Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Christmas from Enlli!

Steve has just about finished replacing fencing at the North End, including putting in the last new kissing gate...

and some nice new gates...

and stiles...

We've had one storm roll in after another bringing some pretty wild weather.  The last few days that were settled were at the beginning of December, when even the goats gave their approval by joining me on daily walks!  Here they are at the top of the mountain (enjoying a nibble of Heather!).

The wind was just right for Steve to try a flight off the East side...

(he didn't land in the sea!)

Steve's pressie to me last Christmas was a DIY hot tub, which has been put to good use!

Steve, Emma and Connor are stuck here for Christmas, so two Christmas trees were required from the plantation (which needs the wind break conifers thinning out anyway).  Hence an expedition to the north end...

It's not the most impressive Christmas tree we've ever had, but it brightens up the corner of the living room..

Thanks to Ernest and Colin who braved a large swell to come over with three weeks worth of post, we have now been amply stocked with goodies and christmas pressies!

We have used this beautiful image of a firecrest (that Ben took last December) on our Christmas card this year, although many have not made it to the mainland yet....

We wish all our friends and family a very peace-full Christmas and blessings for 2014...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A'Rocha Kenya 2013 - Ben and Rachel's Kenya blog

This October, Ben and I spent three weeks in Kenya, volunteering at an A'Rocha base (for more info, please see their website: Ben to do photography, and help with the bird ringing, and I to do illustration and produce drawings and sketches for them..

We managed to get off the island a few days before our flight, which left plenty of time to pack:

...we only just fit everything in! 

Dad dropped us off at Manchester airport, then we had an hour's flight to Schipol airport, Amsterdam, where we had a wait of 5 hours for our 8 hour flight to Nairobi.
Once at Nairobi, we took a small plane to Malindi..

(View flying from Nairobi to Malindi.)

..then a taxi to Watamu, and to the centre.

The centre, 'Mwamba', is based on the coast, around 5km from the town of Watamu.. and only 100 metres from the sea..

Ben and I walked down the beach for an explore..
..found some little friends..

..and generally took in our surroundings.
The colour of the water is incredible!

Some of my first drawings..
mostly of plants, and subjects I found around the centre..

Many of the current volunteers were on the marine team, so there were lots of opportunities to join in with their research, and go rock-pooling.

Cassie, one of the marine volunteers, on the search for Anomestria, a type of coral.

Having one's head buried in rockpools does produce some happy results;
Cassie found so many beautiful shells!

This is one that I found, unfortunately not intact, but pretty impressive for it's size!

Another of Cassie's...

Ben and I went for many walks around the area, which were punctuated by stops every couple of minutes to identify and photograph birds... I was patient..!

Bougainvillea flowers were everywhere, 
and offered many drawing and painting opportunities..

Every morning, around 6am, or just before, all of us in volunteer accommodation were very rudely and loudly awakened by monkeys clattering and crashing from the trees onto our tin roofs...

..fairly tedious, but they were quite sweet to look at!

It was really great getting to know the volunteers at Mwamba, we had a lot of fun.. 
miss you, guys!
Cassie, Hannah, and Julie in background.

Some very impressive rain-storms whilst rock-pooling.

Rock-pool sketching...

Urchin and tiny fish

Some kind of shrimp/lobster thing..

Brittle stars..

Ghost Crabs..

Mwamba's research boat, Taiwa.

More flowers..

Ben..looking very brown.

On one of our exploring/getting lost walks..a channel through mangrove forest..

..on this particular walk, we found our way through the mangroves and eventually found the estuary...we then proceeded to make our way along the shore back up to the creek mouth. However, the tide was rising, and we were getting a bit concerned about finding a way up/out ... A man in a canoe came past, and we asked if we were going the right way.. he said yes, then paused and asked whether we knew that the tide was rising..
We said, yes, we did.
Can you swim? He asked. 'Well....yeah, we can, ' we replied.
'Ah, you'll be fine then!' He said, and paddled off.
As Ben and I both had rucksacks on, mine containing sketching books and materials, and Ben's all his photography gear, this wasn't very reassuring..
We found a way back eventually though, managing to avoid having to swim, but holding rucksacks above our heads!

Ant trail

More flowers..

Ringing at Mwamba...
Jaap and Ben extracting Birds from the nets in early morning..

Yellow-rumped Tinker bird.

Red-capped robin chat.

Willem, a visitor at the Centre for two weeks of our stay, a very keen and enthusiastic birder..
Here, releasing a Zanzibar Sombre greenbul.

Some quick sketches I did whilst we were ringing..

Visiting Gede ruins..
Jaab with a friend.

Workers building a platform in one of the trees, as part of A'Rocha's projects..

School children visiting the site.

The ruins were very ethereal..especially surrounded by so many beautiful trees..
it was like something out of the Jungle book :)

One of my favorite trees..
I spent a while just wandering around and trying to take in so many utterly magnificent and majestic trees all in one area..and wondering why on earth we hadn't come here earlier in our trip so I could sketch them ALL! (This was in the middle of our last week..)

The one drawing I did manage..

