The Birds of Late May – 2012

This past weekend I drove to a few places to photograph Yucca Plants for the previous post.  But, as luck would have it, I also photographed other stuff.  Stuff which I’ll present over a couple of posts.  First up . . . birds.

By the way, before I forget, people should check out this website.  Very neat.  And you can zoom in, too.

Why do I share this link?  Because many of these photos were shot while the wind was something else.  Well . . . I mean, it was still the wind, but gusts to 60mph and a steady wind in the mid-30mph made for difficult shooting.  Combine that with the fact I’m still without my 70-200mm f/2.8 super-sharp lens, and the result is that some pictures are less than they could have been.

On the other hand, I got four fingers and a thumb . . . and they hold up my 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens.  It’s not as sharp, but it’s no slouch, either.  Some of the on-the-wing shots of Cliff Swallows were taken at quite a distance, and I am pleased with the results.

Anyway, here we go . . .

A few miles from my house, on a dirt road I sometime travel, there is a single-lane underpass.  More like a tunnel that goes under I-25.

A few miles from my house, on a dirt road I sometime travel, there is a single-lane underpass.
More like a tunnel that goes under I-25.

I should point out I went back to shoot this a few days after the subsequent photos.  I did so because I tried to describe it.  I gave up trying, went to photograph it, and here it is.

As thousands of cars travel over it, hundreds of Cliff Swallows call it home.

As thousands of cars travel over it, hundreds of Cliff Swallows call it home.

You can look at a larger view of the photo (in SmugMug) to see many birds looking out from their mud nests.

You can look at a larger view of the photo (in SmugMug) to see many birds looking out from their mud nests.

This shot is taken from just outside the tunnel.

This shot is taken from just outside the tunnel.

This from just inside the tunnel.

This from just inside the tunnel.

These birds were disturbed by a jerk who drove through the tunnel and leaned on his horn.   To be fair, at this point the birds were also a little leery of the idiot with the camera.

I estimate more than a hundred nests, and they are reused every year.

I estimate more than a hundred nests, and they are reused every year.

I moved away from the entrance, and they flocked back pretty quick.

I moved away from the entrance, and they flocked back pretty quick.

It’s actually a hazardous place for them, as some of the people who drive this road go through the tunnel pretty fast. There is evidence of many birds not having survived their encounter with total jerks who, unfortunately, are members of my species.

I snapped a few close-ups using the long zoom (there are a few more shots in SmugMug).

I snapped a few close-ups using the long zoom (there are a few more shots in SmugMug).

A truck which barely fit in the tunnel got them all flying again.

A truck which barely fit in the tunnel got them all flying again.

A procession of cars kept them circling in front of the tunnel, and gave me a chance to shoot the flock as it passed by.

A procession of cars kept them circling in front of the tunnel, and gave me a chance to shoot the flock as it passed by.

I opted against filming it because they moved pretty fast, and was not sure a movie would show much. I suppose I should have tried.

I opted against filming it because they moved pretty fast, and was not sure a movie would show much. I suppose I should have tried.

I theorize one of the reasons this tunnel is so popular is that near the other end of it there is a small pond, and these birds like water.  I made my way to the pond, hoping there would be something of interest to photograph.

This Red-Winged Blackbird was struggling to hold his perch atop dead branches sticking out of the middle of the pond.

This Red-Winged Blackbird was struggling to hold his perch atop dead branches sticking out of the middle of the pond.

Whenever he felt he had a decent grip, and the wind let up a bit, he would let off a typical mating call . . . and the wind carried it away.

Whenever he felt he had a decent grip, and the wind let up a bit, he would let off a typical mating call . . . and the wind carried it away.

A lone Canadian Goose floated next to the interesting remnants of a drowned tree.

A lone Canadian Goose floated next to the interesting remnants of a drowned tree.

The Red-Winged Blackbird continued to call for a while, and then sought shelter from the wind among the weeds near the shore.

The Red-Winged Blackbird continued to call for a while, and then sought shelter from the wind among the weeds near the shore.

The lone goose made like it wanted to look cute . . . It did not work. I saw it for what it is; a prodigious shitting machine.

The lone goose made like it wanted to look cute . . . It did not work. I saw it for what it is; a prodigious shitting machine.

What I was interested in were the tens of Cliff Swallows who dive-bombed the pond for water in a near-continuous procession.

What I was interested in were the tens of Cliff Swallows who dive-bombed the pond for water in a near-continuous procession.

As I mentioned, the winds were swirling something fierce, and there were many aborted attempts.

The goose and stump were oblivious to the drama unfolding before them.

The goose and stump were oblivious to the drama unfolding before them.

But once in a while . . .

But once in a while . . .

Success!!

Success!!

And again! . . . I like the drops trying to follow the bird up, only to be thwarted by that heartless bitch, gravity.

And again! . . . I like the drops trying to follow the bird up, only to be thwarted by that heartless bitch, gravity.

The goose just floated along . . . probably crapping every few seconds.

The goose just floated along . . . probably crapping every few seconds.

After fifteen minutes or so, I hopped back in my car.  I like to hop; it fills me with joy, and keeps people from getting to close.  I hurried, as this small pond detour made me late for my Yucca Plants photo shoot.  Alas, I was to be further delayed.

As I watched the pond recede in my rear-view mirror, I caught a movement on the fence flanking the road.  A Bullock’s Oriole pair, male and female, sat on the fence, watching me drive by.  I hit the brakes, and grabbed my camera . . . as they flew to a tree about a hundred feet back.

I held little hope for decent shots.  The wind was whipping the tree around pretty good.  I cranked up the ISO to get a bit faster shutter speed, and I shot anyway.

I held little hope for decent shots. The wind was whipping the tree around pretty good. I cranked up the ISO to get a bit faster shutter speed, and I shot anyway.

