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Posts Tagged ‘Hirundo rustica’

Every spring, Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) build a nest on the underside of a raised observation platform at Huntley Meadows Park. It is always  a lot of fun to watch these energetic little dynamos flying about, catching insects in mid-air. Fortunately this one came to rest for a moment on the metal railing of the platform and I was able to capture this image of a colorful Barn Swallow.

 

Barn Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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At this time of the year many birds seem to hide behind the leaves of the trees, but this Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) was cooperative early one recent morning and perched at several spots out in the open. Click on any of the images to see them all in slide show mode.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Tree Swallows have been flying about for several weeks, but it was only this weekend that I finally observed one of their multi-colored brethren, the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). Last year, the Barn Swallows built a nest underneath a raised observation platform of the boardwalk at my local marsh, and it looks like they are doing the same thing this year.

I was able to photograph this swallow as it perched on a small branch coming out of the water directly opposite the platform. The sky was mostly overcast during the day, which caused the reflections in the water to look mostly white. As I made a few adjustments to the image, the background essentially disappeared, resulting in a photo that looks almost like it was shot in a studio.

I really like the swallow’s serious pose and the fact that I was able to capture its signature swallow tail. It won’t be long before I see swallowtails on some of my favorite butterflies.

barn_swallow1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t usually think of photographing birds with a macro lens, but that’s exactly what I did when I encountered this Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) perched on a small branch, with a beautiful blue sky in the background.

Of course, I probably should note that the macro lens in question is 180mm in focal length, so it has good telephoto capability—I had just never tried to use it in that way. My experience photographing birds this past winter suggests that this lens does not have enough reach for most birds.  I was really happy, though, with the detail it was able to capture in this situation, when I was standing almost directly below the bird.

Mentally it was an adjustment to be shooting with a prime lens and I had to keep reminding myself that if I wanted to adjust the composition, I had to change my position and move closer or farther away. That’s probably a good thing to remember when I am using a zoom lens, which has a tendency to make me a little lazy.

swallow2_blogswallow1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I watch Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) flying, I am amazed at their aerial acrobatic skills. They change direction in such unpredictable ways and swoop up and down so quickly that I thought that I would never be able to capture them in flight.

However, one day this past weekend I spent some time observing them more closely and eventually I decided to try to get some in-flight shots. Most of my shots were either blurry or the swallow was only partially visible in the frame, but I was able to get a few decent (or at least recognizable) shots of a swallow swooping down over the water.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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What happened to this swallow to cause it to be so drab looking? That was my first thought when I looked at these images.

The bird was perched at a location where I had previously seen a lot of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica), but it looked more like a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). However, all of the Tree Swallows that I have seen before have been a shiny bluish-green in color. Was this a different kind of sparrow?

It turns out that the answer to my mini-mystery is quite simple—juvenile Tree Sparrows are not the same color as the adults. I guess that I had been assuming that the young Tree Sparrows would be miniature versions of their parents.

The little swallow seemed quite content to pose for me and allowed me to get profile shots and head-on shots without any instructions. Perhaps a modeling career is in its future.

swallow1_blogswallow2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I captured this close-up image of a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) as it rested on a perch a short distance from the location of its nest, underneath a raised portion of the boardwalk at my local marshland park.

I have posted a number of close-up shots of Barn Swallows in the last few weeks (including one that I entitled Too Close), but this one is distinctive for a couple of reasons. The swallow is in the midst of working on its nest, and the mud and twigs in its bill show clearly its primary building materials. Most of my other photos have showed a swallow posing as it took a break from chasing insects.

The other notable feature of this image that I really like is its narrow depth of field. Although I included the sparrow’s entire body in the shot, only a small part of it is in sharp focus, essentially the forward half of its head, including the one visible eye. I think that the limited area of sharp focus really helps to draw attention to the eye and to the muddy bill.

closer_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Although it is usually best not to take head-on shots of birds, I can’t help but post this image of a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) looking at me with angry eyes. I don’t know if the swallow qualifies as an Angry Bird, but there is no denying the intensity of the stare.

