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Posts Tagged ‘Tree Swallow’

Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) were back at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Thursday and they seemed a bit cranky. They carried on their heated disputes in the air and on the ground as they checked out nesting boxes.

I don’t know if you have ever observed Tree Swallows, but they are small and fast. Worst of all from the perspective of a photographer, they fly erratically and turn quickly and often. For those reason, I am especially happy with the first image. I should note that it is a cropped image—the original image had a lot more sky showing.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We have been having so much rain this month that I have taken to carrying an umbrella with me much of the time, including when I am going out with my camera. It’s a challenge to take photos in the rain, because of the juggling required to hold a camera steady while holding an umbrella and also because there are fewer subjects to photograph—most creatures have the common sense to seek shelter when it is raining.

Here are a few photos from a walk I took this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They are a different style than most of the photos that I post on this blog, but I really like the way they turned out.

In the first image an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) had a different way for handling the rain than the umbrella I was carrying—it simply pulled its legs and head inside of its shell. In the second image a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) decided to brave the rain to get a breath of fresh air while perched atop a nesting box. The final photo shows a hummingbird view of a trumpet vine flower, one of its favorites. Alas, no hummingbirds were flying in the rain.

Eastern Box Turtle

Tree Swallow

trumpet vine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) seemed determined to scare off potential competitors by screaming loudly and vigorously flapping its wings as it sat atop a pole to which a nesting box was attached. The swallow spent a lot of time looking upwards, scanning the skies for rivals. I couldn’t tell if the swallow’s mate was inside of the nesting box or if it was simply staking a claim to the box for future use.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As we move deeper and deeper into spring, more birds are starting to arrive at my favorite marshland, Huntley Meadows Park. Last weekend I spotted my first Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) of the year. Actually I had spotted a few of them a bit earlier zipping around the sky, but this was the first one that I saw perched on the ground.

The Tree Swallows seem to enjoy using the nesting boxes scattered throughout the park and this one was checking out one of the boxes. I was happy also to be able to get a shot of the swallow perched in a tree—despite their names, I rarely see Tree Swallows in the trees.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are fast and erratic fliers as they chase after insects in mid-air. It’s tough to track them in my camera’s viewfinder and even more difficult to get shots that are in focus.

Last Friday, however, I managed to capture some images of a Tree Swallow at Huntley Meadows Park as it swooped so low above the surface of the water that it cast a reflection. It was an overcast day in which the sky and the water seemed to have the same gray color,, making it hard to tell where the sky ended and the water began.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The winds were blowing hard at Huntley Meadows Park on Monday and I watched as a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) struggled to stay on its perch high in a tree. The determined little bird kept changing wing positions in an effort to maintain stability.

Eventually, however, the swallow lost the battle and appeared to be blown off of its perch.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have moved into at least some of the nesting boxes at Huntley Meadows Park as they get ready for babies. The accommodations are spacious and comfortable, but the views are undoubtedly much better from high atop the trees.

Strange as it sounds, it is unusual for me to get shots of Tree Swallows in a tree. Normally they are zooming about in the air when I see them and it seems rare for them to stop for a rest. They seem to weigh almost nothing, so they can perch on the flimsiest of branches at the very top of trees. As I learned earlier this week when observing them, however, those perches can become pretty precarious when the wind starts to blow, but that’s a story for another posting.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s springtime and love is in the air. Two tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) seemed intent on getting to know each other better, but kept getting buzzed by a third swallow. A couple of times, one of the swallows, which I suspect was the male, took off and chased away the potential rival.

swalow_couple2_blogswallow_couple1_blogswallow_couple3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was a little surprised to see some Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) on Saturday when I visited Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, a freshwater tidal wetlands on the Potomac River. I thought it was a bit early for these little aerial acrobats to be here, given the fact that there are not yet many insects for them to catch, but they were flying about and checking out a nesting box.

