Sunday morning we left Prague and headed to Southern Bohemia where our field sites are located. This may sound like a simple task, but it was Amanda’s first time driving any significant distance in a car with a manual transmission. It took a few tries to get out of the parking lot, but once we were on the highway, it was smooth sailing. Our rental car is a Škoda Citigo that gets on average 60 mpg! It’s lime green and awesome. We stopped for lunch at a pub that served pizza; I expecting a taste of something resembling American pizza, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the menu full of pizzas with camembert, corn, cabbage, and bacon. Getting out of the parking lot was a little exciting as it was uphill onto the highway. Thankfully, Martina was there to help Amanda conquer the hill with a manual transmission.
We arrived in Lužnice and went straight to one of our field sites - an adorable farm with pigs, cows, and chickens. Not long after our arrival, the barn swallows were swirling overhead, singing and swooping in and out of the barn. The difference in color and tail streamer length was immediately apparent and we are both excited to get a bird in hand and examine the differences up close. Tomáš, another collaborator of ours, met us there and we had a look at the nests, noting that several pairs have started adding mud to nests and copulating...and we found our first eggs two days later! We went to two other sites for a quick look around before heading to the apartment (marked with an ‘A’) where we’ll be staying for the next two months.
The apartment is on the first floor of a two-story house. The walls are all brightly colored and there are cute decorations in every room. Right now, it’s only Amanda and me, but soon we’ll be joined by several other biologists. The other people that will be working on barn swallows will stay here, and it sounds like we’ll have some other biologists doing work in the area coming and going. It brings me back to my field job days of staying in field houses with lots of people working weird hours. Amanda and I tested all the beds and claimed one of the large beds to share, as it was the most comfortable. Here’s hoping that we can keep from cuddling (or kicking) each other too much throughout our time here.
Later that afternoon, we visited Třeboň, a historic town not too far from Lužnice. As we drove through the town, we had to go through an archway - I think this might have been the high point for Amanda so far! We walked through the square where we stopped for gelato (yum!) and made our way to a large pond called the Svet, which translates to ‘the world’. There is a path that goes all the way around, so people can say they have walked around the world. After dropping Martina off at her house, we braved the grocery store and had a good time trying to figure out what various things were. Most items were obvious, but we weren’t sure if we were getting butter or cream cheese or what we’d find in our bread.
The next morning we went back to the first farm to check all the nests and identify which males had already returned to the site. While the pigs and cows are an exciting change from the horse barns we work at in Colorado, the smell and mess will make us appreciate the conditions when we get back home. While we were there, a group of ornithologists were doing some mist netting for a ringing (aka bird banding) course. We got to watch some of the process and were able to get a close up look at a black bird, several blue tits and great tits, and a few European robins. Amanda and I found the tits to be quite exciting as we’ve read a lot of papers about them, but they are apparently common, unexciting birds for the Europeans. We had an unexciting afternoon/evening of work followed by another day of nest checks. At the site we checked today, we found three nests with eggs - things will pick up quickly and we will soon be quite busy catching and monitoring barn swallows! So far, field work here looks quite similar to field work back home, and Amanda is up to her same antics. However, we have some new helpers over here.
On Thursday, we head to Brno with Tomáš where Amanda and I will give a talk about our research to some biology graduate students. Stay tuned for more!
Favorite things about the Czech Republic so far: butter (it was butter, not cream cheese), yogurt, beer, croquettes, gelato, colorful houses, chickens in every yard, and the lush open country side.