A massive Baobab tree.. spot Ben and Jaab sitting underneath!

Perhaps one of the best to look at, this awesome tree with huge buttresses had an opening at the bootom, like a doorway..

A little drawing of a baobab tree.

Ben doing his thing.. 

Here are some of his favorite bird photos he took during the trip...
African Pied Wagtail
Grey-headed Bush-shrike
Mangrove Kingfisher
 Trumpeter Hornbill
 Red-fronted Tinkerbird
African Paradise Flycatcher
Mangrove roots at Mida Creek.

The bird hide at Mida Creek, a good place to watch for Waders at high tide.

Quick sketch of the hide.

A school group visiting Mida hide..

Another quick sketch of the hide, Ben inside.

The board-walks!

Sketches of the board-walks..

The funny Fiddler- crabs, with one long, pink claw much bigger than the other. There were hundreds of them everywhere on the mud and sand flats.

Striped Hawkmoth.

Sokoke Forest Birding 'excursion'...
One of the things Ben had been really hoping to do was get out into the Sokoke forest to do a morning's birding, and find some birds he'd never seen before.. 

So, we arranged with a local guide to go into the forest on one day of our last week..I decided to go too, if not to see some decent butterflies than for the birds. Jaab, Andrew and Willhelm (all birders) also came..
It was an early start, and after driving round the forest tracks for a while, and seeing an Elephant shrew on the road, we stopped, and got out to do some birding (it was about 7 a.m).

I found some interesting things on the forest floor, whilst the others looked upwards, and found species such as Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Amani Sunbird and Gorgeous bush-shrike.

After walking around and birding for about two hours, we then followed our guide further into the forest, to look for the elusive Narina Trogon...thus followed a pretty epic saga, in which we got lost, and ended up walking around for another 8 hours looking for the track...It was pretty exhausting trying to negotiate jungle-like vegetation, most of it spiky and thorny, and trying to keep our guide in sight. Plus, we had long since run out of water, only having taken a few litres, as we expected to be out by midday.. 
The relief when we finally stumbled out onto the road was great, though we still had almost an hour's walk to the car... We stopped at a petrol station on our way back to get a drink - cold coca-cola has never tasted so good!
All of us after the ordeal, relieved to be out.. (From left: Willem, Jaab, Ben (who wishes to say that he did not actually pass out), me, and Andrew. Our guide is taking the picture.)

After our near death experience in the forest (according to Willem), we decided to have a quieter day, and I persuaded Ben to come with me to a glass house I had been wanting to see, down the road from Mwamba..
Ben obliged, and pretended to enjoy it..
It was really pretty amazing....the work and amount of detail that had gone into the whole structure was impressive...

Glass and mirror-ed floor!

A very pretty stained glass window..and wine bottles set into the walls..

This was Ben's reaction...


We also went to a different artist's house, who's work comprised completely of things found on the beach...and a bit of glue. It was very inspiring..

A fishing-rope-filled coffee table.
Top of a stool also made with fishing rope and twine.

His main focus was working with Flip-flops. 
Believe it or not, this entire chair is made from found Flip-flops off the beach...and so is the table next to it..

Tooth-brush art...
Pretty awesome...

Having been dragged to another art gallery, Ben's initial reaction was less than enthusiastic..

The artist, showing us his flip-flops made of flip-flops!

Some more flowers...which I didn't find the name for..

We really enjoyed our time at Mwamba, and getting to know and meet so many different people..
Auralia, helping Ben edit photos.

Meal-times at Mwamba were quite a social affair..

One of the things I enjoyed the most, and wish we had photos of, was swimming and snorkelling in the ocean. The water was very warm, and the beauty of the colours in the water was something which continually ... I did, however, manage to do some underwater drawing. The marine team gave me some of their waterproof paper, and a board, I took a waxy pencil, and we swam out to a small-ish rock which was really like a mini reef. There were so many colourful and interesting fish, and we saw turtles on several occasions. Here are my drawings of a Lionfish:

..and, more flowers.

On our last morning, we had a bit of a surprise when we got up...I came back from a swim to find Ben perched on the table with his camera, trying to get up close to a long, skinny snake, which was hung on the inside of our window, right above our beds!

We discovered afterwards that it was a Green tree snake, and completely harmless..

We spent the day packing, sorting photos, and cutting out my art pieces to leave at the centre..

Our good-bye cake.. made each time a volunteer leaves.

We went for one last swim, said good-bye to everyone, and took a taxi to Malindi airport.

Ben..still birding..

Nairobi airport...

Schippol airport.. 
playing with the ipads in the stores, passing the time before our next flight.

We were picked up by mum at Manchester airport, in our new (ish) campervan we now have instead of our car! Yay! And it was a straight-through drive all the way down to Cwrt, to get the boat back over before the weather turned.

Though it was good to be back, it was fairly dismal, and a bit depressing to be back to November temperatures.. I don't think I've ever felt so cold!

We both (but particularly me) spent the next couple of weeks recovering from an African cold, and getting back into island rhythm. 
We both really enjoyed our trip, and look forward to going back sometime :)