Tuesday, 26 July 2011

90th minute substitute....

I was after Sand Martins. I got Swallows.

The afternoon did not pan out the way I expected. I had planned to spend an hour or so after work with the Sand Martins nesting close to the office. Instead at knocking-off time I find myself on Hilbre Island.

This is no bad thing, and don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about my Sand Martins being substituted for Swallows. It is just that the Swallows were a bonus I stumbled upon by chance. I was nailed on for a session with Sand Martins and camera. Best laid plans and all that....

When the plan altered I thought the camera was going to stay in the bag and my shutter finger would remain itchy.

I run into a recently fledged family of Swallows on and around one of the shabby, sun-bleached buildings close to the lifeboat slip. I decide to get a few shots before the tide pushes me off the island.

There are definitely 7 juveniles, maybe 9, being fed by attentive parents. There is constant chatter between siblings. Through the lens I can see their elegance even though they are just out of their muddy cup of a nest.
Thier adult colours are not all there yet either, and tail streamers are still a little stubby, but they ooze class nonetheless.

It takes time to look this good so there is much preening to be done, besides, there is a small matter of a trip to South Africa to prepare for too....

Once feathers are neatly adjusted, cleaned and replaced wings and muscles are stretched....

And then stretched a little more...

I take the chance to look at them preening and stretching. They are meticulous, it is easy to imagine the origins of the phrase "not a feather out of place".

I look at the wings, those tiny arms that will soon propel these small birds across open water and over desserts for thousands of miles. I can almost see them preening out salt and sand grains on stop off points along the way south.

All of this travel is going to require some serious fuel amd mum and dad are doing their best to fill up their tanks with the finest Hilbre bugs.

A couple sit patiently on an old dead twig. Their perch is bleached almost as white as the building behind them. Perch and stones battered by winter storms that these Swallows will never see or feel. The sun reflecting off the white washed wall I am hiding behind is dazzling me, snow-blindness seems a distinct possibility!

They sit....

They scream for food....


They are fed.....


I sit, I wait, I observe and record.

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