I grew up with the music of Loggins and Messina and one of their popular songs entitled “Angry Eyes”  opens with these words:

Time, time and again
I see you staring down at me
Now, then and again
I wonder what it is that you see

With those angry eyes
Well, I bet you wish you could cut me down
With those angry eyes

(Lyrics from www.elyrics.net)

What does go on in the minds of barn swallows when they encounter us?

eyes_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I hadn’t intended to do a head-and-shoulders portrait of this Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), but my telephoto zoom was near the far end when I carefully placed my tripod on the boardwalk and focused on the swallow.

Sensing that the bird was not going to remain perched for very long, I quickly snapped off a few exposures. My left hand was adjusting the ballhead of my tripod and my right hand was pressing the shutter, so zooming out was not really an option at that moment. The image that you see is as much of the bird as I was able to capture.

I did manage to get some good detail in the eye (and I recommend clicking on the photo for a higher resolution view) and I am happy with the background, which once again looks like a studio setting—it may not be very exciting, but it sure is uncluttered.

I suppose that the lesson for me is to have my camera fully adjusted as I am sneaking up on birds, but sometimes “mistakes” turn out pretty well too.

headandshoulders_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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With the arrival of blue skies, I was finally able to a close-up shot of a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) with a natural backdrop (vice the white background of the overcast days).

The lighting was beautiful and the swallow cooperated by turning its head slightly, enabling me to capture the catch light in its eye. The shadows are pretty minimal, but help to keep the image from being too flat.

I even like the serious expression on the swallow’s face, as though he had decided that this was a formal portrait.

barn_sky_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Are Barn  Swallows normally hostile toward each other?

As I was looking over once more the shots that I took on Monday, I came across this little series of images of two Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) interacting. I had passed over these photos when I did my first sorting, because they were seriously underexposed. Unlike the photo that I posted earlier this week of a confrontation between two swallows, I was not using a flash for these photos, which meant, however,  that I was able to take a burst of photos. (When I used my pop-up flash, I had to wait for the flash to re-cycle in order to shoot again.)

I tweaked these photos in Photoshop Elements (and cleaned up the background a little) and was amazed to discover that this confrontation seems to have escalated a bit beyond the previous one. The flying swallow seems much more aggressive and threatening, going beyond the squawking I had seen before, and looking more like he was ready to attack the sitting swallow, who seems to be paying attention to the incoming bird.

These photos would have been better with a higher shutter speed and better light, but I am amazed that I was able to capture this moment. I love interactions between members of the same species (and between different species) and I enjoy trying to catch those moments.

scream2c_blogScream2a_blogscream2b_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Here’s a photo of the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) that I took today just prior to the confrontation that I featured in my previous blog entry. The sky was almost completely white, because the day was heavily overcast, and it totally disappeared when I was adjusting the RAW image.

This was one of the first times that I used flash to add a little light and bring out the colores and it seems to have worked out pretty well. Some of the more dedicated bird photographers that I see use a Fresnel lens attachment for their external flash units to give more reach to the flash—I am not sure that I am ready to go that far yet.

I managed to get a pretty good amount of detail in this shot, even capturing some of the raindrops on the swallow’s wing.

swallow1_tree_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was focusing my camera on a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) perched on a branch, when out of nowhere another Barn Swallow appeared and started screeching as it hovered in midair. Fortunately I had enough presence of mind to press the shutter release.

It was raining most of the day and I was shooting one-handed under an umbrella much of the time. For this shot, I decided to use the built-in flash on my camera to add a little additional light. The reflections in the screeching bird’s eyes add to its almost maniacal look.

The bird on the branch was totally impassive. It turned its head toward the hovering bird, but did not appear to react in any other way.

The overall feel of the image is almost like a cartoon.  I really like the way it came out (and recognize that it was mostly luck and fortunate timing).

confrontation_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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