Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Northern Rough-Winged Swallows

Capturing in-flight Swallow shots seems to be one of photography's greater challenges. I'm still not up to it, but I did manage to get some regular Swallow pictures. I picked a nice spot near a dead tree at McCormick Ranch where I figured  some of the Rough-Wings might eventually land, and as luck would have it one dainty female decided to stop off for a little preening and a good scratch.

I've always been very impressed by the Swallows' dexterity in the air. They dip and dive and turn on a dime, able to accelerate and stop with incredible quickness. Although it makes photography very difficult, I especially like how erratic their flight patterns are, as if they also do not know when or where they'll next  change course.

It was a worrisome start to this little photo shoot when this female Rough-Winged promptly hid her head. I gather she was just trying to scratch or preen in those hard to reach spots on the back. Come to think of it, I wish I could do that...

Swallows have to keep their feathers in prime working order; they exert a lot of force on them as they dip and turn in the air at high speed. We take our cars in for a tune-up every so often. I wonder how many miles the average Swallow puts on their feathers each year.

This is my favorite pose. It's a very nice, very flattering imitation of the skulking vultures from Jungle Book. The head is just a bit too feathered to quite pull off the look.

Here's the quintessential bird-on-a-stick profile. The Northern Rough Wing isn't the most colorful Swallow, but it's handsome in its own right. The solid wings and tail give her a nice cape here. I daresay she evens looks a bit like a bat. Looking at those tiny feet, it's clear she's doesn't spend much time on the ground.

Birding is fun. Here are some additional Rough-Winged photos.