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