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.

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