Day Nine/ Departure

All good things come to an end. We had to clear the camping area till midday. It took us a while to pack our luggage and to be honest we felt sad about leaving. We became a well-connected group.

Then we worked for the blog and besides some of us interviewed our professor and the assistant (Kristina). These interviews you will find soon in this blog.

Later we finished the summary which was really helpful for our exam.  Our oral exam about this module is supposed to be in two weeks. It will be about the theory part and the identified species.

At 4pm the bus picked us up and this time we headed back to Budapest Airport instead of another national park.

We are sad to leave but all in all it was a great experience in many ways.

Back home we will continue the blog with adding the species list and some more photos.

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Day Eight

This day we went to the Bükk National Park. We have been to this park before but this time we took the bus and went further. First stop was a meadow. It was dizzying and against our expectations we found a lot of butterflies. Since several days we tried to find Zygena ephialtis because we had some hard discussions about this species and today was the day. A lot of colourful Z. ephialtis sat on flowers and it seemed that they waited for us.

Next stop was a grassy area where we had another event. We found the Rosalina longicorn Rosalia alpina which occurs in mountains. This was really spectacular! In Düsseldorf you would not find another unique looking bug like this.

After this amazing founds the last stop couldn’t convince us. We walked through a forest and got attacked by thousands of mosquitos. Our motivations sunk but our professor was still convinced to find something new. He comes to Hungary since several years. That means he knows the area really well and was surprised how the environment changed in the last couple of years. A bit frustrated we finished the last day trip.

Back in the camp we concluded the theory part with the last talk about Barcoding. After the dinner we listened to a summary of all talks given by our professor. Long story short the summary seemed endlessly so we decided to continue tomorrow. And moreover we students wanted to have one last night together.

Day Seven

Today was supposed to be our highlight trip. The plan was to explore the Hortobágyi. The bus drive took around 2 hours. On our way we made a short break and climbed up an observation desk to see a bee-eater colony. At around midday we arrived at the Hortobágyi National Park. The landscape was spectacular. It’s a huge step and former fish ponds. Nowadays it is a huge national park with many different bird species. We walked around the park for about three hours.  Our professor knew very good spots to observe common and rare birds. We really had good changes to witness birds during their flight.  For example we identified the Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Great Egret, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White-tailed Eagle, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, Eurasian Penduline Tit and the Ferruginous Duck. It is hard to sum up what we were doing because it sounds all the same but our day in the Hortobágyi was really special and educational! On our way back to the entrance of the National Park we caught an old but fancy looking tram. With really low speed we passed towards the Hortobágyi and just appreciated the view.

Back in the camp the dinner waited for us and surprisingly … another theory part. But this time we finished the discussion quick. After that we met in the evening and continued were we stopped yesterday night.

 

Day Six

The morning started with a little hangover from last night. Good enough we agreed to have a less exhausting day. Today’s schedule listed only one field trip and spare time. First we went to see a Bee-eater colony. These birds are really colourful that makes them easy to identify. They build their holes on edges. While we continued our walk we found a small hole in the field. Someone had the suggestion that there might be a tarantula inside and we tried to get a closer look. And we were right. A huge tarantula popped up and demonstrated its own beauty.

Next stop was Tard valley where we hoped to see bats. The environment was incredible. Instead of bats many different butterflies crossed our way. We also noticed the phenome of mud paddling.

After getting back to the camp we enjoyed spare time. Most of us worked out, did yoga and played volleyball. Later we had a delicious dinner together but some were in a hurry to catch the sunset. We hiked up a hill and caught the perfect moment. The sun was changing the sky to a warm orange and the plateau was absolutely silent.

Day Five

In the morning a thunderstorm woke us up. During the breakfast the rain didn’t stop. But nevertheless we gathered our equipment. This day was supposed to be different than the days before – a bus picked us up. And finally the weather changed from rain to sunshine.

Today’s goal was to observe and identify birds and butterflies. We arrived at a huge steppe in the so called Little Hortobágyi. The nature was wild and open. It was an amazing feeling to pass through the steppe. Unfortunately it became really dry and windy. No good conditions for birding. Even though it wasn’t easy we were able to observe a few flying birds. We identified the European Roller, Spoon Bill, Kestrel, Purple Heron, Great White Heron and the Bee-Eater.

We walked for around 2 hours at 37 degrees. That’s been really exhausting! After the first part of field trip we returned to our bus and relaxed for a while. With more energy we started the second part of our field trip. The bus stopped and we walked to another part of the Little Hortobágyi. Still there was too much wind but we explored an observation deck which we climbed up. The view was stunning! Imagine a 360 degree view around the Little Hortobágyi in absolute silence. We decided to stay up there for longer. And finally we were able to see some birds of prey.

After that we took the bus back to our camp. We all needed a break and continued with one talk. It was about polymorphisms. Finally we called it a day and had spare time. Carolin’s birthday was about to come. We spend our time with playing cards, drinking wine, music and good conversations waiting for midnight.

Day Four

‚ Good morning everyone!‘ ….

The morning started way too soon for some of us. The night before, we finally used our spare time in the evening to get to know each other… With a great bon fire, clear sky and the homemade wine we sat together and lost ourselves in good conversations.

