Wild observations

-A A +A
By Nancy Oakes

After the usual first day rat race, I made it to Budapest, pronounced "pech" or something like that. I planned to pick up an Enterprise rental car at Gainesville Airport, but when I got there, I found out they wouldn't take my debit card. So I flew (almost) to Orlando in my own vehicle and parked it and hoped for the best. Orlando Airport was on level orange security alert which made things even more stressful, getting into the boarding area and waving goodbye to my suitcase, hoping it would end up with me. I flew to New York JFK Airport and then on to Budapest. Redeye flights are such fun, trying to sleep sitting upright in an area where feet just don't seem to have any place to go. A military fellow was next to me and he really filled all of his seat area. Poor guy, he wanted to sleep and I think he managed to. I know he slept through dinner and breakfast-yes food was served on Delta on this international flight.

When we were on the ground in Budapest, but still in the plane, I pointed out mullein in flower, growing in a weedy area at the edge of the airport. I made the brilliant comment that mullein was mullein whether in America or Hungary. Blame it on jet lag. My brain was not working very well. Once I got on a bus to transfer to my hotel, I could identify a few more wildflowers growing in waste places beside roads and railroad tracks. I saw fleabane, Queen Anne's lace, white clover, yellow sorrel, and bright red poppies. These were wild poppies. I also saw wild plants that looked like our phlox and some lupine.

My hotel was located on the Buda side of the Danube River. Almost across from the hotel was a bridge that gave access to Pest and to Margaret Island, a substantial landmass with some really impressive trees growing there. The first wildlife I observed after crossing part of the bridge to the island were two nuthatch-looking birds. They were busy probing around in a massive cottonwood, or at least that's my guess of the tree's identity. This cottonwood was one of many huge trees thriving in this place. I kept thinking I'd seen the biggest sycamore or beech or cottonwood or chestnut tree and then an even bigger one would catch my eye.

Blackbirds, those European thrushes that are solid black with yellow beaks, called in what I consider sweet sounds. This island is more of a park for people than a wildlife area, but birds and insects shared it with humans. I also saw a woodpecker, jackdaw, magpie and English sparrows. White butterflies visited both planted flowers and wild ones. Two pale yellow zebra swallowtail butterflies were sitting on some wet ground. They looked like our own zebra swallowtails except for their color. In a zoo area several storks lived along with various ducks. A nest, built by the storks, sat on top of a large tree stump. Left on their own, storks will build nests on house chimneys.

The Danube River where it runs through Budapest is too contained by man-made structures to look very natural. I'm looking forward to seeing it away from a big city. Perhaps I'll see more wildlife living along its gently moving blue gray green waters. When we were coming into the Budapest Airport, I could see the river's curving nature. The land outside the city is obviously cultivated. I saw many brown plowed fields along with green sections. In some places I saw hills with forests of trees growing on them. On the Buda side of the river, a series of cliffs lead up to a plateau where a palace was built to make use of the natural landscape.

A good deal of Budapest has a continuous history of human habitation, including Roman occupation around the first century AD. Beside the more extensive Roman ruins at the edge of Budapest, one small site exists amid busy streets and rows of apartment complexes. I always enjoy coming across these odd pieces of ancient history that the local people pass by as nothing unusual in their landscape. I hope to discover more such places in my travels and to see more of the wild nature of Eastern Europe. Signing off from aboard River Ship Concerto. Until next time, good observing.