Eleven days later and we're still getting daily emergency notification emails from the CU travel system about flooding in central Europe. Luckily the Lužnice river (which is less than 1 km from our apartment) did not flood near us. However, the castle gardens in Třeboň were closed as the stream that runs through them had flooded a large portion of the garden. We have also seen a few fish ponds that overflowed, but it seems that there was little damage in our area.
When we posted our last entry, the worst of the rain had passed, but we still had a few days of finding dead, emaciated nestlings and cold, unhatched eggs in nests. The kitchen in our field house was a depressing place as we debriefed with our collaborators each evening hoping to hear that nestlings were found alive or eggs had hatched. There was even one exciting incident where we were blamed for some dead nestlings someone at one of our sites found on the ground below a nest. But we did have a few survivors...Natural Selection in action! We even had one nest with 8 eggs that turned into 7 hatchlings (most nests have 4-6 eggs)! Once the rain stopped and the sun came out, the birds quickly started building new nests and laying eggs to make up for what was lost...so after discussing plans with our collaborators to continue collecting data for us after our departure, we are feeling much better about the experiment.
With afternoons mostly free due to the lack of nests to observe, Amanda and I were able to explore Southern Bohemia a bit more. We made a successful trip to a mall in České Budějovice where we had to reload our Czech cell phones. The sales person who helped us claimed she didn't speak English, then explained to us exactly how many minutes and texts we would get in perfect English. We also visited the large supermarket where we could get peanut butter, cheddar cheese, and other foods not found in our local Penny Market. That evening, we made chili and corn bread for our Czech roommates, who have made lots of traditional Czech food for us - carp and potato salad (Czech Christmas dinner), goulash and dumplings, and many tasty soups. The first challenge was finding ground beef, we ended up with a 'meat mixture', but I'm pretty sure it was mostly beef, next, with no black beans in sight, we picked out a few cans of beans hoping they would taste good in chili, and we were happy to find the necessary spices. When we got home, I started the chili, trying to remember my mother's recipe, and after I had added the peppers and spices and took my first taste, I realized that chili pepper in the Czech Republic is a bit spicier than it is in America and I was scared that it was going to be too hot to eat, but in the end it turned out quite delicious. With no blue box of Jiffy mix, Amanda made corn bread from scratch and it turned out just as good, if not better, than Jiffy! We also had a slight hiccup when I opened the sour cream to top the chili and my heart sank as the bumpy surface told me I had grabbed cottage cheese instead of sour cream. Amanda, curious to taste Czech cottage cheese, ate a spoonful, and confirmed that it was sour cream after all. Everyone enjoyed the chili, and corn bread was a hit. After all our delicious shared meals, we have decided to put together a recipe book for all of us to share.
On another afternoon, we biked to Třeboň and walked around the square. Our plans included tasting beer at the local brewery, established in 1379, and shopping. We were headed to the brewery first, but as we turned the corner into the square we saw the trdelnik stand (the cinnamon pastries we'd had in Český Krumlov). We were both quite excited to have another and had worried we wouldn't find them again. I asked if we wanted to stop now or after the brewery, thinking we wouldn't want to be full of trdelnik while tasting beer. Amanda's response: "Let's stop now, I might be too full after beer." Clearly, Amanda and I have different priorities when it comes to beer and food. After finishing our trdelnik - yes, Amanda won that one - we headed to the Bohemian Regent brewery. We walked around a bit, but found no obvious place where a tour would start, so we headed to the terrace and each got a type of beer that is only available at the brewery. Having toured the Eggenberg brewery in Český Krumlov, we figured missing out on the tour wasn't too disappointing. Although, we do have plans to take a tour of the original Budweiser brewery in České Budějovice (Budweis in English and German).
With fewer birds to observe, we started making observations about the people at our sites. We quickly realized that the people at the fancy horse barn, Obora, found us quite amusing and always smiled and subtly shook their heads as they walked by us while we were checking nests or watching birds. When we first found the site, Amanda had talked to the owner and another trainer about riding back in the states, and now they were asking her when she was going to ride their horses. A couple weeks ago, we had some time after a nest check and they put Amanda on a horse. As Marketa, one of the working students, helped Amanda tack up, it became obvious that this was the talk of the barn. It was right after lunch and all the working students were standing around watching, waiting to see if the American could live up to her claims of being able to ride a horse. Marketa lead Amanda, on Slash, over to the indoor arena where Amanda proceded to ride dressage. Many of the students and staff had also come over to watch, even the students that had the day off. After a few minutes, when it was obvious that Amanda knew what she was doing, Marketa leaned over to me and said, "She rides real good, I didn't know what horse she could ride, I think she could ride any horse here." And another student called the owner and I heard her say, "Die Amerikana ist sehr gut." They had her ride another horse and the next day when were checking nests we saw that they had put Amanda on the schedule and given her 3 horses to ride that afternoon. Since then, everyone at the barn has been much more friendly and confident that we know how to work around horses. And I think if this whole science thing doesn't work out, Amanda has a spot waiting for her at Obora!