Merlin needed lots of grasshoppers and crickets for the photographs he intended to get of bats catching prey, so he made a wager. He bet us that he could catch more grasshoppers/crickets than the three of us put together.
Dani, Toni and I wanted to get out of the field station for the day and visit the nearby village of Cherven where there are ruins of a Medieval fortress. So we left Merlin behind in Tabachka to find grasshoppers, and we drove to Cherven for culture and also search for grasshoppers.
On the road to Cherven, there’s an overlook where below, on a hilltop, you can see what’s left of medieval Cherven and the modern village of Cherven. According to Wikipedia: this area has been occupied since the time of the Thracians, was a Byzantine fortress in the 6th century, in 1235 was the seat of the Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric, by the 14th century a center of craftsmanship for gold and iron, and in 1388 conquered by the Ottoman Turks during the Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars. Today Cherven is a small peaceful village.
After a quick look down at the ruins from this hilltop, we proceeded to look for grasshoppers. We were ready to get back into the vehicle, when Toni said, I don’t think this is a good place for — I found one! She cautiously corralled it out of the tall grass and into the hand net she carried. It was the biggest grasshopper I’ve ever seen. We thought this an excellent start of good things to come! We continued on down the road, through the village to the ruins, paid 4 lev each to a friendly English-speaking guide, then hiked up to the top. We had a look around at the remains of this historically significant site, all the while looking for grasshoppers. If the bet were for the most damselflies, we would’ve one hands-down. But all we found were small grasshoppers. We walked to our car, and just as we got inside, Toni cried, Look! We were parked in front of a dead tree with a beautiful hole for augered into it. This was another photo prop possibility for Plecotus austricus, the Grey long-eared bat, who we caught and the gals were training. They sometimes roost in such places. Toni asked the folks where we paid our admission fee for permission to cut it off, and it was granted. Now all we needed was a saw!
We decided our best chance to find a saw was at the local bar/shop to inquire of the locals. Walking past the outside tables to go inside, I stopped to greet a friendly border collie. The dog’s owner asked, Are you English? American, I said. That was how we met Jan and Doug from Scotland. For the past four years, they’ve been living in Cherven. Jan Hannah is an artist. Drawings of Bulgarian village life is what she’s been magically capturing with pencil and paper. Doug MacPherson is a master bagpipe craftsman who can make them anywhere, and Bulgaria’s warmer than Scotland, after all. Most of the Bulgarian villagers do not speak English, so the pair were happy to speak with three English-speaking lasses. We bought ice-cream in the shop and joined them at their table to get acquainted–and ask a favor. We told them who we were and what we were doing in Bulgaria generally and Tabachka specifically and how we were challenged by Merlin to find grasshoppers and had failed so far, but we wanted to bring him a special tree hole for a photo prop, but we had no saw. “Do you have a saw we could borrow?”
Not only did they have a saw, they had a chainsaw! The picture below shows Dani climbing to see if anybody’s home. Just a bunch of ants! Merlin said he won’t likely use it because he prefers to show bats emerging from a bat roost, not an ant roost. Details, details!