A hungover necropsy

This week has disappeared into thin air! Can’t believe how time is flying, but I guess it means I must be having an amazing time.

Cyprus is getting warmer each day. Right now it’s perfect weather, not too hot!

This week for me has been mainly PhD work and looking after Freddy. He amazes me. Every time I look at him, more feathers have come through, his beak has changed colour, his legs and wings are stronger. I really feel like a proud Mumma bird!

On Thursday, Sav and I were asked to go and do a television interview at Bayrak International. Neither of us had done anything like it, it was really exciting! We arrived and got taken to a proper tv studio with huge cameras moving around like robots! The recording was done for about half an hour and we just chatted about the projects going on in Alagadi at the minute. Kuskor and it’s birds, SPOT and it’s fisheries. I really enjoyed it. I like talking about conservation and trying to spread the word. Every little helps, you never know what little bits of information might change someone’s perspective!

Friday night came and all of sleepy house went out to Roots Bar for the owners birthday bash! Many tequilas were had! Saw Michelle and Paul again which was lovely, and met a couple of titchy brothers who showed us the ropes at playing pool! I’m pretty sure at one point I got roped in to playing tag with them too… Turns out I’m really not that good!

Yesterday, I was hungover. But my hungry little chick doesn’t stop begging and so I had to carry on as normal! There was a dead turtle that had to be necropsied today too. Unfortunately I got landed with the task. Normally it’s grim, but when hungover, it’s just awful. She was a huge loggerhead who had been dragged up in a fishing nets from quite a depth, giving her “the bends”. One of her lungs had collapsed and after fighting hard for a few hours, she eventually died. This beauty had been through it. When conducting the necropsy I discovered she was a healthy turtle. Huge layers of fat and massive muscles. She was a strong one. When removing her gut (for later analysis of plastic presence) a small tear appeared which allowed a small amount of stomach contents to escape. It was plastic. In such a small amount of stomach matter, there was parts of a black bag, part of a toy car, a wire coated in red plastic and several unidentifiable pieces. Her intestines were coiled tightly and very hard, probably because something was caught along her digestive tract and bunching up within. This gorgeous creature had plastic in her. Lots of plastic. And do you know what the worst thing is….. I wasn’t even shocked. I was half expecting it. What kind of a world is it where I’m not even shocked to find plastic in a turtle. I won’t rant much more, but please, please, if you do anything today, just think about one way to reduce your plastic usage.

Have an amazing week everyone!


My week of happiness-es

This week has been a write off for fisheries work. It has been too wavy, the wind has really picked up. The sea is constantly changing colour as it is churned up from the deep. It’s really relaxing to watch the huge waves come in and crash against the rocks. It gives you a moment to appreciate just how amazing and strong mother nature is. I think awesome is probably the best word to describe her.

Quite a few wetlands have been monitored this week. 12 to be exact. Each having a quirky beauty and a unique assemblage of birds. I’m starting to get my ear in now. I can identify quite a few species from their songs or calls but I need to keep practicing. This time of year is lovely, the sky becoming thicker with sound everyday. A constant cacophany of twitters. I’ve heard my first chiffchaff of the year already. They have a delicate and sweet song. I almost imagine them skipping along, whistling a happy up and down note with each wingbeat. Greenfinches are uttering their wheezy tunes. Cetti’s warblers are bursting out in a flourish of happiness. Black redstarts crackle on their favourite perches. It’s lovely.

IMG_6786A new volunteer, Rupert, joined the team this week. I went and got him from the airport and gave him the usual welcome hug! Lucky for him it was pancake day and so he was treated to Amie-made pancakes! I did a huge batch for all the volunteers to munch on! I think my favourite topping is still the classic lemon and sugar. The afternoon was not as sweet. Sav and Mat brought back two dead turtles that had been caught in fishing nets. Me and Stacey necropsied them. It might sound morbid, but it is weirdly interesting to do. I mean, I now know how to sex a turtle (it’s to do with the presence of a membrane in which the eggs are grown and stored)!


Valentines day came and went. I chose myself as my valentine this year. Or more specifically, my life. It is so exciting right now and I am so happy. It feels so nice to be surrounded by such amazing people both here and abroad. I have so much to look forward to and so much I want to achieve. Exciting times lie ahead! Anyway, enough blabbering. Valentines tea was made be Rupert and me. We made coconut milk daal and homemade roti. It went down a treat.


