A Hard Swallow

Yep, it’s broke! Wait, an astute reader might be led astray by that opener. I am not talking about my ankle thank god. That seems to be progressing nicely. After the re-injury, I’ve been able to get most of the new swelling down and recovering faster than expected. I’ve been testing it out in prep for Thursday’s big trial run for the Bix 7 – a nasty hill race held the end of July (link here). Only 7 miles long, but it will put a hurt on you if you are not ready for the heat and the constant hills. Pretty much the only flat spot is maybe 50 feet at the start and then a nice reprieve about 8 tenths of a mile into it after climbing one hell of a hill. 2 miles down, another more grueling hill just before the turnaround and then follow the same path back up before the ever welcome steep trek back down to a longer run-out to the finish. Not something I want to tackle with a mucked up ankle – wish me luck.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

The broke comment was related to an event AFTER my run tonight. I’ve been chasing down a Scarlet Tanager (link here) that has been watching me from a roadside perch the last two training runs. I really need that check for our Average Year (link here) to claw back a point from Ron. Yesterday, post run, I grabbed the travel camera from the truck – a Nikon D90 with a 70-200 f2.8 glass that used to be my workhorse many, many moons ago. No luck seeing the bird. Saw it again today as I started my run – once again grabbed my camera after my 7 mile training run (did I mention how well my ankle is doing ha) – It was there, so I started taking shots – snap, snap, snap, THUNK. WTH!!! Shutter stuck open. First thought, “dammit if I didn’t get that bird I’m going to be upset”. Second thought, “oh no, my baby is broke!”. I’ve been through a lot with that D90 and learned a tremendous amount that helped shape my approach to wildlife photography. Not worth fixing as I still have the D7000’s I used before finally picking up the D7500 as a retirement gift. A hard pill to swallow… which brings us to today’s featured feathered friend.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Hit the jump to learn more about this sand castle living Swallow.

Now this isn’t just any ol’ Swallow, nope, this is a PlusOne Swallow! I am pretty sure it is more commonly referred to as the Bank Swallow, but that doesn’t have the same happy ring to it ha. I’ve featured many Swallows and their allies here at Intrigued – the Tree (link here), the Cave (link here – but those shots are awful), the beautiful Violet-Green (link here), the Cliff (link here), the Northern Rough-Wing (link here) the Barn (link here) and the Chimney Swift was there as well. Might as well throw in the Purple Martin in this bunch (link here).

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

With all those captures, I was still missing the Bank. The funny thing is, they are actually quite accessible – just needed to get in a car and drive to … shutter… Chicago. Back in 2015 I made the trek to Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary with Ron and did it again last year to check out Monty and his offspring (link here). Each time I took shots of this bird and really didn’t think much about it. Why you ask (if not, just pretend), because we thought they were just Barn Swallows.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Goes to show you, never assume, always verify. An e-Bird report alerted us to the bad ID. When Ron and I made our way back there this May, we made a definite note to get these formally checked off our list

Quick side note. It is with a saddened heart I relay that Chicago’s prized Piping Plover couple are no longer. Monty passed away from a respiratory failure this year while at Montrose Beach (think a week before we got there) and Rose did not show up this year – I say Monty died of a broken heart)

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

At the end of the public beach are a set of protected dunes. A large section of the area around the dunes was added to the sanctuary to protect Monty and Rose, affording the Bank Swallows extra protection as well. As you can see from the second shot, the Banks chose the larger dunes for their colony nests.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Now knowing these were not your run of the mill Barns, we spent a significant amount of time trying to get decent shots. Like all Swallows, these creatures are an absolute pain in the ass trying to get in the tin when they are hunting. Gave up on that endeavor after 15 minutes of a brutal arm workout with The Beast. Came close to knocking Ron out swinging the big barrel around like a crazy man.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Decided to cheat and simply pick out a few popular holes and wait for them to come to me. That worked perfectly. One particularly active couple were busy renovating their “sand castle” giving ample opportunity to get some decent shots. Due to the angle of the holes to where we were standing, it was impossible to tell if there were little ones tucked away deeper in the castle. Did observe that unlike humans, they are not a bunch of whiners when they get sand in their eyes.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

From there it was easier to get some in-flight shots. Simply focus on the holes, widen the depth a bit, ratchet up the shutter speed and wait for something to enter my viewer. The one on the right is a bit soft, but got its partner stopped nicely. Will likely crop that down for any prints, although between the two you get both the detail and the feel of motion in the same shot.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Same fixed field of view cheat with this next one. No way could I ever hope to get a frozen head on shot by simply trying to track this hyper specimen. Their sleek profile gives away they’ve been purposely designed for speed and in air agility.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Those familiar with the Rough-Winged variety, may notice their similarity in their dullish coloring and contrasting whiter undersides. Both species were present at the beach. If you are in the field, look for the well-defined brownish band on the breast of the Banks to help distinguish between the two. The Rough will have a softer, dingier coloring around the upper breast through neck. If that doesn’t help, I guess you could try running your finger down their wings.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

According to Cornell, these Swallows have been in a “mysterious” North American decline since the 1970s. They are found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica – often referred to as Sand Martins for those of you across the pond. They are open water Swallows vs say the Tree Swallows that prefer more prairie or forest habitats. I would not say the Montrose colony is overly large, especially in relationship to some colonies that are 2,000+ strong. Suspect that the insect average lifespan in those more populous areas is roughly 2 seconds.

Will call it a post there and officially add another check to both my life list and to successfully meeting another month’s post quota. Take care everyone and try not to damage any internal organs laughing at made up crap like a president trying to take control of the steering wheel of his Beast…wait… that is apparently wrong now as well .. SUV. When news is better humor than a Monty Python skit there’s some serious credibility issues at hand.

