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Monday, 5 September 2011

Portugal Report

Ok so here as promised is the first of the Portugal posts. They are reports as I am now back from the project. I was sent to Portugal by a U.K based european environmental funded programme called ecotrain. The programme sends fully funded successful applicants to environmental projects in Europe. this provides the project with assistants and also provides applicants with valuable skills.

I was lucky enough to gain a place in Portugal on the Tyto Tagus project which studies the barn owl population in the Tagus valley. The project is run by Ines Roque who looked after us very well even including us in some of her life outside the project. Helping Ines is Ana Marques who looked after us mostly as Ines had a lot of other work she was included in. Ana too included us in her family life and took us on many weekend trips to her house, her parent in laws summer house, her parents beach escape and a festival. 
A barn owl at night

On the project was me and one other successful applicant. Ecotrain offers many projects but will send usually only 2 people. With me was Sam Haddock. We both got along well which was lucky as we were spending 2 months in each others company. We had a research house that was kindly provided by Companhia das Lezirias. The house was ok much better than some places but it was infested with flies which where a constant annoyance especially when cooking and eating.

Our role was mainly to radio track at night. We assisted in other parts of the project which i will go into more detail on in a minute. For the first few nights Ines and Ana came to the field with us and introduced us on the method of radio tracking. This was to pinpoint the locations of owls which had been previously tagged with a small backpack that emits a radio signal. After a few days just Ana accompanied us and by the end of the week Sam and I where left alone as professional radio trackers. We were glad Ines and Ana trusted us as the data collected is to be used in a scientific paper.

Me radio tracking at night
In the field there where so many mosquitoes it was almost unbearable. Some dawns, as we did full nights at times, the mosquitoes looked like smoke rising from the trees.

We also assisted in owl pellet dissection, counting owls at night once a week with a spot light and car, cleaned out nest boxes, ringed an owl, counted dead owls on the main road, and translated any information sheets, papers and websites that the project required.

Me with Churchill the barn owl I ringed
We got to visit many places on our weekends such as Lisbon and other less know places. I met some very nice people who I hope to keep in contact with. I would like to thank Ecotrain for this opportunity, Ines for allowing us to come on the project and her husband Normando and son Za who also looked after us, Ana her husband Rodolfo, her 2 year old son Lhe-Lhe and there family for being so kind to us and all the fun we had and Sam for putting up with me for 2 months in the fly house and mossie field.