Screw the BiFs, Hello BoSs

Welcome to May everyone! So far it has basically been one rainy day after another – in fact, April was downright rainy as well. I know some of you in the southwest are pretty dry, wish there was a way to get some of our run-off down to you. Read yesterday that Lake Mead is so low they are finding bodies. The positive in all this is our wells should be fully charged. Unfortunately, the “Average Year” efforts are in a stumble with the Dauphin trip cancellation. I have been able to get a few adds .. in between the rains of course.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

How is that for an absolutely craptastic shot!?! That particular image is the “best” of about a hundred attempts to tin one of these caffeine junkies in flight. For a majority of birds, their flights are fairly predictable. Note position A, then B and you can pretty much assume where C is going to end up along that trajectory. Focus lock the bird at position B and pan with it to estimated point C while engaging continues shutter mode – easy peasy. Even hyper Flycatchers can be mitigated knowing 83.6% of the time they return to the same branch after a quick sortie. (Note, 91.82% of statistics are made up on the fly.. and while at it, 103% of political poll numbers are bullshit. hehehe.) When it comes to Swallows you are probably better off just randomly pressing the shutter at a random spot at a random distance and pray one of them spots a bug in the vicinity. I tried everything short of throwing the kitchen sink in hopes of knocking one out of the sky and the best I could do is the shot above. 30 minutes into it my arms were like spaghetti and had used up all my colorful swear words. Screw these birds in flight (BiFs)!!

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Frustrated, I brought The Beast down and gave my arms a rest. Started scanning the nearby trees in a last ditch effort to come away with a shot worthy of the +1 for the Average Year. Well, hello there bird on stick (BoSs)! As I was hoping, these Northern Rough-Winged Swallows were staging on a tree next to the bank we were standing on. Now that is muuuuuch easier on the arms.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Did I mention it was really windy that day?

Hit the jump to read about other finds from the Swallow family.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

First, some background on our outing that produced these shots. I’ve been spending time in Forsyth, IL. lately… more like a LOT of time there. To reduce the back and forth waste, we brought the RV down to Weldon Springs State Park. Technically in Clinton, this park cuts over 2 hours of drive time. Beyond that advantage, it also provides a great opportunity to get some trail runs in and obviously some birding.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

On this particular outing, Ron was able to join me so see if we could prop up our Average Year tallies. On one of my runs I spotted several birds Ron had not checked off yet and a couple that I needed as well. The Rough-Wing Swallows got the outing off to a good start. I will say, Ron did a much better job of getting some flying specimens in the tin (definitely aided with a lighter rig). While on the scouting run, noticed there were a few Tree Swallows milling about. Tried picking a few of what I thought were greener in the flying swarm – it would be a stretch to claim that +1 based solely on the blurs that ended up in the tin,

Tree Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Lucked out when we headed back to that spot a couple of hours later. There was ONE Tree Sparrow BoS not too far from where the two Northerns were perched in the shots above. We’ll take it!

When I planned out my prior training run, I purposely charted a course taking me by two Purple Martin houses situated in the northwest corner of the Park. We found these on a previous trip last year (link here). There was definitely some activity in that area. After a couple more unexpected +1s we headed out to the houses for the easy +1 and discovered absolutely NOTHING THERE!

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

I was dumbfounded and apologized to Ron for dragging him all the way out there. Astute birders might be asking themselves “He claims no Purple Martins, yet he has images of them – what kind of shenanigans is is he trying to pull on us?”.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Truth is this shots were taken 2 days later at the exact same spot. The day before Ron decided to make another attempt at tinning the Purple (I wasn’t able to go). Sure enough, they were there giving him the leg up on me .. along with a tasty find of a Solitaire Sandpiper which I do not even have on my lifer list.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Knowing now, that I wasn’t hallucinating on my long run – yes, still confident there is 6′ Rabbit roaming the woods where I do most of my ultra training. I headed back out to the houses before heading down to Raven’s national agility runs in St. Louis.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

.. and there they were. No explanation of the occupancy gap – there were couples already putting deposits down on condos and a line of U-Hauls parked on the ground below.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Being members of the Swallow family, the Purples are equally adept in complex aerial maneuvers. They actually get all their nutrition “on the wing” as they say. Prey are snapped out of mid-air and they’ll skim bodies of water to scoop up a gulp in their lower bill – sounds reminiscence of the way Black Skimmers hunt (link here).

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

They are bit more predictable than the other Swallows allowing me to get a couple decent shots in the tin. It was more overcast that day which raised the ISO and cost me some badly needed shutter speed. Lost a lot of the feather detail and their beautiful purple sheen.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Eventually gave up on getting any better BiFs and focused on a few specimens moving their boxes into the condos. This particular female was acting overly excited, flapping its wings and vocalizing.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Began to think there was some king of landlord squabble going on. “There’s a Tree Swallow squatting in my condo!”

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

“You better not be stinking up the place you moldy Swallow!”

