Five Young Swallows

In mid-April I reported on swallows building a nest in my car port. After six weeks, five voracious young swallows are growing in the nest.


On June 2, 2014, I made a short video and took some photos of the young swallows. I tried to capture feeding scenes as the adults flew in, fed their young, sometimes groomed them or picked up excrement, and departed. Of course, such events are not continuous. The young spend a lot of time waiting, as we can see in the uncut video clip below:

Still photos – slideshow

Video shows what it’s like to watch swallows, but some events happen so quickly that we cannot see them clearly at normal speed. I attempted to get still photos of feeding scenes by shooting in burst mode at 7-9 frames per second. The slideshow below includes some of the feeding scenes that I tried to capture.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I shot toward the east from a stairway the leads to a room above the car port. The morning sun made a strong backlight, so I attached a small LED light to the wall in order to light the swallows enough to show their colors.

Swallow nest and light along wall to the left in a car port.
Swallow nest and light in car port

Technical notes

The video and still photos were shot with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 micro four-thirds camera and an old OM System 35-105mm zoom lens at about 100 mm. Settings: Manual focus and exposure, WB Sunny, ISO 3200, 1/400 sec, f3.5, high-speed bursts at 7-9 frames per second. I concluded that 9 frames per second is necessary to catch some events well, but one cannot shoot very long at that rate. With my camera there is a trade-off between granularity and duration of events that I can capture. If an adult takes time to inspect the nest, groom the young, etc., the camera stops shooting before the bird departs, and I’m left with half a dozen boring photographs.

Light metering was done by trial and error. I discovered that a centered-weighted reading of EV+2.3-2.7 enabled me to get accurate colors of the nest and swallows. Details are washed out of brights highlights, such as the texture of the wall toward the outside of the car port.

Follow-up: On June 3, 2014, I took photos at ISO 1600, 1/500 sec, f4, with an OM System f1.8 50mm lens and the Digital Teleconverter on, about the same evivalent local length as on June 2nd. That combination worked well.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University (1977-2020). Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

Join the Conversation


  1. Pingback: Young Swallows Feeding | Gaia Gazette
  2. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve een to this blog before but after going through a few of
    the posts I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m certainly delighted
    I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: