Jody Warner's Diary
Europe-Africa Song Bird Migration

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Friday, August 27, 2004
Thursday, August 26, 2004

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Monday, August 23, 2004
Sunday, August 22, 2004

Saturday, August 21, 2004
Friday, August 20, 2004

Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Monday, August 16, 2004
Sunday, August 15, 2004

 


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Saturday, August 28, 2004

I woke up at 4 a.m. to get ready to head to the airport for my 7:10 a.m. flight. I found Karen at the airport, and we went to get some breakfast. She had a wonderful time with Josef. He wanted to ride with her to the airport, but there was not enough room. It is funny how two people can get really close in a short time but live in two totally different worlds. She was very sad to go.

Our flight out of Budapest was delayed a little, and Karen was afraid she would not make her next flight. We did not sit with each other on the plane. We tried, but it was packed. When we arrived in Amsterdam, Karen just had to grab her bags and go. I did not really get to say goodbye to her.

I barely made my next flight and started to worry about Karen since she had not traveled much. All the airline workers know English, so I was sure she would be fine.

I had some problems on my flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. I slept when they served food and was not drinking water like I was supposed to. I almost fainted twice. The flight attendant pulled me to the back so they could keep an eye on me. I was fine after I had something to eat.

My last flight went fast. Before I knew it, I was back in South Bend. My husband, mother, and daughter were there waiting for me. Talk about a happy homecoming! Mallory was so glad to see me. She started running for me the minute she saw me. It was good to be home.

You know, when I look back at this experience, I realize that I am so lucky to have participated. I can honestly say that there was not one bad thing about the trip. The entire experience was excellent. I wish to encourage others to try and participate in the program. What a sense of accomplishment you get when the project is over. Tibor is going to e-mail all of us a summary of the birds and species we caught. From the quick tally we had before we left, there were more than 2,000 birds caught and around 55 different species. I would say for two weeks, that is pretty good. It is wonderful to know that I helped with such an important project.

Before I left, I really did not have a great interest in birds. Don't get me wrong; I like birds. I am the one in my household that is continually filling the feeders. I can tell you that when you hold one in your own two hands, you get a different feeling about them. I have gained a new respect for this feathered creature. I also learned how important they are to the ecosystem.

I look forward to sharing my experience with coworkers, friends, family, and community. I am anxious to see if there are local bird banding operations that I can help with. It would be neat to compare what I have learned abroad to what is being done locally.

Lastly, I would like to say thank you to everyone who enabled me to participate in this experience!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Well, today is our last day here. It will be so sad to say goodbye to everyone—not only the people from Hungary, but also the Earthwatch group. We have grown close during these two weeks.

We did the normal net checks in the morning. We did get a few rare species again today, including the rail, wryneck, and tree sparrow. They were beautiful. The wryneck is able to turn its head 270 degrees. I have never seen anything like it. The tree sparrow was so small and fragile. I doubt I would ever try to take it out of the net.

Tibor told us that he would be fixing an early lunch for us, and then Agi and her husband would take us to the airport. The morning did fly by. We all went up to pack our things after the last net check. Everyone was so quiet this morning.

We loaded all our luggage into Agi's husband's car so we all could ride together to the airport. Tibor hugged me and told me to come back next year. I told him I would love to. Jorge, Robin, and Sally had flights out that day. Karen and I did not have a flight out until Saturday. Actually, we will be on the same flight from Budapest to Amsterdam. Jean-Pierre is staying another week in Hungary with his wife. Lucky guy!

We all said our goodbyes when we got to the airport. I waited with Jean-Pierre and Karen to take a minibus to my hotel. I knew that I would see Karen in the morning, so it made me feel a little better. Karen had made arrangements to spend her last night in Budapest with her friend Josef. She was very excited.

I headed to the hotel and tried to rest up for my flights home.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I was up most of the night due to lightening and thunder. I had a hard time shutting off my brain because I know we are getting close to the end of our stay. I am excited to see my family, but at the same time I don't want to leave this beautiful country and people that I have met.

I am not sure if I have discussed the Earthwatch group very much in detail up to this point. I am the luckiest person for being able to meet these people. I could not have had a better group to spend my time with. I honestly can say that I feel like I have known these people all my life. It was an immediate feeling that we all had at once. We come from very different places with very different cultures and traditions, but we are all very similar in personality. We can sit for hours and laugh and laugh to the point that some of us cry. Before Pete left, we talked about it. He said that we have been the best group yet. We made Pete cry a couple of times, too; especially Karen. She has the funniest sense of humor.

We all talked about whether or not anyone will be coming back next year. I would love to! Most of us will not have the money to come back, and Pete thinks that we may be disappointed next year if we do return. He truly says that we are one of the best groups.

As far as the birds go, it was the best morning ever. We had three rare species, and even Tibor could not believe it. We got a green woodpecker, a medium spotted woodpecker, and the kingfisher. These are all beautiful. I was with Karen when we found the green woodpecker on the Dam Trail. I could not believe how she just went in the net and grabbed it. She was so brave. Tibor had to get a special weight station to weigh it.

The kingfisher was very special, and Tibor showed us a little trick that it did. Basically, he quickly turned it upside down and laid it on its back on his tool-banding box. The bird just laid there. It did not move. It was amazing. I took a couple of pictures.

The rain came in this morning, so we had to close the nets early. It did not matter; we had the best morning ever. Some of the other birds we saw included the common white throat and common tree creeper. The last one was a very small bird. There is no way I would ever try to take this one out of the net.

Since this was our last night, Tibor made us a special dinner. It consisted of rabbit meat, noodles, and bread. I chose not to eat any meat. Karen was very upset. She has a pet rabbit at home and had actually showed us all pictures of it. Luckily, she had not eaten any of the meat when she found out what it was. We (I helped because Karen could barely talk) explained to Tibor that she did not want to offend him by not eating it; it was just that she likes rabbits. He said there was no problem.

After dinner, Tibor invited us inside the research center for some wine because it was starting to get cold outside. We all went in and tried several different red and white wines. Everything was wonderful. I think we went through 12 or 13 bottles.

The day that we all went into Budapest, we bought a journal with birds on it for Tibor. It was a gift to show our appreciation. We all wrote something inside, and Karen drew a picture of a bird (she is a good artist). We gave this to Tibor, and he loved it. Sally also gave each of us special Egyptian drawings. Mine is a picture of a women laying on a table and someone with a wolf face standing over her. She told me it signifies good health. Tibor also gave each of us a mug with our name on it that says "Osca 2004 Earthwatch." We all agreed that when we get back to real life at home, we would remember what a good time we had whenever we looked at the mug. It really will be sad to leave tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

We woke up early and did all the net checks. There were not many birds today. Some of the new species that we saw included a grasshopper warbler, red-backed shrike and a wood warbler. The red-backed shrike was the most interesting; it had a very strong beak. I am not sure that if I had to take one out of the net I would be able to. Jean Pierre told us that this bird eats other birds by impaling another bird against a tree to kill it. After hearing this, I decided that I really would not touch one.

I learned that Pete was planning on leaving this day. This made me very sad. I asked him, and he said he would be leaving around 3 p.m.

After the morning net checks, we decided to walk into town. I called work and home again and did not reach anyone. We decided to go shopping. We went to the usual store across the street from the post office. I swear this lady loves to see me coming. I bought a purse and bracelet for practically nothing. I love it! Sally remembered seeing another clothing store in town. It was a long walk, but we decided to go. The time went by very quickly. Before I knew it, it was after 3 p.m. We all got worried that we had missed saying goodbye to Pete, so we took off for home. When we arrived, Pete was still there, and it was time to check the nets.

The evening went by fairly quickly. Pete decided to stay one more night, leaving around 6 the next morning. We were all very happy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Another quiet day. We go out to the nets more by ourselves, and I think we are all getting better. Some of the new species that we saw were the tree pipit and river warbler. I am not sure that if I saw them again I would be able to identify them. Some look so similar.

I took about six birds out of the net by myself. I think this is the most that I have done. I am still very hesitant to handle the birds considering what had happened the day before. I usually handle the same species, which include robins, warblers, blue chickadees, and black caps. These are usually less aggressive and seem to be pretty hardy.

Besides the birds, I have learned to love other creatures as well. I am getting quite used to the snails that are everywhere in the morning hours. There are also geckos that run all over the place. The first time I heard and saw one, I thought it was a snake. I was relieved to learn otherwise. There are also a lot of slugs that come out late at night. You have to be very careful not to step on one while conducting the last net check. At night, there are also mosquitoes. Of course, we all brought spray. Robin brought some extra potent stuff that can be applied to clothing only. It works!

Monday, August 23, 2004

We woke up to sunny skies. This day was very quiet at the banding station. A lot of the people that we met left to go back to work. We started to realize that there was going to be more pressure on us to do a lot more. This is fine, because we think we are ready. Some of the new species we saw included the song thrush and spotted flycatcher.

This ended up being a bad day. Sally was helping weigh the birds and setting them free. There is one type of bird that you have to be very careful with because it is very fragile. It is called the green finch. Sally did not know this, and really I would not have known it either. Anyway, she was holding its legs like we always do. Tibor noticed this and told her to be very careful with the bird. I think she got nervous and went to set the bird free. When she did, it did not fly away. It fell on its belly on the concrete. Tibor knew right away that it probably would die.

It made it into some nearby bushes, and Karen and Jorge went to find it to see if it was okay. They did find it and gave it to Tibor. He checked the wings, which looked okay, but then looked at the sternum and saw that it was cracked. They put it back into some nearby bushes.

There was complete silence. No one knew what to do. If I were Sally, I would have excused myself from the banding station for the rest of the day. She did not. She just stayed right there and kept on helping. She is a very brave person. There is a special logbook that is used to track when a bird is killed. This book was used for the first time on this day.

From this point on, I was very afraid to touch the birds. I had built up a confidence level, but I lost it on this day. We are not that familiar with the different species, so we don't know which ones are fragile. We all talked about it and agreed it really was not Sally's fault. We never did get an official orientation or any kind of training. Everything that we did learn was out in the field with the people who had been here before. If you don't ask questions about things, you will not be given any information. I do not blame Sally for this incident.

We had a wonderful lunch, as always. I am sure I have gained a lot of weight. After lunch, we walked into the nearby village to shop and use the phones. I was able to talk to my husband and daughter. It made me sad to hear their voices, but they seem to be getting along pretty good. Every morning Mallory asks if it is the day to go to the airport to pick me up. At that moment, I could not wait to go home.

When we got back, it was "control time." I spent the evening with Pete, my Dutch grandfather. We did all the net checks together. The more time I spend with him, the more I see my Grandpa Riley in him. I love listening to him talk.

At night, we had a newcomer. His name was Laszlo, and he is a bander from another ringing station. We could all tell that he and Tibor had been friends for a long time. He really knows what he is doing and speaks very good English.

This night, we found another bee-eater. Laszlo had never caught one of these, so you could imagine how happy he was. Tibor let him band it. Afterwards, they went into the village for a celebration drink. Sally went with them. When they returned, she pulled me aside to tell me that they discussed what had happened earlier in the day with the green finch. Tibor explained that it was the bird's time to go and that he appreciated her helping. That was a good ending to a bad day.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

We woke up to cold and rainy weather. We had the same breakfast, which consists of bread, tomatoes, cheese, salami, jams, and yellow peppers. I have really grown to love it. Robin mentions that she, too, would like to have this when she gets home but thinks her husband will feel she is nuts.

The nets were not put up due to the rain, and we all wondered what we would do all day. We got permission to go to Budapest. We were so excited. There was another young guy we had met named Josef, who looks just like Tom Cruise. He and his sister were going back home to Budapest, so we were able to travel with them. This was a good thing, since we would have had no idea what we were doing.

Before we left, one of Tibor's friends came by on a horse and brought a bow and arrow. Karen, Robin, and Jorge tried it out. I chose not to since I didn't think I would be strong enough to pull it back. Since I am a horse person, I was more curious to check out the friend's ride.

He had a saddle that I had never seen. It was really a mixture between an English and Western saddle, and it had a high back to the seat but no actual horn. The horse was very nice, and its owner had tied him to a tree with a long rope. This is different than what we do at home. We use a rope that is very short so the horse doesn't get tangled. This horse obviously knew what he was doing.

So on to Budapest!

Jozsef (from the lake) and his girlfriend took all six of us to the train station in Ocsa. It was a worn down station with a lot of graffiti. We waited about 15 minutes and boarded a very slow train. It took us about 40 minutes to get into Budapest. When we got on the train, Tom Cruise Josef and his sister explained that we need to get tickets for the Metro. This would be how to get to downtown Budapest. They helped us get our tickets and showed us the way.

A little romance had started between this Josef and Karen. They had talked a lot in the last two days and had become friends. I felt so sad for her since they had to part ways. One good thing was that they did exchange emails.

Karen and I will spend one extra day in Budapest since we could not get a flight out on Friday. Karen mentioned that Josef did give her his phone number and offered to show her around on Friday. She was happy about this!

When we got off the last Metro, we started to venture out. The city was beautiful. It had architecture that I have never seen before. I did take plenty of pictures. One of the first things that we discovered was that you had to pay 95 forint to use the bathroom. This is something that I am not used to.

We wandered over to take a look at the Danube River, which separates Buda from Pest. We were on the Buda side first, which has mountains. We walked down some of the streets and decided to get off the main road and venture up into the mountains. This was the best decision we made all day. We had a map that had some of the main attractions on it, but we were not too clear on where we were.

The farther up we got in the mountains, the more beautiful everything was. The buildings were so neat. The colors, flowers, windows, and doors were very unique. The roads were not very wide, so we had to be very careful while walking as cars came speeding by.

We came across a big church that we decided to go and see. We had to climb several steps to get to the top. Once we arrived at the top, we all took some pictures and decided to look inside the church.

There was a set of stairs outside the church that we took. When we reached the top, it was like entering a whole other world. There were tons of people everywhere. We wandered around and saw more beautiful churches, statues, shops, and people. We all spent the next couple hours looking at all the souvenir shops. I bought plenty of gifts for my family and friends.

