1 Jul 2010

Supper on the wing – truly fast food service

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.

Over about 5 years I developed a very special relationship with a couple of badger boars who visited every evening for peanuts and became very tolerant of me and my camera. This was the very last photo I took of one. A severe storm that autumn brought a lot of trees down in their wood and we think must have damaged their sett and they had to move. They’re still seen on the property, but the caravan is no longer on their evening food sortie route.

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.

We get all sorts of interesting visitors outside the window.

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.

A regular, but sneaky and shy visitor.

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.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

The youngsters would wait patiently, looking skyward, on a suitable high vantage point and make a very loud fuss if they felt they weren’t getting fast enough service.

Once positioned on a suitably elevated perch – in this case one of the dry stone walls of the farm – and would watch the sky above them and flap noisily, beaks wide open, if any swallow passed by.

Mum arrives with something appetising and junior opens wide.

The morsel is delivered without Mum even landing.

And she’s gone for another round of bug-catching over the orchard – if you’d blinked, you’d have missed it!

6 thoughts on “Supper on the wing – truly fast food service

  1. Thank you hello gorgeous and Maisy. You’re correct Maisy, I do miss the badgers, we’d built up quite a trust, as you can see from that particular photo – it wasn’t taken with a long lens. They’re still on the property, but we’re no longer on their route. I did see a large dog fox last week though, but not for long, he had obviously been settled down watching something and just got up and stretched and walked away – he didn’t visit again unfortunately. I suspect he might be the same lone young dog we saw last summer.

  2. what delightful photos, boo. the location and the neighbours [!] sound wonderful. you must miss the badgers though – perhaps they will come back one day? they often do return to old setts…

  3. Thank you both. I also want to look at the various other series of photos I took, which were truly airborne on a telephone wire. I’ve also added the badger photo that I couldn’t find last night.

  4. What fab pics. Sounds as if you had a great holiday. I am more certain than ever I need a new camera. Thank you for all your tips.

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