After the night we accidentally caught the bats (plus 13 barn swallows), we only had 2 birds to go. However, we suspected some of our birds were juveniles, so we were hoping for 6 or so additional birds. Juveniles may not be fully-grown and have paler plumage than adults, so we didn’t want those birds skewing our data. I was feeling particularly awful- two days after extracting bats from the nets I had gotten sick, and spent 30 hours a little afraid I had rabies (I didn’t, just a bad cold). I may not have been dying, but I was still exhausted and felt miserable.
By the time I climbed back out the window, there were 20 children surrounding us, including 3 on a donkey. Basma seemed nervous about the crowd, plus we had blown a tire in a pothole on the way to Rekabia. We drove off with the birds to a nearby tire repair shop, where Amanda and I were admonished to stay in the car while the tires were removed and fixed. Still, word on our location got out, and soon the boys on their donkey were doing ride-bys of the car windows, waving and making faces at us. As we waited, things seemed to get more agitated among the adults outside the car. One of Badran’s friends vanished, and shortly after the tire was fixed, reappeared with three swallows in his hands. He quickly shoved them in the window at an unsuspecting Amanda- a female and 2 fledglings, one of which squirmed it’s way out the window and flew off.
Even though we were now past 30 birds, we wanted a few more adult swallows, but it was also clear that our situation in Damietta was becoming untenable: after the prisoner incident, we couldn’t return to Rekabia, and we had caused even more disruption in the other village we had visited. We were running out of options for catching birds, and, despite their amazingly generous hospitality, Basma and Mamdouh had jobs and family obligations to attend to.
The next evening Basma and Mamdouh took us out for a fantastic farewell dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Nile. Old Damietta spread out along the riverbanks below us, with a huge, gorgeous mosque dominating the skyline and the Mediterranean in the distance. We ordered fresh fish and gorged on salad, tahini, and baba ghanoush, with jello and fresh fruit for dessert. It was a delightful evening.
After dinner we drove back to Rekabia, where we met Badran on a dark street corner. Mamdouh hopped out of the car and Badran surreptitiously handed over a few bird bags while Mamdouh palmed him some cash. It felt like an illicit drug deal. We drove off with 5 more birds in hand- 2 adults and 3 fledglings. We again processed them in the stairwell back at Basma and Mamdouh’s, feeling relief and triumph amidst my constant sneezing. We were done. We let the swallows from the third story window, and they flew off together, cheeping and calling in the night.