Some Cooperative Swallows

Sometimes Mother Nature sends a little gift when one is out photographing birds, which in my case were some cooperative swallows. All of the images in this article are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping as I wanted to demonstrate how close these birds allowed me to get to them.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-2800

Yesterday I was at Hendrie Valley and had my Nikon 1 V3 set for birds-in-flight as I was on the prowl for various species of heron, or perhaps an osprey, to photograph. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a swallow dart by and land on a rock on the side edge of a bridge. Since these little speed demons are typically very skittish I quickly grabbed the image above from a distance, before the swallow had a chance to dart away.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-2200

Wanting to get a closer-in shot if possible, I slowly edged closer. As I got a bit closer I fully expected the swallow to take flight as they usually do. To my surprise this particular bird appeared quite calm as it perched on the rock. I certainly felt fortunate being able to get the closer-in image above. After slowly moving in even closer, I was also able to get the image below.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 264mm, efov 712mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-2800

I took my eyes off my subject bird for a few moments as I changed my position on the bridge slightly. When I looked over the edge of the guardrail again, there was still a swallow perched on the rock for me to photograph. The plumage on this bird looked quite a bit different and appeared to me to be a different individual.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-3200

At first I thought this was a pair of swallows nesting beneath the bridge, or quite possibly a mother bird and its fledgling. I was at a loss to come up with another reason why two different birds would be perched on the same rock, literally within a few seconds of each other.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-3200

This second swallow was noticeably more skittish than the first one. It hopped around on the rock quite a bit, creating some additional image opportunities for me.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-3200

My shooting angle placed the swallow against the surface of the pond spanned by the bridge, which was ideal to achieve subject separation. I was quite pleased with the photographs I had captured, and changed my focus back to capturing some in-flight terns which had appeared overhead. Some time later I returned to the bridge, after noticing that a swallow had once again landed on the rock.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 241mm, efov 651mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-1600

Since the swallow was remaining calm I decided to try to get a slightly different shooting angle. After getting in close, I slowly lowered myself down on the bridge pavement and laid back against the guardrail so I could shoot in-between the steel rails with my camera about 15-18 inches from the pavement (38-46 cm). This position yielded a few more usable images.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-2200

It wasn’t until I was processing the RAW files for this article that I noticed that the plumage on the last swallow was slightly different than that of the first two individuals.  With all of the flooding that has happened along the shores of Lake Ontario and on the banks of rivers and streams this spring, many bird nesting areas have been disturbed. Perhaps Mother Nature sent me a nesting pair of swallows and their fledgling to photograph.

Technical Note:
All images were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 equipment as per the EXIF data. All photographs in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6, and the Nik Collection. All images are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.

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