Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yet another hot day in paradise! And another early morning wake up thanks to the neighbouring rooster and donkey plus the resident swallows, who have all undertaken the joint responsibility of making sure everyone is up at the crack of dawn.
Rebecca, Tom and I headed to the north beaches this morning while Robbo stayed behind to cover the local ones. Tatlisu beach provided the first tracks clearly visible from quite a distance. The tracks tell us what kind of turtle has been ashore during the night. The Green Turtles flippers leave a symmetrical pattern because she ploughs through the sand with both hind limbs at the same time. The Loggerhead places one hind flipper in front of the other and therefore leaves an asymmetrical track. This track we discovered was made by a Green and after some fairly prolonged prodding, Rebecca located the egg chamber and we were able to dig down to find the eggs.
Onwards north, the next activity was at Kantara, a tiny little beach that doesn't often see much action. However, last night, a Loggerhead came ashore and did her thing. The problem is though, the whole beach is within the high tide range so the nest needed to be relocated to another safer site. Having taken nest measurements, we dug up 88 pin pong ball sized eggs and carefuly placed them in the chilly bin ( forgot the bucket - must get more organised!)along with the mucus covered sand from around the eggs. Further along the coast at Kaplica the nest was recreated and the eggs safely reburied.
Back on Alagadi, Robbo also had a Loggerhead nest.
With more volunteers due to arrive in the next day or two, I spent the afternoon cleaning the 'Sleepy House', getting rid of piles of swallow poo (some poor sod is going to have to sleep under that nest!), inches of accumulated dust, a mouse, 2 geckoes and numerous rather large spiders. The Sleepy House is a couple of hundred metres down the track away from the Goat shed. Once night shift starts this will provide a cool quiet place for those who have patrolled the beach to catch some zzzzz's. While Tom repainted the ornate front gates, Robbo and I returned to the beach with Keco's ute to deal with the 70 odd bags of beach rubbish collected yesterday.
The Goat Shed and gardens look fantastic now and much more inviting for visitors. The donkeys and goats have been most appreciative of the garden rubbish too.
I go to bed each night now knowing that not far from where I lie, under the protective cover of darkness, an ancient ritual will be taking place. How very cool is that!

Ainslie Wilson

Friday, May 29, 2009

Alagadi days.

This morning we checked Alagadi and discovered two loggerhead nests and two nesting attempts. Annette, Brendan and the children measured and caged these up whilst answering questions from early morning sunbathers. Tom and I put marker posts in place along the whole of Alagadi 1 and 2 and painted these with their specific sequential numbers, whilst Ainslie stayed home at the Goatshed and worked on the visitors centre. We all met for lunch at the Alagadi beach bar and then continued work at the Goatshed in the afternoon. By this point the sun was pretty intense. We really went to work with the strimmer and cleared wheelbarrow full after wheelbarrow full of grass and weeds. Returnee volunteer Rebecca Plant, who’s father John lives on the Island in Alsancac arrived and leant a hand. After spending some time with family Becca will be back in Alagadi throughout June (if she wants to live to see July she will be!). Sertac Guven our Cypriot volunteer, who works in Lefkosa but takes free time to help on the project, was also in action. Quite a hive of activity then and when we called it a day around seven things were really beginning to take shape. The info centre is up and running so we are now encouraging people to drop by.

During our industrious afternoon friend of the project Penny Butcher dropped by with a delicious banana cake for which she was famous last season. The cake may survive for 24 hrs at the moment with just the three of us, but traditionally the last crumb is gone within the time it takes to boil the kettle! We enjoyed a few slices with a cup of tea after dinner as the sun set on another great day.

Tomorrow we aim to check the North Coast to Kaplica and will be collecting litter on Alagadi Beach from nine as conditions are currently quite discusting in certain areas where the upkeep of the beach has not been maintained (see picture with the Broderick/Godley family at Alagadi 2 this morning). More logistics to set up in Alagadi and preparations for night work, which we want to get going as soon as possible. With the volume of loggerheads that we are currently seeing, it would be better to know whether these individuals are tagged and to get volunteer training underway. We collect our next volunteer San Joannou at Ercan tomorrow night.