Sometimes I get cool shots of birds in flight by accident, like this shot of a Tree Sparrow, which took off as I was photographing it. The angle of view is one that I have never before captured in any image.

swallow_flight_blog

Two of the swallows seemed to spend a lot of time together and I suspect that they are a breeding pair, though they were periodically buzzed by other tree swallows, which could be other potential suitors for the female. One of the swallows eventually entered the box and I suspect that the swallows are constructing a nest in it, though I didn’t see any of them actually carrying in construction material.swallow_entrance_blogIt’s a good sign for me that spring is almost here when I see birds reappearing (even as I shovel away eight or so inches of snow that have fallen in the last 24 hours).

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Dragonflies are super-predators, according to a posting today by one of my favorite bloggers, Sue of Back Yard Biology, thanks to their agile flying ability and incredible eyesight, but predators can also become prey. You should check out that posting for a wonderful explanation of dragonflies’ visual acuity and some beautiful dragonfly images.

The Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) in this photo has captured a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) that appears to be struggling to extricate itself from the grip of the bird. In the second shot, the swallow is offering its prize to its mate, which pokes its head of the nesting box and takes a bite of one of the wings. (If you look carefully at the first shot, you’ll see that it was taken after the second shot and part of one of the dragonfly’s wing seems to have been bitten off.)

Predator or prey? There always seem to be some creature above you on the food chain. It’s no wonder that so many of the birds, animals, and insects are so hyper-vigilant and skittish when we try to take photographs of them—their survival may depend on it.

breakfast1_blogbreakfast2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Thanks to Tropical Storm Andrea, it rained all day this past Friday, and this juvenile Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) was wet and hungry and decided to express its unhappiness in a very vocal way.  Shooting from under an umbrella, I was able to capture this moment of pique.

Swallows eat flying insects and I have to believe that the rainy weather made foraging tough for them. Fortunately, the continuous rain last for only a single day and this little bird probably was able to survive its day of reduced rations.

wetbird1_blog

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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When I was a boy, I had hair that would stand up in a cowlick and refuse to lie flat, and that’s what I immediately thought of when I saw this Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) with frizzy feathers.

My Mom’s solution to my hair problem was a little saliva on her fingers that she would apply to my hair and smooth it down.

I thought of doing the same to this little bird, but I am not sure that it would appreciate my efforts.

frizzy_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Although I never saw the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) enter the nesting box, she poked her head inside of it and was checking it out as a prospective home.

box1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Today I got this shot of a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) gathering materials for a nest. I suspect that the swallow is using the nest that is attached to the metal pole on which it is perched, although I never actually saw the swallow enter the box.

nesting1_blognesting2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This portrait of a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) looks almost like it was shot in a studio, but I am pretty sure that if it had been, I would have chosen a more attractive item on which to have her perch.

The green rusted metal post holds up a nesting box and this swallow may be building a nest in it or in one of the other nearby boxes, because she had a long piece of grass in her mouth when I started shooting. I think it might be a female, but it’s hard to tell, because males and females look a lot alike, though, according to my Peterson bird guide, the female is “slightly duller” than the male.

This was another shot that I took this past Monday, when the sky was heavily overcast. I made an effort to frame this shot with the swallow up against the sky and I think that I used my pop-up flash to add a little light. I probably will continue to experiment with the technique, especially when it’s really cloudy,  for I like the result that I got here. It does looks a little sterile and unnatural, but so often the background gets really cluttered and distracting.

treesparrow_post_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One of my fellow photographers identified some newly arrived birds as Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and yesterday I spotted them checking out the nesting boxes at my local marsh. I felt like they could have used a real estate agent to point out the advantages of the different styles of houses available. The first one has the charm of a log cabin and the second one has enhanced security features to discourage intruders. I don’t think that the swallows have made their decision yet—for now they seemed to be checking out the neighborhood.

swallow1_blogswallow2_blogswallow3_blogMichael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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