Sunday, May 25, 2014

Swallows, 2014

My little pocket camera has always had problems getting good photos of birds, and swallows tend to be more problematic because the only time they sit still long enough for me is when they're nesting, and the nests are usually in the shadows in the corner of a ceiling or roof or something. But, finding swallow nests has been easy because the Japanese consider them symbols of good luck, and permit the birds to put nests over their front doors. During the Spring, it's just a matter of listening for the loud chirping.

I really wanted to see how the new camera would work out, so I was looking forward to Spring and finding the first nests. Last year, I'd found two, one over a taxi stand at the south end of Tenmonkan, and the other in a covered parking garage a couple blocks from the Minami Kagoshima train station. At the beginning of May, I visited the taxi stand, but the old nest had been completely scraped off the wall and there was no indication that the family that had used it was going to put up a new one. A few days later, I traveled down to Minami Kagoshima, carrying the new camera, and again, the old nest had been completely ripped out with no new nests to replace it. Since I'd looked at the old nests just a couple weeks prior, the destruction of both of them had to have been recent. It was a pretty depressing event.

On May 20th, I was walking to the conversation school I teach at, and as I was getting close to City Hall, I heard loud chirping coming from inside an apartment building parking lot. The nest was about 20 feet from the entrance, at the corner of the ceiling. The birds were a bit messy, and the landlord had put newspapers on the ground to catch the droppings, and roped it off so cars wouldn't park under it. The chicks looked pretty old, maybe at least 4 weeks. I was about to take a photo with the pocket camera when a woman living in the building came up to talk with me. She really likes swallows, and was happy to have them there. After several minutes I had to beg off and continue on to work. The photos didn't come out that well, because it was already 6 PM at the time, and the sun was setting behind the building, the opposite side from the parking garage entrance, so there wasn't any direct light. I had to use the flash, which was too strong. Anyway, I planned on coming back with the other camera when the lighting was better.

I couldn't get out of the apartment on the 21st, so the 22nd was the first opportunity for trying again. The weather was great, and the sky very sunny. Naturally, when I got to the garage, the nest was destroyed and the entire family was gone. I don't know if the parents damaged the nest to force the chicks to leave, or if one of the renters in the apartment building was tired of not being able to use his parking space. But, these are the only photos of swallows I was able to take this year. Sigh.

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