We have just returned from a short summer trip to our favourite spot in the Lake District. We stay in a permanent caravan on a working farm in a gorgeous, quiet spot – we consider it our second home and love being there very much, escaping there as often as possible.
We share the place with a combination of farm livestock and local wildlife – from badgers and deer to foxes and woodpeckers. All summer, the evening air is alive with the sound and movement of swallows feeding and returning to their roosts in the barn. They return each year and this year was their earliest arrival, whilst we were there for our Easter break.
On this particular trip, there was a higher than usual level of activity and noise and it soon became evident why – the Mums all had recently-fledged youngsters to feed – a new experience for us as we went at a different time this year, missing this in previous years. It seemed to be their habit, for the youngsters to find a suitable and elevated perch (their preferred spot seemed to be the telephone cables, a tad precarious in a stiff breeze) and to wait for food to be delivered to them. They’d constantly scan the sky around them, faces upturned and mouths often open, whilst trying to stay in the same place when getting buffeted by the breeze. If an airborne swallow passed, they’d all clammer noisily for attention.
Periodically, a bug-laden mother would swoop down and deliver her goodies and be gone in a flash. And it literally was a flash – there would be the briefest flurry of activity and it would all be over. They didn’t even appear to land, so I grabbed my large camera with a long lens and positioned myself out of sight and selected a suitable candidate. I took several similar series of shots, but these are my favourites.
All of these photographs, with the exception of the first one taken a few seconds earlier, were taken within the same second (and I didn’t include 2 of the frames I’d taken) in a quick burst of continuous shooting at the rate of 6 frames per second. The shutter speed in each case was 1/1600 second and at 800 ISO, as it was approaching dusk. So you can see that this truly was fast food.
The morsel is delivered without Mum even landing.