Oh what a beautiful week.

I am writing this as I listen to the Motown Party playlist on Spotify. Pretty much sums up my mood from this week, utterly joyful!

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After writing my last post I headed out for a drive. A drive in the small jeep that has no roof and no windows. I got caught in a storm and was pelted with grape sized hail stones. My little fave didn’t know what had hit it, literally! I managed to pull over, I was absolutely soaked and frozen. A bakery nearby had it’s lights on so I knocked on the door and they let me in. They were such kind people. They opened their big bread ovens and let me stand in front to get warm. They gave me lots of tissues to try and dry off. They just wanted to help me. This was all done with little communication due to the language barrier. Before I left they made a dress for me to wear out of a bin bag. If there was another downpour, I now had a shield! This is why I love this Island, the people are just glorious.

Anyway…

The start of the week was the creation of a memory I will never ever forget and something I have wanted to do for a really long time….. SKINNY DIP! And it wasn’t a drunken escapade in the middle of the night, but a glorious bathe in the warm mediterranean sea in the warm October sun in a beautiful bay. I was very happy and had a huge smile on my face. It’s a beautiful thing to do.

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Anyway, less naked-ness. I went birding by myself this week. I took myself and the scope to Kalkanli and Korucam wetlands. Unfortunately Korucam was completely dry, but Kalkanli had a nice array of species to admire. Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Little Egret and lots of Coot. I was so happy when I was on my solo adventure. I smiled and sang and didn’t give a damn about anything. I bloody love my life, I love everyone in it and I love being the solo weirdo that I am!

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This week I still had my auntie Karen, Jenny and Renee visiting which was lovely. Wednesday night was quiz night again and we came up from being last in the first half to coming third overall by the end!!! Silver Rocks Sunnies smashed it. I think the anagram round (in which we got them all!!!) helped a lot. And obviously our vast knowledge of British Kings and Queens……

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On the last night of their visit we went to one of my favourite restaurants, Tervetuloa. The owner, Afet, is one of the coolest women I have ever met and the meze her mother makes is to die for! Stuffed courgette flowers are a delight and a zingy citrus dip was a nice addition. Lovely! I tried a dish I’ve never had before, a traditional Cypriot dish called Macaronie. It is long pieces of macaroni pasta mixed with minced lamb and herbs and topped with a soufle type of cheese sauce. Simple but bloody delicious! Although apparently I have the stomach the size of a Cyprus warbler’s and didn’t eat a lot. I saved it for the next day!

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The morning the girls were leaving we took a drive to Horseshoe bay further west of Lapta along the coast. We expected a lovely ramble along the coast but were left pretty depressed by the sheer amount of plastic everywhere. Honestly, it is a disgrace. Baby wipes, plastic bottles, cigarette butts…. I could go on. I found a plastic bag in a bush and filled it with what I could. I couldn’t help think I was fighting a losing battle. But I guess every little helps. If you are reading this, please try and think of one way you could reduce single use plastic… Instead of plastic water bottles use a re-usable metal one. Instead of baby wipes use cotton wool and water. We share this planet and we are treating it dreadfully. It’s selfish and unnecessary.

Anyway…..

The girls headed off and so to cure my glum mood I went to Roots bar in the evening. As usual I got drunk on various shots and rum and cokes. It was a reggae party and so the atmosphere was really fun. Love that place and my little family there.

I have throughly enjoyed this week. I have smiled at lots of little things.

Here’s to another week of smiles and loveliness.

xx

 

Didn’t you know?… I yacht now.

Hello! Merhaba!

What a fantastic week I have had. It’s weeks like this that make me very happy that my life is so wonderfully weird.

I started my week boarding a yacht. Yes, that’s right, scruffy ol’ me went yachting!!! I was on the yacht with Captain Unal, Alex, Doug and Sarah. All gorgeous people. We made a really nice team. I joined the team in the evening and we went for some food at a local place. I had a salad with loads of chopped up walnuts which was really tasty. We also got a complementary plate of cooked sheep head so I gave that a try. Let’s just say…I shan’t be having it again. But still, it’s good to try new things! Our first night was spent in Les Ambassedeurs Marina in Girne. I had the double bed in the main part of the boat! The titchiest team member and the one with the biggest bed! Can’t complain eh? It was a slightly swaying nights sleep, but amazing none the less. I did wake up at one point though and completely forget where I was. Bit weird!

