Tag Archives: swallows

Swallows Nesting in Ritto City

Barn swallows (ツバメ, 燕) repairing an old nest that was last used in 2014. Morning sunlight strongly backlit the scene, so I used small LED lights to bring out the colors of the birds. Some people are surprised that barn swallows have such beautiful blue heads.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

My timing was lucky. The birds had been visiting the nest for nearly a week, but they did all of their repair work on a sunny Saturday morning (April 9, 2016) when I was home. When it was used in 2014, the construction was very smooth, but this time the outer surface near the top is pretty rough.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

All scenes were shot handheld in a stairwell with an Olympus MD-D EM-5 Mk. II camera and a 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens. I did not use any special video settings. I simply pressed the video record button instead of the shutter button. The birds were at the nest only for short periods, so continuous video would have been very difficult without a tripod. I was able to capture a few scenes by starting to record as one of the birds swooped into the car port. In this kind of situation it is easier to shoot still photographs. I shot in bursts at 5 frames per second.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Music credit

“Winter Chimes” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

Production notes

Post-processing was done with digiKam for still photographs and OpenShot for video. I adjusted the length of the movie by a few seconds in order to match the music.

Young Swallows Prepare to Fly

Video

Young swallows are almost ready to fly on June 8, 2014. They take turns stretching and beating their wing furiously. Their parents continue to feed them as other swallows enter the car port and get them.

Technical notes

Video clips were shot with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera and an old OM-System Zuiko Auto-S (manual focus) 50mm f1.8 lens. Settings: ISO 800, f11, 1/60 second. The light meter read +1.0-1.3 EV. Two small LED lights provided back and fill light.

Young Swallows Feeding, Part 3

Photo galleries

Here are more photos of swallows, taken on June 7, 2014. The two galleries, one of photos taken from the stairs inside and the other from the opposite direction outside, are in natural sequence, but many photos were omitted. I concentrated on the adults as they arrived and approached the nest, fed one or more young ones, and then departed. Arrivals often are quite dramatic. The adults glide into the car port at high speed, and then they often spread their wings and go from horizontal to vertical as they get close to the nest. I was lucky enough to catch some of those scenes today. Departures are amazing! They often jump backward off the nest, roll out either depart or make a quick U-turn back to the nest. In one photo a swallow seems to be flying upside down. Its head is oriented normally. That’s agility!

Camera position inside on the stairs,

Camera position inside on the stairs,

The second set of photos was taken from outside. As adult swallows entered and departed, they flew over the camera. I stayed off to the right just outside the car port, which does not have solid walls, and triggered the shutter with a remote control.

Camera is facing into the car port.

Camera is facing into the car port.

I did not keep photos of young swallows testing their wings. They back out of the nest, hang on, lean back, and beat their wings furiously. I enjoy watching them, but I could not do justice to their energy with still photographs. If I have a chance, I’ll make a short video tomorrow or Monday.

Technical notes

All of the photos were shot at ISO 3200, 1/1000 or 1/1250 second with the aperture at f4. (WordPress reports 1/501 second, which is incorrect.) I used two small LED lights. The smaller light was aimed along the wall to the left of the camera in the first group of photos. The other LED light, a little larger, faced the nest from a little less than 2 meters away and was placed lower in order to cast light on the shallows. We can see shadows of the adults on the ceiling. When I was shooting, I noticed the shadows, but I decided to keep the lights as they were.

Post-processing was done with Digikam 3.5 on Fedora Linux version 20 running on a Lenovo ThinkPad T510. All of the images were converted from RAW to JPEG in one batch. I added a little sharpening and resized the images, but otherwise they are untouched. Digikam handled white balance and color correction very well as it converted from RAW to JPEG. (I use Fedora 20 because it can new recent versions of most software. My other computers, except an aging MacBook, run CentOS-6. Unlike Fedora, it is stable and extremely reliable, but it runs older versions of application software. Also, students in my media classes use CentOS workstations. They edit images with Showfoto.

Young Swallows Feeding, Part 2

Quick birds in low light

June 6, 2014, was a cloudy day here in Ritto City. Photographing young swallows in the car port in poor light was a challenge. It was sunny when I previously photographed them on June 2nd (Young Swallows Feeding). Here are some of the photos in a small gallery.

This time the adults seemed to spend very little time at the nest. Usually they remained in flight. I shot in short bursts of 9 frames per second, and I tried to freeze the movement of their wings in flight as they approached the nest, occasionally hovered, quickly fed their young, and then departed.

Technical notes

Using an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera, I shot at an aperture of f4 with an old Om System 50mm f1.8 lens, attached with an OM MF-2 adapter. I shot some bursts at f2.8, but that did not provide enough depth of field. I needed a quick shutter speed of at least 1/500 second in order to freeze the action of their wings. In the relatively low light I had to raise ISO to 800 or higher to keep a high shutter speed and a reasonable depth of field. As I tried to freeze the action of rapidly beating wings, I tried higher shutter speeds and higher ISO. Image quality seemed okay until about ISO 1600.

Without adequate soft light from at least two directions, it’s pretty hard to photograph flying birds in a car port. Probably it’s too late for this season, but a couple of LED light panels would be very useful on cloudy days.

Baby swallow with bee in its beak.

Young Swallows Feeding

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.

Video

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.

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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.