Monday, 4 December 2017

Advent 2017 Day 5 Swallows

Every once in a while I pretend I am a wildlife photographer and try my hand at taking pictures of birds.

While I have managed a few decent shots, one bird has always alluded me and that is the humble swallow. Every year they set up nest at on my neighbors house eave(not mine of course, that would be too easy) where I see them swoop in and out.

Attempts to get images have been basically failures, but with good reason. Swallows never stop. About the only point you can actually get an image is when the feed their young and even then you need to be quick.

This year I had more opportunities than most. We visited Stokesey castle in Shropshire. This is owned by English Heritage and when we visited, I was blown away by the fact they had swallows nests in the house, just above the visitors heads. So I rushed back to get my A6000, put the 210mm zoom on and waited.

However I could not spend long there, so the shots were disappointing.

My next opportunity however was when I holidayed in Great Strickland. We stayed in a nice pub and when I came out the swallows were clearly getting ready to go on their amazing journey to South Africa and were congregating on the telephone wires. Also for once I had my 600mm zoom on me, so I just stood their taking images with the handheld (while my long suffering wife tapped her foot as she waited to go to breakfast).

I got a lot of nice shots that day, but this one stood out

I call it departure gate, and it is my celebration of the awesome journey these little birds make each year. It is hardly believable that every year, the same birds make a journey from South Africa, to my small suburban road, to have chicks and then make the same journey back.


I had one more connection with these world travelers this year. I was inside when my wife urgently called me out. She said there was something under my car, so I looked under and there was Freddie, out neighbors cat, sitting and staring at a young swallow, who had obviously fell from the next doors nest. Fortunately it was just sitting there so confusing the cat, who generally pounces on anything that moves.

I quickly grabbed it (it did not move, swallows are not really ground dwellers) and took inside. We placed it in a large paper bag where it just sat and  tried to decide what to do with it.Feeding it ourselves was not an option. I'm not great a catching flies and there was no reason to believe it would take them from me anyway. Also we were not in a situation to do 24 hour care. We thought about calling the RSPB, but decided to see if we could get it back into the nest

By this time it was dark, the nest was a at the top of the house, and I'm not that good with heights. Nevertheless with the help of my neighbor, we set up a ladder and I maneuvered my way up, holding onto the bag with one hand.

At the top, I had no confidence I could hold the ladder and grab the bird, while stuffing it into the small slot at the top of the nest. Fortunately I managed  to grab the chick and when I presented it to the slot, it shuffled in, causing a racquet of what I assume was a mixture of relief and indignation.

I have no proof that the chick survived but a week later while working in the garage, a large group of swallows wheeled above me, then disappeared. That was the last time I saw them this year, and i like to think that it was a thank you   and au revoir :)

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