We decided to walk down some of the roads to try and find a place to eat. It ended up being a big task, because it was still considered a holiday in Hungary and everything was packed. We finally found an outside café that was excellent. I had the Hungarian pizza, which was wonderful, and beer. While we ate, we did hear some bagpipes go by and saw several people that were dressed in some kind of dancing costumes. After we ate, we decided to walk in the direction that everyone else was going. We found a folk art festival that was nearby. Again, there were many tents to shop at. There was also one good spot where you could take beautiful pictures from the top of the mountains. There was a big statue there of some kind of falcon.

After we looked at all the folk art, we decided to walk over the bridge to cross into Pest. By this time, the sun was out. There were two or three big tents along the river that had music playing. It was funny that I recognized some of the songs. We found a tour boat that goes out in the river, and we all took the ride. It was beautiful. The recording that played over the speaker was in several different languages. The English was very hard to understand, so I did not learn much about the buildings that we saw. The one thing that was amazing was the Parliament building. I did hear that this was the second largest Parliament next to the one in London.

After the boat ride, we headed back to the Metro and train station. Somehow I managed to sleep on the train ride home.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Not a lot happened on this day. We did check the nets in the morning, but it got hot early so we had to close the nets sooner then normal. We did find one bird that had been stuck in the net in the sun and was actually panting like a dog. Someone took water out to it, and they decided to let it go. I hope it was okay.

We did see one species of a very rare bird called a nightjar. It is a dark brown bird that is bigger in size. What is neat about it is its beak, which is very wide. I learned that this is because it flies with its mouth open so that it can catch insects. When it opens its mouth, it looks like some kind of reptile. It also makes a hissing sound that is really scary. I did not get too close to it. The neck is also long and very flexible. Some of the other birds that we saw today include: red star, common white throat, lesser white throat, pied flycatcher, greenfinch, and a bee-eater. The bee-eater is still my favorite so far. The colors on it are wonderful.

Since it was hot, Sally and I were invited by some others that had cars to go to a nearby lake. We were the only ones that had swimming suits.

Joszef drove us. One thing that I thought was interesting was the music on the radio in his car. I did not realize how much influence American singers had in other countries. I knew most of the songs that came on the radio.

This lake was very beautiful, and I was glad that I went. It was really in the middle of nowhere. It must not be known by many others because only one family was there. The water was pretty cold, but it felt good.

Thirty minutes after we got there, a bunch of the guys and girls went over a hill and were gone for about 20 minutes. I wondered what was going on since, of course, I could not understand what they were saying before they left. Jozsef, who is 28 and for some reason reminds me of my brother, came back to get Sally and me. He was covered in what looked like mud. He asked if I would go with him. I laughed at him and decided to go. We walked for about five minutes and came to a place that looked like it was, at one time, a river. It was dried up, and you could walk on it, but there was one spot that was still wet. As we got closer, I could see all the guys running through what I thought was water. Turns out it was some kind of clay.

Jozsef takes off running and gets to a point were he just sinks. The guys were having a ball rolling around in it. I, of course, decided to stay away and take pictures. The only parts of their bodies that was not covered in clay were their eyes. One of the girls carefully tried to explain to me that the clay is very expensive. It is free to them, and they love to be covered in it. After 15 minutes or so, they decide that they have had enough, and we walked back to the lake so they could rinse off. Of course, they think it is funny to splatter the clay on Sally and me before they get cleaned up.

We came back just in time for the net checks or, as Tibor calls it, "control time." Every hour we would go out. Because it was so hot, there were very few birds that were caught. The night dragged on because there was not a lot to do. Toward the end of the night, the wind really picked up, and we wondered if we were going to get some rain overnight.

We had a very good soup for dinner. It had ham and several different types of beans. I am not sure what else was in there, but it was wonderful.

Friday, August 20, 2004

This is a very special day for Hungarians. It's a national holiday—a celebration of the first king—and all stores are closed. There is a big festival in Osca that we are going to in the afternoon. There will be a food competition, dog show, wine tasting, and music. Tibor is making a big pot of food that includes chicken testes, the crown of the chicken, and spices. I do not think that I will try it.

In the morning, we did more net checks and banding of birds. I am getting the hang of it now, and I'm not as afraid to take the birds out. I do have a hard time if they are the type that pecks. It's funny how some species are really nice and others are not. You do have to be extremely careful with the legs as they can break.

Today, we saw our first long-tailed tit. It was very beautiful.

One gentleman that comes to this site every year is Pete, a wonderful man from Holland. He is an older gentleman; I would guess in his 60's. I love talking with him because not only is he very educated about the banding site, but he has also traveled all over the world and is very knowledgeable. The real reason I love talking to him is because his voice sounds exactly like that of my Grandpa Riley, who has passed. It is funny that Pete's facial features are very similar as well. It is almost to the point that it is scary. He also speaks English and can help us if we get into a bind trying to talk with someone.