The next day we all woke up and had a lovely breakfast on deck before we headed off. I still couldn’t believe I was on a sailing yacht! Actually, I should explain. We were all on the boat to take part in seabird and marine mammal surveys. We had to sail along transects and count and ID anything we saw. It was a beautiful first day. The wind was on our side and so we got to do a fare bit of sailing rather than use the motor. Unal is an amazing Captain, full of character and so skilled! We saw Scopoli’s shearwaters, honey buzzards, marsh harrier…Perfect. That first day was also really nice to get to know everyone. We all had really different stories but got on well. I think my main addition to the team was my energy. I was very excited and I think Unal appreciated the buzz! We sailed west and then south the first day, all the way to Yesilmak. We anchored up in a small bay and me and Alex jumped into the sea! The sun was just starting to set, the sea was warm and we got given a wedge of watermelon each to munch on. Probably one of the best moments I’ve had all year. You can’t imagine moments like that, they just happen and when they do, you have to smile and embrace the magic. Back on board we ate tea, shared more stories and watched the stars. Scorpio, Mars and Venus were out in all their glory that night.

The second night on the boat was slightly more rocky. I was woken up a few times with big rolls from the waves, but it was quite exciting and different. We enjoyed another nice breakfast and then headed back to Girne, taking a different course closer to shore. We saw loggerhead turtles, Yelkouan and Scopoli’s shearwaters, turns, ducks, waders. Fab! Doug is a very experienced birder, he was a warden for the RSPB before he retired and so it was brilliant to get little nuggets of his knowledge. We had an in-depth discussion about hobbies and merlins. Aaah the life of a birder. We got back to the marina in the evening, Doug and Unal came back home with me to have a quick shower and freshen up. I said bye to Alex and Sarah before we left. It was weird not being with everyone, we’d had a lovely adventure. That evening I couldn’t stop swaying. The land is still and constant, the sea is constantly changing and unpredictable. My little head was a bit all over the place, I just needed a good nights sleep.

The rest of the week was spent doing PhD work and having a break at Silver rocks for a swim and to get some Turkish practice! I may have mentioned my yacht adventure once or twice….

Friday night came around and I got to see lots of my favourite people. I drove over to Esentepe to meet my Cyprus parents Michelle and Paul (and their new addition, Maisie the puppy). Always so lovely to see them both, we enjoyed a drink and a chat before heading to Roots. Anyone that keeps on top of reading my blogs will know how special this bar is to me. Some of my best nights have been in this bar, and the people there are out of this world. Ash, Hannah, Veysel, Katie, Aydn…The whole team was there and I got to spend an evening with lots of smiling faces. I did have shots and I did have rum and cokes. And yes, I was drunk. The night ended at Michelle and Paul’s, eating pizza and talking about all sorts.

Woke up in the afternoon! Had a few hours with Michelle and Paul, eating amazing bacon-y breakfast, fussing over Maisie and just enjoying the company. Headed home at about 3. I got home and made more plans. One of my favourite humans was back out in Cyprus for a few days, Sav!! I arranged to meet up with him and Alex that evening, have a BBQ at Robbo and Damla’s and have beer! We did just that. Me and Sav then went to a music festival in the old town of Lefkosia. It was an amazing setting and the stage we settled at was home to a soul band playing motown. I was in my element. Again, shots were had. When the band finished there was a spot of breakdancing. I’ve never seen it before, it was so impressive! I feel like they must scrape their heads a lot though, they’re always spinning on them! Eventually we made our way back to Sav’s place. It was a lot more difficult to find a taxi than we had hoped, but luckily my “superb Turkish skills” came into practice. I got us back. Sav just drank beer!

This morning and into the early afternoon I just enjoyed being with Sav and Alex. I made us Halloumi and salad sandwiches and after a good re-fuel was ready to make the journey back home. I drove home with the windows down and my music loud. I sang and I smiled. What a fantastic week.

I feel very cheeky this week. Is it fair that I have so many gorgeous people in my life? Not just my amazing family, but my friends. Pretty sure I’ve hit the jackpot? Anyway, I’m wrapping up this week listening to “Above the cloud’s of Pompeii” by Bears Den and I’m smiling at being in the present. It’s pretty damn good.

xx

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I’ve been back in Cyprus for 2 weeks now and I love it. The weather is still so so hot, the sea is warm and the sky is my favourite shade of blue.

I’ve been busy doing PhD work, got lots of writing to do at the minute! I also got the reviews back for my first paper I have ever submitted!!!!! The reviews are positive and so not much to edit before we send it off again. I’m starting to feel like a proper scientist!

Mum and Beth came out for a week which was lovely. We went to the coast a lot and so I got to see lots of migrating birds. It was Glossy ibises at the start of the week, but by the end it was flocks of Grey herons. One day was really windy and they fought for a while to get going. They were determined though and just came further to the shore. I got a brilliant view!

