Getting dirty

Today we actually did some volunteering!
Tiago and Niek, two of the interns from ATN, were at the reserve today. In the morning we all worked in the tree nursery, transplanting seedlings to individual pots. We only had one bag of compost for hundreds of seedlings so we had to mix it with the sandy unhospitable soil from the reserve. The mix didn’t look very nourishing but the plants will eventually have to survive in that soil so they will have to get used to it!
Transplanting cork oak seedlings

Transplanting cork oak seedlings

While we were planting we chatted about Tiago’s university course in Forestry. It sounds really interesting and has a mix of biology, chemistry,  physics and statistics. Apparently the class is a mix of conservationists and production focused people, who don’t really get on. The lecturers are worse, some of them won’t even talk to each other!

Once we had transplanted the seedlings we put them in the nursery and gave them a good watering. The stress might kill some of them but they need the extra space to develop enough before they get planted in the reserve. Hopefully using seedlings to plant out will get better results than direct seed planting, where the seeds are eaten by wild boar before they get a chance to germinate.
After lunch we all went out with Tiago to help him with his project. He is setting out 30 monitoring plots where the recovery of trees will be measured every year. Our job today was to mark out the plots using a gps, a measuring tape and a compass. The plots are 30 m x 15 m and all orientated north-south, so we had to measure the orientation and size while walking through the thick brush. The location of the plots was randomly selected and didn’t take account of cliffs or massive rocks,  so placing the markers was pretty fun!
Hm, where to put that plot??

Hm, where to put that plot??

Measuring a plot

Measuring a plot

Tiago almost fell backwards off a wall while placing one of the markers so he was buzzing at the end of the day even though we only managed to mark out three of his thirty plots! He has a lot of work to get through in the next few days!

Tiago recovering from near death experience

Tiago recovering from near death experience

It was great helping out as we got to visit new areas of the reserve that are off the main paths and that we wouldn’t have got to by ourselves. On the way we got a great view of some huge griffon vultures riding the thermals up out of the valley. We also found a small bird trying to climb a tree and flapping around in the grass. We don’t know what species it was yet, Niek thought it might be a night swallow – I don’t know if there is a bird called that in English.  Anyway I will ask one of the bird guys here and find out. It was obviously struggling so we put it in some deeper brush out of sight. Never really sure what to do in those situations but hope it’s alright!

Unhappy bird

Unhappy bird

We had to be back at camp by 4 so Niek and Tiago could catch their ride home. Soon after we got back the Dutch students arrived. They had been out with the birds guys watching the vultures. They seemed pretty happy even though a few were sporting impressive sunburn. Maybe less happy tonight…

The students set off back to camp and Niek, Tiago and Johanna (who had been out with the students) hung around chatting until Abel, the rural worker here, arrived with the van. Abel is a funny guy, he doesn’t like students apparently,  but does like the English, so we’re ok. He can’t explain why he holds these prejudices, but he stands by them. He also seems to have a crush on Johanna but it seems like she handles it pretty well. Awkward though…
Afrer eveyone went we biked down the track to Algodres for shopping and wifi. We did a massive shop at Figueira two days ago but have already troughed all the treats. Since we’re not cycling at the momet this is not good! We had to endure one of Anna’s yoga workouts yesterday night to try to fight the flab. I’m not sure it worked!
 – Dave

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