25 thoughts on “A Hard Swallow”

  1. Nice little bird. Really liked the face-on shot from the nest. Nowhere near as menacing as a raptor’s stare.
    D90s shutter replacements aren’t that much. Especially for a good backup to the backup camera.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll check into the cost of it – had my 7000 shutter fixed by a Chicago based company and that worked out pretty good. I do like that camera so if it isn’t outrageous I’ll probably do it – if nothing else, something to use in really harsh conditions (like the sandstorm last January). Thanks for coming by Brad!

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  2. Cute little guys. I don’t know where the swallows hang out around here. I only see them catching bugs over the river, ditches, and bosque. I know the feeling on an old friend camera breaking, when the shutter crumpled on my Canon 1Ds Mk II in 2018 a week before we were heading to Paris. The was my favorite camera which is how I wore out the shutter. I bought the Canon 7D Mk II that now hosts the bazooka to take to Paris.

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    1. They are so small they can hide just about anywhere – I do know they like low bridges and culverts, but some like this species will just dig a hole wherever it is soft enough. They eventually become a member of the family don’t they. Not a Canon guy, but it sounds like you got yourself a nice upgrade. Appreciate you coming by Tim – finally gave up on trying to ID that bird you had on your post – think it might be a mutation or perhaps has something going on with its feathering.

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  3. So cute. Love those faces.

    Very sorry about the ankle. I hope you heal, quickly. Ankles are something I have never had trouble with. Mine are thick & sturdy, despite my slim stature. Knees, on the other hand…OY. Multiple dislocations of both and two surgeries on the left one. Needless to say, I can’t run. I’m tall but, hardly gazelle-like. I’m more “cinder block” than aerodynamic. πŸ™ƒπŸ™„πŸ˜–

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    1. Ha, seems like we all develop our weak points over time. After a some difficult years, my knees are finally strong (quick knock on wood), but the ankle issue is going to take a while to mend. Like most joints, once compromised, tough to get them back to full load – not to mention getting my confidence back I can attack the hilly terrain again. So far, so good. Survived a tough test last week and most of the swelling has been pushed out. Appreciate the encouraging words and good luck on you knees!

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  4. Nice shots! Was thinking of you guys when reading all about the IL election.πŸ™„πŸ˜³ Man, almost as good as National political crap!!! Stay safe on that ankle and should I suggest a backpack with camera on your runs? πŸ˜‚πŸ€”πŸ¦€

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    1. Thank you CJ (or do I need to start using Namekagon ha). Illinois has a long history of political comedy – I just think the rest of the country’s political issues are catching up to it! Thought through your backpack idea – decided a much better option is to have Linda run behind me (or if needed, maybe a bike or ATV hehehe) and then when I spot something interesting she can toss me the camera on the run and I can tin it. I’ll propose that to Linda and see how that goes – wish me luck!!!! Thanks for dropping in and glad to hear you made it back home safely.

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    1. You are quite welcome! They definitely take advantage of the softer material to nest in – at least up here. Still amazed these Swallows can stand having sand in their eye like that – makes me feel like a wimp when I used to complain about my contacts slipping (got so annoyed at that over the years broke down and had LASIK). Appreciate you stopping by Sam.

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    1. I find life more pleasant with a little bit of humor (mostly laughing at myself ha!). Some of the Swallows are definitely hard to tell apart. One quick differentiator is the tail shape and then start looking at the head coloring – that is if you can actually get a decent look at them when they are zipping all over the place. The training run for the Bix went very well – even got to practice the heat aspect as it was in the high 90s for that test. Definitely a test of wills, but the afterparty is one of the best EVER! I bet you are able to impress your friends by rattling off bird IDs now. Have a great rest of your week Lisa!

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  5. Awesome photos, I just love having these birds around. I saw the cave swallow somewhere along this journey, it was actually in a cave that we rode our bikes though. I sure wish I could get the purple martins to nest at our place. We came back a couple weeks ago and I had left the one martin house up and of course the one pair of Tree swallows had already claimed the entire house to themselves. I raised the second house and added a fake purple martin to the top of it. The tree swallows dive bombed it for about 20 minutes and now they don’t care it is there. πŸ™‚ have a great weekend.

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    1. I know the Cave Swallows can often be found under the foot bridge that leads to the Benson -Rio Grande Valley State Park (from the visitor center). I remember those Tree Swallows taking over the house last year – they can definitely be territorial, but I do find once the Purple’s take hold they defend it from intruders fairy well. Never thought of using a fake Purple to help deter the others… although it appears those other Swallows caught up fairly quickly ha! Enjoying your posts on Big Bend.

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    1. Thanks Sharon. I would not have guesses just looking at it that it would be a good place to nest (loose sand and all), but they have definitely taken to it and are amazingly deft at creating those holes – you would think being a dune it would just collapse. Appreciate you pointing your browser our way!

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  6. Wow, Brian, this was super. Bank swallows. I’ve seen a lot of swallows, but never this species, and what a bonanza of excellent photos you gave us, despite them being nearly impossible to photograph. Beautiful bird.

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    1. Thank you Jet! There are certainly a lot of Swallows and their allies out there. I am slowly working my way through them – these Banks and a recent tinning of some Chimney Swifts definitely upped my count for this year. Unfortunately, they all share at least one trait – hyperactivity – Admittedly, I cheated on this set a bit setting up near their nest, but my out in the open flight shots were so horrible I would never show anybody ha. Appreciate you coming by and joining the conversation.

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