One new thing I tried this week was a visit to a casino. I have to say, I really didn’t enjoy it. I just don’t understand how people get sucked into it? It’s literally just a place to go to lose money. And i don’t have money to lose! It was interesting people watching. But the staff there don’t like you just standing around, so I just didn’t feel relaxed. At least I can say I’ve done it though. And I guess I know I’m not a gambler, which is a relief!

It’s been lovely to see friends. I have Ahmet, Mehmet and Osman who help me practice Turkish. Afet who makes the best meze on the island and who also helps me with my Turkish! Janet and Keith who are the most gorgeous brummy couple in existence! And loads more. I haven’t even been over to the other side of Girne yet…. Roots is waiting for me!!

Me and Mum have been taking a lot of plastic out of the sea. One thing really annoyed me… we had a small crowd watching us, and after we cleared a lot of it people then went to swim. But they just swam past plastic bags and things and didn’t take them out?!?! Do people not realise that they are going to end up being eaten by marine life? If you think it’s dirty then take it out and wash your hands, that’s better than leaving it for something to eat!!!! Urgh!!!!

Anyway… sorry to rant…

To sum up. Cyprus is glorious. I’m happy to be here and learning the Turkish language and eating the scrumptious food!!

Xx

Roller-ing with the punches

Another glorious week in Cyprus (a.k.a my favourite place in the world).

I’ve filled my time with birds, PhD work and friends. Can’t complain eh?! Monday was the day for my first wetland surveys since being back. I went to two near the West coast of the Island. It was lovely just going by myself. I listened to my music and just embraced the sunshine. It was really windy that day so at one point I just lifted my arms into the air and let the wind hold me up. I laughed, I think it’s good to laugh by yourself. Bird species weren’t out of the ordinary, a lot of coots, some mallards, little grebes and moorhens. There was a gorgeous kestrel scanning the hillside at one site. I watched her for a while. That night I went and stayed with my friend Penny. We had a lovely meze and a few rum and cokes!

Wednesday was probably my favourite day since being back here. I met up with Damla in the morning and we went and checked a lot of Roller nest boxes for chicks to ring. Rollers are probably the most magnificent looking bird on the island, well, either them or bee eaters! (Google both of them because they are beautiful and might just make your day!!). Quite a lot of the nest boxes had chicks. Some of them were pretty huge and had all there turquoise feathers in full show. I won’t lie, Rollers may look beautiful, but of all the birds I have handled (50 species or so!) they are the species that like to poo the most!!! Beautiful yet smelly. They keep their nests very simple. They just line the bottom with a bit of sediment and that is all. No little basket of straw or anything like that. Essentially they just make themselves a little carpet. One nest box just had a skeleton of a chick. It’s things like that that remind you how brutal the animal world is. It is literally a matter of life or death. After an exhausting day I went to Roots Bar to see my fantastic Roots family and Michelle and Paul. It was a fun night filled with laughs. I stayed at Michelle and Paul’s house that night, I think it is safe to say they are my Esentepe parents! The next morning we sat and watched the sea and talked about all sorts. One of my favourite mornings.

Friday morning was more Roller nest box checks. I went with a fellow Kuskor guy, Paul. We checked 8 new boxes but none of them had chicks. Maybe next year…. Had another night at Roots to see Michelle and Paul again. And I got a recipe for raspberry tequila! Need to try that!

Sunday was another Roller day. Me and Paul went and checked 13 nest boxes. 3 of them had Roller chicks! One of them was only a titchy one and it was accompanied by another unhatched egg. It was a pretty long morning but it was nice to get to see the lovely chicks. We also saw a small group of Hoopoe’s which was a nice surprise. (Another bird you should definitely google!). I went for a quick swim at Alagadi to cool off and then went for tea at Roots and watched a bit of an acoustic act that were playing. Didn’t stay too long though. Wanted to get home and relax!

In between all of this birding stuff, it has been election week for Turkey this week. Every day I have heard car horns beeping and music blaring. One day I was caught in a traffic jam of people rallying for their favourite candidate. People literally sit in their cars with their hazard lights on, waving flags and beeping a lot. It was making me smile. They’re very passionate about it. I finally got out of the traffic jam and saw a man riding his horse on a grass covered round-about. I laughed a little bit. I love this Island. It is so random and so unique and it just makes me happy. If I am having a rubbish day there is always something that makes me smile. Yesterday my smiles came from the waves. I waded into the sea and just jumped the waves for a while. Every now and then a big one would could and nearly knock me flying! I laughed to myself again. I think I need to start doing that every day. Find something to laugh about. Even if it’s just myself!

I’m already looking forward to what this week brings me!

X

Bittern, turtle, fox and gecko.