I heard someone mention that Pete did have a hard time getting one of the birds out of the net. I guess he accidentally broke its leg. He came back to the banding station and had to tell Tibor. I am not exactly sure what they did to it. I do know that Pete was very quiet for the rest of the day, and he did not want to go to the festival.

One of the scientists on the project is Gyory. He was very helpful to have around and he knows how to speak English very well. He tried to walk us through everything that happens to a bird when we bring it back to the banding station.

The first step is to identify the species. You cannot band a bird unless you are sure what species it is. Second, the band goes on the left leg and upside down. It is much easier to read this way when you hold the bird. The third step is to determine the sex and age. This can be done by looking at the colors and shape of the body parts. Fourth, you examine the fat level, muscle level, body molt status, and the wear of the feathers.

There is a scale from 0 to 8 that is used to document the fat level. If the skin is transparent, there is no fat. If the bird is an 8, it is ready for migration. The muscle level is measured on a scale of 0 to 3. The body molt is on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being fresh feathers. Wear of the feathers is on a scale of 0 to 3, with 3 being bad. I also learned that there are 10 primary, six secondary and three tertiary feathers.

Wing formula is the shape of the wings—whether they are rounded or pointed. The longer the primary feather, the more effective the wing is.

The festival was wonderful but hot. We watched some of the dog show, which featured a Hungarian dog called the komador. They are big white dogs that have long hair that looks like dreadlocks. They are amazing dogs. One did actually overheat, and they had to start pouring water on it. Hopefully, it will be all right.

I was too nervous to try some of the food. Agi took some of us around to each tent to try the food and wine. I did have wild boar, some part of the chicken that is before the stomach (we had a hard time translating this one), lamb, veal, and stuffed cabbage. I did not have Tibor's dish or a dish that had cow tongue. Jean-Pierre did have the cow tongue. He explained to me that when he was little, there was not a lot of meat to eat, so his mother did what she could with every part of the meat that she had. This recipe was the exact one that his mother used. You could tell he was very emotional when he tasted it since it reminded him of his home and family.

We were there most of the afternoon and had to return to check the nets at 5 p.m. We were very tired and all went to bed early. It was probably from being out in the sun all day. We did have a very good dish for dinner. It was chicken, mashed potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, with watermelon for dessert.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

We woke up at 5:30 a.m. and checked nets all morning. There were some white storks that flew overhead. We also saw several warblers, chickadees, yellow hammers, and barred warblers. I'm starting to learn several different species, being able to recognize the black bird, male and female black cap, and the blue tit. I've also discovered that their robin looks a lot different than the ones in the United States.

In the afternoon, we went on a tour of a church and museum in Osca. The church is over 800 years old and has burned down five times. It was absolutely beautiful. The stone on the south side had Arabic writing. Around the corner, there were verses of the Koran. One of the doors had stone that was restored, and the other was not. The side that was not restored was more than 800 years old.

Agnus (Agi), one of the ladies that has been helping us, was very familiar with the church. I learned that her father was a pastor there, and the church meant a lot to her. She told us to continue looking around the church. While we did, she sang to us. Her voice was absolutely beautiful. We all stood in amazement as her voice echoed through the church. I had goose bumps. After she finished, we all just stood there. No one moved. No one knew what to do. Silence. It did not matter that we did not understand a word she was singing. That is the amazing thing about music.

She then took all of us through some small museums that were a series of homes that had displays of clothes, decorations, jewelry, and pictures. It is amazing how small the houses were. There were three main rooms: the clean room (beds for guests), the kitchen, and then another common room. There was also a newly built research center that would be used to teach kids about nature.

Agi also had wine for us to drink. We definitely got a special tour, and we all enjoyed it very much.

After the tour of the houses, we all went for ice cream at a cute little shop that also had pizza. It was wonderful. We all sat, and Agi told us about some of the culture in Hungary. She talked of her father, who had the values to work hard and always look to the future. She mentioned that she had a hard time with this because people today need to have fun at the same time. Work is not the only thing in life. It was very nice to hear her talk.

We came back and finished up the evening getting birds out of the nets and learning new species. The best one and my favorite so far was a bee-eater. It is a bigger bird that has beautiful colors.

We stayed up late having Hungarian wine, which was wonderful. I would like to bring some home, but I am not sure if I would be allowed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

We woke up and got ready to go out to the nets. All the birds from the night before had already been freed. Someone must have gotten up extra early. There were also some new tents that had been pitched overnight. People just come and go from this site, and all the Hungarians seem to know each other. They all have an interest in birds and come here to help out often.

There were hardly any birds caught the first three trips out. Tibor did tell us that the birds do not fly when it is hot. There should be a cold front coming through in the next three days, so there would be more then.

