Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Weather permitting

After a little week of heavy frost, ice and snow the sun is out again as if nothing happened on the island. Silent witnesses are however the white capped tops of the mountains and the lower slopes which do everything to hide their snow and ice from the sun. How much nature is damaged from this cold we cannot say this soon. We managed very well, unless the car which got a little frozen and we were a little bit cold. That was all. Friends from Agia Paraskevi who have the Wildlife Hospital of Lesvos had some more problems with the heavy weather. So I present you the report, somewhat shortened, from Joris Peeters who always has black humour to describe the dramas on the island. For the entire report or in case you want to know more about them, you can look at the website: http://www.wildlifeonlesvos.org

Looking for a warm place in the Aegean Sea?

23 January: The roofing material on the room for the sick-bay is rattling like hell in the wind, the same as the metal plates which are on the cages! The corrugated iron on the cage of the falcon tore off in the thundering storm and had to be fastened again in order to prevent worse. It was an ice cold and risky job! According to the weather reports they expect snow in the afternoon on the island... We are prepared and did some shopping this morning. We as well as the animals have a supply for one week! At 15.15 the first (small) snowflakes came blowing down: the wind is that cold that we can barely reach 16°C in the living room, even with the central heater full open. The wind is that strong that the sparrows (while they were eating some seeds on the street) were picked up and smashed against the fence! In the Neighbour House we had to close the last shutter that was still a little open (near the cage of the tiny Scop's Owl). The wind was tearing that hard that it nearly managed to take out the whole window-frame! The gale will be of a force of 9-10 Beaufort!

24 January: Half of the night we did not sleep because of the rattling of a shutter that ran loose. More than one time out of bed to control everything: nothing to be found. At 5.15 in the morning we found out it was the last shut shutter at the Neighbour House. It was completely torn apart. We have to repair that by daylight. After breakfast we started to try to get the living room somewhat more friendlier for us as for the animals. That meant that we had to look for narrow openings and close them. For this we had to remove an entire skirting- board where behind we found a complete 'zoo-like' concentration of mouse-nests. We saw as well the daylight right through the door! It did some pain, because of my back, but the first job on it resulted in a raise of temperature from 14 to 16°C. At 11.15 it started again to snow. During the siesta we received a phone call from Mytilini about a pigeon which had a damaged wing. Considering the weather conditions (The 'Table Mountain' had become invisible thanks to the snow storm and the white stuff does stay!) we delayed the eventual delivery until tomorrow.

25 January: Yesterday night we were 1 hour without electricity (which means no heating!) This morning we woke up in a white world and that was not only outside! The snowstorm managed to crawl everywhere underneath. The central heater was on during the whole night (as well as a prevention against the freezing of the water pipes) but never mind, it still was only 17°C this morning! When we tried to get in the Neighbour House, we were confronted with a big heap of snow piled up from the inside against the door! We really have to try to prevent that happening again today. Anyhow, no entry anymore through this door upstairs! The owner of the pigeon is going to try to bring the pigeon herself...! Well, she managed until the first turning going to our village. There she glided off the road. So we had to ask somebody with a 4 x 4 for help, for getting the bird as well as the car out of the ditch. The roads in the village were in that bad condition that the 4 x 4 did not manage to reach us. So the pigeon was walked to our home. Two hours after we cleaned away the snow in the Neighbour House we could do it again! But now we hammered a plank down against the door. Maybe that will help! The water pipes in the Neighbour House are frozen. After there was some sun in the afternoon around 4 o'clock our street was like the Thialf Hall in Heerenveen (a famous skating rink in Holland). It only had one way: off the slope!

Later on we discovered that it was due to a broken water pipe at the end (upstairs) of the street. We did try to contact the owner, but this good man was said to be critically wounded in the hospital, because some days ago he was in a fight in the village about a piece of land and he got shot, as well as his son who did not survive! Because there are still sheep on his piece of land we tried to organize some help. Which was difficult because all people had other things on their mind in these days.

26 January: The street is still like a skating rink. Only very carefully one can try to descend. Let's hope that neither we nor other people have to go out! Our fight for better conditions in our living room did result in a raise to 19°C! We found the wounded pigeon dead when we wanted to feed him (07.00). At the same time it started snowing again and then the street became even more dangerous! In the Neighbour House the water for the Scop's Owl was that deeply frozen that it could not even be broken by hand! The snow is lying as far as into his cage!

At 10.50 we received a phone call from Skala Kaloni about a wounded duck. The finder had snow chains, so he would try to drive as close as possible. At 11.40 the Teal was brought in. By feet because even with snow chains you could not reach our house. Even though that it seems to thaw. Thanks to that and to the replacing of 4 meters of skirting- board the temperature reached 20°C in the living. So... coats out. After the siesta we found the water pipes in the Neighbour House broken. Not too much damage was done.

27 January: The street is still the same skating rink. Even the dogs cannot keep their legs straight. The Teal was in a very poor condition and died in our hands. After we cleaned the cages we tried to remove the ice by pickaxe. The outlet pipe of the sick-bay was like a beautiful ice pillar. At 09.00 we got a phone call from Larsos about an Eagle Owl in a bad condition. The man wanted to bring it himself. At 9.30 he was down at our street. Together we climbed back to our house by feet, which took us 8 minutes! It turned out to be a White Barn Owl who was really pretty ill (it did not eat for at least 2 days) We were again 1 hour without electricity (and without heating) as well as the water pressure fell down, but we did manage to replace another skirting-board. At 12.50 the two of us managed to get our street ice free, also we closed down three water-pipes, which was not done by the municipality even though the whole street had begged for it. Then we controlled the White Barn Owl, but he had died. During the siesta we got a phone call from Petra about a wounded predatory bird that was difficult to catch. Because we were pretty damaged by falling and ice hacking we agreed to be contacted the following day. We did not want to go out anymore this day. A little after 16.30 the fisherman Nikos was again at our house with a big box (yesterday he brought the Teal). He brought another duck and this time it was a Shelduck, a duck we never had before. Nikos was pretty disappointed that the Teal did not make it (so were we!).

28 January: Even though it froze last night the street was clean of ice! 13.10 a telephone call from Petra: the bird was spotted. So I did not eat and left immediately. At 13.30 I was at the meeting point. In the middle of a field there was a hawk and it was clear that he had flying problems. But it was still healthy enough to flee to a tree in the midst of bramble bushes. There were metres of bramble bushes around that tree. Go and try to fetch the bird! For a little moment I had to think of Moses, but that did not help. These bushes did not burn! So finally the one who spotted the bird took a road sign to make the bird 'use' his wings. What followed then was a crazy run over fences, underneath fences and straight through the bushes. We finally caught the bird on a shed. I'm getting too old to do this 'field-work'. It took another 5 minutes to reach the road and the car. Driving home there was a tanker lorry upside down at the road and no way of passing this obstacle. So I had to drive backwards over the slippery road, gliding through the snow until I reached a point where I could turn. Then to Stipsi and the other villages where there was still plenty of snow on the roads. A fancy drive it was! I finally reached home at 15.10.

29 January: We managed to feed the Hawk (a pretty quiet bird for his kind!) and got him 30 gram heavier than yesterday. At 08.00 the boiler gave up. Fortunately the heater still works. Later in the morning we met a plumber from the municipality who worked out the problem, charging only 15 euros!

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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