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Next thing I know, she’s pointing to hole and stomping up and down. “Get that stinky Tree out of my condo pronto or I’m calling the exterminator MYSELF”

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Remind me never to piss off a female Purple Martin – quite the attitude they go there. Eventually the landlord noticed the dust up and came in for a look see. “Are you saying there is a Tree Swallow in that hole … right there?” “Yep!” “I see nothing other than that strange looking 6′ Rabbit standing in the woods over there”

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Harvey dove off into the woods before I could get a shot of him. Wait until I tell Ron i wasn’t seeing things. Thought I would relay one other interesting tidbit before I let you go. According to Cornell, the Purples will form up into huge flocks once the chicks have left the condo. These flocks can be so large they show up on weather radar as an expanding donut.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Hope you enjoyed seeing the collection of Swallows Ron and I found at Weldon Springs State Park. For those in the area, that park is a very nice place to bird with a variety of habitats to entice a number of species. Prior to our Dauphin Island trip last year, Weldon held the top spot for highest number of unique species on a single outing.

Take care everyone, will likely have a chance to get another post out soon.

23 thoughts on “Screw the BiFs, Hello BoSs”

    1. Linda would probably argue about patience being on of my key virtues ha. I do like a good challenge though! Glad you enjoyed the adventure and I’m still a novice at this whole bird whisperer thing, so there is a possibility my translations might not be … as they say 103% accurate. Have a great rest of the week Sam – was just sitting down to try and get caught up on everyone else’s posts.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I actually thought of your post on the “blur” challenge when I put the image at the top. Got a bit lucky on that landing shot, right place, right time! appreciate you coming by.

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  1. Cute little guys. The Lake Meade story reminded me of the Belgium film “Man Bites Dog”. A documentary team are following a hit man who show s them how to dispose of the bodies by throwing them in a lake in an old quarry. Later in the film, the police drain the quarry and all the bodies are exposed. I wonder how many more will turn up in Lake Meade?

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      1. Nope, I am sure it was AT LEAST 6′ and that was just to the top of the head, not to the tip of its monstrous ears! Weldon ended up adding at least 5 adds and probably 6 if not 7 for Ron. Highly recommend it if you want to get some birding in – only 1.5 hours from my house.

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    1. Nice menagerie for the “Average Year”. Still considering an XXS Year for this year myself.
      Are you sure it wasn’t an “itty bitty bunny” in the woods?

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      1. I am pretty sure we can get into a size XS if not M without a lot of effort. Take you to Jubilee, Emiquon, a secret spot in Havana and then maybe a trip through Farmdale and/or McNaughton and you’d be in good shape. Will be missing the big hitters in Texas, but still a nice way to break that glass in.

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    1. Guilty as charged ha! I actually need to update my life list number – see number in left hand nav bar. This year my brother and I are actually trying to see how many new species we can get in one year .. vs .. the lifetime list count. I also follow Donna’s blog – she has good stuff over there. Thanks for dropping in Vic!

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    1. Well, actually thinking more like 7′ if you count its ears, but that would just be splitting “hares” hehehe crack myself up. No pain killers for me (has to be really bad if I agree to take anything other than an Aleve or Advil – but I will admit to weeks with little to no sleep so I’ll admit to some possible distortions ha! Appreciate you coming by CJ and for the delay in responding.

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  2. Actually, the first shot is pretty artistic. We always want to get the sharpest photo of bird in flight but there are photos that are very creative as your first photo and very interesting.
    I love Swallows but it’s very difficult to photograph them. I enjoyed your photos a lot!

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    1. I often reference one of Linda’s favorite photographers Rick Sammon – a few bads shot are a mistake, a hundred is a style (or something to that effect). I can usually compensate for the speed – say a Peregrine Falcon as you can usually predict where they are headed – directly at the little bird in front of it ha), but these Swallows are as erratic as they get. Thankfully they need to take a rest every once in a while! Glad you enjoyed the post and appreciate you dropping by Kaya.

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  3. Entertaining, as always, Brian! I wish you could share some of the rain your area has been getting, as well. And of course I love your comment on politics! As for this little guy, I am amazed at the idea that she/he eats everything on the run! I love overcast days for driving, but they suck for snapping pictures. Fun collaboration with your bro! 🌞

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    1. We are do for some more rain tonight, which is par for course, as I need to run tonight so I’ll be splashing puddles. Another blogger friend of mine in New Mexico has been keeping me updated on the dry weather in that region – really bad. The Martins bring new meaning to take out food (and drink)! The best thing is their incredibly good at keeping the Mosquito population under control – need to figure out a way to get a colony in my backyard for the summer. Ron and I had a great time birding – also gives us time to get caught up between sightings – hopefully with everything coming to closure on the mother front we’ll be able to find some more opportunities to spend time in the field. Thanks for coming by and have a great weekend Lisa.

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  4. Brian, I read this post with great interest! When I was a young adult living in Virginia, my father constructed purple martin houses as a hobby. Purple martins lived all over town in his houses, devouring mosquitos. Dad put one up in my yard. The first year, we had mountain bluebirds, but the next year, the purple martins found us and nested in the house every year after that. Wishing you some sunny days! ❤

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    1. Glad I could bring back some memories for you Cheryl. I need to get some gourds or a large condo-house put up in our yard to try and get some Martin renters. I always enjoy watching them when I see them in the field and as you mentioned, they definitely help with the Mosquitos! Your mention of Mountain Bluebirds caught my attention. I have only seen one of those in my lifetime and that was in Yellowstone NP. Those birds are beautiful and absolutely glow. Not going to get any of those out by me, but envious you at least had a year of them being in your backyard. Appreciate you coming by Cheryl!

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