Friday, March 9, 2007

Our permits are official!

The past two days have been very good. Last night we finally got the phone call from the Army saying we have permission to work!! Yeah! But yesterday, since we couldn’t work, Nuri took us on a day trip to a town called Biricek, which sits on the Euphrates River and is home to the last remaining population of bald ibis. There are only 91 pairs left. And we saw them!

The drive to Biricek was amazing. We drove on this little two-lane road that was sometimes an extremely bumpy dirt track and other times a real road. It meandered along the Syrian border (and I mean right along the Syrian border!) until it hit the Euphrates. At that point we stopped, got out, and saw the most amazing number of waterfowl I’ve ever seen: coots, shovelers, little grebes, pygmy cormorants, great crested grebes, tufted ducks, widgeon, and pochard (another duck) with chaffinches flitting about as we watched. In addition to being amazed by the birds, we were awed by standing on the Euphrates. What an incredible thing to stand on the Euphrates – to stand surrounded by all that history.

[The Euphrates and tons of amazing birds.]

We then drove north along the river. We stopped a couple more times on the way to bird watch, but eventually reached Biricek and went straight to the bald ibis viewing spot. They have a protected area where they nest on a cliff. The area is blocked off with an interpreter (who of course interpreted in Turkish). I could have stayed there all day. But Nuri is not the most patient of tour guides, so off we went back into town. He and Cumali bought fresh fish at a fish market and then we had fish for lunch at a restaurant in the market – Dad you would have loved it!

[A bald ibis on a nest box!]

[An open air market on the water (the water is behind me) with the town and an amazing, very old, fort ruin behind it.]

[Cumali and Nuri buying fish (they are on the ones in the blue baseball caps - Cumali's on the left. The caps say Anakara University and Nuri gave each of us one.)]

We got home about 3:00 and Mert (a Turkish grad student) and I rushed out to the field because I wanted to observe a burrow that we think has a female in it, set up cameras, and set traps. We got the cameras set, and I got an hour’s observation in (though I never saw an animal) – but when we started to set traps, the Army told us that we couldn’t because the permits hadn’t come through yet. Good lordy! One day we have them, the next we don’t…

So we trundled back to the house – to find a fabulous meal waiting for us. Zeliha (Cumali’s wife and our cook) made dolma that was to die for (stuffed vegetables) and cooked the fish Cumali and Nuri bought in Biricek. I think it was some of the best fish I’ve ever had (next to yours, of course, Dad!).

After dinner we sat around while Nuri played the oud (a Turkish guitar) and Cumali sang. It was delightful!

[Mom, you said you wanted pictures of me, so here you go: Me playing the oud, with Laura in the background concentrating on an important backgammon match with Ben.]

During this musical interlude, Cumali got a phone call from the Army saying that our official permits have arrived. YEAH!!! We all cheered!
So today, we (or various subsets of “we”) were in the field all day. I can’t believe it. And now I know our permission is official because today there were two Army guys out there with us. What a job, eh? To sit and watch people watch hamsters. Last year, we only had one Army guy, but he brought his 3-yr old son with him; and he brought us tea while we sat in the field. We’ll see if these guys are as friendly.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow – and another full day in the field!

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