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This week has been rather lovely. It started off with me staying at my Mum’s apartment for a night. Decided I needed a little Amie time. I stepped out onto the balcony to enjoy the first morning sun beams and was greeted by the site of a gorgeous, bronze fox. It seemed timid and very on-edge. I watched it for a while. The foxes here in Cyprus aren’t the dazzling copper of the ones back in the UK. They are flecked with an array of brown colours. Still breathtaking though!

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I took a couple of volunteers to do wetland surveys of the Famagusta chain. It’s a full day of monitoring but it’s lovely because each wetland has it’s own unique charm. We saw a huge group of Alpine swifts at Ergazi which was exciting. Warblers were aplenty, with spectacled, lesser whitethroat, cetti’s, fan-tailed, sardinian and chiffchaff all performing their delightful songs. I had a call from Robbo saying a Bittern had been injured and we needed to collect it to keep it in our rehab cage for a few days. Such a feisty character, and utterly stunning. It’s rare to see bitterns, normally you just hear their booming calls through reed beds. To see one so close was amazing, although, the circumstances could have been a bit better. Luckily it only had a bruised wing, so we provided it with fresh fish for a few days and released her back at the reservoir.

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Another call from Robbo and another animal for us to help. This time it was a turtle that had been stranded on Esentepe beach. It was a pretty big Loggerhead. It was covered in barnacles, algae and bivalves. Looked in a pretty bad way. We think it might have been caught in a net and brought up too quickly, giving it “the bends”. This has left it unable to dive properly, so it has just been floating at the surface, unable to feed. We loaded it into the truck and brought it back to Alagadi awaiting further instruction. I demonstrated how to take biopsies and how to apply flipper tags and we also took measurements of the  carapace (shell). It was then taken to the University vets to be placed on a drip and get some TLC.

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This week I also got back out on a fishing boat. I’ve really missed it, but been so busy! Me and Rupert headed out to Esentepe harbour to meet Cemal. A new fisherman for the team, he was lovely! I used my very limited Turkish and he used his limited English. Between us we managed to communicate okay! He was joined by his brother, and another nearby boat was captained by his son. A family of fisherman (Aile balıkçi)! They had a good haul of their target fish and no by-catch, so it was a good trip. The sunrise was a stunner, such an amazing way to start a day. We usually arrive to harbours in the cover of darkness, which has given me the opportunity to study the stars. I now know a few more constellations and have seen my fair share of shooting stars. I see Jupiter regularly. I now know Scorpio, the Scales of Justice and the Ursa Major (not just “the plough” part). I’ve always loved star gazing, there’s something calming about it.

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Another regular wildlife day I have is the Olkan and Amie eagle days. We use these days to monitor the Bonelli’s eagles breeding in the North of Cyprus. It was an amazing day. We got to see 4 individuals, 3 of which we saw enter the nests. Absolutely fantastic. Such beautiful creatures. Sometimes I find myself pinching myself that I get to live this sort of life. I get to monitor eagles!

As well as the field work, animals also great me on a daily basis. In the mornings I have elated bleats from the goats and a wheezing exclamation from Dion the donkey. By night I have the two gecko’s in the corner above my bed. Unfortunately they aren’t great at keeping the mosquitos at bay and I have had a few bites this week. Mainly on my face and the bottom of my feet!!!!

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Another fantastic week. Flying home tomorrow for a week. So looking forward to cuddles!!

 

xx

The week I held a shark

This past week has been full of mixed emotions. Pure elation, extreme weirdness, unwanted sadness.

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The sadness came with the departure of the lovely Mat! His stint at Sleepy House came to an end this week. He’s off to go on amazing adventures in Madagascar and Mozambique! Although it is weird not having our Belgian boy around, I always try and find silver linings for situations. And I am so glad that I have a new friend who I get to miss. That’s a nice thing to gain I think. Even though it is rubbish to say goodbye!

Before Mat left, we had an extremely exciting encounter! We were on a fishing observation trip together and had two surprise catches. The first was a beautiful marbled electric ray. Mat handled it carefully and showed me the steps of what body measurements to take and how to sex it. The one we had was an adult male. The sex can be distinguished through the presence or absence of claspers. I won’t go too science-y, but thought it was an interesting fact! He explained the differences between sharks and rays to me. There are a couple of intermediate species you see… The Guitar fish is one of them. And so is the Angel shark. We had not long released the ray back into the sea when an Angel shark was on board. Again, Mat talked me through the measurements and how to sex them. This time we had a female. No claspers present! She was utterly beautiful. She was released successfully back into the Mediterranean sea. We looked into the conservation status of the Angel shark. They are considered extinct in this region, so a record like this is so important!