More nesting on Alagadi and signs of life out west.

An early rise this morning and by 9.00 the four of us were in Akdeniz village on the West coast. Our 4x4 vehicle having survived the winter seemed in good order. Wayne took the helm and steered us North of Akdeniz through drifting sand and over bare rock to some of the most remote beaches on the island, fondly known to us as Lost, Message in a Bottle, West 1 and West 2. We painted the marker posts and checked for activities but found none. We did however find a nest that had not been excavated during the previous season and analysed its success, which was good training for the newbies. A green nest from which 38 eggs had hatched (38 empty fragments counted) at the remaining 44 had not, but after almost a year rotting in the sand, reasons for the failure of these were impossible to distinguish. Ainslie took note of the routes to take and routes to be avoided between beaches, as it is likely that she will head up the base in Guzelyurt this season. We only had to get out and push on one occasion. After sarnies in Akdeniz and a brief catch up with resident and friend of the project Mr Mustafa we continued to the Monster beach south of Akdeniz. You can see why they called it Monster when Glasgow University Turtle Conservation Expedition (GUTCHE) first surveyed this beach in 1992. It is a big and ugly beach. But despite this our loggerheads do frequently dig through its stony surface to lay their eggs in the sand below. We saw 2 loggerhead U-turns and one attempt, a good attempt with three body pits. So surely a nest will await us when we return in a few days time and hopefully the beaches North of Akdeniz will also be showing signs of life. Relocating and marking all of the marker posts along this beach was quite a challenge. We found a number of deceased turtles of various maturity stages, not uncommon at the begining of the season. We also made note of the new beach bar that has appeared at the end of the track from Akdeniz.

Pictures to follow tomorrow as Ainslie had the camera and is now catching some well earned Zs. Tomorrow we will stay close to home, just checking Alagadi and focusing work on the Goatshed garden, info centre, sleeping house and beach. Tom having arrived at midnight last night and being woken up to slave away in the sun all day, is also rather pooped.

Brendan, Annette and their children Ellie and David kindly checked Alagadi and the North coast to Kaplica for us this am and found two loggerhead nests on Alagadi. So that's 4 loggerhead and 1 green nest on the North coast now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Calm before the storm?

No activities on the North coast from Alagadi to Kaplica today. No big surprise as it is early days. So Ainslie and I took our time and returned via Kantara Castle which Ainslie found amazing as an avid historian and what a panoramic view on such a clear day the East coast, Karpas and the Kyrenia mountains, even the outline of the Turkish coast to the north. An impressive first day despite the disappointing lack of turtle activity. We returned to the goat shed for lunch and got cracking with some jobs. Ainsie is now covered in white paint but pleasingly so is the interior of the kitchen. I have been raking up all of the overgrown weeds from around the garden. Hot work now that the cool wind that we saw this morning has died off.

Tonight we will retrieve newbie Tom Haley from the airport and together with Dr Wayne Fuller who used to do my job, but is now settled on the island, the four of us hope to explore the west coast in search of nests. We will be taking red paint with us with which to touch up annual marker posts that we use to measure by triangulation the location of each turtle activity. Additionally this season all nests will be marked by GPS. So fingers crossed that we are busy.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A loggerhead U-turn on Alagadi 2 this morning but no more nests. Tonight I pick up our first volunteer Ainslie Wilson from the airport and tomorrow morning we will check the North Coast beaches again and then get stuck in painting and preparing the visitors centre.

Brendan and Annette arrived last night and I caught up with them this morning for breakfast at St Kathleens restaurant. They have brought with them lots of equipment including 7 satellite transmitters that we will be deploying on green turtles later in the season.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Big rush!