On one of the trips, I went out to the trail called House. It is a short trail near the research center. I went with Sylvia, who is a beautiful Hungarian girl that knows a lot about birds.

There were only two birds caught, and Sylvia challenged me to remove one from the net. I make sure she knows that this is only my second time, and she encourages me to start. Luckily, this bird was not really tangled in the net. I again started with the legs, then the wings, and then the head. I am successful, again not being pooped on or pecked. I am happy. We did see a bird today that looked like the foot was swollen, and Tibor informed us that this is cancer.

Shortly after, it gets too hot and we close the nets. The group of English-speaking people sat outside and relaxed and talked all afternoon. We discussed how everyone was feeling about the trip. Karen stated that she felt left out most of the time because everyone spoke Hungarian. It is funny. They all know English because it is taught in school, but everyone still chooses to speak Hungarian, which leaves us out. Others in my group agree. It is a barrier that we will just have to overcome.

At about 2 p.m., it is time for lunch. We had soup made with potatoes, sauerkraut, and onions. They also prepared eggs that were supposed to be added to the top of the soup. I did, and it was delicious. Of course, bread was also served.

After lunch, a bunch of us walked into town to call our families and go to the store for more water and soda. Agnus was driving by and stopped to take us the rest of the way into town. She mentioned that her mother was ill and she was headed to the hospital. We all felt so bad for her. Once we were done at the store, we walked to the post office to use the phones. I felt much better after this. It was so nice to talk with my husband and daughter. It sounds like they are getting along great without me, and that makes me relax a little more.

We walked back to the research center and snoozed until 5 p.m., when it was time to open the nets back up. Tibor promised us wine again tonight. I can't wait!

Monday, August 16, 2004

In the morning, no one came to wake us up. I thought they would knock on the door at 5:30 a.m. Luckily, we were up and ready at 6 a.m.

I quickly learned that this is the busiest time of the day for birds. We would go out every hour from 6 until 10 a.m. and keep Tibor overloaded with birds to check. He had to pull out a special holding device for the birds because we had so many. We would not stop for breakfast until he was caught up.

The morning did fly by, no pun intended. When it was finally time to eat, everyone was starved. This was my first Hungarian breakfast, and I was anxious to see what was going to be served. We had bread with jam, salami, cheese, tomatoes, yellow pepper slices, and then...leftover cucumber salad. It was different breakfast food than I was used to, but I was so hungry it did not matter. I am a cheese lover, and they have the best I have ever had.

The area where we eat is awesome. It has a thatched roof, and all the tables and chairs are made of logs. There is a small stove that uses propane. There is also a sink to do dishes and a big water tank overhead where the water feeds out via gravity. You can tell the setup was well thought out.

After breakfast, we did one more net check. There were no birds, and Tibor told us to close all the nets. Birds do not fly here when it is hot, so there is no point in keeping the nets up. Karen and I went with a college student named Mark to close some on a trail that I had never been on. It took a long time to get all the nets closed. You basically have to condense the nets into one area on the poles and then stand in the middle and rotate the net until it is all twisted and bundled up. It looks like it will be more of a pain to open back up.

When we got back, Tibor announced that we would not open the nets until 5 or 6 p.m.

Karen, Robin, Sally, and I decided to walk into Ocsa, which is not far—maybe 20 minutes. We did not go all the way into town since we got to a part where it looked a little unsafe and decided to start heading back. On the way back, Agnus, who had met us at the airport, was driving by. She stopped to pick us up, and we headed back to town. She showed us where the grocery store, post office, bank, church, and museum were. The museum is where she works. At the store, we all bought bottled water since the water tastes a little funny here.

When we got back, it was time for lunch. It was like spaghetti, although the noodles were a lot thicker and there was no real sauce. It was more like meat and cheese on top. Again, it was wonderful, and I did not see the cucumber salad this time.

After lunch, Sally, Karen, Jean-Pierre, and I decided to walk back into town to call our families. We saw a women's clothing store and took a peek in—it had really revealing outfits. Ocsa is not that big and sort of out in the middle of nowhere, but the store had the most fashionable clothes.

We stayed in the house and rested until 5:30 p.m. At that time, we went back out to open the nets, and every hour we would check for birds. At dark, everyone got flashlights out. I had one of the biggest, so I was chosen to go with all the Hungarians to the trail called Reed. On this trail, there are planks made of wood that you walk on since there is water underneath. Well, I am not sure if water is the right word. Swamp is probably more appropriate.

Anyway, up to this point I have not touched a bird. I have watched others get them out of the net and tried to learn their technique. They start with the legs first, and then get the wings followed by the head. This can take very long, especially at night. Fortunately, the people I was going with are the ones that really know what they are doing.

