The rest of that day would be spent exploring the 100km or so between the molybdenum/zombie town and the hotel, battling intermittent rain and the feeling that there actually weren't any swallows here. As was often the case in this and other parts of Russia, there seemed to be a low correspondence between the NAVTEQ map on Georgy’s tablet and, say, reality that you could see. With your eyes. For example, at intersections approximately 5km apart, estimates of the distance to Khabarovsk could be 1,984km and 1,642km. Moreover, some villages appearing on the map did not present themselves to our searching eyes. In one case, we drove the 7km distance a road sign indicated to arrive in the area of a village, only to find a thick pine forest showing no clues of human construction apart from the road itself. Pushing on another 2km afforded us a glimpse of what can only be described as more pine trees and a road going through them, ostensibly to nowhere, or possibly a prison. In one other case, we found a turnoff sign, suggesting a town. We followed a nicely paved embankment and approximately 100m of road to the edge of a 2m drop-off to a fallow field. Apparently, they haven’t gotten around to building the town or the rest of the road leading to it yet. Perhaps they got a good deal on signs and decided to work ahead by about 10 years. As a biologist, the only question worth asking, “Why?” has absolutely no business in most aspects of Russian road constructions, hotel management, or cutlery provisions (why is it so bloody hard to get a knife to cut all the meat you Russians eat?!)
Well, we made it to Khabarovsk! That's another 2,100km, or 1,300mi from Chita along the bumpy roads of Eastern Siberia. We think we're now solidly into H. r. gutturalis territory and hope for no more surprises for the remaining 763 km to our final destination at Vladivostok. We hope to sample some birds once around Khabarovsk, once about 400km from here and have one final sampling site around Vladivostok. On the 25th I'll need to get on a plane 9hrs back to Moscow and catch another plane the next day to get back to Colorado for the Animal Behavior Society Conference at our home institution at CU Boulder starting the 28th. Liz and Georgy will finish some logistics in my absence, put Georgy's car on a truck back to Krasnoyarsk, and take their own departure flights a couple days later. For such a long season, these last days are going to be jam packed and we can only hope good weather allows us to do what we need to do. Unfortunately it's typhoon season here and we're expecting more of the rain that has been following us for the last 400km. Cross your fingers for us!