Friday was a particularly nice day. In the morning a few of us went to see a fisherman in Lapta who I had been emailing. He had a poster for us, of all the fish they look to catch on their trips. Perfect for the office! We enjoyed a turkish coffee with him and listened to his stories from his various fishing adventures. He has some impressive scars! In the evening we were all invited to Penny’s house. Penny is an expat living out in Cyprus for much of the year. A huge friend to the Turtle Project. She cooked us up an amazing roast dinner, with a new york cheesecake for pudding! I don’t know if I have ever been so full!


The radio interview finally aired yesterday. I was shocked at just how northern I sound. I always thought I had quite a neutral accent. Turns out I really don’t. Northern and proud!! It’s on again for the last time today. 11am UK time, 1pm Cyprus time. It is on Bayrak International Radio station on the program “The Main Event”.


Anyway, I feel as though I’ve rambled enough.




Another day, another bird

This week has been pretty busy. Lots of different field work which always keeps me on my toes.


The first birding day was spent with Mat. I took him to 4 different wetland sights. Kalkanli, Gonyeli, Haspolat and Balikasir. The weather first thing in the morning was really hazy, so for half an hour or so we danced around and sang along to gangsta rap. As you do… I love showing everyone the different birding sights. They always react really nicely and say how beautiful they are. That’s the thing with birding, most places are remote, beautiful and peaceful. Partner that with some amazing bird species and a flask of coffee and it’s pretty much a utopia. Anyway… The bird surveys went really well. We saw a good variety of species including my first ever red-crested pochard! The haspolat site is a working sewage plant. It was extremely smelly. But sewage attracts insects, which in turn, attracts birds. Cattle egrets were in the 100’s. Spur winged plover squawked overhead as they were flushed by the truck. Cetti’s warbler were bursting into song in the reeds surrounding us. If you ignore the sewage, it’s pretty nice. Honest. We drove away from the smell to stop for lunch. Unfortunately for us, about half way through our sandwiches, a huge truck came and unloaded lots of smelly waste right next to us. We managed to find the funny side. Unbeknownst to me, Sav and Stacey had been making a surprise banoffee pie for a belated birthday treat (it’s my all time favourite pudding). Mat had been the distraction. I arrived home to a glorious toffee, banana creation! I was so chuffed. The afternoon was spent learning about CPOD’s. These are devices that are attached to fishing nets in order to detect any dolphin activity (vocalisations). Today was the first day we had positive recordings. 8 minutes of dolphin clicks!


Mid week I had planned to meet Olkan to monitor the Bonelli’s eagle nest sites. This is a hush, hush operation as hunting pressure and illegal poisoning are a huge threat to these birds. Their whereabouts needs to be kept secret. The trip was temporarily postponed as I got a call from Robbo saying a small turtle had been caught in a fishing net in Lapta and that I had to go and teach the fisherman how to flipper tag it. Flipper tags are used for individual ID of the turtles. I took Stacey along and we arrived at the harbour to be greeted by a smiling Ertunc aka Billy. He showed us the turtle, a juvenile green. I talked him through the flipper tag procedure and took some body measurements and a biopsy. We released the turtle back into the Mediterranean sea and enjoyed a turkish coffee with our new fisherman friend. My planned day could then start. I met Olkan and we spent the day driving mountain roads in search for nests. We didn’t see any eagles but observed one nest and found a potential site for another pair. En-route we had the lovely opportunity of seeing a pair of sparrowhawks. I’ve never seen a pair together before. A beautiful adult female with a juvenile male. The juvenile kept coming back to investigate, not quite as cautious as his older mate…

Finally got to do some bird ringing this week. My first session since getting my C permit! I took Stacey along so she could do some observation. We met Robbo and set up the nets and we were joined by Damla later on. The session was quite slow, only a handful of birds. BUT…. I got to ring my first ever Cetti’s warbler and bluethroat! Such beauties! It’s always nice to get a ringing tick. The session had a negative turn though. We found 2 dead marsh harriers. They had been poisoned. We are not sure who, but someone had distributed chicken breasts laced with insecticide around the area (probably to kill stray dogs). The raptors ate the bait and died. A cat and a dog were also found dead. I could rant and rant about this. But I’m going to keep it simple. I just don’t understand this human behaviour. So after the ringing session we went to Bayrak radio station for an interview. It hasn’t aired yet but I will post a quick reminder for anyone that wants a listen!




In-between all of the field work I’ve been cracking on with my PhD. I’m shattered, but I love pushing myself! I can’t get enough experience and I’m feeling really good about my research!

What a fab week! Can’t wait for the next one!