We could not head out until it was absolute darkness since I learned that the birds do not normally fly at night. The trail I was going on had a compact disk (CD) of bird sounds playing. This gives the birds a false sense of other birds, and they fly into the area.

When we took the trail to the planks and headed to the swamp, I could not believe what I saw. Bird after bird was captured in the nets. There were probably 10 of us there, and it seemed like forever to get them all out. They were mainly different types of swallows. After getting back to the station, I learned that we had captured 84.

When we first arrived, one of the Hungarian boys named Mark yelled out to me in English to "come here." He must have noticed I was just standing around with my light in amazement. Mark had been at the center for a couple of days with his girlfriend. Both are very cute college students. Anyway, he told me it was time for me to take my first bird out of the net. I told him he was nuts, that this was not the time or place for an amateur to remove a bird from the net. Remember, it was pitch dark and I am standing on planks of wood and below is the swamp—prime conditions for falling in.

I hear another gentleman (Kevin in English) yell out something in Hungarian. I ask Mark what it meant. He basically rattles off something about nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, I quickly get up the courage to touch my first bird. It is so dark, and I am so nervous that I don't even take the time to figure out what species it is. Before I know it, I had it out. Of course, I followed the guidance of Mark, starting with the legs, then the wings, and then the head. It did not peck me, I did not get pooped on, and I did not fall in. I was happy.

The rest of my time was spent helping others with light so that they could see. Once everything was captured, we headed back. Eighty-four-plus birds later, we were done with checking them into the logbook. The birds will have to wait until morning to be let free since they cannot see in the dark. The team hung the bags in an area where other creatures could not get to them.

After we were done, Tibor invited us for some Hungarian wine. I was very excited to try some. There was a group of about 10 of us, and we went through two bottles of great red dry wine. It was wonderful. We sat and talked about the culture and language of Hungary. The people are very proud of their heritage, and it was amazing to sit and hear all the stories that they had to tell. At this point, it was 11:30 p.m. I showered and went to bed because we had to be ready at 5:30 a.m.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

My bags are packed, and I think I am ready to go. I can't believe it is actually time. It seems like I kept saying to myself, "Oh, I don't leave until August." Well, August is here.

I am nervous and excited at the same time. I'm nervous to be away from home for two weeks. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter named Mallory. She is my pride and joy, and I have been away from her once. Last summer, I did an environment, health, and safety audit at Howmet Whitehall in Michigan (United States). She was so little then, she did not even know I was gone. I think it is going to be a little different this time.

I am excited to meet new people, learn about another culture, and learn about birds. There is one other person from the United States going on the expedition, and others are from Canada, Mexico, and Egypt. The person from Canada is another Alcoa employee. We have been e-mailing since we found out we were selected to participate in this program. I have also been e-mailing Jorge from Mexico and Sally from Egypt. It will be nice to put a name with a face.

After getting everything packed, we headed out to the airport. My husband, Wade, drove me. Also in the car were Mallory, my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Cindy Warner, my mother-in-law, and Gail Marsh, my mother. The mothers were very nervous for me to go but at the same time were very excited for me. They will be there to take care of my family while I am away. I think they wanted to go to the airport because they were going to miss me and to also give me comfort that everything would be fine while I was gone.

I was so happy when I checked in at the South Bend, Indiana, airport. The woman from Northwest Airlines must have sensed that I was nervous to leave. She gave my family a pass to get into the actual terminal so they could see me get on the plane and wave good-bye. That was so nice for her to do. I have been there several times to send my husband off, and never did we get that opportunity.

Leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Everyone was in tears. I just had to tell myself that it was for two weeks, not forever. I am such a sap. I can cry at the drop of a dime anyway.

The only thing I can say about the flights was that they were very long. The flight from South Bend to Detroit, Michigan, was 40 minutes. Then the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, Netherlands, was seven hours. I knew I should be getting some sleep, but I had a hard time in the hard chairs. Then I had a flight from Amerstdam to Budapest, which was about two hours long. The good thing is that in Amsterdam I met up with two other people on my expedition. Jean-Pierre Barry, who is from an Alcoa plant in Canada, was one of the two. Then I met a girl named Karen who works for Starbucks Coffee in Vancouver. We all had Earthwatch T-shirts on so we could identify each other at the airport.

Once we arrived at the Budapest airport, we were met by two people who were going to take us to the research center. We arrived about an hour and a half early, so we sat in the airport and waited. It was so fascinating to sit and watch the people. I was told by a gentleman that I sat next to on one of my flights that the ladies dress for the men. Boy, was he right. The ladies wear what I would consider going-out clothes; like if I was going to Chicago to a dance club. It is not bad, just different than what I am used to seeing. The people were fun to watch. The first thing that I picked up on was that they greet people by kissing both cheeks.

The gentleman that drove us was an interesting character. He told us his name, but none of us caught it. He talked too fast, and his English was not that good. That is one thing I have learned about the Hungarian language. It sounds like no other language.

