Death Dealers

Welcome to May everyone!  I can’t believe we are 5 months into double 20.  Part of the problem is as a runner I mark time by races.  How many days/weeks can I get training runs in until the next race, race day, how many days to allow for recovery and then how many days to the next race and on it goes until late October when I finally call it a season and try to assess and repair the damage.  Obviously, my races have been victimized by the invisible enemy that sounds more like having a beer on a Mexican beach than a shelter in place catalyst.  What’s next, Murder Hornets!?! – oh crap, this year is just getting worse and worse.  The good news is I’ve been hitting the trails and pavements and checked off a half two weekends in a row – in spite of still fighting some back issues which for some reason decided to nag me today (must be the rain).  Now we just need  some races to open up in order to add medals to the brag wall.  There is a small silver lining to all this – plenty of opportunity to work on the image queue.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

Yep, when I’m not soldering up some new mechanics for Halloween (a mere 5 months away, yikes), Lightroom is up popping shots off the 3 year backlog.  This set comes to us courtesy of Chain O’ Lakes State Park up in Spring Grove IL back in 2017.  The last two shots in the series were taken in June where the rest were taken a few months earlier in April.  Second to my primary training park down the road (Jubilee State Park), Chain O’ Lakes is a wonderful place.  A nice campground for a State Park with plenty of trails for running, hiking and yes, BIRDING.  It also happens to be conveniently located between Ron and I to spend some time together.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

Hit the jump to see more of Mr. Bunny Tail Breast.

Complete with a variety of terrains and elements ranging from fields, marshes, waterways, lakes and deep woods, this park is ideal for tracking down a large number of bird species.  Ron and I have covered nearly every square inch of this large park in our numerous treks up there.  We even managed to get trapped on one outing finding ourselves completely surrounded by water thanks to unexpected flooding of the Fox River that runs through there.  I blame Ron for distracting me and causing us to get lost.  We ended up spooking a Wild Turkey and watching him try to get a shot in the tin made me laugh so hard I forgot where we were – and for the record, I’ve seen better pictures of Yeti than what he was able to get of that Turkey… just saying.  Next thing I know we’re standing on a peninsula  out in the middle of absolutely nowhere.. pretty sure I heard banjos in the background.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

For the curious, the park borders three lakes, the Grass, Marie and Nippersink.  Those lakes are connected by the Fox River that also connects another 7 lakes – Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead.  That natural chain led to the park’s name.  You want water, you got water.  Of course, that also means it is a huge draw for those waterbirds that like to splish and splash.  Or, as in the case of today’s featured feathered friend – those birds that hunt the insects that breed in those environments.  The Tree Swallows pictured here prefer open habitats and call all of North America home.  Find yourself in a large field or by any kind of water you are almost assured to see these super cute birds patrolling the air for any tasty insects stupid enough to take to the skies.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

I could probably watch these creatures all day as they slice through the air dipping, diving and twisting in the microsecond they put eyes on their prey.  Nature’s equivalent to Deep Woods Off.  A dead Mosquito is a good Mosquito in my book and would gladly donate to any efforts to train them to hunt ticks (a far better use of university grant money than some of the real studies I’ve read about).  Now, like our friends the Flycatchers, these Swallows do not limit their vengeance on just Mosquitoes.  Moths, Dragonflies and Butterflies are also fair game – for the record, insects I happen to like.  In fact, the prettier colored the Butterfly it eats, the more brilliant blue-green color.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

Wait…oh, uh hu, really, well, okay.. thnx.  I have just been informed by our legal team that my previous fact regarding the color vibrancy of Tree Swallows being a factor of brightly colored Butterflies appears to be completely false.  In light of this recent development, I officially recant that little tidbit.  Suppose I should also leave out the fact they specifically prefer Rigid brand drills to build their nests.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

What is undeniable is the Tree Swallow is one of the cutest birds out there. Maybe it is the impressive color palette or possibly the fluffy white breast and necks reminds me of Bunny tails that amp up the cute scale – certainly contributors, but personally it is their expressive poses.  I purposely left in the 5 similar shots above as example of different poses that brought a smile while they were being developed in the digital darkroom.  Let me know which one is your favorite in the comments – trying to figure out which one I want to take to print and would love your feedback.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

Then there are the more traditional poses.  Sleek efficient killers… err, cute killers, but lethal nonetheless.  How appropriate they have a little black mask to help offset their Bunny tail breast – otherwise they wouldn’t get any respect in the biker bars

“Draw me up some of that hard stuff, I have some killing to do”

Bartender: “yeah right, I think you are looking for the slushie factory down the street”

“No, now, I’m a natural born killer – I patrol the skies bringing death to all that dare to test my will”

Bartender: “Ummm, sorry Mr. Bunny Tail Breast, did you wander off from a Chuckie Cheese party!?!”

“Dammit man, look at my mask… they call me the Death Dealer – now snap me up some whiskey!”

Bartender: “Oh, sorry about that, didn’t see the mask, – by the way, is it true your feather coloring is impacted by the color of Butterflies you eat?”

“Why yes it is”

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in June 2017

Ring, ring, ring, ring, … hello …. hi again legal team…yes, I know the butterfly fact isn’t true, but it was a story about a bird talking to a bartender in a biker bar – do you really think people are going to take any of that for real…sigh.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in June 2017

I apparently need to go fill out some legal papers.  Hope you enjoyed the Tree Swallows from the Chain.  In case you didn’t notice, most of these shots were of landed birds.  Whipping The Beast around to get these rockets in the air takes some serious effort and most end up looking like an abstract painting.  I am super proud of the first shot as I spent a lot of time and wasted digital bits trying to get that exact composition in the tin.  Eventually got a shot that matched the vision.

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