It's been a busy morning. The attempted nest on Alagadi from the day before turned out to be an actual nest. I was able to locate it more easily with the self guiding pokey stick that I fashioned. So that is all caged up on Alagadi 2 now. Officially the first green nest of the season and on the night of 23rd May this is very early, greens normally arriving later than loggerheads. Tofas and I also checked the beaches between Alagadi and Kaplica and found two loggerhead nests at Tatlisu. One of these was too close to the sea and would have been washed away, so I excavated it and moved the nest further up the beach, being careful to recreate the nest to the same dimensions as the original. 130 eggs in this nest, which is a huge number for a loggerhead. Tofas was happy. A tractor had been across Tatlisu beach and its tyre tracks narrowly missed the egg chamber of one of the loggerhead nests. With a green nest so early on and with the loggerheads really getting off to a good start, it looks as though we may be in for a busy season and that makes me happy. But I still don’t want to jump to conclusions.

I have brought a kayak and am now off for a paddle around the coast hoping to spot some mating turtles. Project Coordinators Brendan Godley and Annette Broderick are arriving tonight for a week so I’m looking forward to catching up with them and their two children.

Ainslie the first volunteer arrives tomorrow night. She is bringing my camera so we will be able to illustrate these blog posts from Tuesday.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I checked Alagadi this morning and found a green activity on Alagadi 2. Innitially I was certain that this was a nest, but on further inspection and after probing the sand with a stick for half an hour and working up a blister, I found no eggs so recorded this as an attempt. The same female as the previous night last night on A1 I am certain as all of the tracks I measured were between 73 and 75cm. This is the span between the marks left by the hind flippers as the turtle pushes itself along the sand.

Off to the South (Greek) side of the island today to see a friend who works down there as a teacher. Making the most of my free time before things get busy.

Robin Snape

Saturday, May 23, 2009

2009 season preparations

I arrived in Cyprus on Monday 18th May. I wanted to come to Cyprus early before the volunteers arrive to make preparations in the Goat Shed, but also to enjoy some peace and quiet in this lovely spot at Alagadi. The Goat Shed garden had gone to ruin with weeds and grass everywhere, but on further inspection I was pleased to see remnants of plants that we put in last season. I was particularly glad to see a tell tale stump emerging from the grass, a Frangipani, which I received for my birthday last year and after some watering a few leaves are now beginning to show! The interior of the Goat Shed was looking good, with none of the vermin that we saw last season thanks to a thorough scrub down by the team on leaving last October. Keco who owns the building had been keeping checks and had also kindly trimmed some of the shrubs that were getting out of hand. A few dead lizards lurking in the water tank have now been fished out so we have running water and electricity, although all of the light bulbs needed replacing. Due to problems with damp I have been stripping and sealing the concrete walls ready for painting, but I haven’t started with paint yet. I’m going to leave some of the big jobs for when volunteers arrive.

I picked up the car Tofas and checked the north coast beaches between Alagadi and Kaplica yesterday and found no activities. A bit early yet. However this morning I found two U-turns on Alagadi 1. Extremely likely that they were from the same female and maybe she will nest over the next few days. So this marks the start of the season and with a green activity so early I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that we will see another big year for greens as was the case last season. Although obviously it would be nice to see more loggerheads too.

The Tofas seems ok but I doubt she will last the season and she has already had one costly visit to the garage. So we are looking to purchase a new car in the very near future. Many thanks to Friends of SPOT (Society for Protection Of Turtles) for their fund raising work which has produced the funding, to enable us to purchase this essential new vehicle. And a huge thank you to the many visitors who took part in night watches and excavations.

With 3G Internet now available we have gone online. This should facilitate a much better communication system between Alagadi and the public to keep people informed on turtle activities and events. I decided to set up this blog so that there is a central point of information, to keep people informed. And also for friends and relatives of all of the volunteers.

The first volunteers arrive on Tuesday 26th May and by the first week of June we will be 10 strong. I imagine we will start night work in the first or second week of June and will be encouraging visitors to join us on night watch excursions from the middle of the month. As always the timings are turtle dependant so keep an eye on the blog to see what is going on. Do come down to the information centre any time for a cup of tea and a chat. At the moment there is even a slice of fruit cake that my mother packed me off with but you will have to get in quick. As always, bookings for night watch need to be made in person from the Alagadi info centre. Night watch is free but we do encourage donations.

Robin Snape

Project Leader