I really don’t know why I doubt this lens.  Sure, not always . . . but sometime it really surprises me.

All of the shots came out much better than expected.  Good, even.

All of the shots came out much better than expected. Good, even.

And the Oriole?  . . . it was playing it coy, modelling for me something fierce.

And the Oriole? . . . it was playing it coy, modelling for me something fierce.

It gave me good poses of all his sides . . . and even held each pose until the wind blew the foliage aside so I could get a clear shot.

It gave me good poses of all his sides . . . and even held each pose until the wind blew the foliage aside so I could get a clear shot.

I am frelling impressed with these shots. I’ve not used this lens much in the last few years, and had forgotten just how good it can be, especially considering on a DX camera it’s the equivalent of a 600mm zoom.

The next four photographs were shot that same afternoon at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge.  Still high winds, only the temperature had shot up to the mid 90s.

Again, considering the conditions, paint me impressed.

Again, considering the conditions, paint me impressed.

Because of the coloring, these birds are not easy to photograph (at least for me), and yet these are the best Redwinged Blackbirds photos I ever shot.

Because of the coloring, these birds are not easy to photograph (at least for me), and yet these are the best Redwinged Blackbirds photos I ever shot.

Even managed a decent on-the-wing shot.  It's a tad blurry, but he was hauling, and I was tracking the flight as I snapped two pictures. This was the better of the two.

Even managed a decent on-the-wing shot. It’s a tad blurry, but he was hauling, and I was tracking the flight as I snapped two pictures. This was the better of the two.

This Tree Swallow is nesting in a very small box.  Tree Swallows broods typically consist of five or six chicks.  Not that much room in that box.  Hope they do OK.

This Tree Swallow is nesting in a very small box. Tree Swallows broods typically consist of five or six chicks. Not that much room in that box. Hope they do OK.

Back home, I interacted with my local Tree Swallows.

I can't get over how close they let me get.

I can’t get over how close they let me get.

They just don't care, and pay me and my camera little mind.  This one started singing.

They just don’t care, and pay me and my camera little mind. This one started singing.

Here's the box . . . and the swallow trying to get a piece of mulch up in the box.

Here’s the box . . . and the swallow trying to get a piece of mulch up in the box.

A wind gust literally blow it backward (probably because of the mulch).

A wind gust literally blow it backward (probably because of the mulch).

It recovers, and heads back in. Ultimately, that was too big a piece, and it dropped it.

It recovers, and heads back in. Ultimately, that was too big a piece, and it dropped it.

Even with the wind, they were flying about, and gave me a chance to snap a few photos of the swallows on-the-wing.

Even with the wind, they were flying about, and gave me a chance to snap a few photos of the swallows on-the-wing.

This one looks like the side view of a B-2 Bomber.

This one looks like the side view of a B-2 Bomber.

A little blurry, but neat view of the swallow scanning the sky.

A little blurry, but neat view of the swallow scanning the sky.

I noticed an interesting behavior while photographing them flying about.  One of them dived down to the yard, and picked up what looked like a fragment of paper.  It then flew up about fifty feet or so, let it go, and then chased it to catch it.  It repeated that a couple of times.  To me it was either playing, or practicing catching insects blown about by the wind.  Either way, it was neat.

These next two movies give an idea of what these swallows sound like, and how windy it was.

The ringing is a bell I have hanging in a protected area of the deck.  It lets me know when it’s windy outside.  This second movie was shot a little closer.

Finally, this next shot is a straggler.  The photo, not the bird.  This was actually shot on June 1st, so it does not really belong here . . . but it’s too cute to leave out or wait until the next bird update.

I walked out onto the deck, and this female gave a quizzical look, all "What are you supposed to be?" like.

I walked out onto the deck, and this female gave a quizzical look, all “What are you supposed to be?” like.

As usual, all these shots, and a few more, can be found in a SmugMug album.  Click HERE if interested in checking it out.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my stuff.

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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Birds, Bullock's Oriole, Canadian Geese, Cliff Swallows, Photography, Photography Stuff, Red Winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, YouTube Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Birds of Late May – 2012

  1. What a great post! I’ve never seen anything like the mud nests. That is amazing. I was picturing a big underpass until you showed it. Great of the red winged bb also.im going to smug mug to see the rest. I enjoyed this very much.

  2. bluelyon says:

    Love your commentary along with your great shots. I didn’t know anything about the cliff swallows, so I got great photos, funny comments and education in one fell swoop. :) (and yes, I went to SmugMug)

  3. sash says:

    sir, are these shots, very good, beautiful and inspiring to fly away! very nice, I say. SmugMug is blocked by my office firewall. Let me explore more from home. haha… :D

  4. disperser says:

    Thanks all . . . I enjoy putting these together, and am glad someone gets some enjoyment from them.

  5. Emily says:

    I found that tunnel fascinating, thank you.

  6. seekraz says:

    Very nice, Emilio…I love the birds-in-flight shots, the prodigous shitting machine…and the last Tree Swallow with the quizzical look…. We have some of those same machines over here, next state over…and their prodigous-ness was news to me…it’s worse than walking through a dog-park. :)

  7. disperser says:

    When I lived in Michigan I was annoyed with them because they loved golf courses . . .

    I like to walk when I golf, and by the end of the round I would be a few inches taller than when I started. And those soft cleats were a female dog to clean; compacted Canadian geese poop is tenacious stuff.

  8. AnnMarie says:

    You must have gotten some of these birds from the Avian Modeling Agency. They sure know what to do in front of a camera! Excellent gallery of photos and ditto on the narrative. Exceptional shot of the swallow over the water background.

  9. Pingback: 2012 in review | Disperser Tracks

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