As you see, the night was quite short for some of us. However we had to wake up early like the days before and had our breakfast. Today the Bükk National Park was our destination. From Farm Lator you only have to walk 10 minutes to arrive at the entrance. But it took us around 1 hour, because as usual, we found and identified a lot of butterflies and bugs on our way. The National Park was beautiful and we saw a lot of deers.

After three hours, we head back to Farm Lator to continue with the theory part again. Today we were supposed to complete most of the theory lessons… And as you imagine, it was really exhausting. We listened to several talks about cloning, alternation of generation, mitosis and meiosis principles. Even though we had breaks in the sun, it was tiresome. And after our own talks our professor also gave a talk about species conservation and habitat management. He pointed out the importance of knowing the difference between nature protection and species conservation.. All in all, it was a lot to understand and to think about but we finally made it.

And after that, there was already a nice dinner waiting for us and our highlight was the sweet homemade pancakes. After dinner, we enjoyed another presentation about the protection of the Great Bustard. And that’s it…. today we prefer our cosy sleeping bags instead of drinking wine.

 

Day Three

Daily routine: The sun was shining bright again and we got a lovely breakfast from Barbara. At around 9 am we started our field trip towards the next small village. We followed a street and found surprisingly Zerynthia cerisiae caterpillar. This is the most beautiful butterfly among the family of Papilionids. Moreover, we students were already able to recognize some of the butterflies from the days before on our own! That’s super cool! For example, we found the Melanargia galathea, Argynnis paphia, Pieris napi and P. rapae. Also lizards, Pararge aegeria, which only occurs in forests, Esculapian Snake and a Common Toad crossed our way. All of a sudden, we had to stop our field trip because of a heavy rain, followed by thunder. We rushed back home to save our tents and belongings from the rain. Now, that we were depending on the weather conditions we had to wait until the rain stopped. Knowing our belongings in save and dry shelter, we were prepared for more heavy rain to come and continued our field trip. Even if it didn’t rain again we felt quite professional and like real old school biologists.

During midday, we had a small break, before we continued with our theory lessons. Two of us gave a talk about cladistics and reproduction communities.

After the talks some of us still didn’t have enough of searching for animals. In the garden and pond they found a huge aquatic spider (Dolomedes plantarius), newts and bugs. To provide the group a closer look, they prepared a little aquarium, filled it up with water and kept the spider inside.

 

Day Two

On the second morning we again woke up at bright sunlight although it had been a short and cold night. After our breakfast we took the same equipment and went further than yesterday, this time towards the national park. On that way we found various butterfly species, such as Pieris brassicea, Brenthis ino, Brenthis daphne and even Neptis Sappho! That was quite cool, as Neptis Sappho is a species we can’t find back home. We also put a lot of effort in getting a closer look on the Nymphalis c-album, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Maybe we have more luck tomorrow. Later we climbed up a little hill to see the Imperial Eagle which didn’t show up either. At least we heard the Golden Hammer singing!

After the lunch break we listened to the next two lectures about mimicry and convergence given from our student group. To close the theory lesson we put on a documentary about birds of prey in Hungary. Looking at birds like the Imperial Eagle and the Red Footed Falcon was interesting – we hope that we’ll see them live and in colour when visiting the Hortobágy puszta.

In the evening a student presented his project for the synthetic biological competition iGem to the group, which let to several discussions about synthetic biology.

 

Day One

The first morning started with a great breakfast and sunshine. After a small break we continued with our first field trip. For a good field trip you need an identification guide for birds and butterflies or insects, binoculars, petri dishes, water and a good camera. All set up we were heading to the garden of Farm Lator.  For the next two hours it was important to have a keen eye and always stay together. Our Professor showed us several different butterflies which we discussed and tried to classify with the help of our books. That was quite difficult! Moreover we caught with our petri dishes some beetles and bugs and whatever were in front of our feet. Furthermore we named the birds that we saw or heard singing.

After a nice lunch break in the sun it was time for the theory lesson.  We listened to a lecture about taxonomy and one about hybrids which were given by two students of our group. A long discussion about the theory was following!

Really exhausted from all the new experience and the sun we gathered together to have dinner. That was the official ending of our first day at Farm Lator. Some of us enjoyed spare time and some others began to collect ideas for this blog. And here we are!

Arrival

The trip started with our arrival at the Budapest Airport. Some of us had already spent a few days in Budapest checking out the city. It was the first time for all of us to visit Budapest. We enjoyed different activities like thermal baths, restaurants, bars, hiking, historical architecture, lovely hostels and of course Hungarian wine. Budapest is definitely worth a visit. It is a city full of communism history and contrasts such as the differences between the both city sides Buda and Pest which are now unified.

We got together with the others from Germany and took the private bus towards Bükk National Park. We arrived around midnight and were welcomed by Rob and Barbara, the owners of Farm Lator, our camp side close to the park. Hot Hungarian goulash and a big Stag Beetle were already waiting for us.

After the welcoming dinner we felt strong enough to pitch our tents. We enjoyed the last view of the stunning sky with bright stars and felt asleep in our cosy sleeping bags.