looking for jobs to make the next step in my career. I have completed a teaching english as a foreign language course during lockdown to give me another skill. So who knows what I will do in the future. I just hope something falls my way.

In the mean time I have started a bar job which I was so nervous about, but it is actually really nice. I had this weird fear about carrying the trays full of drinks but I feel like I’m fine now, balance is key!! I’m slowly getting more confident in the role and am just glad it is something I can be doing to get me out of the house and doing something a bit different. I’ve also made a few different cocktails now which I am sure will come in handy in the future. If anyone fancies a long island ice tea, I’m your girl!

Well, I think that’s it for now. England is going into more lockdown measures and so life doesn’t look like it will be getting normal anytime soon. But I have my rabbits and cats to cuddle and my lovely family to be with! Not bad at all!

xx

Wader ringing

This week has been lovely. I’ve been able to see my lovely auntie Kathy and saw my cousin Megan and my cheeky nephew Max. It’s always so nice getting to see people when you don’t get to see them a lot!

I also got some really good and exciting news this week. The research I did in Kenya for my masters has been accepted for publication. Soon it will be out for all the world to see. I’m really proud of this. This project made me realise how much I wanted to pursue a career in research and I guess it led me down the path I’m on today. When I get the final web address I’ll be posting it up here so if anyone is interested they can have a read.

The best part of my week was today. Me, Jake and Ingrid, who I usually do bird ringing with, went to North Wales to do some wader ringing with the scan ringing group. It’s really exciting because the method for catching the birds is so different to the normal mist nets we use for the song birds. This method is canon netting and involved a net being catapulted above the birds and catching them underneath. This was done on the shore line today, the target catch was oystercatcher. We waited quietly in the cars until all the birds were in the safe zone for the net to be fired. After the huge bang, we drove down the beach, got out and ran to the net. We then methodically extract all of the birds that have been caught. I had a lovely lady called Rachel helping me with the technique for extracting in this way. It’s very different from what I am used to and so I was very happy to be shown what to do. In total we caught 17 dunlin, 15 redshank and 34 oystercatcher. This was really nice because they are all different sizes and completely different to look at. When the birds are waiting to be processed they are kept in a type of holding pen where it is dark and quiet to keep them relaxed. When you put your hand inside it like a bird version of lucky dip! I’d say it was hard to choose my favourite species from today. The oystercatchers are amazing to look at up close, especially the adults. They have bright red eyes, pink feet and their bills are yellow and orange. They kind of reminded me of a calipo ice lolly! One downside though, they poo a lot and I’m afraid to say, my right leg was covered! Dunlin on the other hand don’t. These are tiny, brownish grey and white birds with dainty, slender bills. They look so beautiful up close and when they all fly together in a flock over the sea it almost reminds me of glitter. They seem to shimmer. Redshank are bigger than dunlin. Gorgeous reddish orange legs that stand tall below them, and a similar coloured beak. They look very elegant and have a gorgeous call when they are in flight. Anyway…. we enjoyed the sunshine on our faces and the nice sea air and headed back once everything was finished.

I’m now a tired little Amie. The sea air does you wonders of good but it makes me feel shattered. In a good way though.

It was such a lovely way to end the week, I’m feeling very positive about the one ahead.

Xx

Bird ringing

I’m sat at the airport, waiting to get my flight to Exeter to visit my wonderful cousin Megan, her husband Tom and the beautiful baby Max!

I haven’t written a blog post in ages. I have been so busy with PhD work and I’ve been doing loads of bird ringing.

So, it dawned on me. I can write on the go! I don’t have to be sat at my desk with my laptop. I can do this anywhere. On my travels, constant. Even if it is just a small post.

The past few weeks I have been out in the field doing a lot of bird ringing. For those of you who don’t know, this is where we catch birds in a huge, standing net (called a mist net) and give them individual metal rings on their legs for later individual identification. From this we can get all sorts of informations. Longevity of different species, migration movements, health, breeding season changes…. loads. It is my favourite hobby. I have the privilege of holding numerous lovely bird species, I get to learn lots of new bits of information and I get to see some beautiful field sights. It’s not all good though, sometimes we ring them at a sewage works….

A usual day of bird ringing consists of getting up before the crack of dawn, getting to the field site, putting up the nets and waiting. We check the nets every 30 minutes and take out any birds we have caught; place them in small holding bags to take back to the ringing station.

At the ringing station:

The ringing station can be anything from a foldaway table, car boot parcel shelf or a boulder in a forest. Either way, you need a secure place to hang bird bags, a flat surface to place the equipment and preferably a way of brewing up! Lately we’ve become pretty high-tech and take a camping stove to make toast or a bacon sandwich! We think we deserve it when we’re out for at least 7 hours in the -1 degrees of winter!

So, what do we actually do with the birds. Well, when a bird is caught and without a ring, we use small ringing pliers to safely secure the unique ID tag. This consists of a unique number and letter code and the address of the Natural History Museum in London (to let others know it was ringed in Britain). Of course we have to ID the species first to make sure we fit the right size ring. We then look at different cues of the birds appearance in order to age and sex it. The can be at very fine detail such as the edging to the greater coverts. Once that’s done, we blow on the throat/ chest of the bird to assess their fat and muscle score. This helps indicate the health of the bird! After this we measure the wing length and we weigh them. All this is written down and later added to a huge database with the BTO (British Trust of Ornithology).

Of course, some birds are caught that already have a ring, their information still gets taken and this way we can see where they were previously caught, how long ago this was etc… amazing!

My trainer was telling me recently about a Puffin that was recaught on the Shiants after 37 years!!!

The best bit about this whole process for me is letting them go. I always feel a bit like a Disney princess!

I have done ringing in all weathers. Sometimes I lose all feeling in my fingers and toes it’s so cold! I have ringed tiny wrens up to a magnificent Sparrow Hawk. I can tell you, quite confidently, that the blue tit gives the nastiest peck. I like this though, feisty and small. A bit like me! I have had the opportunity of ringing in the UK, Cyprus and Cameroon. I’m so lucky!

I think my favourite bird I have ringed so far is probably a Kingfisher. The colours up close are hypnotising.

I could go on and on. I love it. But I think you’ve probably read enough for now!

Have a fab week!

X