Other things that I learned are that they drive on the right-hand side of the road, and they drive like maniacs. The cars are very little in size, and everyone just zooms around. Our guy drove this way. I sat right behind him and could tell he drove very close to the middle line. It would make me very nervous when there was oncoming traffic. The whole 30-minute ride from Budapest to Ocsa went by in a flash because he was going so fast.

When we arrived at the research center, many others greeted us. Some you could tell were the scientists on the project. The majority of others were high school or college kids. I was not expecting there to be so many people here. Some of the people spoke very good English. This was nice and made me relax a little. I later found out that the kids in Hungary are required to learn English in school.

I was not sure what to expect when we arrived. Most everyone was extremely tired from traveling. Along with Jean-Pierre and Karen, there was Sally from Egypt, Jorge from Mexico, and Robin from New Jersey. Traveling was like a time warp for most of us. There is a seven-hour difference between Indiana and Budapest.

We were shown to our rooms and given a tour of the research center. It is a very nice place. They gave us 10 minutes to get to the outdoor kitchen, where they had food prepared for us. They had potato cakes, cucumber salad, tomatoes and peppers, corn in some kind of white sauce, and beer. Everything was very good.

After we ate, they immediately took us over to the bird-banding station. There we divided up into groups, and the students led the way. There are several trails that led out to a group of nets, and each trail has a name. Some of them that I can remember include Long, Dry Reed, House, Elderberry, and Forest. I noticed at the time that every leader or student took a bag that had smaller bags inside.

We went out and checked the nets for birds. There were a couple in the area that I went to, and I basically stood back, watched, and took pictures. I was not familiar with any of the species that we caught. I quickly learned that the students are experts. I later found out that several of them have been coming here for seven to eight years.

The hard part is getting the birds out of the nets because they get tangled so badly. Once the bird is out, they get put it in a small bag. Each trail has a specific colored bag that must be used, and each net is numbered as well. I later learned that they track which net and which trail each of the birds comes from. It is very important to understand the numbering system. Later in the night, they showed us a map that identifies everything.

After the nets are checked and all birds are in a bag, you take the trail back to the banding station. On the wall there is a series of hooks with numbers. You must put each bird on the numbered hook that matches the net number that it came from.

Once everyone gets back to the banding station, the main scientist in charge, Tibor Csorgo, reviews each bird. He measures the length of the wing feathers, the entire wing, and then the tail. As he is measuring, one of the students logs the measurements in a logbook. Tibor then blows the feathers on the stomach and back. I have no idea what he is looking at when he does this. The only thing I could think of is body fat. I have to find out. He also announces the species and sex of the bird. This is difficult to understand with his accent. Most of the time he is speaking Hungarian, not English, which is sort of a barrier.

After he gets the band on the leg, he puts the bird in a small plastic bag and folds it. He then gives it to another student, who puts it on the scale and calls out the weight. The student then sets the bird free.

I noticed right away that some of the birds caught already had a band. Tibor would read off the number from the band, and they would track these birds as well.

This practice continued into the night. Every hour we would go out and get the birds out of the nets. We never had an official orientation on what they were looking for or why they were even doing this. It was sort of a learn-as-you-go process. The only thing Tibor said was that he did not want the new people taking the birds out of the nets right away.

The mosquitoes came out shortly after the sun went down. By now, I am absolutely exhausted. Karen already left to go to bed, but I was just getting into the whole process and did not want to give up for the night.

Next thing I knew, someone from the darkness yells that dinner was ready. It took me by surprise since I thought we had already eaten dinner. We had cooked potatoes with some kind of sausage, wonderful bread, and the leftover cucumber salad from the earlier meal. Everything was delicious. I was told on one of my flights over that it was going to take a while to get adjusted to the food. Boy, were they wrong.

After dinner, we went out to the nets one more time. I then headed in to take a shower and call it a night. The sleeping arrangements are dormitory style, with four beds to a room. I am sharing a room with Karen, Sally, and Robin, and I am getting along great with all of them. It's funny. Some of them I feel like I have known forever, especially Robin.


Related Sites


An Introduction to Bird Migration
This article about bird migration from Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, also contains useful links.
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Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
This center is dedicated to fostering greater understanding, appreciation, and protection of the "grand phenomenon" of bird migration.
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The Mystery of Bird Migration
Why birds migrate, how they find their way, how they strategize their flights, and more. Includes links to useful information about birds.
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Migration Facts
Interesting facts about the migration of butterflies, birds, and marine mammals.
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Photo Gallery


View the images from Jody Warner's diary.
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Earthwatch Institute


Learn more about this international nonprofit, which supports scientific field research worldwide.
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Europe-Africa Song Bird Migration


Learn more about the expedition and its scientists.
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