I am still loving my Cyprus life. Office stints for my PhD work are broken up by field work. Perfect life really! The birds are getting more vocal each day. I was walking home from Goat Shed (the office) the other day and just stood for a moment to watch two Sardinian warblers hopping along the fence.

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This morning we were putting up more Great tit nest boxes. The view from the mountain road was breathtaking. The forest itself was like something from a fairytale. Delicate orchids have started emerging from the carpet of pine needles. I imagine they’d be a lovely home for a fairy or two!

I am loving my Cyprus family. I’m smiling every day!

We make amazing cake. We have amazing group cuddles. And they fully embrace my weirdness!

Gdansk and a Shaman

This working week was the usual business. Wake up, run, shower, office time and then Polish lessons or see friends.

It was Corpus Christi on Thursday and so Poland being the highly religious country that it is, everything was shut and it gave us a lovely long weekend. My friend Simla and I decided to take advantage of this and headed to Gdansk for a quick holiday.

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Thursday morning we got to the main train station in Poznan, found our train and climbed aboard! Unfortunately we were unable to reserve seats because the train was so busy and so the 3 and a half hour journey was spent stood up, next to the toilet, in the aisle of the carriage. Nice. Time passed quickly though and it was really nice to look out of the window and see all the lovely wild flowers. There are poppies everywhere now, so beautiful against the pristine green fields and bright blue sky. If I’m not mistaken I think the poppy is the national flower of Poland. I can see why now!

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Anyway.. we eventually arrived in Gdansk and got some lunch at a lovely Mexican place near the Old Town. We then went and found our hostel, changed into our swimming costumes and headed off to find a beach! We hopped on a crowded tram and made our way to Stogi Plaza. Google told us this was the most popular beach near Gdansk. It was full of people enjoying the sunshine, but we were slightly concerned as there was absolutely no one swimming! We dumped our bags, stripped off and went for it! Into the Baltic sea! To our surprise it really wasn’t that cold and we enjoyed standing in the waves and feeling the sun on our cheeks. It’s not every day we get to swim in the sea so we made the most of it.

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After drying off and changing, we went back to Gdansk city centre and enjoyed a coffee on the Old Street. Then we wandered around and even decided to get on a big wheel to see the city from a birds eye view. Very touristy! We enjoyed looking at all the lovely buildings and watching the rowers practicing on the river. I have to write a few words on the Polish people and their obsession with ice cream. On the old street there are at least 15 ice cream shops and all of them have queues! Everyone you see is eating the stuff! I know ice cream is nice, but here it is like a drug. I’ve tried some in Poznan and I must admit, they make it well. My favourite so far is werthers original!

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Anyway, I digress..

Tea time came and we found a nice place to eat next to the river and I had some lovely halibut. Only seemed right to have some fish when at the sea side. A wander back to the hostel followed and the day ended with a read of my book and the sound of swifts outside.

Friday morning we headed for breakfast and went to a museum in the old town hall of Gdansk. It was mainly about the history of Gdansk in the 16th and 17th centuries. There was one room, the “red room”, which used to be the summer time meeting room. The ceiling was covered in amazing paintings. Even the doors were impressive, the wood carvings were so intricate.

After the museum we grabbed a quick lunch and went to get our train back to Poznan. The train was relatively empty compared to the outward journey. We found our carriage and got settled. There was a man in our carriage too, dressed in technicolour trousers and fashioning a large beaded necklace. We started talking and he told me that he moved to Ireland 15 years ago and was an accountant there, but a year ago he packed it in, went to Peru, drank the “medicine” and became a shaman. His guide in life is his necklace. He was so interesting to talk to. He asked me what I did, so I told him I was an ornithologist. He then produced a small plastic bag filled with feathers. He insisted I chose two to keep. They were from birds of the amazon. His name was Chris and for a good hour and a half we chatted about anything and everything. He was saying how nothing is a coincidence, everything happens for a reason. I love talking to fellow hippies!

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At Bygdoszcz, a city half way through the journey, an elderly Irish couple with their daughter joined our carriage. They were visiting Poland because Maive’s (the daughter) husband is currently living in Poznan, teaching at a flight school. They had a huge bag of strawberries with them and insisted we helped them eat them. They were delicious and a nice unexpected treat. We talked about all sorts and it was so lovely to hear all the anecdotal stories from the couple. The journey passed so quickly and we were back in Poznan before we knew it.

We said our farewells and me and Simla headed home. I felt so happy after that journey, it really lifted my spirits. I love meeting different people and hearing their stories. And now I have my feathers as a lovely reminder of my special train journey and the shaman.

x